This morning I’m looking at Nephi’s “doctrine of Christ” in chapter 31 and what he might say there about salvation. He says,
11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall followthe Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongueof angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.
25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.
From what Nephi says in chapter 31, it seems he sees the basics of the gospel as repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and once you’ve received a remission of your sins and have that Holy Ghost, press forward and feast on His words and praise God and keep relying wholly on Christ. That’s the plan, the doctrine of Christ, the only doctrine of Christ. Therefore, when he here talks about the law, it seems to me that he sees it has supplementary, and he wants to make sure that the basic doctrine of Christ is not missed or overshadowed by the law. We are willing to do whatever God asks us to, and right now, for them, it was to keep the laws of the laws of Moses. But that in no way cancels out the basics of repentance, baptism, and Holy Ghost. The law of Moses is something to remind and point to the fact that we rely wholly on the merits of Christ. It supplements, not replaces, the doctrine of Christ. And he wants to make sure His people get that, both in his time, and also in the future time when Christ will come to teach His people.
Okay, after that little tangent, I’m still thinking of salvation. It seems from Chapter 31 that salvation is a matter of 1)wholly trusting Christ’s merits, 2)listening to whatever He asks, 3)this involves following His example in listening to whatever the Father asks, 4)this involves repenting and being baptized, 5)this sets up the opportunity to receive a remission of sins (I tend to hear the word remission as a relaxation/holding back/something’s currently gone with the potential of that being temporary, but checking dictionary.com I see that it can also mean that something is completely gone too), and 6)to receive the Holy Ghost. It appears that to Nephi these are the ways of life for a Christian, but not salvation in and of itself. That seems to be something that comes once God announces to us that we have eternal life, and that comes if we continue on the path opened up for us by baptism and by walking along with the Holy Ghost in that path.
So, if those two chapters (31 and 25) were taken together, and that’s a big IF, then it would seem to me that “after all we can do” would be something like “after we listen to the Father and the Son and repent and be baptized, and after we receive the Holy Ghost, and after we remain in that path enduring to the end and praising God and doing whatever the Holy Ghost and the words of Christ tell us to do, then our faith in those merits of Christ that we have relied on wholly the entire time will come to fruition with salvation/eternal life in the Kingdom of God. According to chapter 31, we rely wholly on Christ before and after we enter the path. In fact, his point seems to be that of course we know we relied on Christ to get to the gate – we heard the words of Christ and we believed and trusted them and so we came to that point. Some, it seems, thought that was it – but he makes the point that we never stop relying on the merits of Christ, that baptism is not an end but a point, a “gate.” After we enter in we keep relying on the words of Christ, and if we are truly sincere in our faith and love of Christ we keep doing what we did before, which was to listen to the words of Christ. If we keep doing that, then one day we will hear those words of Christ say to us that we have eternal life. Salvation que salvation seems to me to be that end point when we are told we have eternal life. But, we rely wholly upon Christ’s words (I still think that emphasis on words is interesting, and I like how it might be playing out in 2 Ne 25), all the way – from birth till death. So more in the way I talk, I might say say it is by grace that we hear the word, it is by grace that we know to be baptized, it is by grace that we are baptized, it is by grace that we receive the Holy Ghost, it is by grace that he keeps giving us more words to feast on, and it is by grace that we receive eternal life, having stayed on that path. We need Christ, His words, an His grace to get started, to enter through the gate, and to stay on that path. And it is by His grace that He will eventually bestow upon us the blessing of Eternal Life.
So it seems to me one possible and probable reading of the way Nephi writes about salvation. And if that is the case, then I think one could read 2 Ne 25:23 as saying that we know it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do, which is to repent, be baptized, and listen to the Holy Ghost as we endure to the end along the path. But looking at his writings I think it’s abundantly clear that grace is also how we got started on that path and how we endure. It is just also how we eventually receive the gift of eternal life, which I think is what Nephi means by salvation.
My thoughts so far anyway.