The Governors of the Church

With the Clergy selecting a new Bishop this summer, I’ve observed a lot of people seeking to understand how our Church is structured. I too am curious and have been reading through various documents.

I will admit to being frustrated by the lack of clarity around the General Church’s structure and process.

But the Lord Truths calm me down.

This week I have been feeling especially grateful to Him for giving His Church the very practical and direct teachings on Church Government in the last chapter of New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrines.

Have a look! I have bolded the Truths I personally find most relevant or striking. The last paragraph, in particular, is quite counter-cultural in tone. And I’m very curious to hear what other ladies glean from it all:

“ECCLESIASTICAL and CIVIL GOVERNMENT

311.There are two things which ought to be in order with men, namely, the things which are of heaven, and the things which are of the world. The things which are of heaven are called ecclesiastical, and those which are of the world are called civil.

312. Order cannot be maintained in the world without governors, who are to observe all things which are done according to order, and which are done contrary to order; and who are to reward those who live according to order, and punish those who live contrary to order. If this be not done, the human race will perish; for the will to command others, and to possess the goods of others, from heredity is connate with everyone, whence proceed enmities, envyings, hatreds, revenges, deceits, cruelties, and many other evils. Wherefore, unless they were kept under restraint by the laws, and by rewards suited to their loves, which are honors and gains for those who do goods; and by punishments contrary to those loves, which are the loss of honors, of possessions, and of life, for those who do evils; the human race would perish.

313. There must therefore be governors to keep the assemblages of men in order, who should be skilled in the law, wise, and who fear God. There must also be order among the governors, lest anyone, from caprice or ignorance, should permit evils which are contrary to order, and thereby destroy it. This is guarded against when there are superior and inferior governors, among whom there is subordination.

314. Governors over those things with men which relate to heaven, or over ecclesiastical affairs, are called priests, and their office is called the priesthood. But governors over those things with men which relate to the world, or over civil affairs, are called magistrates, and their chief, where such a form of government prevails, is called king.

315. With respect to the priests, they ought to teach men the way to heaven, and also to lead them; they ought to teach them according to the doctrine of their church from the Word, and to lead them to live according to it. Priests who teach truths, and thereby lead to the good of life, and so to the Lord, are good shepherds of the sheep; but they who teach and do not lead to the good of life, and so to the Lord, are evil shepherds.

316. Priests ought not to claim to themselves any power over the souls of men, because they do not know in what state the interiors of a man are; still less ought they to claim the power of opening and shutting heaven, since that power belongs to the Lord alone.

317. Dignity and honor ought to be paid to priests on account of the holy things which they administer; but they who are wise give the honor to the Lord, from whom the holy things are, and not to themselves; but they who are not wise attribute the honor to themselves; these take it away from the Lord. They who attribute honor to themselves, on account of the holy things which they administer, prefer honor and gain to the salvation of souls, which they ought to provide for; but they who give the honor to the Lord, and not to themselves, prefer the salvation of souls to honor and gain. The honor of any employment is not in the person, but is adjoined to him according to the dignity of the thing which he administers; and what is adjoined does not belong to the person himself, and is also separated from him with the employment. All personal honor is the honor of wisdom and the fear of the Lord.

318. Priests ought to teach the people, and to lead them by truths to the good of life, but still they ought to compel no one, since no one can be compelled to believe contrary to what he thinks from his heart to be true. He who believes otherwise than the priest, and makes no disturbance, ought to be left in peace; but he who makes disturbance, ought to be separated out; for this also is of order, for the sake of which the priesthood is established.

About Eden Lumsden

Eden is loving wife to Derrick Lumsden and full-time mother to five little men. She grew up attending the New Church of Phoenix, went to the GC College, married a priest and was promptly shipped off with him to Africa. They spent 6yrs enjoying the people and culture at the Westville New Church, near Durban, South Africa before returning to the USA in 2014. They currently live in Sarver, Pennsylvania where they dabble in self-sufficiency, homeschool their boys, and scheme of ways to help the Church. Eden finds the True Christian teachings about women and marriage to be particularly profound.

4 thoughts on “The Governors of the Church

  1. I don’t know that people take the “authority of the priesthood” as seriously as they once did. So when priests attempts to”rule”, no one listens. That is a real challenge for our priests and the ecclesiastical hierarchy today.
    I think priests should definitely reserve their “ruling rights” for things that are really at the core of our spiritual welfare, and let other issues work themselves out “in peace”.
    The spiritual care and guidance of a pastor is more what people look to in their church affiliations today. People have really taken their role as captain of their own ship to heart.
    I don’t know where that leaves the priesthood. I’m willing to watch to see where the wisdom of our priests’ spiritual study coupled with their life experience leads.

  2. I think Americans in particular struggle with respecting authority outside of ourselves– we are just so culturally indoctrinated to think democratically– that every person should be involved in every decision.

    When we lived in South Africa, it was a hard adjustment for me to exist in a culture where there is greater respect and deference to “experts.” But as I grew accustomed to it–I also saw the value in it– rather than all decisions resting on myself and my partially informed opinion, there were times I would just trust the person who was an authority in the subject.

    I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. Both cultures have strengths (and weaknesses). The freedom-of-speech of the English is praised in the HD for providing for a greater depth of spiritual ideas. Conversely, the HD say the Russians strong respect for autocratic authority allows them in the next life to easily transfer to be guided by the Lord in all that they do.

    There is probably some ideal balance in places like…Heaven.

    The priests of the GC are the governors of an international organization– and that further complicates life, I’m sure. I believe it wise that they tweak their policies and process to acknowledge cultural distinctions but I also feel very strongly that, irregardless of what a culture prefers, ultimately, the blueprints the Lord gave us for the Priesthood are what we need.

    When in doubt–go with God.

  3. Thanks for sharing your findings, Eden. (I’ve been wanting to anyway, because of some references in other books, but this gives me all the more reason to read NJHD!) And I love your closing statement (to your comment above) – “When in doubt–go with God.” We oughta make some bumper stickers out of that…… 😉

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