Evidence #62 | September 19, 2020

Christ's Gospel

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Scripture Central

Abstract

The Book of Mormon’s presentation of the gospel or doctrine of Christ demonstrates one aspect of the text’s doctrinal continuity.

Six Points of Christ’s Gospel/Doctrine

In the Book of Mormon, the gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ are essentially synonymous concepts.1 According to Noel B. Reynolds, the Book of Mormon presents these joint concepts as a six-point formula that “spells out the larger relationships of Christians to their God and provides them the verbal essentials for communicating with one another about that relationship.”2 Reynolds summarized these six points as follows:3

  1. Repentance. As presented in the Book of Mormon, the formula usually begins with the call to repentance. People must forsake their sins and offer up “a sacrifice … [of] a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20).
  2. Baptism. Book of Mormon accounts of the gospel emphasize the importance of baptism. This essential ordinance constitutes a public witness to the Father that the repentant individuals, following the example of Adam and Abraham, have covenanted with God to take upon themselves the name of Christ and to keep his commandments.
  3. Holy Ghost. While baptism ritually symbolizes purification, the actual cleansing or remission of sins comes as a gift from God through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:17). Upon reception of the Holy Ghost, the individual is “born again” or “born of God,” having become a new creature (Mosiah 27:24–26). This spiritual experience constitutes a witness to the convert from the Father and the Son that the sacrifice of the penitent has been accepted.
  4. Faith. Although contemporary Latter-day Saint teaching emphasizes faith in Jesus Christ as the first principle of the gospel, Book of Mormon prophets often introduce it as the link between what one does to begin the process of salvation and what one must do thereafter. Faith in Christ means doing what the Holy Ghost tells one to do, showing thereby “a steadfastness in Christ,” and, in this manner, enduring to the end (2 Nephi 31:20).
  5. Endurance to the End. “Enduring to the end” is the scriptural phrase describing the subsequent life of a member of Christ’s church who has embraced the first four elements of the gospel formula and has entered the gate that leads to eternal life. Once on this strait and narrow path, the new member must press forward in faith. Thus, faith is necessary both to begin the process and to continue in a life of obedience to all the commandments of God. At this level, faith is also linked with hope and charity.
  6. Eternal Life. In addition to the daily blessings that come from following the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the gospel of Jesus Christ promises that those who comply with the preceding five points will be saved, which means that they will receive eternal life by entering into the kingdom of God.
Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

Christ’s Gospel/Doctrine Fully Developed

Reynolds noted that the “first comprehensive statement of the gospel or doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon occurs in 2 Nephi 31,”4 where Nephi developed the above-mentioned six points in five distinct variations.5 Nephi’s discourse is important because it “formulates a complex of ideas that informs every major sermon and gives rich meaning to stories related later in the text.”6 In His ministry among the Nephites, Jesus delivered similar discourses on the doctrine of Christ, on one occasion to the people generally (3 Nephi 9–19)7 and on another to His chosen disciples (3 Nephi 27).8 According to Reynolds, these three sermons “constitute the clearest and fullest definitions of the gospel” found in the Book of Mormon.9

Jesus Teaching in The Western Hemisphere. Image by John Scott.

Abbreviated Statements of Christ’s Gospel/Doctrine

Presentations of Christ’s doctrine given by other Book of Mormon writers usually only contain parts of the six-point formula that was outlined by Nephi and Jesus. “These elliptical references … often take the form of merismus, a classical rhetorical device in which the division of an important topic or statement into component parts allowed for its full invocation by explicit listing of selected parts only.”10

Reynolds explained,

Almost every doctrinal teacher and writer in the Book of Mormon witnesses to the same set of teachings, sometimes with distinctive terminology, but always with the same logical structure of ideas. The pattern is set by Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob. Others who carry on the tradition include Amaleki, Benjamin, Alma, Mosiah, Alma the Younger, Amulek, Ammon, Aaron, Helaman and his sons, Nephi and Lehi, Samuel the Lamanite, Mormon, and Moroni. Ether is reported by Moroni to have taught the same gospel pattern to the Jaredites in their decline. The greatest emphasis of all occurs in the record of Christ’s teachings to the Nephites. There can be no doubt that this was a conceptual pattern of the first importance to the Nephites in their teachings about God and his children.11

Conclusion

Reynolds noted, “While all the elements of the gospel as it is defined in the Book of Mormon occur in the New Testament, the formulaic relationship the Book of Mormon ascribes to them is not so obvious.”12 This suggests that the Book of Mormon’s presentation of the gospel/doctrine of Christ wasn’t simply borrowed from the New Testament. Rather, it shows up in the text in an original or distinctive way, manifesting one aspect of the text’s complexity and doctrinal continuity.

Book of Mormon Central, “What is the Doctrine of Christ? (2 Nephi 31:21),” KnoWhy 58 (March 21, 2016).

Noel B. Reynolds, “The True Points of My Doctrine,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5, no. 2 (1996): 26–56.

Noel B. Reynolds, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Taught by the Nephite Prophets,” BYU Studies Quarterly 31, no. 3 (1991): 31–50.

Complexity
Doctrine
Christ's Gospel
Book of Mormon

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