Friday, March 3, 2017
The Doctrine of Christ and Repentance (Part 1)
I'm preparing to teach a lesson in Church on "The Doctrine of Christ". I volunteered to teach after polling a few (returned missionary) co workers as well as asking around my ward. The surprising and troubling result of that poll is that very few people were able to list the basic elements of the Doctrine of Christ. So I concluded this was a worthwhile topic to present. I think I'm the only person who the leadership of my ward has ever seen volunteer to teach. I guess a lot of folks don't like to or perhaps we're all so bored in our meetings no one wants to be the one directing the boredom. In any event, I don't belive the lesson will be at all boring.
One of the primary elements of Christ's doctrine is repentance. I plan to focus on this. I think it's a very poorly understood idea. At least I have understood it poorly my entire life. I've learned (from my own experience not just theory) that it means to turn and face God. A change of heart. Turning from sin, and darkness towards light and truth and intelligence. But culturally, it seems to only refer to morality, pornography, or Word of Wisdom compliance. It's a mere word that gets pigeonholed into 6 steps......which for me has always come up short of producing the fruit I read about in scripture.
Repentance for some triggers guilt and shame, to others triggers thoughts of all the things they are doing wrong. Some picture an ecclesiastical leader removing Church privileges, others think of their poor home or visiting teaching statistics, for others it causes their eyes to roll. For others doesn't prompt any thought at all. But for some it means hope. Real hope. Hope of a better world, and a place at the right hand of God (Ether 12:4). The word is meaningless and dead without a personal experience involving God. I don't know how better to state it. It's a meaningless idea without an experience with the Divine. The Doctrine of Christ brings a chance for just such a thing, new life. Repentance leads to life free from dead chains and locks that bind us.
Before Christ specifically goes into his doctrine it's preceded by His statement that anger and contenting with each other should be done away (3 Nephi 11:30). So we can conclude this doctrine is meant to unify, and do away with contention. I think it has that potential, across many a religious divide.
Christ's Doctrine comes from the Father (3 Nephi 11: 32). Here are some beginning ideas to start to consider Christ's Doctrine (3rd Nephi 11 and 2 Nephi 31).
-Believe in Christ
-Be baptized. Born of Water. (don't believe and don't get baptized and be damned) Vs 34-35
-Be visited with Fire and the Holy Ghost, (vs 35). Nephi when teaching The Doctrine of Christ calls it: "the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost". Other places speak of being "Born of the Spirit".
-Become as a little child
Part of this doctrine results in a record born 3 Nephi 11:32. So much could be said on that. I'll just pose a few questions to spark thought . To whom is this record born? Where is this "record" (of heaven) to be located? Who is the recipient? What would reception of this record indicate? I'll leave those for you to answer.
The results of this doctrine is you will believe in and follow Christ, with real intent, acting no hypocrisy before God. You will repent, you will have been baptized with water, and baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost. And as stated in vs 32, a record will be borne. Nephi goes on to say as a result of living this doctrine you will then be able to speak with the tongue of angles and be able to shout praises to the Holy One of Israel. You will have "received" the Holy Ghost and received a remission of your sins 2 Nephi 31:17. You will have or be developing qualities that a little child has. Nephi says Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. (2 Nephi 32:6). This is all in 2 Nephi ch 31 and 32. I'd quote it all but this post would be too long.
At work a quick poll of active LDS members showed only 1 had any idea what the baptism of fire was and none were very sure if it had happened to them or not. If this is typical of others in the church, then I feel more confident the right topic has been chosen for the upcoming lesson. It will be difficult to follow Christ if we are unsure what His Doctrine is. My hope is to help with that in some small way.
Repentance is a direct commandment from the Father. I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me (3 Nphi 11: 32).
Repentance has both breadth and depth that get overlooked. Too many other less important religious things often cloud our minds. We often approach the topic facing the wrong way. There is resistance to repentance. Internal, as well as cultural and traditional. Much of that resistance (according to scripture) lies in our traditions (D&C 93:39). I plan to go through some of these things in the lesson. Our traditions are garbage when it comes to repentance.
The definition of the word is one of the first bits of resistance. Conforming to outward religious standards, perhaps to appease others or maybe to meet your parents, girlfriend's, or culture's expectations can make for very shallow repentance. Perhaps not enough for the rest of Christ's doctrine to really come into focus. I read in some Church endorsed materials that the priesthood leader should watch for and enforce a "period of suffering" in order for repentance to be accepted. Having suffering enforced upon you by an ecclesiastical leader for me is counterproductive. One bishop said "The Church also has to forgive you".
Repentance can be deep "nigh unto death" like Alma the Younger (Mosiah 27:28). The breadth can be viewed as simply "stopping some behavior". Or it can be viewed as not just stopping bad acts, but adding light and truth and godly works of intelligence into your life. Trying hard to “be good” or “stop sinning” is often not effective.
What IS effective is changing our desires, and that happens by learning and gaining knowledge of God’s ways. When we view things as God does (which always different from what our religious institutions tell us), our desires change. I've done this. I'm speaking from direct experience. Light is the cure for darkness. I don't know how else to say it. Knowledge is the cure for sin. Knowledge does away with ignorance. Then comes the point where you loose desire for all those other things, because you know enough to not participate in filthy things. So to repent, get rid of your ignorance. It works! Truth sets you free. But you get to choose.
Other resistance to repentance lies in false beliefs that assure you "all is well". This is anti-repentance because it seeks to deceive you into not realizing the need for repentance. Soothing messages do this. They lull you to sleep. Nephi, who knows this doctrine because he lived it, teaches that the adversary will lull people into carnal security, with phrases such as "all is well" (2 Nephi 28:21). Messages that include things like outward attendance at church and offering minimal effort will be enough to squeeze into the bottom section of the Celestial kingdom. Or some message that you are part of an infallible true organization so just stay in the boat, you'll be fine if you just stay in the boat and follow the leader. Nephi by contrast saw us in vision, and reminds his readers that all churches have become corrupted and even the humble followers of Christ err due to the precepts of men they are taught (2 Nephi 28, whole chapter).
According to scripture things to repent of that get very little face time at church.
-False religious traditions inside YOUR religion. These traditions darken the mind and are a tool of Satan to remove light and truth from an individual. (D&C 93:39)
-Unbelief (believing incorrect things)
-Lack of knowledge of Christ or false ideas about Him
-Wickedness and Abominations. But we tend to not really know what those words mean and then assume they don't apply to us. (link)
A true prophet will reveal the awful situation of not just "those other people" out in the world without names or faces, but reveal the true state and perilous situation of each one of us. They reveal how great is our fallen state and thus how great our need to repent. It can have such an effect that it causes you to fall to the ground (Mosiah 4:1). The true message will give you a true view, and point you to the one True God where mercy and charity are found. They do not point to themselves.
What should the outcome of repentance be?
-Possession of a Temple Recommend?
-Contact with God?
-Remission of Sins?
-Freedom from sin and darkness?
-6 month probation periods?
-Confession to a man?
-Mere absence of some immoral behavior?
How much repentance (or perhaps to what depth) is needed before you get baptized by water?
How much repentance (or again to what depth) is needed before one may experience a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? Can you repent sufficiently to obtain an LDS temple recommend but still not receive the Baptism of Fire?
The LDS church's main website (link to a post about this) teaches that the church distinguishes between having sinful inclinations vs acting on them. As long as you don't outwardly act on them no inner problem will bar you from the temple. That may get you a recommend, but Christ's teachings go much, much further. They go to your heart. To your core. They can make you a new creature with a new inner nature. Born of God. (Mosiah 5). They change your desires. Again, get rid of ignorance and repentance starts.
Sometimes religiously we're taught to "rely on the Atonement" "use the atonement". As if it was a line of credit, or soap, or ink for your printer. For me these phrases can take away from Christ's person-hood and stop short of pointing the individual towards an actual living resurrected being who lives now, and who can and will interact with us. And yet just last month a teacher in church declared such a thing is "not possible". How can we repent if we don't think contact with Christ is even possible?
The Book of Mormon is full of examples and follow-able patterns of people who communed with and visited with God. The Book of Mormon gives example after example of people succeeding at this. It addresses Mormons but the point is sometimes lost on the audience. God put the whole church under condemnation for neglecting this Book of Mormon (D&C 84:54-57). The way out, as stated by the Lord begins with repentance verse 57: And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
Messages from God clear away the false traditions that cause pride and blindness. This message is found in the Book of Mormon. One of those messages, which can be a sure foundation, is the Doctrine of Christ. It will challenge, and confront false beliefs. Then inform you of the truth. Many of which we think are true, but which are false. This is good for the soul.
I think I'll challenge the class with some of these thoughts on repentance and hopefully renew everyone's desire to take the Book of Mormon more seriously. To follow Christ by following His Doctrine and coming to know Him.
Continued next post.....