How Important Is the Study of Doctrine?

November 29, 2009

Is it important to study the doctrines of the Church?  How important?  If it is important, why is it important?  What role does a study of doctrine play in avoiding false doctrine?  Can a correct understanding of doctrine help us build faith?  What is the role of doctrine in repentance?  Is it possible to learn correct doctrine from books?  How about the Book of Mormon, the Bible and other books in our standard works?  Can other books help us learn?  How important is the ability to read and write well to the understanding of correct doctrine?  Can a person obtain an adequate understanding of the gospel without studying gospel doctrine?  President Kimball taught that education is important and that gospel education is the most important education.  If that is true, why is it so?  What is the best way to tell the difference between true doctrine and personal opinion?  Does it matter if the opinion is true?  Our leaders have said that Mormonism includes everything that is true.  That is, if it is true it is part of the gospel.  What does that mean, and is it a good teaching?  How is it possible to make a lifelong study of Church doctrine without getting out in left field with speculation and possibly false doctrine?  Are the writings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie still valuable for the study of doctrine?  Or do we risk getting off in left field from the study of these sermons and writings?

Over the next few months and possibly years, I am going to try to answer some of these questions if I can.  It seems to me that the way the Church teaches doctrine has changed a lot since I was converted by the doctrine nearly forty-seven years ago.  I do not understand these changes, but in order to obtain a testimony of them, I need to understand them better.  I think of it as part of the pondering that is so important in receiving personal revelation.  Of one thing I am certain, in order to understand the scriptures, one must believe them.  Knowledge without belief is futile.  A lack of belief inevitably leads to misunderstanding and incorrect knowledge.