Sunday, February 5, 2017

Of tenets thou shalt not talk

Some verses in a section directed to Martin Harris:
29 And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see.
30 And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers. 31 And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost. (D&C 19:20-31)
I have always wondered about that instruction, “of tenets thou shalt not talk.” The footnote for it goes to 2 Timothy 2:23, which warns Timothy to avoid foolish and unlearned questions. But that doesn't seem to quite square with my intuitive feeling about the word “tenet” and what it means. To me, tenet means a belief or a principle.

I checked my dictionary on tenet, and it says, “a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true; especially one held in common by members of an organization, group, or profession.” That doesn't sound like a foolish or unlearned question to me. And if so, why then does the scripture advise declaring repentance, faith, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost? Aren't those tenets of our faith?

I actually ran into something from a current general conference talk that clarified the issue. Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his October 2016 talk “Sharing the Restored Gospel” said:

We need to remember that ' people learn when they're ready to learn, not when we're ready to teach them.' What we are interested in, like the important additional doctrinal teachings in the restored Church, usually isn't what others are interested in. Others typically want the results of the doctrine, not the doctrine. As they observe or experience the effects of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, they feel the Spirit and begin to be interested in the doctrine. They may also be interested when they are seeking more happiness, closeness to God, or a better understanding of the purpose of life. Therefore, we must carefully and prayerfully seek discernment on how to inquire about others' interest to learn more.

So it sounds like the scripture was saying that in a very abbreviated way—keep to the gospel basics, the first principles. That way we don't force people to drink from a fire hose what should come sip by sip.