Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Friday, February 1, 2019

“Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”





Scripture references have been highlighted in red and are hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window. Please click to read! Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end of the blog


Have you read in the New Testament this week?  If so what is something you did because of what you read?  I did read in the New Testament this week and because of what I read, I deeply wanted to attend the Temple and do work for those who cannot do it themselves.  So I spent time with family history and a Temple trip.  

When we read the lessons each week they are much like preparing for the visit of an important guest? When we know someone important is coming to our home we clean and/or cook, we wash and dress, we make things ready.  It is the same when studying the New Testament, it prepares us and helps us to learn and have a desire for what we need to do.  It makes us ready for the coming of the Lord; a very important guest.  

This week we read  Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3.   These chapters deal with John the Baptist and preparing the way of the Lord.  We have talked previous of Matthew and Luke and the importance of the study of their books; following which we covered John 1 Come and See.  Today we introduce Mark in completing the four gospels that begin the New Testament with testimonies of Jesus the Christ and his life.  


Why Study the Four Gospels? Elder Bruce R. McConkie has made the following statement concerning the four Gospels: "It is apparent . . . that each inspired author had especial and intimate knowledge of certain circumstances not so well known to others, and that each felt impressed to emphasize different matters because of the particular people to whom he was addressing his personal gospel testimony." 

Each Gospel is like a facet of a diamond that brightens and highlights the picture of Jesus Christ that we receive. Just as a diamond would be terribly uninteresting without its facets, so also would the picture of Jesus be flat and one-dimensional without the composite picture of Him that is presented when the four Gospels are brought together. All bear witness of Jesus Christ and teach the plan of salvation but each with a slightly different clarity. 

In His three years' ministry, Jesus walked and talked with numerous people in a wide range of situations. He gave many public sermons as well as considerable private instruction to His disciples. He met in highly charged situations with the religious leaders of His day. He spoke to prince and pauper, priest and peasant, saint and sinner. No one was so exalted that Jesus was intimidated by him, nor was anyone so insignificant that Jesus did not have time for him or her. Women and children had a special place in His heart and ministry, something that was not common in the Judaism of His day.2

Jesus taught about an immense range of subjects. He dealt with the nature and purposes of God, the plan of salvation, the nature of human destiny, the morality of the kingdom, and many other issues. Much of His teaching among the crowds was done in parables, not merely to put the message in an understandable form but also to hide the message from those who were not yet spiritually prepared to comprehend it (see Matthew 13:10–15; Mark 4:10–12; Luke 8:9–10). Later, in private, He also told His disciples in clear language what the parables meant (see Matthew 13:18; Mark 4:13; Luke 8:11). Thus He chose what He would say to whom and how He would say it, depending upon the hearer's ability to understand.3 

John tells us that in the scriptures we have far from all that Jesus said or did (see John 21:25). Yet we have that which the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, guided the Gospel writers to preserve in preparation for the fulness of times in the latter days. No one Gospel portrait of the Lord is complete in itself, but as we encounter Christ and His teachings in all the Gospels, we will come to know Him better.   (New Testament Sperry Symposium) 

Who was Matthew, Luke and John?  Who we previously covered, the following links teach of Matthew, Luke and John:  Breaking it down Matthew 1/Luke 1  Luke 2/ Matthew 2  John 1 Come and See.

Who Was Mark? 
Mark was an interpreter of Peter and served as his companion 1 Peter 5:13.  He was not one of Jesus' disciples, he was the John Mark (Mark was also called John Mark), whose mother's home in Jerusalem served as a meeting place for early disciples (Acts 12:12-17) and who later accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey to Cyprus and Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 12:25-13:13).  Mark grew up in Jerusalem, and was thought to be young when Jesus came there before his crucifixion, and was therefore probably not among Jesus' Galilean disciples.

The Book of Mark
Mark wrote his Gospel based on what he learned from Peter. Early Christian sources state that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome, perhaps shortly after the Apostle Peter suffered martyrdom in about A.D. 64. Most scholars today believe that the Gospel of Mark was written between A.D. 66 and A.D. 73.

The book of Mark seems intended for an audience made up primarily of Romans and people from other Gentile nations, as well as those who were converted to Christianity, most likely in Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. Many believe Mark may have been with Peter in Rome during a period marked by severe trials of faith to many members of the Church.

Even though over 90 percent of the material in Mark is also found in Matthew and Luke, Mark’s account often includes additional details that help us more fully appreciate the Savior’s compassion and the responses of people around Him.  Mark is the only Gospel that relates the parable of the seed growing by itself Mark 4:26–27, the healing of a deaf person in the Decapolis region  Mark 7:31–37, and the gradual healing of a blind man at Bethsaida Mark 8:22–26.

Mark, more than the other Gospel writers, recorded the disciples’ shortcomings  Mark 4:36–41; 6:52; 8:14–21. The disciples’ weaknesses stand in contrast to their great faith and successes, which are depicted in the book of Acts, helping us appreciate the transformation brought about by the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Among the important themes in Mark are the question of who Jesus was and who understood His identity, the Messiah’s role as a suffering servant, and the disciple’s role as one who must “take up his cross, and follow Jesus” (Mark 8:34).

Part 1:  John the Baptist prepares the way
The Jews had waited centuries for the coming of the Messiah, who, according to prophecy, would be their anointed King and Deliverer. The Greek word for Messiah is Christ. Jesus Christ was the long-awaited Messiah, and John the Baptist was the prophet sent to prepare the way for him.  

Disciples prepare themselves and others to receive Jesus Christ

Centuries before John’s birth, many prophets foresaw his ministry and testified of his greatness as the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah Isaiah 40:3; 1 Nephi 10:7–10. In preparation for John’s ministry, the angel Gabriel announced John’s forthcoming birth Luke 1:13–19, Zacharias prophesied on the day of John’s naming and circumcision Luke 1:67–79, and an angel ordained eight-day-old John to his mission D&C 84:27–28. The crowning statement of John’s greatness came from the Savior himself, who said, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” Luke 7:28.

John was born about six months before Jesus. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Herod, feeling threatened by the announcement that a new king of the Jews had been born, “slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” Matthew 2:16. To protect Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and directed him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt Matthew 2:13–15. To protect John, “Zacharias caused [Elisabeth] to take him into the mountains, where he was raised on locusts and wild honey” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 261). John began his public ministry many years later, first preaching in the wilderness and then in Jerusalem and “all the region round about Jordan” Matthew 3:5.

What was John the Baptist’s mission? Luke 1:76–79; 3:3–4.

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.


Why do you think it was important that someone prepare the way of the Lord? 


What message did John preach?  Matthew 3:1–12; Mark 1:1–8; Luke 3:2–18

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan,

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judæa, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
6 And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.


Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees? Through study and understanding of the sects of the time of Christ, we can develop greater insight into the Savior’s life and teachings, as well as an understanding of the mission, testimony and teachings of John the Baptist.  Following are list of the sects of time.  Most of the Jews during Christ’s time were somewhat religious, although most were not directly affiliated with any particular religious group. The total Palestinian population was probably about 500,000. Josephus records that 6,000 were Pharisees, 4,000 were Essenes, and the Sadducees were not very numerous. Thus, although most Jews were influenced by the sects, they lived outside their ranks. 

1. The Samaritans:  At the time of Jesus, the Jews and the Samaritans were two mutually antagonistic communities. (See Luke 9:52–56.) The Jews refused to consider the Samaritans as Israelites, mostly because of political and religious reasons. The Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch as the only inspired scripture, and they offered their sacrifices on Mount Gerizim rather than in Jerusalem. But these religious differences could have been bridged, since other Judean groups had been permitted to profess similar views without being excommunicated.

The primary cause for hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans was the political schism that split Solomon’s kingdom in two. Centuries later animosity continued, even as Jews returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. (See Ezra 4:1–10.)

The Samaritans originated from a mixture of people living in Samaria and others who migrated into the area following the 721 B.C. conquest of Samaria by Assyria. (See 2 Kgs. 17.) The chronicles of the Samaritans stress they were direct descendants of the Joseph tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Strong rivals of the Jews, they occupied territory in central Palestine, where their own high priest supervised sacrifices offered on Mount Gerizim.

They were often persecuted along with the Jews during the Persian and Greek eras, but gained more favorable status than the Jews as the Romans gained control of Palestine. The Romans later helped the Samaritans rebuild their temple to reward them for fighting against Jewish zealots. Another sign of Samaritan influence during Christ’s time is apparent in the fact that Herod, the king of the Jews, ruled from a Samarian capital and had a Samaritan as one of his wives.

After the Romans expelled the Jews from Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Samaritans remained in Palestine, where they maintained their communities through the following Christian and Moslem eras. Today, a few hundred of them still reside in Israel. (See Facts About Israel, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, 1970, p. 69, and LaMar C. Berrett, Discovering the World of the Bible, Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah, 1973, p. 323.)


2. The Zealots:  The Zealots were a group of Jewish nationalists who strongly opposed Roman rule. The Zealot movement stemmed from the action of Judah (Judas) the Galilean, who believed theocracy should be the law of the land and Jews should not pay tribute to Rome nor acknowledge the emperor as their master. Judah was apparently killed in the suppression of this revolt. (See Acts 5:37.) His followers took to the deserts, where they maintained a guerrilla resistance against the Romans.

One of Christ’s apostles, Simon, was a Zealot (see Luke 6:15), indicating that Zealot principles were not inconsistent with the church. Christ was later associated with Zealot activities at his Roman trial when his fate was linked with that of Barabbas, who had led a recent insurrection against the Romans. (See Mark 15:7.) Christ was crucified between two lestai. (See Mark 15:27; John 19:18.) Since lestai was the official Greek designation for Zealots, the Romans probably viewed Jesus as a Zealot leader.

The Zealots increased their activities in the years following Christ’s death, seizing the temple in 66 A.D. The Romans forcibly crushed this revolt and destroyed Jerusalem (and the temple) in 70 A.D. Shortly after this, the Zealots made their last and fateful stand against Roman rule as they defended their garrison at Masada, a desert plateau near the Dead Sea, holding off the Roman army for over a year.



3. PublicansOriginally Publicans (publicani) were men who served in the public works or farmed public lands for the Roman government. They later became known as professional tax farmers, who made their profits from the excess taxes they collected. The right to collect taxes was sold at public auctions to private corporations of Publicans who gave the highest bid. Since the Publicans were native Jews of Palestine, they were detested, ostracized, and often excommunicated by most Jewish groups. But some Publicans, such as Matthew, received the gospel very readily, and Jesus associated frequently with them. (See Matt. 9:9–10; Matt. 21:31–32; Mark 2:15.)

4. Scribes:
  The Scribes performed secretarial services for the many who were unable to read and write. Jewish Scribes were well versed in the laws of Moses, making them the spiritual and temporal legal counselors of the period. Most Scribes were Pharisees, so Jesus frequently referred to them in connection with the Pharisees. Some others were affiliated with the Sadducees and other religious groups.

5. Sadducees:  The Sadducees were an aristocratic, priestly class of Jews, influential in the temple and the Sanhedrin. Their name is derived from the high priest Zadok, since the sons of Zadok were the most worthy to minister to the Lord in the temple. (See Ezek. 40:46; Matt. 1:14.)

Sadducees originated when the wealthier elements of the population united during the Hellenistic period, a period of Greek cultural revival around 200 B.C. A conservative priestly group, they held to older doctrines and always opposed the Pharisees, both politically and religiously. Although both groups believed in the Pentateuch (Torah), the Pharisees accepted the oral law while the Sadducees refused to accept anything not written in the Torah.

The strict Sadducees questioned the existence of the spirit and the concept of punishments and rewards in a life after death, denying the doctrine of the physical resurrection. (See Mark 12:18–27; Acts 4.)

The Sadducees have been historically represented as worldly minded aristocrats, primarily interested in maintaining their own privileged position. Both John the Baptist and Jesus strongly denounced the Sadducees, who were also unpopular with the common people, from whom they kept aloof. Their strength was in their control of the temple, and when it was destroyed in 70 A.D., they ceased to exist as a viable political or religious force among the Jews.


6. The Pharisees:  The Pharisees were the largest of the Jewish sects. Six thousand strong, they observed Jewish ritual and studied the Torah and the oral law. They tried to adapt old codes to the new urban conditions, fulfilling religious interests of many of the common people.

The Pharisees conceived of God as an all-wise, all-knowing, all-just, and all-merciful spiritual being. They believed man had his free agency, and would receive retribution for his actions. This retribution would come either in this life or in the one to come, as the Pharisees believed in life after death and in the resurrection of the dead. The Torah was the center of their teachings, and its inspired laws and commandments were to be interpreted by the rabbis in each generation to harmonize with more advanced ideas. The Pharisees became scholars of the law, fostering the synagogue as a place of study, worship, and prayer. (See Luke 18:10–12.)

As the rabbis interpreted the commandments, new systems of laws and “fences around the law” evolved which would sometimes conflict with the original commandments. (See Mark 7:1–9, 13.) Some Pharisees also sought ways to bend the laws to their own philosophies and ways of life. While Jesus publicly criticized the Pharisees, he did not condemn their beliefs, but condemned their hypocritical manner of living that violated the ideals they taught. (Matt. 23:1–15.)

The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee and was taught by one of the sect’s most eminent scholars, Gamaliel of Jerusalem. (See Matt. 23; Mark 7; Luke 11.)


Although many Pharisaic doctrines were similar to Christian ones, the two groups separated when Paul and the Christian missionaries used Jewish communities and synagogues to teach the gospel. (See Acts 23:6–9.) Some Christians refused to sympathize with Jews who didn’t convert to Christianity, while many Jews couldn’t appreciate the Christian zeal nor believe their teachings. After the temple was destroyed and other sects ceased to exist, the Pharisees continued to function. They promoted Judaism and the preservation of its teachings and scriptures until Pharisaism and Judaism became coextensive.


7. The Qumran Community and the Essenes:  The Dead Sea scrolls portray the communal life of a Jewish religious sect in Qumran similar to the Essenes, a religious communalistic brotherhood. Doctrinally, the Essenes with their own beliefs probably stood somewhere between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. (See Col. 2:18.) Like the Sadducees, they presumptuously claimed to be the true priests of God and the descendants of Zadok. And like the Pharisees, they called themselves the “holy” or “pure” ones. Essenes believed in the immortality of the soul, but rejected the idea of bodily resurrection.

The Essenes regarded religious observances in the synagogues and temple as corrupt. They sought God in the wilderness of Judea, organized communities and brotherhoods (many of them monastic), zealously studied the scriptures, and sought to practice justice toward men.

Many practices in Qumran were similar to Christian ones. Initiation into the community involved a baptism, and a ritual bath took place daily in connection with a meal where special blessings were given over bread and wine by a priest.

John the Baptist probably knew of this sect and of the Essenes since he lived, preached, and baptized only a few miles from Qumran.

8. Nazarenes:  According to the Gospel of John, some thought nothing good could come from Nazareth. (John 1:46.) The term “Nazarene,” then, as a contemptuous one in early Christianity.

The root meaning of the word Nazarene helps explain why it was degrading. The Hebrew spelling of Nazarene has the same root letters as the Hebrew word nezer, which means twig, sprout, shoot, sprig, or branch. Who would want to be called a twig?

Matthew changed it to a title of honor when he referred to the Messianic prophecy (Isa. 11:1), telling of a branch (nezer) that would grow out of the roots of Jesse. (See JS—H 1:40; D&C 113.)

Early Christians were apparently called Nazarenes, since Paul was accused of being a leader of this sect. (See Acts 24:5.) Early historians refer to a Christian group as Nazarenes, Christian Jews who neither would nor could give up their Jewish mode of life. Paul taught that the Mosaic Law was not binding upon gentiles or Jews, having been fulfilled by Christ. Later Nazarenes rejected Paul because of this, even though he had been known as a Nazarene during his lifetime. Later Nazarenes were absorbed within Judaism and Christianity by the end of the fifth century. However, the term Nozri (Nazarene) remains as the Hebrew word for Christian. 
(Ensign Major Jewish Groups in the New Testament Victor L. Ludlow)

Rather than focusing on outward observances alone, the Savior calls men and women to first make real, fundamental changes inside themselves. The Pharisees and Sadducees and veered from the truth and created their own doctrine of men. In this they sinned greatly and were called to repentance by John the Baptist in these three chapters. However, though the Pharisees and Sadducees witnessed baptisms performed and teachings by John they chose not to be baptized (Matthew 3:7; Luke 7:29–30). John rebuked them, urging them to “repent … and bring forth fruits meet for repentance” 


What does it mean to repent? True repentance is “a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.  It means a turning of the heart and will to God” (Bible Dictionary, “Repentance”)

In Luke 3:8, John the Baptist taught the people that before they could be baptized, they needed to show “fruits,” or evidence, of their repentance.  We make our paths straight through repenting of any obstacles that would prevent the Spirit from reaching us.

8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham

What changes did John invite the people to make to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance? 

7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.


How can we show that we have truly repented?

Feeling godly sorrow for sin (2 Corinthians 7:9–10). 
Confessing and forsaking sins (D&C 58:42–43).
Making amends, where possible, for wrongs done (Luke 19:8).
Obeying the commandments (D&C 1:31–32).
Turning to the Lord and serving him (Mosiah 7:33).

How does repentance help us prepare to dwell with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?  3 Nephi 27:19.  It makes us clean, for as we are taught, no unclean thing can dwell with Him.

19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

How does repentance help us draw nearer to them each day?  We are human in our nature and fall short of the perfection it will take to dwell with Father.  Because we fall short we have been given a plan for redemption and by not only prophets of old like John the Baptist, but also prophets from our day we are taught about those things that are needed to become clean and whole.  One of those is daily repentance.  A daily thought of our lives, thoughts and actions and a sincere prayerful talk with Father repenting of our misgivings keeps us close to him, it keeps us where we need to be so that in our journey, here and beyond the veil we can become perfect and live with him.

Part 2:  We follow Jesus Christ when we are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost

Elder Robert D. Hales taught:  “When we understand our baptismal covenant and the gift of the Holy Ghost, it will change our lives and will establish our total allegiance to the kingdom of God. … Entering into the kingdom of God is so important that Jesus was baptized to show us ‘the straitness of the path’ [2 Nephi 31:9]. …
“As we follow the example of Jesus, we, too, demonstrate that we will repent and be obedient in keeping the commandments of our Father in Heaven. We humble ourselves with a broken heart and a contrite spirit as we recognize our sins and seek forgiveness of our trespasses [see 3 Nephi 9:20]. We covenant that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him. …

“By choosing to be in [God’s] kingdom, we separate—not isolate—ourselves from the world. Our dress will be modest, our thoughts pure, our language clean. The movies and television we watch, the music we listen to, the books, magazines, and newspapers we read will be uplifting. We will choose friends who encourage our eternal goals, and we will treat others with kindness. We will shun the vices of immorality, gambling, tobacco, liquor, and illicit drugs. Our Sunday activities will reflect the commandment of God to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. We will follow the example of Jesus Christ in the way we treat others. We will live to be worthy to enter the house of the Lord” (“The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 7–8)


The Doctrine of Baptism

Why was Jesus baptized? Matthew 3:13–17.

13 ¶ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.


What do the scriptures teach us about the necessity of baptism?  3 Nephi 11:38

38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.


What does baptism by immersion symbolize? Romans 6:3–5

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:



How should my baptismal covenants change the way I live? Mosiah 18:8–10

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?


Why don’t we baptize infants? Moroni 8:8–12

8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!


Why is it important that baptism be performed by someone with authority, not just sincere intent? Hebrews 5:4

4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.


If I am already baptized into another church, why do I need to be baptized again? D&C 22:1–4

1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.
2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.
3 For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.
4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.


John baptized “with water unto repentance” and promised that Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” Matthew 3:11


11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:


What does it mean to be baptized “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”? We are baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands D&C 20:41.  This is when we are confirmed as a member of the church after baptism by immersion.

“The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have, whenever one is worthy, the companionship of the Holy Ghost. … It acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin. Thus it is often spoken of as ‘fire’” (Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost,” 704)

Why must baptism be followed by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost? John 3:5

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Why must we have the gift of the Holy Ghost to progress in God's Kingdom? 

What effect does the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost have on us?  Alma 5: 14  


14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?


Does the Bible teach that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings?

Here are some scriptures that teach this truth: Genesis 1:26–27; Matthew 17:1–5; John 17:20–23; Acts 7:55–56; and Doctrine and Covenants 130:22.

Matthew 3:16–17:  
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Luke 3:21–22:  

21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

The knowledge concerning the Godhead derives primarily from the Bible and the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith. For example, the three members of the Godhead were separately manifested at the baptism of Jesus Matt. 3:16-17 and at the stoning of Stephen Acts 7:55-56.   Joseph Smith commented, "Peter and Stephen testify that they saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all" (TPJS, p. 312).


On June 16, 1844, in his last Sunday sermon before his martyrdom, Joseph Smith declared that "in all congregations" he had taught "the plurality of Gods" for fifteen years: "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods" (TPJS, p. 370).  

Although the three members of the Godhead are distinct personages, their Godhead is "one" in that all three are united in their thoughts, actions, and purpose, with each having a fulness of knowledge, truth, and power. Each is a God. This does not imply a mystical union of substance or personality. Joseph Smith taught:


Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow-three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization anyhow. "Father, I pray not for the world, but I pray for those that thou hast given meÂ…that they may be one as we are."Â…I want to read the text to you myself-"I am agreed with the Father and the Father is agreed with me, and we are agreed as one." The Greek shows that it should be agreed. "Father, I pray for them which thou hast given me out of the world,Â…that they all may be agreed," and all come to dwell in unity [TPJS, p. 372; cf. John 17:9-11, 20-21; also cf. WJS, p. 380].  (Encyclopedia of Mormonism Daniel H Ludlow) 


Conclusion
Why do we continue to study the doctrine of baptism, as well as other doctrines after we are baptized?  Hyrum Smith taught, “Preach the first principles of the Gospel—preach them over again; you will find that day after day new ideas and additional light concerning them will be revealed to you. You can enlarge upon them so as to comprehend them clearly. (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. E-1, p. 1994, josephsmithpapers.org)

Jesus Christ and his gospel can change you, it can change your family, it can change your life, it can change your eternity.   By following the first principles of His gospel which is continual repentance and baptism we accept the invitation to come and see, or to come follow me.  The scriptures were given to us by revelation so that we can learn and receive this change.  

Luke quoted and ancient prophecy of Isaiah that described the effect that the Savior's coming would have: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth” Luke 3:5; see also Isaiah 40:4


This is a message for all of us, including those who think they cannot change or do not need to change. If something as permanent as a mountain can be flattened, then surely the Lord can help us straighten our own crooked paths  Luke 3:4–5.   As we accept John the Baptist’s invitation to repent and change, we prepare our minds and hearts to receive Jesus Christ so that we too can “see the salvation of God” Luke 3:6.  By studying the New Testament we can learn how to more fully prepare ourselves to be ready, to meet God; for the day is quickly at hand.

Next Week: Matthew 4; Luke 4–5
Preparation: Think of a temptation while reading these chapters.  

Resources: 
Old Testament Student Manual
History of the Church
Encyclopedia of Mormonism Daniel Ludlow
Ensign
Conference Reports
Bible Dictionary 
New Testament Sperry Symposium













The Fall of Adam and Eve

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