What is LDS Doctrine?

Dr. Michael Goodman was part of the team tagged to write the institute cornerstone course The Eternal Family. He and his team developed 28 lessons using the 600-word “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” as a framework.

When deciding what to include, the writers needed to determine what was doctrine and what was individual interpretation.

Using definitions provided by LDS Church leaders, they were able to articulate clear criteria.

Doctrine is what the current prophets, seers, and revelators are teaching. They include eternal, essential truths necessary for our salvation and meet three criteria:

  1. Doctrine is eternal; it does not change through time.
  2. Doctrine is sustained by the united voice of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.
  3. Doctrine is necessary for our salvation.

On LDS.org, the nine basic doctrines of the Church are listed and are now the current focus of the seminary Doctrinal Mastery program.

Dr. Goodman points out in his discussion with Laura Harris Hales of the LDS Perspectives Podcast that just because something isn’t doctrine, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t come from God. It simply means we can look at it in light of its non-doctrinal nature.

Visit LDS Perspectives to find links to resources including the Basic Doctrines listed on lds.org.

18 thoughts on “What is LDS Doctrine?

  1. What is the lds.org link to the nine points of doctrine you mention? Thanks in advance.

  2. “Doctrine is what the current prophets, seers, and revelators are teaching…

    Doctrine is eternal; it does not change through time.”

    Which is it? Current or eternal?

    If doctrine is what the current leaders are teaching, then doctrine is not eternal. Clearly, what has been taught has changed over time.

    If doctrine is eternal, and while it may be fixed, clearly our understandings (and our teachings) have changed over time.

    I prefer to see church doctrine as what is currently being taught in the church. There are many eternal truths in those teachings, but likely not all current teachings are eternal truths and likely there are eternal truths not included in what we teach. I don’t think we fully understand all eternal truths — we only get glimpses. Based on what we receive, we have doctrine and we teach the doctrine — and when we receive more, we adjust our doctrines and our teachings.

    It is easy to mix up doctrine, curriculum, eternal truth, differing yet valid perspectives, and so forth. We err when we become overly dogmatic in these matters.

  3. Eternal truths and “doctrine” are two separate things. Things necessary for our salvation are doctrine hut all doctrine is not necessary for our salvation, even to the point that some doctrine may be falsehoods that hinder our salvation.

  4. I just read the summary of Doctrine and find it wonderful. The nine listed and explained are elegantly brief and explicit.

  5. So Basic Doctrines include the word sacrament one time and not under ordinances but under covenants. The word Sabbath is not included but there is a mention of the Ten Commandments.

    The Catholic Catechism fundamentally revolves around the doctrine of the Eucharist.

    I personally believe that all the ordinances of the gospel including the temple ordinances start and culminate in the sacrament.

  6. Ms. Hales, The antecedent for it is not very clear. What would you not spend too much time thinking about?

  7. So I listened to the podcast. My previous points were based on reading Basic Doctrines. If sacrament is a practice (because it was instituted by Christ in the meridian of time) why are vicarious ordinances not a practice? Have we not been taught that they were not instituted until Christ’s ministry to spirit prison?

    But even if we want to say that neither are doctrines would we not agree that these practices are so theologically fundamental, that they are so linked inextricably with the doctrine that the doctrine cannot be understood without a deep understanding of the practice? And consequently we will not have doctrinal mastery until we understand the practice and how the practice teaches doctrine?

    It would be nice to have a transcript to refer back to.

  8. I went back to Basic Doctrines to see if Dr. Goodman’s criteria are embodied in the document. They are not. So I browsed the document again to see how the doctrinal topics fit his criteria.

    Opaquely at best. Apostasy is an eternal doctrine? Restoration is an eternal doctrine?

    I am guessing that the authors if Basic Doctrine did not formulate it based on the criteria he identifies or that it was force fit after the fact.

    Here are some things that I find more compelling as doctrines using his criteria.

    Incarnation (not a Mormon word but the foundation of the Doctrine of Christ)
    Universal Salvation

    Apostasy, restoration, priesthood, ordinances etc all fall out of these doctrines.

  9. I have had some time to think it over again and I think we all get caught up in some importance of semantics and words and categories that its rather ridiculous in the greater scope. When Christ was on the earth he taught his doctrine. That doctrine included the sacrament and the commandments, repentance, loving others, etc. He didnt stop and say such and such was “practice” some was “policy” and other was “doctrine”. No, he taught all of it as his doctrine and how that doctrine was to be administered. Its only in our latter day that we have gotten hung up on these categories. Kind of ridiculous.

  10. Greetings all,

    I didn’t realize my podcast had been posted anywhere other than LDS Perspectives Podcast until one of my students thanked me for it and told me he listened to it either here or FairLDS so I’m late to the comments.

    I don’t know how long this blog allows answer to be but I’ll try to answer a few questions that were raised in the comments above. First thing first – the three criteria I used in my interview with Laura were 1. Doctrine are eternal / 2. Doctrine is taught regularly by the FP and Q12 and / 3. Doctrine is salvific. By no means did I make these criteria up nor do I believe they are the only possible way of evaluating doctrine. They are simply three criteria that the current FP and Q12 are actively teaching and I have found to be helpful to my students (I’m a BYU religion professor). The following are a few of the sources for these three criteria. This list is not exhaustive. There are more statement that could be added but these are representative:

    1. Eternal – not changing – not time-bound

    “Every principle proceeding from God is eternal” (TPJS, 181).

    “Procedures, programs, the administrative policies, even some patterns of organization are subject to change. We are quite free, indeed, quite obliged to alter them from time to time. But the principles, the doctrines, never change.” (Boyd K. Packer, March, 1985)
    One cannot successfully attack true principles or doctrine, because they are eternal. (James E. Faust, GC, October, 2003)

    “Doctrines are eternal and do not change; however, the Lord, through His prophet, may change practices and programs, according to the needs of the people.” (David A. Bednar, Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual, (2010), 14.

    “Procedures, programs, policies, and patterns of organization are helpful for our spiritual progress here on earth, but let’s not forget that they are subject to change. In contrast, the core of the gospel—the doctrine and the principles—will never change.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2008)

    2. United Voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve

    Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray (Joseph Fielding Smith, GC, April, 1972)

    There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. (Neil L. Anderson, GC, October 2012)

    With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture…., official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. (Approaching Mormon Doctrine – LDS.ORG – Newsroom)

    3. Salvific – A doctrine is a truth related to our salvation

    “A gospel doctrine is a truth – a truth of salvation revealed by a loving Heavenly Father. Gospel doctrines are eternal, do not change, and pertain to the eternal progression and exaltation of Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters. Doctrines such as the nature of the Godhead, the plan of happiness, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are foundational, fundamental, and comprehensive. The core doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ are relatively few in number. (David A. Bednar, Increase in Learning, p. 151.)

    Now on to a few questions:

    Ji asked “Is it current or is it eternal”

    If it is a doctrine – according to the above criteria the answer is yes. Eternal must include the current. But Ji’s point that “If doctrine is eternal, and while it may be fixed, clearly our understandings (and our teachings) have changed over time” is absolutely true. We believe the atonement is an eternal doctrine though our understanding of it continues to grow and the emphasis the FP and Q12 place on different aspects changes according to the needs of the people. Most certainly we should not become overly dogmatic in our approach and I also agree that what the FP and Q12 are currently teaching is crucial – whether what they are teaching is a doctrine or a principle or a practice or a ….

    Al Miller asked about the “Basic Doctrine List” and whether I had anything to do with it or whether I based the criteria I focus on in the podcast on that list. The answer is no I didn’t have anything to do with it nor did I base the criteria off of it. I based the criteria on statements from the FP and Q12 like I listed above. I didn’t mean to hold each one of those 9 points from the Basic Doctrine List up as perfect examples of doctrine – it was simply an example of how limited a list of doctrine might be. And I actually believe Al’s point regarding such things as Apostasy and Restoration being events or practices is actually spot on if we use the criteria of the Brethren I focus on in the podcast. I also agree that such things as apostasy and Restoration are theologically foundational to understand the doctrine of prophets and revelation (that God always works through prophets and revelation).

    Finally – it’s crucial to remember that whether something is eternal in nature / being taught currently by the FP and Q12 and is salvific doesn’t determine if it is true or if it comes from God. Those are simply three criteria the the FP and Q12 are using to help members differentiate between doctrine/principles on one hand and policy/practices on the other. I’ve found them to be very helpful to my students and to others.

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