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Churches in the Book of Mormon

By Mormon.org

Churches in the Book of Mormon

A church is an organization of like-minded worshippers who come together to honor God and to serve Him and His children. The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture similar to the Bible that testifies of Jesus Christ, records the history of Christian churches in the ancient Americas. Its verses contain helpful instructions on how a church is to be administered and what activities are to take place at church. 

What is a church?

The Book of Mormon illustrates some basic characteristics of a church that is set up after the pattern that Jesus Christ established during His ministry.

  • Meet together to worship. Mormon, the ancient prophet who compiled the writings included in the Book of Mormon, described a faithful congregation this way: “And there was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God, and also, as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together” (Mosiah 18:25).
  • Meet often to fast and pray. Another Book of Mormon prophet, Moroni, described additional important elements of church worship: “And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls” (Moroni 6:5). Fasting (voluntarily going without food and drink for a time) and group prayer are powerful ways to show God sincere faith and to ask for His help and blessings.
  • Many congregations make up one church. The Book of Mormon describes smaller church congregations that were all part of the same community of faith, united by their common beliefs and practices. “And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it was repentance and faith in God” (Mosiah 25:22).
  • Giving to the poor.  A Christ-centered church is tasked to care for its members and also to give relief to the poor and needy. One Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, taught “that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had. . . . And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires toward God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul” (Mosiah 18:27–28). 

How should a church be organized?

The Book of Mormon also clearly describes how Christ would name His church and how it would be organized.

  • In Jesus’s name. From the Book of Mormon we learn that Christ Himself commanded that a church organized in His name should bear His name. He explained: “Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake. And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (3 Nephi 27:7–8). 
  • With a lay ministry. The churches set up by faithful people in the ancient Americas included local clergy who were not paid for their labors. The prophet Alma “commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support. . . . And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God” (Mosiah 18:24, 26).

What happens in church?

When fellow believers meet at church, what do they do there? The Book of Mormon also includes direction about sacred practices that should occur during church worship.

  • Prayer. Jesus taught, “As I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name” (3 Nephi 18:16). Prayer to God is an important part of any church service.
  • Inspired meetings. The Holy Spirit should be present when church members meet, and the leaders of the congregation should be receptive to the Spirit’s promptings as they plan and carry out the meetings. The prophet Moroni wrote, “And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Holy Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done” (Moroni 6:9).
  • The holy sacrament. Many Christian congregations today partake of bread or wine as a crucial part of worship services. The Book of Mormon also records this practice: “And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (Moroni 6:6). This sacred practice is referred to as the communion or the sacrament. The Book of Mormon describes Jesus’s appearance to the peoples of the ancient Americas after His death and Resurrection. During that appearance, He taught them how they should conduct the sacrament.
  • Partaking of bread. Jesus “took of the bread and brake and blessed it” (3 Nephi 18:3). He said, “And this ye shall do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7).  
  • Partaking of water or wine. Next, Christ “commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it . . . and [they] did drink of it, and were filled” (3 Nephi 18:8–9). While some churches use water or grape juice instead of wine, all three represent the same thing. As Jesus Himself explained, “And this ye shall always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:11).

Going to a church organized and conducted in the Lord’s way can help you come closer to God, understand the role of Jesus Christ, and remember what He has done for you. Learn more about the value of going to church, and get help finding the right church for you. 

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