Friday, May 31, 2019

Dogs Cats and The Doctrine of Christ

I was struck recently with a few elements of the Doctrine of Christ and how The LDS Church teaches it.  Or even speaks of it.

To start I wanted to look at some really interesting statistics.  Thanks to a database of general conference talks back to 1851 we can easily see how focused the General Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been on The Doctrine of Christ.


Here's a link to see the full thing in case the image isn't very clear.  The link takes a second to fully load so give it a minute.  https://www.lds-general-conference.org/x.asp?c=gc&q=73946295

As you can see the "Doctrine of Christ" (or alternate "Christ's Doctrine") wasn't said all that much over the last 60 years.  Sometimes only mentioned twice a decade.  To give you some frame of reference, the word "dog" has been used more in general conference than "Doctrine of Christ", 14 times more to be exact.  The word "pulpit" blows them both  away with 884 mentions.  The speakers seemingly talk more about dogs and the pulpit.  Before I return from my digression I need to speak to the cat lovers of the world and acknowledge that cat has been said in General Conference 81 times with definite trends upward this decade. The word cat has been said more in General Conference than the Doctrine of Christ for like 4 of the past 8 decades.  But now I'm way way off track.

The Doctrine of Christ isn't typically known by other names is the interesting thing. We can all refer to faith and repentance and baptism, and Holy Ghost but those are also stand alone ideas.  They are also grouped as part of an article of faith as "first principles and ordinances" of the Gospel.  It's obviously related to Christ's Doctrine but Christ's Doctrine includes different things.  It also has a warning not to add to or take away from the doctrine and than teach it as Christ's doctrine.  So there's a clear boundary between groupings of related ideas, and Christ's specific doctrine.  So for me, that limits what other words or phrases you would use to refer to it other than the obvious proper name scriptures, and Christ himself give it.   

With that as background what I'm wondering about is the actual Doctrine of Christ that we can locate easily in scripture under that name. So back to the above image you no doubt saw the huge bar graph jump in 2010's where the doctrine of Christ was said 62 times (still less than buzz word "Covenant path" which has no clear definition or scriptural reference but boasts 77 mentions this decade).  But back on track.  Something very interesting must have happened as the Doctrine of Christ got triple the mention it had EVER had.  Drilling down into the 2010's we see where the big jump was.  2016. 



2016 is the clear outlier.  Every mention of the Doctrine of Christ that year was during the October General Conference.  Why would that be I wonder?  I mean this jump is significant during 168 years.  More mentions in one General Conference than any prior decade!  Why?

One interesting idea is something else that happened in 2016 prior to the October LDS conference.  A small unorganized and informal group of Mormons or former Mormons.  Both now formerly known as Mormons per the Church's teachings to no longer use the term "Mormon.  Anyway this group decided to hold a "Doctrine of Christ" conference in September of 2016 in Boise Idaho.  That was the focus of the entire event.  Prior to this event in September there was a bit of an awakening among this band of religious misfits about how neglected, discarded, and completely misunderstood the Doctrine of Christ had been for generations in the LDS church.  That group decided to revisit the subject and bring added emphasis, light and life to the topic taught by Christ as His own doctrine.

I have no idea who is reading this so I need to give some context.  The LDS church (as it was known then) does not at all fancy this informal band of independent thinking Mormons/Christians I'm referring to.  They often excommunicate them, call them apostates, and oppose them and any of their beliefs which don't conform to LDS thought and tradition. This group made up of mostly members or former members has firmly gotten the attention of the LDS church and it's not the approval kind of attention.  It's the opposite.

So, it's a matter of fact that the LDS Church knew about this "Doctrine of Christ" conference months in advance.  A few top leaders were even invited to speak at it. See here.  They were invited and encouraged to send a speaker as this was a unique opportunity to address folks who's views of the Church may not be very positive.  It was also a chance for LDS leaders to share whatever insights they had with people on a topic presumed to be of high importance to everyone who believes in the Book of Mormon. 

4 months prior to the little conference the LDS Church demanded all names of any leaders and the Church be removed from the conference website.  It became a legal matter of intellectual property.  They adamantly and firmly rejected any invitation to speak and instead demanded that a clause be added that this conference was not endorsed by the Church.  So much for sharing their insights or speaking to people who's views of the Church are not very positive. 

They no doubt saw the event or had people or informants attend it to see what was going on at this disavowed and non LDS sanctioned conference.  The leaders knew the topic and knew that such things as re-baptisms would take place at the event since Christ's doctrine has baptism by authority as one of it's main elements.  Remember this Doctrine of Christ conference was September 2016, one month prior to the regularly scheduled and sanctioned LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City. 

Now the graph comes into play.  As you can see, fall of 2016 is when you can see on the graph a  sudden and major jump in mention of the Doctrine of Christ.  But the changes are only a temporary spurt, it then returns to the previous trend. 

Is it possible that in order to not be shown up, or not be shown as lacking teachings (or even mention) about such a core topic for decades, that this was a counter response?   The data is there. You decide if there is a correlation.

If an organization were concerned about search engine hits on the "Doctrine of Christ" possibly directing the public to that disavowed little conference in Idaho, then making a lot of mention of that phrase soon after could help keep online search results pointing where you want.  Namely to your own organization. 

It's interesting that one of the speakers at the LDS conference who spoke about Christ's Doctrine Oct 2016 mentioned how for members of the Church partaking of the sacrament "renews covenants made at baptism".  He referenced this idea twice in his talk.  The citations for the idea linked only to another conference talk by another Church leader.  This idea of sacrament renewing covenants has been shown to be unscriptural by other members of the 12 but that's a separate topic. 

I wonder if this double reference to sacrament as a renewal of baptismal covenants had any inkling of attempting to counter what they knew was happening up there in Boise Idaho with actual physical re-baptisms.  Since in olden days of the LDS Church if you wanted to renew your baptism, you'd simply get re-baptized.  It was common. Accepted, and an early temple recommend question even asked "When was the last time you were re-baptized".  The idea of re-baptism now days however to most members of the Church is viewed as poisonous. 

Christ went to the trouble of specifically defining His doctrine in scripture (LDS 3rd Nephi 11:30-40) and then warned not to add to or take away from it and go and establish it as His doctrine.  The speaker at the LDS conference also went to the trouble of defining Christ's Doctrine but interestingly never included Christ’s definition. Instead he gave his own definition supposedly coming from scripture. And there are differences between the speakers definition and Christ's. But I'll leave that to you.

Here's the section of the talk.
My message today focuses on the doctrine of Christ. The scriptures define the doctrine of Christ as exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.5
[5] See 2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 27:16–20.

If you look at footnote 5 it cites 2 Nephi 31 (that's good) and 3 Nephi 27.  But oddly missing is where Christ himself defines his own Doctrine in 3 Nephi 11.  What a curious things to leave out. Instead a related but different passage in 3 Nephi 27 is used as the source.  Wonder why that is? 

I was in attendance at that little Doctrine of Christ Conference in Boise Idaho.  Some things were said that have stayed with me ever since.  Those thoughts and the contrast between that and what I heard a month later at LDS conference motivate the below.  In Nephi's words "there is none other way...man can be saved in the Kingdom of God" than the doctrine of Christ. (LDS 2 Nephi 31:21)  So this topic is of greatest importance to us all.  Both Nephi and Christ himself spent time teaching and clarifying this doctrine.  It's about our own salvation.  It describes an interaction between God and man.

Interestingly it's not a stand alone topic in any Church manual, it's not the title or main subject of any LDS book that I can find.  It's never been the subject of any lesson I've had at church with the exception of when a lesson or talk happens to be based on a General Conference talk that happens to have had the Doctrine of Christ as its subject.

There are often strong undertones that connect this doctrine to fidelity to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The topic can hardly be taught by the Church without some focus on and pointing to the men leading the Church.

For most of my religious upbringing this doctrine has been reduced to a list of actions checkboxes that you can fill out and then be done with it.  At least that was the predominant attitude I have seen all my life as a member of the Church.  It's an attitude still held by the overwhelming majority of people I still attend Church with.  Even the enduring to the end bit is simply killing time on the clock of life. As long as you can somehow remain a member in semi-good standing until your physical death, you've apparently "endured to the end".

How boring.  How shallow. How lifeless.  It's no wonder the topic doesn't get much attention. If there's any question on what the Doctrine Consists of here are the scriptural links:
3 Nephi 11:30-40 (NC 3 Nephi 5:9)
2 Nephi 31-32 (NC 2 Nephi 13-14)
I wrote a few posts about a few things on this topic beginning here
Other's have written some great stuff, here is one: https://www.totheremnant.com/2014/09/destroying-doctrine-of-christ.html

Assuming you know what the doctrine is, and have spent time on it, I put together a list of questions I found thought provoking on the topic.  Food for thought but it's important to be familiar with the doctrine first.  My goal is to refocus on Christ's Doctrine and gaining from it what God offers.

How far does the Doctrine of Christ take you?  Nephi teaches “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. (v. 6–7).  "Unto you" "in the flesh".  Does the Doctrine of Christ lead you to an encounter with Christ as Second Comforter?  While you're mortal?  Is that within it's scope?  Or does the Doctrine of Christ stay shallow and not encompass or involve such Gospel depth?

Nephi also relates this when discussing this doctrine: But behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying, After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the holy ghost, and can speak with a new tongue—yea, even with the tongue of angels—and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me

Speak with the tongue of angels.  Does that make the person a type of ministering angel?

That last part has an an ominous warning.  What is it about denying Christ at that point in progression that provokes this warning?   There's another warning by Christ in context of this doctrine warning not to add or take away from the Doctrine.  What does it do to the doctrine when men add to it or take away from it?  What does it cost a person or people when this happens?  What do they potentially loose out on?

When Nephi teaches: And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved. (2 Nephi 31:16) Does that just mean the end of your body clock?  Or does that imply an "enduring" or "preserving" of truth forever?  How far does the example of the Son of the living God extend?  I think our idea of "endure to the end" is extremely short sighted and boring.

Christ taught: "I am Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end", He tells us. "The end" is one of his names. Is Christ the "end" to which we are to endure?  Is that when we meet Him and receive Him?  Is it also something further?  Why has no one ever taught or even talked about any of this in Church?  It's as if it was hidden in plain sight.

Why would God hide things in scripture?  Is it so God in his Mercy can judge people less harshly?

Does the doctrine of Christ require your fidelity to a Church?  Does it even require a formal earthly Church at all?

Where in the Doctrine of Christ require a man from the Church to lay hands on your head?  Can the Holy Ghost just come upon you like it did for Christ who's example we are supposed to follow?

Does the Doctrine of Christ require you to give your tithes and offerings to a corporation or only one specific Church to be considered tithing?

If you follow Christ's Doctrine who is it you should be getting to know?  It makes sense that you get to know someone you're following.  But if all you're following are religious steps or religious leaders the only thing you may get to know are a Church organization and some men.

Going back to the question that started this post, can you talk about and follow religious steps and never come to know Christ?

Does the Doctrine of Christ require you to "know Christ"?  Nephi tells us his revelation on the subject was given that we "might know the gate". Christ called himself "the gate" (NIV John 10:7). "Knowing the gate", and "knowing Christ" sound like one of those hidden clues God wants us to notice.  All these synonyms and names and titles all seem to have an intriguing theme and an underlying message as you follow the clues.

2 Nephi 31:21 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..."

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*Update 6/4/19

The Doctrine of Christ twice mentions to become as a little child.  Also in Luke:

NC Luke 10:8
And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them; but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them and said, Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say unto you, Whoever will not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall by no means enter therein.
Is there a connection between a little child and the Kingdom of God? For a fascinating read on the birth of the Kingdom of God symbolized in the constellation of the Infant Prince, as seen in the heavens, see here.  https://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/2019/kingdom.html

Truly "of such" is the Kingdom of God.

Continued next post....

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