Doctrines of Mormonism

I’ve been reading a great book called “Increase in Learning” by Elder David A. Bednar (he’s a modern apostle in the LDS church). I recommend it, because  it has changed the way I “make” my life. Let me tell you about a concept I’ve gleaned from it’s pages:

The Framework

In making your life, you turn to DOCTRINES, Principles, and applications. They create a framework within which you can forge the tools of life-building, or the weapons of life-desolation. They form your worldview.

A DOCTRINE is a foundational, fundamental, and comprehensive truth. It answers the question, “Why?” In the LDS church, the doctrines are believed to be revealed by God to man through ancient or modern prophets.

A Principle is a doctrinally-based guideline. Principles provide direction. They answer the question, “What?”

An application is an actual behavior, action step, practice, or procedure by which doctrines and principles are enacted in real life. This is where the rubber meets the road and plans are executed. An application answers the question, “How?”


Doctrines are frequently spoken of in a religious context, but they also have wide applicability. For instance, in America we adhere to the doctrine of freedom. We believe that all humans are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That is an important doctrine, and one principle that stems from it is the first amendment right to free expression. In other words, the US government cannot use its powers to silence its citizens. In application, this might mean you are protected when you protest at your state capitol building. It also means that the publishing of a repugnant anti-Islamist movie is beyond the reach of US government to censor, in spite of the global instability it might incite. Applications can naturally and appropriately vary widely from case-to-case, and doctrines and principles only carry power if they are held constant and inviolable.

Mormon Doctrines

With that framework in mind, let’s explore some of the doctrines of the restored gospel of Christ (as we Mormons believe them). I will list some of the primary doctrines, sub-doctrines, and principles (sometimes the lines are a bit blurry).

  • We believe that God is our Father.
    • We are all children of God and we should treat each other like brothers and sisters. We are one big family.
    • He loves us. His work and his glory is to bring about the eternal life of man (see Moses 1:39)
    • He has a plan for us. We can trust Him and His plan.
  • We believe that all men and women are free agents.
    • The purpose of life and of God’s plan is for us to choose to learn godliness. Life is a test and we couldn’t grow without free will.
    • We are encouraged to find and do good things without being commanded.
  • We are flawed and it’s part of God’s plan.
    • When Adam and Eve ate that fruit in the garden, it led to mortality, pain, and suffering. It also led us to learning what true joy is (see 2 Nephi 2:22-25).
    • Help one another through our flaws and woes.
  • We believe that through the atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved.
    • We can receive the grace of Christ by entering into a covenant relationship.
    • He doesn’t require perfection of us, but he requires a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (see 3 Nephi 9:19-20). In other words, we show our faith by being faithful to Him.
    • The power of His atonement makes us perfect.
  • We believe that God spoke, speaks, and will continue to speak to man.
    • We believe in modern prophecy. Men today have seen Jesus Christ and received instructions from Him. This began in modern times with Joseph Smith.
    • All people may have a message given to them by the power of the Holy Ghost. Asking God questions in prayer yields answers. Seek and ye shall find.

You’ll notice I never mentioned abstaining from coffee or alcohol. I didn’t talk about paying tithing or avoiding swimming on the Sabbath. I didn’t even mention going to church every Sunday (in some parts of the world Mormons worship on Saturday or Friday). That’s because all of these are application-level decisions, appendages to the doctrines, and there are hundreds of thousands of possible applications. So many good things I could do, it’s overwhelming!

Identifying core, fundamental doctrines has allowed me to put my life together. It has helped me prioritize my everyday activities and set long-term goals. I also hope that by explaining them to you, you will be better able to relate to me and other Mormons. Ask us questions about these and tell us the doctrines that drive you.


Q. When studying with some missionaries a number of years ago, I was told that the Mormon, LDS church did not believe in hell.  It appears that this may not be accurate.  Can you please tell me what the church’s teaching on hell is, if any?

We believe in hell, but our conception of it is a bit different than the way many Christians think of it. My good friend Dave wrote an excellent piece about it called “What Do Mormons Believe About Hell?” back in 2009.

In a nutshell, hell is “to be shut out from the presence of our God” (2 Nephi 9:9). It is a separation from Him and is the natural result of sin.

You may be asking, “Is hell used as a threat to enforce obedience in the Mormon church?” The answer is, “not too much.” That theme can be found occasionally in the Book of Mormon and the Bible, but the main thrust of our motivation to live clean and honest Christian lives comes from knowing who we are (God’s children) and knowing His plan for us. We believe the atonement of Jesus Christ provides remission of our sins and that He is willing to remit them all; consequently, a permanent hell (though it is an option) really isn’t a live option, anyway.

What are the first steps to becoming a Mormon?

Q. So I am 16, and over the last year I have been very interested in becoming more spiritually aware and have really wanted to join a religion I feel like I could follow and belong to. Well I would really enjoy becoming a member of the Mormon church, I find their religion to be something I believe strongly in, well from what I know of it currently (I’d like to learn more). From searching and getting to know the religion I have become very close friends with people that are members of the church, and I know they could help support me once I’ve become a member. Well any how I want to become Mormon on my own, the rest of my family is Catholic, but I feel like becoming Mormon is a choice I should make on my own. So my question being at the age of 16 what steps can I take to become a member? and what actions and rules/guidelines should I start doing as part of this journey.

At the age of just 16, you’re already thinking about your relationship with God? That is wonderful! It sounds like you’ve already connected with a community of latter-day saints and they have been teaching you. You want to know what it takes to becoming a church member and how to start on this journey. My friend Jodie wrote an article in January called, “How do I become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and a couple of years ago my friend Jared wrote one called, “What does Baptism Entail?” I recommend you read both.

In general, I recommend three things to get you started:

  1. Pray to your Father in Heaven. You are His child and He loves you. As you continue to get to know Him, you’ll love Him back with your whole heart. Ask Him for help.
  2. Read the scriptures, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Bible is a big and sometimes daunting book, so I recommend starting in the Book of John. It’s a nice introduction to the doctrines of the gospel and will help you understand the rest of the Bible. The Book of Mormon is a marvelous work and it’s great to start at the beginning with 1 Nephi. As you read, search for principles to guide your life by and listen to the whispering of the Holy Ghost.
  3. Attend church. [click here to find a nearby chapel] Go to learn from the sacrament speakers and Sunday school instructors. And go to be part of the faith community. They will welcome you because they love you and they need you. You will soon have many fast friends. If you haven’t already, you should meet the missionaries and ask them for an appointment.

You might be worried about how your family will react to you joining the church. I recommend being honest with them. If they will listen, teach them what you’ve learned. Invite them to come with you. Be respectful toward their beliefs. Above all, show them the kind of love your Father in heaven has shown to you.

Finding a Mormon Church Near You

I recently moved to Denver, Colorado for my medical school rotations.  Using the internet, I was able to quickly find where the nearest church building was and what time the worship services started.  I thought I should share with you how you can also find the local Mormon church.

Go to

Scroll down and you can enter you address.  It will pull up a map showing where the church is in relation to your house.  It will also give the time of when worship service starts.

The webpage also has lots of information about what you can expect when you go to church for the first time.  I’ve copied the questions and answers that the website gave below.  Click for more. Continue reading Finding a Mormon Church Near You

Question Box: Do Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?

In a word, yes. Let me share a quote from one of the General Authorities, Donald L. Hallstrom, who spoke at this last weekend’s General Conference. He said,  “Born of a Heavenly Father, both spiritually and physically, [Jesus Christ] possessed the omnipotence to overcome the world. Born of an earthly mother, He was subject to the pain and suffering of mortality. The great Jehovah was also named Jesus and additionally was given the title of Christ, meaning the Messiah or Anointed One. His crowning achievement was the Atonement, wherein Jesus the Christ “descended below all things” (D&C 88:6), making it possible for Him to pay a redeeming ransom for each of us.”

We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is the only way whereby mankind may be saved. I invite you to read more on this topic. Elder Hallstrom’s talk in its entirety can be found here, along with the rest of the wonderful talks we heard last weekend. You may also be interested in the following articles on this website:

Question Box: The Atonement

Is Jesus the only son of God?

What do Mormons believe about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?