I learned many things this week in my “Come, Follow Me” studies. I found one topic in two separate places, so I decided to write about it. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that there are people who “will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3) but will listen to false teachers who say what they want to hear. He told Titus that he should speak of those “things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
What is sound doctrine? Where can we find it? Why should we teach it? Sound doctrine is true doctrine. It helps male and female, old and young, behave properly and become better individuals. We can find sound doctrine in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We should teach true doctrine because it will improve behavior.
Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the importance of good teachers who teach sound doctrine. He said that every member of the Church of Jesus Christ is a teacher or will be at some time and is “has a vital interest in the content and effectiveness of gospel teaching.” Yet, “there are no more important teachers than parents, who teach their children constantly by example and by precept.” He emphasized that we are all teachers, and we are surrounded by teachers. Even little children and teenagers are teachers.
Elder Oaks said that “all good teaching is based on certain fundamental principles” and identified six essential principles of gospel teaching: (1) teach with love for the student;
(2) focus on the needs of the student; (3) teach the prescribed course materials and emphasize the doctrine, principles, and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ; (4) prepare diligently and strive to present the lessons in the most effective means possible; (5) teach the principles of the gospel as directed by the Holy Ghost, and (6) “measure the success of teaching and testifying by its impact on the lives of the learners.” Emphasizing the importance of teaching the doctrine and principles of the gospel, Elder Oaks said the following.
Well-taught doctrine and principles have a more powerful influence on behavior than rules. When we teach gospel doctrine and principles, we can qualify for the witness and guidance of the Spirit to reinforce our teaching, and we enlist the faith of our students in seeking the guidance of that same Spirit in applying those teachings in their personal lives.
Elder Oaks said that teaching doctrine and principle has greater influence on behavior than rules have on behavior. President Boyd K. Packer made a similar statement about the importance of knowing and teaching true (or sound) doctrine.
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrine of the gospel.
We are all teachers, and we should be sure to teach sound doctrine by our words and actions. We can have greater influence on the behavior of our families, friends, and neighbors by teaching true doctrine than by making rules, passing laws, or enforcement.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was once asked how he governed such a large group of people to keep such perfect order. He gave the following answer: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” If we want to have order in our homes, in our churches, in our schools, in communities, and in our nation, then we must teach principles that are correct, sound, and true to the children, youth, and adults.