14 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them.
(3 Nephi 23:14)
What does it mean to “[expound] all the scriptures in one,” as Mormon tells us Jesus did?
Two strategies for learning are analysis and synthesis. To analyze a problem is to break it into pieces and examine each of them independently. To synthesize information is to understand how components work together to form an integrated whole. Analysis can be necessary for us because many concepts are too complex for us to understand all at once. But breaking a concept down and understanding each of the components is insufficient. Once we’ve understood each of the constituent parts, we need to understand how those parts work together in order to really master the concept.
To expound something is to present it in detail. There is a lot of detail in the words of the Savior on the American continent as recorded in 3 Nephi 11-28. And He said much more than that: “There cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people,” Mormon says (3 Nephi 26:6). An important theme in the Savior’s words is the unity of the scriptures. For example, in chapters 20 and 21, He combines passages written by Isaiah, Micah, Moses, and Abraham to teach the principle about the gathering of Israel. The goal is to fully understand the doctrine, not to examine each of their writings in isolation.
In our most recent general conference, Elder David A. Bednar warned of the dangers of analysis without synthesis in gospel learning:
Sometimes as members of the Church we segment, separate, and apply the gospel in our lives by creating lengthy checklists of individual topics to study and tasks to accomplish. But such an approach potentially can constrain our understanding and vision. We must be careful because pharisaical focus upon checklists can divert us from drawing closer to the Lord.
The purpose and purification, the happiness and joy, and the continuing conversion and protection that come from “yielding [our] hearts unto God” and “[receiving] his image in [our] countenances” cannot be obtained merely by performing and checking off all the spiritual things we are supposed to do. Rather, the power of the Savior’s gospel to transform and bless us flows from discerning and applying the interrelatedness of its doctrine, principles, and practices. Only as we gather together in one all things in Christ, with firm focus upon Him, can gospel truths synergistically enable us to become what God desires us to become and endure valiantly to the end (“Gather Together All Things in One,” General Conference, October 2018).
One of the examples Elder Bednar gave was the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, as defined in the fourth Article of Faith: to have faith in Jesus Christ, to repent, to be baptized, and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost are not really independent and unrelated activities. All four actions point us toward Christ: trusting in Him, relying upon Him, and following His example. It wouldn’t be meaningful for a person to be baptized without having faith or to repent without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. These principles are interconnected and work together to help us receive the full blessings of the gospel.
Today, I will remember the interrelatedness of the principles of the gospel. I will strive to understand how those principles work together in my life, so that I can apply them fully instead of merely mastering fragmented facts. I will strive to understand gospel principles comprehensively and to synthesize the individual concepts I have learned so that I can truly understand the unity of the gospel as taught by the Savior and by His prophets.