16 And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon; and they were in number about two hundred and four souls; yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God.
17 And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.
When we are baptized, we become members of the church of God.
Nephi taught that baptism is the “gate” which grants access to “the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:17-18). Once you have entered that path, you have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which will help you know how to follow the path (2 Nephi 32:1-3). If you then “press forward” along the path and “endure to the end,” you will ultimately obtain the reward of eternal life (2 Nephi 31:20). Nephi talked about it in individual terms: we each choose to enter that gate and to move forward along that path independently of the decisions of other people.
About 400 years later, Alma preached to a group of people in secret because of persecution from their government. After preaching to them for many days, he invited them to be baptized. As we read in the passage above, the entire multitude—two hundred and four people—were baptized at that time. Alma organized them into a church, which he called “the church of God” or “the church of Christ.” After that time, everyone who chose to be baptized became a member of the church.
Alma gave them some instructions for how to operate the church:
- Church leaders (“priests and teachers”) should teach the members the doctrines which they had been taught (Mosiah 18:18-20).
- Members should strive to be unified and to avoid contention with one another (Mosiah 18:21).
- They should keep the sabbath day holy (Mosiah 18:23).
- They should meet at least once a week to worship together and to teach one another (Mosiah 18:25).
- The priests should not be supported by the members, but they should all support one another, both temporally and spiritually (Mosiah 18:26-29).
These instructions help us to understand Alma’s vision of the purpose of the church: he saw it as a support system for a group of disciples of Jesus Christ, all of whom were walking along the path together. By meeting together often, supporting one another, and teaching one another, they could more effectively follow the path that they had entered. They could help each other along and increase the probability that they would all reach the goal that they had individually set for themselves.
Today, I will be grateful for my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will take note of the ways the Church helps me to follow the path I started when I chose to be baptized. I will be grateful for the instruction I receive in church meetings, for the assignments which enable me to stretch and develop Christlike attributes, and the opportunities I have to support other members of the Church and to be supported by them as we face the challenges of life.