To appreciate Joseph Smith, and his contribution to our understanding of spiritual things, the list provided by the lesson manual is as far as we need go. Let’s take a look at some of the doctrines he introduced or clarified that act as guiding principles in our current lives, but which were revolutionary in his day.
We all know that the Lord re-established His Church through the prophet Joseph Smith. But in that expanded knowledge, which we tend to take for granted, is the massive undertaking of completely rewriting the Christian canon of both doctrine and scripture. Of the four books of scripture we study in this church, three of them came to us through revelations to Joseph Smith. And the Bible underwent a retranslation through the gift of revelation. Now that is what I call a complete overhaul!
The list below are some of the key doctrines introduced, explained, or enlarged by Joseph Smith. I encourage you to go to lds.org and look up this lesson in the teacher’s manual. This list is found at the beginning of the lesson, but this same list is given at the end of the lesson, complete with Bible references and modern scriptural references. My point in discussing just a few entries from this list is to point out that with our current understanding of the doctrines of Christ the Bible verses make sense. Without the revealed word, however, there are a million ways to interpret what we find in the Bible.
Clarifications from modern revelation
Physical nature of the Godhead
We’ve all seen John 4:24. It reads thus:
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
This is one of those verses that got changed over the centuries so that it specifically states something that is not true. When Joseph Smith translated the New Testament he changed this verse to read like this:
For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.
John 4:24 is one of the main verses to back the belief in the Trinity. When you read this verse with the previous verse the retranslation makes perfect sense. And at the same time a doctrine is corrected. Now pair the doctrine of God having a corporeal body with the vision of Stephen just before he was stoned (Acts 7:55–56).
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
It requires a body, whether spirit or corporeal in order for two of them to stand side by side with each other.
Our creation in God’s image
Apostles and prophets
Mode of baptism
The gift of the Holy Ghost
Baptism for the dead
The doctrine of the resurrection is different from church to church. The Bible does say that we will see God in the flesh someday, and that the first to be raised from the dead was to be the Christ. See John 5:28–29, and Job 19:25–26. But what does it mean to be resurrected? I watched one popular televangelist who taught that our resurrection consisted of being God’s zombie army. We would not be raised from the grave until he needed fodder for Armageddon. After we are killed in that war we would never have a body again. Wow, that is a lot to look forward to.
If you turn to Alma 11:42–45, looking especially at the last two verses, you will see that the doctrine of the resurrection is pretty clearly spelled out.
44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
45 Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.
The three kingdoms of glory
Marriage, as an eternal institution is not found in the Bible. All the Bible says is that men should marry women, and that the two of them should become one. But when you read what Joseph Smith has said on the matter in the Doctrine and Covenants, marriage gets a huge boost in importance.
Doctrine and Covenants 131:2–3 says that no one can enter the Celestial kingdom unless they are married for time and eternity in the temple. That means that single people cannot enter the highest level of the Celestial kingdom, only couples. This gives our marriages an importance that is unequalled by almost any other doctrine.
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
Doctrine and covenants 132:19 tells us that the reason we have to be married to become gods is because those who enter into this level of the Celestial kingdom will be given the ability to have children, posterity. No one else can obtain this blessing.
Our potential to become like Heavenly Father
Romans 8:16–17 is as clear as day, but only if you believe in what modern revelation teaches us. The doctrine taught in these two simple verses is either offensive or terribly misconstrued by many Christians. The lesson taught here is that because we are actual children of God, whether adopted or by birth, we are also considered as heirs to all that God, our common Father, has to offer. It says that we have the potential to become equal heirs with Christ to all of God’s kingdom.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
In Doctrine and Covenants 88:107 we are told that those who receive their intended inheritance from the Lord will be made equal to Christ. This is a hard doctrine for anyone but a Latter-day Saint to accept.
107 And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him.
In Doctrine and Covenants 132:30 we are told that not only will the righteous receive their inheritance, but that the inheritance includes becoming gods themselves. This doctrine is considered blasphemy by most Christians. Yet if, according to the teachings in Romans, we are made joint heirs with Christ, and Christ is a God, then doesn’t it stand that we would also be made gods?
20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
With just a review of these few entries from the list of doctrines given new life through the ministry of Joseph Smith, we can see that much was lost in the Great Apostasy. The doctrines I elaborated on here are just a few of our favorite topics. They are favorites because they offer us so much hope for a brighter future.
It was Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Lord, who ushered in the great and last dispensation. Most of the revelations in the Doctrine and covenants, as well as all the other scriptures we hold so dear to us were given during the first few years of the organization of the Lord’s Church. With the doctrinal foundation laid, the Lord was able to focus Joseph’s attention on the development of the Saints and on the building up of the kingdom. We should be very grateful for all that Joseph Smith has contributed to our understanding of the Plan of Salvation.