Valiant K. Jones is the author of The Covenant Path: Finding the Temple in the Book of Mormon. This article includes excerpts from that book. For more information, see www.valiantjones.com and www.cedarfort.com.
Elder David A. Bednar encouraged us to “discuss the basic purposes of and the doctrine and principles associated with temple ordinances and covenants,” and he specified these covenants: “the law of obedience, the law of sacrifice, the law of the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration..
Part 1 of this two-part series explored how the scriptures define the gospel and the law of the gospel. It showed that these two terms are essentially the same and presented the following two-part definition:
- The gospel is the good news that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be redeemed from both death and sin, allowing us to stand before the Lord in resurrected bodies at the Day of Judgment and receive an eternal reward.
- If we abide by the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, we will be declared guiltless and saved in the kingdom of God: Have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of all sin, be baptized by water for the remission of sins, be sanctified through the reception of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.
This definition can be summarized by the third and fourth articles of faith. The law of the gospel centers on the atonement of Jesus Christ and describes the principles and ordinances we must follow to receive His salvation.
The Law of the Gospel: A Community Commitment
When we “are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people” (Mosiah 18:8), we engage in a community. We attend church where our faith in Jesus Christ can grow alongside others. We have to repent, confessing our sins to those people we have wronged and sometimes to Church leaders (see D&C 59:12). We are baptized and confirmed before other members of the Church (see D&C 20:37, 68), and we are instructed to “meet together oft” to renew our covenants through the sacrament (see Moroni 6:5–6). We receive callings and ministering assignments that require us to interact and serve one another. We “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77). The principles of the gospel are not intended to be carried out in isolation.
In April 1834, as the Church welcomed new immigrants into the Kirtland area, many members were poor, and many Church leaders were in debt. During this time of great temporal need, the Lord revealed the following:
And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. (D&C 104:15–18; emphasis added)
This passage describes how the Lord provides for His Saints, not for the world in general. The Lord makes it clear that sharing with fellow Saints who are in need is “according to the law of my gospel,” explaining that every member should “take of the abundance which I have made, and impart . . . his portion . . . unto the poor and the needy.”
Being willing to help one another in the Church is part of the covenant of baptism, which Alma described as being “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and . . . willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). This baptismal commitment is a central part of the gospel, so when we help our fellow Latter-day Saints who are in need we are acting “according to the law of my gospel.”
This dimension of the law of the gospel is confirmed by similar instructions the Lord gave to the Kirtland Saints sixteen months earlier: “See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires” (D&C 88:123; emphasis added). Paul taught the same principle in his letter to the Galatians, admonishing the Saints, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2; emphasis added). The law or doctrine of Christ and the law of the gospel are equivalent terms, so Paul’s counsel affirms that bearing one another’s burdens fulfills the law of the gospel. Alma and Paul both understood this law.
This aspect of the law of the gospel appears to be the foundation of the Church’s focus on ministering. Elder Ronald A. Rasband recounted the baptismal promises in Mosiah 18 to bear burdens, mourn with others, and comfort one another, explaining, “Our ministering one to another in the Church reflects our commitment to honor those very promises.” Ministering is an important way to live the law of the gospel.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples.” President Kimball’s statement is a perfect description of the law of the gospel. It is a law for “a community of believers.” Indeed, the law of the gospel is a law of community that says we should serve our fellow Saints, including sharing our means with them if needed. Paying fast offerings is one of the ways we do this.
Many people have heard the story of Joseph Millett, an early Mormon pioneer who settled in Southern Utah. His large family had already suffered through the death of his oldest daughter along with continued sickness and hunger when the following occurred, which he recorded in his journal:
In 1871, one of my children came in [and] said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks was out of bread, had none that day. I put our flour in [a] sack to send up to Brother Hall. Just then Brother Hall came. Says I, “Brother Hall, are you out of flour?”
“Brother Millett, we have none.”
“Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided [it out] and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you was out.”
Brother Hall began to cry. He said he had tried others, but could not get any. He went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett.
[I replied,] “Well Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don’t owe me for it.”
You can’t tell me how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett.
Brother Millet shared freely because he understood the law of the gospel. He did not describe his actions by that term, but he understood it in his heart and lived it, and as Brother Millet learned, the Lord always knows who of His children are committed to live the law of the gospel.
The law of the gospel is a law of community that emphasizes a covenant way of life as a social order. It means we live by faith in Jesus Christ and come together as a body to teach one another and renew our covenants. It requires that we humbly admit the mistakes we make with one another and try to be better, always striving to follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. In addition, it includes a covenant commitment to support one another as fellow Saints: “To bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). As the Lord declared, “This is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints . . . according to the law of my gospel” (D&C 104:16–18).
A New, Higher Law Taught by Jesus Christ
As noted earlier, when Jesus Christ appeared to the ancient inhabitants of America after His Resurrection in Jerusalem and Ascension into heaven, He taught that the law of Moses was fulfilled and that the people should follow a new law that He described as “my doctrine” (see 3 Nephi 11:32–39) and later as “my gospel” (see 3 Nephi 27:13–21). This doctrine or law teaches that because of Christ’s Resurrection and Atonement, when He judges the world, He will declare salvation for those who follow the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
Christ began his Sermon at the Temple with a preamble that reiterated the importance of following those principles and ordinances. He said, “Blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. . . . Yea, blessed are they who shall . . . come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12:1–2). The presentation of this doctrine at the onset of Christ’s sermon shows that these gospel principles are the foundation for the higher law so beautifully taught in the Beatitudes and other teachings that followed. They also affirm that this special sermon is instruction directed to those who have entered into a covenant relationship with God through baptism.
New insights can come if we study these teachings of Christ through the lens of instruction on how members of the Church are to support one another as part of their baptismal covenants. For example, when we read, “And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (3 Nephi 12:4), we think the words of Alma at the waters of Mormon (see Mosiah 18:10) and realize that we are to be the agents who provide the needed comfort. And when we read that we should not be angry and should reconcile with others before we come before the Lord (see 3 Nephi 12:22–25), we realize that we should repent and resolve our differences with members of our ward or family before we partake of the sacrament. Additional insights can be gained by studying these teachings of Christ through this lens. The following list shows how the verses in 3 Nephi 12 are related to principles of the law of the gospel (shown in bold).
- Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (3 Nephi 12:3; emphasis added) Faith in Jesus Christ
- And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (3 Nephi 12:4) Baptismal covenant to mourn with and comfort one another
- And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (3 Nephi 12:5) Repentance
- And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 12:6) Holy Ghost
- And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (3 Nephi 12:7) Judgment/Atonement
- And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (3 Nephi 12:8-9) Sanctification by the Holy Ghost
- And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you. (3 Nephi 12:10-12) Endure to the end
- Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. . . . Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (3 Nephi 12:13-16) Endure to the end
- And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (3 Nephi 12:19) Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance
- Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled. Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (3 Nephi 12:19-20) Baptismal covenant to keep the commandments; Judgment
- Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time . . . that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God; But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. . . . (3 Nephi 12:21-22) Baptismal covenant to keep the commandments; Judgment
- Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you. Agree with thine adversary quickly . . . (3 Nephi 12:23-26) Repentance
- Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. . . . suffer none of these things to enter into your heart; For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell. . . . (3 Nephi 12:27-32) Baptismal covenant to keep the commandments; Judgment; also related to the law of chastity
- And again it is written, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths; But verily, verily, I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; . . . But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil. (3 Nephi 12:33-37) Baptismal covenant to keep the commandments. (We don’t need to make oaths, we just need to keep our covenants.)
- And behold, it is written, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; (3 Nephi 12:38-39) Baptismal covenant to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with and comfort one another
- And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also; And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away. (3 Nephi 12:40-42) Baptismal covenant to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with and comfort one another; also related to the law of consecration
- And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good. (3 Nephi 12:43-45) Baptismal covenant to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with and comfort one another (regardless of personal differences)
Christ taught further, “Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new” (3 Nephi 12:46–47). As a part of this new law, Christ’s Sermon at the Temple, recorded in 3 Nephi, and His Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew, have been described as a “higher law” by President James E. Faust and others., These signature sermons of Jesus Christ teach how to live the law of the gospel in a higher way.
The suggestion that the teachings given in these sermons represent a higher approach to living the first principles of the gospel is borne out by what Christ said immediately after giving His sermon in Ancient America. He declared, “Whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day” (3 Nephi 15:1). This is similar to Christ’s later statement that mankind will be lifted up and judged as to how well they followed the principles of the gospel (see 3 Nephi 27:13–16). Christ then repeated that the old law was fulfilled and all things had become new, adding, “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life” (3 Nephi 15:9). To say “I am the law” emphasizes that we should follow the law of Christ, which is also called the law of the gospel or the doctrine of Christ. To say, “Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live” is to reiterate that we must follow the principles of the gospel to have eternal life. These principles begin with looking unto Christ in faith and end with enduring to the end, and they include the three steps in between: repentance, baptism, and following the Holy Ghost. Clearly, the Lord wanted us to know that the things he taught in His Sermon at the Temple are aligned with living the principles of the gospel.
The book of 3 Nephi ends with this invitation, which Mormon said Jesus Christ commanded him to write: “Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, . . . and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 30:2; emphasis added). From His announced arrival in Ancient America to the end of 3 Nephi, Jesus Christ repeatedly taught this new and higher law—the law of the gospel.
The book of 4 Nephi then proceeds to describe what can happen when an entire nation lives the law of the gospel. This record begins by stating, “Behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost. And . . . the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land” (4 Nephi 1:1–2; emphasis added). Adherence to the first principles and ordinances of the gospel is clearly delineated. The Nephite record then describes the impact that living these principles had upon the people:
And there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. . . . And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land. . . . And they . . .were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them. And they . . . did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord…
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. . . . But they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings. (4 Nephi 1:2–3, 7, 11–12, 15–16, 18)
These descendants of Lehi “could not be a happier people” (4 Nephi 1:16). This is the power of living the law of the gospel. It is the law by which Jesus and His disciples establish Zion in Ancient America. It includes supporting one another while living all of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a covenant way of life.
The Gospel or Doctrine of Jesus Christ
The gospel, which is also called the doctrine of Christ, is centered on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, including His Resurrection and the Judgment where He will declare that those who have followed the law of the gospel are redeemed from sin. This law assures salvation in the celestial kingdom for those who follow the path of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end.
We might question why the law of the gospel would be included as one of the temple covenants since it is a covenant that all members who go to the temple have already entered into when they were baptized. I believe that the answer lies in the level at which we are expected to live the law of the gospel. When we commit to keep this law at the time we are baptized, we are just starting out on the gospel path and we have a lot to learn, but when we commit to keep the law of the gospel as part of our temple covenants, we are committing to live it in a higher and holier way, including the principles taught by Jesus Christ in His Sermon at the Temple and His Sermon on the Mount.
The law of the gospel is a law of hope and optimism. God’s part in this covenant is a promise that because of Jesus Christ, for every death there will be a resurrection, for every sin there is a path to redemption, for every apostasy God has promised a restoration, and for every scattering of covenant people there will be a gathering. Like the law of gravity, which says that whatever goes up must come down, the law of the gospel says that because of Christ’s Atonement, whatever goes down must come up! For those who follow the doctrine of Christ, all bad will be overcome by good, all wrongs will be righted, and all darkness will be overpowered by light.
Near the end of his second book, Nephi made this concluding declaration about the gospel or doctrine of Christ: “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen” (2 Nephi 31:21). Understanding and following this doctrine is an important step in the covenant path that leads us back to God.
[Valiant K. Jones is the author of The Covenant Path: Finding the Temple in the Book of Mormon. This article includes excerpts from that book. For more information, see www.valiantjones.com and www.cedarfort.com.]
 David A. Bednar, “Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing,” Ensign, May 2019, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2019/05/prepared–to–obtain–every–needful–thing?lang=eng. Formatting modified.
 Similar to Alma, Paul gave this gospel instruction to the Romans on how to treat fellow Saints: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:10–15; emphasis added; see entire chapter).
 Ronald A. Rasband, “Standing by Our Promises and Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 2019, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2019/11/standing–by–our–promises–and–covenants/?lang=eng.
 Spencer W. Kimball, “Small Acts of Service,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1974/12/small–acts–of–service?lang=eng.
 Joseph Millett, Sr., Diary of Joseph Millett Sr., Journal and papers typescript 1852–1919, Joseph Millet journal and papers 1852–1932, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, dcms.churchofjesuschrist.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE11452259, file 72, minor edits included. Quoted by Boyd K. Packer in “A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church,” Ensign, May 1980, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1980/05/a–tribute–to–the–rank–and–file–of–the–church?lang=eng.
 This is not to say that the law of the gospel is equivalent to the United Order (which is sometimes also called the law of consecration). The United Order is but one social system under which some Saints have tried to live the law of the gospel; however, this law can be followed regardless of the social system in which people live. Indeed, Latter-day Saints can follow the law of the gospel within every government and social order they reside in throughout the world.
 James E. Faust, “The Surety of a Better Testament,” Ensign, Sept. 2003, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2003/09/the–surety–of–a–better–testament?lang=eng.
 Larry E. Dahl, “The Higher Law,” Ensign, Feb. 1991, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1991/02/the–higher–law?lang=eng.
 Monte S. Nyman. “How are we to look at the Beatitudes and make them useful in our lives?” Ensign, Dec. 1974, churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1974/12/i–have–a–question/how–are–we–to–look–at–the–beatitudes–and–make–them–useful–in–our–lives?lang=eng.
 The same could be said of all of the temple covenants. They all include principles we commit to when we are baptized, but when we promise to keep them as part of our temple covenants, we are recommitting with a promise to live them in a higher and holier way. For example, consider the law of obedience.