Friday, January 27, 2012

Principles vs. Details: The Difference is Important, Especially When Teaching Children

Consider this from Joseph Smith:

I teach them correct PRINCIPLES, and they govern themselves.

Obviously, kids at various ages are more or less able to "govern themselves" properly, but the point is that he said "principles" - NOT "details" or "facts".

When I talk with my kids, I let them know that I am willing to accept as possible LOTS of different details or facts or perspectives - as long as they don't violate basic principles in which I believe passionately. I have found no real issues where I have a major problem with the PRINCIPLES that I believe form the actual core of "Mormonism" / "The Restored Gospel". It's the extrapolated details and opinions and perspectives with which I sometimes disagree.
That's fine, but I make sure I try to embed the idea of distinguishing between principles and details with my kids - since it is the confusing of the two that I believe causes so much heartache and so many problems for people and for the Church.


Sam said...


Papa D said...

Sam, the best example (the most "extreme" one) probably is the atonement and Jesus' role as Savior and Redeemer. I've read LOTS of ideas about the atonement - lots of descriptions of what people think it is and how it was accomplished. I like to consider all of them, but, at the core level, I don't really care about the details.

All I really care about is that, somehow, we communally can be reconciled to God and become like Him - that we can be made "at one". I care FAR more about the principle of an atonement than about any details.

I mean that seriously. If the Atonement turns out to have been as literal and comprehensive as anyone has imagined (if Jesus literally felt the effects of every single "bad thing" ever experienced by everything throughout endless creation) or if it turns out to have been designatory (Jesus' suffering, no matter its nature, was accepted by God simply because he was God's designated representative) or if it turns out to have been completely symbolic (Jesus actualy experienced "representative" suffering) - I don't care one bit.

It's the principle and the ultimate conclusion about which I care.

Sam said...

Thanks, Ray. I really appreciate this example. Sometimes when we know the basics the need for precision can lead to more argument than it's worth -- which isn't to say that speculation is bad.