In my last post, I talked about how a correct understanding of things as they are can have profound effects on our behavior. For example, when we understand how bacteria spread, we are much more likely to wash our hands regularly.
The Book of Mormon insightfully explains, “The preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them” (Alma 31:5).
Connected to that thought, President Boyd K. Packer said, “The study of doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (“Little Children,” October 1986).
I believe those doctrines that most help me improve and make my life happier are primarily the truths the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach. Here is a short list of some of those truths:
- God is real.
- God loves me.
- God is my Father.
- There is a purpose to life.
- There is purpose in pain and opposition.
- There is a larger plan to my life that goes back before the Earth was created and extends far beyond this life.
- Jesus Christ suffered and died so I could repent, improve, and ultimately gain a rich eternal reward.
- Jesus Christ’s Church is on the Earth today and He leads it.
- There are things that God expects me to do in this life.
- The Book of Mormon is God’s word and is evidence of all these previous truths.
However, I can get distracted and tempted to want to know more than is revealed in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures.
I don’t know exactly what God’s Celestial Kingdom looks like. I don’t know how long it will be, or what the full process is like, to becoming the eternal beings God wants us to become. I don’t know what it looked like in the pre-Earth life or what we learned there. I don’t know how exactly God came to be or where He came from. I don’t know how long it took Jesus Christ to create the Earth.
However, knowing those details doesn’t really seem to change my behavior or how I live now. Knowing those details doesn’t fill me with much more or less purpose. I need enough evidence, understanding, and confirmation that the basic truths are correct. However, allowing the “deep doctrine” or things I don’t yet understand distract me from the basics can cause problems.
Similarly, knowing the scientific name of a specific strain of bacteria and what it looks like under a microscope doesn’t make me more or less prone to wash my hands. All I need to know is that germs can spread by direct contact with someone that has been sick. I need to know enough to follow the direction of my doctor.
Don’t get me wrong, seeking for a deeper understanding is not a bad thing. God wants us to keep learning (see, for example, D&C 109:7) and with patience and continual study, we will learn the things we do not yet know. However, not understanding some extra details now shouldn’t stop me from regularly spiritually washing my hands.