Lift up your hearts and rejoice, for unto you the kingdom, or in other words, the keys of the church, have been given. DC 42:18e
In this section we will explore the relationship between the kingdom of God and the church. As we have been careful to give a definition of the kingdom and Zion in previous sections, we will proceed to give a definition of the church here. It is our hope to clarify the relationship between the kingdom and the church.
Behold, this is my doctrine: Whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church; whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore, he is not of my church. DC 3:16
As a definition of the church, one couldn't ask for a more straightforward pronouncement, uncomfortable as it may be for us. Where do the gospel and the priesthood fit in this picture? A good place to start is by reviewing the scriptures about the restoration. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. We will begin with a part of the vision that was seen by John, and its interpretation . Read Revelation 12:1-8 (1-9) now.
John describes a vision in which he sees a woman having a baby. The baby is supposed to rule the world with a rod of iron, but there is a dragon standing by ready to eat the baby when it is born. So, just after the baby is born, it is taken up to God, and the woman is whisked away to the wilderness where she remains 1260 years. There is more to the vision, but this is the portion which we are interested in interpreting.
Now according to verse 1, the vision that John saw was in "the likeness of things on the earth." In other words, the events that he describes are symbolic of things that are on the earth. The following verses make that symbolism explicit:
The woman...was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ. Revelation 12:7 (IV only)
This is the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand... The seven stars are the servants of the seven churches... Revelation 1:20
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Revelation 21:23
Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; ...also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. Revelation 12:8 (8,9)
The rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God...I Nephi 3:68
Those to whom these commandments were given might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity, and out of darkness ... DC 1:5e
Thus we see that each of the symbols is given a fairly explicit interpretation from within the book of Revelation itself with the exception of the rod of iron and the wilderness, which are spoken of elsewhere. The symbols are summarized as follows:
|Woman||Church of God|
|12 Stars||12 Servants of the Church|
|Sun||Glory of God|
|Moon||Light of Christ|
|Man Child||Kingdom of God|
|Rod of Iron||Word of God|
|Wilderness||Obscurity and Darkness|
The interpretation is then fairly clear. John sees that the church brings forth the kingdom of God, which is destined to rule over all nations by the word of God. As the kingdom is being born, Satan tries to destroy it, but the kingdom is taken from the earth, and the church goes into the darkness and obscurity where it stays for a long time. If we look at the church as those who would come to Christ, this makes sense as a description of the long period of the "dark ages" when the Roman church was oppressive, the ordinances were changed, and the everlasting covenant was not available on the earth.
In a sequel to this vision, John sees the restoration of the gospel of the kingdom to the earth.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. Revelation 14:6
Jesus also prophesied of this restoration to the earth of the gospel of the kingdom.
And again, this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked. Matthew 24:32 (14)
Now read the rest of the story from the Doctrine and Covenants.
And verily, verily I say unto you, that this church have I established and called forth out of the wilderness; and even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice;…open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying, Repent, repent and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; yea, repent and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. DC 32:2a,f,g
The intent of the organization whose foundations were laid by Joseph Smith, Jr. and others was to call the church, those who would come to Christ, out of obscurity and darkness. What was restored to the earth was the gospel of the kingdom, including specifically the authority to baptize with water and the Holy Ghost into the everlasting covenant.
Behold, I say unto you, that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing, and this is a new and everlasting covenant; even that which was from the beginning… For it is because of your dead works, that I have caused this last covenant, and this church to be built up unto me; even as in days of old. Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded... DC 20:1
For the specifics of the everlasting covenant, which is referenced in the King James Bible but never explicitly given, we need to look into the Inspired Version.
I made [my everlasting covenant with] thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself. And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy; And the general assembly of the church of the firstborn shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch. Genesis 9:21-23
The gate by which we enter the covenant is baptism.
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water: and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire, and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son. II Nephi 13:24,25
The purpose of the church, as John saw in his vision, was to bring forth the kingdom on the earth. The purpose of bringing the church out of the wilderness was to establish the kingdom on the earth again. It is by the restoration of the gospel of the kingdom that the everlasting covenant was established again on the earth, and those who are in darkness and obscurity are called to come into that kingdom. Jesus told the church in Palestine to "seek first to build up the kingdom." He told his church in America to "seek first to build up the kingdom." He tells us:
I will be with you and strengthen you for the tasks that lie ahead if you will continue to be faithful and commit yourselves without reservation to the building of my kingdom. DC 153:9c
What is the purpose of the church now? To bring forth the kingdom, of course! And thereby to establish the cause of Zion.