Beyond the Genius of Man

by Elder V. Dallas Merrell

of the Seventy

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    Taken from an address delivered in April 1993 general conference.The Savior restored his Church through Joseph Smith. And Christ continues to direct Church leaders today: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

    I am always intrigued as knowledgeable people of the world comment on the influence and power of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would like to share with you some observations of Harold Bloom, a Jewish religious scholar who is a distinguished professor at both New York and Yale universities.

    Professor Bloom has written about the power and future of the Church. He extols Joseph Smith as “an authentic religious genius, unique in our … history,” and praises “the sureness of his instincts, his uncanny knowing precisely what [was] needful for the inauguration of a new faith” (The American Religion, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, pp. 82–83).

    Joseph Smith and Mormonism, he says, have contributed to the world “a more human God and a more divine man” (p. 100). Bloom says, “Nothing else in all of American history strikes me as … equal to the early Mormons, to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley and Orson Pratt, and the men and women who were their followers and friends” (p. 79).

    I am pleased to add my perspective to the impressive conclusions of Dr. Bloom. He wrote about how differently a believer might perceive Mormonism, and I am a believer. I am also one who has spent decades of academic and professional work researching and advising institutions on matters of leadership and power, and I wish to share with you my understanding about the real power of the Church. I invite each of you to think with me about several reasons why the true character and power of this work go beyond the genius of any man.

    1. The power of the Church is based on divine authority.

    God the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith and directed the restoration of their church. Jesus Christ has chosen and ordained those who direct God’s work today.

    The power and authority of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles extend to Christ’s ordained work in all the world. He has appointed the Apostles and the Seventy to travel in all nations to build up and regulate the Church. The Lord also calls standing ministers, such as your stake president and bishop, to bless us where we are. He has affirmed the validity of his ordained representatives: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Those in authority have no question about whose work this is and for whom we labor.

    2. Immense power comes from our divine purpose.

    The Church’s goal is not social standing or political or economic power. Our purpose is to invite all people to come unto Christ and to be perfected in Him.

    Revealed gospel doctrines give us vision and perspective about God and His plan for our salvation. The Church is a divine instrument to help us qualify for eternal life. That is our sacred purpose, and it shapes everything about the Lord’s kingdom.

    3. The power of the Church is also related to its essential work.

    Our work is to teach correct doctrine and principles of the gospel, and to provide all humankind with saving ordinances so they will receive “all that [the] Father hath” (D&C 84:38). President Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve has declared that the Church “has a comprehensive and inclusive message … restored to meet the needs of all mankind” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, pp. 18–19). Indeed, the Church is establishing an expansive family that includes every race, creed, tongue, and gender, the poor and needy, sinners and saints, the living and the dead in the merciful, just, and fair operations of God’s plan for all of His children.

    4. Latter-day Saints are disciples of Jesus Christ, as well as members of the Church.

    The power of the Church is based profoundly on discipleship that is rooted in individual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith is demonstrated at the waters of baptism, by worthily partaking of the sacrament, in temple worship, and in the integrity of our daily lives. True disciples seal their faith in service that is motivated by love for the Savior and for the people of the earth.

    5. Strength comes from the principle of stewardship.

    We acknowledge that all we possess belongs to God. We and all brothers and sisters who preceded us come as one, in common, to bring our offerings of tithes, time, and talents for building the kingdom of God. We strive to lift one another as neighbors and to establish ourselves as a covenant community whose lives are centered in Christ.

    6. The source of the Church’s power involves continuous improvement.

    Our most fundamental doctrines impel us to improve, individually and as a group. We counsel one with another. We pray together and in secret. We acknowledge our weaknesses, search scriptures, and ponder course adjustments. We receive the righteous benefits from heavenly inspired gifts of science, technology, and art. We bring all truth we are capable of receiving to harmonize our lives with the teachings and perfect example of our leader, Jesus Christ.

    This is the ongoing work of the Almighty. It is The Church of Jesus Christ. It is an organization that will not fail.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

    We rejoice that the future belongs to our Master, who created this world, provided the plan of salvation, and established this church. For He himself declared: “For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people” (D&C 84:119).

    No other institution has the divine character of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its continuing success and power are beyond the genius of any mortal.

    Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh