Exploring Mormon Institute 2013 – D&C Lesson 7: “The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel”


Everyone have a great Martin Luther King day holiday? Great. Anyone do anything special? Yes, Jimmy? Oh, that’s very interesting, thanks for sharing.

Attention activity: Have everyone say, “Well duh!” Now, have everyone recite the fourth article of faith. The entire lesson is going to be about the things listed in this article (Have everyone respond, “Well duh!”).

This is going to be the same as every lesson you’ve had on this since you were in sunbeams (Well duh!).

The reason we cover this is that someone, somewhere in the middle of the institute system may have missed that they needed to be baptized, have the gift of the holy ghost, have faith, and repent (Well duh!).

Plus, it is entirely possible that one of you has forgotten this (Well duh!).

Very good students. Now let’s think about what the actual first principles of the “Gospel” are.

God exists.

Yup without this, you really don’t have “Faith.” I guess they kind of wrap this into the faith principle, but I think that it’s a worthwhile block to start with because, after all, people have debated this point for thousands and thousands of years (6,000 if you ask Ezra Benson but I digress). So, we should start there.

God, who exists, created the universe and specifically our world.

Now, it may seem that this should be followed with a “Well Duh!” but we have some debate within and without mormonism. Without, we could have Zeus, Chronos, and Uranus (who all could claim part of creating the Earth) or Odin and the cow that licked mankind out of ice… actually, Zeus and Odin both simply existed on the Earth with the Earth being eternal.

Within Mormonism, you get lines like these that prove that Jesus created the Earth: See here[2], and that the Father did not. In the temple, we learn that Jesus did what the Father commanded, and if you include Brigham Young’s teachings, you have that the Council of Gods sent Jesus and Adam (who was one of the gods of the council) to build the Earth.

This is not straight forward, and yet it is a basic underlying principle for the gospel.

  1. Jesus Christ is God’s son. Without this principle, the “faith” principle isn’t really established very well.
  2. Jesus and God have communication with man.
  3. The communication with man is contained in the Jewish/Hebrew based scriptures.
  4. There is a an opposition to God in the form of a fallen angel.
  5. Sin, as a concept, exists.
  6. The son of God, via death, can remove sin.
  7. Believing in the son of God (faith) is a virtue and is somehow important.
  8. By birth, one is fallen, as stated in the Hebrew scriptures, and incapable of living a perfect life.
  9. God, who is infinite, eternal, and all-knowing, is so petty and involved in minutiae that He cares about what kind of fruit we eat, or if we drink brown liquids made from beans. These finite actions carry infinite consequences.
  10. These finite actions are classified as sin, and other finite actions allow us to access the sacrifice of a half-deity (repentance and baptism).
  11. These finite actions which connect the fallen mortal to the half-deity death rite are standardized throughout time.
  12. These finite actions which connect the fallen mortal to the half-deity death rite were revealed to Joseph Smith, Jr. in our dispensation.
  13. The authority to perform these finite actions was granted to Joseph Smith, Jr. via a standardized action of infinite beings using finite rites and rituals, namely the laying on of hands.
  14. One of these finite rites or actions can confer or imbue a mortal with a deeper connection to an immortal/eternal/all-knowing power, a subset of God, or individual in a godhead, known commonly as the “Holy Ghost.”
  15. This Holy Ghost is sentient, caring, and desires good for individual mortals.

Each of these are founding principles and can be debated individually. These are the founding principles that lead up to just the first 4 named in the articles of faith, but there are other principles I left out that would detract, such as:

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin.

God selects virgin mothers who are espoused to other men (not before their engagement, but after).

God tests mortals.

God selects kings of the Hebrew Nation.


All of these are really required to be believed, because they are interconnected. If God did not choose David to be king, then the divine line of Jesus is up for debate and His claim to be the “Son of God” is in question. Thus, the atonement itself must be re-evaluated.

Baptism is another point that must be evaluated. Sure, Nephi says that Christ showed that all men must be baptized. So, if one believes Nephi, one will be baptized. But let’s consider the form of baptism.

John the Baptist reportedly baptized Oliver and Joseph by immersion, but even as early as A.D. 100, early Christian writings cite infant baptism (not by immersion) as canon –as in, there is no debate.

For example:

Luke 18:15–16 tells us that, “they were bringing even infants” to Jesus; and he himself related this to the kingdom of God: “Let the children come to me . . . for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Traditional Christian faiths (Such as Catholics) hold that this was a moment of baptism for the children and infants.

“Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:38–39).

Baptism is the Christian equivalent of circumcision, or “the circumcision of Christ”: “In him you were also circumcised with . . . the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11–12).

In fact, the only reported controversy on the subject was a third-century debate whether or not to delay baptism until the eighth day after birth, like its Old Testament equivalent circumcision! (See quotation from Cyprian, below; compare Leviticus 12:2–3)

And in early christian writings such as the following:

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

It seems very much that John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith, Jr. with an 1800s view of baptism, instead of an early Christian view.

Specifically with the view being debated by Sidney Rigdon against Alexander Campbell. Sidney held that the age of baptism was 8[3].

For a list of other complaints of Campbell’s followers with The church of Christ (or early mormon church) and how Sidney stole many of their principles, look here[4].

The missing fifth principle.

Always in the discussion of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel there is a clause tacked on in the correlated manuals, namely, “Endure to the end.”

Nowhere in Joseph’s writings is this mentioned in conjunction with the first principles and ordinances. In fact, several times in scripture, it states that one arrives at the kingdom with baptism. This curious “tacking on” does not exist in other branches of the LDS faith such as Rigdonites, Bickertonites, The Church of Christ Templelot, nor in the Community of Christ. It is specific to the Brighamites and their offshoots (LDS, FLDS, Allred group, Shrivites, Singerites, etc.).

One must question why this missing fifth principle has been tacked on, and one can only guess that because the temple rites are so key to these groups, and the temple rites are not mentioned in the scripture as being essential, that a fifth principle needed to be created.

We’ll talk more about the temple in detail in upcoming lessons.


The first principles and ordinances of the gospel as taught in the manual are at best, oversimplification that is repeated with cult-like chants, and at worst, a glossing over of many sophisticated and interesting issues.

Any exploring mormon should take careful time to evaluate all the items here, and think of many others, rather than take the “spoon-fed” or “Well duh!” version of events. It’s rather like taking a salesman’s word for it with your eternal salvation.

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Last edited by EmmaHS on February 7, 2013 at 10:42 pm

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