“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.”