Administration in the Church Educational System is appropriate when it is based upon principles found in the standard works and the words of the prophets.
Gospel principles, as taught in the standard works and by prophets, are unchanging and apply to all cultures and all times. Appropriate administering is based on gospel principles. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 117; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).
As CES programs are established in many nations and cultures, assignments to administer are delegated to a greater number of leaders and teachers. Customs and traditions are important to many people. When a custom or tradition is not in harmony with gospel principles, however, it should be abandoned.1
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant” (“Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Ensign, Aug. 1979, 5).
Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Procedures, programs, the administrative policies, even some patterns of organization are subject to change. … But the principles, the doctrines, never change” (“Principles,” Ensign, Mar. 1985, 8).
The Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired statement “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (quoted in John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, 15 Nov. 1851, 339) applies to CES leaders.
Elder Boyd K. Packer also taught:
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
When leaders recognize needs, they provide necessary help to those they lead by acting on and teaching related doctrines and principles.
Elder Richard G. Scott counseled members of the Church: “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 117; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86). Learning and applying true principles is not always an easy process. It requires exercising faith and experimenting upon the word of God (see Alma 32:27).
Gospel principles can be learned by communicating directly with our Father in Heaven in prayer and by studying the standard works and the words of the prophets. Principles are also found in CES handbooks and in other Church-produced materials. Individuals may also learn true principles through their own experiences in living the gospel, observing others, and being taught by leaders and teachers. True principles are found in the standard works and in the words of the prophets.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “if the Lord reveals a doctrine, we should seek to learn its principles and strive to apply them in our lives” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 492). As individuals learn correct principles, they will be motivated and guided by the Holy Ghost to apply them. Considering which doctrines and principles apply to a given situation helps individuals both govern their lives and make wise administrative decisions. For example, when delegating assignments, a leader should consider such doctrines or principles as the diversity of gifts, individual accountability, and nurturing growth through participation.
While CES does provide certain policies and procedures, it does not attempt to provide specific rules or policies that dictate every detail. Leaders and teachers must consider the doctrines and principles associated with a particular issue and then apply them in making a decision or resolving a problem.2
Even when a policy is stated or a program is in place, it is important to understand the associated doctrines and principles so that the policy is appropriately applied or the program appropriately administered. Bishop Glenn L. Pace, then a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, reminded us:
“As great as the various programs of the Church are, they carry with them a potential danger. If we are not careful, it is possible to get so wrapped up in the plan that we forget the principles. We can fall into the trap of mistaking traditions for principles and confusing programs with their objectives.
“Programs blindly followed bring us to a discipline of doing good, but principles properly understood and practiced bring us to a disposition to do good” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 28–29; or Ensign, May 1986, 23–24).
Even when leaders and teachers understand and abide by what is established, there will be occasions for exceptions to practices, programs, procedures, policies, and organizational patterns within CES. In those times when exceptions need to be made, gospel doctrines and principles should guide decisions. Before adaptations are made, leaders and teachers should counsel with CES leaders and councils (see p. 22) and local priesthood leaders (see p. 5).