“Words of the Early Apostles: Building Up the Church,” Ensign, Sept. 2003, 44–47
Throughout their ministries, the Apostles Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel, organized branches, and instructed the Saints in their ecclesiastical responsibilities. Their words and deeds reveal three basic elements that are required for establishing the Lord’s Church:
Church organization and structure must be established through authorized representatives and according to divine design.
True doctrine and principles are revealed by God through His prophets.
All members have responsibilities to help build up the Church.
These three principles continue to be relevant in our day.
The Lord instituted the process of organizing the Church through the proper application of priesthood keys and by revelation. Alternatives to this process are not acceptable to Him.
Paul said regarding the bestowal of priesthood authority, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Heb. 5:4). Priesthood power is a gift from God for those who spiritually qualify. It is not given upon demand, as Peter’s encounter with the sorcerer Simon illustrates:
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
“Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:18–19).
Peter rebuked him, saying:
“Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
“Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:20–21).
One cannot buy priesthood power or obtain it for selfish reasons. It must be bestowed by those with authority. Similarly, specific callings within the Church are extended by those in authority exercising their priesthood keys under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Without this foundation principle in place, the Church could be established differently throughout the world, depending on individual personalities and local customs.
When Paul instructed Timothy, he said, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Tim. 5:22). He knew that prayer, pondering, and inspiration must precede the giving of callings.
Many experiences have reaffirmed for me that our Church is divinely led and that priesthood leaders are inspired as to whom to call. One of those experiences took place in 1997, when I was a newly called General Authority. One of my first assignments was to assist Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in reorganizing a stake. Although I looked forward to this opportunity, I was a bit apprehensive because of my lack of experience.
During the reorganization process, we interviewed many priesthood brethren in the stake. It became apparent that several of these brethren were fully capable of successfully accomplishing the responsibilities of a stake president. The question then became: Which of these men did the Lord desire to be called?
After considerable discussion and pondering, Elder Hales and I felt prompted to select a particular candidate. Elder Hales then asked me to offer a prayer. What happened next was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. During the prayer, I asked for confirmation of the Spirit. As I uttered the name of this priesthood brother, the Holy Ghost bore such a powerful witness that he was the Lord’s choice that I could barely finish the prayer. Elder Hales and I both knew by revelation that this was the man the Lord had chosen. How blessed we are to be members of the Church, which is directed by divine inspiration!
Paul described the foundation upon which the Church of Jesus Christ stands: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:19–20).
Peter exhorted the Saints to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets,” warning that in the last days many would turn away from them: “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (2 Pet. 3:2–3).
Prophets reveal the mind and will of the Lord to us so that we do not have to be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Paul taught that if we keep ourselves worthy and protect the purity of this revealed doctrine, great blessings will come: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).
During the Sunday afternoon session of general conference in April 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley closed by announcing the construction of 32 new temples. As those words left his mouth, the Holy Ghost testified to me that Gordon B. Hinckley was a living prophet and that it was the Lord’s will that those temples be built. This same confirmation from the Holy Ghost came to me during the April 1999 general conference when President Hinckley announced the construction of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
The Lord has always revealed His will and His priesthood power and authority through His servants the prophets (see Amos 3:7). He administers His kingdom the same yesterday, today, and forever.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, the Apostle Paul emphasizes that every member is needed to help successfully establish the Church:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. …
“For the body is not one member, but many. …
“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. …
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:12, 14, 21, 27–28).
Each member of the Church has been blessed with special gifts or talents. Just think how difficult it would be for a bishop or branch president to successfully staff a ward or branch if everyone had the same talents. A great youth leader may have different talents than the choir director, but both are important to the overall well-being of the ward or branch. Just as each part of the body is essential to the health and strength of the whole body, each member is essential to the health and strength of the ward or branch.
When members willingly donate their time and talents to the Church, their testimonies grow and their spiritual lives are strengthened. In various locations throughout the Church, I have observed members’ lives change as they become fully engaged in helping to establish the Church. Two such individuals are Carlos and Rosario Casariego.
I was serving a full-time mission in Uruguay when I first met Carlos and Rosario. They were teenagers at the time, and both were receptive to the gospel and eager to live by its principles.
Carlos was baptized in December 1970, and three months later he met Rosario when he was asked to speak at the baptismal service for her family. Following their baptisms, both Carlos and Rosario were called to serve with the youth, and soon they became the presidents of their respective groups. They were among the first students when the seminary and institute programs started in Uruguay. Additionally, Rosario served in the stake Primary presidency, and Carlos appeared on the Church’s weekly television program Nuestro Mundo (Our World).
By 1975 Carlos and Rosario were planning their wedding. Then they attended a regional conference, and the course of their lives was changed. During the conference, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) told the youth that every qualified young man should seriously consider going on a full-time mission and that young women should be supportive of that goal.
Carlos and Rosario determined that they would follow the counsel of the prophet. Later that year, Carlos received a call to the Uruguay-Paraguay Mission. Rosario commenced a full-time mission to Argentina six months later. Due to Carlos’s and Rosario’s dedicated service, many good people and future leaders were baptized into the Church.
Since their marriage in July 1981, Carlos and Rosario have had four children and have served in numerous positions in the Church. They have done everything in their power to help establish the Church in their native Uruguay. Their dedication to the Lord has been a blessing not only to those with whom they have served, but in their own lives as well. They are examples of good people who have become fully engaged in helping to establish a strong, multigenerational church in their own country.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” Similarly, Peter taught, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house … to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). Let us individually commit to do our part in building up His Church. In the words of a great modern prophet, Brigham Young (1801–77), “When we conclude to make a Zion we will make it, and this work commences in the heart of each person.”1