The Nephites were notorious for looking beyond the mark (Jacob 4:14). This meant they would focus more on issues and doctrines that may have been inviting or intriguing but would not bring them closer to God. You see, the sole purpose of the doctrine is to help us come to know the Father and the Son (John 17:3) so we can draw closer to them, thereby allowing them to draw closer to us (D&C 88:63).
Christ knew the people’s tendency to drift towards the doctrinal unessential. He had personally witnessed, time and time again, how this desire to delve into the mysteries always led to deep divisions, disputations, and contentions (3 Nephi 11:29). I feel it is for this reason that one of the first things the resurrected Lord provided the people, when he personally visited them, were the four cornerstones of His doctrine (3 Nephi 11:35-40). These four cornerstones, which represent the Doctrine of Christ are:
- Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
- Gift of the Holy Ghost
When President Heaton discussed the Brethren’s new emphasis on the Doctrine of Christ, he mentioned that for years, the church as taught these doctrines to be as steps on a staircase leading to eternal life. We would teach that faith leads to repentance, repentance leads to baptism, and that baptism leads to the gift of the Holy Ghost.
While this may be a somewhat accurate analogy, President Heaton felt that it misrepresents the eternal nature of these four cornerstones. I add that when we view these cornerstones as distinct steps, we miss the point and find ourselves prone to look beyond the mark. Why?
Because we are only baptized receive of the gift of the Holy Ghost once. So that leads us to think that when we have made it to the waters of baptism we are done. If the Brethren are seeking to make the Doctrine of Christ a key emphasis, then the four step analogy cannot work. The means the Doctrine of Christ is not a series of events; rather they must become a way of life.