I have heard many times about friends or other people who have to go “church shopping” or “church hopping” when they move to a new place. How they try to find the best pastor, the most exciting worship music, the kindest and best community, or an interpretation of the Gospel that appeals to them the best.
Growing up in the LDS Church, I have never experienced that. And, I am so grateful that I will never have to.
The LDS Church is world-wide. There are member all over the 6 liveable continents. But, what is even more exciting, is how unified the church is.
The LDS Church is the SAME throughout the world.
The LDS Church is all about organization, unity, and being on the same page. We are all organized the same way–areas, stakes, wards. Each ward is run by a Bishop and his counselors. All the groups are set up the same way. Even the lessons are the same in each congregation–we have a manual. (For more about how the LDS Church is organized and united, click here.) So, if I go on vacation, the congregation I attend will be teaching the exact same thing that my home congregation would. It is so nice to have that knowledge and reassurance. It allows us not only to have a small community, but a world-wide community. I am so thankful for this.
But, the reason we do this is because God and Christ mandated it. In John 17: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Christ and Heavenly Father want us to be one and work together for the same eternally glorified goal, just as they are one in purpose and mind.
They want us to be the same, and this unity and organization helps us as mortal men to bring to pass and build up Zion. In Moses 7:18 it says, “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness.”
However, that is harder to achieve than we think because we are mortal men, prone to our carnal and natural thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, we interpret the Gospel lesson differently than the teacher. Sometimes we get discouraged in our ward. Sometimes we are offended. Sometimes we don’t agree with General Authority policy. We are not yet truly “of one heart and one mind.” A friend of mine, who recently left the church, did so because she felt her ward was a “good ol’ men’s club” who did things weirdly, and didn’t respect the women. Many of the young women in my family’s ward when they lived in Barstow, California, typically wore tank tops and short shorts (which are not up to LDS standards) because of the extreme summer heat. These differences, these personalities, these actions and reactions hinder us.
But, although the people of the Church may different throughout the world, the Gospel, the Church is the same. That is because it the Church of Jesus Christ once again restored to the Earth. So, though I may move and may or may not like a congregation for any reason, I still have the reassurance that I am being taught the same as any other congregation. That my activities will be the same. That my leaders are set up the same way. That the church is run the same. And, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that I will never have to “church hop” ever. I have a testimony that this is because the LDS Church truly is the Church of God.