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What is the Church?

I recently finished a review of the April 2022 general conference, and one of the talks that stood out to me most was Reyna Aburto’s talk, “We Are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.  I love the vision she articulates of feeling more ownership within the Church—that it isn’t just the institution—with its hierarchy of leaders and physical buildings—but mostly the members who are the Church.

In the talk, she explains this as follows:

From the beginning, God has sought to gather and organize His children “to bring to pass [our] immortality and eternal life.” With that purpose in mind, He has instructed us to build places of worship where we receive knowledge and the ordinances of salvation and exaltation; make and keep covenants that bind us to Jesus Christ; are endowed with “the power of godliness”; and gather together often to remember Jesus and strengthen each other in Him. The Church organization and its buildings exist for our spiritual benefit. “The Church … is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families.”

While talking to a friend going through a difficult time, I asked how he was surviving financially. In tears, he replied that his bishop was helping him using fast-offering funds. He added, “I don’t know where my family and I would be if it wasn’t for the Church.” I replied, “The Church is the members. They are the ones who willingly and joyfully give fast offerings to help those of us in need. You are receiving the fruits of their faith and determination to follow Jesus Christ.”[1]

It’s a beautiful way to say that the Church was made for humankind and not humankind for the Church.  In the effort to achieve the immortality and eternal life of humankind, the Church is a tool God has established—a scaffolding, as she quotes Elder L. Tom Perry as saying—to help us get to where God wants us to be rather than an end unto itself.  She adds that:

Relief Society is not limited to a room in a building, a Sunday lesson, an activity, or a presidency at the local or general level. Relief Society is the covenant women of the Church; it is useach of us and all of us. It is our “global community of compassion and service.” Anywhere and everywhere we go, we are always part of Relief Society as we strive to fulfill its divine purpose, which is for women to accomplish God’s work in individual as well as collective ways by providing relief: “relief of poverty, relief of illness; relief of doubt, relief of ignorance—relief of all that hinders … joy and progress.”

Similar belonging exists in elders quorums and organizations of the Church for all ages, including our children and youth. The Church is more than the buildings and the ecclesiastical structure; the Church is us, the members. We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Christ at the head and the prophet as His mouthpiece.[2]

Perhaps it’s my love of the idea of Zion and community building that resonates with this description of the Church and its internal organizations as being the community made up of their membership, and that there are goals that those organizations exist to achieve.  She still makes room for the centralized leadership structure of the Church (“Christ at the head and the prophet as His mouthpiece”), but also emphasizes that we are more important than bodies in Church meetings and a source of income for the Church, which is what I sometimes feel like when “the Brethren” and leaders at more local levels are overemphasized for their role in the organization.

This concept also reminded me some of Aburto’s first general conference address, where she compared the membership of the Church to a kaleidoscope of butterflies:

A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope. Isn’t that a beautiful image? Each butterfly in a kaleidoscope is unique and different, yet these seemingly fragile creatures have been designed by a loving Creator with the ability to survive, travel, multiply, and disseminate life as they go from one flower to the next, spreading pollen. And although each butterfly is different, they work together to make the world a more beautiful and fruitful place.

Like the monarch butterflies, we are on a journey back to our heavenly home, where we will reunite with our Heavenly Parents. Like the butterflies, we have been given divine attributes that allow us to navigate through life, in order to “[fill] the measure of [our] creation.” Like them, if we knit our hearts together, the Lord will protect us “as a hen [gathers] her chickens under her wings” and will make us into a beautiful kaleidoscope.[3]

I love this image of working together as a group to “make the world a more beautiful and fruitful place” as we journey together back to our heavenly home and “survive, travel, multiply, and disseminate life” along the way.

Anyway, Sister Aburto’s talk was the one that resonated with me most deeply from the recent general conference.  While perhaps not novel or mind-blowing it has been something that has been on my mind since reading the talk, and I felt like it was worth sharing what she articulated about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


This is what I look like in the kaleidoscope



[1] Reyna I. Aburto, “We Are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” CR April 2022,

[2] Reyna I. Aburto, “We Are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” CR April 2022,

[3] Reyna I. Aburto, “With One Accord,” CR April 2018,

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