The fourth article of faith states, “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” These four elements, with the addition of “fifth, enduring to the end,” make up what Nephi refers to as the doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31:2). Most of us are aware of the cyclical nature of this doctrine. Nephi explains in unmistakable terms that all is not done after we are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:19). In 2 Nephi 31:20, he instructs us of our post-baptismal duties:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.Many of us understand that another explanation of what it means to “endure to the end” is to repeat again and again the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel, substituting baptism with partaking of the sacrament. But what is the citation for this idea? Certainly we have plenty of evidence in the words of latter-day prophets, but I would like to suggest one scriptural source. That source is Ether 12:27-28.
Verse 27 contains the gospel in a nutshell:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.Just as Christ overcame the two ultimate weaknesses of spiritual death and physical death, we can overcome sin if we tap into the Lord’s redemptive power through faith on His name.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, faith is like a muscle. I believe this analogy is stronger than we may realize. In order to exercise a muscle and increase its strength thereby, some prerequisites must be fulfilled. We need some sort of resistance for the muscle to work against. Ether 12:27 lists the prerequisites for exercising faith. First, we must come unto Christ. Then He will show unto us our weakness. Second, we must choose to humble ourselves. Only then are we in position to exercise our faith against the resistance of our weakness.
What does it mean to come unto Christ? Verse 28 says, “Behold, … I will show unto [the gentiles] that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me….” Now let me remind you of the phrasing in 2 Nephi 31:20. “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” I believe that “steadfastness in Christ” is a synonym for faith. Indeed, this definition sheds light on the true meaning of faith.
It now becomes clear that enduring to the end, by Nephi’s definition, is pressing forward with faith, hope and charity as we feast upon the words of Christ unto the end of our mortal lives. This very act, as Ether 12:28 explains, will bring us closer to Christ. Thus we will be repositioned to exercise our faith against even greater weakness. The cycle will continue until we obtain eternal life.
In D&C 3:2, we read,
For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.As we press forward on the strait and narrow path, we will become more like God. Our deviations from the doctrine of Christ will decrease until our course, too, becomes “one eternal round.”
It is my hope that increased understanding of this process will help us to recognize it in our lives. We can then live with gratitude for all the experiences given to us by our loving Father in Heaven, which will enable us to live as Nephi’s people, “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27).
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