The doctrine of Christ is to redeem us to his presence – attempt 2

This is a second attempt to explain this.

So what is the doctrine of Christ?

The doctrine of Christ is not what we think it is. It is far more. What we describe as the doctrine of Christ actually stands opposed to the doctrine of Christ, as the description we give in Sunday School will not save anybody. The version we give in Sunday School sounds like the description of those in the Terrestrial Kingdom, and that is about it. Our Sunday School version is a checklist: faith (check!), repentance (check!), baptism (check!), the gift of the Holy Ghost (check!), endure to the end (check!). We teach “enduring to the end” as meaning, more or less, “don’t leave the church or lose your testimony”.

And if that is what Christ’s doctrine is, if that is what we are following, then we have set a nice course for the Terrestrial kingdom. That teaches that it is enough to join yourself to the truth, without being valiant in the testimony of Jesus. But the scriptures say:

D&C 76: 78 Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.

79 These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.

Note that the people described in verse 79 had all received the testimony of Jesus. They were members of the church. The issue was whether or not they were valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Being valiant, and simply not leaving the church are entirely different things. There is a great difference between those who join a battle and are valiant, and those who are simply not traitors or deserters.

If we can tell the difference between “not deserting” and “being valiant” then we can tell the difference between those members who the scriptures call Terrestrial and those who the scriptures call Celestial. If you receive the testimony of Jesus, meaning you join his true church, but then you are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, then the scriptures say that you will be found among the Terrestrial in the resurrection.

So the Sunday School version of the doctrine of Christ is not going to save anyone with the salvation God intends for his saints. But then, it doesn’t sound a lot like the doctrine of Christ found in the scriptures either. The version in the scriptures is a completely different thing.

Let me give you Joseph Smith’s account. He doesn’t call it the doctrine of Christ, but it is the same thing, as we will see when we compare it to Nephi’s account of the doctrine of Christ. Joseph Smith taught:

“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.”

Let us start with Joseph Smith’s teaching that it is necessary that 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”.

That is already a vast and critical improvement on our Sunday School version of the doctrine of Christ. There is a critical world of difference between using “endure” to mean “don’t leave the church” and instead recognizing that the doctrine of Christ requires a man to endure in “continuing to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God”. Enduring by simply not leaving the church will get you the Terrestrial kingdom if you at least kept the other commandments. That is what not being valiant in the testimony of Jesus is all about. Enduring by “continuing to humble oneself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God” is a whole different thing. It is a completely different way of living. It is being valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and is the path to the Celestial Kingdom.

So Joseph Smith already vastly improves our Sunday School doctrine with only part of a sentence.

His teaching also agrees perfectly with the scriptures, for when Nephi laid out the doctrine of Christ, he said this.

2 Nephi 31:20  … 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.

Compare that with Joseph Smith’s words. Joseph Smith said not only must we have faith, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost, but that a man must also “continuing to humble oneself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God”. Look at how closely that mirrors the ideas Nephi puts forth.

Look at how completely different both of these notions are from our Sunday School teachings. Nephi and Joseph Smith are describing being valiant in the testimony of Jesus. They require feasting on the word of God. They require living by every word of God. They require diligently pressing forward, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This is gospel instruction that can lead a man to heaven. It is a completely different thing than simply “not leaving the church”, and the difference is crucial.

Now, Joseph Smith also said more than Nephi did. Or we think he did. But that is only because we weren’t paying attention.

Joseph Smith says “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.”

Joseph Smith includes making our calling and election sure, and receiving the second comforter as part of the doctrine of Christ.

But so does Nephi, we just weren’t paying attention.

Nephi says “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.” And Joseph Smith says “the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.”. And Nephi and Joseph Smith are saying the exact same thing. They both include making one’s calling and election sure as part of the doctrine of Christ.

And they both include it because that is part of the doctrine of Christ. Our Sunday School checklist is not only taught very poorly, it is horribly incomplete. It should include making our calling and election sure and receiving the second comforter.

When we teach the doctrine of Christ, we should teach it the same way Joseph Smith and Nephi teach it. They teach that the doctrine of Christ is faith, repentance, baptism, the receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, pressing forward diligently, feasting on the word of Christ, until our calling and election is made sure and we receive the second comforter.

And THAT is a completely different doctrine than a checklist that amounts to “don’t leave the church or lose your testimony”. It is also the doctrine of Christ, and one of the critical doctrines of the gospel. We should be teaching it freely for what it really means.

Come unto me

The version of the doctrine of Christ in the scriptures is a much more powerful doctrine than we teach. We all know that Christ says to each of us “Come unto me”. What we don’t realize is that the doctrine of Christ is the way we are supposed to do that, and that it literally brings us to him. That is, the doctrine of Christ literally brings us back into his presence, because the doctrine of Christ brings us the second comforter, which is the Savior himself.

Being brought into the presence of God is an enormous matter. We were cut off from his presence by the fall. Before that, the Father and the Son would appear at times to Adam and Eve and teach them.

The point of the doctrine of Christ is that it literally redeems us from the fall. It literally brings us back to the point where Christ, and also his Father, will come to us and teach us from time to time. This is literal redemption from the fall of Adam. We literally enjoy what was lost by Adam at the fall once again, as the Father and the Son will come and teach us from time  to time.

Christ said in John 14:23 that “If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

And our scriptures teach us about that verse:

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.

When we cut the doctrine of Christ off early without including the part about our calling and election being made sure and receiving the second comforter than we maim the doctrine. The doctrine of Christ is the doctrine of literal redemption from the fall. It is the route which concludes with us back where Adam and Eve stood, once again enjoying the Father and the Son coming and teaching us in person.

The doctrine of Christ is a doctrine of redemption, and when we leave off the part about actually being redeemed to God’s presence then we have cut off the doctrine’s head. We have then missed the whole point and presented some other doctrine in its place.

Born into the Kingdom of Heaven

The doctrine of Christ is also the full doctrine of being born again. It starts with being baptized by water, and then receiving the Holy Ghost, but beyond that we must still press forward until we are sanctified and washed white in the blood of the lamb as described in Moses 6:59-62.

I have written before about the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost as part of this. It must become a revelator in our lives, or we cannot be born of the spirit in the sense the Lord intends. It must “show us all things what we must do” and “teach us the truth of all things” as Nephi and Moroni wrote. It is critical that we receive, in truth, the companionship of him who is “the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment”.

But having written about that before, it is not what I want to emphasize here. It is a critical part of the doctrine of Christ. But here we need to flesh out the parts that are altogether forgotten, rather than fretting over the parts that are well known, but not well understood.

Joseph Smith tells us more

I only included part of Joseph Smith’s quotation. Let me give a more complete statement here, as Joseph Smith fills in much more detail for us.

“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.

Note the 16, 17, 18, 21, 23 verses:

’16. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;’

’17. Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’

’18. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.’

’21. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.’

’23. If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.’

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 150)

Joseph Smith is perfectly plain, but as always with Joseph Smith, you should probably read it a few times to understand what he said. He had a way of wrapping up volumes into single sentences.

Christ’s doctrine in 3 Nephi 11

When Christ speaks of his doctrine to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11, we need to recognize that it was a year after the destructions in the Book of Mormon, and that these Nephites at the temple in Bountiful saw the Savior because they had sufficient faith for him to appear, as the scriptures plainly teach.

Ether 12:7 For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.

So there are two things to realize here.

  1. We are only getting a tiny, miniature portion of what Christ taught the Nephites in those days. He taught them over days, but you can read what we have recorded of his words to them aloud in a couple of hours or so.
  2. Christ is not speaking to a bunch of spiritual dummies. These are people who have enough faith for him to appear to them. Unlike you and I. And much of what he says to them he teaches at a higher level than most of the scriptures, which generally are directed to a more typical group of church members, like you and I.

Given that groundwork, when we read that the devil stirs up the hearts of men to anger, but Christ’s doctrine is that such things should be done away then we need to read that at a higher level. He is preparing these people to build Zion. He is dealing with people who are ready to attempt that endeavor in earnest, for they have sufficient faith that he can appear to them and teach them.

He then lays out his doctrine in different terms.

3 Nephi 11:31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

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.

When we read in verse 35 “unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost” we want to read it as meaning that the Father will give that person the gift of the Holy Ghost.

But that isn’t it at all. This is talking about a personal visit just as Joseph Smith talked about when he said “he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him”. It is talking about the same thing Christ spoke about when he said “If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

I do not know the significance of the verses about the members of the Godhead bearing record of each other. But I do know it is significant and refers to a personal visitation. That is kind of the point of the phrase “the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false” in D&C 130:3. The Father and the Son cannot dwell in our heart, for they have bodies. Only the Holy Ghost can dwell in us. If the Father is bearing record of something to you, or if the Son is bearing record of something to you, not the Holy Ghost but the Father and the Son themselves, then it is because they are present. That is, more or less, the meaning of final sentence of this verse:

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.

When we read the verses in 3 Nephi 11 about the Father and the Son bearing record, we need to realize it means they are bearing record in person. What “bearing record” actually signifies is well beyond my knowledge.

A type of the doctrine of Christ

There was a scriptural type of the doctrine of Christ. 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 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. Joshua and Jesus are different forms of the same name. 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, Jesus Christ. Then, with Christ as our leader, he brings us through the veil just as Joshua replaced Moses and took Israel into the promised land.

Maybe we won’t make it that far in mortality

Now, maybe we won’t make it that far in our mortality. Maybe we won’t make our calling and election sure in 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 the idea. That is what is plainly laid out. But whether we MUST receive them in mortality to gain exaltation is far, far more than I know. Certainly, for all of us, the vast majority of the path to exaltation must be completed long 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. And I do know that we must not take God’s requirement that we press forward diligently, feasting on the words of Christ, as a light matter.

A new leader

In the scriptural type I mentioned earlier, Moses led Israel as the prophet for 40 years in the wilderness, but then Israel took on a new leader, Joshua, who represents Jesus Christ, and Joshua took Israel into the promised land just as the Savior takes us through the veil.

Yes. If we come to the point where our calling and election is made sure then what Christ tells us in person, or by his own voice, or by vision, preempts the words of the living prophet for us personally.

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.

That is part of why it is called the doctrine of Christ. Having been redeemed to his presence, he becomes our leader. We become his.

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 to what he learned by God’s own voice as God stood present. Redemption for his disobedience 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.

A Summary of sorts

Christ’s doctrine is that we start out 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 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, part of his own family. We complete the process of being born into the kingdom of heaven, and we come into his presence.

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 and 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.

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.

But I should cease writing there. Nephi spoke of these things that he knew perfectly, having experienced them in person, until the Holy Ghost silenced him. Whereas these are things that I know nothing about, besides what is simply laid out in the scriptures as I have described here.

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Published by

John Robertson

I am nothing more than a regular member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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