In this second of the three-part series on spiritual development, we’ll be looking at the need-to-know doctrine of the gospel of Christ. In part one, we explored the aspect of service and how, for most people, that is how they were introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like two sides to a coin, service and doctrine make up the life of a Christian. Both sides of that life need to be kept in balance. That balancing act will be discussed in part three of the series.
What is Doctrine?
Doctrine is the knowledge side of God’s plan for His children. The service side of God’s plan teaches us how to love one another and to get along with each other. The doctrine side of the plan teaches us the why behind the service, plus a whole lot more.
A doctrine is a teaching, a principle, a fact. The scriptures are full of references to the doctrines or teachings of the devil, the doctrines of man, pure doctrines, and false doctrines. Our Father in Heaven deeply cares about which teachings we listen to. If we obey His doctrine, happiness follows and we are freed from the consequences of sin. If we listen to the doctrines or teachings of man or Satan, then we deny ourselves much of the opportunity for happiness because we have accepted to live by false notions. This means we will not be free from the consequences of our sins, and misery will be the result. The Book of Mormon teaches us that “men are, that they might have joy.” God created us to have joy! So when we follow any doctrine but God’s, He is displeased, because we will not find the happiness He envisions for us.
Lessons about Doctrine
Following are a series of scriptures that teach mini lessons about why learning pure, good doctrine from the Lord is so important.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7:7)
It does us no good to worship God if we use the teachings of men as the basis of our worship. Men’s teachings are flawed and are offensive to God. They will not produce the saving result God intends for His teaching (doctrine) to have in our lives.
Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. (2 Nephi 28:12)
What happens to the pure teachings of Christ when we allow ourselves to become filled with pride? We corrupt his doctrines by changing their interpretation to fit our wants. This happens to more than just individuals; this happens to whole churches. Those who teach these changed doctrines are referred to as false teachers or ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. (John 7:16)
Even Christ says that what He taught was not His own teachings, but those of His Father’s. Christ fulfilled His Father’s work on earth, and only teaches us what God wants us to know and do.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (Luke 4:32)
There is a difference in where the doctrine comes from. The doctrine of Christ is truth, and when taught with the Holy Ghost, it comes with power and conviction to the soul. Unfortunately, Christ’s original doctrine has been reinterpreted so many times down through the centuries that it is sometimes difficult to know which version of the doctrine is the truth. Only the true doctrine will save us, so it is in Satan’s best interest to have so many counterfeits out there that it is almost impossible to tell which is the one that will actually save us.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)
One way to learn of the truthfulness of a doctrine is to live it. The scriptures teach us that only when we have exercised faith in a doctrine and lived it will we receive the confirmation from the Holy Ghost that the doctrine is true. It then becomes our responsibility to live that doctrine because that will be one of the sources of our happiness and freedom from sin. This is why learning true doctrine is so important — true doctrine or teachings is our ticket out of the clutches of sin and the punishments that go with it.
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. (Isaiah 28:9)
When we are first introduced to the Church, we find that just getting used to all the service and the changes in lifestyle occupy almost all of our attention. That is the milk of the gospel, learning to be kind to one another. Eventually, the Lord expects us to be weaned from a diet of just milk to a diet that includes more substantial things, like why we are here in mortality, where we are going after this life, how to use the Holy Ghost to communicate more fully with God, etc.
That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you. (Doctrine and Covenants 97:14)
This is the desired end result for each of us. The Lord wants us to be perfected in our ministry — and not only in our ministering, but in the theory, principles, doctrines, and in all things having to do with the kingdom of God on the earth. God’s priesthood power is here, and He expects His children (you and me) to learn to be like Him. He wants us to come to understand His plan for us as He understands it. This is the doctrine He has given us to learn.
Doctrine in the Lord’s Church
Doctrine is taught in our main worship service each week by members of the congregation. We also have Sunday School, and study a different book of scripture each year. Doctrine is also taught in Priesthood meetings, Relief Society, Young Women, Young Men, and Primary (for the young children). Doctrine is also taught in the home during daily scripture reading, our implementation of Come, Follow Me, and during Family Home Evening on Monday nights.
It is not enough for us to just be well-behaved toward each other. God wants us to understand His works and what those works mean to us. This is done by learning about God through the scriptures and through the living apostles and prophets. The Lord expects us to learn the principles of salvation and how to make good choices, how to think intelligently about how we serve each other, and how to receive our own revelation. If we don’t know the doctrines of God in their purity, we won’t know how to do these things. The Lord has filled the scriptures and modern writings with His doctrine. It is up to us to seek it out and learn it. These are the things that open our minds to the things of the eternities. These are the guiding principles and rules for how to live our lives and get the most joy out of each day.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.