By Elvin J. Norton
Christmas morning came, cold and clear. Warm greetings were exchanged by Mrs. Palmer, Rachel, and Henry. Although circumstances prevented their suprising one another with expensive gifts, it was found that Santa Claus had not forgotten any of them. Some useful article — a necktie, a ribbon, a pair of scissors — was found by each where least expected, but in a conspicuous place. All agreed that Randy would probably not hurry home, and they sat down to breakfast without him. As they were absorbed in their meal and conversation, they did not notice a sleigh stop in front of the house, and were made aware that someone had approached only by a vigorous stamping on the back door step.
“Here’s Randy, after all!” cried Rachel, hastening to open the door. It was not Randy, however, but the constable who faced her.
“Good morning,” said the visitor politely. “Is the boys home?”
What is doctrine? What is policy? Maybe some illustrations from our 20th century history will alleviate some of the confusion on display in the past few weeks.
A doctrine is a central, eternal principle of the gospel, given by revelation through God’s representatives on earth.
It’s true that our teaching of doctrine may be altered – the principle is eternal, but our understanding is finite and mortal: continuing revelation may expand our knowledge of what we had thought was established doctrine, or experience and maturity may shift the emphasis of doctrine. It’s even true that, on occasion, some few things that were taught as doctrine, or that had been received from previous generations as doctrine, have turned out to be faulty or false; continuing revelation corrects as well as expands our understanding of the gospel. Doctrine, though, is beyond the power of man to change; it is Truth with a capital T, which we struggle to comprehend.
A policy, on the other hand, is seldom if ever understood to be eternal. Policies change as needs change: practices adapt to social change in the world, to the scale of Church growth, to greater understanding of doctrine. Policies are the day-to-day practices, worked out by mortal men and women, outlined (we hope) by inspiration, to help us incorporate doctrines in mortal life. There is nothing sacred about a policy, except insofar as it leads us to understand and live by doctrine.
Some examples of eternal doctrine and adaptable policies from the 20th century can give greater perspective to the differences:
From the Relief Society Magazine, 1948 –
Thanksgiving for Riches of the Spirit
By Marianne C. Sharp
On Thanksgiving day, Latter-day Saints will gather with their loved ones around tables loaded with an abundance of food. Crisp stalks of celery will gleam among dark-skinned olives; savory dressing will be spooned out of the golden turkey; mounds of mashed potatoes hidden under a yellow coating of butter will vie with tender green peas and bright red pickled beets to make a kaleidoscope of colors against the heavy linen damask highlighted with crystal and silver. Each member of the family will reverently bow his head and with grateful heart return thanks to his Father in heaven for the multiplicity of material blessings he enjoys. There may come also into his mind’s eye, in contrast, a picture of a humble pioneer home where food was scarce, table linen and eating utensils of the rudest, and luxuries nonexistent. And at the contrast again there may arise in the breast of the present-day saint an upwelling of gratitude for conveniences and luxuries enjoyed by him.
Too often in considering the lot of the saints in earlier days, emphasis is placed on the poverty in which they lived to the exclusion of the richness of spirit which they possessed, so abundantly. This spiritual wealth transmuted their everyday living into graciousness and splendor. There sang in their hearts the knowledge that their daily righteous acts were taking them along the path to an eternal life which would be beautiful and satisfying beyond their most cherished dreams and hopes. Also they had entrenched in the fortresses of their stout hearts the conviction of the truth of the words of the Lord to his Prophet: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.”
I sorted my library yesterday, mostly to bring Book of Mormon reference works to the front rank where I can more easily reach them for next year’s Gospel Doctrine work. In the process I discovered a number of duplicate books that some of you might want for your own reading. Except as noted, these are all in like-new condition.
If you’d like to have one of these books, comment on this post. All who have commented by Tuesday night will have their names put into a hat, and I’ll draw a winner. You can choose which of these books you want, and I’ll contact you for a mailing address. Let’s repeat this drawing every week until the books are gone, or until commenters lose interest in what is left – although why you would lose interest is beyond me. After all, I bought them twice!
By Helen Baker Adams
I never saw your laughing Irish eyes
That long ago played captive to the lad
You met and straightway loved upon the wise
Auspicious sea; nor knew the faith that clad
Your heart with quiet hope when, one by one,
Six sturdy sons were soldier-clad. Your smile
Thrust tears away, I know. You were the one
Who glorified each grandchild’s slightest wile.
You sang to them and danced them on your knee
The quaint old tales of your gay blarneying
And of your Celtic wit are myths to me.
I never held your hand nor heard you sing
And yet … they say your spirit springs apace
Within my eyes who never saw your face!
This is not a happy post, merely one of those data points that adds to our understanding of ourselves and our Church by recognizing our history.
As Church members, we’re supposed to care for each other, and “labor” with those who are struggling, for whatever reason. Yet sometimes we oh-so-casually invite each other to leave the Church if something doesn’t exactly suit us. We’ve heard that a lot in the past few weeks, in fact.
That “disinvitation” has a long history, and has come not just from thoughtless, annoyed strangers on the internet, but even from high ranking Church officials. Here’s an example from 1896; the specific occasion is an editorial defending the Church’s right to require its leaders to obtain permission from the Church before running for public office. I’ve posted the entire editorial for context but bolded the only relevant line. Presumably the editorial was written by George Q. Cannon as editor of the Juvenile Instructor, although it is unsigned.
By Elvin J. Norton
When Randy and Dick had performed the last duty assigned them— that of opening the doors of the schoolhouse and lighting the lamps— they started the round of gathering up their favorite fellows in order to hold a counsel on the extent and nature of their Christmas Eve mischief. Dick’s whistle brought out the boys one after another from their several homes, until the band of youthful knights numbered nearly a dozen. These were all mounted on separate horses, except Randy, who owned no horse and was obliged to ride behind Dick’s saddle. This little band galloped several miles along the country road and back, giving notice by their mere presence that a farmer might expect to find, on the following morning, a neighbor’s cows in the warm stall where he had fed and bedded a favorite team preparatory for a Christmas sleigh ride; or some unknown bull carefully harnessed to a one-horse sleigh and tied to the front door knob, as though waiting for a tardy Santa Claus to come from the house and continue his journey around the juvenile world.
Having agreed upon a plan for the night’s adventures, the boys reined up before the schoolhouse just as the sound of distant singing was carried over the snow.
“Who is it?” asked one.
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See Part 1.
Chairman, Rosemarie Francis; Fannie Grover, Fern Peay, Eleanor Vandeburgh, Irene Wheeler, Candy Grover, Chris Law
Whole Kernel Corn
Navajo Fry Bread
(honey, wild plum jam, chokecherry jelly)
White Cake with Blueberry Sauce