When discussing doctrine with ex-LDS acquaintances, they've mentioned the concept of "milk before meat," presumably based on these words from Joseph Smith's revelation in Doctrines & Covenants 19:

"And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish" (Doctrine & Covenants 19:21-22).

The individuals I discussed this with said that there are teachings of the LDS church that are considered "meat" doctrines, which Mormons are discouraged from sharing with outsiders or prospective converts until they are ready to receive and understand them. Until that time, they teach them "milk" doctrines" to help them grow and establish their budding faith.

I haven't been able to find a precise list or codification of what constitutes "milk doctrines" as opposed to "meat doctrines." Most of what I've found has been from anti-Mormon teachers and sources, which I won't trust as true until hearing the actual Mormons' side of things.

The Prophet Joseph Smith observed, "If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it [will] be a hard matter to get right." When a proper foundation has been laid, the truth can then flow more freely. The apostle Peter is said to have explained to Clement of Rome: "The teaching of all doctrine has a certain order, and there are some things which must be delivered first, others in the second place, and others in the third, and so all in their order; and if these things be delivered in their order, they become plain; but if they be brought forward out of order, they will seem to be spoken against reason" (ldsliving.com) .

Is there a codified list of what's a "milk doctrine" and what's a "meat doctrine?" Or is it up to the discretion of the individual Mormon to determine what an outsider or prospective convert can or can't "bear?"

3 Answers 3


Great question. As far as I know there is not a definitive list separating the two types of teachings. But perhaps a good reference point is those who first introduce non-members to the teachings of the Church: the missionaries.

LDS missionaries start by teaching people the plain and basic doctrine of the gospel. Every lesson is custom-tailored to each individual based on their needs. See, if they're teaching a scholar of the Bible in the US south, the discussion of the Restoration or the Plan of Salvation goes very differently than if they are teaching someone in India who may have never heard of Jesus Christ.

The Bible scholar would not be impressed by being taught about why scriptures are valuable and that we should read them every day. But that might be the very thing that a family in India needs to learn in order to grow their faith. So the missionaries might focus more on the need for a Restoration and the blessings of ordinances of exaltation to the scholar, and on the basic commandments and nature of God to the family in India, for example.

So what is milk to one individual is meat to another.

When missionaries introduce the Book of Mormon to someone, that is enough to overwhelm them: a whole other book of scripture comparable and equal to the Bible in its canonical authority; essentially the bible of the New World? Wow. Because of this milk/meat thing, missionaries typically do not also introduce the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price at the same time.

As another example, the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 13 discusses the discovery of America by the Gentiles in the centuries following the dark ages. This is a very cool vision that strengthens the testimonies of long-time members of the Church who are accustomed to the basic doctrines, but this is often irrelevant to new investigators of the Church. Teaching this too early can easily come across as too fanatical or dramatic, as it discusses in detail the transfer of the Bible to the New World, the American revolutionary war and how the Spirit was with them, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon shortly thereafter. Those who still need "milk" teachings should be focusing their study on faith, repentance, baptismal covenants, keeping the commandments, etc. (Not that veteran members shouldn't -- but I mean it's like a ladder, you can still go back down to the basics, but you can't start at the top and expect it to make sense.)

Gotta learn arithmetic before you can understand calculus. This is why the ordinances of the LDS church are progressive: baptism & confirmation, young men receiving the Aaronic Priesthood and adult men the Melchizedek Priesthood, then eventually, when they are ready, Mormons receive further ordinances in temples which teach even more celestial truths. But the temple is like the Lord's university: although the gospel is simple enough for a child to understand, the teaching style in temple ordinances is appreciated by more prepared individuals who have already gone to "grade school" so to speak.


As Matt pointed out, what is milk for some might be meat for others depending on individual spiritual development.

However I would argue that a good working definition of "meat" is any doctrine that requires you to understand a more basic or "precursor" doctirne in order to be able to fully it. Given it was Paul who coined the phrase "milk before meat" he's as good a source as any for a list of these basic doctrines. With that in mind, Hebrews 6:1-3 gives us a list of the "basics"

-faith in God and in His Son

-repentence from sin

-baptism by immerssion

-laying on of hands

-resurrection of the dead

-eternal judgement

This is the milk that all converts to Christianity MUST understand before delving into the "mysteries of heaven", and as far as I know, there is no "precursor" doctrine necesssary to understand these core dorctrines. Even doctrines that many (if not most) Mormons consider "milk" are meat to anyone who doesn't understand/believe in these core doctrines.

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    Thanks for posting, but this answer would be much stronger if you showed, with sources, that this is the view of the LDS. I hope you'll take a minute to review how this site is different from others, and better understand how your answer can be supported. Aug 18, 2016 at 0:18
  • Some of these concepts are recursive as well. Faith in God and His Christ in the general sense is a milk teaching. Faith in God and His Christ based on the information taught in the School of the Prophets in the Lectures on Fatih are more in the meat category.
    – Tavrock
    Dec 17, 2016 at 6:36

God has commanded His servants to teach line upon line in an orderly fashion, according to inspiration:

It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. (Alma 12:9)

People are not well served when they hear things that they are not prepared to hear. Imagine putting up a roof before having a foundation or walls. The roof, being unsupported, would fall and crush the inhabitants of that building. We see this regularly when people who are unprepared for sacred things receive pearls, and trample them and rend the caster of those pearls, because trampling and rending and wallowing is all that pigs know.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)

StorminMormin's answer correctly identifies the Doctrine of Christ as the milk that all must receive first. People cannot understand God's commandments and ordinances before they know the basics of His plan of happiness.

We see that being taught many things without faith and preparation is disastrous, as people very quickly become conceited and arrogant, supposing they are wise because they can rattle off buzzwords from college-level subjects, when they have not even completed their first grade homework, so to speak:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9:28-29)

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