Church History Lesson 07 (Topical Lesson)
This lesson is topical—it draws from scriptures throughout the Doctrine and Covenants to help us understand the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
We must remember the circumstances of the early Restored Church to fully appreciate the importance of the revelations quoted in this lesson.
— Everyone was a convert.
— Nobody knew anything at all about how the Church of Christ should function.
— Dozens of revelations had been received about entirely new subjects.
— Members needed to set aside beliefs and practices from their previous churches.
— Members also needed to understand the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
— This included their relationship to the Father and the Son, and also the Atonement.
THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE GOSPEL
Jesus Christ Is Our Lord
D&C 19 was given some time in March, 1830 in Manchester, New York. Martin Harris had come to Joseph Smith seeking to know his standing before the Lord. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It was without question a revelation of great comfort to Martin, and it is one of the great revelations given in this dispensation; there are few of greater import than this. The doctrine of the Atonement of the Lord, as directly applying to the individual, and his exposition of ‘Eternal Punishment,’ as here set forth, gave to the members of the Church light which was not previously known.”1
● Five different names of the Lord (D&C 19:1–3).
— Alpha and Omega. The first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet, used as symbols of the beginning and the ending. Christ is so called, because He is the Author and the Preserver of all things (Heb. 1:2, 10).
— Christ the Lord. “Christ” means “anointed.” Prophets, priests, and Kings were anointed, and our Lord unites all these offices in Him. He is the anointed Lord. The Greek word Christ is the same as the Hebrew Messiah (Mashiac), the title used in John 1:41, and 4:25.
— I am He. This is equivalent to the name “Jehovah” (D&C 18:21).
— The Beginning and the End. He was in the beginning and will remain throughout all eternities. He is endless (v. 4).
— The Redeemer of the World. Christ is our Redeemer. He delivers those who turn to Him from the bondage of sin and guilt. He has ‘bought’ us (I. Cor: 6:20; 7:23; II. Pet. 2:1). And the world will in due time be delivered from the power of Satan, from sin and all its consequences, such as war, poverty, ignorance, sickness, and even death.
● Christ suffered death and the pain of all men in order to save us, and rejoices whenever men repent (D&C 18:11–13).
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
● We strengthen our faith gradually, not through a single experience (D&C 19:23). We must nurture our faith constantly to keep it strong.
● Without faith we can accomplish nothing (D&C 8:10).
● With faith, we can exercise and enjoy all of the gifts of the Spirit (D&C 35:9).
● With faith, we can be healed (D&C 42:48–51).
● Signs cannot produce faith, but will be shown to those who already have faith (D&C 63:9–11).
● The “shield of faith” will protect us against the “fiery darts of the wicked” (D&C 27:15–18).
Sincere Repentance and the Atonement
● “I command you to repent” (D&C 19:21).
Daniel H. Ludlow said, “The heading of this section  of the Doctrine and Covenants indicates that it is ‘A Commandment of God’ rather than referring to it only as a ‘revelation’ as is the usual format. Section 19 might thus be referred to as a revelatory commandment, for the revelation. contains not only instruction but also a definite and clear commandment —to repent: I command you to repent’ (verse 15), ‘I command you again to repent’ (verse 20), ‘I command you that you preach naught but repentance’ (verse 21). When the doctrine of repentance is fully understood, then it. is seen that repentance is all that ever needs to be taught, for repentance means. not only to stop doing those things which are wrong but also to start doing those things which are right.”2
● The terrible reality of Christ’s suffering (D&C 19:13–20).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“We cannot comprehend the great suffering that the Lord had to take upon himself to bring to pass this redemption from death and from sin. . . .
“We get into the habit of thinking, I suppose, that his great suffering was when he was nailed to the cross by his hands and his feet and was left there to suffer until he died. As excruciating as that pain was, that was not the greatest suffering that he had to undergo, for in some way which I cannot understand, but which I accept on faith, and which you must accept on faith, he carried on his back the burden of the sins of the whole world. It is hard enough for me to carry my own sins. How is it with you? And yet he had to carry the sins of the whole world, as our Savior and the Redeemer of a fallen world, and so great was his suffering before he ever went to the cross, we are informed, that blood oozed from the pores of his body.”3
Elder James E. Talmage said:
“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. . . .He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcameall the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world.”4
● To repent, we must confess and forsake our sins and turn away from evil (D&C 58:42–43). If we do, the Lord will not only forgive us but will forget that we even sinned at all.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Repentance is a rescuing, not a dour doctrine. It is available to the gross sinner as well as to the already good individual striving for incremental improvement.”5
Elder Richard G. Scott said the elements of repentance are:
“Sorrow for sin. [This will] bring a sincere desire for change and a willingness to submit to every requirement for forgiveness . . .
“Abandonment of sin. This is an unyielding, permanent resolve to not repeat the transgression. . . .
“Confession of sin. You always need to confess your sins to the Lord. If they are serious transgressions, such as immorality, they need to be confessed to a bishop or stake president. . . .
“Restitution for sin. You must restore as far as possible all that which is stolen, damaged, or defiled. . . .
“Obedience to all the commandments. Full obedience brings the complete power of the gospel into your life. . . . It includes things you might not initially consider part of repentance, such as attending meetings, paying tithing, giving service, and forgiving others. . . .
“Recognition of the Savior. Of all the necessary steps to repentance, I testify that the most critically important is for you to have a conviction that forgiveness comes because of the Redeemer.”6
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. . . True repentance is based on and flows from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way. True repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior (Alma 5:13).”7
The Essential Ordinance of Baptism
● Baptism is a requirement for salvation (D&C 18:22).
● The qualifications a person must meet to be baptized (D&C 20:37).
● Baptism must be done by someone holding proper authority (D&C 22).
● Baptism must be performed by immersion, using an ordinance with set words (D&C 20:72–74).
● Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (D&C 76:51).
● It also symbolizes the burial of our old self and our rebirth in Christ (John 3:3–5).
● It also symbolizes a washing—being cleansed from our sins (Romans 6:3–4).
● Why is it not appropriate to baptize a person before he or she reaches age eight? ( (D&C 20:71; 29:46–47; 68:25).
Confirmation and the Gift of the Holy Ghost
● After baptism by water, Church members must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost through the ordinance of confirmation (D&C 35:5–6; 33:15).
● This ordinance is also called the “baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost” (D&C 20:41).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without . . . the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”8
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “Manifestations of the Holy Ghost are given to lead sincere seekers to gospel truths that will persuade them to repentance and baptism. The gift of the Holy Ghost is more comprehensive. . . . [It] includes the right to constant companionship, that we may `always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77).”9
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “[The manifestations of the Holy Ghost that a person can receive before baptism can be compared to flashes of lightning that “[blaze] forth in a dark and stormy night,” [while the Gift of the Holy Ghost that a person receives after baptism is like[ “the continuing blaze of the sun at noonday, shedding its rays on the path of life and on all that surrounds it.”10
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The Holy Ghost will not dwell with that person who is unwilling to obey and keep the commandments of God or who violates those commandments willfully.”11
● We obtain the Spirit through faithfulness and prayer (D&C 19:28, 38).
● Some of the functions of the Holy Ghost include:
— He is the Comforter (D&C 39:6).
— He is a teacher (D&C 39:6).
— He is a testifier (D&C 42:17; 100:8).
— He leads us to do good, walk humbly, and judge righteously (D&C 11:12).
— He enlightens our minds and fills our souls with joy (D&C 11:13; 76:10).
— Through Him we are sanctified (D&C 84:33).
— He inspires us in where to go, what to do, and what to say (D&C 31:11; 75:27; 84:85).
Enduring to the End
● If we keep the commandments and endure to the end, we will be saved (D&C 14:7).
● Enduring to the end includes being patient and faithful during the trials of life (D&C 24:8).
1. Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [1946–1949], 1:85.
2. A Companion to your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:143.
3. In Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 147–148.
4. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 613.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 30.
6. In Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 102; or Ensign, May 1995, 76–77.
7. The Teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson , 71.
8. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 314.
9. In Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 80; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 60.
10. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 12th ed. , 262.
11. Church News, 4 Nov. 1961, 14.