What is the Church?
I often hear people say things like: "Why doesn't the church do more for the poor?", or "Why does the church spend so much money on temples?" These questions have made me ponder on the subject of just what, exactly, is the church? In the New Testament, the word translated as "church" is ekklesia and means the assembly or gathering. There are some that maintain that the "church" didn't exist until after the day of Pentecost, others, myself included, feel that the church proper has existed from eternity and will continue to exits throughout all eternity. This is the Church of the Firstborn, as explained in the Doctrine and Covenants:
51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
Verse 54 informs us exactly what the church is: It is the members. WE are the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:27, Paul expresses it this way:
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
What does that mean for each of us to Be the church? It means that we need to change the way we thing about what the church does. We need to remember, when we ask why the church doesn't do something, that we are really asking why we, as individuals, aren't doing something. The next time you want to ask why the church, or the bishop, or the stake president, or any other member does or doesn't do something, maybe it would be better to ask why I am not doing those things? Salvation is an individual experience, something we share with no one except the Lord. He alone will judge us for what we did or did not do.
In conclusion: When people ask me why the church doesn't do more for the poor in the future, I will remember they are not talking about the apostles ,presidents, bishops, or elders as a group, but as individuals. I will look at myself and ask, why am I not doing more for the poor. I will remember that the Lord was specific about what I need to be doing:
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.