Speaking of an occasionally overlooked aspect of Jesus’ mortal ministry, Elder Tad R. Callister said, “Christ built a home to best accommodate the spiritual needs of His children. It was called His Church.” In addition to healing the sick, teaching the multitudes, and performing other mighty miracles, the Savior established a Church—an authorized organization—in order to provide a spiritual home for His followers, a place where they could receive the word of God through His authorized representatives, worship and serve together, and partake in the sacred rites and ordinances of the faith.
Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians outlines the basic organization and purpose of the Church as Christ organized it:
And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and from, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
Christ’s Church was organized in order to preserve the purity of His doctrine. In His wisdom, Christ knew that differences of opinion or interpretation, human fallibility, or diabolical liars would corrupt or otherwise confuse the truth as He taught it (and the often-corrective nature of Paul’s epistles is evidence to the same). A single, centralized Church operated by authorized apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors ensured that there would be a place where Christ’s pure doctrine could be found, a place where Christ’s followers could find refuge from faith-destroying philosophies and influences.
Additionally, the Church existed, as Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “to create a community of Saints that [would] sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.’” That community of Saints (or followers of Christ) was essential to preserving them united in the faith to strengthen and support one another on the path of discipleship. Describing the same Church, which Christ organized among the people of the ancient Americas, the Book of Mormon explains the value of that community of believers this way:
And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and finisher of the faith. (Moroni 6:4)
Finally, an organized Church was essential as a means of providing and safeguarding sacred ordinances and covenants. In the Gospel of John, the Savior declares, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In Christ’s view, baptism is an essential ordinance for salvation: a man (or woman) cannot see the kingdom of God without it. Further, the New Testament teaches that there is a valid authority and mode for performing baptism:
And [Paul] said unto [certain disciples], Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:3-5).
The disciples Paul addressed had been baptized, but not by the authority of Christ’s newly organized Church. Exercising his apostolic authority, Paul administered the ordinance of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost to them.
Ultimately, followers of Christ “strive for conversion…Christ and His gospel, a conversion that is facilitated by the Church,” in Elder Christofferson’s words. By organizing a Church, Jesus Christ essentially fenced off His fold, creating a place of refuge and resort for His flock. Led by Him through authorized representatives who carried His gospel to the nations of the earth (see Ephesians 2:20; Mark 16:15), His Church stood as a gathering place for His Saints, a beacon for all His children.