I have written about how little we understand Christ’s doctrine. We sometimes give it the special name “The Doctrine of Christ” like it refers to a special doctrine that is separate from the rest of the gospel, as if there might also be a “Doctrine of the Holy Ghost”. That isn’t what it is at all. It is exactly what it says it is. It is Christ’s doctrine. The doctrine of Christ is what is meant by his invitation ‘Come unto me’. It is to have faith, repent, be baptized, and to have the Holy Ghost, and endure in pressing forward down that path, diligently feasting on the words of Christ until the end.
But there is an important part of it that we really don’t understand is connected. The doctrine of Christ is literally meant to bring us to him. Christ’s doctrine is that we are to make our calling and election sure, so that we “come unto him” in the most literal sense.
Joseph Smith taught:
“The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.
When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.”
Thus Joseph Smith gives us a much more complete picture of Christ’s doctrine. The doctrine of Christ is not just faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring. It requires enduring to the end of the path. And what is the end of the path? It is to be told “Son, thou shalt be exalted” and receive the other Comforter.
When Nephi lays out Christ’s doctrine in 2 Nephi 31, this is exactly what he is talking about when we read in verse 20 “Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life”. He is talking about the same thing Joseph Smith is talking about when Joseph Smith said “let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.”
Thus the doctrine of Christ is the doctrine that returns us back to Christ’s presence. It is the doctrine of redemption. It is the doctrine that allows us to literally “come unto him”. And if we can return to the presence of God, then we are redeemed from the fall.
Christ’s doctrine is that we are blind and unworthy, and so if we will have faith, repent, and be baptized he will grant us remission of our sins so we may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. By being baptized we join his church, and thereby take on the prophet as our leader. As we are usually not prepared for the Holy Ghost in any great degree right at baptism, God gives us all sorts of rote commandments as well as the guidance of others more prepared than ourselves, particularly the prophet, apostles, and the scriptures. Then as we press forward and prove that we will strictly obey him, and grow into the spirit of revelation by the Holy Ghost, then eventually he determines that we have proven ourselves, and he makes us part of the royal family. We are born into a new family, into God’s family. We complete the process of being born into the kingdom of heaven, and we come into his presence.
Now, maybe we won’t make it that far in our mortality. Am I saying we won’t get exaltation if we don’t receive all these things in mortality? Well, the intent, at least, is that we receive them in mortality. That is what is plainly laid out. But whether we must receive them in mortality or not is far more than I know. Certainly, for all of us, the vast majority of the path to exaltation must be completed after the end of mortality, as the distance is simply far too great.
But I do know that he that seeketh him early shall find him, for the scriptures plainly say as much.
I think practically all of us start out on the path hardly prepared for the Holy Ghost. We spend years and years slowly growing into the miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost. With such an infant ability to see truth through the spirit for ourselves, the Lord has provided us with mortal leaders to guide us along the way while we learn to see for ourselves. We are to follow the path laid out by the prophet and scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
But that path we follow has a destination. The phrase “endure to the end” has two meanings: one meaning is that we endure to the end of mortality, the other meaning is that we endure to the end of the path that our feet are set on at baptism. And the end of that path is that Christ and his Father make their abode with us as Christ promised his disciples in John 14.
There was a scriptural type of this. The Israelites followed Moses through the red sea on dry ground. Their departure from Egypt over the red sea represent departing the world of sin and being baptized. They were not prepared to enter the promised land at that point though, any more than we are immediately prepared for the celestial kingdom just after baptism. Thus it was necessary for them to spend 40 years in the wilderness being taught by Moses and raising a more faithful generation, just as we follow the prophet and grow in faithfulness to God. After 40 years Israel was were ready to enter the promised land, and they took on a new leader, Joshua, and Joshua took them over the Jordan river on dry ground into the promised land. The point here is that as we diligently follow we eventually prove that we are willing to follow God at any cost and, just as ancient Israel, we take on a new leader, Christ. Then Christ brings us through the veil.
And that is the doctrine of Christ. Christ’s doctrine is the doctrine by which we become his. It is the doctrine by which we are returned to his presence and thus redeemed from the fall. We start with a rote set of commandments, prophetic leaders, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. But eventually, if we prove faithful, Christ will take us on as one of his own friends, and will show us what he does and intends as a man tells his friends.
This is what is being talked about we read in John 14:23
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
And that is why we read:
D&C 130:3 John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.
And both of theses verse are intimately tied to Christ’s discussion of his doctrine. For the Savior said:
3 Nephi 11:32 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.
Verses 32 and 35 are referencing the same thing taught in John 14:32. That the Father and the Son will come and make their abode. The promise “for he [the Father] will visit him with fire and the Holy Ghost” is not about the Holy Ghost being sent to us. It is a reference to the same promise discussed in D&C 130:3 and John 14:23. Namely it is a personal appearance, a personal visit.
And there is some significance to the fact that all three members of the Godhead will visit and bear record that I do not understand. But the discussion in verse 32 about each of them bearing record of each other is about bearing record during this personal appearance, wherein the Father and the Son come and make their abode with a mortal man.
After all, the Father cannot bear record in a man’s heart, nor can the Son, for “the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false”. That is because:
D&C 130:22 The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.
Thus the Father and the Son can not dwell in us as the Holy Ghost can.
Now you may be surprised that I said that we take on a new leader when our calling and election is made sure. There is an interesting old testament story about two prophets, one of which fails to follow a direct command from God in preference to what sounds like prophetic counsel from the other. The Lord slays him for his disobedience. The principle is that if you are ever so honored as to learn by God through visions, or by God’s own voice, or by his own personage, than what he says, that you will do.
We do not ever disobey what God declares in person by his own mouth. It doesn’t matter what else anybody says, thinks, or does. It doesn’t matter the consequence. It was on this principle that prophets of the past went and warned people even if they knew they would be slain for it. It was violation of this principle that caused Jonah to know he was worthy to be thrown off the ship in a great storm, lest God sink the ship, and for which he was swallowed by a great fish for three days.
Adam was cast out of Eden for disobedience. Redemption came at a great cost. Therefore, if we are redeemed and returned to God’s presence, then what he says, that we shall do.
Nephi puts it this way:
2 Nephi 32:6 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.
7 And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.
Nephi is teaching us things that the Lord will only allow him to say a limited amount about as we see in verse 7. But the point he is making is that if you travel the whole path he has described in mortality, and Christ manifests himself in the flesh to a you, then what Christ says to you, that you will do.
But I should cease talking. Nephi spoke of things that he knew perfectly until the Holy Ghost silenced him. Whereas these are things that I know nothing about, besides what is simply laid out in the scriptures.