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What do we do with the truths we know?
Knowledge is important — but it is only part of the equation in our spiritual development. Our happiness in mortality and our progress throughout eternity depend on our learning to “act in doctrine,” to live as we know we should live.
In Act in Doctrine, Elder David A. Bednar shares key insights to help close the gap between what we know and how we act. “The essential first step in reducing the disparity between gospel knowledge and righteous behavior is learning about and emulating the character of Christ,” he writes.
As we turn from self to to the Savior, we become better able to understand respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Obedience becomes “the sweet fruit of honoring covenant responsibilities — not merely a chore or an option to be performed based upon circumstances or convenience.” This is a stirring invitation to all of us to learn, ponder, and Act in Doctrine.
- Chapter One - Acting in Doctrine and the Character of Christ
- Chapter Two - Acting in Doctrine and Moral Agency
- Chapter Three - Acting in Doctrine and Conversion unto the Lord
- Chapter Four - Acting in Doctrine and the Role of a Teacher
- Features extra-wide margins for recording thoughts and invites readers to ask, ponder, and then apply what they are learning.
- Links throughout the book lead to teaching moments on the DVD, which includes a Q&A session and an exclusive interview with Elder and Sister Bednar.
- Available as an enhanced ebook with embedded video content (features on our free Deseret Bookshelf app), and as a standard ebook on other e-readers.
- Chapters from the book are linked to Seek, an online content library and community. Available at seek.deseretbook.com/learning
About the Author
ELDER DAVID A. BEDNAR was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 2004. Prior to his call, he had served as an Area Seventy, regional representative, and stake president. He served a mission to southern Germany, then attended Brigham Young University, where he received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. He received a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Purdue University and was a professor of business management at Texas Tech University and the University of Arkansas. Elder Bednar served as the president of BYU–Idaho from 1997 to 2004. He and his wife, Susan, are the parents of three sons.
Act in Doctrine
As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, our individual responsibility is to learn what we should learn, to live as we know we should live, and to become what the Master would have us become. These three fundamental and interrelated gospel imperatives—learning, acting, and becoming—are central to our spiritual development and happiness in mortality and our progress throughout eternity.
My previous book, Increase in Learning, focused upon the doctrines, principles, and patterns related to the learning imperative. Act in Doctrine focuses upon the doctrines, principles, and patterns related to our obligation to translate what we know into what we do. And learning and acting in accordance with revealed gospel truth ultimately can invite into our lives the “power to become” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:30) all that the Father’s plan of salvation makes possible for us.
One need not have read Increase in Learning in order to benefit from Act in Doctrine. But the following summary of the basic principles contained in the former book—whether by way of introduction or as a review—may enlarge the reader’s understanding.
Increase in Learning: An Overview
Chapter One, “An Individual Responsibility to Learn,” stresses the importance of learning in the latter days. We cannot expect the Church as an organization to teach or tell us all of the things we need to know and do to become devoted disciples. The ultimate responsibility for developing spiritual strength and stamina rests upon each and every member of the Church.
Learning by faith and learning from experience are two of the central features of the Father’s plan of happiness. The powerful examples of latter-day learners—including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Gordon B. Hinckley, and some less well-known members of the Church—highlight for us the importance of continually seeking learning by study and also by faith (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
You and I are here upon the earth to prepare for eternity, to learn how to learn, to learn things that are temporally important and eternally essential, and to assist others in learning wisdom and truth (see Doctrine and Covenants 97:1). Understanding who we are, where we came from, and why we are upon the earth places upon each of us a great responsibility both to learn how to learn and to learn to love learning.
Chapter Two, “Knowledge, Understanding, and Intelligence,” explores a hierarchy that exists among the things we can learn. Many facts are helpful or merely interesting to know. Some knowledge is useful to learn and apply. But gospel truths are essential for us to understand and live if we are to become what our Heavenly Father yearns for us to become.
Knowledge refers generally to facts, information, and abilities obtained through experience or education. Using the instrument of our physical bodies and our capacity to reflect and reason, we can gather and analyze facts, organize and interpret information, gain and learn from experience, and identify patterns and relationships. Of the many types of knowledge that can be acquired, spiritual knowledge is the most important, both in mortality and in eternity.
Understanding is the keystone that is erected upon the cornerstone of knowledge and precedes intelligence. Interestingly, the word understanding is commonly described in the scriptures in relation to the heart. Understanding as used in the scriptures does not refer solely or even primarily to intellectual or cognitive comprehension. Rather, when the Holy Ghost confirms in our hearts as true what we know in our minds, understanding occurs.
Intelligence is the righteous application of knowledge and understanding in action and judgment. It is the capstone constructed upon the cornerstone of knowledge and made stable by the keystone of understanding. You and I may know the right things to do, but intelligence involves more than just knowing. If you and I are intelligent, we will consistently do the right things. Intelligence is living in such a way that the doctrines of the gospel are an active and integral part of who we are, and what we are, and what we do, and what we think.
Appropriately seeking for knowledge, understanding, and intelligence is essential for each of us to become a living member of the Savior’s living church (see Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).
Chapter Three, “Prayerful Inquiry: Asking, Seeking, and Knocking,” emphasizes patterns of prayerful inquiry that are necessary prerequisites to inspiration and revelation. Three components of prayerful inquiry are emphasized repeatedly in the scriptures: asking, seeking, and knocking. These three interrelated and overlapping elements are vital in the pattern the Lord has employed when giving direction, instruction, and assurance. Honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence are required in asking, seeking, and knocking.
The principle of prayerful inquiry and the pattern of asking, seeking, and knocking suggest three basic responsibilities for each of us as latter-day learners. First, inquiring of the Lord through asking, seeking, and knocking requires and is an expression of faith in the Savior. Second, we should be simultaneously persisting in and remaining patient with this active process. Third, discerning and accepting the will of God in our lives are fundamental elements of prayerful inquiry through asking, seeking, and knocking.
Chapter Four, “Doctrines, Principles, and Applications: A Framework for Gospel Learning,” offers a basic and flexible framework for learning about gospel learning. The framework includes three basic elements: doctrines, principles, and applications.
A gospel doctrine is a truth of salvation revealed by a loving Heavenly Father. Gospel doctrines are eternal, do not change, and pertain to the eternal progression and exaltation of Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters. Doctrines such as the nature of the Godhead, the plan of happiness, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are foundational, fundamental, and comprehensive.
Gospel doctrines answer the question of “why?” For example, the doctrine of the plan of happiness answers the question of why we are here upon the earth. The doctrine of the Atonement explains why Jesus is our mediator and advocate with the Father. Basic gospel doctrines are the spiritual foundation for all that we learn, teach, and do—and a vital source of power and strength as we strive to become what the Lord would have us become.
A gospel principle is a doctrinally based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency. Principles provide direction. Correct principles always are based upon and arise from doctrines, do not change, and answer the question of “what?” Many principles can grow out of and be associated with a single doctrine. For example, the doctrine of the plan of happiness gives rise to such principles as obedience, service, and progression.
A principle is not a behavior or a specific action. Rather, principles provide basic guidelines for behavior and action.
Applications are the actual behaviors, action steps, practices, or procedures by which gospel doctrines and principles are enacted in our lives. Whereas doctrines and principles do not change, applications appropriately can vary according to needs and circumstances. Applications answer the question of “how?”
The framework of doctrines, principles, and applications is a flexible tool that can be used to enhance our gospel learning. It is not a rigid set of definitions or a formula that leads to “correct” answers about which applications and principles are associated with particular gospel doctrines. Rather, it can be a useful aid as we apply the principle of prayerful inquiry and the pattern of asking, seeking, and knocking. If we focus on asking the right questions, we are much more likely to obtain inspired and insightful answers as we work, ponder, search, and pray.
Our tendency as members of the Church is to focus on applications. But as we learn to ask ourselves, “What doctrines and principles, if understood, would help with this challenge?” we come to realize that the answers always are in the doctrines and principles of the gospel.
Act in Doctrine
The title of this second book comes from a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants: “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78; emphasis added). This volume builds upon and extends the patterns described in Increase in Learning and discusses why we should and how we can “act in doctrine.”
We are admonished to search and understand “great knowledge” (2 Nephi 32:7)—even the true knowledge of our Redeemer (see Mosiah 27:36; Helaman 15:13; 3 Nephi 16:4). But we do not learn just to know, and we do not act just to comply or conform. Rather, our learning and acting are to be lastingly transformational as we become new creatures in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17) and offer our whole souls unto God (see Omni 1:26).
Recall that Joseph Smith did not pray simply to know which church was true. He prayed to know which church was true so he would know which church to join (see Joseph Smith–History 1:18). And the same truth that led Joseph to the Sacred Grove to “ask in faith” (James 1:6) applies precisely to you and to me. We need to increase in learning of revealed truth so we can act in doctrine and thereby apply what we know and do for righteous purposes.
What we know about the Eternal Father and His plan of happiness, about the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and about the nature of our relationship to the Father and the Son should influence everything we think, say, and do—and all that we yearn to become. Knowing is an important first step—but it is only a beginning. Because of the gift of moral agency, we are agents blessed with the power and capacity to act and not objects to be acted upon. Thus, what we do with the truths we know and how we “act in doctrine” are essential elements and key indicators of our testimony, conversion, and spiritual development.
As in Increase in Learning, I have attempted in this book to relate some of the spiritual gifts associated with the companionship of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost, to the imperative to act in doctrine. I invite you throughout the book to engage in various learning experiences so you can increasingly “stand independent” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:14) and learn how to find answers to your own questions. Consequently, as you progress through the chapters you will need to read, study, ponder, search, ask, knock, record thoughts and feelings, link, connect, revise, rethink, ask again, start again, and, most important, act. Experiencing this book will require diligent work and sustained commitment. Your willingness to act will invite the Holy Ghost to be your personal teacher of all truth.
Act in Doctrine is formatted with extra-wide margins for recording thoughts, impressions, and questions. Space also is provided at the end of each chapter for (1) recording questions that arise and answers you receive based upon your personal learning, reflecting, and commitments, (2) listing scriptural references related to your learning and acting, and (3) responding to an invitation to learn and act upon the principles discussed in the chapter. This invitation consists of three interrelated questions that should be considered together but responded to individually. Thus, all three questions are repeated at the top of each response page, and the one to be addressed specifically on that page is highlighted.
As you endeavor to act in doctrine, please remember that the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ should be considered in their totality. In other words, attempting to understand a doctrine or principle by relying unduly upon a single scripture or prophetic statement in isolation from all else that has been revealed on the subject generally is misguided. True doctrines and principles are emphasized repeatedly in the standard works, by the prophets and apostles, and through the illuminating and confirming power of the Holy Ghost.
Additional learning resources are available online at seek.deseret book.com. A DVD is also included in the book with a question-and-answer session in which the ideas are explored further in a group setting. Please remember, however, that the written text, the questions to consider, and the additional resources are not complete in and of themselves. Each has been designed to complement and enhance the others.
At the end of each chapter I have suggested related readings that expand on and emphasize the basic concepts taught. Rather than include these readings in the text, I invite you to act as an agent by finding them online or in Church publications. References are provided to guide you quickly to the sources.
My hope is that this book will cause you to ponder, pray, reflect, evaluate, and act. May the combination of your faith in the Savior, your willingness to act as an agent, the text, and the learning experiences in which you will engage invite the Holy Ghost to help you more fully understand basic gospel truths and powerful spiritual patterns—to the end that each of us may ACT IN DOCTRINE.
by DeAnn - reviewed on September 28, 2012
I know I'm suppose to watch the video along with the book but last night I popped in the video to listen to while I did other things. It was amazing. I felt like I was being taught how to be taught. Along with the book this really is helping me know how to make changes in my life with the doctrines of the Gospel and the atonement.
Great, Great Book!
by Alisa - reviewed on June 26, 2013
I felt like I really grew spiritually as I read this book -- it has caused me to look at different areas of my life and look for ways to ACT! It is good to know something; great to understand it; but it is a completely different level of spirituality to ACT and have experiences which will bring us closer to Christ! Chapter 4 of this book has great advice on how to teach the gospel! This is great timing for me because the whole curriculum for the youth changed in 2013 -- and went to the format of discussion and inviting them to act... which is exactly what Elder Bednar teaches in Chapter 4!
by Shauna - reviewed on October 04, 2012
Elder David A. Bednar is a masterful teacher! In this newest book he teaches how we can become more Christlike and how agency really works. He also sets the pattern for effective teaching not only as teachers in church but as parents and even friendships. The enclosed DVD has Elder Bednar answering questions about his book. This book is definitely a MUST read!
by Customer - reviewed on November 02, 2012
A must have book for any auxiliary or quorum presidency. Members need to be taught the principles found in this book.
by linda - reviewed on November 16, 2012
This book reads like the second in a series after "Increase In Learning" which is now apart of my daily gospel study. It is an exciting time to be a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints with works like this lifting us. David A. Bednar has crystalized the essentials we must aspire to in gaining competency as members of the Lord's church. The ebook format reinforces concepts he teaches. Chapter four on teaching will become the new standard of the church. Gratitude is what you will feel after reading this book.
Best book on Conversion YET!
by Jess - reviewed on March 07, 2013
After having read and STUDIED (note the emphasis) Act in Doctrine, then transitioned into other recently published books about conversion, this is by far-and-away the BEST book on conversion. It directs your attention on the Savior and the ways to become like him. It's not a long book so as to invite you to study and ponder. there are great areas for taking notes as well as provoking questions to help you in your study. I'm a teacher and this book surely helped me see my role in helping others. The DVD resource became a treasure trove of moments of masterful Teaching. After reading this book accompanied by the DVD, I truly felt empowered. My gospel study has been forever changed. I'm now considering how I can come to Christ through what I learn. Now my studies focus on those doctrines and principles that help me become AT-ONE with my Father in Heaven. Truly Remarkable!!!