The Purpose of the Church
“Chapter 3: The Purpose of the Church,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 21
The Church, with its complete organization, offers service and inspiration to all. 1
President David O. McKay had a great love for the Church and a strong testimony of its mission to prepare for the final establishment of the kingdom of God. While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he recalled the following experience:
“Just above the pulpit in the meetinghouse where as a boy I attended Sunday services, there hung for many years a large photograph of the late President John Taylor, and under it, in what I thought were gold letters, this phrase:
“ ‘The Kingdom of God or Nothing’
“The sentiment impressed me as a mere child years before I understood its real significance. I seemed to realize at that early date that there is no other church or organization that approaches the perfection or possesses the divinity that characterizes the church of Jesus Christ. As a child I felt this intuitively; in youth, I became thoroughly convinced of it; and today I treasure it as a firm conviction of my soul. …
“The divinity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is shown in its organization as well as in its teachings. Godhood, brotherhood, service—these three guiding principles … permeate all our Church activity.” 2
President McKay’s leadership reflected his firm conviction. During his ministry as President, the Church experienced significant growth and progress worldwide, with membership increasing from approximately one million to almost three million. Describing President McKay’s role in this growth, two historians noted the following:
“Early in his administration President David O. McKay, the first to travel so extensively as Church President, toured missions in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the South Pacific, dedicating two temple sites in Europe and announcing that a temple would be built in New Zealand. In 1955 he declared that the Church must ‘put forth every effort within reason and practicability to place within reach of Church members in these distant missions every … spiritual privilege that the Church has to offer’ [in Conference Report, Apr. 1955, 25]. Building temples, increasing the number of missions, organizing stakes worldwide, persuading the Saints to build up Zion in their homelands rather than emigrate to America, and eventually putting Church leadership into the hands of each country’s native people were all significant steps toward fulfilling that goal.” 3
President McKay’s faith in the divine mission and destiny of the Church continued to the end of his life. In a general conference address less than a year before his death, he taught: “God has established his Church never to be thrown down nor given to another people. And as God lives, and his people are true to him and to one another, we need not worry about the ultimate triumph of truth.” 4
Teachings of David O. McKay
The Church’s mission is to prepare for the final establishment of the kingdom of God.
The mission of the Church is to prepare the way for the final establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Its purpose is, first, to develop in men’s lives Christ-like attributes; and, second, to transform society so that the world may be a better and more peaceful place in which to live. 5
What was the [emphasis] of Christ’s teaching when he came among men? The first great proclamation was the announcement that the kingdom of God is at hand. “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” [See Mark 1:15.] The fore-runner, John the Baptist, preached that. He preached the coming of the Lord. He showed the position which the Lord would hold in that kingdom and the Savior bore witness to it and preached the same. And what was the kingdom? Not a mythical, but a real kingdom; not only a feeling within, but also an outward expression of righteousness. It was divine government among men. That was what the Savior had in mind, the establishing of a divine government among men. 6
The term [kingdom of God] implies divine rule in the hearts and wills of men and in society. Man acknowledges a power and authority superior to his own. “It is not the arbitrary rule of a despotic Deity, but is based upon man’s voluntary submission of his will to that of God’s.” On one occasion Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:21.] That is true, for it is in the heart of man that membership in the outward kingdom has its origin. … Only such a group looking as one mind to heaven for guidance can eventually transform human society.
The Kingdom of God implies also a universal brotherhood in which all men acknowledge God as their Supreme Ruler and cherish the desire to obey His divine will. 7
There are those in the world who say that jealousy, enmity, [and] selfishness in men’s hearts will always preclude the establishing of the ideal society known as the Kingdom of God. No matter what doubters and scoffers say, the mission of the Church of Christ is to eliminate sin and wickedness from the hearts of men, and so to transform society that peace and good-will will prevail on this earth. 8
Priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations are designed to help accomplish the Church’s mission.
Consider the priesthood of the Church. Picture therein the men and boys organized in working sections or groups, from the father ninety years old, down to the boy twelve years of age. In these groups you find exemplified all that human society seeks in social groups and in societies. There is opportunity in these quorum groups for fellowship, brotherhood, and organized service. …
Those who are active are working in an organized way for the betterment of one another, for the personal welfare of the membership and for the good of society as a whole. If we considered no further than the quorums, is not that a sublime picture, where men and boys may congregate, associate, affiliate in service for humanity, in which every man considers everyone a brother? In that quorum the doctor sits by the side of a carpenter, each interested in the most ennobling of aspirations—worship of God and helpful service to humanity! 9
The responsibility of the Relief Society is to aid the priesthood in establishing the kingdom of God, in relieving the suffering and giving succor to the poor, and in many ways in contributing to the peace and happiness of the world. …
One of the most encouraging promises ever given to people who love service is that made by the Savior in these words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.) … I grew to manhood before I realized the significance of the service that is rendered by our sisters in this Church. 10
The Church, recognizing the potency of other influences besides the home in the growing child’s life before he reaches self-determination, offers a religious environment almost from the time of birth. The Sunday School, the Primary, the [Young Men and Young Women organizations] arrange suitable instruction, entertainment, and proper guidance from the cradle roll to maturity. 11
The Latter-day Saints are truly a people who aid one another in the productive life, a life that tends towards the salvation of the human being. By that salvation I do not mean just a place in the hereafter where all our cares and worries may cease, but a salvation that applies to the individual, to the family and to society here and now. Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the perfect organization of the Church as revealed in this dispensation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we are aiding one another spiritually by taking advantage of the many opportunities for service in the Church. We are fostering brotherhood by activity and association in priesthood quorums, in auxiliary associations and in our social gatherings. 12
As the Church fulfills its mission, it blesses and perfects individuals.
To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the worth of the individual has a special meaning. Quorums, auxiliaries, wards, stakes, even the Church itself are all organized to further the welfare of man. All are but means to an end, and that end is the happiness and eternal welfare of every child of God. I therefore appeal to all members of the Church, and particularly to presidents of quorums and to officers of all auxiliaries, to put forth a unified effort to make sweeter the lives of men. 13
There is in man not only an instinct, but also a divinity that strives to push him onward and upward. The sense is universal, and at some time in his life every man is conscious of possessing it.
Associated with this spiritual urge are three great needs that remain unchanged throughout the centuries: (1) Every normal person yearns to know something of God. What is he like? Is he interested in the human family, or does he disregard it entirely? (2) What is the best life to live in this world in order to be most successful and to get the most happiness? (3) What is that inevitable thing called death? What is beyond it?
If you want your answers to these longings of the human soul, you must come to the Church to get it. Only true religion can satisfy the yearning soul. 14
Why do we hold these conference meetings and all other meetings in the Church? They are held for the good of the individual—for your son and my son, your daughter and mine. The Lord has said, “… if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” [D&C 18:15.] …
The … purpose of the organization of this great Church, so complete, so perfect, is to bless the individual. 15
This Church was established in the only way in which the Church of Christ can be established, by direct authority from God. Thus founded it invites the whole world to come to a Church recognized by God himself, and which offers every advantage that the human mind, the emotions and desires may contemplate in the fulfilling of the individual mission on this earth. “It is an ever-broadening wave of direct personal influence, destined ultimately to touch and transform all men, so that they like Jesus shall become Godlike.” “Mormonism,” as true Christianity, “subdues selfishness, regulates the passions, subordinates the appetites, quickens the intellect, exalts the affections. It promotes industry, honesty, truth, purity, kindness. It humbles the proud, exalts the lowly, upholds the law, favors liberty, is essential to it, and would unite men in one great brotherhood.” 16
As the Church fulfills its mission, it contributes to the welfare of humanity.
Many citizens are deeply troubled over the increase in crime, the high divorce and illegitimacy rates, the increasing incidents of venereal diseases, the scandals in high office, and other symptoms of private and public dishonesty.
Is there a moral breakdown? Is there cause for alarm? The world is all about us, and the statistics we read about are frightening indeed, and they are a necessary warning. …
The mission of the Church is to minimize and, if possible, eliminate these evils from the world. It is evident that we are in need of a unifying force to eliminate these evils. Such a uniting force, such an ideal is the gospel of Jesus Christ, as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. It explains man’s life and its purpose and has within it the vital saving elements, noble ideals, and spiritual uplift for which the heart of man is yearning.
Right-thinking, upright men and women everywhere are desirous of eliminating from our communities evil elements that are constantly disintegrating society—the liquor problem with its drunkenness, the narcotic habit with all its attendant evils, immorality, poverty, etc. The Church is seeking to make both home and community environment better and brighter. 17
Let us here and now express gratitude for the Church of Jesus Christ with quorums and auxiliaries specially organized to combat these evils. It was established by divine revelation of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Its glorious mission is to proclaim the truth of the restored gospel; to uplift society that people may mingle more amicably one with another; to create in our communities a wholesome environment in which our children may find strength to resist temptation and encouragement to strive for cultural and spiritual attainment. 18
The Church, established by divine inspiration to an unlearned youth, offers to the world the solution of all its social problems. It has stood the test of the first century successfully. In the midst of brilliant concepts of men in this twentieth century, who seek conscientiously for social reforms and who peer blindly into the future to read the destiny of man, the Church shines forth as the sun in the heavens, around which other luminaries revolve as satellites of minor importance. Truly it is the creator and preserver of man’s highest values. Its real task, the redemption of our human world. “It is the light of truth radiating everywhere in the world, and this light cannot fail to reveal to man, sooner or later, the divine ideals by which man should live.” 19
The Church, with its complete organization, offers service and inspiration to all. … Instead of taking men out of the world, it seeks to develop perfect, Godlike men in the midst of society, and through them to solve the problems of society. 20
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• Based on President McKay’s teachings, how would you describe the purpose of the Church? (See pages 22–23.) Why do we hold Church meetings and conferences? (See pages 25–26.)
• How does the Church help prepare for the final establishment of the kingdom of God? (See pages 23–27.) In what ways does the Church resemble and exemplify the kingdom of God that is yet to be established? (See pages 22–23.)
• What does the Church provide that will lead faithful members to eternal life? (See pages 23–27.) How have you seen that the organization of the Church, with its quorums and auxiliaries, helps to perfect individuals? (See also Ephesians 4:11–13.)
• What are some of the problems facing society today? (See page 26.) In what ways can applying gospel principles help resolve these problems? (See pages 26–27.)
• In what ways has membership in the Church blessed your life? What can you and your family do to more fully benefit from what the Church offers?
• What can we do to help the Church carry out its responsibilities in these latter days?
2. Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. (1976), 15–16.
3. James B. Allen and Richard O. Cowan, “History of the Church: C. 1945–1990, Post–World War II International Era Period,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols. (1992), 2:639.