Our mental picture of church doctrine is modeled on the knowledge we have of other things. But it is of a completely different character and that whole idea misleads us.
In school we learn about literature, math, geography, science, and many other things. Much of it is academic in nature and plays at most a cursory role in the rest of our lives, though it tends to leave us more capable of reasoning out the problems and the worldly realities of life.
And when we think of church doctrine, many of us think of that same picture, more or less. Much of it seems academic to us. We think of it as being kind of like school, but for church. Many people, when they think of church doctrine, think of extending what we learned in Sunday School in the same way that college extends high school, using academic reasoning and scholarly study.
And that is a completely wrong picture of gospel doctrine.
We are commanded to ask, seek, and knock. We are told to feast on the scriptures.
The scriptures are the means for us to grow into the principle of the revelation of Christ.
That is what gospel doctrine is all about. What is our doctrine? It is the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It has nothing to do with academic reasoning or an academic study of the scriptures. Sure, truth fits together as we see by reason, but it is not the extensive argument and reasoning of the academic world, but the plain reasoning of the guidance of the Holy Ghost, pointing out that which must be to our souls. Revelation trumps any reasoning of man in the gospel.
Why does Joseph Smith say “A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge?” Because we are saved as we grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost, and one cannot grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost without growing into the principle of revelation. They are the same thing. As Joseph Smith taught, “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator”.
There is a rough approximation of some of our basic truths found in our lesson manuals. But that is all they have to offer. Sometimes they are simply wrong. The scriptures were selections from among the teachings and writings of prophets over thousands of years. The Book of Mormon was hand selected as the writings God wanted us to have from among thousands of years of sermons and writings. They also contain the words of God himself, the words of angels, and dictations by revelation of the mind and will of the Lord. We have an entire book, the Doctrine and Covenants, comprised principally of dictations of the mind and will of the Lord. The scriptures are the fountainhead of truth. No manual will approach them. No manual will be even a shadow of them.
We will not enter the joy of the knowledge of Immanuel through a lesson or church manual. We must find him through that which came from him to us for that very purpose. We must find him by searching the scriptures as the mind and will of the Lord, by seeking the endowment of knowledge given in the temple, all by the revelation of the Holy Ghost.
We must both feast on the word and also press forward diligently that we may become fit tabernacles for the Holy Ghost, for both of these are necessary to us.
We cannot ascend to a higher place except we be taught from above. Thus God gives every one of us the scriptures. They are supposed to pave the way, to become a Urim and Thummim of sorts to us. They are to teach us how to please our God, that it may come into his heart to count us among those in whom he delights, as we say and do according to that which is written.
Our doctrine is no rote set of academic truths. It is the revelation of God in the hearts of our members. Our doctrine is the Holy Ghost and what he inspires us to speak and teach, and that which he reveals to our hearts.
Our doctrine is to press forward diligently, feasting on the words of Christ, and to receive the Holy Ghost. Through him, we come to know the God of heaven, and to know of his ways as he is revealed to us in our hearts and minds. And that is the very system of salvation. We are saved as the light of revelation grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day.