Why are There So Many Churches Today?
All Christian churches have the same goal: to bring people closer to the Savior, Jesus Christ. The goal is the same, but some of the doctrines and teachings are different. The scriptures teach, “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If this is true, then why are there so many Christian churches today, by some estimates, nearly 40,000?
When the Savior, Jesus Christ, walked upon the earth, “He organized His Church. He called Apostles, Seventies, and other leaders to whom He gave priesthood authority to act in His name. After Christ and His Apostles passed away, men changed the ordinances and doctrine. The original Church and the priesthood were lost.”
Jesus Christ built His Church on a foundation of apostles and prophets, with Himself as the head. (See Ephesians 2:19-22.) He conferred His priesthood (the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name) upon His Apostles. (See Mark 3:14.) After the Savior’s death, the Apostles were the presiding priesthood authority of the primitive Church. But when the Apostles died, there was no longer a presiding authority over the Church of Jesus Christ.
Without the priesthood and Apostles to direct the Church, early Christians were left to the wisdom of men to interpret scriptures and teach them the principles and ordinances of the gospel. Some of the teachings became distorted and forgotten, and some false doctrine was taught as truth. As time went by, this led to the emergence of many churches in an attempt to reform the corruptions they perceived.. (See Preach My Gospel, pages 32 & 35.)
After centuries of spiritual darkness, truth-seeking men and women protested against current religious practices. They recognized that many of the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel had been changed or lost. They sought for greater spiritual light, and many spoke of the need for a restoration of truth. They did not claim, however, that God had called them to be a prophet. Instead, they tried to reform teachings and practices that they believed had been changed or corrupted. Their efforts led to the organization of many Protestant churches. This Reformation resulted in an increased emphasis on religious freedom, which opened the way for the final Restoration (Preach My Gospel, page 35).
The Reformation sought to change what already existed. But because the priesthood line of authority was broken when the Apostles died, a complete Restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ was necessary. This is a final Restoration, because the Lord has promised He will not take the fulness of the gospel from the earth again. (See Daniel 2:44; Doctrine & Covenants 138:44.)
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). How could the Lord reveal His secrets if He had no prophets on the earth?
On an early spring day in 1820, a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith had an honest desire to know which of the many churches was the true Church of Jesus Christ. So he went to a grove of trees, knelt down and prayed. Joseph’s humble prayer was answered in a way he never imagined. Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, visited the young boy and told him not to join any of the churches. (See Joseph Smith History 1:11-19.) Through Joseph Smith, the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including priesthood authority, was restored upon the earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is named as such because it is Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth today.
This article was written by Lisa Montague, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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