“What are the core teachings of Jesus on gaining eternal life?” Ensign, Apr. 1975, 19–20
William O. Nelson, Director of college-age curriculum, Department of Seminaries and Institutes
We read in the scriptures, “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.)
Fundamental of all God’s commandments are the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Adam was taught by the Lord: “If thou wilt turn unto me … believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized … in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is … Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. …” (Moses 6:52.)
These commandments were necessary because of the “fall, which … bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit … and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by … the blood of mine Only Begotten, that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:59; italics added.) These requirements have been the same from the days of Adam down to our present dispensation (see D&C 39:6), and are “the plan of salvation unto all men” (Moses 6:62). This “plan” consists of five basic parts:
First, we must respond to the Savior’s plea to “come unto me,” which means that we place in him and his atoning sacrifice our confidence and trust for eternal life. In the words of Nephi, we rely “wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.” (2 Ne. 31:19.)
Second, we must repent of our sins; that is, we must “confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58:43.) President Joseph F. Smith said that true repentance is “a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light.” (Gospel Doctrine, 13th ed., p. 100. Italics added.)
Third, we must be baptized for the remission of our sins. Our baptism becomes our personal witness that we have entered into a covenant with Christ that we will “serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly” upon us. (Mosiah 18:10.)
Fourth, we must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “ye must be born again.” (See John 3:3–5.) To be born again is to have the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ applied to our sins, and then to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost that we have been forgiven of our sins, thus receiving a “peace of conscience.” (See Mosiah 4:2, 3.) Jesus likened this purifying process to a “baptism by fire.” (See 3 Ne. 9:20; 3 Ne. 11:35.) The central purpose of all these principles is to create within each man a new heart, a new life, a spiritual mindedness, for “to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.” (2 Ne. 9:39.)
Last, and significantly, in the words of President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“We must endure to the end; we must keep the commandments after baptism; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord; we must so live as to acquire the attributes of godliness and become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom.” (Manchester Conference Report, Aug. 1971, p. 54.)
The phrase “we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” should give us cause to ponder. Certainly this implies that we are: living the Word of Wisdom, keeping the Sabbath day holy, living virtuous and clean lives, having personal and family prayers, paying a full tithing, providing a generous fast offering to assist the poor and needy, holding regular family home evenings, preparing our sons for faithful missionary service, attending all Church meetings, studying the scriptures regularly, showing tender concern for our spouses and family members, engaging in genealogical work, serving others, practicing honesty and integrity in our occupations, attending the temple regularly, and living by “every word of God” that comes to us through quorum, ward, and stake leaders and General Authorities.
As in the case of the rich young ruler, there may be other specific requirements which are customized for our exaltation. These we learn by prayer and personal revelations.
Our motive for doing these and other things should be that we love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.
Is there any other way by which eternal life may be gained? “There is no other way,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith. Indeed, “any other course is in vain.” (History of the Church 4:555.)