Basic Doctrinal Principles
There are three separate personages in the Godhead: God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (see Articles of Faith 1:1; Acts 7:55–56). The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22–23). Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.
2. Plan of Salvation
In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father introduced a plan to enable us to become like Him and obtain immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). The scriptures refer to this plan as the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of mercy (see Alma 42:5, 8, 11, 15). The plan includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection, the Final Judgment, and all God-given laws, ordinances, doctrine, and commandments. Moral agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, is also essential in Heavenly Father’s plan. The Holy Ghost is provided to guide us in our choices.
Because of the plan of salvation, we can be perfected through the Atonement, receive a fulness of joy, and live forever in the presence of God. Our family relationships can last through the eternities.
3. Atonement of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement. His Atonement included His suffering for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His Resurrection from the tomb. In addition to suffering for our sins, He also took upon Himself our pains, sicknesses, and infirmities (see Alma 7:11–13). Jesus Christ overcame physical and spiritual death. Because of His Atonement, everyone will be resurrected (see 1 Corinthians 15:20–22). Those who repent, obey the commandments, receive the saving ordinances, and keep their covenants will receive the gift of eternal life (see Articles of Faith 1:3).
4. Dispensation, Apostasy, and Restoration
A dispensation is a period of time when the Lord reveals His gospel doctrine, ordinances, and priesthood. It is a period in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the holy priesthood and who has a divine commission to dispense, or proclaim, the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth. Today we are living in the last dispensation—the dispensation of the fulness of times (see Ephesians 1:10).
Apostasy results when people turn away from the principles of the gospel and no longer have priesthood keys (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3). Periods of general apostasy have occurred throughout the history of the world, often followed by a new dispensation when the Lord restores His doctrine, ordinances, and priesthood (see Acts 3:19–21).
Restoration refers to God’s reestablishment of the truths and ordinances of His gospel among men on earth. The most recent and last restoration (often referred to as “the Restoration”) began in 1820 when God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in response to his prayers (see Joseph Smith—History 1:15–20). The fulness of the gospel has been restored, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30).
5. Prophets and Revelation
A prophet is a person who has been called by God to speak for Him (see Amos 3:7). Prophets testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God’s will and true character. At times, they prophesy of future events. God has called prophets to speak for Him in our day (see D&C 1:38).
Revelation is communication from God to His children. When the Lord reveals His will to the Church, He speaks through His prophet. The scriptures—the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price—contain revelations given through ancient and latter-day prophets. The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s prophet on earth today.
Individuals can receive revelation to help them with their specific needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help strengthen their testimonies. Most revelations to leaders and members of the Church come through impressions and thoughts from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost speaks to the mind and heart in a still, small voice (see D&C 8:2–3). Revelation can also come through visions, dreams, and visitations by angels.
6. Priesthood and Priesthood Keys
Priesthood is the authority and the power that God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. There are two priesthoods in the Church, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek (see D&C 107:1, 6). Priesthood keys are given to men to direct God’s kingdom on earth. Through these keys, priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth. All who serve in the Church are called under the direction of one who holds priesthood keys. Thus, they are entitled to the power needed to serve and fulfill the responsibilities of their calling.
Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children. God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. The blessings of the priesthood are available to all—men, women, and children.
7. Ordinances and Covenants
An ordinance is a sacred, formal act that has spiritual meaning. Each ordinance teaches spiritual truths. Ordinances are performed by the authority of the priesthood and under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Some ordinances are essential to exaltation and are called saving ordinances. They include baptism (see John 3:5; renewed by the ordinance of the sacrament), confirmation (see Acts 2:36–38), and, for men, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (see D&C 84:33–34). Other saving ordinances—the endowment and the marriage sealing—are performed only in temples. The temple is one of the most sacred places on earth. It is the house of the Lord. All of the saving ordinances can also be performed vicariously for the dead in the temple. Vicarious ordinances become effective only when the deceased persons accept them in the spirit world and honor the related covenants (see D&C 138:32–34, 58).
All saving ordinances of the priesthood are accompanied by covenants. A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and man. God gives the conditions for the covenant, and we agree to do what He asks us to do. God then promises us certain blessings for our obedience. The sacrament allows us to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord.
Other ordinances, such as administering to the sick and the naming and blessing of children, are also important to our spiritual development.
8. Marriage and Family
Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the family is central to His plan of salvation and to happiness (see Genesis 2:24). Parents are to multiply and replenish the earth, to rear their children in love and righteousness, and to provide for their physical and spiritual needs. Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, such as faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. (See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”)
Commandments are the laws and requirements that God gives to mankind. When we keep the commandments, we manifest our love for the Lord and receive blessings from Him (see Leviticus 26:3–12; John 14:15; Mosiah 2:41). We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to have Christlike love for others (see Matthew 22:36–39; John 13:34–35).
The Ten Commandments were revealed to Moses anciently and are still vital today (see Exodus 20:3–17). They include keeping the Sabbath day holy (see Exodus 20:8–11; Isaiah 58:13–14; D&C 59:9–13), keeping the law of chastity (see Exodus 20:14; Genesis 39:7–9; Alma 39:9), and being honest (see Exodus 20:16). Examples of other commandments include paying a full tithe (see Malachi 3:8–10), fasting (see Isaiah 58:6–7), praying (see 3 Nephi 18:15, 20–21; D&C 10:5), and observing the Word of Wisdom (see D&C 89:18–21).
We have also been commanded to become as our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in our desires, thoughts, words, and actions (see 3 Nephi 12:48). The Lord has given us eternal truths, or principles, that help govern our decisions and actions. These principles lead us to live as the Savior and receive His promised blessings.