In the 2012 book Mormons An Open Book, Written by a Mormon, What You Really Want to Know, author Anthony Sweat gets right to the point:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is this:
“1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
“3. Baptism by immersion by one holding the proper priesthood authority,
“4. Reception of the Holy Ghost (see Articles of Faith 1:4).
“In the Book of Mormon, Jesus defines the gospel this way: ‘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. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel’ (3 Nephi 27:20-21).” (25)
Dr. Sweat’s definition of “the gospel of Jesus Christ” is incomplete, according to Mormon leaders. Fourteenth Church President Howard W. Hunter said that the four points specified in Articles of Faith 1:4 “are only the first of all the principles and ordinances of the gospel…” In fact, in order to “stand spotless” before Christ at the last day, as presented in Dr. Sweat’s gospel definition quoted from the Book of Mormon, one must not only comply with the four “first principles” listed above, but “there must be a lifetime of compliance with the laws and commandments… The first principles alone are not sufficient: man is thereafter accountable in the eternal judgment for what he has done in life, whether good or evil. The atonement was for this very purpose, to bring about the resurrection and subsequent judgment of all men” (“This Is My Gospel,” Ensign, July 1973, emphasis mine).
Fifteenth Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley often stated that the gospel was not complete without the ordinances performed in Mormon temples. This Church doctrine was deemed so important that the Church’s official newspaper, Church News, reported Mr. Hinckley’s statements on this at least six times between November 1996 and September 2004 (find references listed below).
Also consider General Conference teachings from two Mormon apostles:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become. This spotless and perfected state will result from a steady succession of covenants, ordinances, and actions, an accumulation of right choices, and from continuing repentance.” (Dallin Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, November 2000)
“We are now being tried and tested to see if we will do all the things the Lord has commanded us to do. These commandments are the principles and ordinances of the gospel, and they constitute the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (L. Tom Perry, “The Plan of Salvation,” Ensign, November 2006)
The Mormon Church has even found a way to simplify the definition of “the gospel” for children while retaining its full meaning. In the February 2011 Ensign column “First Presidency Message” children’s section it says, “The word gospel means all the teachings and ordinances given to us by Jesus Christ and His prophets” (6).
Mormonism claims to have “the restored fulness of Christ’s gospel” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism 1:271, emphasis mine). A Mormon apostle once taught,
“By the grace of God, and through his mercy, we have had restored to us in this day the fulness of the everlasting gospel: all of the laws, ordinances, and principles by obedience to which we can be both saved and exalted in our Father’s kingdom. No other peoples have had so much of the light and truths of heaven poured out upon them as we have.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Reports, April 1949, 90)
If Mormons believe this is true, if they believe President Harold B. Lee’s teaching that “[Moroni] announced to the Prophet… that the time was at hand for the gospel in all its fulness to be preached in power unto all the nations.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 75-76; brackets and ellipses in the original), why does Dr. Sweat essentially keep the fulness of the Mormon gospel under wraps? It might have something to do with the chapter in which this gospel is defined. Titled, “Are Mormons Christian?” this chapter seeks to convince readers that the answer is “Yes.” But if the fulness of the Mormon gospel was revealed it would be pretty clear that the answer is “No.”
Christian author and pastor Harry A. Ironside explained the Christian gospel like this:
“Commencing at the first verse of this precious and wondrous portion of Scripture [1 Corinthians 15:1-4], we read: ‘Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, with also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (see Isaiah 53:5-6) ‘and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.’
“…the Biblical Gospel is concerning a Person…The subject of Paul’s gospel has not a word about anyone or anything except Christ. Perhaps we might say it also could be divided into four points…
“1. Christ died;
“2. Christ was buried;
“3. Christ has been raised again;
“4. Christ is the object for the hearts of His own.”
(“Dr. Ironside Meets With Two Mormon Missionaries: What Is the Gospel?” 1932)
The Christian gospel contains no temple covenants, no ordinances, no “lifetime of compliance with laws and commandments” for the needy sinner. The Christian gospel is full and complete in Christ alone.
References for Gordon B. Hinckley statements about an incomplete gospel, Church News, weeks ending: 11/23/96 p. 3; 8/1/98, p. 2; 8/4/01, p. 2; 10/5/02, p. 2; 6/7/03, p. 2; 9/4/04, p. 2.