Your mind can work at cross purposes. Remember the chapter on “Becoming as a Child” in The Second Comforter. In order to go forward you must go back. Simplicity is at the heart of God’s offer to commune with you.
This is the path to “eternal life.” It is “strait and narrow,” but it is the way to eternal life. What is eternal life?
You must “do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do.” You must “follow Him.” There is no other way nor name given under heaven to obtain salvation. (Mosiah 5: 8.)
It was for this reason Nephi was “shown” these things. The Lord and His Father taught Nephi so he could in turn teach others, including us. The message was intended to save many, not just Nephi. But we must give heed to the message when we hear it.
The “gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water.” You must repent first. Then, having repented, receive baptism by water. When this is done, “then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”
Without the “fire” to purge the sacrifice upon the altar, it is not cleansed. It cannot become holy unless exposed to that fire.
But note – this is automatic. It is not by the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost is not required in this teaching. Nephi, with elaboration from the Father and the Son, is teaching that this is an event that follows the process of “repentance and baptism by water.” That is, the ordinance of baptism, when accompanied by repentance and done right, is the reason for this event.
Laying on of hands is for “the gift of the Holy Ghost” so there may be a companion and guide for a person. This is an ordinance. It is also the moment one is confirmed a member of the church. But it is not necessarily co-equal with receiving “fire and the Holy Ghost” as described here. There is nothing that excludes it from being coincidental in time, however. They may happen at the same moment. That is, after baptism, and while receiving the laying on of hands, one may receive both the gift of the Holy Ghost, and also fire and the Holy Ghost. As a result one is renewed in the manner described in this chapter. They are not co-equal.
Laying on of hands does not appear to be an ordinance in the Book of Mormon until the coming of Christ in 3 Nephi. The only potential exception is found in Alma 31: 36, where Alma “clapped his hands upon them who were with him” and they received the Holy Ghost. This is similar to the Lord “breathing” the Holy Ghost upon His disciples. (John 20: 22.) They were instructed to lay on hands, and would perform that act rather than breathing upon those who were to receive the Holy Ghost. The ordinance is different from “clapping” or from “breathing” and involves the process we follow in the church today. (D&C 33: 15.)
The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost promised here is given without man’s involvement, comes from heaven, is promised by both the Father and the Son. It is a signal of redemption, purification and holiness. It is included in the “gate” for entering into God’s presence. For God is a “consuming fire” and those who enter into that presence must be able to endure that fire. (Heb. 12: 29; see also Deu. 4: 24.) Without the capacity to do so, a person would be consumed by the flames. (Lev. 10: 1-2.) The fire and the Holy Ghost are also given as a sign to the recipient that they may know it is safe for them to enter into God’s presence and not be consumed. In earlier versions of the First Vision, Joseph described the “pillar of light” as a “pillar of fire” which gradually descended. He wondered if the trees would be consumed as it descended, but seeing they were not he thought it safe for him to be exposed to it as well. When it fell upon him, the vision opened up and he saw the Father and the Son.
Christ also entered into this glorious light on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matt. 17: 1-2.)
We are to do as Nephi instructs, “do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.”
We live below the standard Christ set for us. We needn’t. Have faith. Press forward feasting on His words. You can and will find Him there.
What if you see errors and mistakes all around you? Is it “enduring” to keep your mouth shut? Do you need to speak up?
Then in 1990 the True Order of Prayer was altered again, with the elimination of penalties. Thereafter the name changed to the “Order of Prayer,” rather than the “True Order of Prayer.”
Those who went through the Temple before 1990 would know about how to conduct a prayer circle involving the True Order of Prayer. But they were instructed not to do so outside the Temple. Those who went through after 1990 would not know how to conduct a True Order of Prayer circle, because they were not instructed in the Temple in anything other than the Order of Prayer.
It was still possible for those who knew the pre-1990 form to communicate the process in the Temple to others. However, recently there has begun a practice of hushing any discussions seen taking place inside the Celestial Rooms of the Temples.
It is as if those who are in control are opposed to keeping the earlier information, and working to keep it from being preserved by others. Is it “enduring to the end” to watch these changes and say nothing? Or is it “enduring” to actually endure, to preserve, to persevere against opposition and to keep as an enduring feature of the faith, information you received if you went through the Temple before 1990? Does a person who, in all sincerity before God, believes that Isaiah’s prophecy warned against this (Isa. 24: 5), “endure” if he remains silent? Or must he speak up? If so, how and to who? Which is enduring? Which is enduring to the end in following the example of the Son of the Living God? What example did Christ set in relation to this kind of a conflict? Did Christ submit, or resist authority? If He did both, how does one endure while appropriately weighing those things they will submit to, and those things they will resist?
It is for this reason we work out our salvation before God as Nephi has explained, acting no hypocrisy, with real intent, having faith in God, but also with fear and trembling. (Mormon 9: 27, also Philip. 2: 12.)
The dialogue continues. It is clear the conversation being reported by Nephi is one where both the Son and the Father spoke to Nephi, and contributed to the dialogue. A question was posed about whether Nephi heard this in connection with his vision of Christ’s mortal baptism by John the Baptist. He certainly beheld that event. (1 Nephi 11: 27.) However, the testimony and teaching of both the Father and Son regarding baptism, as reported by Nephi in this final sermon, are separate from that event. They are an independent revelation and explanation to Nephi, where both the Father and Son taught the importance of baptism.
The Lord also knows whether it is in you to “endure to the end.” Whether the end has come is irrelevant to Him. He beholds all things, past, present and future. (D&C 130: 7.) Therefore, He knows if you are willing to “endure to the end” before your life has been lived.
It is this that qualified Christ to be the Redeemer. His words are faithful and true. So are Nephi’s. The words are the Lord’s though they were delivered by a man.
Nephi first gave us his personal testimony and witness of the principles. Having done so, now he adds the testimony and promise of Christ. Christ’s promise and covenant are slightly different than Nephi’s formula. But the two are nevertheless in complete harmony.
Can an angel fall from grace? Only by being cast out of heaven. (2 Nephi 2: 17.) When an angel falls he becomes a devil. For these it would be better if they had never known Christ, for they have decided to crucify Him anew. Because after having had the Holy Spirit make great things known unto them they have turned against the Lord by their knowing rebellion against Him. (D&C 76: 35.) They are sons of perdition, and the heavens weep over them. (D&C 76: 26, 31-32.) These are they who know the battle is and always has been the Lord’s, and they either align themselves with Him or against Him.
Now we get the explanation of what it means to “follow Christ.” It is not merely the act itself, but the underlying intent of the act. To follow Him requires:
-Full purpose of heart. What does that imply or require?
The only way I can think to touch upon Nephi’s meaning is to get personal about this process. It is by how I have lived that I have come to understand Nephi’s meaning.
I remember as the missionaries were teaching me that I came to the conviction that the restoration of the Gospel had indeed happened. It was not a happy thought. I did NOT want to become a Mormon. It seemed like a terrible change to attempt to make, in what was an otherwise content life at the time. As a lifestyle some of it seemed to have merit. Not drinking, smoking and living a higher moral standard certainly made some sense to me. But the association with Mormons had no appeal to me at the time. I thought them shallow and artificial in many ways, and did not want to become immersed in a society that seemed to be either a pretense, or if not, then living a standard I could never attain.
I reluctantly accepted baptism, not because I wanted to become Mormon, but because I truly believed it was the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. However humiliating it may be to associate with a social group I had practically nothing in common, it was the right thing to do before God. I told God that I was doing this because of Him, and that I doubted I could live these standards, doubted I could be happy among these odd people, that I did not know if they were really sincere, but that I was. I intended to try to leave such sins behind as I understood I was committing, and to attempt to become part of the artificial life-form known as “Mormon.” But I doubted my capacity to continue on to the end. In all this I was absolutely sincere, but completely hopeless about what it would result in over the long run.
I was, in fact, willing to take upon me these obligations as a matter between me and God. However badly it may turn out between me and other Mormons, I expected that as between me and God it would be better than alright. I thought it would please Him.
So I was baptized.
Oddly, upon baptism things changed. A great deal, in fact. What seemed unlikely for me to be able to do under my own capacity, became almost second-nature. These people who I feared I could never fit in with became my brothers and sisters. It took a surprisingly short time and I found that what I feared most was the lightest of burdens to carry. Associating with other Mormons was delightful. I found that I loved the Mormons and I loved being one of them. It ceased to be “them” and “me” but turned into “us” and “we.”
And, by damn, we are a peculiar lot. We’re the oddest people on the planet. Peculiar doesn’t even begin to capture our quirkiness, phobias, longings, hopes, aspirations, misunderstandings, convictions, genius mixed with stupidity, juxtapositions of truth and error, traditions and deep doctrines. We’re a cacophony, really. But underlying it all is a hope that we are on the right track and a conviction that we’re going to please God even if it requires us to offend Him.
I appreciate the faith restored through Joseph at a whole different level than the one which brought me into the fold. It IS true. Abidingly and without any failing, the faith restored through Joseph is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The sad truth is, however, that faith has not been preserved as Joseph brought it back. Even from the time I was baptized in the waning four months of President Lee’s administration until today, the faith has undergone a radical revisionism. Today it isn’t even what President Kimball presided over. It is becoming increasingly altered, bureaucratized, regimented and turning into a religious product managed by an increasingly menacing middle-management which prefers rules and regulations to the Spirit and truth. They manage it as if it is another Fortune 500 company whose product line is religion and religious paraphernalia. The Spirit increasingly withdraws from our councils, our conferences, our private as well as public conversations, because it is grieved, and not many people seem to notice as it does so.
The faith I joined still exists. But it is covered by layers of sediment making it progressively more difficult to breathe life into it. That original faith, the one that attracted me, was always meant to connect the believer to Christ. Directly, and without intermediaries. Each Saint was to be a prophet, because the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, according to John the Beloved.
But I began this process “acting no hypocrisy” and I will finish it remaining so. My “real intent” is before God, and the resistance, opposition and criticism of men will not alter that. Indeed, it cannot. As soon as I respect the opinions of men more than the “full purpose of heart” required of me, I cease to be “willing to take upon me the name of Christ.”
I understand Nephi’s words. I live them. I cannot do otherwise at this point. It is for that reason, therefore, that I have been privileged to receive “the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost;” which has permitted me from time to time to “speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” It has not been easy. It is certainly not what I wanted when missionaries interrupted a content life, and introduced this inconvenient faith to a reluctant 19-year old. It was not what I expected when the journey began before baptism, nor what I thought would then follow immediately after I was baptized. I find now, as I survey the altered and altering faith practiced by the Church I belong to, there are increasingly more troubles in living and acting with:
-Full purpose of heart
But that will always remain a matter between the Father, the Lord and myself. Nephi lived these things, too. It was for that reason he understood them and was able to set them out with clarity in writing. Light and truth, which is intelligence, only come as a consequence of living it.
I will never stop being Mormon, nor forsake the faith I have accepted. I love associating with the Saints. I’m also glad to not be a part of leadership. I wouldn’t want the condemnation that accompanies leading these people in the course that we are currently set. It is better to practice the faith as I understand it, explain it to those who care to listen, support those who try to keep my ward family at peace with one another, and raise my children to respect the light and truth.
I am content. More than content, I am filled with joy and hope for what lies ahead for myself and all those who have the testimony of Jesus.
“And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.”
He was flesh. He was mortal. He could (and did) die. Though death could not claim Him, He was to die. Baptism is the great symbol of death and resurrection, and He is the resurrection. He lived the symbol as well as the reality, so all others could have part in that victory. The symbol to point the way. The reality to open the way. We are in turn “shown the way” by what He did.
He also “witnesses” before “the Father that he would be obedient unto Him.”
Think about the command of understanding Nephi is exhibiting here. He is telling us that Christ’s mortal ministry would include these very specific events for these very specific reasons. This was what he was permitted to tell us. What other information was within his knowledge which he was forbidden from sharing? Does this level of understanding by Nephi tell you something about what can be learned from the Lord if you are diligent in following His path? Why, if you can see what may be available, would you not be willing to do whatever is asked of you in order to receive something similar in your own life?
This puts us back into the narrative Nephi wrote much earlier in his first book. He described this in1 Nephi 11: 27. Although the Lord’s mortal ministry was future, and separated by more than half-a-millennium, Nephi witnessed it. The Lord is able to make witnesses of His mortal ministry even of someone who lived at another time and place, as He has done with Nephi.
During that vision, Nephi saw more than the Lord’s mortal ministry. He was shown the entire history of the world through the end of time. However, Nephi was only permitted to bear selective testimony of what he saw. Others were given responsibility for testifying to portions of what Nephi saw, but was not permitted to record. He saw it all. He was to record only some of what he saw. He was told at a certain point that the responsibility for recording it became John the Beloved’s and not Nephi’s. (See1 Nephi 14: 19-28.) Nephi saw it, John the Beloved saw it, and others, including Isaiah, also saw it. (1 Nephi 14: 26). I’ve explained this in Nephi’s Isaiah.
Here Nephi returns to the Lord’s baptism to begin an explanation of “the doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31: 2) so that Nephi’s testimony refocuses the reader on the path required for salvation. Since Nephi’s primary reason for writing is to save others, he cannot finish without a final direct appeal for all to understand the “doctrine of Christ.”
What is the difference between “the doctrine of Christ” and the “Gospel of Jesus Christ?” How do they relate to one another?
Here Nephi has linked together four distinct thoughts: First he has 1) already described the prophet which 2) the Lord had shown to Nephi. This was the earlier vision described above. That prophet 3) should baptize the Lamb of God during the Lord’s mortal ministry. The Lord, who is the Lamb of God 4) should take away the sins of the world.
This is a specific time and setting. It involves a specific event and two persons: John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Nephi has seen the event, and reminds us of it as a baseline from which to reconstruct the “doctrine of Christ.”
Remember that the Jews who confronted John the Baptist did not ask him what ordinance he was performing. They did not ask why he was performing the ordinance. They only asked what authority permitted him to be performing an ordinance which they already understood and undoubtedly already practiced. Why would John baptize if he were not Christ, or Elias (in that context meaning Elijah), or another returning prophet who already had the authority. (John 1: 19-28.) The inquisitors already understood the ordinance.
Baptism was a pre-Christian ordinance. Because of historic interests which conflict with one another, both the Jews and the Christians downplay or ignore that truth.
Look at the wording above and ask yourself: Why, when the vision is shown to Nephi, is Christ identified as “the Lord?” Then, when Nephi beholds His baptism, why does he refer to Christ as “the Lamb of God?” The same person, at first identified as “the Lord,” and then identified as “the Lamb of God.” Why these two identities? Why would it be so clear to Nephi that the Lord holds these two identities that he would use them in this single verse to make Christ’s identity and deeds clear to the reader? How do the different names/titles help us to better understand Christ?
Why is a pre-Christian prophet commissioned to know and write about these things? Why would the Nephite descendants from the time of this writing through the time of Moroni all be entitled to know about this event? What importance is it for us to understand this about Christ?
Well, let’s push further into the “doctrine of Christ” to see what it may persuade us to do or believe.