Gospel Theory

In the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelations, which some refer to as “The Latest Testament of Jesus Christ,” the Lord commands the saints to teach one another diligently, in revelations received December-January 1832-3:

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— (D&C 88: 78,79)

Consequently, each Sunday, in every chapel of the church, world-wide, classes are held to teach official courses of Gospel Principles and Gospel Doctrine.

The course of Gospel Principles teaches the principles of conversion, of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance of sin, baptism by immersion by those with authority, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. They teach principles of scripture study, of prayer, of fasting and of personal service to others, through church callings and compassionate Christian sharing of self. This instruction might be characterized as the “how” of Christian discipleship.

In the course of Gospel Doctrine, we might say that the “what” of the gospel of Christ is taught, from the standard works of the Church: The Old and New Testaments of Jesus Christ, coming from Judah, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, coming from Joseph, called the Book of Mormon, and the Latest Testament of Jesus Christ, coming from Latter-Day Saints, called the Doctrine and Covenants.

These testaments, along with divine revisions to the Old Testament text called The Pearl of Great Price, constitute the authoritative source of Church doctrine, as interpreted and taught by the general authorities of the Church.

However, notice in the revelation quoted above that, while the Lord desires that the saints be instructed more perfectly in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel and, in short, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for them to understand, leading the list of things they are to teach diligently is theory.

Yet, curiously enough, there is no “Gospel Theory” course taught in the Church. There may be many reasons for this, but given the stigma placed on the word “theory” today, especially as used in the phrase “conspiracy theory,” it’s not all that surprising.

Nevertheless, why would the Lord put theory first in the list of things to be taught by his attending grace, if he didn’t mean for the saints to teach it diligently to one another, along with gospel principles, doctrines and laws?

Moreover, if gospel principles are the “how” of discipleship, and gospel doctrines and laws are the “what” of the faith, shouldn’t we then characterize gospel theory as the “why” of the Lord’s work? For example, we might ask, “Why did the New Testament Church fall into apostasy?” or “Why did the Father lead away from the house of Israel from time to time?” or “Why did the last become the first, and then again the first become the last?”

Clearly, these are questions we might theorize about and seek to know the Lord’s mind and will concerning them that it might be for our profit and learning. Isn’t this what Adam did, when he asked the Lord, “Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water?” The answer to Adam’s question was a marvelous revelation on the plan of salvation. It seems as if the Lord wants to teach his children who are eager to understand, who have inquiring minds.

A striking counter-example of this is related to us by the Savior himself, in the book of 3 Nephi, of the Book of Mormon, where he explains that the ancient Americans, to whom he administered there, were a remnant of the house of Joseph, and that the land of America was theirs. This land is the land of their inheritance, just as the holy land of Palestine is the land of inheritance for Abraham, Issac and Jacob, according to the word of God.

However, the Savior said that the Father never commanded him to tell this fact to their brethren back in Jerusalem from whence they came. Neither was he commanded to tell them of the other tribes of the house of Israel whom the Father had lead away from time to time. The only thing he was commanded to tell them was that “other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”

But did they understand why he said this to them? No, they did not, and evidently they did not inquire further of him concerning the matter, and that is why the Father commanded him to say no more about it to them.

Had they theorized among themselves as to why Jehovah had lead these remnants of the tribes of Israel away from the promised land, and after studying it out in their own minds and coming to some conclusion, asked him if they understood correctly, or not, he no doubt would have explained that, just as a portion of Joseph’s coat had been miraculously preserved down through the centuries, so too Jehovah would preserve a portion of Jacob’s descendants, by leading a righteous remnant of them out the lands of their fathers to other promised lands.

He then would have had the opportunity to explain that this was part of the marvelous work of the Father, his strange work, his act, his strange act, wherein he would continue his labor to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, through his Only Begotten Son, whom he sent into the world to save it, and would make it known to all men, in a future time.

He could have explained that it would be in a time when the Father would send righteousness down from heaven, and he would send forth truth out the earth, to bear witness of his Only Begotten Son, his resurrection from the dead and the resurrection of all men, proving to many that he is the Eternal God, the same yesterday, today and forever, and that he has created the earth and all things therein and has brought in a host of men upon the face thereof.

With this much understood, we can see why a course in gospel theory would be profitable for the saints, since they too may have been given knowledge of things designed to pique the interest of the faithful, whereby, exercising great faith, they might, after studying it out in their own minds, inquire of the Lord concerning the matter and thus learn the mind and will of the Lord, receiving the greater light and knowledge that he always promises to send the faithful.