Bishop Bill Asks: What is Doctrine?By: Bishop Bill
Once again, we revisit the beloved series: You’re the Bishop!
As Bishop I often got asked by ward members about various practices in the church and why we did them. I finally compiled this list of various practices, beliefs, and norms in the church, and why we do them. I’ll leave off my answers as to why I think we do these, and leave it to you, the bishop, to answer why we do/believe these things.
First, let me give you a few working definitions:
- Doctrine (D): These are items that are solidly backed by scripture, or an official First Presidency statement.
- Conventional Wisdom (CW): This category is for those “doctrines” or teachings which can’t be solidly backed up by scripture, but on which the brethren have generally appeared to be in agreement.
- Unanswered Question (Q): Doctrines on which there is not a consensus among the brethren.
- General Policy (GP): Rules, regulations or practices that are set by church leadership (Salt Lake City level) to help us with doctrine.
- Local Policy (LP): Rules, regulations or practices set by local authorities, sometimes based on doctrine, sometimes on tradition, or maybe a bit of both with some personal preference of leaders thrown in. These vary from time to time, place to place.
- Tradition (T): Things we do because we have always done it that way based on culture or tradition. Often confused with Doctrine, General Policy or Local Policy. The difference is that there is no clear origin for these.
Now I’ll share a list of 25 practices or concepts that members have asked me about, wanting to know the origin of the practice or belief and the basis for why it is binding (or not binding). In the comments below, I’d like to see how each of you, if you were the bishop, would categorize each of these practices. You can copy paste the list and put the letters next to each one to tell us what category it fits or you can use the numbers to reference them. Let’s see if there’s any consensus and which ones have the biggest range of answers. Go!
- Clean shaven men
- We call each other “Brother” and “Sister” and use last names
- Polygamy (polygyny) is practiced in the celestial kingdom
- We meet in a 3 hr block on Sunday
- We observe the Sabbath on Sunday
- Using right hand to take the sacrament
- We don’t use the cross in our worship
- Word of Wisdom
- Implementation of Word of Wisdom
- Using right hand to sustain
- The bishop partakes of the Sacrament first
- The specific wording used in sustaining various callings
- Principle of tithing, home teaching, temple attendance, fast offerings
- Implementation of tithing, home teaching, temple attendance, fast offerings
- Deacons wear white shirts
- Men must wear dress shirts and ties, women dresses, to church
- In the hereafter there is (no) movement between kingdoms
- The idea that God is living in (or out of) time
- Members should not be cremated
- Men can’t teach primary alone
- The content of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet
- Only a specific subset of hymns are allowed to be sung for the sacrament
- Noah was an actual person who lived as recorded in Genesis
- How the artwork that is used in our churches and temples is selected
Remember to defend your answers. Good luck.