Chapter 43: “Ye Are … Fellow Citizens with the Saints”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 348–57


Map Chp. 43

Paul’s Letters to the Saints at Ephesus and to Philemon of Colossae

Written from His Imprisonment in Rome, ca. A.D. 61–63 (Ephesians; Philemon)

 

Ephesians

Saints Foreordained to Receive Gospel

1:1–8

Gospel to Be Restored in Last Days

1:9–12

Saints Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise

1:13–14

The Godhead Is Known by Revelation

1:15–23

Salvation Through Grace and Faith

2:1–10

Jew and Gentile Reconciled Through Christ

2:11–18

Gentile Converts Become Fellow Heirs

2:19–22; 3:1–13

Love Christ and Gain God’s Fulness

3:14–21

The Organization of Christ’s Church

4:1–16

Christ’s People Live New Lives

4:17–32; 5:1–21

Love Between Husbands and Wives

5:22–33

Relationships of Parents and Children

6:1–4

The Judgment of Servants and Masters

6:5–9

Girding for the Spiritual Battle

6:10–24

 

Philemon

Gospel Changes a Servant into a Brother

1–25

Interpretive Commentary

Ephesians

(43-1) What Is the Theme of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians?

Determining a Theme in this letter is difficult. It does not seem to have the specific purpose of combating errors of doctrine or evil practices, as do most of his other letters. It is more like a deeply spiritual sermon than a call to repentance. It seems to be directed to members of the church who have maturity and understanding, and therefore it reflects great depth in its concepts.

Perhaps its Theme could best be summarized as a concise and beautiful outline of how a person sets aside the things of this world in order to partake of the unity and fellowship of the church. It describes in some of the most doctrinally beautiful passages of the New Testament the ways in which the true saint takes upon himself the powers of godliness so that he may withstand the powers of evil.

(43-2) Where and When Was It Written?

Ephesians is generally classed as one of the prison epistles. (See Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20.) This helps us to determine with some accuracy the place and date of writing. Most scholars agree that it was written from Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment. That would place its date between A.D. 61 and 63.

(43-3) What Are Some of the Significant Contributions of This Letter?

Perhaps no other New Testament book contains so many doctrines that today are thought of as being distinctively Latter-day Saint as does Ephesians. In it we find reference to the doctrine of foreordination, the dispensation of the fulness of times, the importance of apostles and prophets in the church, the idea that there is only one true and unified church, and the doctrine that the organization of the church is essential. In this letter we find some of the most sublime teachings on the role of the family and the importance of proper family life that are found anywhere in scripture. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has aptly put it this way:

“Ephesians is an epistle for all the world, for Jew and Gentile, for husband and wife, for parent and child, for master and servant. It was the mind and will of God in Paul’s day; it is the voice of inspiration in our day; it is an epistle of universal appeal and application.” (DNTC, 2:489.)

(43-4) Ephesians 1:3, 4. On What Basis Did the Lord Choose His Saints before the World Was?

“There must be leaders, presiding officers, and those who are worthy and able to take command. During the ages in which we dwelt in the premortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but also what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions.” (Smith, The Way to Perfection, pp. 50–51.)

(43-5) Ephesians 1:5, 11. Why Does Paul Say We Are Predestined?

When used by the King James translators, the word predestination did not have the same connotation as it does today. Most modern versions translate the Greek word as “foreordain.” (For a discussion of Paul’s teachings about predestination, see the Interpretive Commentary on Romans 8:29, 30.)

(43-6) Ephesians 1:10. “The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times”

Except for this single reference, the phrase “the dispensation of the fulness of times” is one that is unique to Latter-day Saints. We know from latter-day scripture that it is the dispensation in which we are presently living (D&C 27:13; 112:30; 124:41). Also, latter-day prophets have explained in some detail what this concept actually means.

“This is the dispensation of the fullness of times, and we see running into it, as mighty streams rush into the ocean, all the former dispensations, putting us in touch with them, putting them in touch with us; and we see that God has had but one great purpose in view from the beginning, and that has been the salvation of His children. And now has come the final day, the final dispensation, when truth and light and righteousness must flood the earth.” (B. H. Roberts in CR, Oct. 1904, p. 73.)

(43-7) Ephesians 1:18. “The Eyes of Your Understanding Being Enlightened”

Literally the original Greek phrase reads “having been enlightened as to the eyes of your heart.” Anciently, as now, the heart was viewed as the seat of moral character and spirituality. Paul’s words imply more than just illumination of the mind and its understanding; they indicate an actual enlightenment of the whole man through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(43-8) Ephesians 1:23. “The Fulness of Him That Filleth All in All”

“In the Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith describes the Father and the Son as ‘filling all in all’ because the Son, having overcome, has ‘received a fulness of the glory of the Father,’ and possesses ‘the same mind with the Father.’ Then he announces the conclusion to which Paul here only alludes: ‘And all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all; being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.’ (Lectures on Faith, pp. 50–51.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:497.)

(43-9) Ephesians 2:8–10. What Does Paul Mean When He Says That Works Do Not Save Us?

“I am not unmindful of the scripture that declares: ‘by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:8.) That is absolutely true, for man in his taking upon himself mortality was impotent to save himself. When left to grope in a natural state, he would have become, and did become, so we are told in modern scripture, ‘carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature.’ (Alma 42:10.) But the Lord, through his grace, appeared to man, gave him the gospel or eternal plan whereby he might rise above the carnal and selfish things of life and obtain spiritual perfection. But he must rise by his own efforts and he must walk by faith.

“‘He who would ascend the stairway leading upward to eternal life must tread it step by step from the base stone to the summit of its flight. Not a single stair can be missed, not one duty neglected, if the climber would avoid danger and delay and arrive with all safety and expedition at the topmost landing of the celestial exaltation.’ The responsibility is upon each individual to choose the path of righteousness, of faithfulness and duty to fellow men. If he choose otherwise and as a result meets failure, misery, and death, he alone is to blame.” (David O. McKay in CR, Apr. 1957, p. 7. Italics added.)

(43-10) Ephesians 2:14. To What Was Paul Referring When He Spoke of “the Middle Wall of Partition”?

As can be noted in the outline of this letter, Paul is pointing out that the gentiles who accept the gospel are now brought in and made part of the “covenant people.” In the great temple of Jerusalem, the temple proper was shielded from gentile influences. A special barrier was erected, and if a gentile passed beyond it, he could be put to death. Archaeologists have even found one of the marble blocks of this barrier with this inscription: “let no foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whosoever is taken so doing will be the cause that death overtaketh him.” It will be remembered that it was the accusation that Paul had ignored this warning and brought gentiles beyond the barrier that led to the riot and his arrest (Acts 21:28).

(43-11) Ephesians 2:20. How Is Jesus the Chief Cornerstone?

To the Jewish leaders, Jesus described himself as the stone which the builders had foolishly rejected in their construction, which now had become the “head of the corner” (Matthew 21:42), or as Paul says it, the chief cornerstone. The symbolism is an apt one in this section of Paul’s discourse, for the cornerstone anciently was the massive stone laid at the corner to bind fast the two separate walls into one solid whole. In Christ, both Jew and gentile are bound together inseparable, not to form two separate walls, but to create one unified people forming a temple of the Lord.

Jacob used a similar figure in the Book of Mormon when he prophesied that the Jews in Jesus’ day would reject “the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation … the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.” (Jacob 4:15, 16; see also Helaman 5:10–12.)

(43-12) Ephesians 4:8. What Is the Meaning of the Phrase “He Led Captivity Captive”?

“He overcame death; all men were the captives of death until Christ captured the captivator and made death subject to him, or, as the Psalm from which Paul is quoting continues to say, ‘He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.’ (Ps. 68:20.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:509.)

(43-13) Ephesians 4:14. “That We Henceforth Be No More Children, Tossed To and Fro … with Every Wind of Doctrine”

“The authorities which the Lord has placed in his Church constitute for the people of the Church a harbor, a place of refuge, a hitching post, as it were. No one in this Church will ever go far astray who ties himself securely to the Church Authorities whom the Lord has placed in his Church. This Church will never go astray; the Quorum of the Twelve will never lead you into bypaths; it never has and never will. There could be individuals who would falter; there will never be a majority of the Council of the Twelve on the wrong side at any time. The Lord has chosen them; he has given them specific responsibilities. And those people who stand close to them will be safe. And, conversely, whenever one begins to go his own way in opposition to authority, he is in grave danger. I would not say that those leaders whom the Lord chooses are necessarily the most brilliant, nor the most highly trained, but they are the chosen, and when chosen of the Lord they are his recognized authority, and the people who stay close to them have safety.” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Apr. 1951, 104.)

(43-14) Ephesians 5:22–25. Husband and Wives: Love Each Other

“… One of the most provocative and profound statements in holy writ is Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives concerning their duty to each other and to their families. First he commands the women:

“‘Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.’ (Ephesians 5:22.)

“‘As unto the Lord.’ ‘As unto the Lord, subject yourselves unto your own husbands,’ he says. ‘As unto the Lord.’ Can you conceive that? Does that mean something to you as you listen to the Lord’s counsel, do his will, follow his righteous precepts, serve him faithfully?

“‘For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. …’ (Ephesians 5:23.)

“Can you find in all the holy scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ ever failed his church? Can you find any scripture that says he was untrue to his people, to his neighbors, friends, or associates? Was he faithful? Was he true? Is there anything good and worthy that he did not give? Then that is what we ask—what he asks of a husband, every husband. That is the goal. Can you think of a single exception in his great life? There should be none in yours.

“‘Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.’ (Ephesians 5:24.)

“Many misconceptions, many errors, are creeping into the thoughts of great numbers of people in our day. … Much is said in Paul’s words ‘as unto the Lord.’ Let it sink deep into your hearts. A woman need have no fear of being imposed upon or being subject to any dictatorial measures or improper demands when her husband is thoughtful, self-sacrificing, and worthy. One would think that no intelligent woman would hesitate to submit herself to her own truly righteous husband in everything, but sometimes we are shocked to see the wife take over the leadership, naming the one to pray, the place to be, the things to do.

“Husbands are commanded:

“‘Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.’ (Ephesians 5:25.)

“There is a scripture which says, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13.) Your wife is your friend. You should be willing to go even to the extent of giving your life for her if the need should appear. Would you give your life for her?

“You need to ask yourself, ‘Can I love my wife even as Christ also has loved the Church?’ Can you think of how he loved the church? Its every breath was important to him. Its every growth, its every individual, was precious to him. He gave to those people all his energy, all his power, all his interest. He gave his life—and what more could one give?” (Spencer W. Kimball, Address to Religious Educators in the Assembly Hall, 12 Sept. 1975, pp. 3–5.)

(43-15) Ephesians 6:5–9. The Christlike Relationship between Master and Servant

Elder Spencer W. Kimball has shown that Paul’s advice still has application today, even though slavery has virtually been abolished.

“Paul speaks of ‘unholy masters’ and surely has reference to those who would defraud servants or employees and would not properly compensate for labors done or goods furnished. He likely has in mind men who are unkind, demanding and inconsiderate of their subordinates. [See Ephesians 6:9.]

“In short, the employer should treat his employees according to the golden rule, remembering that there is a Master in heaven who judges both employer and employee. Paul likewise enjoined a lofty standard upon employees: [See Ephesians 6:5, 6.]

“We may take this to mean, on modern terms, that the servant and employee should consistently give honest service, full and complete, and do for his employer what he would want an employee to do for him if he himself were the employer. Any other course calls for repentance.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 51.)

A Roman Soldier in His Full Armour

A Roman Soldier in His Full Armour

(43-16) Ephesians 6:11. What Does It Mean for a Latter-day Saint to Put On the Whole Armour of God?

“Now notice the nature of the armour that [Paul] puts on the man whom he is now preparing to withstand the powers of darkness. He said, ‘Therefore stand, having your loins girt about with truth.’ Now the loins is that part of the body between the lower rib and the hip in which you will recognize are the vital organs which have to do with reproduction … he was saying that that part of the body was one of the most vulnerable. We should have our loins girt about with armour. And then the next we would have a breastplate over the heart. Now in the scriptures you will remember that the heart has always been used to typify our conduct. … And so we would have a breastplate over the heart.

“And then he said we would have the feet shod with the kind of armour that would protect our feet, suggesting the feet as the objectives, the goals of life which we should have [guarded] by some kind of armour and protected from getting off on the wrong foot. And finally we should have a helmet on our heads. Now there we have the four parts of the body that the apostle Paul saw to be the most vulnerable to the powers of darkness. The loins, typifying virtue, chastity. The heart typifying our conduct. Our feet, our goals or objectives in life, and finally our head, our thoughts.

“Now the kind of armour that was to protect us is even more interesting. … We should have our loins girt about with truth. What is truth? Truth, the Lord said, was knowledge of things as they are, things as they were and things as they are to come. … What is going to guide us along the path of proper morals or proper choices? It will be the knowledge of truth. There must be a standard by which we measure our conduct, else how shall we know which is right? And how shall we know which is wrong? … ‘Our loins shall be girt about with truth,’ the prophet said.

“And the heart, what kind of a breastplate shall protect our conduct in life? We shall have over our hearts a breastplate of righteousness. Well, having learned truth we have a measure by which we can judge between right and wrong and so our conduct will always be gauged by that thing which we know to be true. Our breastplate to cover our conduct shall be the breastplate of righteousness.

“With what shall we protect our feet, or by what shall we gauge our objectives or our goals in life? All through the scriptures there runs a phrase suggested by the kind of armour the Apostle Paul would put upon the feet. Listen to what he says: ‘Your feet should be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’ (Ephesians 6:15.) Interesting? What is the gospel of peace? The whole core and center of the gospel of peace was built around the person of Him who was cradled in the manger. … How fortunate are you if in your childhood in the home of your father and mother you were taught the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, the Son of the living God; the meaning of baptism and what you gain by the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Fortunate is the child who has been taught to pray and who has been given those steps to take on through life. Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace! …

“And then finally the helmet of salvation. Did you ever hear of that kind of helmet? The helmet of salvation. What is salvation? Salvation is to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from death and saved from sin. …

“… When those two things are missing from this earth and when it has been sanctified and cleansed of its impurity, this shall be the place of salvation. On this earth will be the celestial kingdom, for there will be no more sin, no more death, no more crying, for all the former things are done away. By whom? By the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said, in effect, ‘A helmet of salvation shall guide our thinking all through our days.’ …

“Well, now, the apostle Paul went one step further. He didn’t leave the man just with the armour on and expect him to cope against an army, seen or unseen. He had his armoured man holding in his hand a shield and in his other hand a sword, which were the weapons of those days. That shield was the shield of faith, and the sword was the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. I can’t think of any more powerful weapons than faith and a knowledge of the scriptures in the which are contained the Word of God. One so armoured and one so prepared with those weapons is prepared to go out against the enemy [and] is more to be feared than the enemies of the light.” (Harold B. Lee, “Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace,” Speeches of the Year, 1954, pp. 2–4, 6–7.)

Philemon

(43-17) What Is the Theme of Paul’s Letter to Philemon?

The purpose of the letter is a plea from Paul to Philemon to accept back into his good graces a former Greek slave, Onesimus, who had run away from his master and gone to Rome, perhaps hoping to get lost in the city throngs. While in Rome, however, Onesimus was somehow brought into contact with Paul. The aging apostle used his influence to induce the younger man to return home and make amends. The trip to Rome was not in vain, however, for Onesimus had joined the church (vs. 10).

(43-18) Background Information

Philemon was a resident of Colossae, a city near Ephesus, and appears to have been converted by Paul (vss. 19, 20). He seems also to have been a zealous member, who generously lent his house and means for the use of the church (vss. 2, 5).

Paul makes it clear in his letter that he had entertained the notion of keeping Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, with him, for he was a valuable friend. Paul could not do so, however, since the young convert-slave was the property of another man (vss. 12–14). The punishment for a runaway slave was death, but Paul begs Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul himself (vs. 17). Paul offers to make up any financial loss suffered by Philemon following the apostle’s release from prison (vss. 18, 19).

(43-19) Significant Contributions of Philemon

This epistle gives one of the finest pictures of the meaning of forgiveness and repentance that can be found in Paul’s writings. The apostle stands revealed as a model of Christ-like love and compassion. Encased in prison walls, Paul’s tender feelings reveal themselves as he pleads the cause of a poor runaway who has naught but Paul to recommend him. The letter is poignant in its beauty. “The epistle is tactfully and sweetly written and does more to reveal the personal feelings of its author than to contribute to the body of Christian doctrine.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:129.)

(43-20) Philemon 2. Who Were Apphia and Archippus?

It is highly probable that these two persons were members of the church in Colossae and friends, perhaps converts, of Paul during his stay in Ephesus on his third mission. Some have even suggested that Apphia was Philemon’s wife and Archippus, his son. Nothing more is said of Apphia in Paul’s writings, but the letter to the Colossians, written about this same time, admonishes Archippus as follows: “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17.) Precisely what this ministerial call was is unknown. There is an ancient tradition which holds that Philemon became bishop of Colossae and, during the persecution under Nero when Peter and Paul met their deaths, was martyred in Colossae with his wife, Apphia, his son Archippus, and his slave, Onesimus.

(43-21) Philemon 7, 12, 20. “Refresh My Bowels in the Lord”

As formerly noted in another connection (see Interpretive Commentary for 2 Corinthians 6:12), the word bowels as used by the King James translators was a synonym for feelings and affections. When Paul speaks of having his bowels refreshed by the saints in Colossae, he meant that his emotions had been heightened by the kindly and righteous responses of his Colossian friends. “We would say: ‘The hearts of the saints are refreshed.’” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:131.)

(43-22) Philemon 8. Did Paul Appeal to Philemon on Grounds of Convenience?

It may seem strange that Paul would appeal to Philemon to accept Onesimus back on the basis of “convenience.” The word chosen by the King James translators, however, has changed from its original meaning. The Greek word is formed from the verb which means “to come up to” and carries with it the idea of measuring up to a certain mark or standard. Paul’s choice of the word gives the delicate hint that Philemon’s forgiveness of his runaway slave would be the most fitting or becoming thing a true follower of Christ could do.

(43-23) Philemon 9. How Old Was Paul at the Time He Wrote to Philemon?

Paul refers to himself as “the aged” here in the King James translation, and some have wondered just how old the apostle really was at this time. We do not know the time of Paul’s birth, but from such evidence as is available, we conclude that he was probably born between, A.D. 1 and 6. If he was writing about A.D. 62, he would have been between fifty-five and sixty years of age. However, the Greek word from which the expression “the aged” was translated is presbyteis, which literally means “elder.” It could be that Paul had reference to his priesthood title (an apostle is an elder) or he may have meant that he was older than Philemon.

(43-24) Philemon 10, 11. What Does the Word Onesimus Mean?

The word Onesimus literally means “helpful” or “profitable” and was a very common name for slaves during this period. Under Roman law, the slave was viewed as property, and the master would sometimes bestow a name such as this if he was particularly optimistic about his slave’s potential. Note the clever play on words which Paul uses in verses 10 and 11.

(43-25) Philemon 16. What Was the Roman Practice Regarding Slavery?

In the days of Philemon and Onesimus, slaves were completely at the mercy of their owners. Even trivial offenses were often punished in the most cruel manner. Indicative of the unrestricted authority enjoyed by the masters is this statement by Vincent: “The attitude of the law toward the slave was expressed in the formula servile caput nullum jus gabet; the slave has no right. The master’s power was unlimited. He might mutilate, torture, or kill the slave at his pleasure. Pollio, in the time of Augustus, ordered a slave to be thrown into a pond of voracious lampreys. Augustus interfered, but afterward ordered a slave of his own to be crucified on the mast of a ship for eating a favorite quail. Juvenal describes a profligate woman ordering a slave to be crucified. Some one remonstrates. She replies: ‘So then a slave is a man, is he! “He has done nothing,” you say. Granted. I command it. Let my pleasure stand for a reason’ (vi., 219). Martial records an instance of a master cutting out a slave’s tongue. The old Roman legislation imposed death for killing a plough-ox; but the murderer of a slave was not called to account. Tracking fugitive slaves was a trade. Recovered slaves were branded on the forehead, condemned to double labor, and sometimes thrown to the beasts in the amphitheatre. The slave population was enormous. Some proprietors had as many as twenty thousand.” (Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 2:921.)

Points to Ponder

The Church Has Need of Every Member

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19), he was emphasizing to these gentile-born converts that they now belonged to the kingdom of God. This is a message that every convert to the Church and every member for that matter, needs to receive—You Belong!

(43-26) The Hand of Fellowship Can Help People Feel That They Belong

“It was back in the days when we had stake conference in the afternoon. I was in a stake; it had been cold; it was winter. We came in out of the cold for the afternoon session, and everybody had had too much to eat and the room was hot. Everybody fell asleep, and it was my turn to speak. I was too sleepy to gather my thoughts, and not knowing what else to do, I asked for a show of hands of all who had come into the Church in the last two years. There was a fine young man and his wife and two children right there. I said to the man, ‘I know this is an unkind thing to do, but wouldn’t you like to come up and take ten minutes and tell us how you came into the Church and what it meant to you.’

“He stood up, a really handsome young man. He said, ‘You know, I came here from Palo Alto to work in this big chemical plant out here on the desert. I got my doctorate in chemistry and my wife has her degree in literature at Stanford. I knew all about chemistry; she knew all about literature, but we didn’t know anything about getting along with one another. We had been to see a marriage counselor; all we got was talk. We had been to see a psychologist; all we got was a big bill. We loved our children too much to be separated. That was the only thing that held us together; we both wanted the children. We disliked one another.

“‘My wife said, “Let’s try religion; we’ve tried everything else.” I said, “Okay, what religion?” She said, “The Mormon religion.” She had worked for a Mormon in San Francisco who she thought was the finest man she ever knew. We went one day, one Sunday morning. We drove around the block the first time. No sign in front of the building to tell what time church started. We had to case the place. So, the next Sunday we came and very sheepishly came in that door. A man reached out his hand and took me by the hand, and said, “Good morning, glad to see you. Haven’t seen you before. Where’ve you been? What ward did you come from?” I was puzzled. I didn’t know what he meant by a ward. Finally he got the idea that I wasn’t a member of the Church, but he made us feel at home. Took us to our classes in Sunday School; sat with us; took the children to their classes. At the close of the meeting he invited us to come to dinner on Wednesday. We came. The missionaries were there and five weeks later we were baptized.

“‘When we were baptized, the bishop was there, and when we were dressed, he took me by the hand and my wife by the hand and said, “Brother and Sister Romney, I want to welcome you into the Church and extend to you the hand of fellowship. Now, Brother Romney, everybody has something to do in this Church. We have a responsibility for you; we will put you in charge of the hymn books. Sister Romney, we will make you assistant secretary of the Primary. Brother Romney, priesthood meeting starts at eight o’clock on Sunday morning; Sunday School at ten; and sacrament meeting at six. We would like you here fifteen minutes early to see that all hymn books are in place. Will you be there?’ I didn’t know what else to do but say yes. I’d been saying yes for five weeks.

“‘One cold winter day when a blizzard was blowing, I plowed over through the snow with my little boy. We were all alone there in the meetinghouse passing out hymn books, and I stopped and said, “Joe, what’s wrong with you? Here you are a PhD in Chemistry and you are passing out hymn books, coming over through a blizzard like that.” I did it, but it wasn’t long after that I got another job.’

“Then with tears rolling down his face after he had spoken of going to the temple three months before, he said, ‘There’s bishop so and so. I want to express my appreciation to him for giving me an assignment on the day I was baptized—an assignment commensurate with my ability.’” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve, 4 Oct. 1973, pp. 6–7. Italics added.)

(43-27) The Message “You Belong” Needs to Be Given to All

“Well, there is a lot to be done. There’s brotherhood, and fellowship, and love, and a welcome to be offered. Let me mention the new members and the less active people. When I saw the people coming into the Church … I thought of the parable of the sower. There was some of the seed, as you know, that burned because it had no roots. These wonderful folks often … need the anchors of their faith sunk more deeply. They need to know they belong to something and to somebody who will take the place of what they have given up, the associations and friendships that are behind them. …

“Let me only note what a new convert said to us in the mail in England. ‘You feel like you never are going to be lonely again,’ she wrote. And she shouldn’t ever be lonely again in this Church because she had become, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, ‘fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.’ (Ephesians 2:19.)” (Hanks, The Gift of Self, pp. 105–7.)

Members of the Church Have Covenanted to Bear One Another’s Burdens

Oftentimes there are those who have the idea that whether they actually fellowship others doesn’t really matter. “After all,” they say, “I’m only one person. Whether I’m friendly or not won’t matter.” How important are you to the strength of the Church? (See Mosiah 18:8, 9.) What does it mean to “bear one another’s burdens” and to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort”?

Consider this conversation. Note some of the answers that you ought to be prepared to give as you strive to bear the burdens of and extend the hand of fellowship to those around you.

New Convert

The missionaries emphasized to us the fact that the church of Jesus Christ today in its restored state has the same organization as did the church of Jesus Christ in the days of the early apostles. I don’t question that statement. What I want to understand is why this is necessary.

Priesthood Leader

While it is true that the Church today has the same offices that existed in the church of Jesus Christ in the days of the apostles, this fact alone is not what makes the Church true, powerful, or distinctive. The importance of these offices was emphasized by the apostle Paul. Read Ephesians 4:11–16.

You will see in this letter the following purposes of these offices:

  • The perfecting of the saints

  • The work of the ministry

  • The edifying (or building up) of the body of Christ (members of the church of Christ)

These offices within the priesthood were to remain till “we all come in the unity of the faith … unto a perfect man.” The degree of that perfection was to be “the stature of the fulness of Christ” or the status and glory enjoyed by Christ.

New Convert

I guess what I’m trying to understand is how these offices serve those purposes.

Priesthood Leader

Let’s see if I can explain this. All offices in the priesthood grow out of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The office, in other words, is supplemental to the priesthood itself. The purpose of the office is to help bring a man to a state of godliness, perfection, and unity with Christ.

New Convert

How does an office do that?

Priesthood Leader

Offices exist in the priesthood to perform these functions:

  • To preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation

  • To preside over congregations of saints

  • To provide by revelation blessings and patriarchal lineage to the Saints.

By latter-day revelation, the Lord has broadly defined the functions of offices in the priesthood by these designations:

  • Those who travel to teach the gospel are called traveling ministers. Examples would be seventies and apostles. (See D&C 107:33, 97.)

  • Those who preside or conduct the affairs of congregations in branches, wards, stakes, or districts are called standing ministers. Examples are deacons, teachers, priests, and elders. (See D&C 84:11.)

  • Those who are appointed by revelation to give patriarchal blessings are called evangelical ministers. (See D&C 107:39.)

New Convert

I’m not certain that I understand the difference between these designations.

Priesthood Leader

Let’s see if I can explain the difference by applying their function to a common pattern in the Church today.

Whenever we introduce the gospel to any areas in the world, a mission is created. The purpose of a mission is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to “strangers or foreigners,” or nonmembers of the kingdom of God. Who introduces the gospel in various areas of the world? It is done by apostles, seventies, and elders called to be missionaries.

When sufficient priesthood strength is established in a mission by virtue of convert baptisms, then under the direction of God’s prophet, a stake is created. Stakes are created to perfect the saints. This is done by administering the ordinances of salvation and teaching the principles of the gospel. Who administers these ordinances and does the teaching? It is done by deacons, teachers, priests, and elders—in other words, the standing ministers. We see examples of their work in both branches and wards in the administration of the sacrament, the teaching of classes, home teaching, and other presiding responsibilities such as presiding over quorums of the priesthood.

New Convert

I see. You mentioned another office in the ministry—an evangelist, I believe it was.

Priesthood Leader

Yes, the office of an evangelical minister. (See D&C 107:39.)

New Convert

Is that like an evangelist in other churches?

Priesthood Leader

No, an evangelical minister is a patriarch. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “there should be a patriarch for benefit of the posterity of the saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons.” (Teachings, p. 151.) There will be an appropriate time when you will want such a blessing, which in the words of one of the prophets contain “paragraphs from your eternal possibilities.” (Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 117.)

Now, let’s go back to what Paul said in the text: that God gave “some, apostles; and some, prophets [traveling ministers]; and some, evangelists [evangelical ministers]; and some, pastors and teachers [standing ministers]” for the purposes of (1) perfecting the saints; (2) the work of the ministry; (3) the building up or strengthening of the church of God, until we achieve a state of perfection and become like Jesus Christ.

New Convert

In other words, all these offices function out of the priesthood for a particular responsibility in the ministry.

Priesthood Leader

Yes; and because of the many duties in the Church, and the fact that God has endowed his children with different gifts and talents to perform these specialized functions, these offices are all essential. Paul dramatized this by comparing the offices of the church to a human body, adding that the eye cannot say to another member of the body, “I have no need of thee,” or “I am greater than thee.” All are important to this vital, unified organism, for the church members must be as one. (See 1 Corinthians 12:14–31.) Thus these offices “are and always will be in the true Church of Christ as long as the earth shall stand.” (Delbert L. Stapley in CR, Apr. 1958, p. 116.)

New Convert

I see now! The whole purpose of the Church—its programs and organizations—is to help bless the lives of people.

Priesthood Leader

That’s right. What does that concept mean to you?

New Convert

Well, now that I’m a member of Christ’s church I have the responsibility to serve when I’m called.

Priesthood Leader

Is that all?

New Convert

No. I guess I also have the responsibility to fellowship every person with whom I come in contact, to make him feel he is a part of Christ’s church.

Priesthood Leader

That’s exactly right. We have all covenanted to fellowship and love one another. Unity can be achieved in no other way.

What Could This Mean to You?

Can you see how important the Church is? Can you see how important you are?

Do you understand why the Church has been organized? Can you understand why each member is important in the success of the whole? (See D&C 38:27.)

Can you determine in your own life to strive to bear burdens and extend fellowship to those around you, and to strive to be one with the saints?

Can you strive to make a special effort to make someone feel welcome and a part of Christ’s church? That was Paul’s message to the Ephesians, and it is his message to you.