The Doctrine of Christ is referred to many times throughout the scriptures (both ancient and modern). But what is the Doctrine of Christ? What does it mean? What is its purpose? And how does it apply to us personally? I believe this subject is enormously important to understand. So, I would like to present it for general consideration. But first, please ponder on this statement from Brother Brian K. Ashton, presented at the Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church, October 2016: he said, “The doctrine of Christ …is the means—the only means—by which we can obtain all the blessings made available to us through Jesus’s Atonement. It is the doctrine of Christ that allows us to access the spiritual power that will lift us from our current spiritual state to a state where we can become perfected like the Savior.”
The basic principles and ordinances of the Doctrine of Christ include:
- Learn of Jesus Christ. Learn the truth about Him! Begin with a “True Idea” about Him (e.g., that He actually exists). Then, ponder on that idea …and, strive to learn more.
- Believe and exercise Faith in Jesus Christ (e.g.: Faith that He Actually Exists).
- Repent of any inappropriate behavior (our sins) and forsake them (making positive adjustment to our lives, as necessary).
- Be Baptized in His name by an authorized agent of the Lord.
- Receive the Gift, Companionship, and Influence of the Holy Spirit (aka the Holy Ghost), and
- Faithfully Endure well (continuing in righteousness) along the covenant path (to the end) as we follow the Doctrine of Christ and become gradually more like Him (more like Jesus Christ). (See Preach My Gospel, Lesson 3, Pg 66; 2 Nephi 9:24; 2 Nephi 31:14-20; 3 Nephi 27:16-17; and Matthew 10:22.)
Three Important Points of Interest!
- Who can we trust? In whom can we truthy have faith. The first bullet above refers to the ONLY person upon whom we can truly have Faith to be saved (Jesus Christ Himself). And we must exercise that Faith based upon something that is “True” about Him (e.g.: Jesus Christ actually exists!) This “True” idea is necessary in order that a person may begin to have Faith in Christ. The next four (4) bullets above are essentially the Articles of Faith 1:4, or what is referred to as “…the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel.” However, the last bullet (Endure well to the End), while not included in the original 4th verse of the Articles of Faith, has generally been accepted as a critical element of “the Doctrine of Christ.” In this life, we must strive to endure faithfully on the Covenant Path leading to Jesus Christ, “the Holy One of Israel.”
- Faith in Jesus Christ is a unique kind of faith! It is not like having faith in your old truck, …or in crossing the street safely. Nor is it like having faith in a friend or neighbor, nor your ability to do such and such. Those types of faith may not always be reliable, nor based on truth. However, the Faith we are discussing here is Faith in a Divine Being who really exists, and who is full of Light and Truth. Real Faith MUST be based on a knowledge of something that is True, …a Truth! In this case specifically, a true and correct knowledge of the “character, perfection, and attribute” of Jesus Christ.
- I first heard specific and authoritative reference to “Endure to the End”(as being associated with the Articles of Faith 1:4), in August 1971. At the time, I was living in Huntington, England (UK) with my dear wife Jenny, and our daughter Heather Marie. It was the weekend of the first Area General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The conference was held in Manchester, England, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (August 27–29, 1971). We were in attendance at that conference. Our Prophet at the time, President Joseph Fielding Smith, presided at the conference and mentioned specifically “Endure to the End” as the 5th principle of the Church. As he spoke to the Saints in England, He said, “…there are five (5) principles and ordinances of the Gospel.” Then, he quoted from Articles of Faith 1:4 “…first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And, while raising his hand, he added: “fifth, Endure to the End.” While sitting there, I made a specific note of President Smith’s comments. One of my takeaways from his talk was and is: the Doctrine of Christ is not just a four-step plan (i.e., Faith, Repentance, Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost). In addition to having a “True Idea of Jesus Christ,” following Him, and abiding by His principles and ordinances, there is also another element in the process: Endure well to the End!
The importance of “the Doctrine of Christ” has been reinforced several times in the Holy Scriptures. The Lord taught that the Doctrine of Christ “…is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto Me” (3 Nephi 11:32). In simplest terms, it is the path our Redeemer has set out which, if followed, will bring His chosen people to a pure knowledge of Him, and which must be followed if we are to learn of Him, enjoy the full blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and ultimately receive Exaltation and Eternal Life. (See 2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 11; 3 Nephi 15:9; D&C 76:50-70; and 2 John 1:9.)
In simplified terms, the Divine process works as follows: First, we learn some truth about Jesus Christ. If we are wise, we will exercise Faith in that knowledge (or idea) about Him, and we will naturally seek to learn more. As we do, we will begin to understand how wonderful and perfect He truly is; and we will wisely seek to learn more of Him and follow Him. If we are sincere, we will naturally want to change or adjust our behavior (we repent) to align more with Jesus Christ. In addition to making those changes, we will want to express our commitment to become more like Him through baptism (by one authorized to perform the ordinance). When we do this (have Faith in Christ, Repent of un-Christlike behaviors, and are Baptized), the Lord has promised to provide a way for us to receive greater knowledge of the Father and the Son: He offers an increased influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost).
The Sacred Influence of the Holy Ghost!
Now, we know the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead (Articles of Faith 1:1) and an individual personage of spirit (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22). His influence for good is present and can be felt throughout the world. As a member of the Godhead, we understand He has many duties, and these are reflected in His many titles: among which are “the Revelator,” “the Comforter,” “the Spirit of Truth,” “the Sanctifier,” and more. We know that He testifies of and confirms the truth. But His primary mission is to testify and confirm a truthful record or testimony of God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He inspires and confirms these truths to those who faithfully seek Him. As we act on and faithfully strive to follow the Doctrine of Christ, and enjoy an increased influence of the Holy Spirit (the Revelator) in our lives, we will more readily receive additional knowledge and insight (truth) of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through the influence of the Holy Spirit. We will increase in our understanding of who Christ is (beyond just “an idea” of who he is). We will grow in our understanding of “His character, His perfections, and His attributes,” and we will receive additional insights and confirmation of those truths by the Holy Ghost.
Throughout this process, we become increasingly motivated to modify or change our lives (additional repentance or adjustments) and become more like Jesus Christ. Frankly, as our knowledge of Jesus Christ increases, so does our faith in Him …because we have more information about Him upon which to exercise our faith in Him. And, as we gain more knowledge of Christ, we will see additional changes that must be made in our lives, and (if we truly desire to be like our Savior) we will continually be motivated to make those additional adjustments (through repentance).
Thus, with an increasingly greater influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will be blessed to know the Savior more clearly and be guided in our progress along the path to becoming more like Him.
This then is the cycle of progression and sanctification:
- Learning of Jesus Christ (by study and prayerful consideration),
- Exercising faith in Him, receiving inspiration and knowledge of Him, desiring to be like Him,
- Adjusting (repenting), and striving to live a Christ-like life (as we learn of Him),
- Making a sacred commitment to “Follow Him” (personally and symbolically by being Baptized and regularly partaking of the Holy Sacrament),
- Receiving increased inspiration, knowledge, and guidance from the Holy Spirit, and
- Enduring well in this process to the end.
And, as we continue to receive increased inspiration and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we will yet have more information about Him upon which to exercise faith. Our Faith in Jesus Christ will continue to grow, and the cycle will continue as we Endure Well and Faithfully to the End.
Important Points and a Summary!
Three very important behaviors that will fuel this process: 1) a greater study of the Holy Scriptures and the truth, 2) more effective personal prayers, and 3) faithful obedience and alignment to what we learn along the way. These final three steps (essentially: Study, Pray, and Obey) provide the fuel we need to feed the mind and inspire growth along the Covenant Path.
If in this life, we remain steadfast in Christ, continue to have faith in Him, always retain a remission of our sins, rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us, obey the principles we learn, and endure well and faithfully in the Gospel, we will successfully follow the Doctrine of Christ, stay on the Covenant Path that leads to Him, and gain Eternal Life. This is “the Doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 11; D&C 76:50-70; and 2 John 1:9).
Importantly, as we faithfully follow His doctrine, we will increasingly gain the confidence necessary to stand spotless in His presence at the last day (D&C 121:45 and 1 John 2:28). Therefore, our Spiritual Goal in this life should be something like this: Be worthy to stand spotless and confident before the Lord at the last day. That should be our ultimate goal. And, regardless of our age or position in this life, it doesn’t change. Each day of our lives, we should strive to learn of Him, receive and retain a remission of our sins (Mosiah 4:12), listen to and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit (Moroni 10:5), continue in obedience to the commandments of God (3 Nephi 12:19-20), and honor our sacred covenants with Him (D&C 66:2).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in speaking of the Doctrine of Christ, encourages us all to “seek through prayer and study of the scriptures” a divine witness of Christ’s “divine character, the Atonement, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Accept His doctrine by repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then throughout your life following the laws and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Ensign Magazine, May 2012.)
By following the Doctrine of Christ, we will stay on the Covenant Path that leads to Eternal Life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). And it doesn’t really matter what point we’re at along the path. If we stay on the path and continue to progress, we will be following our Heavenly Father’s plan and …becoming the person He wants us to be. Ultimately, if we endure well and faithfully to the end, we will find that we have changed for the good. Our “confidence” will “wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45-46), and “…when He shall appear,” we will find that we have become “like Him.” (1 John 3:2 and Moroni 7:48).
Now, what about “Hope and Charity”?
Charity is defined as “the Pure Love of Christ,” or the pure love that Christ has. In the above description of “the cycle of eternal progression,” Hope and Charity are byproducts of sincere Faith in Jesus Christ, and they increase proportionally as we become more “like” Christ. As our faith grows, so grows our Hope in the future, and so grows our pure love of God and of all mankind (Charity). I believe it is accurate to say, “the man with sincere Faith in Jesus Christ will have hope in the future and charity for all. And the man with greater Faith in Jesus Christ will have greater hope in this life, and greater charity for all.” As the Apostle Paul taught: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Actually, these three are inseparable. They do not come alone. The person who has Faith and Hope in Christ will have Charity. The more Faith and Hope, the more Charity. A pure love of Christ (charity) is a more visible or outward manifestation of one’s Faith and Hope, and of being “Christ Like.” (See also: Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:33-47)
(For additional thoughts on “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” please click on the following link and read the post or article on “Faith and Charity.”)
Please Note: To see a Diagram of the Doctrine of Christ, please click on the first link below. To see a PowerPoint Presentation, please click on the second link below.
Click HERE to open The Doctrine of Christ PowerPoint Presentation on your computer. When the program opens, click on the “Present” button in the Upper Right corner of the PowerPoint screen to view and start the presentation. Click anywhere on the active screen to advance the presentation slides. (When finished, click the “Esc” key on your keyboard to close the presentation …and, click on the “x” in the PowerPoint “The Doctrine of Christ” tab to cl0se the program and return to this page.)