In this blog we talk about many different ways someone can become, and serve as, a disciple of Jesus Christ. To me, this is the most valuable decision any of us can make in this life. Choosing to actively follow Christ can make everything else in our lives fall into place.
A big part of this choice is what we are willing to do to honor it. Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we express our willingness to follow Christ through the covenants that we make with God. In each step of the journey, we progress in our ability and desire to follow the path that has been defined for us, and laid before us by Jesus Christ. We make covenants in order to promise God that we are willing to live His laws to the best of our ability. He promises blessing and help in return. A little further down the road, when we have mastered the promises we have already made, God invites us to make additional covenants. Each of these has a specific purpose: to lead us back to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to give us the skills and tools that we will need to dwell in their presence with this life is through.
Joseph Smith once composed a list, entitled the Articles of Faith, to explain to those of other faiths exactly what the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are. The fourth article outlines the most basic steps, including covenants or ordinances, that must be made to enter into Christ’s church.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Articles of Faith 1:4)
These are a disciple’s steps as well. Discipleship is based on a firm belief in and love for Jesus Christ, followed by an understanding of His atoning sacrifice, sorrow for our own sins and taking steps to try to be more Christ-like, then baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Baptism is our first opportunity to actively make promises about our desire to live a Christ did and to follow His path back to heaven. With that in mind, the first ordinance encountered within the LDS church is baptism. Just as Christ was baptized, we need to be baptized to begin a new phase of discipleship. Among other things we make promises to remember Christ, to keep the commandments, and to stand as a witness for Him wherever we are. In return, we are admitted fully into Christ’s fold and church, and we are invited to have the Holy Ghost as our companions on a constant basis.
Members of the LDS church can make further covenants, adding another dimension of commitment to our faith in Jesus Christ. This is why we build temples all over the world. It is within the walls of those beautiful buildings that we once again in more specific details. The basic purpose is to come as close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as we can, both now and in eternity. Once that is established, we also make those promises binding to our entire family unity. In other words, we want to be in God’s presence, but what makes it most like Heaven is being there with our family. So, we commit to helping and supporting each other in our efforts to develop Christ-like attributes and relationships. This is part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for us, His children.
People outside of the LDS church often wonder about the temples: why they are restricted to only certain people and what kinds of secrets are found inside. When you look at God’s plan and the way He gently leads His children, you’ll see that He takes the best parts of you and magnifies them at whatever stage of your life you happen to be in. His gospel works in steps and natural progressions. No one would expect you to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 100 people if you are just barely learning how to make macaroni and cheese. That same concept applies to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants you to be ready and understand where you’re headed on each step of the journey. Therefore, we do not enter the temple until we have mastered ourselves enough to keep smaller promises and consistently walk with Christ. Then, we can step up the pace and enter a new phase of the journey in the temple.
What goes on in the temple is exactly what I mentioned. It is another set of promises made between you and Heavenly Father. It isn’t something so very secret as much as it is something that is very sacred and special. Every promise made is based in something you can find in Christ’s teachings, but they are very specific. It’s another step closer to Christ and another step closer to God.
Want to improve your potential as a disciple of Christ? Begin with re-affirming your faith in Him and the atonement. Step forward into the waters of baptism and the companionship of the Holy Ghost and then follow the path onward until you find yourself at the temple. Enter ready to make special promises and leave closer to Christ and a much more effective disciple. It’s all part of the disciple’s path.