My Favorite Scripture on Doctrine

Sometimes I become weary of endlessly debating doctrine with Latter-day Saints who either have not read the scriptures and the teachings of the modern prophets, or if they have, they do not believe them. And when I do, I have a fall back position, a place where I can rest from the tumult of online dialogue. I refer to my favorite scripture on doctrine. It is in the 11th chapter of 3 Nephi, and it comes from the mouth of our Savior himself:

33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

Notice that the second verse is just as important as the first one, and the principle behind the doctrine is not complete without both verses. I am frustrated when I hear an LDS speaker use the first verse without the second one, because I believe it distorts the doctrine of Christ.

This is even easier to understand when a bit more of the context is revealed. Just before these two verses the Savior proclaims:

28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

32 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.

Clearly, the Savior does not want us arguing about doctrine. We are to believe him. We are to believe his doctrine. We are to believe his prophets which are our only source of his doctrine. Did not his prophets write all of the scriptures? Do we not have living prophets today?

A few verses later the Savior gets even more specific about this when he teaches:

40 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.

If we listen to the confirming testimony of the Holy Ghost, we will not dispute the points of the Savior’s doctrine. We will be of one mind and heart concerning his teachings. Truth cannot contradict truth. The only opinion on doctrine that really matters is the Lord’s opinion. And we can find out what his opinion is by reading the Word of God in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures as well as the sermons of his latter-day prophets.

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7 Responses to My Favorite Scripture on Doctrine

  1. However, Gary, without some discussion, it seems to me that we cannot learn which concepts are actually doctrine or not. That is, unless we talk about whether the Great Flood was universal, we cannot learn whether or not the prophets are agreed or disagreed on the matter. We need some process for learning just exactly what all the prophets are agreed upon. And that necessitates considering those topics upon which they might be disagreed.

  2. Gerald Smith says:

    I agree that we JWR that we need to follow the doctrine. The question is, what is doctrine? Jesus, in the chapter quoted by John, states that the Savior’s doctrine is that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God (Godhead), and are one in all things; and that we must also be one as they are through Faith in Christ, Repentance, Baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Outside of this, in this chapter Christ has left all things open as to what portends to be doctrine. To me, Doctrine are the common and well understood teachings that lead us to salvation. Areas where GAs disagree, or where there is little official teaching is where we leave doctrine and enter into the realm of speculations. LDS don’t argue over whether Jesus’ atonement saves us or not. We argue over whether the gates of heaven swing or slide open. We argue on evolution, curse of Cain, if the Flood was global, and who the Beast of Revelation is. Interestingly, none of these is well defined by any actual doctrine, but there have been GAs discuss them on both sides of the aisle. Christ would have us leave the dogmas and get back to the doctrines that actually save. Therein is the power of Godliness, and how we can become one with God.

  3. NFlanders says:

    John, I don’t think the Holy Ghost is going to teach us contrary doctrine, but I do think that people are going to misinterpret him and even think they feel him when they actually don’t. Humans are imperfect. Human interpretation of doctrine is imperfect.

    I just don’t believe that the black and white world you describe actually exists.

  4. My point was not “There are differences, let’s focus on them!” It was “There are differences of opinion even among the most well informed. How can we know that the areas were there have not been differences of opinion YET are absolutely true? If these men can have differences of opinion, why can’t we?” I’m not trying to change the subject in order to discuss those particular differences. I’m merely pointing out the fact that there are differences of opinion and this should surely play a part in any serious discussion of any gospel topic.

  5. nflanders, if… I repeat if, my beliefs about doctrine are correct, why shouldn’t you “believe the same things as John Redelfs?” If something is true, shouldn’t we all agree on it? Or do you actually believe that the Holy Ghost is going to teach us contradictory doctrine?

    Jeff, you ask, “What about personal revelation?” Well, what about it? If there is a God, and if the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are “one,” why would the Holy Ghost reveal doctrine to an individual that is different or contradictory to what he reveals to his prophets? Wouldn’t he reveal doctrine that is also “one” with the Godhead?

    You point out times that prophets contradict each other, even scriptures that contradict each other. But isn’t it remarkable how rarely that happens? And shouldn’t we be looking for what they all say in common rather than using a fine toothed comb to locate the few instances in which they appear to disagree? How does it facilitate our own search for understanding to focus on their differences? Obviously, if the prophets disagree on some point of doctrine either one of them is right and the other wrong, or they are both wrong together. Isn’t that obvious? I am just trying to point out that when we all know the truth, we will be agreed with one another. And one of the best ways to go about that is to know the teachings of the prophets and scriptures and to believe them.

  6. It is clear that he doesn’t want us to contend in an angry way, but it is abundantly clear that he does want us to reason with one another in our interpreting his words.

    We are to believe him. We are to believe his doctrine. We are to believe his prophets which are our only source of his doctrine.

    I think this is an absurd over simplication. Are we to believe just him, or his prophets? This is the problem, that His words are almost always filtered through a human and imperfect filter, not to mention the fact that the words are usually intended for a very specific context. Critical reading is very necessary.

    Prophets are not the only source of his doctrine. Who ever said that? What about personal revelation? What about the light of Christ? What about the truths of science which we preach are inspired as well?

    Truth cannot contradict truth. The only opinion on doctrine that really matters is the Lord’s opinion. And we can find out what his opinion is by reading the Word of God in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures as well as the sermons of his latter-day prophets.

    This is the problem, truth cannot contradict truth and many of the ‘truths’ taught by one prophet flat out contradict the ‘truths’ taught by another prophet. Other times they contradict what is common experience (take for instance both Paul’s and Jesus’ belief that the 2nd coming was very nigh in their time). Or we can consider the times when the ‘truths’ of a prophet contradict the ‘truths’ taught by that same prophet at another time. I’m thinking of how some people interpret BY’s adam-god doctrine (which I personally don’t think contradicted what he said at other times) and McConkie’s teachings concerning blacks and the priesthood. (We could also come up with a number of examples regarding polgamy, but I think I’ve made the point.)

    In one place the BoM (the most correct of any book) contradicts itself, and this according to FARMS. Granted it isn’t doctrinally significant, but the fact that there is a contradiction in scirpture is doctrinally significant. Maybe all those times when the BoM prophets say that there are errors in scripture were actually telling the truth, or maybe we can believe that they were lying, again in scripture.

    Before anybody gets too dogmatic about interpreting scripture, especially the Bom, I would highly recommend reading “Line Upon Line”. I know how you feel about Signature books, but this one doesn’t fit the “bordering-on-anti” profile with which some paint signature.

  7. NFlanders says:

    I would feel better about this post if I didn’t suspect that “we should not dispute doctrine” is merely code for “we should believe the same things as John Redelfs”.

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