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Organization. If we get outside the idea of a company, firm, political faction, or religion for a moment, it will do us some good. So, let’s start with some defining work.
To organize, which comes from the Latin organum (instrument, tool), is to “arrange into a structured whole; to order” as well as “to coordinate activities efficiently” or “to make arrangements or preparations.” Thus, summarized: organizing is a tool that we use to ensure a structure is whole, or in order. Organizing is a tool that coordinates something to increase efficiency. Organizing is also a tool that allows us to preempt something negative by making arrangements or preparations for something.
When we apply this to God, we have to ask ourselves. Is God a god of order? Is He someone who organizes and makes preparations? Is He someone who plans? Or, is He a being that leaves everything to chance? For there is nothing between order and chaos. There is only one or the other. There is no partial heaven with a little bit of hell, or vice versa.
Entropy is the measure of the disorder, or randomness of a system. Something that is entropic is something that creates disorder or randomness. Humans are entropic. Meaning, we engender disorder because of, and by, our lack of perfection. We are NOT whole or complete. God is whole and complete. Thus, God—our Heavenly Father—has a plan to help us become whole and complete so that the disorder and randomness of our lives can be eternally fixed.
Religion is a human term for organizing a system of beliefs around the worship of a superhuman or controlling power. You’ll note in the scriptures (all of them) that God never calls the organization of His church “religion”. He calls it His “kingdom” (“the kingdom of God shall be likened unto…). Religion, in scripture, is always used by humans to describe “a system of beliefs”. James talks about the vanity of men when they act differently from their “religion” or system of beliefs. He also indicates that “pure religion and undefiled” is to act as one believes (James 1).
But let’s be very, very clear. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a religion because it is not a system of beliefs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a system of unchanging, fundamental truths established by God.
So, if God organizes but the term “organized religion” doesn’t necessarily apply to Him, what has He organized for us?
God, our Heavenly Father, has organized and authored a plan for us to become whole and complete, like He is, that our entropic nature may be, at some future point, fixed.
If we go back to the “human” definition for organize, then we understand that God’s plan for us is a tool that has made arrangements and preparations for us to become like Him despite our entropic nature. His plan is a tool that coordinates the things we need to attain this, in the most efficient way possible. His plan preempts our total destruction. Because, as we are, we are destined to become so disordered and scattered and random that we will become nothing.
Have you ever seen a toddler’s playroom that starts out nice and clean—or your living room—but when you give them what you think is a tiny box of toys, the room—within less than a minute—suddenly becomes a total wreck. Toys are lodged in forgotten places, scattered over the whole floor, and now lost everywhere. And in their disorder and random scattering they seem to have multiplied one hundred-fold. This is us. And even when we grow up and cease to destroy a room with toys, we continue to destroy our lives with entropic behavior and an almost inherent determination to not order ourselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—though our soul is always hungrily seeking it.
So, what is God’s plan to help us become ordered, complete, and whole—to fill us with joy?
God’s plan of salvation for His children is about dispensing the power to become complete and whole through a system of ordinances and covenants that can only be properly given and received through His power (we call it the priesthood). Why ordinances and covenants? Seemingly meaningless outward physical rites accompanied by a bunch of seemingly stifling rules that “organize us” and our lives and help us create order?
I’m not sure I could ever give all the answers to that—only God can (Isa 55:8-9). But a few can be found here.
As well, because God is a god of order, there aren’t 600 different ways to become complete and whole. There is only one. If there were more than one then there would a loss of order. Thus, all the fundamentals of becoming complete and whole never change. Sometimes the outward ritual God asks for changes. But He is the one who changes them (maintaining order). Thus, we see some differing rituals from Old Testament to New, and to present. Yet, God has always clearly set them and the fundamentals they are based on—as I’ve said—don’t change.
Christ set the example for this during His earthly ministry when He organized His kingdom on the earth (i.e. church) wherein He called prophets, apostles, etc. … fulfilled the Law of Moses (which only came into being with the Israelites due to their struggles) and then showed how to begin the process of becoming complete. Christ, Himself, submitted to baptism by one with the priesthood authority—John the Baptist.
Beyond baptism, God has established a framework of ordinances and covenants that bring us closer to Him and which help us become complete and whole. This plan includes a series of ordinances and covenants which bind us (by our choice to participate) to the process of becoming more ordered and controlled (negentropic) and fundamentally full of peace and joy. God, Himself, is bound and perfect because He is bound by ordinances and covenants.
However, often, when we get frustrated or angry with God’s plan, which He dispenses (or makes available to us) via an organized system (a religion) for our benefit; it’s because of only one of two things. 1) we are not doing are part to receive His ordinances and covenants, or 2) we are distracted by the entropic nature of other people.
No matter what our “beef” with organized religion, every problem we have fundamentally comes back to the fact that we are not doing our part or we are letting the entropic nature of others—their capacity to create chaos—distract us from God’s beautiful organized negentropic plan for us.
Let me quickly explain both number 1 and number 2.
Number 1: we are not doing our part to embrace God’s plan that will bring us order and perfection.
From my own experience (which is the only experience I can truthfully speak from), without fail, the people in my life who have struggled with the gospel (God’s plan for negentropy) via a necessary religion (organized belief system) are those that:
- Stop, or never create space in their life for, daily reading the scriptures (Alma 14:1, 3 Ne 10:14, John 5:39, Acts 17:11, Jacob 7:23).
- Don’t know God very well, and have incorrect expectations of how He should act in their lives or the lives of others.
- Keep a commandment until they get a blessing, and then stop keeping it and expected to continue getting blessed (Doctrine & Covenants 58:26-33; 130:20-21).
- Benefit from priesthood blessings, or the testimonies of others, but expect the blessing to manifest, or the spiritual witness to change them, without them putting forth significant and continuous effort.
There are likely a few more, but the fundamentals are the same. Just like eating right and exercising for a few days, weeks, or even months, won’t provide you any long-term health if you quit, so also spiritual progression toward completeness and wholeness doesn’t persist when we stop ordering our lives as God would have us do.
Each of the bullet points under this heading are a way of establishing “order” in our lives. By choosing to do something daily, we create a sense of order. If, by also correctly learning and educating ourselves in the process, we are also ordering our thoughts and giving ourselves knowledge that is nearly complete and whole. Just as people who are incredibly health and in shape bounce back quickly from injuries, so also, if we are incredibly spiritually healthy, and our thoughts are ordered, we will bounce back quickly from trials and troubles.
Notice also, that people begin to fall into chaos in their mind and heart when they let the actions—that create order in their life and mind and spirit—become unimportant and include them only “randomly” in their lives. Random obedience can’t produce consistent and orderly blessings (Doctrine & Covenants 58:26-33; 130:20-21). Intent does matter (Doctrine & Covenants 137:9-10), but intent must eventually be substantiated by action. Thus, random, or spotty attempts at ordered behavior cannot produce ordered results. The produce spotty and random results.
And here’s the frustrating part. Truth doesn’t change simply because we get mad at “the system” which is entropic—because we’re involved. We can jump off a cliff and we will fall even if we curse the fact that God didn’t give us wings. His response will always be, “But I taught you that if you jumped you would fall, so you didn’t need wings anyway.”
So, if we do not do our part to respond to the truth God gives us, and to order our lives through the plan He’s given us—then that’s on us. His plan didn’t fail us. We just didn’t commit to it.
And, consider for one moment, how you and I look at others that are not ordered in areas of their lives where we are pretty well ordered. We look at them as we look at the toddler who destroyed the room in 35 seconds flat. As we look at others, and that toddler, God must look at us. And, because He loves us He continues to help us learn how to sing the clean up song and re-order our toys again.
Number 2: we are distracted by the entropic nature of other people.
As already established, people are chaos. They are entropy and disorder and randomness. And they always will be UNLESS they “submit to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and put off the natural man, and become a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Lord, and become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all the things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict up them…” (Mosiah 3:19).
The foundational fact here is that there is no prophet, or any church leader, for that matter that will ever be perfect. If they are good to any extent or in any aspect of their lives, it is only because they are submitting to the same process that you are to submit to—the plan of salvation, or the negentropic process.
The scriptures repeatedly illustrate that:
- God works with culture. He works with EVERY culture and subculture. He works with what makes sense to us until He can help us get beyond it. Every prophet, church leader, and self-proclaimed believer in God comes from not only a world culture, but a country culture, a state culture, a region culture, and is subject to work culture and the family cultures he or she has been raised in or is currently surrounded by. We can’t become ordered and perfect all at once. God works with worldly culture and He ALSO works with religious culture. Yes, God works with the religious culture we establish until He can get us beyond it.
- God works with imperfect people.
- God specifically chooses people that are weak, have struggles, make mistakes, and annoy us because those are usually the ones that (with few exceptions) are willing to not quit, and who persevere when even the craziest people would have quit (1 Corinthians 1:27).
It’s pretty tough to choose to follow God’s plan when people get in the way. How much more, then, is our faith rewarded and our capacity to become negentropic, when we choose to continue the process to become complete and whole despite the entropy of those trying alongside us? The heavier the weight we lift, the more our muscles tear, and the greater capacity our muscles have to become stronger.
Do you realize the power of that? The more you determine to stay on your ordered path in the plan of salvation despite the entropy of others the stronger and more ordered you become!
So, to conclude, the fact is that we don’t have to live with, or without, organized religion. We only have to live and participate fully in the process of negentropy—the process of becoming complete and whole. That process is dispensed not by “organized religion”, but by the orderly and organized framework of ordinances and covenants dispensed by God (made available to you and me) through a living prophet and apostles. That is the plan of salvation. I state again, it is not a system of beliefs—save to those who don’t believe in it. It is a system of truths that will help you become complete and whole—which is a fulness of joy.