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The Doctrine of Christ
2 Nephi 31
Nephi’s discourse on the Doctrine of Christ (2 Ne 31:2) will be a key teaching that the Savior will also discuss in 3 Nephi 11.
Nephi notes at the end of the chapter,
“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” (2 Ne 31:21).
The concept of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost being “one God” can be confusing and seem very Trinitarian in scope, until one understands the theme Nephi discusses here.
Nephi has seen in vision the two paths laid out before his people and all nations. They can either choose life and liberty through Jesus, or death and misery through Satan. In his visions, he described the great contentions and destructions that occurred among the wicked. The Savior would also mention to the Nephites that contention is of the devil, and must be avoided to follow him.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:29-30).
Nephi and Jesus note that what is required is a unity among the saints, even as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are “one God.” Without such a unity in the Church, they can never hope to attain the presence of God, or be like him. Such a concept is very important in the LDS Church today, as we establish the eternal family as a key to our eternal happiness. How do we ever hope to be one with Christ, if we cannot learn to be one with our spouse?
How do we become one?
So then, how do we learn unity? The steps are far easier than most would believe. Nephi teaches us that the five steps are:
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
4. Reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost
5. Endure to the end
This is not a one time event, but cycles through us AND the community of Christ. As individuals and a covenant people, as we grow in faith, we desire to repent and change ourselves. We partake of the ordinances of baptism, sacrament/communion, and the temple in order to be more Christlike. In D&C 84:19-26, we learn that the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood actually teach the “mysteries of godliness”, or how to be more like Christ. For example, baptism symbolizes our death and rebirth into a spiritual person.
Then, as a new person, we are ready to receive an infusion of the Holy Ghost. Now, we have an active relationship with the third member of the Godhead. We have begun to become as they are, and in so doing, become unified as saints.
Finally, we then must begin enduring to the end. This does not directly mean keeping the commandments. It means we must continue on the cycle of faith, repentance, ordinances and the Holy Ghost. As we become ever more spiritual, we are changed, even as the people of King Benjamin were. As the Spirit fell upon them, they exclaimed,
“...the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).
The commandments become part of what we do, not because it saves us, but because we cast off evil, no longer desiring to follow Satan. Instead, we desire “to do good continually.” As we are obedient and do good, we increase in faith. We then have the desire to repent of more sins and weaknesses, receiving ordinances such as the Sacrament to renew our covenants. Then we receive a greater portion of the Holy Spirit to fill us, causing us to desire even more “to do good continually.”
As we follow in this cycle, we become holy. We become saints, united to each other and to the Godhead. We become one with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, who are “one God.”
Speaking with the Tongue of Angels
2 Nephi 32
Nephi continues his discussion on how we become one in this chapter.
“Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?” (2 Ne 32:2).
In Christianity, we need to take another look at how we consider angels. Today, they are often considered just messengers of God. Anciently, however, they were part of God’s closest allies and counsel. In LDS theology, angels and men are but different forms of the same being, each holding the capacity to be like God. In Isaiah 6 (which Nephi quoted), we see God surrounded by seraphim, holy angels at his throne, who were involved in God’s decisions. Isaiah becomes one with the seraphim, as he is cleansed by the burning coal, after which he joins in the discussion regarding God’s question: “Whom shall I send?” With the seraphim, Isaiah was now able to “speak with the tongue of angels” and even offer himself up as the messenger/angel who would impart the voice of warning to Israel. Of course, this also ties in with the angelic Messiah, who at the primordial councils also volunteered, when Heavenly Father asked, "Whom shall I send?" (Abraham 3:27).
Just as angels are holy guards, counselors and companions of Christ, so we can become. As we grow in faith, repent and receive of the ordinances, we are filled more and more with the Holy Spirit, even until we too can “speak with the tongue of angels.” From there, it may not be a large step to then experiencing the presence of God, even as Isaiah did.
For Latter-day Saints in the year 2020, we prepare to celebrate and honor the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. This theophany, where man enters the presence of God, is not a unique experience. In fact, Joseph Smith's desire was for all mankind to prepare to enter into God's presence and see His face. The Kirtland Temple dedication was such an experience for many. Joseph sought a Pentecostal experience for the saints. And indeed they did have such a sublime experience. Early journals of those who attended meetings during the weeks approaching the dedication mentioned several spiritual events: Saints speaking in tongues and prophesying. Angels flying through the windows and sitting with the leadership. The temple roof ablaze with the Spirit and angels walking upon it. In one meeting, an older man with a suit walked up the aisle, followed by a man wrapped in flames. Joseph Smith declared these to be Jesus and his Father.
All of this culminated a week after the dedication, when Jesus, Moses, Elias and Elijah appeared to Joseph and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110).
This isn't the only such experience. In 2002, when President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the newly rebuilt Nauvoo Temple, he paused at one moment and noted, "I feel the presence of the Father, the Son, and Joseph Smith."
We are challenged today to have Pentecostal moments of our own, to speak with the tongue of angels, and hear the voice of Christ. Recently, President Russel M. Nelson encouraged us to "take steps to hear Him better and more often," and to share that witness with the world.
2 Nephi 32-33
Though the path outlined in the “Doctrine of Christ” may seem easy, many reject it. The path seems too easy. Just as with Moses’ brass serpent, where one only had to look to be healed, many died because they just would not believe in such an easy path. As Jacob would note, they “looked beyond the mark” seeking mysteries to save them, rather than looking to the simple Doctrine laid out before them.
“...there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught” (2 Ne 33:2).
If a person cannot exercise even a little faith in Christ, enough to repent and accept baptism, then there is no room for the Holy Spirit in her life. She has hardened her heart and will not experience speaking with the tongue of angels. And for the Christian (and especially the LDS Christian) who is comfortable with her station in life, she may limit the Holy Ghost. If her heart is only half soft, the Spirit cannot be fully experienced. If she is happy with just a part of the gospel, not willing to learn or accept more, then she has hardened her heart towards the Holy Spirit, and will receive no more.
The true saint will pray. Nephi notes that it is Satan who teaches us not to pray, showing us by a plain measuring stick just where we may be spiritually. If we’re dragging our feet to do the basics, then we are spiritually on life support. This should be a major wake up call to all of us. God wants us to do more than just believe when it is convenient. God wants us to speak with the tongue of angels, so that we are speaking the language of God, with the power of God. He wants us to be one with the Godhead, and we just cannot make it if we do not fully embrace Christ’s Doctrine.
The path that Nephi delineates, with baptism/ordinances as the gateway, shows a pathway into the presence of God. We are free to choose whether we are ready to stand before the judgment bar of God, or whether Nephi’s words will condemn us (2 Ne 33:14-15)
President George Q. Cannon once noted about seeking spiritual gifts:
"We find, even among those who have embraced the Gospel hearts of unbelief. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling on the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this? I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have.... I say to you that it is our duty to avail ourselves of the privileges which God has placed within our reach....
"I feel to bear testimony to you, my brethren and sisters, ... that God is the same today as He was yesterday; that God is willing to bestow these gifts upon His children.... If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Am I an envious man? It is my duty to seek for charity, which envieth not. So with all the gifts of the Gospel. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, "Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature." He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. If a man lack wisdom, it is his duty to ask God for wisdom. The same with everything else. That is the design of God concerning His Church. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses, because God has promised to give the gifts that are necessary for their perfection." (Millennial Star, 23 Apr. 1894, 260)
Again, prayer and diligently seeking/desiring are utmost in this effort to follow the Doctrine of Christ, seek spiritual gifts, to speak with the tongues of angels, and see the face of God.
Russell M Nelson - Hear Him https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGhQym_vhFU
George Q. Cannon: https://scottwoodward.org/giftsofthespirit_seektocorrectimperfections.html