May 7th, 2007

A Member

photo credit: Simon Pais

As Latter-day Saints baptized into the Church, we often refer to ourselves as “members” of the church. Taken in this context, a member is defined as an individual belonging to an organization.

However, this label takes on additional meaning in light of one of Paul’s teachings. When discussing the dissemination of spiritual gifts among members of the Church, he illustrates his point using an analogy of a body:

But now are they many members, yet but one body.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. (1 Cor. 12:20-22)

As Paul argues in verse 27, “ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” When we speak of ourselves as “members of the Church”, we might find more meaning when thinking that as the Church is founded upon Christ, we are members of His body. The body of Saints together represent Christ, and each individual is a member in that body.

What I find interesting is Paul’s declaration that “much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary”. Far too often do we hear of people in the Church who feel that they don’t measure up, who feel unimportant and without talent. These people, says Paul, are necessary. They, like the rest of us, are a member in Christ’s body. His body is not complete without them.

Another valuable lesson to be learned from Paul is the diversity that is important in the body of Christ. A knowledgeable gospel doctrine teacher might entertain the notion that everybody should seek to be like him in gaining such profound and broad knowledge of the gospel. Or a Relief Society President might complain that her sisters are not as involved and service-minded as she. What does Paul teach us of such a mentality?

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? (1 Cor. 12:17)

Or, in other words, if everybody were like Brother Smith or Sister Adams, we would only have one member. The Church would be an eye, or a nose, or a fingernail—but it wouldn’t be a body. Remember, each member is necessary. That diversity is crucial to having a society of Saints where we all can serve each other. We give and take, each serving the other with whatever gifts of the spirit we have been blessed with.

Lastly, I feel it important to make the distinction between diversity and unity. Speaking of the differences, Elder John C. Carmack taught:

In a worldwide church, becoming one does not mean becoming the same. (John C. Carmack, via Quoty)

As Saints of Christ we have Zion as our goal—a barometer of our spirituality and righteousness. But attaining that communal level of faith and glory does not require that we all become cookie-cutter Christians. Paul would have us understand that through diversity we can still attain unity.

So next time you refer to yourself or another as a “member of the Church”, remember that we literally are members—members of the body of Christ, each as important and necessary as the next.

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