3 Nephi 11:28-41 – LeGrand Baker – doctrines of the Kingdom
These verses are the only place in 3 Nephi where the Savior actually says “this is my doctrine,” and then spells out what his doctrines are.
Elsewhere (3 Nephi 27:13-21), the Savior defines the “gospel” as being about the Atonement, faith, repentance, baptism, keeping our covenants, and enduring to the end. but this has a somewhat different flavor from that.
It is significant that the “doctrine,” as he defines it here, was for the ears of the Twelve and was not spoken to the entire congregation. At the beginning on the next chapter, he teaches all the people the Beatitudes and the sermon at the temple, but this definition of “doctrine” is only for the Twelve. That being so, it is reasonable to see this statement of doctrine as the principles that undergird all the others. Then, what he taught to the congregation as an elaboration on those principles.
It is also significant that Mormon entrusted us with the instruction the Savior gave to the twelve disciples. That fact alone suggests we ought to take these “doctrines” seriously as the foundation of our own understanding as well.
Before the Savior expounded the particulars of the doctrine, he made two important points. First, he introduces his discussion with the injunction (v. 25), “there shall be no disputations among you … concerning the points of my doctrine.” I suppose that is another way of saying it is as it is and there is no room for changes or compromises.
The second point, after making it clear that his “doctrine” is not to be tampered with, he expanded that principle even further by saying the first doctrine he defines is that “anger… should be done away (v. 30).” Later on, when he addresses the entire congregation he explains that angry and contentious people cannot be where he is (12:21-26).
After those preliminaries (immutability of the doctrine and unacceptability of anger) he says: “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” (v. 31-32).
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 (v. 32).
For the men to whom Jesus was speaking, this reference is to an event of earlier that very day, when they heard the voice of the father declare, “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (3 Nephi 11:7)
As for us, we have the testimony of all those witnesses who heard the testimony of the Father as recorded in 3 Nephi and in the New Testament (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35, John 1:32). In addition, we have John’s testimony that the Savior versified his Father’s testimony (John 5:36-38, John 8:17-19). We also have the more immediate testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith (JS -History 1:17).
Whether you and I have actually heard that voice is beside the point. For, as the Savior said, “the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me” (v. 32). The testimonies of multiple witnesses leaves us without excuse. As we contemplate the gravity of that, we remember Moroni’s warning:
27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? (Moroni 10:27).
As we consider what the Savior next said to the twelve Nephite disciples, we should also remember the covenantal relationship between the Savior, his Father, and ourselves as it was explained to us by Moroni:
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God [the Father] with all your might, mind and strength, then is his [the Father’s] grace sufficient for you, that by his [the Father’s] grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God [the Father] ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God [the Father].
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God [the Father] are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God [the Father], through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32-33).
That phrase, “which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins,” teaches us that the Savior is the personification, the evidence, and the fulfillment of the Father’s covenant that we may “become holy, without spot.” With that understanding, we can more clearly understand the Savior’s words:
32 …and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
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.
35 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 [the Father] will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.[Later, when the Savior speaks to the entire congregation, he will elaborate on that principle.]
36 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 (3 Nephi 11:32-36).
The Savior’s charge to the Twelve that they must repent pushes the concept to its furthest limit. He said,
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, [that baptism would occur on the following day (3 Nephi 19:11-12)] or ye can in nowise receive these things [“these things” are the testimonies he has just promised them].
In this verse the sequence is: (1) repent, (2) become as a little child, and (3) be baptized (4) in order to “receive these things.” The next verse is quite different:
38 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.
That sequence is: (1) repent, (2) be baptized in my name, and (3) become as a little child, (4) in order to “inherit the kingdom of God.” After giving these instructions to the Twelve, the Savior explained both baptisms to the entire congregation. He said:
1 …Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost…(3 Nephi 12:1).
His instruction that one must “become as a little child” precedes the first baptism but follows the second one. The classic scriptural definition of what that means is from King Benjamin when he said:
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 3:19).
I believe there is an additional (not a different) way to understand it as well. I have told this story before, but for me, the subject matter virtually requires that I tell it again.
One day, more than 20 years ago, I dropped in on my daughter Dawn and her family. Little two-year-old Chelsea was in the tub having a bath. She heard my voice and came running into the living room to meet me. “Grandpa,” she shouted, all dripping wet, holding out her arms, wanting to be picked up and hugged. As I held her, wetness and all, I understood what it means to be like a little child in the Kingdom of God. The little girl in my arms was completely, simply, Chelsea. She needed no clothing to define who she was. At that moment she was only herself; trusting, but not noticing she trusted; vulnerable, but unaware of her vulnerability because it did not concern her; loving and finding fulfillment and identity in the moment of her giving her love. In her unabashed dripping-wetness Chelsea was wholly free to be herself–to express her love–to BE the expression of her love.
I suppose we are all like that. When we are stripped of all the masks and facades of the artificial needs and fears by which we define our Selves, then we may kneel naked, vulnerable, and unashamed before our loving Heavenly Father. When one is childlike in that nakedness, he is free. He knows and loves the voice of Him by whom he walks. Nothing can bribe him because in his Saviour all of his needs are satisfied. Nothing can threaten him because in the arms of his Saviour he can find no fear. He may not have all the information he needs all the time, but his Friend has, and one can always ask when one does not know. When one is naked in that way, one may begin to know as he is known and see as he is seen. Only when one is comfortable with that kind of nakedness may he be clothed in a “robe of righteousness” and become one who may “inherit the kingdom of God.”
I suspect when that happens, the question of one’s obedience will become moot because the question of his motive will have no practical meaning. Obedience will simply be one of the fruits of love, and his absolute obedience the simple expression of his absolute freedom.
The Savior concluded his instructions to the Twelve with these words:
39 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.
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(3 Nephi 11:39-40).
The Savior himself is that Rock, as Helaman explained to his sons:
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).
Having enumerated these doctrines to the Twelve, the Savior then gave them this charge:
41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth (3 Nephi 11:41).