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The Three Things Required to Build Upon The Rock of Christ

There are 3 things that Jesus taught that enable one to build upon what he called his “rock.”

Building upon his rock is critical to find safety from the floods and winds that cause one to fall and be received into “the gates of hell.” (3 Nephi 11:39-40,14:27,18:13)

The fact that Jesus mentions building upon his rock 3 times in his visit to the ancient American survivors soon after his resurrection should catch our attention. The number 3 is associated with themes such as divine influence or emphasis and structure. When things come in threes, take note because something important is being shared!

The Rock of His Doctrine

The first way to build upon the rock of Christ is mentioned in 3 Nephi 11 and is part of the first things that he taught the gathered survivors in Bountiful. Jesus expresses his concern about disputations and contention (3 Nephi 11:29-30) among the people and desires to abolish it by clearly defining what his doctrine is and mentions the phrase “my doctrine” 8 times and “this is my doctrine” 4 times.

Here is a summary of the points that Jesus includes under the definition of his doctrine in verses 33-38:

  • Believers must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and become as a little child.
  • Whoever believes in Jesus Christ believes in the Father as well and will be visited with fire and the Holy Ghost which will bear record of Jesus Christ and the Father.
  • These people will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Those who do not believe and are not baptized will be damned.

This is the doctrine of Jesus Christ and he states very clearly that anyone that seeks to establish more or less than this as his doctrine “cometh of evil, and is not built upon [his] rock.” (vs.40)

Remember that Jesus was trying to help his people avoid contention by being very clear as to what his doctrine is. This doesn’t mean that these are all of his teachings and that nothing else matters because he goes on to teach more things that are necessary to build upon his rock.

The word doctrine can be defined as:

“In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. […] The truths of the gospel in general.” (Webster’s 1828)

Elder Bednar taught very clearly what doctrines are:

“A gospel doctrine is a truth–a truth of salvation revealed by a loving Heavenly Father. Gospel doctrines are eternal, do not change, and pertain to the eternal progression and exaltation of heavenly Father’s sons and daughters. Doctrines such as the nature of the Godhead, the plan of happiness, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are foundational, fundamental, and comprehensive. The core dotrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ are relatively few in number.” (Increase in Learning, p.151)

When we are specifically speaking of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, nothing more or less than what he outlined is the only definition; he was very clear about that. The doctrine of Jesus Christ must be the very foundation of our discipleship as saints.

The Rock of His Sayings

Next, Jesus teaches a sermon that is practically identical to his “sermon on the mount” during his mortal ministry. There are important differences between the sermons but that is beyond the scope of this post. Jesus ends his sermon with the following words which are practically the same as what is recorded in the New Testament:

“Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (3 Nephi 14:24-27)

Here Jesus emphasizes the importance of his sayings and the uncompromising nature of our adherence to them. Once you hear them, you either do them or do not do them. Your response to his sayings determines whether you are wise or foolish and whether you a great “fall” is in your future or not.

Because the rain, the floods, and the winds will come and beat upon whatever you build either way. Your house is either on rock or sand and wherever you built it will result in one of two inevitabilities.

His sayings challenge the natural man; they defy him. Jesus’ sayings instruct us to choose to react in the opposite of our natural inclinations. Here is a small sampling that I’ve

  • When you are oppressed, consider yourself blessed instead.
  • Don’t be shy, let your light shine forth for all to see.
  • Do not get angry with people, make peace with them.
  • Don’t lust after people, don’t objectify them, respect the divinity within them.
  • Let people borrow from you, don’t be selfish.
  • Love your enemies and pray for them instead of hating them.
  • Be complete.
  • Don’t do things just to be seen and praised by people.
  • Value heavenly treasures over earthly treasures.
  • You have to choose between serving riches or God.
  • You will be judged by the same standards you apply to others.
  • Don’t try to fix anyone else’s problems unless you’ve fixed the same ones yourself.
  • Whatever you do is what defines you, not what you believe.

The sayings of Jesus draw a line in the sand, or rather a distinction between the sand and the rock. The sand is the natural man which can easily be shifted by water (which is a chaos motif) whether it be the tides or the rain.

Obedience to the doctrine of Christ starts our journey and obedience to his sayings gives us direction along the way. We have a whole life ahead of us and we need direction on how to respond to the things that we will encounter because they will shape us and those we come in contact with.

A greater lesson is here is how we as humanity can ultimately be like a rock or shifting sand. Rock and sand are composed of roughly the same particles for the most part. The difference is that sand particles are not bound to one another as rock is. Zion is a rock and the opposite of Zion is a population of sand that is constantly being shifted by the tides and rain.

Chaos and Zion

I can’t think of a better description of the state of the world today where influences flow powerfully through media to create contention and sway the mood, emotions, hearts, and minds of humanity. The intention is to stir up contention and draw people in to push advertising in their faces to generate revenue.

The inhabitants of the great and spacious building push us to do the opposite of Jesus’ sayings. They coax us to anger, invite us to judge, entice us to lust, and value the treasures of the earth more than human life. Instead of actual virtue, they merely virtue signal and are like “whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones” (Matt. 23:27 NASB)

Believing in Jesus Christ is not a simple affirmation, that belief must drive us to action, it must bear fruit or it isn’t really a belief. It’s simple, we do what we believe, our actions reveal our beliefs. To say one thing and do another is the definition of a hypocrite.

Jesus taught very clearly that, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (3 Nephi 14:21) He taught that we must repent, and become as a little child” (3 Nephi 11:37)

King Benjamin articulated well what it means to repent and become as a little child:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

This one verse is a great summary of the first two ways we build upon the rock of Christ through his doctrine and sayings.

The Rock of His Flesh and Blood

Finally, Jesus taught that if we always partake of bread and wine in remembrance of his flesh and blood that we are built on his rock.

Just as baptism was a sign to God that we desire to enter in at the gate and receive salvation, being worthy to eat and drink in remembrance of the cause of that salvation is a sign to God that we are abiding by his sayings.

Jesus taught that nobody should partake of his flesh and blood unworthily and if you know that someone is unworthy you should forbid them from doing it. (3 Nephi 18:28-29) That sounds harsh at first but if someone does eat and drink unworthily they are eating and drinking damnation to their souls. (vs.29)

What does that mean?

Jesus continues talking about a hypothetical unworthy person and explains that they can partake of his flesh and blood after they have repented and are baptized in his name. It appears that a lack of repentance and/or baptism is what makes one unworthy to partake of the flesh and blood of Christ.

Repentance is not about simply ceasing a particular behavior and apologizing, it is much more than that. Repentance is defined as experiencing “a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” (LDS Bible Dictionary) It is about coming to see sin as God sees it and thus reacting to it (Alma 13:12) the way that God would. Repentance involves a mighty change of heart that results in our dispositions being altered. (Mosiah 5:2)

Without true repentance, we will return again like a dog to his vomit. (Prov. 26:11)

A testimony and a witness

There was a special promise given after the people partook of the bread and wine. After partaking of the bread Jesus said that doing so:

“…shall be testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” (vs.7)

After partaking of the wine Jesus said:

“Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.” (vs.10)

Doing these things are important for those who have been baptized:

“And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” (vs.11)

“And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.” (3 Nephi 18:12-13)

Participating in this sacred rite is a testimony and witness to God that we remember the resurrected body of Christ and that we are willing to do his commandments.

God clearly expects something from us in all of this but some might wonder how grace fits into all of this. It sounds like God is asking quite a bit of his people here with requiring them to not just believe, but repent, be baptized, make sure that they are following all of Jesus’ teachings perfectly and always partaking of bread and wine worthily. Isn’t that some kind of salvation by works strategy; where does grace come into the picture here?

Saved by grace through faith

Critics often quote the verse that Paul wrote in Ephesians which says:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This verse is absolutely correct and there is actually no contradiction. I’m going to repeat the quote again but I want to highlight two important words that it seems get read past too quickly.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If those two words were missing from the verse then the meaning would be radically different. But the inclusion of “through faith” means that there is something required of us and it is our faith. Faith is when our beliefs are manifest by our actions, that light that we let shine before men “that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

Our good works don’t save us, they are simply a manifestation of what we are becoming because of our faith and personal conversion.

Here is a short story that I wrote to roughly illustrate how all of this fits together:

Imagine that you were lost in the wilderness, isolated in a manner that it was impossible for you to escape on your own. A loving soul who knew your exact location came to the rescue by cutting a narrow path through the woods. Upon finally reaching you the rescuer said “Come follow me, stay on the path, and you will make it safely.”

Would you say that by simply walking the path and following your guide that you saved yourself? No, of course not. It was the rescuers efforts that saved you. Grace is the path, grace is the rescuer walking by your side, grace is his light that keeps the path visible when the darkness comes. It is grace that reaches out when you mistakenly leave the path and worry that you are lost again and won’t make it back.

No, we don’t save ourselves, every step we take is part of a gracious rescue.

There is more to the story though because once you are on the path and following Christ, the very next thing you think about is all the others out there that are lost. As much as you would like to be out of the wilderness and safely back home, you know how it feels to be lost contrasted with the profound relief of rescue.

As you continue on your journey down the path you ask your rescuer, “Are there others we can rescue before returning home?” (Enos 1:8-9, Alma 29:10-11) Your rescuer stops, turns, and smiles. “Welcome home,” he replies.