Change in the Church: Eternal Doctrines, Revealed Applications

As members of a living church with continuing revelation, we need to understand the difference between unchanging doctrines and procedural adjustments.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is directed by revelation. However, when curriculums and even regular worship schedules change, it can be hard to reconcile the idea of God’s unchanging doctrines with changing Church procedures. When past revelation seemingly contradicts more recent revelation, it can be a source of honest questioning. David A. Bednar’s talk “Teach Them to Understand” can help us understand the difference between unchanging doctrines and procedural adjustments.

Photo by Javier Alluege Baros.

Church leaders don’t try to hide that changes are made regularly within the Church. For example, in a statement released at the beginning of 2019, the First Presidency acknowledged, “Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically . . . Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.”

These changes, however, do not reflect changes to gospel doctrines. David A. Bednar explains: “Doctrine refers to the eternal, unchanging, and simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are also principles. Principles are doctrinally based guidelines for what we ought to do.” We also receive instruction on how we can apply these principles and doctrines to our lives. These applications of doctrine and principles can change, according to revelation, even though the doctrines and principles themselves do not. Doctrines answer the question “Why?” principles help us understand “What?” and applications tell us “How?”

We can be confident in our apostles’ and prophets’ ability to receive revelation. We can understand that a living church can be based on unchanging doctrines, while still allowing for adjustments to applications. Applications change in order to offer us experiences that are more personal, more impactful, and more focused on our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Read Elder Bednar’s talk “Teach Them to Understand” to learn more about the unchanging doctrines and principles of the gospel.

Source: BYU-Idaho Education Week

—Teya Jensen, Mormon Insights


Find more insights

Read the First Presidency Statement on Temples from 2019.

Michael R. Ash also talked about change and temples in the article “Can Temple Ceremonies Change?

Boyd K. Packer’s general conference talk “Revelation in a Changing World” also offers insights about how the Church makes changes.

President Russell M. Nelson also spoke about this topic in “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives.

Learn how to reconcile your doubts about revelations from the Lord’s prophets in the articles “Facing Doubts about Modern Revelation” and “How to Overcome the Fear of Change.”

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One Comment

  1. We know that God’s truths are eternal. We also know that God reveals truth, light, and knowledge as we become spiritually prepared and mature to receive more. We know that all has not yet been revealed. We know that more will yet be revealed. Isn’t it wonderful to know that the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are eternal, expansive, and inclusive? His doctrines are not contained in a small box.

    The 9th Article of Faith states:

    “We believe all that god has revealed, all the He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

    Where does that leave us with “unchanging” doctrines? I think we can expect many wonderful things to come if we are prepared for further truth, light, and knowledge.

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