The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

By , on April 24, 2016

Doctrine, Fundamental Principles, Millett


In my postings on this blog, I try to make certain that only true doctrine is included.  True doctrine is salvational in nature.  Anything else, regardles of how it sounds or who says it, is not salvational and thus is information that stands in a much lower place than does true doctrine.

On a recent visit to the ruins of the ancient city of Corinth, I saw the very place in the ancient Roman marketplace of that city where the Apostle Paul was confronted in the presence of a high Roman official, Gallio, with untrue accusations of wrongdoing made by some of the Jews of that city.  (See Acts 18, particularly Verses 12-16)  Paul persisted in his teaching and, over the course of 18 months, built the church in Corinth into one of its strongest branches and a bulwark for Christianity in Europe for years to come.

Paul never feared to teach true doctrine.  That was the source of his miraculous missionary and counseling power.

It was useful for me to be reminded of some of the reasons why we must be so careful with and respectful of gospel doctrine in the writings of Robert L. Millet.  Toward the end of this excerpt, Brother Millet also refers to Paul’s teachings about doctrine.  From Brother Millet:

It would be well for us to apply a lesson from President Harold B. Lee: “With respect to doctrines and meanings of scriptures, let me give you a safe counsel. It is usually not well to use a single passage of scripture [or, I would add, a single sermon] in proof of a point of doctrine unless it is confirmed by modern revelation or by the Book of Mormon. . . . To single out a passage of scripture to prove a point, unless it is [so] confirmed . . . is always a hazardous thing.”

In a very real sense, we as Latter-day Saints are spoiled. We have been given so much knowledge from on high relative to the nature of God, Christ, man, the plan of salvation, and the overall purpose of life here and the glory to be had hereafter that we are inclined to expect to have all the answers to all the questions of life. Elder Neal A. Maxwell pointed out that “the exhilarations of discipleship exceed its burdens. Hence, while journeying through our Sinai, we are nourished in the Bountiful-like oases of the Restoration. Of these oases some of our first impressions may prove to be more childish than definitive. . . . In our appreciation, little wonder some of us mistake a particular tree for the whole of an oasis, or a particularly refreshing pool for the entirety of the Restoration’s gushing and living waters. Hence, in our early exclamations there may even be some unintended exaggerations. We have seen and partaken of far too much; hence, we ‘cannot [speak] the smallest part [which] we feel’ (Alma 26:16).”

We have much, to be sure, but there are “many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God” yet to come forth (Article of Faith 9). The Lord stated to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo: “I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times” (D&C 124:41; compare 121:26; 128:18). As Elder Oaks observed, we have been given many commands but not all the reasons why, many of the directives but not all the explanations. It is as important for us to know what we do not know as it is for us to know what we know. Far too many things are taught or discussed or even argued about that belong in the realm of the unrevealed and thus the unresolved. Such matters, particularly if they do not fall within the range of revealed truth that Church leaders teach today, do not edify or inspire. Often, very often, they lead to confusion and sow discord.

That does not in any way mean that we should not seek to study and grow in our gospel understanding. Peter explained that there needs to be a reason for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). Our knowledge should be as settling to the mind as it is soothing to the heart. Elder Maxwell taught that some “Church members know just enough about the doctrines to converse superficially on them, but their scant knowledge about the deep doctrines is inadequate for deep discipleship (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus uninformed about the deep doctrines, they make no deep change in their lives.”

President Hugh B. Brown once observed: “I am impressed with the testimony of a man who can stand and say he knows the gospel is true. What I would like to ask is ‘But, sir, do you know the gospel?’ . . . Mere testimony can be gained with but perfunctory knowledge of the Church and its teachings. . . . But to retain a testimony, to be of service in building the Lord’s kingdom, requires a serious study of the gospel and knowing what it is.” President Brown taught that we are required only to “defend those doctrines of the church contained in the four standard works. . . . Anything beyond that by anyone is his or her own opinion and not scripture. . . . The only way I know of by which the teachings of any person or group may become binding upon the church is if the teachings have been reviewed by all the brethren, submitted to the highest councils of the church, and then approved by the whole body of the church.” Again, the issue is one of focus, one of emphasis-where we choose to spend our time when we teach the gospel both to Latter-day Saints and to those of other faiths.

There is a valid reason why it is difficult to tie down Latter-day Saint doctrine, one that derives from the very nature of the Restoration. That God continues to speak through his anointed servants; that He, through those servants, continues to reveal, elucidate, and clarify what has already been given; and that our canon of scripture is open, flexible, and expanding-all militate against what many in the Christian world would call a systematic theology.

It is the declaration of sound and solid doctrine, the doctrine found in scripture and taught regularly by Church leaders, that builds faith and strengthens testimony and commitment to the Lord and his kingdom. Elder Maxwell explained that “deeds do matter as well as doctrines, but the doctrines can move us to do the deeds, and the Spirit can help us to understand the doctrines as well as prompt us to do the deeds.” He also noted that “when weary legs falter and detours and roadside allurements entice, the fundamental doctrines will summon from deep within us fresh determination. Extraordinary truths can move us to extraordinary accomplishments.”

The teaching and application of sound doctrine are great safeguards to us in these last days, shields against the fiery darts of the adversary. Understanding true doctrine and being true to that doctrine can keep us from ignorance, from error, and from sin. The apostle Paul counseled Timothy: “If thou put the brethren [and sisters] in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. . . . Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6, 13).

Robert L. Millet

“Getting at the Truth: Responding to Difficult Questions about LDS Beliefs,” Shadow Mountain (June 2004)

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