Timothy and Titus were trusted associates of Paul who assisted him in preaching the gospel. After Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, he resumed his missionary travels. In Ephesus he left Timothy to minister to the Church, and in Crete he left Titus with a similar assignment. As Paul continued his journey, he wrote letters to strengthen these brethren and to counsel them in their responsibilities as pastors or shepherds over the Saints. Hence these letters are often called the pastoral epistles.  They include Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.
In his letters to Timothy and Titus Paul described signs of apostasy entering Christ’s Church even in those early days. (See 1 Timothy 4:1–3; 2 Timothy 3:1–7, 13; 4:3–4; Titus 1:10–11.) Although Paul begins by saying “in the latter times,” the things he said pertained then as they do now. The early Saints had no idea the Second Coming would not happen for another two thousand years. They tried to live as though Christ’s advent could happen any minute. Paul refers to “seducing spirits” and “doctrines of devils,” “forbidding to marry,” and “abstaining from meats.” This certainly pertains to modern time, but seductive ideas not central to the gospel of Christ were already there in those days. Doctrines were especially at risk that forbade immoral sexual behavior, which men and women have always been tempted by. They often tried to alter the doctrine to allow that sort of behavior. Many of the apostasies of that day allowed sexual immorality.
Paul gives the following advice to Timothy:
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:12-14).
The charismatic gifts of the early Christian Church were lost after the death of the apostles. Now that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its fullness as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, men and women are called to serve by prophecy and the laying on of hands, and are able to exercise all the miraculous gifts of the early apostles.
In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul speaks of people who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”? Nowadays, we have free access to more learning than ever before. But what if we deleted everything that is wrong, untrue, misleading, or worthless in the sight of God? How much would be left? Even the untrue commentaries of Christians who misunderstand scripture would be lost. With around 40,000 Christian sects basing their conflicting doctrines on the Bible, certainly many ideas would not be true. Keep in mind that there are plenty of Christian scholars who compromise on Christ’s divinity and even His existence, who consider many Bible stories fables. Even the nature of deity, at the core of all Christian faiths, is contested. There can be only one true doctrine.
Being a Wise Under-Shepherd to Christ
In 1 Timothy 4:6–7, 13–16; 2 Timothy 2:16, 23–25; 3:14–17; 4:2, 5, Paul speaks of the requirements for those who teach the gospel. First they must be “…nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” As the Lord counseled early Mormon missionaries in the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelations), first learn my gospel, then teach my gospel.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness….(2 Timothy 3:116).
One who teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ should be careful of “outside material,” which Paul calls “babblings.” How many of our ideas about Christ and His gospel come from sources outside the scriptures or teaching of the prophets? We may sound smart when we introduce outside material, but the Lord has taught us to make ourselves worthy and then to rely on the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.
But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.
And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say (Doctrine and Covenants 100:5-8).
Thus, any teacher of the Word of Christ should be prepared to hear and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This means putting in the due-diligence of studying scripture, and then keeping the commandments, praying always, in order to be in tune with the Spirit.
Paul counsels Timothy to be an example of the believers in the following ways ¾ Word, Conversation (may also mean conduct or behavior), Charity, Spirit, Faith, and Purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
Paul’s counsel included avoiding the temptations of money. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:
There is nothing inherently evil about money. The Good Samaritan used the same coinage to serve his fellowman that Judas used to betray the Master. It is ‘the love of money [which] is the root of all evil.’ (1 Timothy 6:10; italics added.) The critical difference is the degree of spirituality we exercise in viewing, evaluating, and managing the things of this world” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 78; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 63).
A friend in my local congregation of Mormons once asked me if it was wicked to want to buy a new truck. I came up with a sort of parable. Two men on the same block buy the same new truck. One stays home from church on the Sabbath day in order to clean and polish his truck, and the other uses his new truck in God’s service. Both have purchased a new truck, but one loves his truck more than he loves God.
Relying on “True Doctrine”
Speaking of the power of true doctrine, Elder Boyd K. Packer said:
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin counseled:
God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation. We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries. My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 101; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 77).
Once we have found true doctrine, we need to “hold fast.”
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (Titus 1:9).
The first prophet in the Book of Mormon had a dream-vision of millions of people trying to get to the tree of life, whose fruit represented the love of God. There were many forbidden paths, a building with no foundation full of people in fancy dress mocking those who were on the path and who had obtained the fruit, and a filthy river that carried away some who lost sight of their goal. A rod of iron led to the tree, with its fruit more desirable than any earthly thing, and those who clung to the rod to the end obtained that fruit. If they did not hearken to the mockery of the people in the “great and spacious building,” they retained the love of Christ they had sought, and they retained it forever. (read the account of the vision)
Lehi and his son Nephi (who inquired of God as to the meaning of the dream) learned that the iron rod represented the word of God. The word of God, from scripture or the teachings of the prophets, gives us the true doctrine from which to teach, to lead, and to serve.