The Doctrine of Christ- Part Three

[Editorial Note: During the last session of LDS General Conference Elder Bednar gave a talk titled “Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins”. It was a remarkable and refreshing departure from the traditional conference talk. In it he refrained from using emotionalism and from telling shallow stories mingled with quotes from secular poets and philosophers.

He spoke about King Benjamin and quoted many scriptures and spoke of the importance of becoming a new creature in Christ. Much of the content of his talk about the importance of saving ordinances and retaining a remission of sins interrelates to the topic of this series. He actually spoke of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

Some people consider him to be the modern version of Bruce McConkie and that he is going to become the new doctrinal scholar among the brethren as the church self corrects and becomes more scripturally oriented.

I had mixed emotions as I listened to the talk. On the one hand, I was rejoicing that he was speaking on such an important topic and that he was quoting scripture.

On the other hand, I found it disconcerting that he was using scripture and some true gospel principles while making false truth claims about the authority of the modern church. As usual, he spoke of the mythical “constant companionship  of the Holy Ghost” that Mormons claim to get after baptism and then they explain how to get it back when it leaves….. what is constant about the Holy Ghost if he keeps leaving and you need to keep repenting to get it back? LOL ]  ( he phase, “constant companionship of the Holly Ghost” which is always used in the church, never shows up in all of scripture. A variation of the phrase shows up once in section 121 on the topic of priesthood but does not have reference to what the church claims it has reference to ) 

 

Part Three

The Book of Mormon Clearly Answers Questions the Bible Does Not

Previously in this series we discussed how significant the Book of Mormon is, not only because it is a second witness of Christ with the Bible as to the birth, ministry, crucifixion and atonement of Christ, but also because it explains the Doctrine of Christ and contains the fullness of the Gospel. It provides a clear explanation of the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel and how one can be saved in the kingdom of God.

In the previous parts of this series we have presented contextual and circumstantial evidence that the Bible does not clearly document what the fulness of the gospel is. However I want to provide a few passages from 1 Nephi 13 in the Book of Mormon that pretty clearly spells it out.

And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.” (verse 24)

As you can see, it was when the Bible first proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew that it contained the fulness of the Gospel. It initially went forth in PURITY. (verse 25)

However, AFTER it went forth from the Jews to the Gentiles the great and abominable church “have taken away parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. 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.” (verse 27)

..there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book..” (verse 28)

“..because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, ye, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (verse 29)

The above passages show that the Bible is deficient in clearly showing what the fulness of the gospel is.

Nevertheless, once a person becomes familiar with the plain and simple doctrine of Christ as clearly and succinctly presented in the Book of Mormon, it is possible to extract the general points of the doctrine of Christ and what the Fulness of  the Gospel is from the New Testament. Those who do not have the blueprint to begin with are left to struggle with vague and conflicting New Testament passages and a less than clear declaration of what the Doctrine of Christ is.

All of the Great Controversies Answered

In addition to providing a bullet point listing of the Doctrine of Christ, the Book of Mormon answers many of the other questions that the Bible does not answer. Alexander Campbell, one of the great protestant Bible scholars and early critics of the Book of Mormon mockingly but accurately declared that:

This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in N. York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies – infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to… He prophesied of all these topics, and of the apostacy [of the New Testament Church]..”

Campbell was right. The Book of Mormon does decide many of the great controversies that have plagued Protestantism. Are we foolish and naïve to think that a merciful God might provide an ancient record that clears these things up and provides a second witness of the ministry of Christ?

The Bible is essential in documenting and testifying of the life, ministry, and atonement of Christ. It provides a witness that Salvation begins with faith in Christ. Sadly, one cannot easily identify the fact that saving ordinances by servants of God having authority is also required because of the ambiguity in the current content of the Bible. It is not easy to see the complete doctrine of Christ and understand the plan of salvation from the Bible alone. The Book of Mormon provides documentation of what the Doctrine of Christ is and what the salvation protocol is.

Interestingly, one cannot obtain salvation simply from reading the Bible or the Book of Mormon and exercising faith and attempting to mimic the scriptural protocol of salvation. Salvation requires more than reading the written word. Priesthood authority is essential.

Both the New Testament and Book of Mormon verify that priesthood authority from God is required to administer the ordinances of salvation that result in the spiritual rebirth.

Book of Commandments

The Book of Commandments which was the canon of scripture for the restored Gentile  “Church of Christ” documented the restoration of priesthood authority to the earth at the time of the LDS restoration movement during Joseph Smith’s ministry. It explained how priesthood authority was to be used in administering the protocol of salvation and it identified living people who had been commissioned by God to hold the priesthood keys and authority. Living priesthood holders were required to officiate in the ordinances of salvation that enable the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

Doctrine and Covenants

Finally, the Doctrine and Covenants which was the canon of scripture for the “Church of the Latter day Saints” which was composed of both Gentiles and the House of Israel, documented the condemnation and ultimately the Rejection of the saints as a church. It Documents the fact that the highest priesthood power necessary in actuating the fullness of the Gospel was taken from the earth.

bible and book of mormon

In my book and in previous posts I have endeavored to differentiate between the “Book of Commandments” and the “Doctrine and Covenants” because an understanding of this is essential in understanding the scriptures Joseph brought forth and the true history of the church. Some of those articles can be views at the following links

https://onewhoiswatching.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/commandments-doctrine-covenants/

https://onewhoiswatching.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/commandments-doctrine-covenants-part-two/

The Book of Commandments is composed of about 65 revelations. The earliest was received in July of 1828 and the last one was given in December of 1831 (although not all of the revelations were printed chronologically according to date.) The last revelation printed in the canon was given in September of 1831.

The last published revelation in the Book of Commandments, which is chapter 65, is published in our current D&C as Section 64. There are some significant differences between the two texts and seven additional passages are in the D&C version of it. It is claimed that part of the last revelation and possibly other revelations were not printed because of the mob that cast the Mormons out of Jackson County.  I am of the belief that all things that happen are according to the divine providence and foreknowledge of God. Everything that needed to be in the Book of Commandments was in it.

Interestingly, even though the last revelation included was given in September of 1831 and the first formal conference on publishing the Book of Commandments was held in November of 1831, publishing did not begin until June of 1832!

Why is this significant?

Because numerous additional revelations were received between the time that the last revelation in the Book of Commandments was received and the date that it was published.

Some of these revelations that were intentionally excluded from the Book of Commandments but later included in the D&C are highly significant. One example would be Section 65 which reveals that the kingdom of God that had already been set up on the earth, would have to come forth at a future time.

Another would be Section 76 which contains the vision about the pre-existence and the three degrees of glory and which prophesies that Satan would make war against the saints at a future time.

The primary source for creating the Book of Commandments was the “Book of Commandments and Revelations” that had been kept. According to historical sources-

“ a committee of three individuals—William W. PhelpsOliver Cowdery, and John Whitmer—“to review the Book of Commandmants [that is, the “Book of Commandments & Revelations,” or Revelation Book 1] & select for printing such as shall be deemed by them proper, as dictated by the Spirit & make all necessary verbal corrections.”12 The committee acted upon that instruction by both selecting and revising manuscripts, using Revelation Book 1 as their primary source text.The committee did not include all items found in Revelation Book 1; some items therein were explicitly marked for exclusion from the Book of Commandments, and some others bear no such mark but were nonetheless excluded.”[1]

Although most of the revelations received after section 64 were not included in the Book of Commandments, the revelation now known as section 1 in the D&C was specifically included as the “preface”. It was received in November of 1831 and would have been the last revelation in the Book of Commandments chronologically by date.

When the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was eventually published a few years later, the Lord again required Section it to be the “preface” and section 133 (which was received just 2 days after section 1), to be the “appendix” of the D&C even though it had been entirely excluded from the Book of Commandments.

I am providing this information to show how exacting and intentional the Lord was in what he was doing. Clearly, the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants were very distinct canons of scripture with differing agendas.

Differentiating the Book of Commandments from the Doctrine and Covenants

The content in the “Book of Commandments” was focused on the saving ordinances and the “Law of the Gospel” which included the law of marital monogamy and the law of consecration. It was focused on the establishment of Zion. It was addressing God’s people who had the FULNESS of Gospel/Priesthood. It provided the necessary COMMANDMENTS for them to establish Zion.

Conversely the revelations in the “Doctrine and Covenants” were modified and expanded. In conjunction with undeniable historical events, they document the apostasy and condemnation of the saints and to show that after the restored church was condemned, resulting in the name of Christ being taken out of the church, the KNOWLEDGE of the gospel going forth across the great waters to remnants of the House of Israel.

That was the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy in 3rd Nephi 16 wherein he foretold that after the Gentiles reject the fullness of the Gospel, the KNOWLEDGE of the fullness would go forth from the gentiles to the House of Israel.

The Doctrine and Covenants in conjunction with the history of the church, documents the rejection of the saints as a church with their dead. Revelations from the Lord in that canon of scripture document the fact that the fulness of the gospel and the redemption of Zion would need to be postponed for a “little season” of “chastisement” until they “learn obedience”:

And now I give unto you a word concerning Zion. Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season.[2]

And that those who call themselves after my name might be chastened for a little season with a sore and grievous chastisement, because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave unto them.[3]

But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them…  And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.[4]

Hence, the primary focus of the content was to provide a knowledge of DOCTRINE and the COVENANTS that would pertain to the future restoration and rolling forth of the Kingdom of God on earth. As covered in previous posts, the “doctrine” portion of the Doctrine and Covenants was the Lectures on Faith that originally made up the first half of the Doctrine and Covenants. The revelations that followed provided essential information about the gospel COVENENTS.

Seeking the Manifestation of the Spirit Vs Trusting in the Arm of Flesh

When people experience a crisis of faith, they often end up going down one of two paths which are spoken of in scripture. The path they opt to take is determined by whether or not they desire to believe[5] or not. Those that desire to believe, opt to search out the truthfulness of the restored gospel by searching the scriptures. God has promised that those who sincerely search the scriptures and believe them will be blessed with a manifestation of his spirit[6].

Those who do not desire to believe rely on the learning of other men. Modern science and the learning of mortal man becomes their god. The promise from our creator is that those that trust in the arm of flesh will be cursed.

Taking Away Their Stumbling Blocks

What skeptics of the Book of Mormon and the restoration don’t realize is that the scientific evidence against God and the restoration which appears to be so overwhelmingly compelling to the natural man, has been ordained by God.

He has allowed those stumbling blocks to be put there to test our faith. The Book of Mormon informs us that when the marvelous work begins, those that hearken to the Lamb of God will have the stumbling blocks removed:

And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks—

 2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.

 3 And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.

I will try their Faith

The reason that scientific stumbling blocks exist is to test our faith. They force the candidate to choose between spiritual validation from the word of God and the manifestation of the spirit vs what the five senses and modern science are confirming, as the skeptic analyzes the natural world around us. It is important to remember that Satan is the God of this world and that things of this world are not always as they appear as we wrestle with the powers of darkness in the unseen world[7].

God often offers greater knowledge if greater faith is shown, but knowledge is withheld when a lack of faith is demonstrated. God intentionally limits the amount of information that we have access to, to try our faith.

10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

 11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.

Cleansed from the “Blood and Sins of this Generation”

Section 88 informs Joseph Smith and others that their names had been entered into the book of the names of the sanctified and they are given “another comforter”.

Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.

Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.” (88:2-3)[8]

This section also notifies those who are not the first elders of the church that they have not yet become sanctified and that they are to tarry in the vineyard preaching the gospel until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, to declare they have become sanctified-

“Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation.” (88:85)

The Lord commands the first Elders to establish a school of the “prophets” referring to those of the High Priests that had become sanctified before the Lord and were clean from the blood of that generation.

Clear instructions were given that those of the elders who had not yet become sanctified and cleansed from the blood of that generation were not to be allowed into the school of the prophets. A school of the “elders” would eventually be established for them-

“And ye shall not receive any among you into this school [of the prophets] save he is clean from the blood of this generation”  (88:138)

As you can see, the Lord had made it a matter of public record that some of the sanctified high priests such as Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon stood on different ground than elders like Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball stood on. The unsanctified elders like Brigham and Heber who had not yet become clean from the blood and sins of that generation were commanded to continue laboring in the vineyard until further notice from the Lord.

Joseph, Sidney and others would not go forth into the vineyard in power, for the last time, until after the little season of learning and chastisement.

A few years after section 88 was given, in conjunction with the intercessory atonement offering that would take place, the church and its leaders would be pronounced condemned by the Lord and in need of a “reformation in all things”.

After that condemnation, the witnesses to the Book of Mormon would finally fulfill their commission to call twelve apostles who would preach the gospel to both the Gentile and the Jew.

Despite being condemned by the Lord, this quorum would fulfill the prophecy given by Christ in 3rd Nephi 16. After the fullness of the gospel had been rejected by the Gentile church, the knowledge of the fullness of the gospel was to be taken by them across the “great waters” to the Jews (House of Israel).

Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and others of their fellow apostles of that quorum were had never been allowed into the school of the prophets because they had not been cleansed from the blood of that generation. They were to continue laboring in the vineyard until the voice of the Lord should call them.

Other Points of the Doctrine of Christ

In part one we discussed how it was shown in 2 Nephi 31 that there would be more “doctrine” taught to the Nephites once Christ visited them in the flesh. One could interpret that statement to mean more “doctrine of Christ” or they could interpret it to simply mean more “doctrine” in addition to the “doctrine of Christ”, perhaps referring to the doctrine pertaining to the kingdom of God on earth, covering a broader range of topics than the principles and ordinances of the gospel necessary to get into the narrow path.

I don’t have a strong opinion on that although it appears to me that the Doctrine of Christ seems to be limited to the process of salvation while the doctrine of the kingdom addresses a broader range of topics. Regardless, it is crucial to obey all of the words of Christ and all of the doctrine that he teaches since we take an oath to do so when we are baptized.

The next amazing event in the Saviors visit to the Nephites in 3 Nephi is the introduction of the partaking of the Savior’s flesh and blood through the sacrament ordinance of blessing bread and wine. This was done as a testimony that they would always remember him and always have his spirit to be with them.   The ordinance of the Lord’s supper which, as I previously pointed out, is an ordinance that enables the disciple of Christ to endure to the end and “more fully keep themselves unspotted from the world”.

the ordinance of the Lord’s supper further enables a person to endure to the end and retain a remission of their sins by always having the spirit to be with us.

In part four of this series we shall discuss why the Lord seems to treat the Gentiles slightly differently than the House of Israel in their cannon of scripture. Please be pondering the fact that the Gentiles have a different role than the House of Israel and the spiritual gifts that have been given to them differ slightly yet very significantly

gentile spiritual gifts

[1] http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/book-of-commandments-1833

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 100:13

 

[3] Doctrine and Covenants 103:4

 

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 105:3, 105:6

 

[5] Alma 32:27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

[6] Doctrine and Covenants 5:16

16 And behold, whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the Spirit—

[7] Ephesians 6:12

[8] Interestingly, this section later informs the first elders that they still need to “sanctify themselves” by organizing a “solemn assembly” indicating that modern revelation, like ancient scripture sometimes uses the same word to refer to differing things.

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