What does the scriptural phrase “doctrine of Christ” mean?
Response by , a member of the Glendora First Ward, Glendora California Stake.
A dictionary defines doctrine as “teaching,” “instruction,” or “something that is taught.” In the Church it is understood that gospel doctrine comes from the teachings of Jesus Christ and his servants.
In this sense, “the term ‘doctrine’ means the core message of Jesus Christ—that Jesus is the Messiah, the Redeemer. All other teachings are subordinate to those by which all people ‘know how to come unto Christ and be saved’—that is, to the ‘points of doctrine,’ such as faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. , 1:393; see also Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 121).
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi introduces a discourse on the plan of salvation by writing, “Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ” (2 Ne. 31:2). He then writes about the importance of repenting, following Christ into the waters of baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, obeying the commandments, and enduring to the end. He ends the discourse by writing, “This is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:21).
In the New Testament, John the Beloved discusses the importance of walking after the commandments, and after warning of deceivers who “confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,” he emphasizes the importance of abiding “in the doctrine of Christ” (2 Jn. 1:7, 9). “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house,” he adds (2 Jn. 1:10).
Another New Testament reference to the doctrine of Christ appears in the epistle to the Hebrews. Following a discussion of the priesthood and the Savior, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (JST, Heb. 6:1).
To those Jews who marveled at his doctrine, Jesus said, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (John 7:16). To the Nephites, the resurrected Christ defined his doctrine:
“This is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
“And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. …
“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.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (3 Ne. 11:32–34, 38–39; emphasis added).
Of the doctrine of Christ, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “There is only one true doctrine: it is the doctrine of Christ; it is the gospel of salvation by conformity to which men may gain peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (The Millennial Messiah , 72).
The doctrine of Christ is, therefore, the doctrine of the plan of salvation, embodied in the first principles and ordinances of the gospel (see A of F 1:4). It is in Christ that we place our faith—faith that he has atoned for the sins of all who will repent and faith that he will lead us, if we are willing to embrace his doctrine and follow him, back into our Father’s presence.