We’ve enjoyed (or endured) countless discussions about which church teachings are “doctrines” and which are merely “policies”. Here’s my two cents: “policy” and “doctrine” aren’t opposites — they’re not even on the same axis. Doctrines are beliefs that are taught (in fact, the word “doctrine” comes from the Latin for “teachings”, suggesting that any belief taught in the church is, at some level, doctrine). Policies are organizational practices.
Some doctrines are policies, some policies are doctrines, some are both, and some are neither. Determining that a particular teaching is policy doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not also a doctrine.
- Both Doctrine and Policy: Baptism by authority. It is both taught and practiced.
- Neither Doctrine nor Policy: Raisin Bran is the best cereal ever!
- Doctrine but not Policy: The 10th Article of Faith. It is taught and believed in the church, but we have no organizational practices associated with the teachings contained in it.
- Policy but not Doctrine: …hmm…now that I think about it, perhaps every policy is necessarily a doctrine. After all, if it’s not taught, how can it be practiced?
So the next time someone tells you that the priesthood ban or polygamy or some other controversial historical topic was “just policy”, don’t accept that as justification for ending discussion on the topic. Perhaps it was “just policy”, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also doctrine.