“Learning Experience 7: Identifying Doctrine and Principles,” New-Teacher Training Resource: A Teacher-Improvement Companion to the Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook (2016)
“Learning Experience 7,” New-Teacher Training Resource
This learning experience covers the following concepts:
Identifying stated doctrine and principles
Identifying implied doctrine and principles
Writing principle statements
The learning pattern introduced in learning experience 5 provides fundamentals that help instill the gospel in our minds and hearts. In this learning experience, we will address identifying doctrine and principles.
The purpose of this learning experience is to provide a brief introduction to aspects of the learning pattern. As you serve as a seminary or institute teacher, you will have many more opportunities to learn about and practice these skills.
In the parable of the gems, a young woman dreams about discovering gems of great worth.
Similarly, when we study the scriptures we can discover scriptural gems that can bless our lives.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“Brothers and sisters, the scriptures offer us so many doctrinal diamonds. And when the light of the Spirit plays upon their several facets, they sparkle with celestial sense and illuminate the path we are to follow” (“According to the Desires of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21).
The gems in the sand symbolize the essential doctrine and important principles of truth that are contained in the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
In the parable of the gems, the young woman seeks to discover valuable gems. As she searches, she finds some close to the surface and others deeper in the sand. Similarly, you will find that some doctrine and principles are stated overtly in the scriptures and are easily identified. Others are not stated directly in the scriptures but instead are implied. These require more effort to discover.
Stated Doctrine and Principles
Implied Doctrine and Principles
Doctrine and principles that are stated clearly and overtly in the scripture text.
Doctrine and principles that are not stated directly by the scripture writer but are instead implied in the text.
When speaking of identifying doctrine and principles, Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“Search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).
The remainder of this learning experience will assist in developing your capacity to identify both stated and implied doctrine and principles in your study. (See also Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion , 27.)
Stated doctrine and principles are those that are clearly and overtly declared in the scripture text.
Read the following scriptures to see examples of clearly stated doctrine and principles (emphasized in bold).
John 15:10—“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
Genesis 1:27—“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Doctrine and Covenants 59:23—“But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.”
Helaman 3:27—“Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.”
Job 36:5—“Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.”
In the parable of the gems, the young woman was not content discovering only the gems just under the surface of the sand. She learned that by digging deeper in the sand and carefully sifting through it, she could discover other gems of great worth.
Similarly, as you study the scriptures, you can learn to “dig” and “sift” through the context and content of the scriptures to find implied doctrine and principles. These are often some of the most precious and important discoveries you will make in your scripture study. Discovering implied doctrine and principles requires time and careful thought.
The Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook gives the following suggestions to help teachers and students identify implied doctrine and principles:
Look for cause-and-effect relationships
“By analyzing the actions, attitudes, and behaviors [causes] of individuals or groups in the scriptural account, and identifying the blessings or consequences that came as a result [effects], gospel principles become more apparent” (Gospel Teaching and Learning, 27).
“While reading Matthew 4:1–11, I began to focus on the actions of the Savior and how He fasted and prayed in an effort to ‘be with God.’ I then saw how He used the scriptures to dismiss the temptations directed toward Him by the adversary. His fasting, prayer, and use of the scriptures (cause) provided sufficient spiritual strength to overcome temptation (effect). As I made this discovery, I wrote this simple statement of principle in my journal: When we fast, pray, and understand the scriptures, we can have greater spiritual strength to overcome temptation.”
“I found a great implied principle in 1 Nephi 18:3. Nephi went ‘into the mount oft and did pray oft unto the Lord.’ As a result, the Lord showed him great things. As I contemplated this message, I wrote the following principle in the margin of my scriptures: The more I seek to commune with the Lord in personal prayer, the more He will reveal to me great things.”
Implied principles can also be identified by asking questions like the following:
What is the moral, or point, of the story?
Why did the author include these events or passages?
What did the author intend for us to learn?
What are some of the fundamental truths taught in this passage?
“While reading Doctrine and Covenants 9, which contains the Lord’s counsel to Oliver Cowdery, who had failed in an attempt to help translate the Book of Mormon, I asked, ‘What is the moral or point of this story?’ An implied principle that came to my mind was Receiving and recognizing revelation requires effort on our part.”
“In Alma 17–18, I read about Ammon serving King Lamoni with no thought of reward and King Lamoni being impressed by Ammon’s faithfulness. I found myself wondering, ‘Why did the author include these details in these chapters?’ In answer to this question, I wrote the following principle in my scriptures: As we serve others faithfully, we can help them prepare to receive the truths of the gospel.”
State doctrine and principles clearly and simply
The Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook teaches that “identifying implied [doctrine and] principles includes recognizing the truths being illustrated in a scriptural account and stating them clearly and succinctly” (Gospel Teaching and Learning, 27). Writing clear and complete statements of doctrine and principle helps us to articulate our thoughts and capture a scriptural message the Lord desires to give us.
Elder B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the Seventy taught:
“To be known, the truth must be stated and the clearer and more complete the statement is, the better the opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true” (New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. , 2:vii, quoted in James E. Faust, “What I Want My Son to Know before He Leaves on His Mission,” Ensign, May 1996, 41).
Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized:
“It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).
As you do as Elder Scott suggests—“organize the truth [you] gather to simple statements of principle”—you will find that the most helpful statements of doctrine or principle share some of the following characteristics:
They are complete statements.
They are simple, clear, and succinct.
The truths they express are fundamental, unchanging, and timeless.
They often suggest action as well as associated consequences.
They are personally relevant.
Which of these characteristics can you see in each of the following statements of doctrine or principle?
The more I seek to commune with the Lord in personal prayer, the more He will reveal great things to me.
When I fast, pray, and understand the scriptures, I can have greater spiritual strength to overcome temptation.
Jesus Christ suffered for my sins.
Receiving and recognizing revelation requires effort on my part.
As I serve others faithfully, I can help them prepare to receive the truths of the gospel.
A central purpose of scripture is to teach the doctrine and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Doctrine consists of fundamental, unchanging truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A principle is an enduring truth or rule that individuals can adopt to guide them in making decisions.
Some doctrine and principles are stated clearly and overtly in the scripture text, while others are only implied.
Identifying implied doctrine and principles includes stating them clearly and succinctly.
Identifying doctrine and principles in the scriptures takes thoughtful effort and practice.
“One cannot honestly study the scriptures without learning gospel principles because the scriptures have been written to preserve principles for our benefit” (Marion G. Romney, “The Message of the Old Testament” [Church Educational System symposium on the Old Testament, Aug. 17, 1979], 3).
To conclude this learning experience, write down some things you will do based on the principles you have learned today.