Joseph Smith taught that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel. (D&C 20:9, D&C 27:5, D&C 35;12, 17, D&C 42:12). Yet, there are many principles that we presently believe and practice that are not taught in the Book of Mormon. Among these are temple covenants, baptism for the dead, salvation for the dead, eternal marriage, the three degrees of glory, and several others. Clearly, the “fullness of the Gospel” can exist without these apparently missing doctrines.
Elder McConkie made this observation:
The fulness of the gospel consists in those laws, doctrines, ordinances, powers, and authorities needed to enable men to gain the fulness of salvation. Those who have the gospel fulness do not necessarily enjoy the fulness of gospel knowledge or understand all of the doctrines of the plan of salvation. But they do have the fulness of the priesthood and sealing power by which men can be sealed up unto eternal life. The fulness of the gospel grows out of the fulness of the sealing power and not out of the fulness of gospel knowledge. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 333.)
Gospel fullness does not flow from knowledge of gospel principles alone, thus explaining how the Nephite faithful could have the fullness, yet apparently not understand, or at least not record their understanding of, the principles noted above. The fullness of the gospel grows out of the “fullness of the sealing power”.
Here is another term to ponder: the “fullness of the sealing power”. We understand what the sealing powers were restored by Elijah to Joseph Smith in April of 1836. (D&C 110), and include:
- Sealing power (TPJS, 330)
- Power to perform temple ordinances (TPJS, 330)
- Power to perform eternal marriage (TPJS, 330)
- Keys necessary to perform work for the dead (TPJS, 330)
- Authority of the “fullness of the Priesthood” (D&C 110:12-16, WJS, 303)
- Keys of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood. (WJS, 305-306)
- Operation and availability of Holy Spirit of Promise
(TPJS Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, WJS Words of Joseph Smith)
While not directly restored by Elijah, the Holy Spirit of Promise flows from the covenants of the priesthood which Elijah did restore. The Holy Spirit of Promise seals and ratifies those ordinances in this life and the next.
Elder McConkie described it this way:
To seal, in the scriptural sense, is to ratify, to justify, and to approve. Any act that is approved by the Lord, any act that is ratified by the Holy Ghost, any act that is justified by the Spirit, is one upon which the Holy Spirit of Promise places a divine seal. “All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations”—in short, all things—must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have “efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead.” (D&C 132:7.) All that falls short of this divine approval passes away and has no eternal virtue. Among other things, this provision prevents anyone from gaining an unearned blessing. (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 273.)
When a person receives the full sealing and ratification of all the ordinances of the gospel, then that person will have experienced the “fullness of the sealing power”. When a person is thus blessed, they will have received every blessing possible for a mortal to receive, including the blessings associated with Zion, and if appropriate to their life mission, translation.
The term “fullness of the Gospel” clearly suggests that there is also a lesser portion of the Gospel which God dispenses among righteous people, with those doctrines and principles which constitute the “fullness” being added when worthiness allows. We have already discussed the principle of the lesser and greater portion of the word. (See The Lesser Portion and The Greater Portion by clicking on the links).
The lesser portion constitutes those doctrines and principles which bring a person through the preparatory Gospel of Jesus Christ and prepares them to seek and obtain the greater blessings. Those principles which constitute the greater portion are not often taught openly, but (at least in our dispensation) remain “mysteries of godliness” which must be found in a personal quest through righteousness and personal revelation.
Hyrum Andrus makes this observation about the fullness of the gospel.
The fulness of the everlasting gospel, on the other hand, is the higher program of salvation which is concerned with developing in man the divine truths, powers, gifts, and blessings of the Holy Spirit until he is able to partake of the divine nature, or glory, of God and make his calling and election sure to a fulness of glory in the resurrection. . . . The earthly program of this higher phase of the plan of life and salvation is consummated when man receives the fulness of the sealing power of the priesthood. (Hyrum L. Andrus, Principles of Perfection [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970], 17.)
Notice that Brother Andrus defines the fullness of the gospel as beginning at partaking of the divine nature, or glory of God, making your calling and election sure, and qualifying for a full glory in the resurrection. He then makes the observation that all these higher and “greater portion” blessings flow from the “fullness of the sealing power”.
We may, from all these various principles quoted above, draw this tentative portrait of what constitutes the “fullness of the gospel”. It is that man may seek and obtain every promised blessing that any mortal has ever received by obedience to law, partaking of the fully glory and power of the Priesthood, enjoying the fulfillment of every covenant, and thus “partake of the divine nature” and seek and obtain the supernal promise of having their calling and election made sure, and thereafter obtain a personal audience with their Savior, which is the gateway into Zion.
Thus, rejecting the fullness of the gospel consists of failing, for any reason, to claim the full glory and power available to us. This failure could constitute a willful rejection, but much more profoundly, it would more likely constitute a simple failure to take seriously what is being offered by the priesthood, and then by ignorance, rather than willfulness, failing to partake of these supernal blessings, including having one’s calling and election made sure and much more.
In this light, the condemnation of D&C 84:54-56 makes frightening sense.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
Next Un-Blog: Times of the Gentiles Fulfilled
© January 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.