IT IS NOT UNCOMMON IN gospel discussions for someone to challenge what is being said with the question, “Is that official Church doctrine?” This question often means the one asking it does not like what is being said and is seeking a reason not to be bound by it. The question is generally successful in putting the one being challenged on the defensive because of the difficulties associated with defining “official Church doctrine.” In telling the story of the Creation, for instance, teachers are commonly challenged with the question, “Does the Church have an official position on the theory of evolution?” The answer is no, it does not. On the other hand, and this is certainly very important in such a discussion, the Church does have an official position on the doctrine of the origin of man. The way questions are framed is very important. On the one hand, the Church is not in the business of evaluating scientific theories; on the other, it is in the business of teaching that all humankind are the offspring of divine parents and thus not the product of an evolutionary process. The knowledge that we obtain in the temple, knowledge required for us to enter into the presence of the Lord, and the ordinances performed there do not permit the notion that our blood line traces to animals.
If the body of “official doctrine” is to be limited to formal declarations by the First Presidency, the Church has precious little doctrine. From the time of its organization in the spring of 1830 to the present, there have been very few instances in which the First Presidency has issued “official” doctrinal declarations. These have included the statement on the origin of man, a doctrinal exposition on the Father and the Son, and most recently the proclamation on the family. Each of these declarations is marvelous in its own right, but if our definition of “official doctrines” is defined so narrowly that it is limited to these declarations and the few others we have received, we could not even declare faith, repentance, and baptism as doctrines of the Church. Indeed, most of what we understand to be the doctrine of the Church finds no mention in such documents. Certainly the standard works, the temple ceremony, and much instruction that has come to us by those whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators is also “official doctrine.”
I was only 16 when I first learned from the Holy Ghost that the Church is true, but prior to that I had been engaged in a desperate search for something, anything that I could believe in. It certainly wasn’t the teachings of the churches I grew up in. When the missionaries first began giving me the lessons, I quickly realized that they were speaking the truth, something that one does not hear very often. I did not join the Church because these teachings were and were not “official Church doctrine.” I joined because I knew it was true, and I loved it because it was true.
I am not and never have been interested in what is or is not “official Church doctrine.” I am interested in truth if I can find it. Thank heaven I found some of it in the summer of 1962. The official Church doctrines are true, but not all that is true is official Church doctrine. If we limit our understanding of truth to official Church doctrine, we are limited indeed. After all, what is truth anyway? The Savior said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6) The truth is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is the truth. Really, in sense he is all there is in the universe. He created it.