From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Charney, Linda A.
Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a fulfilling, lifelong undertaking. It begins with the ordinance of baptism, which represents a covenant made between the convert and God. By this act, the convert promises to follow Jesus Christ and keep all his commandments in love and righteousness. God, in return, promises the gift of the Holy Ghost and the opportunity for eternal life. A newly baptized individual is confirmed a member of the Church by the laying on of hands by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, who also blesses the new member with the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is a gift of spiritual discernment to help and sustain members as they attempt to live Christlike lives.
Figuratively, membership means becoming a member of the body of Christ: Each member is an essential part of the whole, just as the foot, the hand, or the eye is an integral part of the body. Each member serves different purposes and has individual gifts, but each is necessary, and if one suffers, "all the members suffer with it"; they are "many members, yet but one body" (1 Cor. 12:20).
The purpose of such membership is to facilitate fulfillment of one's baptismal covenant and to promote personal and spiritual growth unto the "perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). To this end, members participate in many religious activities. These include personal activities (such as prayer, fasting, scripture study, payment of tithing and other offerings; observing wholesome behavioral standards regarding sexual and moral conduct; observing the health principles of the Word of Wisdom); family endeavors (such as family prayer and Family Home Evening); congregational and community functions (such as attending Sunday meetings, especially Sacrament meeting, where members may partake of the Sacrament); and serving faithfully in various callings (such as acting as a teacher, a clerk, or a musician). Members are encouraged to participate in various Welfare projects designed to provide goods and services to needy people. Activity in the Church is considered both a privilege and a duty of membership.
Another important characteristic of membership is proclaiming the gospel (McKay, p. 479). Members fulfill this responsibility in several ways: by serving full-time missions and financially supporting missionaries; by donating several hours per week proselytizing in their own locale as stake or ward missionaries; and by sharing their religion both by word and way of life as opportunities arise during informal daily interactions with others.
Members are also responsible for gathering the names of their ancestors and performing ordinances in the temple on behalf of those who did not receive them while alive. Once converts have been members for at least a year and have met certain standards of worthiness, they can enter the temple and receive these ordinances personally and thereafter can receive them as proxies for deceased persons.
Membership in the Church is highly valued by Latter-day Saints. It figures prominently in the self-image of faithful members who willingly consecrate and donate as needed of their time, talents, and blessings from God to the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ on this earth.
McKay, David O. "Closing Address." IE 62 (June 1959):479.
LINDA A. CHARNEY