True Doctrine

I just noticed a Facebook post that I made a couple of years ago on this topic. I still like it but would like to modify it slightly so I am restating it below, slightly updated.

A word respecting official LDS doctrine. There is no official church doctrine, only an official source of doctrine – the standard works – scripture. And even that is an oversimplification as it isn’t even scripture per se but the revelation that comes when seriously contemplating scripture. True doctrine is received by revelation, which “distills upon our souls as the dews from heaven” (DC 121), as we contemplate scripture. True doctrine revealed as part of a process that includes scripture. The role of scripture is not to recite or contain true doctrine but to facilitate the revelation of true doctrine.

Some, unfortunately, consider attempts to articulate the results of such contemplation “idle speculation”. But there is nothing idle about the process – neither is it merely speculative, necessarily. It is intellectually challenging and the quality of the result, and ensuing satisfaction derived therefrom, is commensurate with the effort. Ironically those who oppose such “idle speculation” are idolaters. Their intent is to preserve the purity of the doctrine they mistakenly believe the scriptures to contain. But instead they raise the uncontemplated words themselves to the level of a false idol. “A Bible! A Bible!” (2 Nephi 29).

Or, just as unfortunate, they point to someone else and accept their articulation of doctrine as authoritative. “If so and so says it, it must be true.” This raises “so and so” to the level of mediator between the slothful servant and God. Any attempt to articulate truth must fail, at least in some measure, due to the inherent imperfection, or imprecision, or inadequacy, of words, being mere symbols. Our unarticulated concepts are far from perfect representations of reality but their accuracy is diminished further when they are articulated.

All this is really to say that the old advice that if you want the truth you ought to seek it in the horse’s mouth applies. As we contemplate the word of God, not only written in scripture but also as written in nature, we can glimpse the truth in its purest form. Then we start fitting it into our flawed concepts and some of that purity is lost. Then we try to articulate it and the glass darkens further.

That’s not to say our contemplation can’t be improved by including the relevant views others have articulated. But these absolutely must be taken as an aid to our own contemplation and not as a substitute for it.

Never cease to contemplate (not just read) the articulated word of God because, if you look beyond the words themselves, the Spirit will reveal the truth. “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10).

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