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.
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 knowledge of Him, and which must be followed if we are to learn of Him and receive Eternal Life and Exaltation. (See 2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 11; 3 Nephi 15:9; D&C 76:50-70; and, 2 John 1:9.)
The basic principles of the Doctrine of Christ include: learning of Christ, believing and exercising faith in Him, repenting of our sins and forsaking them, being baptized in His name, receiving the companionship and influence of the Holy Spirit (aka the Holy Ghost), and enduring in righteousness to the end.
(Please note: 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, or in a friend or neighbor, or your ability to do such and such. Those types of faith may not always be based on truth. However, the Faith we are discussing here is Faith in something that is True. Real Faith in Jesus Christ 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, perfections, and attributes” of Jesus Christ.)
The process works as follows: First, we learn some truth about Jesus Christ, we exercise Faith in that knowledge (or idea) about Him, and we earnestly seek to learn more. As we do, we begin to understand how wonderful and perfect He is; and, we desire to be like Him. If we are sincere, we will naturally want to change or adjust our behavior (repent) to align more with Him. 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 greater opportunity for us to receive knowledge of the Father and the Son: He offers an increased influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (the Gift of the Holy Ghost).
Now, we know the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead (Articles of Faith 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,” and “the Spirit of Truth.” 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 confirms these truth to those who 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 and 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, perfections, and attributes,” and we will receive additional insights and confirmation of the truth.
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 Christ increases, so does our faith in Him …because we will have more information about Him upon which to exercise our faith. And, as we gain more knowledge of Him, we will see additional changes that must be made in our lives, and we will continually be motivated to make additional adjustments (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: Exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving inspiration and knowledge of Him, desiring to be like Him, adjusting/repenting, renewing our commitment (personally and symbolically through the holy sacrament), receiving increased inspiration and knowledge from the Holy Spirit, and enduring in this process to the end. And, as we receive increased inspiration and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we will yet have more information about Him upon which to exercise faith. Our Faith in Him grows more, and the cycle continues as we endure faithfully in this cycle.
And, we should add to this cycle three 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 to what we learn along the way. These final three steps (Study, Pray, and Obey) provide the fuel 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 faithfully in the Gospel, we will successfully follow the Doctrine of Christ, stay on the 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 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: To 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 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 what He wants us to become. Ultimately, if we endure 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 of 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 “like” Christ. As our faith grows, so grows our Hope in the future, and so grows our pure love of God and all mankind (Charity). I believe it is accurate to say, “the man with Faith in Jesus Christ will also have hope in the future and charity for all.” The man with great faith in Jesus Christ will have great hope in this life, and above all will have great 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 ones 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.”)
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