Five Principles of Gospel Learning

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches five basic principles that should guide Latter-day Saints in their pursuit of gospel knowledge.

  1. Vital instruction is not hidden, but repeated. “Instruction vital to our salvation is not hidden in an obscure verse or phrase in the scriptures. To the contrary, essential truths are repeated over and over again.”
  2. Knowledge should be balanced. “Every verse, whether oft-quoted or obscure, must be measured against other verses. There are complementary and tempering teachings in the scriptures which bring a balanced knowledge of truth.”
  3. The Lord is consistent. “There is a consistency in what the Lord says and what He does, that is evident in all creation. Nature can teach valuable lessons about spiritual and doctrinal matters. The Lord drew lessons from flowers and foxes, from seeds and salt, and sparrows and sunsets.”
  4. The scriptures sustain each other. “Not all that God has said is in the Bible. Other scriptures—the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—have equal validity, and they sustain one another.”
  5. The Holy Ghost can make things plain. “While much must be taken on faith alone, there is individual revelation through which we may know the truth. ‘There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding’ (Job 32:8). What may be obscure in the scriptures can be made plain through the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can have as full an understanding of spiritual things as we are willing to earn.”

Avoid Deception

President Packer also adds this caution: “There is an adversary who has his own channels of spiritual communication. He confuses the careless and prompts those who serve him to devise deceptive, counterfeit doctrine, carefully contrived to appear genuine.

“I mention this because now, as always, there are self-appointed spokesmen who scoff at what we believe and misrepresent what we teach.”

Learn from His Friends

President Packer also shares this experience: “As a young seminary teacher, I learned a valuable lesson from our principal, Able S. Rich. He told me, ‘If you really want to know what a man is, and what he believes, do not go to his enemies. Go to the man himself or to his friends. He does not confide the thoughts of his heart to his enemies. His friends know him best; they know his strengths and his weaknesses. They will represent him fairly. His enemies will misrepresent him.’”

Learn from Doctrine

President Packer also promises Latter-day Saints that if they will remain faithful they will continue to learn.

“As a grandfather who has lived a long time,” he says, “I counsel you to have faith. Things have a way of working out. Stay close to the Church. Keep your children close to the Church.

“In Alma’s day ‘the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it … had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God’ (Alma 31:5).

“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.”