Saving Ordinances, Saving Doctrines

Baby blessing

Today is a big day. My eldest son will be blessing his first child – my first granddaughter. During the week he struck up a conversation with me regarding the ordinance of blessing a baby. He mentioned how little guidance is provided by the Church regarding what needs to be said, and what specific verbiage is required.

I suggested that there is not any exact verbiage for the naming and blessing of children because it is not considered a “Saving Ordinance.”

Granted, it is still a commandment to bring the baby to the Church to perform this ordinance – “Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.” (D&C 20:70)

The term “Saving Ordinances” is reserved a select group: “Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage and sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord.” (

So there are lots of ordinances that we can receive that are not required for our salvation: Baby blessings, health blessings, being set-apart, blessing our homes, consecrating oil, etc.

A simple way to look at it is this: If the ordinance is required to receive exaltation, it is a “Saving Ordinance.” If not, it is an opportunity for the priesthood to bless the lives of others – but is not required.


Last week I was chatting with a friend about doctrines of the Church, and she mentioned the idea of “Core Doctrines.” Which made me ask: “If there are “Saving Ordinances,” are there “Saving Doctrines?”

So, I plugged the term “Saving Doctrine” into, and behold, a goldmine. That term has been used quite extensively by the brethren. The idea has been expressed even more by terms like “Core Doctrines,” “First Principals,” “Central Doctrine,” “Pure Doctrine,” and “Foundational Doctrine,” “Essential Doctrines,” etc.

The basic idea is that – while all doctrine is important- there are a select few that are essential to our exaltation – just as there are a select few ordinances that are essential to our exaltation.

The Savior took it upon himself to define what that “Saving Doctrine” is:

“This is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

“And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

“… And whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. …

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (3 Nephi 11:32–35, 39).

Sounds a lot like the 4th Article of Faith, no?

One of the challenges we face is the quest for complexity. We tend to try and make things harder than they really are. President Uchtdorf highlighted this problem in General Conference when he said:

“The search for the best things inevitably leads to the foundational principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the simple and beautiful truths revealed to us by a caring, eternal, and all-knowing Father in Heaven. These core doctrines and principles, though simple enough for a child to understand, provide the answers to the most complex questions of life.

There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.” (Things That Matter Most.)

You can have a wonderful afternoon looking up the term “Simplicity” and reading all the talks and articles about the topic. Here is one of the best from President Eyring: (Read the whole talk at “The Power of Teaching Doctrine.”)

“We can teach even a child to understand the doctrine of Jesus Christ. It is therefore possible, with God’s help, to teach the saving doctrine simply.” 

Yet we often find ourselves spending out time and effort being hung up of doctrines or principles that are not “Saving Doctrines.”  I’m sure you have all had a class or quorum meeting where it went off the rails and you found yourself listening to things discussed that had absolute zero bearing on your, or anyone else’s salvation.

In a deeper, more personal application, if we find ourselves hung up on a doctrine, principle, policy or program, or- heaven forbid – someone’s opinion on one of those things, it would be wise for us to step back and ask ourselves these question:

“Is this a “Saving Doctrine?”

“Does my exaltation depend on getting this doctrine right?”

There are a lot of concepts and discussions where the answer to these questions is clearly “No.” Perhaps most.

The problem is that sometimes we can take a question, disagreement, or even dislike of a concept and let it interfere with our application of the Saving Doctrines.

Example: Someone who struggles with the doctrine of polygamy stops repenting by not attending Church and partaking of the sacrament.

Example: Someone who gets hung up on who can hold the priesthood to the point where they stop utilizing that very priesthood to perform saving ordinances as defined by saving doctrines.

We can’t let anything we hear, talk about, read or wonder get in the way of participating in the Saving Ordinances and Saving Doctrines of the gospel. Some things do matter more than others.


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  1. Thought you might like this quote on ‘saving principles’ from Sister Julie B. Beck:

    “In the Church, a primary concern is to teach the saving principles of the gospel, and the saving principles are those that are the family principles, the principles that will teach them to form a family, to teach that family, and to prepare that family for ordinances and covenants.” (Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast • August 4, 2009)

  2. There is also a term called ‘basic doctrines’ that they ask us to teach to and emphasize in seminary…check the back of any of the seminary manuals. But if you put together the basic doctrines (the Atonement, the Godhead, etc…), with the basic behaviors (prayer, scripture study, faith, repentance, obedience) you open the way for the Holy Ghost to testify of those saving principles and ordinances–the very things we need to have a testimony of in order to bring our lives in line with God’s requests of us, and eventually obtain our salvation and eternal life……things to think about. John 7:16-17: Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

  3. Reminds me of the statement made by Joseph Smith (I paraphrase) that the core principle of the Gospel was the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that *all other things* are appendages thereto. Helps to keep things in perspective.

    1. Exactly. I had included that quote, but took it out because I was late for church. Thanks for posting it.

  4. Agree wholeheartedly. Choosing to wait for the Lord to answer my serious worries or questions is a tremendous way to exercise faith in Him. I believe He provides great compensatory blessings for those who express this level of trust. Thank you for your encouragement to be patient.

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