Friday, October 19, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #42 "This is my Gospel"

3 Nephi 27-30, 4 Nephi

INTRODUCTION

(Write on the board:  "I know the Church is true," and "I know the gospel is true.")

We commonly say "I know the Church is true" and "I know the gospel is true" when we bear our testimonies.  What do we really mean?  Are they the same thing?  What is the relationship between them if they are not the same?  Once I heard a fairly knowledgeable speaker say that in his mind it was impossible to differentiate between them.  Because he was smart and well-known, I thought he was right, but now I disagree.

THE CHURCH SET UP BY CHRIST

"And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost.  And many of them saw heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written.  And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another.  And it came to pass that they did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them.  And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ."  (3 Nephi 26:17-21)

Webster's definition of "church":  A building for Christian worship, or a body of people in Christian worship.  The word "church" is from the Greek kriakon or house of the Lord, which is from kyrios or lord.  
In this instance Christ is referring to the body of people. 
Names are very important to the Lord.  Even though the word "church" itself undoubtedly referred to worship even in their language, still the church needed a name.

"And how be it my church save it be called in my name?  For if a church be called in Moses' name, then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. [This explains why the Brethren would like us to make clear that the name of our church is not “the Mormon Church.”]

"Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you." [Every ordinance and prayer we perform in the church is done in the name of Christ and through His priesthood.]

"And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it."  (3 Nephi 27:8-10) 

So the church and the gospel must not be the same thing.  What is the gospel then?

DEFINITION OF THE GOSPEL GIVEN BY CHRIST

For the simple and clear definition of the gospel, “the good news,” continue reading.  It has two parts.  The first part is Christ’s role.

“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to 1) do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. 

“And my Father sent me that 2) I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men 3) even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to 4) stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

“And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.”  (3 Nephi 27:13-15)

“In this short statement [the scripture quoted above] the Master named four eternal verities upon which all else in his gospel is founded: 1) the relationship between himself and his father; 2) the fact of his atonement; 3) the universal resurrection; and 4) the judgment.  As to the relationship between himself and his father, he said: ‘I came into the world to do the will of my father; because my father sent me.’ This verity, so simply put, is the cornerstone of his gospel…That the atonement was a fact is as essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ as is the Sonship of Jesus.  We have the sacrament to remind us every week of his atonement.  The only purpose, or at least the main purpose, for which Jesus came into the world was to make the atonement…The resurrection is inherent in the atonement…The purpose for which he was to be lifted up upon the cross was that he might draw all men to him.  That he does through the resurrection.  The purpose for which men are to come before him after the resurrection is that they may be judged of the works which they have done in the flesh…All men who believe in Jesus and want to be his followers will have to accept these our verities.”  (Marion G. Romney, April 1955 General Conference, quoted in K. Douglas Bassett, Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 460)

“According to the theological liberal, [the Sermon on the Mount] is the essence of Christianity, and Christ is the best of human teachers and examples…Christianity is essentially ethics.  What’s missing here?  Simply, the essence of Christianity, which is not the Sermon on the Mount.  When Christianity was proclaimed throughout the world, the proclamation was not ‘Love your enemies!’ but ‘Christ is risen!’  This was not a new ideal but a new event, that God became man, died, and rose for our salvation.  Christianity is first of all not ideal but real, an event, news, the gospel, the ‘good news.’  The essence of Christianity is not Christianity; the essence of Christianity is Christ.”  (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, quoted in Robert L. Millet, The Power of the Word, p. 195.)

We can participate in this Christianity, this gospel!  That’s why it is such good news!  The next few verses tell us how.

“And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

“And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father…

“Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy ghost that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

“Very, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…”   (3 Nephi 27:16-17, 20-21)

So the church is the group or organization of people; the gospel is Christ’s Atonement.

So when we say “the church is true,” what do we mean?  We mean the worship organization of people we belong to is based upon the Atonement, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and run with His “power of attorney”, His Priesthood leadership.  (Although many Christian churches are truly based upon learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ, ours is the only one with the Priesthood and its power to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost and carry out all the gifts of the Spirit, including revelatory governance of the Church.  But here we are just talking about the Church and the gospel.  If you're worried about this distinction, or if it comes up in discussion, just add a foundation labeled "Priesthood Authority.")  

THE THREE NEPHITES

Christ gave instructions to the disciples, the governing body of His church:

“And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just.  Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?  Verily I say unto you, even as I am.

“And now I go unto the Father.  And verily I say unto you, whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you.  Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”  (3 Nephi 27:27-29)

Asking is a commandment and is prerequisite to receiving.  However,

“’Ask, and ye shall receive’ does not assure that you will get what you want.  It does guarantee that, if worthy, you will get what you need, as judged by a Father that loves perfectly, who wants your eternal happiness even more than do you.”  (Richard G. Scott, October 1995 General Conference)

The apostles immediately obeyed Jesus’ command to ask, and three in a particular way asked to be like Him.  The first nine asked not to have to die, but to be immediately taken to heaven at the end of their lives.  This is a very understandable request which I’m sure a lot of us would like to make because, as my friend C. Gary Bennett is fond of saying, “No one is going to get out of this life alive, and we’re not going to die of good health.”  But these are nine men who did.

The other three asked to tarry beyond their normal lifespan, as Christ had tarried with them beyond His planned visit.  (See 3 Nephi 17:5)  They followed Christ’s admonition to be like Him in the utmost.

Christ said that He had a “fullness of joy” in this generation of Nephites.  (See 3 Nephi 27:31)  The Three Nephites were told that they, likewise, would have a “fullness of joy” because of the souls they would bring to the Father.  (See 3 Nephi 28:10)  Christ sorrowed because the fourth generation of Nephites would follow Satan into great sin.  (See 3 Nephi 27:32)  The Three Nephites were promised that their only pain would be sorrow for the sins of the world.  (See 3 Nephi 28:9)

Wouldn’t it be a fascinating read if the Three Nephites and John the Beloved kept a record of what they’ve been doing for the past 2,000 years?  I’ll bet they’ve had a LOT of fun.

THE POST-RESURRECTION NEPHITE CHURCH:
EXTREMES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WICKEDNESS

“And it came to pass that thus they did go forth among all the people of Nephi, and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land; and they were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ, and thus the people of that generation were blessed, according to the word of Jesus.”  (3 Nephi 28:23)

How long did this take?  2 years.  (See 4 Nephi 1:2)  Talk about “the best two years!”  They became a Zion society, which is briefly defined in 4 Nephi 1:2-5.  Their church was true, because it was based upon the gospel, and because they followed the teachings of that church, or in other words, lived the gospel, they had a beautiful life.  It lasted for 200 years.  Exactly.

“And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride…”  (4 Nephi 1:24)  The universal sin!  They began to care whether they were rich, whether they looked fine.  They quit sharing with others, they divided themselves into classes, they built churches to support their own “ethics”, and they began to deny the Christ.  How did this happen??

“And this [group of churches] did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts.”  (4 Nephi 1:28)

(You can draw more little churches with people inside them, but no gospel foundation underneath them.)

Compare this to the Zion society they had previously enjoyed:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.”  (4 Nephi 1:15)

The gospel is based on love, Christ’s Atonement being the ultimate example.  Priestcraft, or Satan’s power, is based on selfishness, his desire for the Father’s glory being the ultimate example.

We waver like (hopefully not to such a great degree) in our personal lives, in our families, in our wards, shifting back and forth from being filled with love to allowing selfishness and pride to seep in.  We can be in the church but not founded upon the gospel, and then we find ourselves outside the church.

(You can rearrange the stick figures, moving them outside the true church.)

If we find that we have individually or as a group (ward, nation, family), the Lord has left a message for us.  Mormon was commanded of the Lord to write this message, right before this book of 4 Nephi in which we see the extremes in righteousness and wickedness.

“Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceiving, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envying, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations…”

--That is a long and mighty horrendous list of sins!—

“…and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of the Lord.”  (3 Nephi 30:2)

Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, upon which the Church is founded, you can always go home again.

(You can move the stick figures back into the true church.)

8 comments:

Reid Litchfield said...

I love your blog and appreciate the insights you share. I was looking at your page views. WOW! Thanks again. I know how much work it is.

Malia said...

Fascinating stuff! I agree with Reid. Really appreciate the time and effort you put in to share you insights and knowledge with all of us!

Taylor said...

What a great service you provide in offering the insights you have gained through your study and personal experiences.

I'm struck by the care one must take in attempting to lead a gospel doctrine discussion that examines the statement: "I know the Church is true." It can mean so many different things and can, if not careful, invite comments that may be challenging to unwind clearly.

That said, I love the focus on Christ and the "event" of the Atonement as the true focus of Christianity. He is true. His teachings are true. His love for us is true. His Church contains true authority and His true Chosen leaders.

Anonymous said...

Nothing bugs me more in Sacrament meeting and hearing, "I know the Church is true." Rarely and I mean rarely do I hear, "God Lives." "Jesus is the Christ." Very sad but true. We are here to testify of Christ. Period.
The reality of Christ is the atonement but because of GRACE the atonement happened and is currently happening in our lives. Christ is love. Completely! So I think you have some good points but true Christianity is Christ and his greatest gift -- Grace and the Atonement.

Nancy W. Jensen said...

To testify that the gospel is true is to testify of Jesus Christ's atonement. The definition of the gospel is the atonement. If you are not hearing frequent mention of Jesus Christ and/or His gospel in sacrament meeting, I would be "bugged" too! Fortunately I hear it a lot in our ward, perhaps because of the number of trials ward members have endured with the aid of Christ. But the church is also true and is Christ's vehicle for the spread of and administration of his gospel on the earth, so i don't understand why it would bother you to hear that.

Anonymous said...

Nancy, thanks for the Blog. I've used it to help teach my 13 yo class. It is nice to read the book and the scriptures and your thoughts/extra quotes and etc. Some things included from Gen Conf. talks and greek definitions have really helped me in my own understanding of the content of the lesson.

Joe said...

What a great blog!! How many actually catch those statements and then pay enough attention to distinguish the two? I do not dislike when people say either or because they may not be further along in their understanding to know what to say in order to express their feelings. But I do wish that more people would do as you did and come up with some research through a good study of the teachings in the Book of Mormon. This is why I love the counsel to study the Book of Mormon instead of simply reading the Book of Mormon. Reading will give an individual a good Spirit. After all, it is better than not reading at all. However, for those that desire to know the Savior in order to progress in this life, it becomes more necessary to dig a little deeper in what is truly being taught. There are different ways of studying. Individuals can visualize what is happening. Some can look for the symbolism in the lessons taught. Others can liken the scriptures to themselves easier than others. We all have different ways of learning from the scriptures. Nevertheless the promise is still the same for all, the Spirit will teach those that strive to come unto the Lord.
With that said, I appreciate you taking the time to distinguish, using the scriptures, between how we share our testimonies. It becomes very easy to get caught in saying the same things, thus losing the potential power of the Holy Ghost to teach us more. We can have the tendency to remain complacent in our 'comfort zone.' The Lord is constantly asking us to move beyond that zone in order for us to grow. How else are we to learn if we do not take advantage of opportunities given to us by the Lord?
You really covered some great points of doctrine in this blog! Thank you for doing so! I really enjoyed reading what you wrote as I feel more gratitude for the Book of Mormon and the clarification that it constantly provides us as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

The Andersens said...

Thank you so much for this articulate and thoughtful blog!!! I use it EVERY week to assist in preparation for my Gospel Doctrine class. While I agree wholly with the material in this post, I thought I would share this article with you which I found to be profound as well. Although Eugene England contradicts the notion that the gospel is truer than the church, England does so in a way that, if in a place of thoughtful consideration, actually does not contradict the core statement at all. The church is as true as the gospel when and only when it is predicated upon Christ and representing Him. Again, thank you so much for this valuable resource!! Here is the article. http://www.eugeneengland.org/why-the-church-is-as-true-as-the-gospel