7. "The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel"
First Principles and Ordinances
While this requirement that a person acknowledge guilt seems at first simple and straightforward, in fact it poses many questions. The obligation to confess is basic doctrine, but the scriptures prove silent or ambiguous when the question shifts to what, when, where, to whom, and even why to confess. This article examines current and past Latter-day Saint doctrine and practice, the reasons why Latter-day Saints confess, the scriptural background, and confession in other Christian churches.
On three separate occasions reported in the Book of Mormon, the basic elements of the gospel are explained by either a prophet or Jesus himself. In each case six central elements are repeated several times in language that is varied to enrich their meaning (2 Ne. 31:2–32:6; 3 Ne. 11:31–41; 27:13–21). Each of these long passages is framed by affirmations that "this is my gospel" or "this is my doctrine."These core texts present the gospel message as a six-point formula, which Joseph Smith abbreviated as the "first principle and ordinances of the Gospel."
Early Christianity saw a wide proliferation of theories and practices concerning baptism, and now many Christians, including Mormons, commonly understand it as a means to repent and wash away one's sins. But the Book of Mormon prophets taught that baptism is a covenant and a witnessing to God that one has already repented and commits to follow Jesus Christ, and that sins are remitted by the Holy Ghost.
"The Fifth Principle of the Gospel," by Noel B. Reynolds, Religious Educator 15, no. 3
After a person has accepted the four basic principles of the gospel, the next step is to "endure to the end," the fifth principle. The Book of Mormon, the Bible, the teachings of Joseph Smith, and Preach My Gospel clearly indicate that enduring to the end is an essential part of Christ's gospel.
Comparison with Calvinism
In seventeenth-century Europe, followers of John Calvin debated with followers of Jacob Arminius about five main doctrinal points: the total depravity of man, God's unconditional election of certain people, the limited nature of the Atonement, the irresistibility of God's grace, and the perseverance of the Saints. This article gives a brief account of that controversy and then compares the teachings of Joseph Smith and Mormonism on these same five points of doctrine.
Case Study from the Doctrine and Covenants
For an example of one man's lack of faith and his failure to follow the Lord's commandment, see D&C 39 and 40 and these resources:
"Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace: James Covel and the Historical Background of Doctrine and Covenants 39–40," Christopher C. Jones, in BYU Studies, Vol. 50, no. 4