In the thirteenth chapter of first Nephi, we read that the original gospel of Jesus Christ was subverted by the Gentiles. Things plain and precious were removed from the gospel and from the writings of the original apostles.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
I believe the core perversion that was perpetrated upon man by this early church was the idea that, while Christ was the author of our salvation, it was the church hierarchy that was given the right and privilege of dispensing this salvation. Martin Luther’s main venom was pointed at the practice of indulgences – selling a reduced sentence in purgatory. I wrote about this in an earlier blog on Martin Luther.
But man was not to remain without these things, plain and precious. We were promised in this same chapter that God would restore the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.
36 And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.
These writings, of course, are what we have today in the Book of Mormon. In the fifteenth chapter of first Nephi, we are told that the ‘fulness of the gospel of the Messiah shall come unto the Gentiles.’ This fulness or complete gospel of Jesus Christ is found in this book delivered to Joseph Smith and translated by the gift and power of God.
The Doctrine and Covenants reaffirms this as we read in the twentieth section, speaking of Joseph Smith:
8 And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;
9 Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;
So the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the Book of Mormon. ‘Fulness,’ to me, means that the ‘complete’ gospel is contained therein. The plain and precious parts of the gospel were restored to us in the inspired pages of this book delivered to us in these latter days.
The Pearl of Great Price provides even more clarity regarding this fulness of the gospel as we read in Joseph Smith – History:
34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;
While aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ are discussed throughout the Book of Mormon, we are told in this passage that the fulness of the gospel is found in the sermons preached to the Nephites by Jesus Christ following his resurrection.
I take these scriptures as a clear indication that we can come to understand the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the associated ordinances through the teachings found in third Nephi, chapter eleven through chapter twenty-eight. We can also come to an understanding of what the ‘plain and precious’ parts of the gospel that were removed by the early Gentile church.
Here is a summary of what I would consider the plain and precious parts that were removed by the Gentile church and restored to us through the Book of Mormon. Here are some thoughts from chapter 11 of third Nephi.
Baptism by immersion
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.
23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
27 And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.
This form of baptism is accepted of the Lord and I would suggest that this is at least one component of the ordinances that were plain and precious yet removed by the early church.
Baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost
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.
Christ begins here with what is defined as his doctrine. Here we learn that those who truly believe in God will be visited ‘with fire and with the Holy Ghost.’ In the Bible as we have it today, this topic is touched upon in Matthew 3:
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
While we have the baptism of fire of the early apostles and also Cornelius, there is scant information about this ordinance in early church literature. The true nature of this second baptism seems to have been lost in the early church. We read more on this topic in the instruction to the twelve disciples leading up to what is known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ found in third Nephi, chapter twelve:
1 AND it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.
2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.
In the early church, the remission of sins was contorted into a revenue source for the church through indulgences. According to the fulness of the gospel as contained in the sermons of Christ, this second baptism – baptism with fire and with the Holy Ghost – is a critical element. It is promised to all those who ‘come unto Christ’ and is the conduit through which we receive the remission of our sins. This ordinance was performed by Jesus Christ among the Nephites and was promised to all those who humble themselves and are baptized.
As I have stated in earlier blogs, I fear that this critical aspect of the gospel is also threatened in this day. We can hear from the pulpit that this baptism of fire is not a singular event but a process that happens imperceptibly over a long period of time. Acceptance of this idea, that we can be baptized with fire and ‘know it not’ is tantamount to rejecting a plain and precious truth of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Become as a little child
Continuing on with the doctrine of Christ found in the eleventh chapter of third Nephi, we read:
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.
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.
What are the attributes of a little child? I would suggest unwavering faith and humility, the ability to follow Christ without regard to wealth or status. As little children, we would forgo selfishness and ego, we would not yearn for the call to leadership but strive to be a servant to all.
How important is it that we accept the idea that anyone who preaches more or less than this doctrine of Christ will have the gates of hell open to them? I would submit that the fundamental aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the imperative of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Seeking the honors of men and accepting the tokens of priestcraft and its associated ‘perks’ is not in keeping with the gospel as found in these scriptures.
Healing of the sick
Today in the Catholic church, the documented existence of two miracles is necessary for one to be considered for sainthood. In the true church of God, healing of the sick based on the faith of an individual is embedded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We read in chapter seventeen of third Nephi:
9 And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.
We know from the scriptures that the signs follow them that believe. The true church of Christ should have the works of God prominent among those who profess to be members. In chapter twenty-seven of third Nephi we read:
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
Is our faith great enough to have these miracles manifest among us on a daily basis. Do our leaders, the twelve apostles, consistently demonstrate these blessings and miracles as did the disciples of old? Here is what is found in fourth Nephi:
5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
Where are these ‘works of God’ in today’s church? Is our faith not sufficient to garner this blessing from God? Are our leaders not capable of administering this blessing?
The Lord commissioned the Nephite disciples to administer the emblems of His flesh and blood as found in chapter eighteen:
1 AND it came to pass that Jesus commanded his Disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
3 And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
10 And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
14 Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
I find it interesting that one and only one of the disciples was given the power to administer the sacrament. We are specifically told that we are to observe this ordinance as shown to us here. Have we deviated from this ordinance by having this ordinance performed by others who do not the position defined here to conduct this ordinance?
Have we strayed from His gospel by supplanting the wine with water? Are we fulfilling the commandments by allowing this fundamental change to the ordinance? While we have been given some dispensation in the twenty-seventh section of Doctrine and Covenants on the use of wine, it was with conditions:
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;
4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
We are told not to partake of wine or strong drink purchased from our enemies but we are to make it new among us. Does this suggest that we should, when our resources allow, be using wine for the sacrament? How important is it that we following the guidance in the scriptures regarding the use of wine in the administration of the sacrament?
The Lord saw to it that the sacrament was administered two days in a row in chapters nineteen and twenty. Have we allowed this sacred ordinance to become routine by having it regularly scheduled? Do we carefully consider the implications given in the scriptures regarding the unworthy participation in the sacrament?
28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.
31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
32 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.
How much does peer pressure affect our willingness to forego our participation when we may not be worthy? How many of us are willing to ‘return and repent’ before partaking of the sacrament?
Is the gift of translation as given to the three of the disciples a component of the fulness of the gospel? I would suggest that is certainly in the right place in the scriptures to be considered so. In speaking of the three Nephites in chapter twenty-eight we read:
7 Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
8 And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.
9 And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.
What discussion do we have in our meetings regarding these three? Is it now passé to speak of these men who may be in our midst at this very moment? Do we consider this an ordinance associated with the gospel of Christ?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
In His sermons to the Nephites, Christ specifically outlined the gospel. While it is long, I will replicate the entire reference here from chapter twenty-seven:
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
I find several key points that we should consider today. First, the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to draw all men to Christ. I believe it is easy to overlook the intent of this statement. We are not to put our faith in man, be it a bishop, stake president, apostle, or prophet. We are to cling to Christ and Christ only, in order to satisfy His gospel.
Secondly, we must be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost in order to enter His kingdom. This sanctification is the remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We must be cleansed from sin and endure to the end, in that order, to be meet for His kingdom.
While this is not what I could consider an exhaustive analysis of the sermons delivered by Christ to the Nephites, I would suggest it gives us many things to consider. Have we adhered to the fulness of the gospel as defined by Christ or have we gone another route and defined our own ‘gospel’ composed of our favorite topics? Do we assume that our gospel of home teaching, temple attendance and accepting callings will be necessary and sufficient to grant us entry to the kingdom of God?
As I sat in a performance of Handel’s Messiah recently, these words struck me with great force:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; Isaiah 53:6
Have we developed our own gospel and assumed God would honor it or have we striven to understand His word and live accordingly?
What think ye?