Among the standard works of the Church, no book of scripture more plainly reveals the doctrine of Jesus Christ as does the Book of Mormon. The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that "a man [or woman] would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book."1 More recently, another modern prophet said, "The Book of Mormon . . . will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will."2 This article will demonstrate by Book of Mormon examples how this may be accomplished.
What is the doctrine of Christ?
The doctrine of Christ is explained clearly in three places in the Book of Mormon: 2 Ne. 31:17-21; 3 Ne. 11:32-40; and 3 Ne. 27:9; 11-21; 33. The Savior called His doctrine "my doctrine," "my gospel." The ultimate purpose of Christ's doctrine is that all of us "may stand spotless before
HimT at the last day." Because "no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom," it is necessary for all to repent, be baptized in His name, and be "sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost"; then endure faithfully to the end. If we comply with His doctrine, we shall be held "guiltless" before our Heavenly Father at the time of judgment. (See 3 Ne. 27:19-21.)
Why is the doctrine of Christ important to us?
The doctrine of Christ will help us to put "off the natural man (worldliness) and become a Saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord." (See Mosiah 3:19.) Two types of individuals are illustrated in the Book of Mormon: the "carnally minded" and "spiritually minded." The former leads to "death" while the latter leads to "life eternal." (See 2 Ne. 9:39.) Almost every episode recorded in the Book of Mormon may be perceived as a contrast between carnally and spiritually minded individuals or groups. Wisely, Mormon preserved biographical examples for our day. Here are several examples:
- Laman and Lemuel. Their attitudes were: "The commandments of the Lord are hard," "the scriptures are hard to understand." (See 1 Ne. 3:5; 15:7.)
- King Noah. His arrogance and pride caused him to question, "Who is
the prophetT that I should be judged of him?" (See Mosiah 11:27.)
- Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah. Their apostasy was precipitated by unbelief in the words of their fathers and unbelief in the doctrine of the coming of Christ and the resurrection. The reason for unbelief was "hardness of heart." (See Mosiah 26:1-4.)
- Korihor. The classic example of the carnally minded man, his philosophy was: "Every man fares in this life according to the management of the creature - therefore every man conquers according to his strength." (Alma 30:17.) He eventually confessed, "I taught that which was pleasing to the carnal mind." (See Alma 30:52-53.)
Abinadi declared that the carnal mind consists of pursuing one's own will and desires, not calling on the Lord, and not repenting when one is commanded to do so. (See Mosiah 16:12.) Such individuals, he explained, are both "carnal and devilish" because "the devil has all power over them." (Mosiah 16:3.) One who deliberately chooses to remain in that state is "an enemy to God." (See Mosiah 16:3-5.) Such a state is "contrary to the nature of happiness." (See Alma 41:11.)
But, one asks, "Can a member of the Lord's Church with a testimony of the gospel be carnally minded?" The episode of the former-day Saints who received King Benjamin's message and who already believed in Jesus Christ provide an answer. After learning of the forthcoming birth, ministry and atonement of Jesus Christ, "they viewed themselves in their own carnal state even less than the dust of the earth." (Mosiah 4:2.) Because they were humble, they repented and called upon the Father to apply the atonement to their lives. "O have mercy," they pled, "and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified." The Holy Ghost then came upon them and manifested that they had received forgiveness of their sins. (See Mosiah 4:1-4.) They later testified that the Spirit of the Lord had "wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5:2.)
As expressed by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, Jesus's doctrine calls for "a disengagement from the things in the secular world upon which so many hearts are so firmly set."3 Thus, this doctrine applies to all: "Marvel not that all mankind, yea men and women . . . must be born again; . . . changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God." (Mosiah 27:25-26.)
The Book of Mormon also illustrates through specific personal episodes how many individuals have overcome carnal mindedness and experienced a "mighty change" of heart. Examples include Alma the younger (see Alma 36); Zeezrom (see Alma 11); the Saints during the days of King Benjamin (see Mosiah 4; 5:2); and the Saints contemporary with the Savior's advent to the Nephites (See 4 Nephi.)
To be spiritually minded, then, is to have the Holy Ghost, which enables one to understand the mind of Jesus Christ and to be guided by His doctrine. His views are understood as we "feast upon the words of Christ" because His words will "tell you all things what ye should do." (See 2 Ne. 32:3, 5.) This is the doctrine of Christ.
Preserved in the Book of Mormon are a series of specific questions that can help us gauge our spiritual progress. (See Alma 5.)
Why is Jesus Christ the only one qualified to redeem us?
The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, declares that Jesus Christ is the only name, the only means, by which salvation and redemption can come to each individual. (See Mosiah 3:17.) But the Book of Mormon also explains why He is so qualified:
- He is the Lord Omnipotent. Jesus Christ (Jehovah) was and is the creator of the heavens and earth. He is the Holy Personage whom the Father endowed in the premortal councils with all of His authority, power, grace and goodness. Thus, Jesus is referred to as "the Lord God Omnipotent" and the "Son of God, who is full of grace and truth." (See Mosiah 3:5; 2 Nephi 2:6.) Jesus not only speaks for the Father; He has exactly the same power as the Father. There is no power He does not possess; thus He can redeem all those who embrace His gospel. "And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters." (Mosiah 5:7.)
- He is the Only Begotten Son of God according to the flesh. For that reason He is called the Son of the Eternal Father. (1 Ne. 11:13-22.) His distinctive physical birth through God the Father is a manifestation of the Father's great love for all of His children. The Book of Mormon testifies that God the Father's condescension was manifest in the divine birth of His Only Begotten Son. (See 1 Ne. 11:13-22.) Because of Jesus's distinctive birth, He is an infinite, eternal, holy Being. Only He could provide an "infinite atonement." (See Alma 34:10, 14.)
- He is full of "grace and truth." There is no truth Jesus does not understand and possess. He perfectly understands our human condition. (See Alma 7:10-13.) He has never made nor will He ever make a mistake. His word can be totally trusted because He knows all things. (2 Ne. 9:20.) He has given us the Father's perfect plan for our happiness called the "plan of mercy,"or the "plan of redemption." (See Alma 42:13, 15; 12:33.)
Because Jesus Christ loves all of us with a perfect love, He is full of grace. His grace covers the whole of mankind. All are affected by His atonement. The only way we exempt ourselves from His mercy and grace is by our choices to go contrary to His will and teachings. Even then, "his hand is stretched out still." (2 Ne. 19:12.)
He is exclusively qualified as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind because of His pre-mortal appointment by the Father; because He was endowed with the fulness of the Father's power, love, grace and truth; and because He is the only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. Thus He - and only He - could provide a perfect atonement which will unconditionally redeem all of us from physical, mortal death to a state of immortality and a complete restitution of any physical imperfections. (See Alma 11:43-45.) And only He can redeem us from our sins and imperfections on condition that we accept His gospel and its saving ordinances. (Alma 12:33, 34; 3 Ne. 11:33; 12:20.)
"There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav'n and let us in."4
How does the doctrine of Christ apply to us?
Embracing the doctrine of Christ means that we trust Him fully. There must be faith in His atoning sacrifice and earnest prayers that it may be efficacious to cover all our sins and weaknesses. We therefore look to His gospel for ultimate truth and guidance, and we trust that His grace will be sufficient for us if we forsake our sins and keep the commandments of God.
Though we are ultimately redeemed by the grace of God and the atonement of Christ, we must comply with the ordinances of His gospel and His commandments. "It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Ne. 25:33.)
Following sincere repentance and baptism, we must be unfailingly true to our covenants and "always remember him" in our daily decisions and associations - home, work, studies, leisure, etc. Like the ancient Saints, we should seek a remission of sins as manifest by the Holy Ghost. (See Mosiah 4:1-4.) We, like the Saints in every dispensation, must be "born again." But even then, is all done?
". . .Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." (2 Ne. 31:19-20.)
"And now,. . . for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God - I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath. . . ." (Mosiah 4:26.)
The doctrine of Christ is not for passive believers! No better summary of His doctrine is given in all holy writ than these concluding verses in the Book of Mormon. Note the initiative we must make to receive the grace and power of the Savior. That combination of our choice to deny ourselves of all ungodliness and to love God with all our hearts will bring about sufficient grace that we may finally "become holy, without spot."
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
"And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot." (Moro. 10:32-33.)
1The Prophet Joseph Smith. Introduction to Book of Mormon.
2President Ezra Taft Benson. Ensign, May 1986, p. 43.
3Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Even As I Am, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982, p. 113.