The Gospel of Jesus Christ
In traditional Christianity, the definition of the Gospel is taken from Romans 1:16 as follows:
"16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
The gospel, in this sense, is the message that Christ died for our sins. We must, in order to receive the grace of God, confess that Jesus is the Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. This act, which is defined as being 'born again,' is the entry into the Christian community. As long as one does not commit mortal sin, they are saved into the kingdom of God. While this may be an oversimplification, I would encourage the reader to explore this topic at sites such as Bible.org to become better acquainted with the variety of 'gospels' taught in contemporary Christianity.
Salvation versus Sanctification
One of the primary purposes of the restoration was to 'make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them' (Gentiles). In 1 Nephi chapter 13, verse 34,we read:
"...the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church..."
Assuming the gospel as defined in the last section, we can draw a clear distinction between the contemporary Christian gospel and the gospel as restored through the Book of Mormon. Again, according to the gospel as presented by the Savior (3 Nephi 27:20-21):
"20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel;"
As we see here, we must repent, come unto Christ, be baptized in His name, and be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost. This same focus on sanctification is also presented in Doctrine and Covenants Section 76:
"40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;"
The Restored Gospel
These ideas represent the plain and precious parts of the gospel that were restored. The Savior clearly explained, in 3rd Nephi, that the gospel is the method by which we are to be cleansed from sin such that we may enter His presence. The question that now needs to be addressed is: How does one become 'sanctified?' Sanctified, in this context, means to be purified and free from sin. We also know that it comes from the reception of the Holy Ghost as defined in 3rd Nephi.
There are two more scriptural references relating to the definition of the gospel and the need for sanctification that can help with this question. The first is found in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 33:11-12:
"11 Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
12 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel;..."
The second is found in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 39:6:
"And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom."
We become sanctified by receiving a remission of our sins. The believer receives a remission of sins through baptism, first by water, then by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Many of you may have been taught that the baptism of water is sufficient for the remission of sins. This is NOT the case. Baptism by water is only the first of two critical components as shown in Mormon 7:10:
"...and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment."
Both baptisms are necessary for a remission of sins. Completing only the first part of the equation is not sufficient. This is clearly demonstrated by the following verse from Chapter 31 of 2nd Nephi:
"17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost."
As shown here, a remission of sins comes by fire and the Holy Ghost. To become sanctified, we must be born of water (water baptism) and born of the spirit (baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost). This duality is also presented by Christ in John, Chapter 3:
"3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
The first reference in verse 3 to being born again is a prerequisite to 'seeing' the kingdom of God. The original Greek in this case could also be translated as 'perceiving' or 'having knowledge.' Our first step, being born of water, gives us the ability to gain knowledge of the kingdom of God. The second step, 'born of the Spirit,' gives us the ability to 'enter' the kingdom of God. This is the same idea that we must be purified and sanctified before we gain entry to the kingdom of God. Being born of the Spirit is the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. The restoration of the gospel was necessary to provide a clear roadmap for us to return to the presence of God.
And who administers this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? The answer is found in the following. Speaking of the twelve disciples that Christ selected as described in 3rd Nephi, Chapter 12, He said:
"...Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am."
It is important to note those twelve designated by Christ were given the authority to baptize with water but that Christ will baptize us with fire and the Holy Ghost. This baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost is necessary for us to receive a remission of our sins. Once we have received our baptism by water and a remission of our sins by fire and the Holy Ghost then we read in 2nd Nephi 31 continuing after verse 17 above:
"18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive."
It is interesting and revealing that baptism by water AND baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost are necessary for us to be on the strait and narrow path to eternal life. As such we should all seek to receive this gift of God.