Editor’s Note: Our friend and longtime Meridian writer Larry Barkdull recently passed away. To remember and honor him this is one of a series of his past articles that we are republishing regularly.
Cover image via LDS.org.
Nephi declared that faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, feasting on the word of Christ, and enduring to the end are “the doctrine of Christ.” Then he made an intriguing statement: “And there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh.”[i]
At first glance, we would interpret this scripture as meaning that Christ would reveal doctrine beyond the first principles of the gospel, and that would certainly serve as an accurate interpretation. But perhaps there is a deeper meaning. We have learned that these principles lead us to perfection,[ii] so what doctrine could be greater?
Do the Works of Abraham
For a possible answer, we refer to Abraham, who was not content with living the gospel superficially, but desired to be “a greater follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive [greater] instructions, and to keep the [greater] commandments of God.”[iii]
We are commanded to “do the works of Abraham,”[iv] so what did he do? He entered into the law of Christ,[v] which is the new and everlasting covenant,[vi] which culminates with the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.[vii] Thereafter, he abode in the Covenant in faithfulness, and diligently sought the face of the Lord. Then, after Abraham had found the Lord, who manifested himself unto Abraham[viii] “in the flesh,”[ix] Abraham received more doctrine and commandments, as the book of Abraham testifies.
The fact does not escape us that all of this plays out in a temple setting. The greater doctrine and commandments are temple doctrine and commandments, which lead us to see him, whereupon we receive more doctrine and commandments from the Lord. The accounts of Moses, Nephi, Enoch, the Brother of Jared and Joseph Smith are examples.
When we consider that commandments are really revelations of the pattern of the divine lifestyle, and when we further remember that obedience to commandments unlocks the door to blessings, we realize that it is no wonder that Abraham and other noble people actively sought to receive greater commandments and more doctrine. Such revelations are events of great joy. Ammon exulted,
I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.[x]
Zion people are they who qualify to receive more doctrine and greater commandments:
Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength. And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.[xi]
Nephi revealed what will happen when the Lord manifests himself unto us in the flesh: “And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.”[xii] On that occasion, Jesus will reveal to us much more of his doctrine, and he will ask us to do some things for him that will stretch us and bless us. Until then, he will work with us, and when he knows that we will do everything that he will command and that we will not retreat from the things that he will tell us, he will manifest himself unto us “in the flesh.”
Receiving More Doctrine by Choice
The pure in heart begin their quest to seek the face of the Lord by first making a choice; that choice is to abandon the telestial and embrace the celestial, even when the celestial does not make immediate sense. The choice is formalized at an altar in a temple setting where covenants are made, ordinances are given, and tokens are exchanged. Altars are the only place where legitimizing our choice can take place. Altars are where we make sacrifices and exchange gifts—the more the better. Such sacrifices and gifts are intended to be the best that we have to give.
At the altar we sacrifice the life of our natural man (the wild, untamed part of us) for the Lord, and in return, the Lord sacrifices his life for us. At the altar we give him the gift of our heart and he gives us the gift of his Atonement. From that point forward, our covenant relationship with the Lord is defined by a broken heart: “not my will”; and a contrite spirit: “but thine be done.”[xiii]
Brigham Young taught that our choice to become Zionlike and to seek the face of the Lord colors everything in our lives:
If you want to make Zion in your families and be happy in your homes, you must retain the Spirit of the Lord in your own hearts; and let it be the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega of your lives. Then you will have Zion; and the little difficulties, losses, crosses, and changing scenes of this mortal life will not disturb the equanimity of your lives; but they will appear frivolous things of no moment.[xiv]
Receiving More Doctrine by Desire
Our choice to seek the Lord’s face emerges from our desire. Alma noted that our longing summons the Lord’s “unalterable decree,” his absolute promise that we shall obtain our wish: “For I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire,… yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills.”[xv]
Receiving More Doctrine by Faith
Our desire motivates us to obey the Lord and follow him on faith alone. This attitude is essential to our progress, because usually in this telestial world we do not immediately comprehend celestial laws and their principles.
President Boyd K. Packer wrote, “Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and step into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.”[xvi] The process of faith is also the process of receiving more doctrine. We are required to travel the path to the presence of the Lord by conviction and trust, and by allowing him “from time to time . . . to unfold the mysteries of the kingdom,”[xvii] as if he were carefully opening up the petals of a beautiful flower until it is fully displayed.
Receiving More Doctrine by Persistence and Improvement
Our experiment with faith in the word of God always yields a harvest of blessings. The evidence of growth encourages us to persevere. Blaine Yorgason wrote:
To obtain the ultimate blessing of seeing the face of Christ and partaking of His divine love and approbation, righteous individuals must progress steadily forward in the spirit, clinging steadfastly to every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God, and fulfilling the other requirements outlined by the Lord: “Strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, . . . let[ting] not your minds turn back” (D&C 67:10, 14); “seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life” (D&C 101:38). Then, “in mine own due time, . . . ” the Lord promises, “the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am” (D&C 64:114, 10).[xviii]
Receiving More Doctrine by Service
Joseph Smith asked, “How do men obtain a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections and attributes?” Then answering, “By devoting themselves to his service, through prayer and supplication incessantly strengthening their faith in him, until, like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they obtain a manifestation of God to themselves.”[xix]
Without service, Amulek and Isaiah inform us, prayers are vacant words[xx] and fasts are just going hungry.[xxi]
Receiving More Doctrine by Seeking
Blaine Yorgason writes, “Diligent seeking . . . permits qualified, pure-hearted men and women to ‘have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant’ (D&C 107:19).”[xxii]
Elder McConkie taught similarly: “The attainment of such a state of righteousness and perfection is the object and end toward which all of the Lord’s people are striving. We seek to see the face of the Lord while we yet dwell in mortality, and we seek to dwell with him everlastingly in the eternal kingdoms that are prepared.”[xxiii] Of these and other promises, we might apply the Lord’s counsel, “Treasure up these words in thy heart.”[xxiv]
Receiving More Doctrine by Treasuring Up
The Lord has repeatedly commanded that we “treasure up in [our] minds continually the words of life.”[xxv] “Wherefore, ye shall treasure up the things which ye have seen and heard.”[xxvi] To treasure up is like finding something valuable and placing it in a safe and secure place so that we never lose it.
In this world, we “enjoy the words of eternal life” and treasure them up so that one day we might achieve “eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”[xxvii] For now, we are to treasure up and “give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.”[xxviii]
When a great division came among the disciples of Jesus, and many who had once believed now abandoned him, he turned to his apostles and asked poignantly, “Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”[xxix]
Peter answered for all of us: there is nowhere else to go. Only through the Word of God can we receive the words of God; and only by treasuring up Him and them can we hope to obtain eternal life. “Therefore treasure up these words in thy heart.”[xxx]
So much depends on our desiring, seeking, and treasuring up more doctrine. The Lord piqued our interest when he revealed, “Now, as touching the law of the priesthood, there are many things pertaining thereunto.”[xxxi] These and other “many things” are built upon the foundation of the Atonement and the scaffolding of the three pillars of Zion: (1) The New and Everlasting Covenant, (2) The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, and (3) The Law of Consecration.[xxxii]
When we accept the Atonement and the covenants that comprise the new and everlasting covenant, we place ourselves in a position to seek the face of the Lord and receive more doctrine from Him personally. Herein lies our opportunity to become Zion people.
[i] 2 Nephi 32:6.
[ii] JST Hebrews 6:1.
[iii] Abraham 1:2.
[iv] D&C 132:32.
[v] D&C 132:32.
[vi] D&C 132:4–7.
[vii] D&C 131:2.
[viii] Abraham 2:12.
[ix] 2 Nephi 32:6.
[x] Alma 29:9.
[xi] D&C 59:3–4; emphasis added.
[xii] 2 Nephi 32:6; emphasis added.
[xiii] Luke 22:42.
[xiv] Young, Millennial Star 16:674–75.
[xv] Alma 29:4; emphasis added.
[xvi] Packer, That All May Be Edified, 340.
[xvii] D&C 90:14.
[xviii] Yorgason, I Need Thee Every Hour, 431.
[xix] Smith, Lectures on Faith, 2:55.
[xx] Alma 34:28.
[xxi] Isaiah 58:7, 10.
[xxii] Yorgason, I Need Thee Every Hour, 432.
[xxiii] McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 578.
[xxiv] D&C 6:20.
[xxv] D&C 84:85.
[xxvi] Ether 3:21.
[xxvii] Moses 6:59.
[xxviii] D&C 84:43.
[xxix] John 6:67–69.
[xxx] D&C 6:20.
[xxxi] D&C 132:58.
[xxxii] D&C 42:67.