Three or Four Missions of the Church

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On Own Now
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Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by On Own Now » 06 Apr 2017, 07:39

For a long time, the Church had an "elevator pitch" that it labled "The Threefold Mission of the Church". This was instituted by SWK in April, 1981. The statement was so succinct and clear that many active members who lived in the 80's onward could recite the three missions without skipping a beat. In SWK's own words the mission of the Church is to:
• To proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people;
• To perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation;
• To redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth.
Part of what made this so powerful is that it could be abbreviated, as SWK himself did just a few sentences later as:
to proclaim the gospel, to perfect the Saints, and to redeem the dead
In 2010, the Church subtly tweaked the message. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't done in a way that has the same punch. The verbiage added the phrase "caring for the poor and needy". But it fell way short of making this a mission of the Church. Here is the text from Handbook 2 (which can be found at https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2 ... ng=eng#2.2) under the heading "The Purpose of the Church":
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by God to assist in His work to bring to pass the salvation and exaltation of His children. The Church invites all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32; see also D&C 20:59). The invitation to come unto Christ pertains to all who have lived, or will ever live, on the earth.

When individuals receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, they become members of the Church. The Church supports them and their families by serving as “a refuge from the storm” of worldly influences and wickedness (D&C 115:6). The Church provides opportunities for service, blessing, and personal growth. The programs and activities of the Church support and strengthen individuals and families.

In fulfilling its purpose to help individuals and families qualify for exaltation, the Church focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities. These include helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances.
A couple of notes that I will make about this. The first paragraph is a restatement of the original SWK Mission of the Chruch. All three elements are there, and no others. The third paragraph says that to accomplish this, the Church focuses on all divinely appointed responsibilities, which include a group of four sub-bullets. IMO, it's not a very well-crafted statement because it lists three purposes and later four enablers, of which three are the stated purposes. In other words, it's confused.

It appears to me that the "threefold mission of the Church" has simply gone away from Church literature, but hasn't been replaced with an equivalent, and because of this, long-time members will continue to refer back to the threefold mission of the Church. I'm not saying this is either right or wrong, but I am just interested in it, because it feels like an aborted transition to something new that never had any emphasis.

I'm interested to hear from others how they interpret this and if there are any more clear statements by the Church out there.
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nibbler
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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by nibbler » 06 Apr 2017, 08:11

I think one issue is that there's not really an established program to back up the 4th mission of the church.

Proclaim the gospel - serving a full time mission, going on exchanges with the missionaries, feeding the missionaries, sharing a BoM with your testimony written in it, handing out pass-along cards, etc.

Redeem the dead - genealogy, going to the temple to do ordinances, ward night for doing baptisms at the temple, etc.

Perfect the saints - do your home teaching, family home evening, family scripture study and prayer, etc.

Care for the poor and needy - ???

I suppose people can go to the bishop to get financial assistance but that doesn't involve any more than one person.

I think the caring for the poor and needy has traditionally fallen under the perfect the saints umbrella, most of our caring for the needy looks inward, but it's nice to have a 4th as a call-out to highlight a specific need.

There have been a few initiatives by individuals in getting a list of needs for refugee families, that's nice but there's no support from the organization, it's the heroics of a few individuals. The other missions have cut and dried, "I did this defined activity so I know I'm doing my part" thing that gets mentioned regularly during announcements every Sunday.

I can hear it. That's all we need, more programs. Well yeah, maybe we do. The real issue is that back in the day I felt that program participation was a requirement as opposed to something someone may actually want to do of their own volition. I wouldn't mind 1000 programs if they came without the expectation that everyone participate in all of them. More programs would mean more variety and the people that wanted to participate would be there because they had that passion. Maybe that means programs at the stake level instead of the ward level? I'm just spit balling.
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DarkJedi
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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Apr 2017, 08:39

I think like other things (the essays, mormonandgay, televising priesthood meeting, etc.) the fourth mission was added without a lot of fanfare. Likewise, I don't know that we really even directly talk about the missions of the church much except at the local level. I don't recall a recent GC address where either the three or four missions were directly mentioned or laid out, but almost all talks fit into one of the categories. FWIW, the four missions/purposes are included in General Handbook 2, section 2.2 which is subheaded "The Purpose of the Church"
In fulfilling its purpose to help individuals and families qualify for exaltation, the Church focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities. These include helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances.
And I agree with the notion that part of the problem is that people don't know how to do it - there's no checklist. I'm sure many believe they are doing their part by paying fast offerings and I won't dispute that doing so is part of how it's done. One of the things I'm getting from Millennials is that while they think writing a check is OK, what they really want is to physically serve people and physically improve their communities. I think the church for the most does lack in that respect, especially if you don't count moving (or moving pianos) as the kind of service that is really helping the poor and needy. On the other hand, I also recognize that the church has increased its humanitarian efforts over the past few years (under Pres. Monson), which also goes unheralded (probably somewhat by design).
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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by Roy » 06 Apr 2017, 10:18

One thing that I have noticed about some other Christian churches is that they make a big deal about supporting foreign missionaries and the missionaries seem to be involved in more humanitarian/community building activities than ours seem to be doing. (these missionaries make a trip to the US every few years to tour the churches that support them financially, report on their progress, and make a pitch for extra donations)

Therefore, even when just writing a check it is much easier to visualize exactly what good the money is doing.

In addition, some of these other churches really do seem to put us to shame in the area of caring for the poor and the needy in the local area. Feeding homeless, staffing the warming station, organizing a clothing exchange, helping individuals that are starting over due to trying to escape domestic violence or substance abuse problems - those tasks just do not feel like part of the Mormon experience.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

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mom3
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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by mom3 » 08 Apr 2017, 11:20

If this reply is a repeat feel free to move along.

My take on it, is this is a PR department fail. President Hinckley was a borne PR man. That's why President McKay tapped him right out of the gate for the post mission assignment.

Thomas Monson "PR Guy"? - Not So Much.

He has always been the quiet doer. The 80 widows he visited wasn't for public knowledge. Someone else leaked the stories, not him. The turkey's he raised and dinner's he made for them. His own covenant with God.

December 2009, he gently invites us to join him.

Sadly we have been trained to get the rest of the assignment that we totally miss it. With out the task list of what to do. Or a building to go do it in. We can't figure out how to Follow the Prophet or The Master Himself. And the PR department, whose job it is, to project a positive church image can't do it either. No brochures, no public broadcasts, no GA firesides with a full court press on "Caring for the Poor and Needy". Nothing. A few years later JustServe pops up. It too has potential. But again nothing more comes of it than a 3rd hour 5th Sunday Presentation. Then crickets.

Others would point out that Humanitarian Aid has grown. I applaud it. I even imagine this unknown 4th Mission helped it grow. But as a church we didn't fall all over it like we did the three fold mission. You don't get announcements on Sunday with 3 or 4 varied options on attending Ward/Stake/Youth Service Day like you do with Temple attendance.

It is one of the churches biggest losses in my opinion. We need to serve as President Monson serves. Maybe not widows, but somewhere in the community. I truly believe if we had immersed ourselves in this mission with as much gusto as we did the three fold mission so much of the pain the church itself is suffering from would have been dramatically reduced and genuine healing in personal lives would have increased exponentially. And all the other "programs" would have seen growth, healing, and improvement. But no - the PRethren skipped it for us.

Climbing off my soapbox now. Have a good day.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by SilentDawning » 10 Apr 2017, 06:05

They want the credit for Caring for Poor and Needy's humanitarian ring to it, without broadcasting it and increasing demand for welfare assistance. That's my take. Otherwise, they would have broadcasted it.

In my experience, the Bishops don't want to spend too much on welfare, or incur fast offering deficits. They would rather give food orders, pay utility bills and get people off it. I was told "there is never a good reason to give financial assistance to a transient" -- when they show up at the chapel asking for assistance. And of course, Bishops have, on occasion, tied full activity and sometimes even TR-holding to the assistance to further church goals.

These things I partly understand, but I think the church needs to make sure it's stated words and actions are consonant. In this respect, it struggles just like any other temporal organization, sadly...
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by Roy » 10 Apr 2017, 08:22

I think that for the church to do this right would be an immense change in direction, effort, and resource allocation. To really go out and get our hands dirty with those most in need would change the way many of us "do church."

I do not believe that the half hearted addition of this "mission" is intentional. Rather that getting anything done in a large organization requires a sustained push and there just was not the champion or consensus to get this done.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by SilentDawning » 12 Apr 2017, 05:51

Roy wrote:
10 Apr 2017, 08:22
I do not believe that the half hearted addition of this "mission" is intentional. Rather that getting anything done in a large organization requires a sustained push and there just was not the champion or consensus to get this done.
I don't know why they bothered quite frankly. We are already doing it with extensive welfare farms, a welfare program, fast offerings institutionalized in our once a month fast and testimony program. And broadcasting it only gives people who THINK they are poor and needy something to hold over the church's head.

I fully expect that fourth prong of the mission will disappear at some point, and they can go back to talking about the other three. They've had to stop talking about the other three, perhaps because they can't do it without talking about the fourth, which they can't say over the pulpit thought raising expectations.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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DarkJedi
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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by DarkJedi » 12 Apr 2017, 07:01

I think it was added to encourage a more personal, hands on, one-to-one type of caring - as in love your neighbor and love one another. When President Monson talks about love and caring he rarely talks about the church's humanitarian effort. He frequently talks about experiences and stories of personal service and real caring (as opposed to assigned caring). I think far too many members believe their role in caring for the poor and needy is writing a fast offering check, and in doing so they consider their job done. I do believe paying a fast offering is a part of caring for the poor and needy, but I'm not sure most of us do enough (and I don't mean just write a bigger check). I think that's what they're trying to get at.

That said, I agree there has been no push and no "program" (as if the church needs another program) - perhaps at best just gentle persuasion. Some aspect of Just Serve can help, and I think the idea of Just Serve is similar. We need to look outside ourselves individually and as a church more than we do. We even get misguided on fasting. The actual law of the fast is that we give money that we saved by not eating to the poor - it's laid out that way in the OT. But most lessons I hear about fasting have to do with power in prayer and answers to prayer and spiritual strength. No doubt (OK, I do have some doubt) there can be spiritual and even physical benefits to fasting. The law of the fast has nothing to do with that though.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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LookingHard
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Re: Three or Four Missions of the Church

Post by LookingHard » 12 Apr 2017, 07:58

To me it feels like part of it was that the church does do some good humanitarian work - especially disasters and it kind of made sense that with the amounts spent that it would be good to have a corporate mission to put that under. It wouldn't look bad if "humanitarian relief" was part of the missionary department (but I get the feeling that many members and even leaders feel that generally it is).

But when you move down into stakes and wards my experience is that 4th mission is in 4th place by a long shot. Even some of the good efforts I have seen someone in priesthood will add, "plus it is a great missionary opportunity." I do like how the emphasis on the "just serve" initiative actually says, "this is not a missionary program." I was glad that the high counselor that introduced it to the word explicitly said that.

But members are so busy with the first 3 missions that most really don't have enough time/$ to do much on the 4th. Often the "give service" only gets lip service.

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