The Lord defines His church as: whosoever is…baptized unto repentance (Mosiah 11:21). More clearly, in this day He has said, Behold, this is my doctrine — whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church (JSH 10:21).1 The Lord’s church means those who repent and are baptized in His name.2 The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklēsia (ἐκκλησία), meaning an “assembly” or a “calling out or forth,” used throughout the Old and New Covenants. It is a group of people gathered together, not necessarily as a formal institution or organization.3 The modern word is derived from “the Old English cirice, circe, ‘place of assemblage set aside for Christian worship; the body of Christian believers, Christians collectively; ecclesiastical authority or power,’ from the Proto-Germanic kirika (Dutch kerk, German Kirche), which is probably borrowed via an unrecorded Gothic word from Greek kyriake (oikia), kyriakon doma ‘the Lord’s (house),’ from kyrios ‘ruler, lord.’ The Greek kyriakon (adj.) ‘of the Lord’ was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike.”4
The original development under Joseph Smith was something quite distinct from all existing faiths. It was not just a new religion. It was a wholesale resurrection of an ancient concept of “Peoplehood.” It was radical. Its purpose was to change diverse assortments of people, from every culture and faith, with every kind of ethnic and racial composition, into a new kind of People. They were to be united under the banner of a New and Everlasting Covenant, resurrecting the ancient Hebraic notion of nationhood and Peoplehood. No matter what their former culture was, they were adopted inside a new family, a covenant family. Status was defined not by virtue of what one believed or confessed, but instead by what covenants they had assumed. What returned through Joseph Smith was not a religion, nor an institution, nor merely a faith. It was, instead, the radical notion that an ancient covenant family was being regathered into a separate People. This return to ancient roots brought with it, as the hallmark of its source of power, the idea of renewed covenants that brought each individual into a direct contract with God. It did not matter what they believed. It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant. Reconciliation between what Joseph Smith restored and other religions should never have been a goal. Joseph’s restoration was not a church. It was not a religion. It was not a bundle of beliefs. The original Restoration could never be like any other mainstream Christian faith. They were churches. Joseph restored Peoplehood. “To go from what Joseph restored to a common footing with other contemporary Christian faiths requires us to first abandon the concept that we are neither a new form of Christianity nor a return to Jewish antecedents. We are something quite different from either. We are a Hebraic resurrection of God’s People, clothed with a covenant, and engaged in a direct relationship with God that makes us distinct from all other people.”5See also SYNAGOGUE; GREAT and ABOMINABLE CHURCH.
1 “Come Unto Christ,” Dec. 29, 2015, blog post.
2 “3 Nephi 18:16,” Nov. 12, 2010, blog post.
3 Strong’s Concordance, G1577.
4 Online Etymology Dictionary, https: //www.etymonline.com/word/church.
5 “Peoplehood,” May 8, 2010, blog post