Doctrine: We can worship anywhere. We don’t need organized religion to be good. But, God’s power is not absolute: it is bound by covenant. So, if we want to attain unto His power, glory, and attributes, we must also submit to be bound by covenant. Such covenants are accompanied by ordinances, commandments, and personal sacrifice, which bring about the “full” power of grace on our account.
Good people literally cover the face of the planet earth. Sure, we all have some flaws and weaknesses, but in general, with a few exceptions, most people are basically good.
So, if most people are basically good, then what’s the purpose of religion? Why get baptized into any church? Why conform to any commandments? Religious people can sometimes be the most unforgiving, unkind, bigoted, prejudiced, and judgmental people. They have all these rules and if you don’t keep them, then you are suddenly a bad person. Right?
I hear people say all the time that religion doesn’t have to be in a church. And, they’re right. It doesn’t. Religion is: the belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God (or gods).
We can believe in and worship God anywhere. This is a fundamental truth that God Himself preaches. In Alma 32:10-11 we read:
Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?
And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?
As well, much (though certainly not all) of our Christlike service and prayers are to be personal, and in secret…or in other words, not publicly broadcast or touted (Alma 33:7; 1 Nephi 13:6; Matthew 6:6).
So, if God Himself is okay with worship outside a church, why then do we go to church? Why do we get baptized, partake of the sacrament (communion), and receive temple ordinances and covenants? Is it just to get some perceived blessing of eternal families? Is that all ordinances, covenants, and Sabbath worship are for?
I could say, “Yes,” and for some, that would be enough. But, let me get to the doctrine.
People outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints get antsy and uncomfortable when we talk about our beliefs of “becoming like God.” When they think of God, they think of absolute power. And, in the hands of a man, we are all fairly certain that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It does.
But, what if I said that God’s power is not absolute? Yes, God’s power is not absolute. Why? Because God can’t do whatever He wants with His power. His power cannot be used for selfish gain, to gratify His pride, to exercise compulsion or unrighteous dominion… (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37). God’s power is protected and preserved by His own covenants and eternal law (Doctrine and Covenants 88:34).
Does not God say to us, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say…”? (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10). That means if we keep God’s commandments He HAS TO bless us. He can’t not bless us…or He would lose His power. He can’t wield His power without law and covenant. Indeed, His work and His glory is to use His power to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39).
God Himself said, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Then, He calls Himself “the greatest of all” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18; 29:1; 38:1, 39:1; Exodus 3:14).
So, why get baptized? Why partake of the sacrament? Why receive temple covenants?
Covenants are how God dispenses His power. We don’t go to church just to be good. We are, most of us, basically good. So, going to church is not only about being good, it’s about making and keeping covenants that we might progress in our journey to become like God.
What is God like?
- God is immortal = He has a perfected, glorified, resurrected body and so He can’t die, or get sick…
- God has eternal family = God has an eternal wife and children who are bound to Him for eternity. Plus, He has begotten us spiritually and so we are His literal spirit children.
- God is perfectly loving, just, merciful, etc…
- God has a perfect knowledge of everything…there is not anything save He knows it.
God became God, and achieved these perfections, by binding Himself to covenants!
So, we can become better a little at a time and remain basically good by worshipping anywhere—at home or in our hearts. We can serve and love and give of ourselves. And, we will be blessed by God for so doing. But, if we want to become godly. If we want to remove every mote and beam in our lives. If we want power to become greater for eternity, then we need godly power.
To access godly power, we must make and keep covenants.
The baptismal covenant includes the ordinance (or sacrament) of baptism. A physical rite that we go through, symbolic of the death and resurrection of Christ. We emulate Him by so doing and symbolically give ourselves to Him and to His service by letting the “old us,” which was not bound by covenant, go, and coming forth a “new us,” bound by covenant.
For binding ourselves in this way, both publicly and personally, God grants unto us not only forgiveness of sin which cleanses us, and a new beginning, but a gift of the companionship of a member of the godhead: the Holy Ghost. This constant trickle of truth and power refines us in a godly way. It gives us the capability—if we honor the conditions for having His presence—to not only be good, but to change our very natures—over time—into something godly: perfectly loving, just merciful, etc…
We can be good without covenants. But, we can’t become godly without the gift of the Holy Ghost. He is the baptism of fire which can purify and remove all dross from us. He is the great sanctifier—and can make us holy—in time—whether now or in the eternities. This is something we can’t achieve without making a covenant.
The sacrament is a weekly covenant which helps us to remember and renew our baptismal covenant. It helps us to review our lives and see what we’ve done better and what we need to do better. It helps us weekly to report and be re-cleansed. To renew our relationship with the Holy Ghost. To renew our access to this godly power.
Temple covenants, like baptism, help us bind ourselves closer to God and to His will. Thus, enabling Him to grant us more of His power.
When we enter the sealing covenant, we are granted access to the godly powers of procreation both now and in eternity. We can exercise these powers outside of covenant. But, when we do so without God’s sanction, no matter how good our intentions, our power is limited to mortality only. It cannot last forever (Doctrine and Covenants 132:15-18).
The power of eternal family is God’s power. It comes with covenant and responsibility. Those who do not enter this covenant cannot have this power to remain united or to continue to procreate after this life has ended; “till death do they part…”
So, God’s power is “all-powerful.” But, it is not absolute. He cannot wield it outside of covenant or He would “cease to be god” (Mormon 9:19; Alma 42:13, 22, 25).
So, also, we cannot become godly without binding ourselves to ordinances and covenants. We cannot reach beyond a certain level of goodness without it. We can worship God without brick or mortar. We can do good and serve and be blessed without organized religion. But, we can’t attain unto perfection and godhood without ordinance and without covenant.
Going to church isn’t about the perfection of the people in the building. It isn’t about perfect sermons. It isn’t about perfect leadership and administration. It is about ordinances and covenants. It is about becoming “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
So, if you are cool with being pretty good. Then that is well. You can do that without organized religion. But, if you want to be godly, then the ordinances and covenants of God are necessary to the dispensing of His power and grace that you might become as He is.