This category of posts is about the basic doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ that young people need to know in order to be effective missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

New Scripture Mastery Games

Scripture Mastery Activities ScreensLast week, new online Scripture Mastery games were announced by the Church. I was involved in this project, and so I’d like to take a minute to tell you about the new features of these wonderful online activities.

  • New Scripture Verses. The new activities contain the new scripture mastery verses. About 30% of the verses have been changed from what they used to be over the past several years. The new verses reflect prophetic direction regarding what the brethren feel are scriptures that teach the doctrines and principles that youth today need most to understand and apply in their lives.
  • Mobile Friendly. When we began the project to build the new online Scripture Mastery activities, we were given the requirement to make it so people could play the games on iPhones and iTouches, Android phones, Kindles, laptops, desktops, and just about any other device you can think of. The most economical way to make the games playable on so many devices was to make it a responsive (i.e. mobile friendly) website. (Responsive means it responds to the size of the screen of each device.)
  • Tracking Progress. The new activities have each user log in with their LDS Account, and then progress through the activities is tracked. Each activity has an easy, medium, hard, and mastery level of difficulty. Users can work their way through the activities and slowly increase their level of difficulty and have their progressed tracked. When they leave the activities, they can come back another time and pick up where they left off. And they will know when they have mastered the learning activities.
  • Languages. These new activities are available in ten languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Russian, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Making activities that worked in ten languages was not an easy challenge. For example, the much loved game with hints of the first letter of each word would not work in far eastern languages. We had to develop games that worked in both roman languages and those with more complex characters.
  • Purposes of Scripture Mastery. Perhaps most importantly, these new activities focus on the four purposes of Scripture Mastery.  The new Scripture Mastery activities website has three activities, one for Locate, Apply, and Memorize. A fourth activity for Understand is scheduled to come out next year. These activities will help youth not only memorize the scripture verses, but help them locate the scripture references, understand the doctrines and context of the scriptures, and apply the scriptures to their daily lives.

There are many more benefits of the new online Scripture Mastery games, but I can’t mention them all here. Go play them, though, and you will see for yourself. Enjoy!

The Atonement of Christ

Your purpose as a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them accept the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. If missionaries are to help other people receive salvation through the Atonement of Christ, then they really should understand it themselves. This article aims to help missionaries and future missionaries understand what the atonement of Jesus Christ is and how it applies to missionary work.

What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

President Russell M. Nelson, in his talk from the April 2017 General Conference called Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives, gave one of the best definitions I have heard of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He said, “As Latter-day Saints, we refer to His mission as the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which made resurrection a reality for all and made eternal life possible for those who repent of their sins and receive and keep essential ordinances and covenants.”

His mission is the Atonement of Jesus Christ Nelson

That’s it. It’s just that simple, yet that huge. The the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the mission of Jesus Christ. From start to finish, Jesus’ atonement is His mission and his mission was to be the Savior, to create this earth, to come to earth himself, to show us the way, to heal the sick, to teach the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, to offer himself as the great atoning sacrifice, and to be resurrected on the third day. And I would say Jesus’ mission is not over and continues today as He leads His restored Church on the earth and is paving the way for His second coming. Perhaps this is why some authors have called it the continuous atonement.

The Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

I think it is very important that we not to equate “the atoning sacrifice” of Our Savior with “the atonement” of Jesus Christ. Christ’s atonement includes much more than the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. The atoning sacrifice was certainly part of His atonement or mission, but it was not all of it. I don’t wish to diminish in any way those events and what He did for all humanity by suffering and dying and resurrecting for us. It is just that the the atonement of Jesus Christ includes more than the atoning sacrifice and I think it leads to confusion and limits our ability to draw the power of Jesus Christ into our lives when we misuse the terms.

President Russel M. Nelson, in the same talk referenced above, made some similar remarks to help us as a Church begin the process of better drawing on the power and blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ when he corrected our language around the use of the word atonement. He said:

It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as “the Atonement” or “the enabling power of the Atonement” or “applying the Atonement” or “being strengthened by the Atonement.” These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ….There is no amorphous entity called ‘the Atonement’ upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come” (Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives by President Russell M. Nelson).

“Atonement, an accepted theological term, comes from neither a Greek nor a Latin word, but is good old English and really does mean, when we write it out, “at-one-ment,” denoting both a state of being “at one” with another and the process by which that end is achieved.”

To atone, the root word of atonement, means both a state of being “at one” with God and the process by which that is achieved (see The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 1 by Hugh W. Nibley). Jesus taught that He and the Father are one and that each of us should be one with them (see John 17: 11, 21). In a miraculous and unfathomable way, Jesus Christ has made atonement for us and has made it possible, through His mission and atoning sacrifice, that we can be one with God some day. Because of Christ’s Atonement, all people will be resurrected and live forever, and those who obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel will receive the greatest of all gifts, eternal life with God (see Article of Faith 3.

The least understood of all our revealed truths

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important doctrine of the restored gospel, yet perhaps also the most difficult to comprehend. True understanding of this topic will only come after much study, meditation, and prayer. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“The atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived. May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement” (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane).

The Infinite Atonement

One of the reasons why the Atonement is difficult to be understood is that we are mortal beings with finite thinking, yet Christ’s Atonment is infinite. Amulek, the missionary companion of the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon, said: “there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.” (Alma 34:12) The prophet Jacob, the brother of Nephi, in the Book of Mormon also spoke of the infinite atonement:

“For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption.” (2 Nephi 9:6-7)

What is the Gospel? The Good News of Christ’s Atonement

The full-time missionary guide is called Preach My Gospel which begs the question, what is the gospel of Jesus Christ? The LDS Bible Dictionary says that the word “gospel” means good news and the good news, specifically, is “that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement.”

3 Nephi 27: 13-14 gives a similar definition of the gospel: “And this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father.”

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ died for us and atoned for our sins and has made it possible that we can repent and return to live with our Father in Heaven.

How the Atonement of Christ relates to missionary work

Atonement and Missionary Work Quotes from Hunter and NelsonElder Russell M. Nelson explained the relationship between understanding the Atonement of Christ and having a desire to serve a mission. “That is why we have missionaries; that is why we have temples—to bring the fullest blessings of the Atonement to faithful children of God. That is why we respond to our own calls from the Lord. When we comprehend His voluntary Atonement, any sense of sacrifice on our part becomes completely overshadowed by a profound sense of gratitude for the privilege of serving Him.” (The Atonement, Oct. 1996)

As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the “great . . . importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:8). Here are some examples of the natural desire to do missionary work growing as people come to understand the significance and blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

  • The Sons of Mosiah:  They desired to “go up to the land of Nephi that they might preach the things which they had heard, and that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites—That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God,…that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, …Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish.” (Mosiah 28: 1-3)
  • Lehi in his vision of the Tree of Life: “And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also.” (1 Nephi 8:11-12)
  • President Howard W. Hunter: “What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others. . . . A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.” (“The Atonement and Missionary Work,” seminar for new mission presidents, 21 June 1994)

Greater love hath no man

Heavenly Father and Jesus showed their love for all of mankind through the mission and atonement of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Charity is defined in the scriptures as the pure love of Christ. How was that loved manifested? The pure love of Christ is seen through the Savior’s willingness to pay the ultimate price and to make a selfless sacrifice to fulfill the Atonement.

I testify that Christ lived on this earth and performed the great atoning sacrifice. I know that through faith in him and by following his ways, we can be cleansed of our sins. This is the greatest miracle of all of God’s miracles. Through faith, repentance, baptism, and the other ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we can be made whole, worthy, and able to return to our Heavenly father’s presence and partake of the greatest gifts, exaltation and eternal life. I pray that all the young people reading this will study and pray and gain a testimony of the Atonement of Christ, and then show your love  and gratitude for the Lord by being a missionary and bringing souls unto Him.

How is the Next Prophet Chosen in the LDS Church?

Summary: Based on the authority bestowed by God and historical precedence, the senior apostle becomes the next prophet and president of the LDS Church when the current prophet dies.

President Thomas S. Monson

If the President of the LDS Church were to die, how is the next prophet chosen? This is an important doctrinal question and one that many missionaries will likely face in the course of their daily missionary work. Let’s discuss it.

Confusion at the Death of Joseph Smith

The first time the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had to face the issue of succession in the presidency was at the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph was the founder and president of the Church from its formation (see the revelation from the Lord in D&C section 20). After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, there was some confusion as to who should lead the Church. Sidney Rigdon, who had been a member of the First Presidency with Joseph Smith, was among those who claimed to be the next leader of the Church. Parley P. Pratt, an original member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, spoke of this time in his autobiography.

“I had loved Joseph with a warmth of affection indescribable for about fourteen years. …But now he was gone to the invisible world, and we and the Church of the Saints were left to mourn in sorrow and without the presence of our beloved founder and Prophet.” With many questions in his mind, Parley was making his way back to Nauvoo when “On a sudden the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable… The Spirit said unto me: ‘Lift up your head and rejoice; for behold! it is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum….Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in Church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twelve. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord which I have commanded them to build in Nauvoo.”

The Lord Chose Brigham Young to Be Joseph Smith’s Successor

Brigham Young appeared to be Joseph SmithSoon the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles did return to Nauvoo, and on August 8, 1844, the Lord showed to a gathering of the saints that Brigham Young, the president of that Quorum, was to be the new prophet and president of the Church. After Sidney Rigdon had spoken and made his case to be “guardian” of the Church, Brigham Young arose and addressed the congregation. George Q. Cannon described how in this moment, Brigham Young appeared and sounded like Joseph Smith in a miraculous manifestation from the Lord:

“It was the first sound of his voice [Brigham’s] which the people had heard since he had gone east on his mission, and the effect upon them was most wonderful. Who that was present on that occasion can ever forget the impression it made upon them! If Joseph had risen from the dead and again spoken in their hearing, the effect could not have been more startling than it was to many present at that meeting. It was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard; but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them. A more wonderful and miraculous event than was wrought that day in the presence of that congregation we never heard of. The Lord gave His people a testimony that left no room for doubt as to who was the man He had chosen to lead them. They both saw and heard with their natural eyes and ears, and then the words which were uttered came, accompanied by the convincing power of God, to their hearts, and they were filled with the Spirit and with great joy. There had been gloom, and, in some hearts probably, doubt and uncertainty; but now it was plain to all that here was the man upon whom the Lord had bestowed the necessary authority to act in their midst in Joseph’s stead” (“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Juvenile Instructor, Oct. 29, 1870, 174–75).

Doctrinal Basis of Church Leadership

Upon the death of Joseph Smith, the First Presidency, which consisted of president of the Church and his two counselors, was dissolved, but priesthood authority was not lost. Brigham Young, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, held the keys of the priesthood and had the authority necessary to lead the Church.  In D&C 107: 23-24, a revelation given to Joseph Smith, the Lord explained that the Quorum of the 12 held the same authority as the First Presidency: “The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.” (See also D&C 112:14–15, regarding the keys of the Quorum of the Twelve.)

In another revelation, the Lord affirmed that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds the priesthood keys, the same as the Savior’s apostles of old, to direct the Church: “And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (D&C 27: 12-13).

Brigham Young, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, began leading the Church from the time of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. In time, the First Presidency was reorganized under that authority, and new apostles were called to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the 12. And so it is today, if the prophet dies, the First Presidency is dissolved. Presiding authority to lead the Church remains with the Quorum of the 12 and the senior apostle becomes the new Church President.

Succession in the Presidency of the LDS Church

Since the time of the Brigham Young, the choosing of the next prophet and president of the Church has happened in a similar fashion. Here is the process, in more detail, as outlined in the Mormon Newsroom article called Succession in the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “When the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints passes away, the following events take place:

  1. The First Presidency is automatically dissolved.
  2. The two counselors in the First Presidency revert to their places of seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Seniority is determined by the date on which a person was ordained to the Twelve, not by age.
  3. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, … headed by the senior apostle, assumes Church leadership.
  4. The senior apostle presides at a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve to consider two alternative propositions: Should the First Presidency be reorganized at this time? Should the Church continue to function with the Quorum of the Twelve presiding?
  5. After discussion, a formal motion is made and accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  6. If a motion to reorganize the First Presidency is passed, the Quorum of the Twelve unanimously selects the new president of the Church. The new president chooses two counselors and the three of them become the new First Presidency. Throughout the history of the Church, the longest-serving apostle has always become the president of the Church when the First Presidency has been reorganized.
  7. Following the reorganization of the First Presidency, the apostle who has served the second longest is sustained as the president of the Quorum of the Twelve…
  8. The president of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with the rest of the apostles, sets apart the new president of the Church through a formal laying on of hands.

The Lord Is In Charge of Who Leads the Church as Prophet

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe the the Lord Jesus Christ is at the head of our church and is firmly in charge of who leads it on the earth. The authority exists to provide continuous priesthood keys on the earth, and an orderly pattern has been established. We believe that with the Lord in charge, He will not let the wrong person become our Church President. Here is the testimony of some of our modern prophets on the Lord being in charge of who becomes the next prophet:

  • President Harold B. Lee, 11th president of the Church, explained: “[The Lord] knows whom he wants to preside over this church, and he will make no mistake. The Lord doesn’t do things by accident. He has never done anything accidentally” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 153; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 127).
  • President Ezra Taft Benson, 13th president of the Church, taught that “God knows all things, the end from the beginning, and no man becomes president of the church of Jesus Christ by accident, or remains there by chance, or is called home by happenstance” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 16–17).
  • President Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of the Church, explained that each member of the Quorum of the Twelve “holds the keys of this dispensation in latent reserve. Inherent in that divine residual is the assured ongoing leadership of the Church” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 4; or Ensign, May 1983, 6).

Though we often refer to the president of the Church as “The Prophet”, it is important to remember that we sustain all the apostles in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators. I know that these brethren have been called by God and have the priesthood authority necessary to lead the Lord’s Church. It is a beautiful process to see how smooth the transition is from one president of the church to the next. It is a process ordained by God and guided by Him.

For much more information on this subject, see the Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Manual, 2015, Chapter 23: Succession in the Presidency.

Repentance Process and Steps

washing hands to get cleanA frequent question I receive from young readers is regarding the repentance process. In many of these cases, the young people have developed their testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and they desire to serve a mission. Upon reflection of their past actions, though, they realize they have committed serious sins that need to be cleared up, so they can be worthy to go. In many cases, they are wondering if they will ever be able to go on a mission. In either case, they are seeking encouragement to begin the repentance process.

Some serious sins can prevent you from ever serving a mission. Your bishop is the one who determines that. But whether or not you have committed serious transgressions, like serious violations of the law of chastity, we all make mistakes and need to utilize the repentance process. The ability to repent and become cleansed of our transgressions is a wonderful gift from our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Because the Savior performed the great atoning sacrifice and suffered for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, we can repent, change our ways, be forgiven, and be made clean and worthy before God. We all need to repent in order to be worthy to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

Missionaries are called to teach faith, repentance, and baptism, so you future missionaries will need to be familiar with the steps of repentance in order to teach them effectively. Here is what God requires for full and complete repentance, as taught in the scriptures and by living prophets:

Steps of Repentance

  1. Faith to rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You must have faith that through prayer you can communicate with God and receive your Heavenly Father‘s help to repent and know that He has forgiven you. You must have faith that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you can be cleansed and forgiven. “Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you” (Alma 34:17).
  2. Sorrow for committing the sin (godly sorrow). Sorrow for sin comes from acknowledging that you have sinned and feeling godly sorrow for having committed the sin. Godly sorrow means that you feel such remorse for having sinned that it causes your heart to break with sadness for what you have done. You realize that you caused the Savior to suffer and bleed at every pore, and you are heartbroken for that. Godly sorrow gives you a sincere desire to change and a willingness to submit to every requirement for forgiveness. It is different from the natural consequences of sin or fear of getting caught. Alma counseled his son Corianton: “Let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).
  3. Confession. Confession is telling Heavenly Father through sincere prayer all that you have done wrong and expressing sorrow and a desire to repent and receive His forgiveness. You must confess to those you have injured or wronged. Serious sins, such as breaking the law of chastity, need to be confessed to your bishop or branch president. The Lord has promised, “I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” (D&C 61:2).
  4. Abandonment of sin (forsaking the sin). You must abandon the sin by turning away from it, never doing it again, and regretting that you ever did it. Forsaking the sin is to cease sinning, to resolve never to commit it again, and to stay away from the situations where you may be tempted to repeat the sin. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).
  5. Restitution (seeking to restore the damage as far as possible). You must seek to restore as far as possible all that has been damaged by your sins. For example, a thief should give back what he has stolen. A liar should make the truth known. As we do these things, God will not mention our sins to us when we are judged (see Ezekiel 33:15-16).
  6. Righteous living (living a life of obedience). It is not enough simply to stop sinning—you must have a change of heart which brings a desire to fill your life with righteousness and engage in activities which bring spiritual power. You must strive throughout your life to obey all gospel teachings, not just the commandment you broke. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (D&C 1:32).

While I have given a list of six specific steps here to help young people begin the process of repentance, please remember that to repent is not something that you can superficially do by checking off some boxes in a checklist. This is what Elder D. Todd Christofferson said in General Conference a few years ago: “Repentance requires a seriousness of purpose and a willingness to persevere, even through pain. Attempts to create a list of specific steps of repentance may be helpful to some, but it may also lead to a mechanical, check-off-the-boxes approach with no real feeling or change. True repentance is not superficial.” (The Divine Gift of Repentance, D. Todd Christofferson, October 2011)

How long will the repentance process take?

Repentance is a life long process, so we should never stop repenting, leaving behind our mistakes, and coming unto Jesus Christ. Everyone will continue to make mistakes throughout their earthly life, and thanks to the mercy and grace of God, there is no limit to the amount of times a person can sincerely and fully repent (Matt 18:21-22 and Mosiah 26:30). However, when young people often ask me how long the repentance process will take, what they mean is, how long will they have to go without some of the privileges of Church membership after they have committed serious sin? Privileges like taking the sacrament each week, holding a calling, going to the temple, and going on a full-time mission.

The LDS Church Handbook for bishops and stake presidents says that a person who has been guilty of serious violation of the law of chastity must fully repent before they can go on a mission and partake of the other privileges mentioned above. The bishop and stake president have the responsibility to confirm that the person is free from serious transgression for a sufficient time to make sure they have manifested true repentance (see D&C 107: 72). This period can be as long as three years for multiple serious transgressions and should not be less than one year from the most recent serious incident.


May the Lord guide you and direct you through the promptings of His Holy Spirit as you go through the repentance process. Forgiveness is a supremely wonderful blessing for those that repent. Remember that because of the death and suffering of our Savior Jesus Christ, his atoning sacrifice, and by following His prescribed ordinances, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Saving Ordinances

Mormon BaptismThe 3rd Article of Faith states that “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” For a lot of young future missionaries, this statement begs the question: What is an ordinance?

Ordinance Defined

In the LDS Church, we define an ordinance as a sacred, formal ceremony with deep spiritual meaning performed by the authority of the priesthood. The 4th Article of Faith mentions some of these ordinances. “We believe that the first … ordinances of the Gospel are…Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins [and] Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Some ordinances, called saving ordinances, are essential to an individual’s salvation. Other ordinances, while not essential to salvation, nevertheless bless our lives and gives us comfort, encouragement, and guidance in life. Doctrine and Covenants 84:20 teaches us that “in the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest.”

Saving ordinances include:

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation (the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost)
  • Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men)
  • The temple endowment and initiatory ordinances
  • Marriage sealing (temple marriage)

Other ordinances, also performed by priesthood authority but not essential for our salvation, are:

  • Naming and blessing children
  • Partaking of the Sacrament
  • Consecrating oil for administering to the sick
  • Administering to the sick and afflicted
  • Father’s blessings of comfort and counsel
  • Patriarchal blessings
  • Dedicating a grave

It will be your purpose as a missionary to bring the people of the world those first saving ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost through confirmation. With each of these saving ordinances, we enter into a solemn covenant with God where we make promises to obey His commandments and God, in turn, promises us salvation and exaltation if we are faithful. Ordinances and covenants help remind us who we are and of our duty to God. The Lord has provided ordinances to help us come unto Him and receive eternal life. When we honor our covenants, He strengthens us spiritually.

Understanding the Importance Saving Ordinances

In the Seminary Basic Doctrines document section 4 on The Atonement of Jesus Christ it says, “Through the Atonement those who repent, obey the commandments, receive the saving ordinances, and keep their covenants will overcome spiritual death and receive the gift of eternal life.”

Basic Doctrines section 8, First Principcles and Ordinances, says, “Baptism by immersion in water by one having authority is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptism is also necessary for a person to enter the celestial kingdom.” This is consistent with what Jesus taught in John 3:5, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Saving Ordinances for the Dead in Temples

Apia Samoa TempleBefore closing, I should mention one more thing about saving ordinances: In our holy temples, we perform the saving ordinances on behalf of our deceased family and friends. Former Church President Howard W. Hunter said, “it is pleasing to the Lord when we worthily go to the temple to perform these same saving ordinances for those who have died, many of whom eagerly await the completion of these ordinances in their behalf” (“A Temple-Motivated People,” Ensign, Mar 2004, 38–44). And this is what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said about saving ordinances, missionary work, and temples:

“More than 2,000 years or so ago there was one temple in the Old World and two or three temples in Book of Mormon history, but now temples are multiplying so rapidly we can hardly count them! Add the miracle of the computer, which helps us document our family histories and perform saving ordinances for our dead. Add modern transportation, which allows General Authorities to circle the globe and personally bear witness of the Lord to all the Saints in all the lands. Add that where we cannot go we can now “send,” as the scriptures say, with satellite broadcasts (see D&C 84:62)” (“This, the Greatest of All Dispensations,” Ensign, Jul 2007, 52–58).

Introduction to Basic Doctrines

Earlier this year, I began working for the LDS Church Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. In this job, I learned about the Seminary Basic Doctrines–11 statements on some of the most fundamental and important doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These doctrinal statements were formulated for a couple of reasons:

  • One reason for the basic doctrines is to help emphasize the objective of Seminary and Institute (S&I) to teachers and students. The purpose is, in part, “to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. … We teach students the doctrines and principles of the gospel as found in the scriptures and the words of the prophets.” (from the Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion)
  • Another reason for the basic doctrines is to better prepare future missionaries to teach the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A few years ago, the question was asked of S&I, what can be done to better prepare missionaries to teach from the heart, by the Spirit, using their own words. Part of the answer was to have S&I help the students gain a clear understanding of basic doctrines including the plan of salvation, the Atonement of Christ, the Apostasy and Restoration of the true Church. (See the S&I Teaching and Learning Emphasis)

I couldn’t agree more that one of the best things future missionaries can do to prepare for the mission field is to strengthen their knowledge and testimony of the basic doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in the coming weeks and months, I plan to devote several posts to explaining and testifying of the basic gospel doctrines.

Basic Doctrines from LDS Seminary and Institutes of ReligionThe Basic Doctrines can be found on the Church’s Seminary website. There you can read these doctrinal statements or download a five-page PDF of the Basic Doctrines. For your convenience, below I also summarize the Basic Doctrines.

1. The Godhead
There are three separate personages in the Godhead: God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (see Acts 7:55-56). The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22-23). They are one in purpose and doctrine. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.

2. Plan of Salvation
In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father introduced a plan to enable us to become like Him and obtain immortality and eternal life (see D&C 14:7; Moses 1:39). The scriptures refer to this plan as the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of mercy. The plan of salvation includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and all of the laws, ordinances, and doctrines of the gospel. Moral agency-the ability to choose and act for ourselves-is also essential in Heavenly Father’s plan. Because of this plan, we can be perfected through the Atonement, receive a fulness of joy, and live forever in the presence of God. Our family relationships can last throughout the eternities.

3. Creation and Fall
Heavenly Father is the Supreme Creator. Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth under the direction of the Father. The earth was not created from nothing; it was organized from existing matter. Jesus Christ has created worlds without number. The creation of an earth was essential to God’s plan. It provided a place where we could gain a physical body, be tested and tried, and develop divine attributes.

…Adam and Eve’s transgression and the resultant changes, including spiritual and physical death, are called the Fall. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam and Eve not to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the consequence of doing so would be spiritual and physical death. Spiritual death is separation from God. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the mortal body.

4. Atonement of Jesus Christ
To atone is to suffer the penalty for sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all mankind. His Atonement included His suffering for the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shedding of His blood, His suffering and death on the cross, and His Resurrection from the tomb (see Isaiah 53:3-5; D&C 19:16-19). The Savior was able to carry out the Atonement because He kept Himself free from sin and had power over death. From His mortal mother, He inherited the ability to die. From His immortal Father, He inherited the power to take up His life again.

5. Dispensation, Apostasy, and Restoration
A dispensation is a period of time when the Lord reveals His gospel doctrines, ordinances, and priesthood. It is a period in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the holy priesthood and who has a divine commission to dispense the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth. The dispensation of the fulness of times is the final dispensation. It began with the revelation of the gospel to Joseph Smith.

…When people turn away from the principles of the gospel and do not have priesthood keys, they are in a state of apostasy. Periods of general apostasy have occurred throughout the history of the world. One example is the Great Apostasy, which occurred after the Savior established His Church (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). After the deaths of the Savior’s Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances.

…The Restoration is God’s reestablishment of the truths and ordinances of His gospel among men on earth (see Isaiah 29:13-14; Revelation 14:6-7)…. The Restoration began in 1820 when God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in response to his prayer (see Joseph Smith-History 1:15-20).

6. Prophets
A prophet is a person who has been called by God to speak for Him (see Amos 3:7). Prophets testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God’s will and true character. They denounce sin and warn of its consequences. At times, they prophesy of future events. We sustain the President of the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator and the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators (see D&C 1:38).

7. Priesthood
The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth. This authorization comes from those leaders who hold priesthood keys.

8. First Principles and Ordinances
“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” (Articles of Faith 1:4).

9. Ordinances and Covenants
In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act that has spiritual meaning. Each ordinance was designed by God to teach spiritual truths. The ordinances of salvation are performed by the authority of the priesthood and under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Some ordinances are essential to exaltation and are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.

…A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and man. God gives the conditions for the covenant, and we agree to do what He asks us to do; God then promises us certain blessings for our obedience (see D&C 82:10; 84:33-39). All the saving ordinances of the priesthood are accompanied by covenants.

10. Commandments
Commandments are the laws and requirements that God gives to mankind. We manifest our love for Him by keeping His commandments (see John 14:15). Keeping the commandments will bring blessings from the Lord (see D&C 130:20-21). The two most basic commandments are “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…And…love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).

11. Marriage and Family
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and “the family is central” to His plan of salvation and happiness. “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Parents are “to multiply and replenish the earth,” “to rear their children in love and righteousness,” and “to provide for their physical and spiritual needs.” “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other.” “Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness,” and “to provide the necessities of life.” “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” (See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.)