Doctrine and Covenants 10:67-68 – “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.”
It is easier to prove from the Bible that Christ established the kingdom of God than to prove that he founded a church.
Same with the LDS church. Nowhere do you find in revelations. prior to the actual legal organization of the church that God commanded JS to organize the church as a legal entity, but God does acknowledge it after the fact.
Now my own experience. In the 80’s a group of gay excommunicated Mormons decided to start meeting together in homes and partaking of the Sacrament. While we were praying for directions from the Lord, he instructed us by revelation to organize ourselves into a Priesthood body. He mentioned NOTHING about a church, only the Priesthood. And, the revelations came not just to one of us, but two. There was a true second witness. Sometimes the revelations came to us simultaneously, even though we were in different physical locations. I take all of this to mean that the Lord was serious about us knowing that he approved of what we were doing.
As we grew larger, and into multiple locations, we organized ourselves into families. The impression came to me that since we had, in many cases, been disenfranchised from our biological families and couldn’t marry at the time, we should gather into de facto families and seek out committed relationships.
But, somewhere along the line, we stopped listening to the Lord and started imitating the LDS church. We sought legal recognition, organized a “First Presidency”, and formed branches. One revelation warned us that we had “followed the arm of flesh in organizing branches”.
The group ceased to grow, and more and more internal strife ensued. Certain individuals began seeking for power and position and staged a political coup, ousting the original leadership. After the takeover, the group began to take on more and more of the LDS characteristics and become a closed organization.
By this time, I was out of the group and pondered for years where we went wrong, with a group of friends, turning out to be enemies. I came to the conclusion that the exact point where we went astray was when we switched focus from being a group of families, united by the Priesthood, and turned into a group of branches, organized into a church.
There was a church founded in 1985, called The Church of Jesus Christ of ALL Latter-day Saints. It wasn’t a break-off. It was founded by revelation and a new dispensation of priesthood. We received all the keys, the same as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
The LDS church sued us over the name, so we changed it to The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t just a church for gays and lesbians, but was intended to be a home for all those thinkers, activists, dissidents, feminists, intellectuals, etc. We ordained women. We conducted temple ordinances. We married couples for time and eternity. And, all of this, with keys and authorization from God.
But, just stop and think about this for a minute. God loves and values all of us so much and doesn’t want any of us to miss out on the blessings that flow through the Priesthood. There were people who loved God and wanted to serve Him, but the church, supposedly set up in His name, prevented them from doing so. Therefore, God had to make an end run.
We followed the open model of common consent used by the Community of Christ, which meant that in Conference, any member could discuss and disagree with any proposed revelation of leadership change, without consequences. After a couple of years, the entire presidency was voted out, and the church was reorganized after more traditional LDS lines, so that such a leadership coup could never happen again. Following that, the church limped along and eventually lost most of its members, finally disbanding in 2011, after a 25-year run.
If necessary, and if and only if directed by God, I could re-establish such a group, but I feel no need for it, no demand for it, and most of all, no direction from God to do so. In fact, I am under the same direction as Joseph Smith when God told him: “Join none of them!”
The idea of churches and organized religion is a failed model, and is failing us as an institution. I am praying that God will reveal something better, going forward, and frankly, I don’t care whether direction come through me or through somebody else. But, I don’t see anything like that happening until more people are sick and tired of tolerating and denying failure, and trying to fix what isn’t working, and are hungering and thirsting after something better.
In the meantime, there are many enlightened and motivated individuals, each following their conscience and working to achieve progress on many different fronts. I consider these my co-workers, though I have to keep reminding myself that, even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye, each of us is following his or her highest light.