BYU religion professors Hank R. Smith and Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt joined forces in a Thursday afternoon session of BYU Women’s Conference to deliver instructions on remaining centered in discipleship: focus on the doctrine of Christ.
Smith began the session with a humorous introduction before directing the audience’s attention to 3 Nephi 11 to begin his remarks.
“If the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, 3 Nephi 11 is the keystone of the Book of Mormon,” Smith said.
Smith said the order and content of Christ’s teachings in the chapter are significant. The teachings in that chapter deal with the core truths of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.
Some find it puzzling that Christ’s first teaching to the Nephites was about baptism, according to Smith. Smith said Christ’s choice to speak about baptism first was deliberate.
“The baptismal font also represents a womb,” Smith said. “Before a baby is born, it’s immersed in water. Baptism is a symbolism of a birth.”
Audience members were touched by the infrequently made comparison of the baptismal font to the womb.
“I had never heard that the baptismal font represents a womb. That was really cool. That whole concept of ‘born again,’ I had never really understood why they say that,”said Connie Knight, a conference participant from Syracuse, Utah. “It really brought it to life.”
Smith said a relationship with Christ changes at the time of baptism. He goes from being a brother, to the father of a disciple’s rebirth.
“It matters who baptizes you and how, because it’s the day you became his,” said Smith.
As he closed his remarks, Smith said the gospel is the most important element of discipleship and should remain the grounding focus when other elements demand attention.
“Let’s come back to center — let’s come back to the atonement, faith, repentance, baptism and the Holy Ghost,” Smith said.
Platt taught attendees about the doctrine of Christ from a macro perspective, offering insights on three major topics: first, how to define doctrine; second, how to identify doctrine; and third, how to act in doctrine.
“You and I, like innocent children, are drawn to the purity of Jesus Christ,” Platt said.
She invited conference participants to memorize nine points of doctrine — points which are reflected throughout missionary resources such as “Preach My Gospel” and Sunday School curriculums like “Come, Follow Me.”
Those points are the Godhead; the Plan of Salvation; the Atonement of Jesus Christ; dispensations, apostasy, restoration; prophets and revelation; priesthood and priesthood keys; ordinances and covenants; marriage and family; and commandments.
Near the end of her remarks, Platt shared a story of when she followed a prompting to offer help to a stranger.
The personal experience struck a chord with Kami Post, a participant who traveled from Middleton, Idaho to take part in the conference.
“You’re sitting there listening, and you’re like, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this.’ But she does it,” Post said. “It doesn’t matter that life is crazy. We need to slow down and listen.”
The session came to a close as Platt extended a challenge to the audience: “What doctrine, if fully understood, would help me to change ‘blank’?”
Whether a question of faith, feelings of inadequacy, or any other obstacle to discipleship, Platt assured attendees that a deeper understanding of doctrine is the solution.
“Through a careful and intentional study of the doctrine of Christ, you will have power come to your life,” Platt said. “Be transparent, clear and simple in learning and teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ.”
Women’s Conference continues through Friday, May 5. For more information on general sessions and breakouts, visit the Women’s Conference website.