Friday, November 29, 2013

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is The Only Way

The title of today's post summarizes the opening of the Christmas season. Today the true gospel of Jesus Christ is juxtaposed against the world's opening for the season with what has come to be known as "Black Friday". And let me assure you all, "Black Friday" is NOT the way, the path or the course our Father in Heaven would have us pursue for happiness here and eternal life later on.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life," our Lord proclaimed. He is the Way in that it is in and through him that salvation comes; "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," he said. (John 14:6.) He is the Truth because he is the embodiment and personification of that holy attribute. (Alma 5:48.) And he is the Life because in him the light of life centers; except for him and his power there would be no existence; should he withdraw the light of life, death would gain an immediate victory; and without him there would be neither immortal life, nor eternal life, which is life in unending glory. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 832, emphasis mine).

The Book of Mormon has a subtitle on the front cover: "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". Nephi concludes his teachings this way: "And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way, and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God." (2 Nephi 31:21, emphasis mine).

Unbelievably, despite this declaration, there are some people (a thankfully shrinking number, I hope) who contend the Mormons are not Christians. Joseph Smith in several revelations was told we could find the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in The Book of Mormon. Why wouldn't the whole world flock to embrace the fulness, when it is so obvious most Christians have at best only fragments of truth? Here are some examples of this declaration:

After it was truly manifested unto this first elder [Joseph Smith] that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world;
But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel [Moroni], whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;
And gave unto him commandments which inspired him;
And gave him power from on high, by the means ]Urim and Thummim] which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;
Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;
Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them —
Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;
Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen. (D&C 20:5-12).

In a revelation giving instruction about what elements to use in the sacrament, the Savior Jesus Christ, declared:

Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim. (D&C 27:5).

The Savior gave instructions about what the missionaries were to teach:

Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.
And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel. (D&C 42:11-12, emphasis mine).

Following the martyrdom, John Taylor summed up the work of the Prophet:

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated! (D&C 135:3).

There are three specific passages from The Book of Mormon describing a complete definition of "the fulness of the gospel". They are 2 Nephi 31:2-21, 3 Nephi 11:31-39, and 3 Nephi 27:13-21. Jacob's teachings in 2 Nephi 9 mirror the same principles and ordinances, a reflection of his own witness he derived from the visions of Lehi and Nephi. Harold B. Lee referred to that one chapter of scripture as his favorite on many occasions, as witnessed by the frequency from which he drew his sermons from its themes.

There are useful synonyms defined by scripture describing the fulness of the gospel. These synonyms include the way, along with the gospel, the [his] word, the [his, my] doctrine.

Here's a wonderful verse from 2 Nephi 9:41 to illustrate:

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (Emphasis mine).

The elements of the fulness of the gospel are almost always grouped together in scriptures like the ones cited. They include faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end of our mortal lives, and eternal life. In shorthand, John summarized that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). 

I am indebted to Noel B. Reynolds, an emeritus professor at BYU, for a list I saw today (Religious Educator, Volume 14 No. 2 - 2013,  82) that summarizes these six distinct elements in the three passages cited above:

Element - Occurences
Faith - 13
Repentance - 18
Baptism by water - 22
Baptism of the Holy Ghost -13
Enduring to the end - 12
Eternal life - 18

Whenever I see that kind of repetition in scripture I have come to understand that we are being given divine definitions of terms. If we want to find truth, be saved through Christ's atonement from sin and death and inherit eternal life, we would expect a loving Heavenly Father to tell us how more than once, and certainly in more than one place.

In addition, Reynolds points out that plural and singular uses of "the word" occurs in 962 places in The Book of Mormon. I'll leave the accuracy of the counting to him - I wouldn't doubt it for a minute. 

Here are useful verses to underscore the symmetry of "my gospel" and "the word":

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you — that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil —
And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words. (3 Nephi 27:13-18, emphasis mine).

John first asserted Christ was THE WORD, and he was right as far as that statement takes us. (John 1:1). However, The Book of Mormon gives us the fulness of the word, the gospel, the way, the truth, and the life with interchangeable meaning.

Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life is far in excess from anything Black Friday has to offer.

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