2 Nephi 31-33 talks about the doctrine of Christ. Christ’s doctrine centers around baptism. Let’s look at four aspects of the doctrine of Christ you may not have consciously thought of before.
What is the doctrine of Christ?
Following is a quote from a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson entitled, The Doctrine of Christ.
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.
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
… 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. …
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 (3 Nephi 11:32–35, 39).
Here are the simple points: Listen to the testimony of Christ, believe in that testimony, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Everything in the gospel of Christ centers around this list. An even simpler list is found in the Come, Follow Me manual for the Book of Mormon (p.39): “faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. I would modify this last item this way: “enduring [with faith in Christ] to the end.”
Being saved or damned
By definition to be damned is to be stopped in your progression. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that anyone who is not saved in the kingdom of God, which allows for eternal progression, is, by definition, damned or stopped in their progression. You don’t have to be an ultimately bad person before being damned. There will be many millions of really nice people who will be damned because they did not choose to get baptized through proper priesthood authority, or to endure to the end with faith in Christ.
Those who will be saved in the celestial kingdom are those who believed in Christ, got baptized by someone with proper authority, received the gift of the Holy Ghost, then lived their lives exercising their faith in Christ to the end of their days. That is not complicated or secretive doctrine. It is easy to understand, though not always easy to live. But whether we are saved of damned is a matter of our own choosing. The way is simple. The path is plainly laid out before us. We are told that pure religion is to take care of the homeless, fatherless, widows, etc. Ministering to the needs of others is all God requires of us once we have gotten onto the covenant path.
Nature of promises
Some are fearful that if we make promises to the Lord we might not be able to keep them. Many fear that something will come up in the future that makes it difficult to keep our promises. Isn’t there some way for us to know all that will be required of us before we make our promises to God? Let’s look at the nature of promises.
When you make wedding vows do you already know everything you will be required to go through in the course of your marriage? Do you really have any inkling of what will be required of you as you raise children? Of course you don’t. It is the nature of promises that we make them in good faith, trusting that our integrity and choice will see us through whatever comes our way.
Notice that in the scriptures, like in Nephi’s vision of what his father saw, Nephi was asked if he would believe what the Lord was about to show him. Nephi couldn’t be shown the vision until he had already promised to accept and live by whatever was about to be given to him. When we go to the temple we are asked the exact same thing. We have to agree to keep all the covenants we are about to receive, even before we know specifically what they are. Promises require a level of trust and commitment.
When someone gets baptized, they are making covenants to do certain things even though they don’t know what will be entailed in executing that commitment in the future. Sometimes keeping our covenants is easy, but sometimes it requires everything we can muster to take one more step forward. This is no different than when we make wedding vows. Sometimes it is very easy to stay married, and sometimes it takes every ounce of commitment we can muster just to look our companion in the eye and decide to love them for one more hour. (I actually hope it never gets that difficult, but I know that it can.)
Asking lifelong commitments of a child
In my article, Is Eight the Right Age for Baptism, I discuss more fully this idea of asking a child to make a lifelong commitment. Simply put, we don’t think anything of asking our children to promise to do what mommy and daddy tell them to do. We don’t think it to be outrageous to expect them to obey us. We know that we only want what is best for them. We demand their obedience because that obedience will help to secure their safety and happiness for the time they live with us, and on into the future.
If we expect our children to obey us for their own safety and happiness, why would we question the wisdom of expecting our children to make promises and commitments to God, our Heavenly Father? We trust Him don’t we? We are willing to commit to obey His commandments, right? Why would anyone shy away from expecting a child to do the same?
To summarize, the doctrine of Christ is a very simple list of commitments anyone can do: have faith in Christ, get baptized by one having authority, receive the Holy Ghost, then continue to exercise faith in Christ for the rest of your life.
We choose whether we will be saved or damned. Anyone who doesn’t accept and live the doctrine of Christ chooses not to be saved. And it really is a matter of choice.
It is the nature of promises that we make them in good faith, not knowing beforehand what all will be required of us to keep our promises. We accept this premise going into the covenant relationship, whether it be a baptism, or a wedding. Refusing to make a promise because we don’t know all the possible requirements of keeping that promise in the future only denies us the happiness and joy keeping that promise could have brought to us.
And finally, it is reasonable and rational to expect a child to make a lifelong commitment to follow Christ. Knowing the happiness obedience to the gospel can bring, it would be a failure on our part as parents not to encourage our children in every way possible to make and keep covenants with God, the author of all lasting happiness.
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