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3 Nephi 12: 2

 
“And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” 
 
Some people are given knowledge. (D&C 46: 13.)  This would include the Prophet Joseph Smith. Others believe on their words and trust in Christ through what they have learned from witnesses of Him. (D&C 46: 14.) This would include President Thomas S. Monson, who in last General Conference testified he has no question about the testimonies of those who have seen Him. As President Monson testified: “I have read—and I believe—the testimonies of those who experienced the grief of Christ’s Crucifixion and the joy of His Resurrection. I have read—and I believe—the testimonies of those in the New World who were visited by the same risen Lord. I believe the testimony of one who, in this dispensation, spoke with the Father and the Son in a grove now called sacred and who gave his life, sealing that testimony with his blood. Declared he: ‘And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.’ The darkness of death can always be dispelled by the light of revealed truth. ‘I am the resurrection, and the life,’ spoke the Master.Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.’ Over the years I have heard and read testimonies too numerous to count, shared with me by individuals who testify of the reality of the Resurrection and who have received, in their hours of greatest need, the peace and comfort promised by the Savior.” (He is Risen!, Sunday Morning Session, April, 2010 Session; footnotes omitted.)
 
Why would someone be “more blessed” because they “believe in the words” of those who have “seen Christ” than those who have seen Him? What is it about believing on the words of those who have seen which is “more blessed” than the ones who see Him?
 
Notice once again the connection between having seen the Lord and “ye know that I am.” Notice the use of “I am” in the statement of the Lord about Himself.
 
Now note too how the “believing in the words” is not enough, because He adds action to the belief. That is, those who “believe in your words” are required then to “come down into the depths of humility and be baptized” for the “blessing” to have any effect. It is not enough for someone to be moved to believe when they hear a witness of Christ, they must also respond to His invitation to be baptized. Before being baptized they need also to “come down into the depths of humility.” The intention and inner meaning are everything. But the outward act confirms the inner change which takes place.
 
Action is married to belief and intent. Both are necessary.
 
When it is done in faith, sincerity, complying with the steps the Lord has prescribed, He promises to visit the obedient “with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” This is how a person will know they have received “a remission of their sins.”
 
The instructions of the Lord are intended to change lives. Change is repentance. And repentance leads to redemption. He expects our behavior to mirror our beliefs, because if behavior does not model our professed beliefs then we are hypocrites – not converts.

This is why commandments are given to us. They tell us how we can continue to receive and renew a continuing conversion to Christ’s way of life.  Commandments are not a burden to bear but a roadmap to follow. They are not a measuring stick to judge and then abuse others. It is a light for us to follow.

These explanations by Christ are beyond the question of “faith verses works” because Christ is telling us we act from our heart in faith, receive ordinances because of our faith, then have our hearts filled again. We proceed from grace to grace. This is how Christ received the fullness, and the only way we may receive the fullness. (D&C 93: 12-14, 19-29.)

 
The task of knowing God always begins by trusting on the words of those who have seen Him. But it should never end there. Everyone is invited to lay aside their sins, call upon God in faith, obey His commandments, listen to the voice of inspiration and do as you are told, thereby coming to see Him face-to-face. (D&C 93: 1.) This is the reason for the book The Second Comforter. It is a manual for how any person can come back into the presence of the Lord and join those witnesses who can testify they have seen Him.
 
He lives. And He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

3 Nephi 12: 1

 
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.”
 
Nephi and the other twelve heard and recorded the words we’ve been reviewing in Chapter 11. But here Christ makes certain all others who were present also knew the same doctrine. Notice the following:
 
“He stretched forth His hand.” What does that mean? Why is it noted in the record? Why would the fact that He stretched forth His hand be significant enough to etch into metal plates? 
 
Why does it say Christ “cried unto them?” How loud would He need to make His voice before it would be considered “crying” out to the audience? This suggests that what was covered in Chapter 11 was not loud enough for all those present to hear. But what follows He wants everyone to hear.
 
The Sermon at Bountiful begins with a new beatitude. “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you.” A commenter recently suggested this means that any person ever called to any council of twelve is entitled to the same kind of status. Is that correct? Does membership in a group entitle someone to respect? Would receiving power directly from Christ entitle a person to respect? What if someone were to receive power from Christ, but not be included in some presiding group? For example, John the Baptist received power from an angel to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews at eight days old. He was never among a presiding group. (D&C 84: 28.) Paul was given power directly from heaven, calling himself “born out of due time” because he became a witness after Christ’s resurrection and was not among the leadership when first visited. (1 Cor. 15: 8-10.) Which does this apply to: those called to preside, or those called directly by the Lord (as the scriptures testify is sometimes the case)? Or does it only apply to the twelve disciples the Lord was referring to standing before the crowd on that day? Is limiting it to that narrow an application appropriate? Is expanding it to include anyone ever called to preside too broad an application? How are you to decide that question?
 
Is it appropriate for Christ to couple “minister to you” with “and to be your servants?” Can a “servant” exercise authority over you as the gentiles do? (Luke 22: 25-26.) Why not?
 
When Christ says these people have “power to baptize you” and then promises that He, Christ, “will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost” does this promise mean that Christ will send the Holy Ghost if you are baptized by one having power from Him? Always? If it hasn’t happened, does that mean the one who baptized you did not have this “power?” Why or why not? What is the relationship between the power to baptize, and the promise of the Holy Ghost? What role does your own repentance have to play? Christ has previously given the order of things, and included repentance first.
 
What does the statement mean: “blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.” How likely would it be for you to “believe in [Christ] after that ye have seen [Him]?” Do you suspect any of those who were present would not believe in Him? Why?
 
Would you expect those present to believe in Him after seeing Him descend from heaven, hear the voice of the Father testify of Him, see His wounds, witness Him healing all their sick, and beholding angels minister in tongues of fire to their young children? Would you be able to do so? What about reading the record of the events in the Book of Mormon; is that enough to testify of Him? Can you ask in prayer if these things about Christ are true and get a testimony of them for yourself? Have you done so? Have you acquired belief in Him as a result of praying to know if they are true? Can you then believe in Him? Are you “blessed” for it? Do you “know that He is?” What more do you need to do in order to “know that He is?” Why haven’t you done that yet?

3 Nephi 11: 41

“Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.”
This is the charge given by Christ to the twelve whom He had called and given power to baptize. It was overheard by those who had been witnessing these events. But the charge is to the twelve.
The obligation to declare the doctrine of Christ, preach repentance, baptize with authority and make known the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is imposed upon the twelve. This burden, therefore, rests on them and is theirs to bear off “unto this people.” They are to warn everybody of these obligations. Not just those who were there.
The extent of the duty runs “unto the ends of the earth.” From where they were at the time Christ was preaching, to the entire North and South American continents and all those who may be living there at the time were the assigned mission field to whom the doctrine of Christ was to be declared.

The break between this portion of Christ’s teachings and what would follow is interesting to consider. The remainder of His teachings will form the primary message foundational to Christianity. It is the new, higher law which replaces the earlier Law of Moses. Yet this portion, declared by Christ as His “doctrine” is the part to be taken first and declared everywhere. Why?

A fair conclusion to reach is that before you consider the new, higher law you must first:
-Repent
-Be Baptized
-Receive the Holy Ghost
-Have a correct understanding of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost
These things precede His replacement of the older, lower law with His new, higher law. It is reasonable to conclude you will not comprehend His follow-on teachings if you have not first repented, been baptized, received the Holy Ghost, and understand the Godhead. Or, even more to the point: You will never be able to LIVE His new, higher law unless these steps are taken first. Until then you may aspire, but you will not be able to live them. They address the heart, rather than just conduct. They go to the deepest convictions inside you, what motivates you, and the reasons for your conduct. Your conduct will follow these precepts when you have been changed.  For the required change, the tools discussed first must be acquired.   

He will return to the themes of this opening statement, declaring nothing more or less than what He has taught should be given as His. (See 3 Nephi 18: 12-13.)
So we turn from this introductory, first statement of His doctrine to His great foundational Sermon at Bountiful in which the higher law is first given in one, complete statement of what we are to become. It is not merely direction to us. It is also a revelation of what kind of person Christ was. He explains it Himself…

3 Nephi 11: 40

 
“And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.”
 
Here is Christ’s explanation of why we must focus on these doctrines to be saved. I’ve heard more words of caution about speaking “more” than I’ve ever heard cautioning about “less.” Both are a problem. It is more fashionable today to speak less about Christ’s doctrine, or to circumscribe it into so narrow a meaning as to render it powerless in effect.
 
First, as to “more.” When we “declare more” we are getting ahead of the process. We aren’t to worship the “hosts of heaven,” nor a heavenly mother. Despite all we may know about Her, that knowledge won’t save. Other personages or ministers cannot save either. Gabriel will not. Enoch will not. Michael will not. Only the Son will save; and the Father will bear testimony of Him. Interesting stories about individual spiritual encounters or experiences will not save. They are evidence that heaven is still attending to us, but the details are for the individual. The experiences that will save have already been recorded in scripture for our general instruction. Outside of scripture those individual experiences are only useful to the extent they shed light upon scriptural accounts. If a person can help you understand Daniel’s visionary encounters by what they have been shown, then their personal experiences are not as important as the light they may shed upon Daniel’s prophecy. Similarly what I’ve written is helpful only to understand scripture, and not otherwise. Even the account of Gethsemane is anchored in scripture and useful only to the extent it sheds light upon what has been given to us in the New Testament Gospels, Nephi’s prophecy, Alma’s testimony and D&C 19. I do think my account goes further to explain what occurred than any other writing which has come to my attention. Nevertheless the scriptures are needed as the primary tool for understanding our Lord’s atonement. So the definition of “more” would include such things that supplant scripture or suggest anything is more important than the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but things as may shed additional light on the meaning of scripture. 
 
Interestingly enough, when we “declare less” we are also condemned.  It works both ways. It’s a two-edged sword. Not “more nor less” is permitted. We sometimes greet preaching “less” with applause, because we want less. But that is no better than missing the mark while preaching “more.” Perhaps it is worse, because it represents a rejection of truth. It is active suppression of what needs to be proclaimed.
 
All of us must be concerned about declaring less. Deleting or omitting is as serious a matter as adding. Either will allow the gates of hell to prevail.
 
When you adopt creedal Historic Christianity and amalgamate the Father, Son and Holy Ghost into a single cosmic siamese-triplet construct, you are declaring them as less. The disembodiment of God the Father was a lie to supplant and replace Him by another disembodied pretender claiming to be the god of this world.

Christ’s teaching here is preliminary to the Sermon that follows. In the coming Sermon we will read a better preserved version of the Sermon on the Mount from Jerusalem, called here the Sermon at Bountiful. But this explanation of doctrine is given by Christ first. The foundation of doctrine of the oneness of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the conferral of power to baptize, and manner of baptism come before the great Sermon. First we receive the instruction to avoid disputes. These disputes lead to contention that lays the foundation for anger between men. This doctrine is so foundational that Christ covers it before any other teaching. Therefore, you should realize its importance.

We will be captured by hell if we do not understand and follow these teachings. Though they are Christ’s very first instructions, we almost never discuss them. You may want to re-read these verses again, and realize their fundamental importance.

Christ is saying it is “evil” to do more or less with His doctrine. It surely is, for ignoring, altering, omitting or enlarging leads to evil.

3 Nephi 11: 39

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”
This is the reason for this doctrine. It will allow those who accept and follow it to endure against all enemies. It will allow them to prevail.
Even the “gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” Meaning that death and hell can have no claim upon them. They will not be taken captive either in this world (Alma 12: 11) or when they leave this world (Alma 40: 13.)

When we consider the Father is to bear record of the Son, and the Son bears record of the Father, and the Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and Son, then we realize this doctrine of Christ is designed to put us in contact with all three members of the Godhead. We are to join them. We are to be one with them.

There is no separating us from God when we have the record of each given to us.

It is interesting that the “rock” upon which we build is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There is abundant evidence of other “gods” and of “goddesses.” It is beyond dispute that the “image of God” includes both “male and female.” (Gen. 1: 27; Moses 2: 27; Abraham 4: 27.) It is inescapable, therefore, that the God we worship includes a Father and a Mother. However, we are only to seek after the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as the “rock” upon which our salvation is to be built.

Oddly enough, mankind prefers a female deity over a male deity.  Catholicism has reconciled this preference by the doctrine of Immaculate Conception and the cultic veneration of Mary. Pope John Paul II was an ardent believer in the Cult of Mary and made no secret of that veneration. It is almost beyond dispute that Mary’s status is preferred over Christ’s in the lives of the common Catholic.

In the Old Testament, the goddess Ashtoreth, (in her various iterations) was a leading figure in apostasies of ancient Israel. She was the female consort to Baal (who also had various spellings). The Egyptian counterpart being Hathor, whose image appears in figure 5 of Facsimile No. 2 in the Book of Abraham. The representation there being Egyptian, that is, emerging through the great cycle of life, afterlife and resurrection coming through the womb. An understanding of which Hugh Nibley was setting forth in One Eternal Round. This work was reduced in volume by half before publication. This resulted in problems with the published text. That, however, is another subject not relevant here.

Notwithstanding man’s preference for the female god, for salvation we must anchor ourselves to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They are the “rock” upon which we must build to avoid the gates of hell, despite our knowledge of heaven, salvation and the necessary unity of the sexes before salvation is obtained. (1 Cor. 11: 11.) It is through the union of the sexes that mortals imitate immortality, for all of us will die. Yet if joined together we will continue through the seed forever, as the gods.  (D&C 132: 20-22.)

There is also the continuing trouble about polygamy which so often afflicted the discussions on this blog before comments were discontinued. Those who preach on the subject often speak out of the coarseness of ambition and insecurity (for those always go together), and without understanding how a marriage must work to warrant preservation beyond this life.

Ask yourself what kind of a relationship would be godlike? What association between a man and a woman would be something the heavens would want to preserve and continue? Is an ambitious man who looks upon a woman as someone to rule over worthy of heavenly preservation? Is such a man worthy of one wife, let alone several?

Wouldn’t you expect the relationship between a man and woman worthy of eternal preservation to evidence such things as equality, respect, kindness, joyful and voluntary interchange of thoughts, and to be grounded in love? Wouldn’t you expect such a marriage to be part of heaven, though the parties live as mortals on the earth? Why would you expect a form of marriage, having as its chief output, unhappy but frequently pregnant women, having an absentee husband to be godlike?

Have you read the tenth parable? If you have and still think you need a “brood” of women to become godlike, then you haven’t understood the tenth parable.

Foolishness never was enlightenment. Ambition is unbecoming in a candidate for exaltation. We will keep going into Christ’s sermons to the Nephites and, as we do, you will find He emphasizes how to become like Him through service and abasing yourself. By sacrifice and devotion to the best interests of others. Not by compulsion, dominion and ruling over others. 

If you want to prevail against the gates of hell, then Christ’s simple doctrines need to become yours. They need to be how you live and what you do. They are the only rock upon which you can build and have something which will endure the buffetings of hell itself.

If a man hasn’t made a single woman happy, why would he be trusted to have more wives? Why would he want them? What does such a man think the purpose of marriage to be? Gratification? Industrial baby-production? What’s the reason? If happiness is the end of our design by God, then wouldn’t you need to find someone who can live in peace and happiness with another person as their husband as the first step? If that is true, then why isn’t that challenge enough in a marriage between one man and one woman? Until that has been conquered, why should misery be multiplied by adding additional spouses into a failed interpersonal relationship?

Too many people are advocating too many alternatives which distract from the simplicity of what is really needed. There aren’t enough marriages worthy of preservation. Make yours one of them. That is a very good work and challenge enough for all of us at present. 

Onward, then…

3 Nephi 11: 37-38

“And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”
Repentance is not likely unless a person is willing to undergo a change to become more “childlike” in perspective and attitude. I’ve written a chapter on this in The Second Comforter. I used that as the basis for my comments at the recent Chiasmus Conference. It is more than just an analogy or good advice. It is a prerequisite. It is the only way you can “inherit the kingdom of God.”
Children are open to change and willing to learn. They welcome new ideas for all ideas are new to them. The world is new to them. They feel their ignorance and are anxious to fill it with information and understanding. They know they are unable to cope with the world they live in unless they obtain more understanding than they have. So they relentlessly search to know more.
On the other hand, adults are generally closed. They believe they already know something, and therefore are unwilling to receive more. (2 Nephi 28: 29.)
Adults learn disciplines of study and then think the Gospel should be viewed by the tools of the scholar. To the economist, all of the Gospel appears to be financial. To the philosopher, all of the Gospel appears to be dialectic. To the lawyer it is a legal system. But the Gospel is separate from the understanding of men. It requires us to surrender our arrogance and foolishness and come as a child to learn anew everything about life and truth. This is why the Gospel always begins with creation, informs of the Fall, and preaches the Atonement.
We must “repent” because the foundation of accepting new truth begins with the realization that we’re not getting anywhere by what we’ve already done. We need to abandon old ways and begin anew. Until we are open to the new truths offered through the Gospel, we can’t even start the journey. We’re headed in the wrong direction and don’t even know it. First we need to realize our direction is wrong. Then stop going that way. When we turn to the new direction, we’ve begun repenting. (2 Cor. 5: 17.)
From repentance comes light and truth. At first, just turning to face the new direction is a great revelation. But you’ve not seen anything until you walk in that direction for a while. As you move toward the light and receive more, the world itself changes meaning and nothing you used to think important remains important. (Isa. 65: 17.)
Becoming as a little child, or repenting, must precede baptism if you are to be saved. Otherwise, you cannot “receive these things” or, in other words, you cannot accept the new truths and perspectives the Gospel will require you to know and accept. Unless these steps are taken you cannot “inherit the kingdom of God” because only such people will be able to enter.

Teachable. Open. Willing to receive more. Able to endure difficulties as a result of the changes which come to them. Patient. Submissive to God.  And eager to learn more. (Mosiah 3: 19.)

Not arrogant. Not trying to fit the new truths into your existing framework of false notions. (Mark 2: 22.) Not resisting truth and arguing against it. (1 Tim. 6: 4-6.) Not proud or boastful, secure in your own salvation. (Luke 18: 11.) Not holding a testimony that you will be saved while others around you will be lost because they do not believe as you do. (Alma 31: 14-18.)
How few there will be who find it. (Matt. 7: 14; 3 Ne. 14: 14; 3 Ne. 27: 33; D&C 132: 22.) Most people are simply unwilling to repent.  They have such truth as they are willing to receive already, and want nothing more. (2 Nephi 28: 14-15.)
Even Christ is unable to persuade them to accept His Gospel.

3 Nephi 11: 36

3 Nephi 11: 36:

“And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.”

The phrase: “And thus will the Father bear record of me” is referring to the Father visiting “him with fire and the Holy Ghost.” This means that to the recipient of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost comes a witness to the person of the Father. When the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost come to you, so does the Father’s testimony of the Son.

You cannot receive this baptism and not have a testimony given to you by the Father of the Son.

In the Book of Mormon we read accounts of conversion experiences which include visitations of angels or opening of the heavens. (See, e.g., Mosiah 27: 11-24; Alma 22: 16-18, 23Alma 19: 12-19.) These converts’ experiences did not come after a lifetime of study or reading a library of scholarly works. Indeed, in some cases the only information they had before the encounter came from the words of a missionary testifying to the truth.

Becoming converted is a question of sincerity, real intent, and asking God. It is not about the library you have read. Indeed, approaching it on purely intellectual terms has never produced a single convert. I’ve written a chapter on this in Eighteen Verses. 

The problem is always obtaining a connection to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is not a matter of scholarship. Joseph was anything but a scholar when he encountered God in the First Vision. He was young and ignorant. He read the Bible, believed in God’s existence, and trusted the promise by James that if he were to ask God he would not be upbraided but would be answered. (James 1: 5-6.) Therefore he decided to ask, with real intent, trusting in the promise. (JS-H 1: 12-13.)

Because he asked, he met God. Walking into the grove near his home that morning he was a foolish and ignorant boy. Walking back he was a prophet.  Though it would be many years following that encounter before he appreciated how far he would have to go to gain knowledge of godliness and the mysteries of salvation. But all of his study and effort was informed by the scriptures and revelation. In my view, this is how it should be.

Scriptures are an essential anchor of understanding.  All truths should find a comfortable setting inside existing scripture. If a notion or teaching is jarringly contradictory of existing scripture, then there must be a very good reason or explanation before it should be accepted. It has been my experience that revelation does not contradict, but opens up meaning of the scriptures. This was Joseph’s and Oliver’s experience, as well. (JS-H 1: 74.) 

When I study other materials, I do so to inform my reading and understanding of scripture, not to supplant it. I spend as much time with scripture study as I do with other writings. Although I could recite things using my own words, I find the language of scripture describes truths better than new wordings and therefore often use the language of scripture even if I do not show them in quotes. I also make frequent reference to scripture in this blog to show the reader that the scriptures are an existing library of material dealing with every part of Christ’s Gospel.  Since we have scripture made available to us at great effort from God and the prophets, it would be terribly ungrateful for us to fail to study what they have provided.

The “record” we already have of the Father’s testimony of the Son, the Son’s testimony of the Father, and the Holy Ghost’s interaction with mankind is found in the scriptures. Although you man not see it fully without further revelation, it is nevertheless there. I have found the scriptures often open up further revelation. This is how Section 76, the First Vision, Section 138, Section 93, Section 132, and many other revelations have come to us. Search the meaning of scripture, and then ask God for what you do not see through your own effort. Appreciation for what has been given already produces further revelation.

The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one. And the primary means for obtaining access to their “record” spoken of in this verse, is through the scriptures.  Although I may try to shed additional light upon the meaning of scripture, I try to keep the scriptures an integral part of anything I write. (Excepting only the parables, where I felt free to let another tradition inform how and what I have written. And the proverbs; which I titled “Sayings” at the end of The Second Comforter; which was another tradition as well.)

3 Nephi 11: 35

3 Nephi 11: 35:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”
Belief in Christ necessarily means belief in the Father. To believe Christ is to accept His message of the Father’s primacy and authority.
You see in these three members of the Godhead a full establishment of interconnected roles and responsibilities.

The Father ordains the plan. It is He who presides.

The Son implements the plan. It is He who makes the required sacrifice to save us.
The Holy Ghost activates the plan. It is the “fire” of the Holy Ghost which makes new, cleanses and perfects the man’s understanding.
These three are “one” and united. They provide mankind with the possibility for salvation and exaltation.

Christ “bears record of it from the Father.” This means that Christ is the Father’s messenger announcing the Father’s plan. What of the need for two witnesses? (Matt. 18: 16.) One of the criticisms of Christ’s message was the absence of additional witnesses. (John 8: 13-14.) Is Christ doing that same thing here with the Nephites? Does His announcement that He speaks for the Father constitute one, or two witnesses? The Father first bore witness of Christ (3 Nephi 11: 6-7.) Now Christ bears witness of Him.

The Father’s testimony always affirms the status of the Son as His Beloved, and of our need to “hear Him.” (See e.g., Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17; see also Matt. 3: 17.) The Father can, and does, acknowledge others as His. (Psalms 2: 7.) But, unlike the Son who has repeatedly visited this earth, walked upon it (Luke 24: 15-16), been handled by people (Luke 24: 36-39; 3 Nephi 11: 14-15), and eaten here (John 21: 13), the Father does not come into contact with this earth in its fallen state (Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17). The only time the Father had contact with this earth was before the Fall, in the Paradisiacal setting of Eden–which was a Temple at the time (Gen. 3: 8). Whenever there has been contact with the Father thereafter, He has been at a distance from this earth. (Moses 7: 24; 1 Nephi 1: 8; Alma 36: 22.)

There is a formality with the Father that does not exist with the Son. For example, the Son has eaten with mortal man while He was immortal, both before His ministry in the flesh (Exo. 24: 9-11) and after (Luke 24: 41-43). As our Redeemer, He is directly responsible for us and has contact with us to perform His redemptive service. The Father, on the other hand, is different in status, responsibility, glory and dominion. The Son can appear to mortal man without showing His glory or requiring any alteration of the mortal who beholds Him. (See, e.g., John 20: 15-17.) To behold the Father, to endure His presence, one must be transfigured. (Moses 1: 2.) Mortal man cannot behold the Father’s works while mortal, for if you comprehend them you cannot afterward remain mortal in the flesh. (Moses 1: 5.)

The primary means to learn of Christ for mortal man is the Holy Ghost. It is this means which brings all things to your remembrance (John 14: 26). Once the learning has culminated in preparation of the individual, then the Savior has a continuing ministry. (John 14: 21.) The Savior’s ministry is to bring the person redemption.

When this process is complete, then it is the responsibility of those who have been redeemed to cry repentance to their neighbors. (D&C 88: 74, 81.) Indeed, the desire to bring others to receive redemption becomes their primary concern. (Mosiah 28: 3.)

The process then produces those who bear testimony of the Son. If they are called of God, they will use scriptures to testify of Christ. This has always been the pattern ordained by God. (Jacob 7: 10-11.) They may understand the scriptures more clearly, because they have seen the same things as earlier prophets. (JS-H 1: 74.) But their testimonies will draw from the scriptures and the words of their brothers in Christ who went before as they testify of Him.

It is through such signs as these you know the Father and Son are one, and the Holy Ghost and the Son are one, and the messengers sent by them will testify of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These three are the ones in whom faith must be focused for salvation. Though the heavens may include hosts of others, saving faith must be focused in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone. Whenever attention and worship moves from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the result is invariably apostasy and false beliefs. (1 Cor. 8: 5-6; Deut. 16, 17, 18 & 19; 2 Kings 17: 13-16.)

The doctrine of Christ is to be strictly followed. It alone delivers from destruction. All other paths lead to error, foolishness and the dark, where you will perish. (Deut. 8: 19.)

From following this process we obtain the necessary “fire and the Holy Ghost” which redeems, purges, purifies and changes us into a new creature in Christ.

I have said very little of my personal experiences because of how quickly people turn from following Christ to following men whenever attention is drawn to a man. Mankind is inclined toward idolatry. The church has become a great idol. I do not intend to supplant the Lord, nor to call attention to myself, nor to offer myself as an idol for others. I cannot save anyone. If not for Christ and His atonement, I would have only dread for my eternal state. The doctrine of Christ is what the Father ordained as the means for salvation. Anyone who interferes with the process, or offers another means for salvation, cannot deliver. (Mosiah 3: 17.) Whether it is an institution or an individual, no one other than Christ can save. Hence His title as Savior. For some reason mankind is so prone to error, so quick to leave the path, and so vulnerable to being deceived, that focus must remain on the Son, as empowered and sent by the Father, through the witness of the Holy Ghost, or we go astray. Joseph cautioned: “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”  (TPJS p. 137.)

3 Nephi 11: 33-34:

 
“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.”
 
Imagine the importance attached to the ordinance of baptism! It is an absolute minimum requirement. Upon the proper performance of this ordinance, hangs the difference between being “saved” and “inheriting the kingdom of God” on the one hand, and being “damned” on the other.
 
[As a complete aside: A few posts back there was a comment about what a burden it would be for “the church” and “the priesthood” if people seek re-baptism to renew commitments. It was made as we approached Christ’s teachings on baptism. The comment was so immediate and so dark in tone and content it has caused me rethink the importance of this idea. Anytime an idea is confrontational and dark, I pause to consider why that is so. Here’s what now occurs to me. What a terrible burden it would be to depart this life without the ordinance of baptism properly performed, by proper authority, in the proper manner, with repentance preceding the event.  I would not want a dark and troubled soul to perform baptism for anyone, but a person filled with joy, hope and the Spirit, having a testimony in Christ like Nephi. These people would not find performing such an ordinance troubling.
If there is a hint of doubt held by any baptized member of the church, why would any right-thinking and charitable soul refuse them the right to be re-baptized? Now, I’ve suggested the Alma exception and how that might be accomplished in a time of reluctance and resistance to recommitment baptism.  But it occurs to me upon further reflection that since the church doesn’t recognize or record rebaptisms anyway, why would this concern the “heavy laden priesthood” which has no time for such things? Anyone holding authority, at any place where there is sufficient water to perform the rite, could accomplish it. Since the church doesn’t record it, there is no need of witnesses. It could be done in private, at any time, or any place with sufficient water. It could be done by any person holding the office of Priest. It would be good practice for future missionaries if they were given the opportunity. I think the idea is one which ought to be acted upon with regularity, in private and without troubling the busy and overburdened church and priesthood. A close family member could take care of it, and I suspect all involved will soon recognize heaven’s approval of the idea.]
Well, back to the subject at hand. Anciently the Jews practiced baptism in “living water.” That is, in a naturally renewing body of water, like a river, lake or ocean. Living water was part of the symbol. We have fonts, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I have always cherished my baptism in the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Well, believing in Christ precedes baptism. In fact, belief in Christ causes baptism. The one results in the other. Without faith in Him, there is no need for baptism. This then makes the first step belief in Christ, and baptism the second step.
 
I’ve heard of those who obtain a testimony of Christ in adulthood, but who were baptized many years earlier at age 8. If belief in Christ is supposed to precede baptism, but in fact follows it, does that recommend repeating the ordinance? Does Christ’s establishment of an order to these things, by the commandment of the Father, matter? If it matters, then why not try it? If tried and it “tastes good” then you have your answer. And if nothing changes, then you also have learned something, as well.
 
I was fortunate to be able to follow the proper sequence. I was 19 years old when I came to the church. I try to follow the proper sequence with my own children by teaching them before baptism and testifying of Christ to them in a way calculated to produce faith in Him. I would take no offense, however, if one of my children were to later want to be re-baptized as an affirmation of their continuing belief in Christ. I can’t see why anyone would take offense.
What does it mean to “inherit the kingdom of God?” Would that be important to secure while alive? This work cannot be done after death, you know. (D&C 138: 33.) However, if offered the opportunity now and a person declines it, they cannot afterwards receive it and inherit the “kingdom of God.” They inherit another kingdom. (D&C 76: 74.)
 
This is important enough a matter that I rather think the whole subject is worth careful consideration. Christ’s teachings have been carefully preserved at great effort and come to us by way of revelation and direct inspiration from God. From a prophet to another prophet in composition, and through a prophet in translation. It holds a power for salvation in the kingdom of God. It is worth prayerful consideration. The outcome is the difference between the “kingdom of God” on the one hand and “damnation” on the other.