In my last post on ‘living the gospel,’ I focused on the point of one, understanding what living the gospel means and, two, what the gospel truly contains. As I thought about the subject, I felt there was more that needed to be said.
First, it is disappointing to hear members of the church misuse the term ‘gospel.’ Either the scriptures are correct in an effort to clearly and concisely define this term, or we as ‘saints of the Most High God’ have a moving target as a goal. It is not just church members that, in my opinion, abuse the term, I have also seen it misrepresented from the pulpit. In 1991 October conference, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin presented a talk entitled “Fruits of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ” In his talk, recites from Matthew 7:24-25 regarding building on rock rather than sand. He then states:
“This analogy teaches us an important lesson. We cannot have the fruits of the gospel without its roots. Through revelation, the Lord has established those roots—distinctive principles of the fulness of the gospel. They give us direction. The Lord has taught us how we should build our lives on a solid foundation, like a rock, that will withstand the temptations and storms of life.
May I give you some of the major principles of the gospel?”
Elder Wirthlin then proceeds to elaborate on what he considers to be the ‘major principles of the gospel’ including:
Word of Wisdom
As you could suspect, I have a controversy with this list as representing the major points of the fulness of the gospel. Talks giving a broad application of the term gospel are easy to find. None of these points can be found in the scriptural definition of the gospel. These types of talks are, however, where members internalize the idea that topics like the word of wisdom and chastity are core to the gospel. The girl who posted her plea in my last post has accepted this man-made definition of the gospel and has found heartache and alienation.
Again, it comes down to this. Either the gospel is as defined in the scriptures by Jesus Christ or the words I presented in my last post represent only a recommendation to be modified by man. I believe strongly that the misrepresentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is why, in 3 Nephi 16:10, we are accused of rejecting the fulness of the gospel.
“And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”
Christ clearly defined His gospel in the same chapter of the Book of Mormon. He has also defined, for us, the relationship between the gospel and His Church In 3 Nephi 27 just before His exposition on His gospel, he tells us:
“9 Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;
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.”
As we read here, Christ expects His church to be built upon His gospel. He also tells us the outcome if it is, instead, build upon the works of men. Please look again at the list of major attributes of the gospel as defined by Elder Wirthlin. I hold that most of the topics are, indeed, the works of men – what else is parenting, missionary work and welfare?
If we build a church based on the works of men, we will have joy in those works but will ultimately be hewn down (see verse 11).
As a final thought on this topic, I would refer to the first topic presented to the Nephites when Christ appeared to them. He explicitly defined His doctrine in 3 Nephi 11:31-40. While I will not repeat that entire scripture, I would like to refer to the last few verses:
“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.”
I find it ironic that this is the same allegory that Elder Wirthlin used to open his conference address. Clearly, anyone who adds or removes items from the doctrine of Christ will lose their footing and fail. I believe the same is true for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If we are truly to receive the benefits of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must apply ourselves to the correct version. Spending our efforts sustaining an incorrect flavor will not bring the desired outcome. The gospel of Jesus Christ can be for each of us a wellspring of joy and peace.
I challenge you to carefully read and prayerfully ponder the chapter of the Book of Mormon that contains the definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – 3 Nephi, chapter 27. It should be the bellwether for our spiritual activity and a beacon by which to gauge the ‘light’ of the church.
What think ye?