I’ve always been very fond of our three volumes of scripture. For that reason, I have often wondered if each has a distinct theme, intent, or purpose. Beyond the obvious. After all, we can clearly see that the Bible introduces us to the person whose church we belong to. The Book of Mormon is said to have, at least as part of it’s purpose, the function of helping to clarify the Bible. And clearly, the Doctrine and Covenants provides a lot of instruction on administrative issues; and it also provides modern guidance.
But is there any other role that each has? I finally have come to realize that indeed, there is. And this realization dawned on me as I noted some common ground in some things that a few of the pastors in my area have been talking about. About once every month or so, I participate in a meeting of all the CofC pastors in my area. And I’ve noticed that one of them keeps talking about communities. Church communities. Building sacred communities.
And I’ve also noticed that another keeps talking about relationships. The importance of, and basic need to form real, meaningful relationships with people.
Now, as I heard both of them talk about these things, which occurred on different occasions, and not at the same time, I heard them, as is so often the case, in isolation.
But one day, I was thinking about a concept that I’ve been talking about a great deal this year, in my congregation: invitation. The ministry and blessing of invitation. And then the Holy Spirit brought it all together. I suddenly recalled what my fellow pastors had mentioned, often just in passing, so many times at our meetings. And I realized that the three things that we have each been talking about, form a three fold model. They go together.
Invitation will of course lead to relationships being formed. Relationships, as they develop and multiply, will ensure that community building takes place. And as the community grows, the more potential there will be to have things to invite people to. And this is when I realized, that these three concepts, invitation, relationships, and community building, form the backbones of our three volumes of scripture.
You see, at the heart of the Holy Bible, is God’s invitation. When we consider the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament, it is quite clear that the entire second half of the Bible is all about invitation: To follow Jesus Christ. That is the continual theme throughout the entire New Testament: invitation. But it’s mirrored in the Old Testament. In that record we see God is inviting people to be civil, to be people of faith, and to be responsible. The New Testament, by inviting us to follow God through Christ, invites us to be people of charity, faith, and peace. So, the entire Bible can be summed up as God’s invitation.
The Doctrine and Covenants, perhaps more clearly seen in the 160s, but scattered throughout all the Sections, has ample passages that focus on how we respond to each other. The Doctrine and Covenants is all about establishing relationships.
The Book of Mormon is, from start to finish, a testimony of community building. That is what the Book of Mormon is all about. Community! Community building. Quite literally! That is almost all that the Nephites did. They established spiritual gatherings, and they physically built camps, villages, towns and cities. And the spiritual gatherings and the domestic settlements were generally one-and-the same: they built Zionic communities. And they did so over and over. They were continually assaulted with hardships, trials, tribulations, internal corruption, descent and all manner of setbacks. But, somehow, they kept moving forward.
The church has no greater scriptural example of community building than the Book of Mormon. No greater focus on relationships, than the Doctrine and Covenants. No greater invitation than what is found in the Holy Bible (and of course, there is some overlap). As these three themes are so prominent in our three volumes of scripture, they *must* be modeled in our discipleship. Our covenants with Jesus Christ must be founded on these concepts.
I like this focus. In our neighboring congregation, we’re focusing for the next year on the Book of Mormon. Right now in Sunday School, we’re reading Alan Tyree’s new book “Millions Call It Scripture: The Book of Mormon in the 21st Century.” This is in preparation for 2014, when we’ll be reading the Book of Mormon itself as a congregation. I’ll be posting a schedule here and also weekly observations.
That is a great idea John…I think I’ll drop in on some of those sessions. Look forward to seeing the schedule.