A Fist Fight in High Priests Group

November 23, 2005

Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but that is almost what it seemed like in my normally staid, conservative high priest group when I taught Lesson Twenty-one in the David O. McKay manual a week ago this past Sunday. Who would ever guess that I would get a lot of argument teaching the Four Principles of the Gospel straight from the correlated priesthood manual. I was shocked.

I started the class by asking the question: Can a person have faith in Christ even if he doesn’t belong to the Church? And of course everyone piped in with a resounding “Yes.” Then I launched into a discussion of this quotation from David O. McKay in the lesson manual:

“All churches and all creeds contain some good which lead toward the kingdom of our Father; but to become a citizen of that kingdom everyone must conform to the requirements made by the King. Indeed, there is only one way in which entrance into the Church of Jesus Christ may be obtained, and that is the way marked out by Jesus Christ, the Lord. ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ (John 14:6.)“The means of obtaining citizenship in the Church of Jesus Christ are very explicit; so clear, indeed, that it is surprising that so many seemingly intelligent and well-read people … [assume] that they can gain entrance by other and various means.

“There is only one who has the right to prescribe the means of human salvation. Surely he spoke not meaninglessly when he said what is necessary to citizenship in his kingdom.

“Note how explicit are his words: ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:3; italics added.] In explanation of this seemingly enigmatical saying to Nicodemus, the Master continued:

“ ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5; italics added.]

“Evidently Peter, the chief Apostle, attached significance to this requirement as an essential means of gaining not only citizenship in the Church, but also salvation in the kingdom of God, for, when the multitude pricked in their hearts cried out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ [Acts 2:37] he answered and said:

“ ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ (Acts 2:38.) Thus are given the four requirements, the four essential principles and ordinances, obedience to which are essential to membership in Christ’s Church: [namely,] faith, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Ghost. …

“There are many roads being pointed out as leading to the kingdom of God, but there is only one gate through which entrance and citizenship therein may be obtained. Christ plainly pointed this out when he was among men; and he has again revealed it through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The way is simple and easy to find, and as infinitely sublime as it is eternal.

“There are many roads … leading sincere people toward the church and kingdom of God, but those who would participate in the privileges and blessings of citizenship therein must obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.? 2

During the lesson I pointed out a number of obvious implications from this. First, faith in Christ is a direct reference to our willingness to repent of our sins and keep his commandments. Does a man have “faith in Christ” if he is unwilling to repent and keep his commandments? And the first commandment we are required to keep once we have proclaimed a faith in Christ, is to be baptized. This may not be the first commandment in order of importance, but it is absolutely essential. And it is the first commandment we are asked to keep as members of his Church. Without keeping this commandment we cannot obtain eternal life and in that sense we are damned unless we are baptized. One cannot obtain the celestial kingdom without a proper baptism, much less be exalted which is eternal life.

Immediately, an animated discussion ensued. “A person can have faith in Christ without joining the Church,” one said. “People in other faiths get baptized,” another added. “We should focus on the truth they have, rather than emphasize this.” “There are lots of good people in other churches.” “They can be baptized in the spirit world.” “Christ loves all his children.” “Why don’t you concentrate on the positive,” someone asked?

I answered him by pointing out that 1) This is what our missionaries are required to teach to every investigator, and if they cannot accept it, they cannot join the Savior’s church. And 2) as the person teaching the priesthood lesson, I am required to teach from the manual, and this is what David O. McKay is teaching in this lesson.

Unless one thinks that David O. McKay is talking about some other baptism, his opening words in this lesson are referring to baptism performed by the priesthood that is available only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptism is one of the four fundamental principles of the gospel, and a baptism without authority is no baptism at all.

I concluded with the statement that members of other Christian faiths can be “saved” in the celestial kingdom, but first they must become Mormons.

Throughout the short lesson, there were two or three voices saying that I was right. That I was teaching perfect doctrine. Further, that I was teaching what David O. McKay was teaching in the lesson manual. Not surprisingly, two of the three who firmly testified that I was teaching the true doctrine were my recently released Bishop, and the Bishop that served in our ward for five years before him.

How could there be a considerable group of high priests in this Church who do not understand or are offended by this basic, most fundamental Mormon doctrine, the doctrine of baptism by proper authority? Have we become so politically correct in the Church? Have we soaked up so much of the greater culture that we have an attitude problem? Do we really believe that one opinion is about as good as another? What about correct doctrine?

After the meeting several of the class members thanked me for giving an outstanding lesson, one that would not be soon forgotten. Not surprisingly, it was those same brothers who had been backing up what I said in the class. I just hope that I haven’t offended any of the others. Perhaps some of them went home thinking that I am a bigot against other Christians not of our faith. I hope not. Still, I am astounded that such a basic doctrine could arouse such an uproar in a normally pretty passive group of high priests.