5 December 2015
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.
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.
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.
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).