“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. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.“
This is “the way” to salvation. Nephi adds: “and there is none other way.” What does it mean there “is none other way?” Does that mean any religious system, institution, process, explanation or additional doctrine cannot save you? Is it true that you either enter in through this method or you cannot be saved? Is the purpose of the other rites, rituals, ordinances and teachings merely to bring you into this one true “way and there is none other way?” Or do you need to look for additional things, helps, ordinances, confirmations, and blessings to be conferred?
What of the other Gospel rites? They did come from God, didn’t they? How are we to understand the relationship between other ordinances, even “higher ordinances” and this “doctrine of Christ” being explained by Nephi?
Clearly the “doctrine of Christ” is intended to give you the underlying basis for all salvation. There is no other “name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” apart from Jesus Christ. He is the one who, by His obedience and sacrifice, put power into the plan of salvation. We know this to be true from everything declared by the prophets of God. But what about “this is the way; and there is none other way.” What does that mean? Does it exclude other ordinances or processes? Does it make the Law of Moses no longer binding upon Nephi and his posterity?
Clearly following Nephi’s ministry, his descendants did not abandon the Law of Moses. (See, e.g., Jarom 1: 5; Alma 25: 15.) And so, if there is “none other way,” it did not mean that the Nephites were to abandon practice of the ordinances then in effect. Nor does it mean that we abandon the ordinances now in effect in our day.
It is not that the ordinances are essential, but that the purpose of the ordinances are essential. The underlying meaning is essential. The “doctrine of Christ” becomes possible to understand, live and receive as you follow the ordinances. They are “helps” to bring you into this correct path. You will honor them, conform to them, seek for them, in order that you may inherit the blessings of the “doctrine of Christ.”
Why are ordinances instituted? They are to bring you to the point where you inherit in your body and spirit these great blessings of the “doctrine of Christ.” They prepare you. Their effect is to qualify you, instruct you, advance you toward this goal of receiving the blessings found in the doctrine of Christ as expounded by Nephi in this chapter. Once ordinances have been adopted, it is then unlikely you can ignore them and receive what is promised by the “doctrine of Christ.” How can you refuse what is offered and still accept the underlying gift? How can you mix ingratitude and gratitude?
Is it important, therefore, to keep the ordinances intact? If changed does some of the communication involved in preparing you to receive the “doctrine of Christ” lose something?
For example, without the shedding of blood there can be no covenant. Christ’s blood is the culminating event which shed blood to activate a covenant between God and man. However, even after Christ’s sacrifice, we are still required to offer sacrifice, and even the return of animal sacrifice will happen at some point in this final dispensation. The Law of Moses was fulfilled and will not return. However, the sacrifice of blood by animals which was before the Law of Moses will return. As Joseph Smith taught: ““These [animal] sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of my the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.” (TPJS, p. 173, D.H.C 4:212)
When the penalties existed in the Temple ceremonies of our dispensation, we were reminded of the shedding of blood required for a covenant. When removed, we lose some of that memory. How would penalties involving the shedding of blood prepare people for the return of animal sacrifice? Would it help remind them that shedding blood is required to establish a covenant? Even this final Dispensation of the Fullness of Time could not be an effective covenant without the shedding of blood to seal the testament or covenant. (D&C 135: 3.)
Does the Gospel of Jesus Christ require the sacrifice of all things? (We’ve explained this before in relation to the Lectures on Faith.) If so, then how do we obtain the blessings we desire from the hand of God without being willing to make a similar sacrifice? If it is required, then how do we qualify to receive this baptism of fire spoken of by Nephi that will purge us from all sin and permit us to speak with a new tongue? How is this sacrifice made apart from the irrevocable commitment made within yourself to “endure to the end” by laying upon the altar everything you have, even your own life if necessary, to build up His kingdom? How, in a fallen world filled with sin, in a day where there is no sacrifice or consecration being made by others; how do you do that? What does the “doctrine of Christ” allow you to do without regard to the sins and errors you find all around you? Even if all the world is content to remain Telestial, or some few encourage only a Terrestrial law be followed, can you still find and live the “doctrine of Christ?” Does Nephi’s teachings require you to be anything or anyone special or noteworthy in this life? Can you do this in private, between you and God? Can you follow the “doctrine of Christ” by what you think, ponder, pray, say, do and believe?
This statement, which concludes the exposition on “the doctrine of Christ” is concluded using the names of “the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” Although only a few will recognize this, it is a formula used when using the sealing authority. If you are aware of this, then you would realize what Nephi has done is declared that he possesses the Patriarchal Priesthood authority, which invariably includes the power to seal. He will mention “sealing” his testimony again before he concludes. But if you know this is a formula employed in connection with this authority, you will recognize it. Within the ordinances of the church, we use this formula when baptizing and again when sealing a marriage in the Temple. All other intermediate ordinances are done “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith 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. in him,
“Once on the narrow path, are you done? Have you “arrived?” Is there “rest?”
No, you are on the path, but you cannot turn back. If you even look back, you risk moving on an uneven path. (Luke 9: 62.)
You could not get this far if you hadn’t followed “the word of Christ” and therefore you can only continue by following the word of Christ along the journey.
Your path is not just based on Christ’s words, but also “with unshaken faith in Him.” What is “unshaken faith?”
What does it mean to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ?” How would “steadfastness” be lived?
What is a “perfect brightness of hope?” I’ve defined that kind of “hope” in Eighteen Verses.
How does any person come into possession of “a love of God and of all men?” Would that come from within, or as a gift from God? Moroni prayed for the gentiles to receive grace that they might obtain charity. (Ether 12: 36.) The Lord replied that if the gentiles lack charity it would not cause any loss to Moroni, for he was saved. (Ether 12: 37.) [Once again reflecting the pessimism which the latter-day gentiles are consistently viewed by the Book of Mormon.]
Why “press forward?”
What does it mean for us to be “feasting upon the word of Christ?” Is “feasting” something more than participating in a gospel doctrine class discussion once a week? What would it require for you to “feast” upon the “word of Christ?” Is scripture study alone enough? Would you need to receive anything directly from Him to be included in the “feast?” How would that be obtained?
Did you notice once again we are reminded we must “endure to the end?” Once again, you must determine how “enduring” is to be accomplished, and what “enduring” will require.
If, however, you do these things then “behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” Notice the promise of eternal life comes from the office of “the Father.” It is because this final step comes from the authority to make you a son. His office is the only one which can declare “this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalms 2: 7.)
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.