Religion 231
The Gospel in Principle & Practice 
(a.k.a. Doctrines of the Gospel)

Hey, get this mouse out of my picture!
Marcus H. Martins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Office: 170 McKay Bldg.
Phone: (808) 778-9528

Office Hours: MTWTh 1-1:50pm


Click Here to See the Course Schedule & Lecture Notes

Teaching Philosophy
When I look at my students I see not only who they are today but also who they will become in the future. I envision parents, grandparents, missionaries, and leaders in communities, governments, and churches.

That is why in my classes I am rarely concerned with the geography, anthropology, or historiology of the scriptures-although I recognize their importance and have a great deal of personal interest in those subjects as research topics. And I am even less interested--to say the least--in LDS folk stories, folk beliefs, marketing schemes, and assorted LDS cultural traditions.

In my classes I focus on the ways to apply the doctrines and principles contained in the scriptures to achieve two goals: (1) to provide immediate answers to issues relevant to the present experience of my students--e.g. relationship with roommates, full-time missions, temple ordinances, dating, and marriage; and (2) to give them a sample of gospel-based answers to the main problems they are likely to be asked in the present and in the near future by investigators, fellow Church members, and neighbors-problems such as: financial difficulties, domestic violence, divorce, and different manifestations of spiritual apathy.

Course Objective

We will use the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets to: (1) increase our knowledge of God, the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; (2) increase our knowledge of the basic principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, giving special emphasis to the centrality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; (3) increase our ability to find answers to life's questions and trials in the word of the Lord; (4) increase our knowledge of the principles necessary to magnify present or future callings in carrying out the threefold mission of the Church.


Required Materials

  • The Standard Works  (so far: Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, & Pearl of Great Price)
  • Student Manual for Doctrines of the Gospel 231 & 232 (Available at the Bookstore)
  • Lecture Notes for Doctrines of the Gospel 231  (Available on the web under the schedule)
  • A Few Ideas for Outstanding Academic Papers
  • The McKay Library  (I invite you to spend a few hours every month enjoying some good doctrinal works)
  • A Computer with word-processing software and computerized LDS scriptures & literature  (Available free of charge at the Library)
  • You and your brain, equipped with "a sound understanding" (Alma 17:2)
  • Support Materials:

Class Format

This is not a typical section of this course.  Here we will blend the sacred and the secular-or better said, we will refine the secular with the sacred.  In our discussions we will go a few steps further than a regular Sunday School class, and everybody will be expected to "pitch in" by leading discussions, making remarks, bringing extra reading materials, articles, and helping the class apply the doctrines of the gospel to shed light on current events, circumstances, and predicaments.

Therefore, in all honesty I have to warn you that this may not be a class for everybody. Those who desire a format where you get the facts, memorize them, regurgitate them in a "multiple-guess" exam, and forget all else, may be frustrated with the ambiguity and the amount of reading, discussion, and writing required in this class.  Always remember that this is your class, and the greatest learning experience happens when you receive direct instruction from the Lord through the power of the Holy Ghost. I am a simply a humble facilitator in that sacred process.

I expect you not only to read the assigned readings, but also to come to class prepared to intelligently discuss them. This discussion should focus on ways to apply the information in the lessons to analyze real-life situations or issues and propose solutions (currently feasible or not) to them. You are, of course, more than welcome to bring questions regarding those parts of those reading assignments you would like to understand better.


Assignments & Grading Policy

Contrary to popular (and false) belief, I consider that an excellent final grade should be the result of excellent performance both at the Testing Center and in the classroom. An "A" should not be given simply because someone is "nice" (whatever that means) or has a testimony of the gospel. That high grade should be reserved for those who read all the assignments, attend class regularly, participate in classroom discussion frequently, and study for the exams diligently.  This is the breakdown of the total points possible in this class:

Paper (final version)
Final Exercise
Class Participation

Total Points

250 points
250 points
100 points 
(Attendance, Comments)

600 points

And the final grades will be assigned according to the following scale:
A    585-600 B-   525-539 D+  460-474
A-   570-584 C+  505-524 D   445-459
B+   555-569 C    490-504 D-  430-444
B     540-554 C-  475-489 F   001-429



There will be no formal midterm exam, but the draft for your paper will function as a measure of your progress.  The final exam will consist of a take-home case analysis.

Course Paper

The course paper will be an opportunity to go beyond the student manual through the development and expression of personal insights on different issues. It must be typed or word processed (7 pages maximum, double spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins), and turned in until the assigned date.

This paper will be a major part of your learning experience in this course, and in order to get the most out of this experience feel free to discuss ideas and insights either among yourselves or with me--but keep in mind that the actual writing must be done individually.

I strongly encourage you to use computer-based tools (e.g. Church magazines on-line, Infobases on-line, etc.) in your research. That will save you a lot of time, and will increase both the breadth and depth of your arguments. But, please, I do not mean to force you to buy a computer and/or these programs just for this class. You can have access to these tools in the David O. McKay Library.

Theme of the Paper - 7 pages maximum

Write a gospel-based commentary on any topic of your interest. It may be Literature, Economics, Politics, Education, Fashion Design, Recreation, Engineering, Sports, or Social Relationships--i.e., Families, Dating, Marriage, Romance, Children, Friendships, etc. Feel free to choose a topic related to your major, or to another class you are currently taking (or have taken in the past). In your essay apply as many gospel doctrines as you can (1) to analyze the main issue or concerns, and (2) to propose solutions to them, if that is the case.

I suggest that you decide on a topic as early as possible during the semester (some time around July 10 would be fine), in order to allow you sufficient time to think about it and discuss possible avenues to develop your arguments. If you have any difficulty in finding a topic, come talk to me as soon as possible; I will be glad to assist you in finding a good one. But remember: come talk to me as soon as possible.

You are welcome to present a draft and get an early feedback from me. The more you explain what is in your mind, the better your chances will be to get the highest score on the final version. (Unless you've got no ideas in your mind, in which case I would suggest you to come talk to me ASAP)

The final version of the paper will be due on July 20.  If you want, you may make an appointment with me and be present when I grade your paper.  There is no need to print this paper; just send me the file as an attachment via e-mail.  Use formats ".doc" (Microsoft Word), or ".rtf" (Microsoft Rich Text), or ".wpd" (Corel WordPerfect 6/7/8/9).  Welcome to the future ... at last!



House Rules

I like to use BYU-H's Honor Code to our advantage. This Honor Code is based on mutual trust. That implies a commitment to be "... honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous ..." (The 13th Article of Faith). In practice, that requires us to give credit to others' ideas, to speak the truth and accept full responsibility for our actions--or for the lack of them. That commitment also requires us to respect and to develop love for each other as children of the Most High and heirs of eternal kingdoms, independent of our differences in ideas, beliefs, gender, race, or national origin.

As a consequence of the commitment to accept full responsibility for our actions, there will be no make-up exams, and no assignments for extra credit. The exercises (or exams, if you prefer) will not be given on dates different than the ones mentioned here, except in cases of extenuating circumstances.

Extenuating circumstances do not include the following: forgetfulness, early travel arrangements, homesickness, your best friend's wedding, a mid-semester family vacation, the death of your family's dog, a great fishing day, the discovery of your eternal companion, assignments for other classes, pizza parties, and other similarly unholy and impure excuses.

Cases of conflicting final exam schedules, serious infirmities, or other truly extenuating circumstances, should be reported immediately and not postponed until the day before an exam. If you are planning to get married within the next 4 months, please, schedule your ceremony for a non-conflicting date. (This request does not apply to births, of course ...)

Classroom Etiquette

I believe that the university's dress and grooming standards reflect the standard that any educated and civil person should adopt anywhere in the world.  As a professor as well as a Church high priest I adhere to that standard and expect all my students to do the same.

In the past I never made a big deal out of this, but from now on I would like to ask that you refrain from wearing hats and of enjoying foods and drinks in the classroom.  Falling asleep occasionally is forgivable, but chatting during lectures is not.

Disabilities & Special Circumstances

If you have a diagnosed disability or believe that you have a disability that may require reasonable accommodation, let me know right at the beginning of the semester.

My role and function as a teacher are to assist you in achieving spiritually enriching, rewarding, and intellectually stimulating experiences in and out of the classroom. Your concerns and suggestions--whenever you have them--will always be appreciated.

What If You Are Not LDS?

No problem at all.  I am a convert to the LDS Church, and I respect whatever religious background you come from.

I will never be my intention to offend you or hurt your feelings.  I will teach you according to my beliefs in the hope that if you do not accept the restored gospel, at least you will become a friend of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and help dispel many of the myths and misconceptions about it.


Class participation will be judged on both the amount and the quality of your questions, comments and contributions to the progress of your peers. The breakdown for those 100 precious points is the following: 

  • Attendance     up to 50 points

  • A lot of money and resources are spent in your maintenance in college. So, the least one can do is to attend classes and try to gain the most from them. Occasionally, circumstances may lead you to miss one class period. Absences due to illness, job interviews, athletic & performance groups, or field trips in other classes will count as absences and there will be a penalty of minus 5 points for each absence.  Students who accumulate more than 7 absences will automatically receive a failing grade in the class.
  • Comments in Class      up to 50 points

  • In every class period 4 or 5 students will be invited to share their thoughts, impressions, or questions on that day's reading assignment. Every participation in this "sharing time" will represent 15 points towards the total participation points in the course. Those who miss their opportunity twice will not receive any points for that particular round of sharing time.

    Our objective with this exercise is to learn from the inspired insights we will gain while studying the scriptures. Please, avoid "half-baked" remarks (i.e. overly simplistic or unrelated to the assigned chapters) or mere quotations from general authorities. As a college student you must develop analytical skills and find the practical implications of your readings.

    Our class periods should be seen as opportunities for mutual enlightenment. I encourage and expect many exchanges of ideas and gospel-based life experiences. If you consider yourself shy, I recommend that you put your shyness in a box and mail it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean (the Pacific isn't far enough). While in college, take advantage of the resources available to you and "re-engineer" yourself, thus becoming an active participant in a society. Semester-long silence will be rewarded with 0 (zero) points. Frequent "parallel conversations" may be penalized with a 5-point discount.

    Still, I recognize that shyness might not be conquered in a single semester.  So, for those who do not want to speak up, I will accept an alternative assignment: A monthly written (2-page, double-spaced) remark that the student (or myself) will read in class.  One per month, each due before the end of the month and each worth 10 points.

What If English Is Not Your Native Language?

Once again, no problem.  You are welcome to pray in class in your own language ... provided that there is someone available to translate your words into English--for the benefit of all those present.  Take a look at the Apostle Paul's words on the subject:

"For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.  ... [When] thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room ... say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?"  (1 Corinthians 14:14, 16)


Copyright 2000, 2001 - Marcus H. Martins