In last week’s study topic on being instructed more perfectly, I introduced a theme that I want to continue with for a few weeks. Ending last week’s post I encouraged you to examine the word “law” throughout the scriptures. This week we’ll discuss doctrine.
As mentioned last week, Elder Bednar said doctrines answer the “why” questions. They are the core teachings and beliefs that we bear testimony about. We seek for truth so we know correct doctrines and principles of the gospel which in turn give us understanding of eternal law. We do this by testing theories established on true principles to understand cause and effect. Doctrines are the bedrock of our understanding. There are many doctrines taught in the scriptures, even identified by name with “doctrine of” in front of them. One key teaching we read about is the doctrine of Christ, which I’ll discuss more below.
The word doctrine is defined in Webster’s 1828 in a few different ways. The first is just whatever is taught, whether of God or man, true or false. Another definition is it’s also the act of teaching. Also, learning and knowledge, and finally the truths of the gospel. We see all of this in the scriptures.
Lets set up a study topic to get things started. In Scripture Notes open a search pane and do a search for:
That will pick up both “doctrine” and “doctrines” by using the wildcard ending.
Next, press ctrl/cmd-F to find words on the page and lets do a couple experiments.
First type “doctrines” to see the plural form highlighted and quickly scan down the list and read those verses to get a feel for how those are used.
Now press ctrl/cmd-F and do a search for “doctrine of” and repeat the process on those 22 results. At this point you might want to create a collection note on all the verses and do your exercise there and type in the master note “Doctrine in the Scriptures” and make a list of the doctrines mentioned (also tag it “Doctrine”). Once you create the collection note you can close the search pane. Here’s my note if you want to copy/paste it into your master note.
“Doctrine of” mentioned in scripture:
- vanities (Jeremiah 10:8)
- Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:12)
- the Lord (Acts 13:12)
- God our Saviour (Titus 2:10)
- Christ (Hebrews 6:1; 2 John 1:9-10; 2 Nephi 31:2, 21; 32:6; Jacob 7:2, 6; 3 Nephi 2:2)
- baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2)
- Balaam (Rev. 2:14)
- Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:15)
- the Father (2 Nephi 31:21)
- repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands (D&C 68:25)
- the kingdom (D&C 88:77)
- the priesthood (D&C 121:45)
- their having many wives and concubines (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon) (D&C 132:1)
- resurrection, redemption of mankind from the fall, individual repentance (D&C 138:19)
That’s a really good list of topics you could study (even the negative ones like 1, 2, 7, and 8). For the rest of this topic though, I’m going to dive deeper into the doctrine of Christ which is to me, the most important doctrine we can understand.
To set up this next part, click on the collection note button on your left nav/menu bar. When it opens, click the “Create CN” button. Then close the pane and you should have two collection note’s next to each other.
Start this new collection by dragging and dropping the verses related to this doctrine from the first collection note into this one (listed in #5 above). You could also drag in the verses from lines 3, 4, and 9. There are other verses you could add to this collection such as a new search for “my doctrine” and add those verses where Christ is speaking into this note. Expand the pane by clicking the right arrow, and title and tag this collection “Doctrine of Christ” and save the note.
Next, open a library pane and navigate to 2 Nephi 31. You can close the library pane once the reading pane is visible. Expand the reading pane. You should now have something that looks like this on your screen (depending on your monitor size).
Nephi’s discourse in 2 Nephi 31 starts out declaring he’s going to give us some straight talk and speak to us “plainly, according to the plainness of [his] prophesying.” This means he’s not couching what he says. He means for us to take this 100% literally. It’s not a figurative or symbolic sermon. Verse 3 reiterates this. He’s going to speak to us like the Lord does in plainness according to our understanding.
What we’re going to do here is read very carefully through 2 Nephi 31, verse by verse, line by line, and make notes by the verses. While you’re doing this, summarize things in the master collection note to the left of the chapter. You are welcome to use my brief notes below or create your own.
Verses 4-7, are a summary by Nephi of why Christ was baptized. He did it to be obedient to the commandments and show us the way to live.
Verse 8, the Holy Ghost descends upon him.
Verse 9, Nephi mentions the “straitness of the path.” The word straight means moving uniformly without curve or bend. The word strait means narrow, constricted, intimate, and closeness. The path leads to a gate. There is a description of a gate in D&C 137:2 for reference. It’s a beautiful flaming heavenly gate.
Verse 11, the Father speaks and gives a command.
Verse 12, Christ speaks and reiterates that when we follow him and do what he did, we receive the Holy Ghost.
Verse 13 is where things start to get really interesting. I think often in the church when we talk about the doctrine of Christ, we think of the 4th article of faith. Faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are certainly all foundational elements of the doctrine of Christ, but when we read these verses, there’s a whole new world that opens up to us. Is part of the doctrine of Christ to have the Father & Son speak to us just as they did to Nephi? I believe that is the intent of the doctrine. Look at the principles listed in this verse.
Verse 14, Christ again speaks to Nephi and states after you have done all these things and experienced his power, if you should deny him then, “it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.” The key word here is “known.” The whole point of this doctrine of Christ is to literally come to know Christ. To be brought into his presence while in this world and be comforted by Him and taught by Him.
Verse 15, the Father again speaks to Nephi and now adds the part about enduring to the end. We always tack endure to the end onto the end of the 4th article of faith but it’s really not until we experience all these things that endurance to the end comes in. We have to complete the journey of faith first by doing these things. The journey doesn’t end with baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. That’s just the first part. We have to go on and be baptized in fire which is administered by Jesus Christ (see 3 Nephi 12:1-2 and D&C 33:15).
Do we have any examples of a baptism of fire? Yes we do. Recall when Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi, were in prison and engulfed in fire and saw angels. Why do we read of that experience? It’s to see what a real baptism of fire can be like because Jesus says in 3 Nephi 12:2, we don’t get a remission of sins until after the baptism of fire. We can repent, but not have a remission. Now the baptism of fire doesn’t always have to happen this way. In 3 Nephi 9:20, the Lord tells Nephi that the Lamanites who converted under the ministry of Ammon and his brethren were baptized with fire and “knew it not.”
Verse 17, says repentance and baptism by water is the gate by which we enter, and THEN comes a remission of our sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
Verse 18, says THEN we are in the strait and narrow path and have entered in by the gate (vs 9). We do all that to enter and get on the path.
Verse 19, says, hold on partner, everything you’ve done so far isn’t the end. You didn’t get this far without relying on the word of Christ gaining unshaken faith in Him.
Verse 20, we have to feast on the word of Christ. This isn’t just the scriptures, it’s everything Christ tells us. What is the end result of this? The Father will speak to you and say “Ye shall have eternal life.” Your calling and election is made sure.
Verse 21, Nephi summarizes that all this is the doctrine of Christ, the only true doctrine of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It’s not just the 4th article of faith, but includes piercing the veil and having our calling and election made sure.
Verse 1, after we have entered in by the way are we done? No.
Verse 2, have you learned to speak with the tongue of angels by praying in the spirit?
Verse 3, feast upon the words of Christ because the words of Christ will TELL YOU all things you should do. Love revelation and seek it.
Verse 5, if we enter in by the way, all the way in, then the Holy Ghost will SHOW YOU the things you should do. The gifts of the spirit are opened up to you and the visions of eternity and inspired dreams come to teach us.
Verse 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 isn’t speaking about Christ’s appearance in 3 Nephi 11 to his descendants in hundreds of years. He’s talking about a personal appearance just as Jesus taught in John 14:23. The final step is to receive the second comforter and enjoy the presence of the Lord. This is the doctrine of Christ. It is the doctrine that redeems man from the fall and brings us back into God’s presence, in this life. It is the partaking of the fruit, the gift, our endowment. It’s not just going through the basic steps and believing if we endure to the end we’ll be saved, it’s using our agency to pray for direction and revelation, learn to commune with God, and get back into his presence.
Verses 7-9, Nephi can’t say more. He is restrained by the Spirit. He’s given it to us “as plain as word can be.” We need to stop looking beyond the mark and accept that this is the path. Pray to the Lord for direction and instruction and we will receive it.
Verse 2, there are many that cast these things away and esteem them as things of naught.
What is this doctrine of Christ? It is to have us enter into God’s rest. To provide comfort for the anxiety of our souls. We are anxious because of our separation from God, and so God gave us the comforter to help us be at rest, but he gave another comforter, even Jesus Christ, to give us direct promises of our salvation and teach us things we cannot learn from the scriptures themselves. This is why Nephi can’t go on. We have to have the manifestations “in the flesh” for ourselves to be taught.
Verses 5-7, Jacob says exactly this. The people had faith and great anxiety and it was manifest to them “what things should happen unto them.” They had much revelation and prophesy and labored to persuade the people to come unto Christ and enter into his rest. Otherwise they would provoke God as ancient Israel did when they rejected the offer Moses presented to them to become a nation of kings and priests and enter into God’s presence. They were shut out and condemned. (D&C 84:23-25)
The church in the early days of this dispensation have also been put under condemnation for treating the Book of Mormon lightly. It contains the fullness of the gospel and particularly the doctrine of Christ and examples of that doctrine at work in the lives of others. If we fail to believe it, and seek it, we won’t lift the condemnation (D&C 84:49-58)
The Holy Ghost brings us to Christ, and Christ brings us to the Father to be taught of him (D&C 84:43-48; D&C 107:19)
This is why Nephi implores us to ask, seek, and knock.
Of course, all of this is only possible because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is the foundation that reconciles us to God and redeems us to bring us back into his presence. It permeates all doctrine and even though Nephi didn’t outwardly state it in a direct fashion, when we talk about the doctrine of Christ, that is the core message of why this is able to work.
Here are some relevant quotes you might add to your verses or the collection note as you see fit.
“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” – Joseph Smith, HC, 5:499
“I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.” -Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 2016 GC
“There is a true doctrine on these points, a doctrine unknown to many and unbelieved by more, a doctrine that is spelled out as specifically and extensively in the revealed word as are any of the other great revealed truths. There is no need for uncertainty or misunderstanding; and surely, if the Lord reveals a doctrine, we should seek to learn its principles and strive to apply them in our lives. This doctrine is that mortal man, while in the flesh, has it in his power to see the Lord, to stand in his presence, to feel the nail marks in his hands and feet, and to receive from him such blessings as are reserved for those only who keep all his commandments and who are qualified for that eternal life which includes being in his presence forever. Let us at least sample the holy word and see what the Lord has promised as to seeing his face and being in his presence while we are yet pilgrims far removed from our heavenly home.” -Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pg. 492.
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.” – Boyd K. Packer, Little Children, October 1986 General Conference
Mike Stroud’s podcast explains this in greater depth if you’d like to listen to it (and take notes in Scripture Notes while you do).
2 Nephi 31, part 1: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/mstroud/episodes/2019-06-09T21_30_50-07_00
2 Nephi 31, part 2: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/mstroud/episodes/2019-06-12T08_08_37-07_00
(Featured image by Katarzyna Białasiewicz @ 123rf.com)
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