Nearly everything we do in the Church — from missionary work and ministering efforts to baptisms and temple work — hinges on an underlying question: who is the Church for? Is the project of the Restoration to find and shepherd the elect of God to exaltation in the next life, or is it to create a Zion community here that strives to include those on the margins, the way Jesus ministered? Should it be one or the other?
It’s seemed to us that there’s an implicit discourse around this question playing out on social media, in Church meetings, in books and articles, on podcasts — and even in forums like General Conference.
And it has significant implications — the answer holds real weight as for we participate in the work of the Restoration, but not just that — what does it say about the nature of God?
This past conference, Pres. Dallin H. Oaks declared “the purpose of this restored Church is to prepare God’s children for salvation in the celestial glory and, more particularly, for exaltation in its highest degree.” In theory, that destiny is available to all God’s children. But what about the multitudes of God’s children who may seem to be left behind-–those for whom any quest for exaltation seems buried under conditions like grinding poverty, mental illness, abuse, or other serious obstacles to thriving. Is the restored church for them too?
We thought it could be important and helpful to have an explicit conversation around this question that’s often felt more than heard. And, we think we ended up with the perfect conversation partner, and someone we know many of you love and admire as much as we do — Patrick Mason.
Patrick helped us walk through some of this tricky territory with his signature blend of love for the Church, enthusiasm about the restoration, and clear-eyed realism about where we are as a community and tradition — and where we could hope to go.
Patrick Mason is the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, has been a frequent guest on this show and is long-time friend and advisor to Faith Matters.