Why the Basics Are Not Always So “Basic”

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by Nick Galieti

The Love of GodLanguage is a fluid concept. An english dictionary from two hundred years ago will read quite differently than a modern day english dictionary. To add complexity to an ever changing dialogue, vernacular often contorts (if not completely redefines) the use of a word, regardless of formal definition. Such is the case with the word, basic.

While the word basic is defined as, “forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental” it is not often used in this fashion; at least not in the LDS world. We speak of basic doctrines of the church as if they are easy or even boring in their simplicity. Apostles and prophets through the ages have reiterated what some refer to as basic principles of the gospel, namely: faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost, the godhead, charity, and hope. These are deemed basic by some perhaps due to the fact that their truths are revealed and therefore discoverable. This is in contrast to subjects like Kolob, seer stones, what is in the sealed portion of the Golden Plates, or subjects that seem to engage the gospel detective inside of us.

There is a danger in spending our efforts on fringe subjects, or unfounded speculation of historical events as these are not saving ordinances or basic doctrines. I have read articles and heard individuals talk about how they fell away from the faith because they studied some historical account, whether by an original source or commentary on subjective history of questionable authenticity, and self-destructed in their faith. Placing stock in the reading of a passage about a mistake an imperfect mortal made when the Church was first being formed does not negate the truth that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet to restore The Church of Jesus Christ to the earth with all its saving ordinances and doctrines.

The real definition of the word basic gives value to the idea that basic doctrines are essential and that their priority should be higher, not dismissed due to lack of intellectual discovery needed to foster those principles in our lives. If something is essential, it is of greatest importance and priority.

In addition, the more I study the Book of Mormon, the more I study any of the Standard Works, the more I have come to realize that I am far more satisfied by the application of these essential doctrines than debating whether or not Adam had a belly button. Basic doctrines are essential to exaltation; fringe doctrines are not. Additionally, the more I have engaged in the study of the basic doctrines of the restored gospel, the more I have come to feel the Savior’s presence in my life. I would rather enjoy the company of a member of the Godhead, than the company of dissenting individuals and those who foster doubt in the false name of intellectualism.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfectly rational. Any portion of it that does not seem to be so simply is a sign of our lack of knowledge, not a flaw in the system.

Luke 12:34 (3 Nephi 13:21) reads: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” When we study love, we will be more loving. When we study faith, we will be more obedient or faithful. When we study doctrines essential to exaltation and eternal life, we are more likely to inherit exaltation and eternal life which is the goal and design of our existence and creation. Just because it is a basic doctrine, doesn’t mean we should have only a basic understanding.

4 Responses to Why the Basics Are Not Always So “Basic”

  1. Bonnie says:

    This is sort of one of the ironies of being a writer – the temptation to write about things one should be doing. I love history, and research, and reading others’ thoughts, and it’s easy to get lost in that, to let one’s life grow imbalanced. I think sometimes we think of basics as a foundation that, once built, one needn’t return to. After all, builders don’t just keep pouring concrete. We are more like gardeners, however: watering, fertilizing, weeding, and stabilizing. Same things, over and over. It’s the plant that grows. We reapply the basics in our lives, over and over, and the strength grows. Nice reminder.

  2. Paul says:

    Nick, I like where you’ve landed in this essay and how you got there, too. To be sure a cursory review of “basic” principles may be boring, but a detailed study of them certainly need not be. And while our lesson manuals may provide a starting point for our personal study of basic gospel princples, they are not the end of that study.

    One of my sons commented (quite seriously) that he did not need to read the Book of Mormon any more because he had already read it. Hmmm.

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