In my previous posts, I discussed the definition of the gospel according to the scriptures; a definition that stands at odds with the prevailing opinion expressed from the pulpit. Another area that bears consideration is the ‘doctrine of Christ.’ As with the gospel, there are three specific scriptural references that are of interest in understanding the doctrine expressed by our Lord and Savior in the scriptures.
The title of this post comes from the first of these three found in the Book of Mormon, the second book of Nephi, chapter 31. In verse 2, we read:
“Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.”
Beginning with this verse, and continuing through chapter 32, verse 4, Nephi expounds on the doctrine of Christ. Given that the complete reference is fairly brief, I would strongly encourage you to read it for yourself. I will attempt to summarize the key points of the doctrine as follows:
Christ showed us how we are to be obedient to the Father
Demonstrate unshaken faith relying on the merits of Christ
- Follow Christ by keeping the commandments of the Father
- Be baptized with water
- Be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins
- Endure to the end
- The above items represent the commandments given to us to obey
- Repentance, baptism by water and baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost represent the gate to the strait and narrow path to eternal life.
There are few places in the scriptures which contain as much beauty, wisdom and knowledge as is found in this chapter. The promise is given to us that if we follow the commandments given us here by the Father and then ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men… feasting upon the words of Christ (personal revelation) and endure to the end, we shall have eternal life.’ There is, in my opinion, no better place in the scriptures that provide a guide to how to conduct ourselves into His kingdom.
“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21)
This last verse of chapter 31 carries the message, clearly and distinctly, that there is no other way to be saved in the kingdom of God; these are the commandments which we are to follow; we are, as Christ demonstrated, to be baptized by water, fire and the Holy Ghost. It also defines the previous words as the ‘only and true doctrine’ of God. From this verse I took my title for this post. How important is it that we understand and apply the only doctrine of God? What are the implications of allowing many other items to crowd in on our doctrine? God has given us here clear direction on what should be our focus and objective in our lives. This is the only and true doctrine of God.
“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.” (2 Nephi 32:6)
As Nephi concludes his pronouncement on the doctrine of Christ, he alerts us to the future word of doctrine that will be made available. We find the second treatment of the doctrine of Christ in his first appearance among the Nephites documented in 3 Nephi, chapter 11.
Following His selection of the twelve disciples, Christ instructs them on the baptism of water and warns them that there is to be ‘no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been (3 Nephi 11:28). To end the disputation, Christ then states:
“32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.”
In this passage, Christ again refers to the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of Christ, as portrayed here, is simple; repent and be baptized. Christ then calls on us to repent and ‘become as a little child’ (verse 38). What does it mean to become as a little child? I believe it refers to the innocence and faith that children exhibit.
The Savior again presents the importance of holding to His doctrine:
” 39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates” (3 Nephi 11:39-40)
We are not to add or take away from the doctrine of Christ. I will have more to say on this.
Let’s move on to the third treatment of the doctrine of Christ. This is found in section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
69 And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”
The message here, again, is that the doctrine of Christ connotes: His church is made up of those who repent and come unto Him. No more, no less. I would suggest that we come unto Christ through baptism, ‘…first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us…’ (Mormon 7:10)
Here again, Christ warns us not to put more or less into His doctrine. How easy is it for us to lose focus on the only and true doctrine by supplanting it with our own ‘pet’ doctrines? For some, it may be doctrine of plural marriage, for others, the doctrine of genealogy. Do you have a pet doctrine?
Adding more to the doctrine of Christ is, in my opinion, indicative of the many doctrinal books that we have on our shelves; an example of which is the 800+ page Mormon Doctrine. While this is a masterful work treating the topics of the kingdom of God, should it be touted as the doctrine of the church of Christ? Taking away from the doctrine of Christ is, again in my opinion, the rhetoric that suggests the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost can be accomplished through a Christ-like life, an imperceptible change over time.
The ‘doctrine of Christ’ is, as scripture, clearly defined and concise:
Repent, be baptized with water followed by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Seek revelation, humble yourselves as a little child. Endure to the end.
We may build a structure around it, we may even stipulate who may teach and preach. This does not change the core of the message contained in the doctrine of Christ.
The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is not consummate victory. It is the gate after which we must continue to seek personal revelation and endure to the end. We are warned that this is the ‘only and true doctrine’ of Christ. We are not to add or take away from it. Doing so results in building on an unstable and shifting foundation and puts us at odds with his church as defined in scripture.
What think ye?