What They Are
Disciples are students and followers. They are apprentices, and what they see their leader do, they do also. So in Mormon theology disciples of Christ are people who study the scriptures to learn what Christ taught in word and action. They follow Christ by doing what He did. They pattern their own lives on the Savior's. They make their lives living testimonies of that belief. They display through their daily actions that they are dedicated, devoted, committed followers.
What They Are Not
While Mormons firmly believe that salvation comes from Christ's Atonement, they also believe, as Paul, that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead.” (James 2:17). When the young man came to Christ, believing Him to be the Messiah, yet was unwilling to give all he had to follow Him, he failed to put his faith into action and so lost his goal. Christ and his apostles gave myriad warnings and examples in the New Testament of the importance of actions (doing good works, service to men, giving alms, obeying the commandments, etc.), and so Mormons believe that the sincerity of people claiming to be disciples of Christ can be seen by their actions. Mormons do not believe people can simply say, “I believe,” be baptized, then follow the devil and their own desires and be acceptable to God. They don't believe that wickedness can be covered by a blanket statement of faith which, in essence, is a lie. Just because people believe, like the Pharisees, that they are on the right path does not mean that they are. Mormons believe that people must be careful about the road they choose for many roads lead to destruction.
Requirements of True Disciples of Christ
Christ gave many commandments that true disciples follow:
- True disciples of Christ believe His doctrine, which begins with seeking it, studying it, discussing it, praying about it, and finally gaining a testimony of it. After that comes putting the doctrine into action. Mormons believe that the scriptures are not simply interesting stories to read, exclaim over, then forget, but training manuals that teach them how to live.
- Mormons believe that to love one another is the greatest commandment of all. God is love. Christ is love. He made it clear that His disciples will love one another. Because love must be put into action, not just thought, true disciples are kind, considerate, generous, and actively seek to help others and to live harmoniously with them.
- Christ admonished people to be righteous (perfect), even as He is. Therefore, His true disciples are chaste, benevolent, patient, non-violent, honest, faithful, and obedient to all gospel commandments.
- Mormons are mindful of the warning to not be slothful in doing good. They believe that true disciples of Christ perform many good works of their own accord. Mormons try to be sensitive to others' needs, and when they recognize them, they volunteer to help.
- Others often wonder why so many Mormon families are willing to send their much loved children far and wide, even to foreign lands into stressful, inconvenient, and difficult conditions to teach the gospel. Mormons believe Christ's commandment to go into all the world and teach the gospel—and so they put it into action by sacrificing the companionship of loved ones for a time so that they can obey the commandment. They put their faith into action. They do this also so that others can benefit from the blessings that they receive. They remember that Christ told those who want to be His followers to take up their cross and to not place even their mother, father, spouse, children, or other family over Him, or they can't be His disciples.
- Unfortunately—to earthly minds—self-denial, privation, and suffering often accompany true disciples of Christ, as they inherit His suffering to some degree by following His way. From the first days on earth those who seek to be righteous often experience persecution because their example causes others who choose a lesser way to feel condemned.
- True disciples of Christ love Him with all their hearts. There is nothing He can ask that they won't do, no matter how difficult or painful. While they may be reluctant in the beginning because of the difficulty of the task, true disciples of Christ will always submit to His will, counting on His understanding and support, knowing they are His.