Christs Sermon at Bountiful Part 1

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

This is a series of posts about the teachings of Jesus Christ to the Nephites after His resurrection at the temple in Bountiful. It is the western hemisphere version of the Sermon on the Mount in Jerusalem to the Jews. The commentary is from “The Desk of Denver Snuffer” blog and his book “Remembering the Covenant Vol 3”. I have not included all his commentary. To view that commentary in its entirety visit http://denversnuffer.com/blog/

It seems to me that even though so many profess the gospel of Jesus Christ, few seem to really understand or know what it really is. Here is a beginning of posts trying to establish a foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was taught by Himself.

 Part One “The Doctrine of Christ” (III Nephi 11:31-41)

(Scripture commentary from “Remembering the Covenant” Vol. 3)

III Nephi 11:31-32

“Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine. And 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.”

To understand His doctrine you must first know and understand that the doctrine originates with the Father. Christ has completely accepted and advocates the doctrine. Moreover He embodies it.

The Father’s doctrine is that “all men, everywhere, [must] repent and believe in [Christ].” This is what the whole of creation hangs on: the atonement of the Son. It is through the Son’s sacrifice that the Father’s plan became operational. Now, to return to the Father all must do so in reliance upon the merits of the Son.

The Son preaches the doctrine of, and bears witness of the Father. The Father bears witness of the Son.  The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and Son.

The Father does bear record of the Son. But you must go through the Son to get to the Father. When you do, acting in faith according to the conditions established for your salvation, then you will receive the Father’s testimony or record of the Son for yourself. But implicit in this statement is the fact that access to the Father is possible by the means provided through the Son. That is a ratification of the fullness of the Gospel. It is an invitation to return to heaven and obtain from the Father a confirmation of your salvation. In this life!

To repent is to turn again to Him. To follow Him and leave behind your sinful ways. To abandon the world and worldliness and to choose to always remember Him, that you may have His spirit to be with you always.

To believe in Him is to accept, study, contemplate and ponder His teachings. It is not to just go along with a herd, but to rise up from your position and awaken from your slumber. It is to grow into knowledge about Him. Belief leads to faith and faith to knowledge. But the process is initiated by your belief (correct understanding) of His teachings.

III Nephi 11:33-34

“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.”

Imagine the importance attached to the ordinance of baptism! It is an absolute minimum requirement. Upon the proper performance of this ordinance, hangs the difference between being “saved” and “inheriting the kingdom of God” on the one hand, and being “damned” on the other.

Well, believing in Christ precedes baptism. In fact, belief in Christ causes baptism. The one results in the other. Without faith in Him, there is no need for baptism. This then makes the first step belief in Christ, and baptism the second step.

III Nephi 11:35

“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.”

You see in these three members of the Godhead a full establishment of interconnected roles and responsibilities.

The Father ordains the plan. It is He who presides.

The Son implements the plan. It is He who makes the required sacrifice to save us.

The Holy Ghost activates the plan. It is the “fire” of the Holy Ghost which makes new, cleanses and perfects the man’s understanding.

The Father’s testimony always affirms the status of the Son as His Beloved, and of our need to “hear Him.” (See e.g., Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17; see also Matt. 3: 17.) The Father can, and does, acknowledge others as His. (Psalms 2: 7.) But, unlike the Son who has repeatedly visited this earth, walked upon it (Luke 24: 15-16), been handled by people (Luke 24: 36-39; 3 Nephi 11: 14-15), and eaten here (John 21: 13), the Father does not come into contact with this earth in its fallen state (Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17). The only time the Father had contact with this earth was before the Fall, in the Paradisiacal setting of Eden–which was a Temple at the time (Gen. 3: 8). Whenever there has been contact with the Father thereafter, He has been at a distance from this earth. (Moses 7: 24; 1 Nephi 1: 8; Alma 36: 22.)

There is a formality with the Father that does not exist with the Son. For example, the Son has eaten with mortal man while He was immortal, both before His ministry in the flesh (Exo. 24: 9-11) and after (Luke 24: 41-43). As our Redeemer, He is directly responsible for us and has contact with us to perform His redemptive service. The Father, on the other hand, is different in status, responsibility, glory and dominion. The Son can appear to mortal man without showing His glory or requiring any alteration of the mortal who beholds Him. (See, e.g., John 20: 15-17.) To behold the Father, to endure His presence, one must be transfigured. (Moses 1: 2.) Mortal man cannot behold the Father’s works while mortal, for if you comprehend them you cannot afterward remain mortal in the flesh. (Moses 1: 5.)

The primary means to learn of Christ for mortal man is the Holy Ghost. It is this means which brings all things to your remembrance (John 14: 26). Once the learning has culminated in preparation of the individual, then the Savior has a continuing ministry. (John 14: 21.) The Savior’s ministry is to bring the person redemption.

The process then produces those who bear testimony of the Son. If they are called of God, they will use scriptures to testify of Christ. This has always been the pattern ordained by God. (Jacob 7: 10-11.) They may understand the scriptures more clearly, because they have seen the same things as earlier prophets. (JS-H 1: 74.) But their testimonies will draw from the scriptures and the words of their brothers in Christ who went before as they testify of Him.

It is through such signs as these you know the Father and Son are one, and the Holy Ghost and the Son are one, and the messengers sent by them will testify of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These three are the ones in whom faith must be focused for salvation. Though the heavens may include hosts of others, saving faith must be focused in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone. Whenever attention and worship moves from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the result is invariably apostasy and false beliefs. (1 Cor. 8: 5-6; Deut. 16, 17, 18 & 19; 2 Kings 17: 13-16.)

The doctrine of Christ is to be strictly followed. It alone delivers from destruction. All other paths lead to error, foolishness and the dark, where you will perish. (Deut. 8: 19.)

From following this process we obtain the necessary “fire and the Holy Ghost” which redeems, purges, purifies and changes us into a new creature in Christ.

Mankind is inclined toward idolatry. The church has become a great idol. I do not intend to supplant the Lord, nor to call attention to myself, nor to offer myself as an idol for others. I cannot save anyone. If not for Christ and His atonement, I would have only dread for my eternal state. The doctrine of Christ is what the Father ordained as the means for salvation. Anyone who interferes with the process, or offers another means for salvation, cannot deliver. (Mosiah 3: 17.) Whether it is an institution or an individual, no one other than Christ can save. Hence His title as Savior. For some reason mankind is so prone to error, so quick to leave the path, and so vulnerable to being deceived, that focus must remain on the Son, as empowered and sent by the Father, through the witness of the Holy Ghost, or we go astray. Joseph cautioned:

“How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”  (TPJS p. 137.)

III Nephi 11:36

“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.”

The phrase: “And thus will the Father bear record of me” is referring to the Father visiting “him with fire and the Holy Ghost.” This means that to the recipient of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost comes a witness to the person of the Father. When the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost come to you, so does the Father’s testimony of the Son.

You cannot receive this baptism and not have a testimony given to you by the Father of the Son.

Becoming converted is a question of sincerity, real intent, and asking God. It is not about the library you have read. Indeed, approaching it on purely intellectual terms has never produced a single convert.

The problem is always obtaining a connection to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is not a matter of scholarship. Joseph was anything but a scholar when he encountered God in the First Vision. He was young and ignorant. He read the Bible, believed in God’s existence, and trusted the promise by James that if he were to ask God he would not be upbraided but would be answered. (James 1: 5-6.) Therefore he decided to ask, with real intent, trusting in the promise. (JS-H 1: 12-13.)

Because he asked, he met God. Walking into the grove near his home that morning he was a foolish and ignorant boy. Walking back he was a prophet.  Though it would be many years following that encounter before he appreciated how far he would have to go to gain knowledge of godliness and the mysteries of salvation. But all of his study and effort was informed by the scriptures and revelation. In my view, this is how it should be.

The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one. And the primary means for obtaining access to their “record” spoken of in this verse, is through the scriptures.

III Nephi 11:37-38

“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. 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.”

Repentance is not likely unless a person is willing to undergo a change to become more “childlike” in perspective and attitude. It is more than just an analogy or good advice. It is a prerequisite. It is the only way you can “inherit the kingdom of God.”

Children are open to change and willing to learn. They welcome new ideas for all ideas are new to them. The world is new to them. They feel their ignorance and are anxious to fill it with information and understanding. They know they are unable to cope with the world they live in unless they obtain more understanding than they have. So they relentlessly search to know more.

On the other hand, adults are generally closed. They believe they already know something, and therefore are unwilling to receive more. (2 Nephi 28: 29.)

But the Gospel is separate from the understanding of men. It requires us to surrender our arrogance and foolishness and come as a child to learn anew everything about life and truth.

We need to abandon old ways and begin anew. Until we are open to the new truths offered through the Gospel, we can’t even start the journey. We’re headed in the wrong direction and don’t even know it. First we need to realize our direction is wrong. Then stop going that way. When we turn to the new direction, we’ve begun repenting. (2 Cor. 5: 17.)

From repentance comes light and truth. At first, just turning to face the new direction is a great revelation. But you’ve not seen anything until you walk in that direction for a while. As you move toward the light and receive more, the world itself changes meaning and nothing you used to think important remains important. (Isa. 65: 17.)

Becoming as a little child, or repenting, must precede baptism if you are to be saved. Otherwise, you cannot “receive these things” or, in other words, you cannot accept the new truths and perspectives the Gospel will require you to know and accept. Unless these steps are taken you cannot “inherit the kingdom of God” because only such people will be able to enter.

Teachable. Open. Willing to receive more. Able to endure difficulties as a result of the changes which come to them. Patient. Submissive to God.  And eager to learn more. (Mosiah 3: 19.)

Not arrogant. Not trying to fit the new truths into your existing framework of false notions. (Mark 2: 22.) Not resisting truth and arguing against it. (1 Tim. 6: 4-6.) Not proud or boastful, secure in your own salvation. (Luke 18: 11.) Not holding a testimony that you will be saved while others around you will be lost because they do not believe as you do. (Alma 31: 14-18.)

How few there will be who find it. (Matt. 7: 14; 3 Ne. 14: 14; 3 Ne. 27: 33; D&C 132: 22.) Most people are simply unwilling to repent.  They have such truth as they are willing to receive already, and want nothing more. (2 Nephi 28: 14-15.)

Even Christ is unable to persuade them to accept His Gospel.

III Nephi 11:39

“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.”

This is the reason for this doctrine. It will allow those who accept and follow it to endure against all enemies. It will allow them to prevail. Even the “gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” Meaning that death and hell can have no claim upon them. They will not be taken captive either in this world (Alma 12: 11) or when they leave this world (Alma 40: 13.)

When we consider the Father is to bear record of the Son, and the Son bears record of the Father, and the Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and Son, then we realize this doctrine of Christ is designed to put us in contact with all three members of the Godhead. We are to join them. We are to be one with them.

There is no separating us from God when we have the record of each given to us.

It is interesting that the “rock” upon which we build is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There is abundant evidence of other “gods” and of “goddesses.” It is beyond dispute that the “image of God” includes both “male and female.” (Gen. 1: 27; Moses 2: 27; Abraham 4: 27.) It is inescapable, therefore, that the God we worship includes a Father and a Mother. However, we are only to seek after the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as the “rock” upon which our salvation is to be built.

III Nephi 11:40

“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.”

Here is Christ’s explanation of why we must focus on these doctrines to be saved. I’ve heard more words of caution about speaking “more” than I’ve ever heard cautioning about “less.” Both are a problem.

First, as to “more.” When we “declare more” we are getting ahead of the process. We aren’t to worship the “hosts of heaven,” nor a heavenly mother. Despite all we may know about Her, that knowledge won’t save. Other personages or ministers cannot save either. Gabriel will not. Enoch will not. Michael will not. Only the Son will save; and the Father will bear testimony of Him. Interesting stories about individual spiritual encounters or experiences will not save.

So the definition of “more” would include such things that supplant scripture or suggest anything is more important than the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but things as may shed additional light on the meaning of scripture.

Interestingly enough, when we “declare less” we are also condemned.  It works both ways. It’s a two-edged sword. Not “more nor less” is permitted. We sometimes greet preaching “less” with applause, because we want less. But that is no better than missing the mark while preaching “more.” Perhaps it is worse, because it represents a rejection of truth. It is active suppression of what needs to be proclaimed. All of us must be concerned about declaring less. Deleting or omitting is as serious a matter as adding. Either will allow the gates of hell to prevail.

III Nephi 11:41

“Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.”

The obligation to declare the doctrine of Christ, preach repentance, baptize with authority and make known the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is imposed upon the twelve. This burden, therefore, rests on them and is theirs to bear off “unto this people.” They are to warn everybody of these obligations. Not just those who were there.

The break between this portion of Christ’s teachings and what would follow is interesting to consider. The remainder of His teachings will form the primary message foundational to Christianity. It is the new, higher law which replaces the earlier Law of Moses. Yet this portion, declared by Christ as His “doctrine” is the part to be taken first and declared everywhere. Why?

A fair conclusion to reach is that before you consider the new, higher law you must first:

-Repent

-Be Baptized

-Receive the Holy Ghost

-Have a correct understanding of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost

These things precede His replacement of the older, lower law with His new, higher law. It is reasonable to conclude you will not comprehend His follow-on teachings if you have not first repented, been baptized, received the Holy Ghost, and understand the Godhead. Or, even more to the point: You will never be able to LIVE His new, higher law unless these steps are taken first. Until then you may aspire, but you will not be able to live them. They address the heart, rather than just conduct. They go to the deepest convictions inside you, what motivates you, and the reasons for your conduct. Your conduct will follow these precepts when you have been changed.  For the required change, the tools discussed first must be acquired.

He will return to the themes of this opening statement, declaring nothing more or less than what He has taught should be given as His. (See 3 Nephi 18: 12-13.)

So we turn from this introductory, first statement of His doctrine to His great foundational Sermon at Bountiful in which the higher law is first given in one, complete statement of what we are to become. It is not merely direction to us. It is also a revelation of what kind of person Christ was. He explains it Himself…

End of part one

 

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