The Foundation of Doctrine
Until now, we have discussed the Gospel in a very general sense. We have touched on something of the way by which man embraces the Gospel; that is, embracing Jesus Christ and His Atonement by way of repentance, baptism, and endurance. Yet now, let us make very clear the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that all who are found in it might be uplifted and all who are outside of it might be gently assured of their error, that they might repent and be restored unto life.
God the Father and His Son told Joseph Smith in that grove to join none of the other churches of his day, for all of their creeds were abominable. But why is that? What was it about the creeds of the day that made them abominable? I myself, even as a Restoration Saint, have read the Athanasian, Nicene, and Apostolic Creeds and have found some truth in them. Yet vital points are left out entirely, when the answers have been clearly in the Bible the whole time.
Let us look to the letter of Hebrews (Inspired Version, 6:1-2):
Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.Of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And we will go on unto perfection if God permit.
The King James reading differs only slightly, with the admonition of the author being primarily towards those who have already received such basic foundational doctrine and thus must progress upwards towards progression. Joseph Smith writing under inspiration felt that such verbiage could be misleading, and thus asks us to not leave such things that are clearly foundational doctrine.
Here we have seven vital points that comprise the doctrine of Christ:
These form a sort of progression in and of itself. Before anything, we must choose to repent from all of our dead works. This includes sin and also our previous religious efforts at making ourselves clean before God. We accept that we are sinful, and must have God cleanse us; we cannot do this alone, and our previous efforts to do so are dead. God will activate within us the faith which He has given to all men (Romans 12:3), that we might have a great hope of our own cleansing. This includes not faith in an abstract concept of God, but in Jesus Christ as God, for only He is worthy to save and His name is the only name by which salvation comes (LDS Alma 38:9). To have faith in any deity but He who saves is to still participate in a dead work. Thus, having this faith, we submit to the baptisms of fire and of water, that we might be made clean. Having been made clean, we may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the authority of the holy Priesthood, all of which comes by the laying on of hands. The very mention of the laying on of hands necessitates the Priesthood, for only those who have a gift may give a gift through the laying on of hands; merely touching someone with intent is not enough. Armed with these great gifts, we may have an excellent hope of our celestial resurrection from the dead and facing the “pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead (LDS Moroni 10:34).” All of these are necessary for our perfection, which is to be made like He is, for only He is perfect.
No creed offers such a clear view of the doctrine of Christ. Only the Bible contained it, yet those who read it did so without sincere heart and real intent (Moroni 10:4) and, like the sects of Judaism during New Testament times, their minds were closed because of their apostate condition (2 Corinthians 3:14). If only they would have recognized their apostasy as such; instead, for more than a thousand years, the sects of Christendom said in the pride of their hearts that their blindness was sight and so their sin was counted against them (John 9:41).
It took a mischievous but well meaning boy in upper New York to confess the profound ignorance of Christendom and ask God to reveal what really was truth. The very God that answered him told him not only were all creeds and the churches that believed in them abominable, but the true faith should be revealed in due time.
From the dust came the Book of Mormon, and we read in 3 Nephi 11 this pure doctrine also (emphasis added):
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.
In similar intent to the Inspired Version, the Book of Mormon provides a detailed expansion of what is found in Hebrews, but the points are the same. If we may embrace them in a comparison side by side:
Bible: Book of Mormon
Repent from dead works : Repent, “shall be saved”
Faith towards God : Belief in Christ
Baptisms : Water baptism, receive Holy Ghost
Laying on of hands : Testimony of Holy Ghost; going forth to declare words of Christ with Priesthood power
Resurrection of the dead : Inherit Kingdom of God
Eternal judgement : Become as little child
Go up onto perfection : Not damned; can eternally progress
This is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. This is the doctrine of the Restoration. This is the foundation upon which the Church of Christ must be built. All who are built upon such a foundation belong to His Church. Any who claim Christ without His doctrine are not His. The whole of this doctrine is preserved as the fourth Article of Faith. No other Church but the Restored Church has such a doctrine, such a Biblical foundation.
Now, this doctrine did not originate with Christ, but with the Father (John 7:16) because of Himself, Christ does nothing (John 5:19).
Throughout the scriptures, some consistent imagery is invoked with this idea of sound doctrine being the foundation for all believers on which to build. Jesus speaks of this foundation in his parables (Luke 6:46-49):
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
The Lukan version is somewhat more expository than Matthew’s. In Luke’s account, Jesus tells us very clearly that even if a man recognizes Him as Lord, to not build upon the sure and strong foundation of the simple doctrine of Jesus Christ is to suffer the collapse of all that is built upon it. It is also interesting to note that here Jesus says the foundation was “founded upon a rock”. What is that rock (Matthew 16:13-18, emphasis added)?
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Here Jesus asks one of his chief Apostles for a personal testimony of who Jesus Christ is. The mere assertions of others are not enough. Simon Peter obtains his testimony of whom Jesus Christ is not by “flesh and blood” - that is, no man tells him, including Jesus Christ Himself - but rather the Father tells him! The rock is revelation from the Father. It is that rock upon which the foundation is build, upon which the Church is constructed on top of that foundation, that the gates of hell may not prevail against.
But if the rock is misidentified, if the Church is built not on the solid foundation even if the rock is present, then the gates of hell may prevail against it.
So we see that there must be a firm rock of revelation from the Father. It is exactly as Moroni proclaimed long ago (Moroni 9:7-9):
And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
Now this firm foundation built upon the rock has a seal. Let us examine once more the conversation between Jesus and Peter. If we have the solid foundation build upon the rock, then we have the keys of the Kingdom, and the authority to bind and seal. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:19 that we who have the true foundation are known by God and we have departed from our sin. That is what separates us from the world. The Father in Heaven knows us personally because we have chosen His way and not any other, and accordingly, He has given us strength and power and authority to overcome.
Key to this foundation are the Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 2:20), without which the ordinances to build the foundation could not take place. Just as we would not accept the well meaning but untrained handiwork of a man claiming to be a carpenter, yet without the use of tools, so too should we not accept the claims of any who say they may help us build this solid foundation if they have not the proper authority. As Moroni says, there is in God “no variableness neither shadow of changing”. That is what allows the keys of Peter to be available to us all here today, and that is what allows us to have Apostles and Prophets today just as they were in the days of the New Testament.
It must be clearly understood that it is God who builds this foundation, and not us (Psalm 127:1). We cannot embrace the ordinances ourselves. We cannot convince God to let us into the Kingdom simply because we have gotten wet and someone has touched us with their hands. Without authority, without the experience of those who have received it themselves, there can be no true foundation built.
A final note on this clear doctrine. While the doctrine of the Church of Christ is set, the covenants that may be taken out between God and His people are not. This is what was meant by the Prophet when he said “the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it”. These basic facts are why we leave our dead works, have faith towards God, embrace our baptisms, receive authority through the laying on of hands, and have a hope of resurrection and judgement.
The appendages of which Joseph Smith speaks are what we call covenants.
So long as the Church remains the Church by way of the pure doctrine, it is the Church indeed. It does not matter that one branch of the Church in the mountains has embraced wholeheartedly the work for the dead, while another on the Prairie has let it be. I ask only of doctrine, where is the pure doctrine? If the foundation is purely built upon the solid rock of revelation, sealed with the true leaving of sin and being known by God, then we may call ourselves the house of God and God’s building (1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Corinthians 3:9).
Ahmed Nait-Djoudi is a faithful Muslim and self-employed citizen of Algeria. He has studied at Université Mouloud Mammeri de Tizi Ouzou. Fluent in Arabic, German, English, and Algerian, he resides in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria.