“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.”
(2 John 1:9-10)
John’s challenge to us in this scripture is to stay true to the doctrine of Christ. An acceptance and commitment to this doctrine or teaching is the path to eternal life with the Father and the Son. Rightly so, we, each of us, should be concerned about staying true to the doctrine of Christ.
Today, as in any other time in history, doctrines flow readily from many sources, we regularly receive warnings in the scripture to be watchful of the source of the doctrines presented to us “that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14)
In First Nephi 15:14 we read:
“And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.”
The remnant of Jacob, along with the Gentiles who receive the message of the restoration, shall come to a knowledge of the doctrine of Christ. This information contains instructions about what we must do to ‘come unto Christ and be saved.’ It is incumbent upon each of us to understand and embrace this doctrine and reject any attempts to replace it with the teachings of man.
As with the definition of the gospel, the definition of the doctrine of Christ is clearly outlined in the scriptures. Three times in the latter day scriptures, the Lord defines that which constitutes His doctrine.
In Second Nephi, chapters 31 and 32, we are presented with the doctrine of Christ. I will add some highlighting and commentary:
2 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.
3 For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.
4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
Nephi stresses that, in the context of following the commandments, Christ can be used as an example.
10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
What better summary can there be of the doctrine of Christ than is contained in verse 13. The Lord is asking for complete commitment. He expects us to repent of our sins and be baptized both by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost. I have bolded what I consider to be the key points of the doctrine of Christ as presented by Nephi.
14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
It is important to note that repentance, baptism by water, then baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost represent the gate. By gate, I interpret this to mean the starting point. We are all expected to follow the example of Christ in completing the commandment outlined in this verse. We are all expected to receive the two baptisms, “first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior” ( Mormon 7:10)
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Once we have passed through the gate of baptism by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost, then we are on the strait and narrow path. The following verse now lays out what should be our objectives for the rest of our lives
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. 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.
21 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.
Nephi ends this sermon with two key messages. First, there is no other way to salvation. I take this to mean no amount of hometeaching, tithing, temple attendance, and the other ‘markers’ matter if they are not predicated on the passage through the gate defined above. Secondly, Nephi makes the point that this is the only and true doctrine. I find it interesting that he chose these words. Does this make the other doctrines we cling to today null and void? Could this make other aspects of doctrine taught today as the doctrines of men? Moving on to chapter 32.
1 AND now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?
2 Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
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.
Nephi understood what was in the hearts of his listeners. To answer the concerns, he encourages them and us to stay close to the Holy Ghost. How does one speak with the tongues of angels? I would submit that this is our ability to rely on the Holy Ghost to know what to say. As the missionaries were sent out in the early days of the church, they were told:
“Wherefore, lift up your voice and spare not, for the Lord God hath spoken; therefore prophesy, and it shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 34:10)
Returning to the discussion of the doctrine of Christ, the comment is also made that there will be no more of the doctrine of Christ given until He comes in the flesh. This occurred when Christ visited the Nephites after His resurrection. At that time, He did present more of His doctrine as found in 3 Nephi, chapter 11:
28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall 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.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
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.
The doctrine of Christ recited here correlates well with the sermon of Nephi cited earlier. We must be baptized, by water and the Holy Ghost, to be saved
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.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Become as a little child… What a tremendous challenge for us the rid ourselves of our envies and jealousies in becoming as a child. One that exhibits implicit trust and love; one who can then truly be called a son or daughter of God.
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 of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.
The warning here is that we are not to add or take away from the doctrine of Christ. I have pondered this for a long time. Can it be that the whole substance of the doctrine of Christ can be found in these two scriptures found in second Nephi and third Nephi? I must answer affirmatively. By commandment, we are told to sustain this as the “only and true doctrine” of Christ. While there may be other doctrines such as the doctrine of the priesthood or the doctrine of the resurrection, etc. there is only one version of the doctrine of Christ that promises sanctification and salvation.
Let us now look at the third reference to the doctrine of Christ found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 10:
“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.”
In this component of the doctrine of Christ, we find His definition of the church that bears His name. I would hearken back to the scripture I quoted in 1 Nephi 15:14 where we are told that the doctrine of Christ will teach us how to come unto Christ. I would submit that to come unto Christ is to be baptized by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost. I say this because this is exactly what has been defined as His doctrine in the earlier scriptures cited.
We can be considered His church only if we repent and come unto Him. Anyone who declares more on less than this is not of Christ. I would suggest that you ponder the implications of this scripture found in D&C 10. What if the only acceptable criterion for belonging to His church is that we repent and come unto Him? What if repenting and coming to Him is only defined in the scriptures cited earlier? What would his church look like today if this were the only condition for membership?
What think ye?