Gospel of Jesus Christ
“You need to know what [this] term really means. If you do not, then you have not received it. You have claimed, like others, to be ‘of Christ’ without ever comprehending what His Gospel includes and does not include.”1 The word gospel comes from the Old English godspel (good spell); literally from god (good) and spel (story, message, spell, narrative, or form of words; often defined as glad or good tidings). When a story or spell is cast that is good, it is a “gospel.” It has the same origin as “to spell,” meaning to read letter by letter or speak. The original had a long “o,” and later became associated as “God,” as in “God-story.” The word is a translation of the Greek euangelion (εὐαγγελίου) meaning “good message” and translated in the KJV as “gospel.”2
Jesus Christ defines His gospel in the Book of Mormon: 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 do the will of my Father because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross. And after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, I might draw all men unto me — that as I have been lifted up by men, even so should men be lifted up by the Father to 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. 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. And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men, and for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given; and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words. And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom, therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. 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. Verily, verily I say unto you, this is my gospel (3 Nephi 12:5). He defines it in modern times as: And verily, verily I say unto you, He that receives my gospel receives me. And he that receives not my gospel receives not me. And this is my gospel: repentance, and baptism by water, and then comes the baptism of fire and the holy ghost, yea, even the Comforter, which shows all things and teaches the peaceable things of the kingdom (T&C 23:2).
“The terrible problem of mortality is that we are all prone to drift and fail. It is only by constant renewal of faith that we can hope to succeed. No matter how far we have come, what great things we have obtained, we are still subject to failure. This is why the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: faith, repentance, baptism, and laying on of hands for the gift of the holy ghost. We never outgrow these first principles. I believe them to be first in the sense of primacy, not a singular event which happens and then you can take them off the list of stuff to do. They are primary. They are foundational. They are required to be used constantly. Therefore, they are first. So, we always go forward in faith. No matter how much we already know, we must use faith to go forward. We live within the limitation of linear time. We experience things in a flow that happens without our control. Life unfolds as an unknown to us, and we must cope with all it hands us from day to day. That requires faith to confront this uncontrolled, unfolding stream of time in which we are presently confined. Repentance is required because even if we are doing what we should be doing, we are always going to learn more. It is the nature of the Gospel that our light should increase. Whenever we learn more, we must change to reflect what we have just gained. Change is the heart of repentance. Baptism is to have sins washed away. The holy ghost should be a regular participant in our lives. Its renewed companionship is also primary. Its witness to us that we are on the right path is the only way to wage the necessary war against entropy which seeks to take you into darkness. It is the source of renewed light that always enlightens when it comes. These are the only means by which we can avoid the same dismal fate as all others of all prior dispensations. ”3
Almost everything about the Gospel plan is a process and not an event. Most people most of the time are only working through the process. A great deal of the scriptures has been written by those who have been through the process and who are trying to give mankind instructions of how to repeat it in their own lives. There are events which occur in the scriptures, as well, but man will never arrive at the events unless he first realizes there is a process, and he begins to participate actively in that process.4 In the April 1844 conference talk, Joseph Smith redefined the term “first principles.” Joseph wanted the saints to comprehend much more about the gospel and learn a new, higher ideal. Christ’s gospel includes: attaining to the resurrection from the dead, becoming gods, and walking the same path as our Lord walked. These are the real first principles of the gospel. That is why he wished he had the trumpet of an archangel with which to declare it. His words were worthy of an archangel: “You thus learn some of the first principles of the Gospel, about which so much hath been said. When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel — you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (TPJS, 348; WJS, 358). “We have such a long way to go even after this life that we hardly comprehend how great a work remains. We will not learn everything needed ‘in this world.’ These are the basics of the gospel of Christ. This is the foundation upon which salvation itself rests. This is the climb we must make to be like Him. We can go from exaltation to exaltation, and from grace to grace, but we will only arrive at the end when we have learned all we will need to know to be like Christ. To understand Christ is to understand salvation. He is the prototype, and therefore we must be exactly like that prototype to be saved.”5
Ether 1:13 confirms: And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord shewed himself unto him and said, Because thou knowest these things, ye are redeemed from the Fall. Therefore, ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I shew myself unto you. This is the gospel of Christ. Eternal life requires each person to know Him. Ether affirms the brother of Jared was redeemed when Christ came to him. Christ redeemed him from the Fall: Because thou knowest these things, ye are redeemed from the Fall (ibid.). Christ defines redemption. Reconciliation comes through Christ, with Christ, and by Christ. He has the power to redeem all.6 The unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ is always the same, and its blessings are always available.7 There are a few important ideas that define an understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These are the ideas that make the Gospel whole and not just a group of disconnected thoughts. First and foremost is that no one should follow any man or men. No man is worthy of discipleship. There is only One who is worth following. He is the way, the truth, and the life (see John 9:7). There is no other person who can save (see Mosiah 1:16). Second (and equally important), it is not the depth of one’s study that matters, but it’s the quality of one’s connection with Heaven. Expounding doctrine is not only insufficient, it is oftentimes a distraction from what matters. Man goes from unbelief to belief when he learns truth. Not every source, including institutional sources, can be trusted to tell one the truth. Only the light of Christ, followed by the holy ghost, is a reliable guide to distinguish between unbelief and belief. Man goes from belief to faith as he takes action consistent with belief in truth. Faith is a principle of power. It will lead one to receive angels who still minister to those of a sound mind, not given to flights of fantasy or unstable behavior (see Moroni 7:6). Man is brought from faith to knowledge as angels prepare him through their ministry (see Moroni 7:4,6; Alma 16:26). Knowledge comes from contact with Jesus Christ (see Ether 1:14). This is the knowledge that saves and nothing else (see John 9:18). “The idea that knowledge of Christ through His personal appearance to you is now unavailable is an old sectarian notion and is false (John 9:8).”8 Third, there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell man all he must know. One can only know the truth by having it revealed to him from Heaven itself (see T&C 69:29). This is the reason Joseph said, “If you could gaze into Heaven for five minutes you would know more than you would by reading everything that has ever been written on the subject” (TPJS, 324).9 Either one does, as Jacob (formerly known as James) says, and asks of God, or he will for ever remain ignorant of the only knowledge which can save a man (see JSH 2:3 referring to Epistle of Jacob 1:2). Fourth, the truth is intended to save all. “We should welcome corrections. Too often, however, we are offended and think the truth is a hard thing to endure (1 Nephi 5:1). That is a product of pride and arrogance. It is impossible to learn what must be learned unless we are willing to be corrected (Mosiah 1:16). Therefore, only the qualified will arrive at the gates, because the rest are unwilling to take the trip required of them.” Fifth, this is a personal journey which each must take for themselves. It cannot be shared. One must approach the Throne alone. “Joseph was alone when he met the Father and Son. Moses was alone when he ascended the Mount to meet the Lord. Enoch was alone when he was caught up to Heaven. Elijah was alone on the mountain when the whirlwind, lightning, and earthquake preceded the Lord’s own voice. Daniel alone saw the vision of the Lord. Paul alone saw the light. Nephi alone saw his father’s vision. Enos was alone in the wilderness in his encounter with God. Abraham was alone when the Lord spoke to him. Jacob slept alone when the ladder to Heaven descended for him. You will also be alone should the Lord come to visit you. This cannot be borrowed from another. These are the core. This core is what faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the holy ghost are meant to bring about. The religion of Heaven always involves Heaven. It does not involve men, and administration, and popularity. It is solitary, between you and God. The proud, however, are content to proclaim their righteousness and sit in judgment of others. They live without God in the world (Mormon 2:6), and their end will be destruction. They think their own imagination is revelation, and they foolishly value only their conceit (Proverbs 4:34–35).”10The point at which the person’s journey is completed and he may enter into the rest of the Lord is when the Lord declares, by His own voice, that the man’s offering has been accepted, and he is sealed up to eternal life. The Gospel is the same now, as always before. Therefore, no matter how one receives blessings of the Lord in the afterlife, it will be through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by the ordinances instituted for claiming blessings. These were established as law to govern man’s conduct here even before the world was.11See also DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
1 “Some of Christ,” Feb. 9, 2012, blog post.
3 “First Principles of the Gospel,” March 24, 2010, blog post.
4 “Process Not Event,” March 28, 2010, blog post.
5 Preserving the Restoration, 307–308.
6 Preserving the Restoration, 343.
7 “3 Nephi 21:25,” July 20, 2010, blog post.
8 WJS, 171, 267n3; D&C 130:3. Section 130 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants first appeared as canon in the 1876 edition prepared by Orson Pratt under the direction of Brigham Young. For original sources for D&C 130:3–7 see JSP, Journals Vol. 2:323–326, (Dec. 1841 – April 1843), 2 April 1843 and JSP, Journals Vol. 2:403–405, Appendix 2, 1–4 April 1843.
9 WJS, 254; JSP, Journals Vol. 3:109.
10 “The Whole Not the Parts,” Dec. 28, 2011, blog post.