Tuesday, May 23, 2017

doctrine vs application

I teach the 14-16 year old girls in my congregation (Mabel included). Just the other day, I sat down to plan our Sunday lessons for the summer and we will be learning about some potentially difficult things-- things like the importance of keeping the law of chastity, temple marriage, and preparing for motherhood. While the world is screaming to these girls that these things are not important, it is my job to tell them otherwise. Sometimes that feels difficult.

I was really glad when my sister steered me toward an article on RubyGirl.org that talked about doctrine versus application. The gist is, if we want our children to learn truth - eternal truth, we must teach them doctrine, not application. For example, if we want our children to keep the law of chastity (a principle), we need to teach them that their body is a temple because it houses their spirit (the doctrine). They need to know the "why" behind the principle, not just how to apply it in their life (in this example, an application could be wearing modest clothing or not watching suggestive media).

The author, Rochelle Tallmadge, says this about doctrine: "Doctrine is truth. But not just any truth. Eternal Truth. Doctrine is things as they WERE, things as they ARE, and things as they really will BE. It doesn't change. Some things are true on this earth, but they aren't TRUTH. ... Doctrine doesn't tell you what to do. It just IS."

About principles, she says, "A principle is the category that falls under doctrine. Many principles peel off of the same doctrine. There aren't that many doctrines, actually. But there are more principles. Like, Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, Pray, Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity. Those tell us what to do, generally. Those can change. For instance, the Word of Wisdom looked very different for the children of Israel than it does for you and me. Even the Law of Chastity might look different, given the time."

And then, applications. Rochelle says, "After principles come applications. These are the specific ways you live the gospel and practice principles. You may wear a dress that covers your knee, whereas I might have a skirt that stops just above it. You may watch tv on Sunday night, but your best friend does not. Applications are very, very personal. It's up to us to follow the Spirit and make our own choices. And we get in trouble in the church when we try to teach the applications instead of doctrines. That's how the Pharisees and the Sadducees missed the fact that The Messiah was standing right in front of them. They were focused on the applications (and misapplications) of the Law of Moses, not the whole purpose of it: Jesus Christ."

Oh, it's so good. The article is not very long, and I encourage you to read it for yourself. And then talk about it with your children. :) I am grateful for this little refresher course on how to teach children and youth. I want my children to stay true to the doctrine of Jesus Christ more than anything, so I better make sure that they know it, and not just the application of it.


  1. I really enjoyed this. It makes so much sense and you explained it so well.
    Thanks for sharing. Those girls are blessed to have you as their teacher.

  2. I teach the 12/13 girls and this past Sunday evening I was thinking about the August lessons on marriage and family and how to approach it all. Thank you for this!

  3. Strange that the marriage and family lessons would be placed in the schedule during vacation times, when youth would probably be gone from their regular wards.
    I once read a comparison between a few of the Young Men's lessons and the Young Women's lessons and was amazed at how direct the Young Men's lessons were. The Young Women's lessons were more "touchy-feely" and did not have the straight doctrine approach you are referring to.
    Good Luck!

  4. What a good way to put it. Thanks for sharing that!

  5. I'm so glad you shared that link on FB, both my husband and I read it and I cannot stop thinking about it. I love her approach, Doctrine first! Because if we truly understand the doctrine, the principle and application come naturally.


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