CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 31.
This chapter begins Nephi’s farewell to his people, and he goes out with a bang. His last words are words of doctrine, teaching the people what Christ will teach them. Within these teachings are several promises to cling to and principles to remember (and apply).
Prophesying, or testifying, is plain and simple (verse 2).
This is how the Lord speaks to us, and it is how we should speak to each other.
“For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men” (verse 3).
Also, this is so all can understand in their own way:
“For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaking unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (verse 3).
And so, in order for all to understand, Nephi reviews the doctrine of Christ.
He starts with baptism, prophesying of John who would baptize the Savior “which should take away the sins of the world… And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” (verse 5).
We see these words again in “The Living Christ“, in the second paragraph: “Though sinless, he was baptized to fulfill all righteousness”.
So, Nephi says, even though the Savior was holy, “he showeth… that he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments” (verse 7).
What is always the response from Heavenly Father to our demonstrating obedience?
The Holy Spirit, which “descended upon him in the form of a dove” (verse 8).
This is how one who was holy already still submitted to the Father’s plan, and this was the example set for us (verse 9).
And so to follow him means to also submit, to “be willing to keep the commandments of the Father” (verse 10). And “Repent!” is what the Father commands (verse 11).
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the 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…” (verse 13).
Then something remarkable happens.
Nephi hears the voice of the Son of God, speaking of the important of following through on our commitment to be obedient and follow his example (verse 14).
Then, Nephi hears the voice of the Father confirming his son’s words (verse 15).
This is another example, like when the Savior was baptized, when we have in one place two separate and distinct beings as Father and Son. Not only that, but the Son has just testified of the Spirit, separate and distinct from him, so that is a third being. They are not all tangled into one, but are three separate and distinct personages. They are, however, united in purpose.
And the purpose is to bring us back home to our Father-in-Heaven.
“Wherefore, do the things which I have told you” (verse 17).
Our being obedient will get us home, because it is the Savior’s example we follow, and He leads the way. So as we are obedient, we are “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (verse 19).
So we continue the journey of our mortality, following His example.
“wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (verse 20).
Eternal life = celestial-ness.
The scriptures always mean celestial-ness when they say “eternal life” because the life, for it to be eternal, has to be present progressive. Our progression continues, even after the testing in this life.
“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” (verse 21).
So not only do we follow His example, but also do so under His authority.
So even from the start – from baptism itself – it must be done not only His way (immersion), but also by His authority (under proper priesthood authority).
I always liken it to my work.
Anyone could be a therapist if they wanted. All they would have to do is set up an office, set out a sign, and call himself a therapist. They might even be really good at what they do, and be very organized and have a big caseload and be very popular. They might be genius, skilled, and really legitimately help people.
But it doesn’t make them licensed.
To be licensed, they have to not only go to school and not only set up an office and not only be good at what they do, but they also have to go through the proper authority to apply to be a therapist. Once interviewed, and all the tests are passed, then they are granted permission by the proper authority to be a therapist. Their work might even look very much the same as before they were licensed – but now they are, indeed, licensed, and have the authority to be working as a therapist.
In the same way, lots of churches do baptisms by immersion.
But the actual license – the authority – comes through the Priesthood only.
“And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ…” (verse 21).