“REALLY?!?” with Brother Jake: The Gospel is Simple?

March 6, 2013

“The gospel is simple.”

I can’t say how many times I’ve heard that phrase. And for most of my life, whenever I did, I gave the ol’ Sunday-school-head-nod. Of course it is. The world is loud and wicked and convoluted, but the gospel? The gospel is a beacon of simple truths.

Really?!?

Now, one may be able to distill “the gospel” down to a handful of bullet points on the salvation laundry list, but each concept needs a significant amount of contextual information to make any sense to an outside observer.

As a missionary, I realized even the most basic explanation of “the gospel” becomes pretty complex by the time I’d finished explaining the pattern of restoration and apostasy since the time of Adam and talked about the latest restoration of Christ’s church that you can know for yourself is real by reading this book that was translated by the prophet responsible for the restoration by the power of God so you can receive an authorized baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost and go to the temple and make covenants and be sealed and live with your family forever. 1

I mean, that’s simple. Really?

For me, the most baffling thing about the sentiment that the gospel is simple is what usually follows: “It’s Satan who makes it seem complicated.”

Really?

I know he’s crafty, but really, I don’t think Satan, on his best day, could come up with anything as complicated and contextually bound as what the missionaries attempt to lay out in the first lesson. Really.

The frustration I have felt hearing countless affirmations of the simplicity of the gospel’s, and Satan’s (read: intellectuals, feminists, and homosexuals, really) complicating influence inspired this video. I wanted to do something that demonstrated the absurd irony of calling the gospel simple:

My questions for readers:

  1. Why (or why not) is “simplicity” important to religions such as Mormonism?
  2. Do all religions need a mountain of contextual information in order to make sense?
  3. If you think the gospel IS simple, how do you define it?
  4. Can a “simple” gospel be effective? What are the benefits/disadvantages to a “simple” gospel?
  5. What factors make the gospel more complicated than it needs to be? Because we’re making this more complicated than it has to be. Really.

I hope these are useful starting points for discussion. 2

Notes:

  1. Really, there are at least 100 words in that sentence
  2. Infants on Thrones also did a podcast and panel discussion on the video (panel discussion begins at 13:15).

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17 Responses to “REALLY?!?” with Brother Jake: The Gospel is Simple?

  1. hawkgrrrl on March 6, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    1 – Complexity doesn’t sell for a reason.
    2 – Yes.
    3 – Don’t be a jerk.
    4 – You can’t follow what you don’t understand I guess.
    5 – Rules and individual preferences.

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  2. ji on March 6, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I think the simplicity of the Gospel comes form keeping things in perspective — more important matters are well, more important than other matters. When those other matters take center stage and when the more important matters are shunted aside, well, the Gospel starts getting more complicated.

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  3. ji on March 6, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    3. If you think the gospel IS simple, how do you define it?

    Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior and Redeemer of the World; and He has stretched forth his hand in these latter-days to restore His Gospel and priesthood in its fullness in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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  4. DB on March 6, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    1. Simplicity is important for everything, not just religion. The simpler a concept, the easier it is to understand, accept, and implement. The simpler an organization, the easier it is to function and manage. The simpler a design, the easier it is to create and the longer it lasts. The simpler a system, the easier it is to maintain and it’s more efficient.

    2. Of course not. It’s just human nature to make something that we don’t understand more complicated in order to try to understand it. If we actually understood the gospel better, we would recognize how simple it is.

    3. See #2. There is more we don’t know about the gospel than we do know which is why we don’t understand it well and we make it complicated. I think we can tell how much we understand parts of the gospel by how simple they seem to us. If it seems simple, we understand it. If it seems complicated, we don’t understand it. Of course, I think that’s true with everything in life.

    4. See #1.

    5. See #3.

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  5. log on March 6, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    1. Why (or why not) is “simplicity” important to religions such as Mormonism?

    Because it must be able to be grasped and obeyed by the most ungifted of individuals.

    2. Do all religions need a mountain of contextual information in order to make sense?

    No.

    3. If you think the gospel IS simple, how do you define it?

    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. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel.

    What comes after the baptism by fire the Lord claims the privilege of teaching (2 Nephi 32).

    4. Can a “simple” gospel be effective? What are the benefits/disadvantages to a “simple” gospel?

    The gospel is both simple and effective once you receive and obey it. The benefits are that even the least gifted can remember and obey it and rise to their full stature in Christ, as can the most gifted. There are no disadvantages.

    5. What factors make the gospel more complicated than it needs to be? Because we’re making this more complicated than it has to be. Really.

    Unbelief.

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  6. Glenn on March 6, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    “Simplicity” is not an accurate representation of actual life experience. “Simplicity” makes it too easy to ignore, dismiss, or devalue people and things that we simply do not understand. “Simplicity” becomes a way of defining “us” (the ones who find it simple) against “them” (the ones who complicate things) and can become quite divisive. “simplicity” also allows people to be lazy and refuse to define what they really actually mean.

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  7. IDIAT on March 6, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    #3 – According to Christ: 3 Nephi 27:13 – 21.

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  8. Douglas on March 6, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    HawkChick’s response wins the conciseness award.

    Faith and Obedience are as Master Yoda directed: “Do, or do not! There is no try!”

    Man complicates the message with his refusal to exercise faith, obey IAW revelation received, and his tendency to fall back on excuses.

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  9. Mike S on March 6, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    The gospel is simple – most religions are not – ours included. It has been seen over and over throughout history.

    For example, the Jews had ten basic commandments. There are a few more added. Over time, the law was added to and encrusted. When Christ came, He dismantled this and focused on the essence of the gospel. He deliberately “broke” accepted standards of His society to show that they were missing the point.

    We do the same thing in our Church. Take a simple example – be modest. It’s a fairly straightforward concept. Yet we have encumbered the law: we define how many earrings are appropriate; we define whether tattoos are acceptable; we define the length of shorts acceptable; we look down on two piece swimming suits that are no more or less “sexy” than many one-piece swimming suits; we air brush cap sleeves on historical paintings; we talk about colors of shirts and facial hair; and it goes on and on.

    A gospel principle of modesty is reduced to a list of religious do’s and don’ts of what it means to be a “good” Mormon. Simplicity get buried in our practices – much like the Jews did.

    And it’s unfortunate.

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  10. hawkgrrrl on March 7, 2013 at 12:24 AM

    Interesting that the answers to #3 can be further boiled down to:
    #1 HG: behavior
    #3 ji: atonement & restoration
    #5 log: ordinances
    #7 IDIAT: atonement + ordinances

    I totally agree with Mike S that the purpose of revolutionary movements in religion is to simplify (once again) what has become corrupted and complex over time. But as soon as you do that, the complications begin again. Complications and rules (vs. principles) are the human way of running religion.

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  11. Howard on March 7, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    The gospel means good news and the good news is there is life after death and the good news about that is that we can become one with others and with deity. The bad news about becoming one with others is that inside we are immature children and all that eternal togetherness will be very trying unless we become ego-less, selfless and radiate love for each other. Dumbing these simple concepts down to mortal principles to live and grow by takes a lot of words and those words are then interpreted by pharisees and sold to us religion which takes on a life of it’s own with little memory or understanding of the final goal.

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  12. ji on March 7, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Another thought — in John ch. 6, Jesus taught hard doctrine, and many of his disciples left him. Jesus asked Peter and the Twelve if they would leave also. Peter’s answer in John 6:66-69 focuses on the simplicity of the Gospel — and his simple answer was the right answer.

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  13. jmb275 on March 7, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    I guess I don’t understand why anyone would expect it to be simple. Perhaps it’s because we love to hide behind a cloak that masks all the complexity of real life. If we just squint, and don’t think much about it, we can maintain our nicely little boxed worldview and continue to denigrate all the challenges to that view.

    After all, your iPhone is simple right? You just push the button, slide the lock and a wonderful user interface is at your fingertips. Nevermind the thousand years of research that went into making it happen, or the complexity of the architecture of the processor, or the radiation patterns of the antennae. Or the millions of hours, the pages upon pages of complex mathematics, or the millions of lines of computer code that make it all happen. It just works!! It’s simple!

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  14. jmb275 on March 7, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    In a less sarcastic comment, I suppose what I’m saying is that I don’t really blame us for it being complex. It is complex because that’s the way the world is – it’s a beautifully messy, complex, uncertain place. Why should we expect that a religion that has to deal with an infinite variety of people, experiences, and variables would be simple? That’s like expecting the design of an iPhone to be simple just because it presents you with a nice user interface.

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  15. tami on March 7, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    I think the simple gospel is a one-time acceptance or forgiveness from Jesus Christ or God, that lasts the rest of your life. The rest is unnecessary.

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  16. log on March 8, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    #10,

    Christ has repeatedly defined His gospel in those terms; I was quoting Him. The crux of the gospel is repentance, with the ordinances following.

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  17. CEF on March 13, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    I believe if one can be loving and forgiving, then one can live in a Celestial community. Simple, but not necessarily easy.

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