Belief? maybe. Doctrine? Probably not.

Two recent and very interesting blog posts, one by James Faulconer, and the other by Alison Moore Smith, show a continuing and disturbing problem with Church members: they teach things that they believe, but are not doctrine (faith tenet) of the Church, as if those things were the truth.  Alison notes an interesting story:

A few years ago, Sam and I attended an endowment session at the Salt Lake Temple. As we approached the gate, a man stood on the public sidewalk a few feet away, holding a sign that read:

                             Joseph Smith had 27 wives!

A couple crossed the street on their way to the temple, saw the sign, and the man yelled, “That is a lie!”

I responded, “Yea. It’s probably more like 34.”

Both men looked at me in startled silence.

When discussing troubling policies or doctrines, lay church apologists fall into a typical trap. Someone makes an inflammatory comment about the church and the defender loudly denies it. Even if it’s true

We have members that teach a young Earth, no evolution, Bible as perfect history, Joseph Smith as a perfect, infallible and all-knowing prophet, etc.  Yet none of it is doctrine, real doctrine. 

There are strengths to having a lay ministry.  What better way to teach thousands of young men and women about Christ, faith, charity and service, than to send them off to another part of the world for a couple of years?

Yet, a lay ministry opens the door for a variety of belief systems within the LDS community, which are not tempered by historical, scientific, or modern prophetic evidence. You would think we would have learned our lessons with the priesthood ban/curse of Cain debacle, yet having even BYU religion professors continuing false traditions as late as 2012, does not help to quash false doctrines.  The speculations of dead prophets and apostles are still found on members’ bookshelves.  Sadly, those same members do not see the need to update their bookshelves with new LDS publications that may teach things based upon newer revelations and scientific and historical knowledge.  What good does it do for the Church to change the headings in the scriptures to say that Jacob is “one” of the ancestors of Native Americans or that the priesthood ban was ended by revelation (but we cannot find a revelation that began it), if members are still reading their parents’ copy of Mormon Doctrine that is 40 years old?

One of the biggest problems I see, is that Mormons tend to view things in black and white.  This was something endemic in our Church since the days of Joseph F Smith.  But the scriptures teach us that God deals in shades of gray.  There are 3 kingdoms of glory (probably with levels within those), not just one heaven.  God sends out portions of his word to all nations, as they are ready to receive it (Alma 29:8), which includes the LDS Church – where we claim to believe in continuing revelation, but then become dogmatic on what we believe.

The reality is, there are very few core doctrines that will/can never change: God is our Father, Jesus is the Christ, Faith, Hope, Charity, etc.  Most of the rest is fungible, as God can change things at any time.  Caffeine is now okay for Mormons to drink – even those who spent decades condemning those who drank Coke.  The curse of Cain/Canaan is totally false/wrong. 

In the future, we could possibly see the end of the Word of Wisdom (or portions of it), Tithing (replaced by consecration), etc.  Even baptism could be  possibly replaced by some other ordinance, as it replaced Jewish ritual washings, sacrifices and circumcision.

That is the awesome thing about Mormonism: continuing revelation and change.  But it requires us to first understand what our real doctrines now are, and to recognize what beliefs are not core doctrine.

We do not have to have a perfect history. We do not have to fight against science.  We do not have to believe that everything ever written by dead prophets is complete core doctrine.  But it requires we open ourselves up to thinking for ourselves.  We must actively seek truth, light and knowledge for ourselves.  We must go to the prophets for guidance on the core principles and doctrines, but then we must venture into the grays and see what we may find – knowing that it is gray area, and not doctrine.

For me, I love studying history, science, philosophy and religion.  But I understand that what I learn all falls into gray areas, as there is no perfection in any of these areas.  It is okay for me if there are a variety of possibilities, and I may prefer one over another, as long as I understand none of it is written in stone.

Since I was not there when Joseph Smith was engaged in polygamy and polyandry, I cannot know for certain if he was commanded of God or was just testing out Biblical things.  What I can know is that there are possibilities that will some day fully explain things to me, hopefully to my complete satisfaction.  Until then, some things I set to the side, understanding they are deep in the gray area, while I seek spiritual guidance for myself in understanding what the possible answers and possibilities are regarding the gospel of Christ.

 

49 thoughts on “Belief? maybe. Doctrine? Probably not.

  1. Perhaps doctrines can change, but the truth never does. If a principle or teaching was true in the days of the 19th century prophets, it is still true today. If the 19th century prophets were teaching false doctrine, that implies that some of the doctrine being taught by the living prophets today may be false. Remember, Joseph Smith was a living prophet too in his day. And if we can discount what he taught because he is dead, why not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? They are dead as well. Not only that we are not even certain that they have been translated correctly. It is pretty easy to see how a lay ministry could become confused.

    What frustrates me is when elderly high priests who have had Church leadership responsibilities for many years teach contrary to the teachings of 19th and 20th century prophets without justification. If there has been a revelation, fine. Let’s study it. Why what the change necessary? Was the old teaching wrong? If so, what makes the new teaching the correct one? The same people who reject anything not taught yesterday are often the ones that rejected President Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophets.” And one of those fourteen fundamentals is that living prophets trump dead prophets. Isn’t that a bit hypoocritical for a man to reject Benson but embrace one thing he said in a talk that they otherwise vehemently disagree with?

    Joseph Smith taught that murder put a man beyond all hope of forgiveness and eternal life in the celestial kingdom. He said that the Savior’s atonement would not cover him since even if he repented, he would have to pay for it himself. He said that the ancient Apostle Peter taught this in the New Testament. And many of Joseph Smith’s successors taught the same thing including Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer W. Kimball. But now there are active, temple going, high priests who reject this teaching. Huh? On what basis? Or is the doctrine just whatever they want it to be?

    I still have MORMON DOCTRINE on my book shelf. I wish I had a First Edition. It isn’t all true. But a lot of it is. And it is not our belief that even the Bible is one hundred percent true, only “as far as it is translated correctly.” Well, how much of it is translated incorrectly? Which parts are correct? Which parts can we disregard? Without that information, I am pretty much left with knowing that much of it true… just like MORMON DOCTRINE. And that is why we all enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost, so we can learn by personal revelation which parts are important for us, and which parts are better ignored.

    Don’t just tell me that the teaching of a dead prophet is no longer true. Tell me why. Show me chapter and verse. Cite the General Conference talk that proclaims it false. Point me to the new revelation overturns the old one. And if you are not prepared to do that, don’t expect me to consider your view anything but your personal opinion. Sure, what is taught today trumps what was taught in the past, but only if it contradicts or invalidates what was taught in the past. It isn’t inferior of false just because it wasn’t brought in the most recent Conference.

  2. Rameumpton:
    The reality is, there are very few core doctrines that will/can never change: God is our Father, Jesus is the Christ, Faith, Hope, Charity, etc. Most of the rest is fungible, as God can change things at any time. Caffeine is now okay for Mormons to drink – even those who spent decades condemning those who drank Coke. The curse of Cain/Canaan is totally false/wrong.

    Has God said this? Where? Has a president of the Church said so? Or just “implied” it according to your opinion and understanding? Has this been carefully explained in General Conference, preferably several times? Did the new revelation ending the priesthood ban proclaim that the curse of Cain was false? By the way, what was the verbatim text of that revelation? People are constantly putting words in God’s mouth. Don’t be one of them.

  3. JWR: During my lifetime, Spencer Kimball commanded from the pulpit at Gen Conf: “Plant your gardens.” (He was talking about the vegetable kind.)

    No prophet since then has said to stop planting gardens.

    Are you planting your garden?

    Is it still a commandment?

  4. Doctrine and truth do not necessarily equate. The term “doctrine” actually means “teaching.” We’ve had a lot of teachings over the centuries. Those which have been clearly canonized have not changed much. Those that have not been canonized tend to change over time.
    BTW, John, the New Testament gospels likely were not written by Matthew, Mark, etc. All are anonymous, and were not given apostolic names to them until about AD 180. It is tradition only that has us believe they were written by the original apostles and disciples.

    Why is Mormon Doctrine no longer published? Because it is old stuff, and there is newer and better stuff today. We should focus on living prophets’ teachings, not dead ones from many decades ago. The Church went to curriculum and a focus on actual doctrine in order to stop apostolic speculation being turned into doctrine.

    The official statement is we do not know why the ban was begun. That means that all attempts to explain it are speculation, and that trying to teach the curse of Canaan is plain wrong, as it is not doctrine. Second, it is provable via history and archaeology that Canaanites were a Semitic people, not African descent. Therefore, the early belief of a curse does not apply, because it was based on unsound thinking. If there was a curse, it was not a curse of Canaan.

  5. Another thing to consider, our PH/RS manuals of the old prophets does not contain the major things the prophets taught, but a collection of things they said that agree with what curriculum wants to teach today. The Brigham Young manual said nothing about polygamy, Adam-God, blood atonement, etc. All of the manuals focus more on the atonement of Christ being all-encompassing than that it is limited according to our sins. That Presidents Packer and Faust have both recently stated in General Conference that if we remain faithful, the Lord will save our children, no matter what they do, teaches the doctrine very differently than the old prophets did.

  6. The LDS Church has *no* “official” doctrine. We don’t have anything that lists our “doctrines” (an official creed) – we have a set of scriptures which imply certain concepts (and which frequently contradict each other), and we have First Presidency Statements which are very rarely added (Official Declarations One and Two) to the Cannon of Scripture (and which also occasionally contradictory older First Presidency statements).

    What we do have is a working body of currently acceptable ideas. Those ideas which bear the test of time and keep getting occasional mention in General Conference, or which get written down in the Handbook of Instructions, are generally accepted by a large number of Church members (to the extent they actually know about them – as mentioned by the original poster). BUT there is always a significant contingent of members with an astoundingly varied view of what constitutes “doctrine” or even what constitutes the current suggestions.

    More importantly what we (as a Church) have is the Priesthood keys. It is pretty clear from modern and historical records that God lets men mess up the Church rather badly. Apparently God can do this because Christ is able to exercise perfect judgement based on what we know and the intent of our hearts. So as long as I continue to receive/have a witness and testimony of God recognizing the Church’s Priesthood keys I’m going to be OK with the Church no matter how badly the current authorities might mess things up.

    By-the-way drinking caffeinated soda type drinks was *never* officially an allowable reason to deny a temple recommend, it rose to the level of suggestion/advice only. It never even got a consensus among the Twelve and the First Presidency.

  7. Rameumpton:
    Doctrine and truth do not necessarily equate. The term “doctrine” actually means “teaching.”

    I know that. I am only interested in the truth. I’m not interested in false doctrines. Point out the false doctrines in Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, etc. and I will discount it from my understanding of the truth. But don’t expect me to take your word for it. I will need scriptural or prophetic testimony to persuade me that their doctrine is false. If doctrine isn’t true, it is worthless regardless of whether it is “official Church doctrine” or not. Ever notice how often the phrase “official Church doctrine” is used in the blogs compared with how often it is used by the men who make doctrine, the ones who speak in General Conference. Why don’t they use the phrase?

  8. Yes, planting gardens is still a commandment. Even after all these years. Some can only do it will containers or indoor gardening, but they still need the education that comes from doing it. Half the scriptures can be properly understood only if we understand as only a farmer or gardener does that there is a time for planting and a time for harvesting. And if you do not get your seeds into the ground soon enough, you garden fails and your are not going to have food to can. That means starvation during the winter. But more importantly the principles apply to other things in life as well. If you don’t plants the seeds of education at the right time, you won’t get a good job when it is time to go to work and start a family. If you don’t plant the seeds of a testimony in your children, you won’t harvest a spiritually prosperous posterity in your old age. And so forth.

    The commandment to plant gardens remains in force and will probably never change. The scriptures don’t even make sense unless the root principles of gardening are well understood.

  9. Rameumpton:
    Why is Mormon Doctrine no longer published? Because it is old stuff, and there is newer and better stuff today. We should focus on living prophets’ teachings, not dead ones from many decades ago. The Church went to curriculum and a focus on actual doctrine in order to stop apostolic speculation being turned into doctrine.

    You can say the same things of Talmage, LeGrand Richards and others. But they are still published and read. Truth is truth. It doesn’t get old. Your explanation is inadequate.

  10. Rameumpton:
    The official statement is we do not know why the ban was begun. That means that all attempts to explain it are speculation, and that trying to teach the curse of Canaan is plain wrong, as it is not doctrine.

    Ah, but that is not Church doctrine. You won’t find a statement either way in any of our manuals or Conference talks. True, all attempts to explain it are speculation, but some speculation is true, it just isn’t “official Church doctrine.” But neither is it “official Church doctrine” that it is wrong. So you are making an illogical leap from “it is not doctrine” to “is plain wrong.” The fact is, we don’t know.

  11. Rameumpton:
    Second, it is provable via history and archaeology that Canaanites were a Semitic people, not African descent. Therefore, the early belief of a curse does not apply, because it was based on unsound thinking. If there was a curse, it was not a curse of Canaan.

    Almost nothing is provable via history because history is not like mathematics, physics and chemistry. And history is highly inaccurate by comparison. If things could be proven by history, Joseph Smith was a charlatan, practiced polyandry, was lying about the first vision and the gold plates and Brigham Young personally ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Perhaps I should have said that nearly anything can be proven by history. If the Bible stories took place at the time we are talking about, the history of that period is highly speculative and subject to change with the discovery of further data. Much of the Bible cannot be verified via secular history without making huge assumptions which may or may not be true.

  12. I just want to say that I support what John W. Redelf has said here. Too many true teachings are dismissed simply because Mormon doctrine is less defined than other faiths. Reading this was troubling to me because those “speculations” of past Church leaders comes closer to the truth than the current “dis-speculation” of modern Mormons who want to distance themselves from past teachings. Like was said above, just because something is labeled speculation doesn’t mean that I’m going to believe the alternative is any better without clearer teachings and evidence.

    Anything that starts with “In the future” is pure speculation, and isn’t that what is supposed to be argued against here? Lets deal with the here and now before talking about the what ifs and perhaps, unless a prophet with a revelation. The Word of Wisdom still stands like it has for generations, a tenth is still required for payment, caffeine remains a substance that is best in moderation if at all, and the history of the withholding of the Priesthood from black remains is as shrouded in mystery now as it did before the ban lifted with the speculative reasons intact and still relevant.

    “We have members that teach a young Earth, no evolution, Bible as perfect history, Joseph Smith as a perfect, infallible and all-knowing prophet, etc.” Great, then teach correct principles when you talk with members like that and let them govern themselves. I think the point of this post really is the fear members are to a large extent uneducated rather than see things in black and white. The solution of, “update their bookshelves with new LDS publications,” allows for that implication. I fear the only ones that really see “black and white” judge the Church and its members through modern politics and culture. As a person who has talked with members about Evolution and the polygamy of Joseph Smith, I find most are very open and willing to learn. With enough effort and care to take them seriously, they become more open to at least reconsider their own views. Just as a curiosity, exactly what modern books do you have in mind to take the place of the old ones?

  13. Just to clarity, I don’t think many of the doctrinal speculations as to why the blacks weren’t allowed to hold the Priesthood have any scriptural basis. However, the fact that the prophets felt it was a divinely given practice to withhold the priesthood from them is a matter of historical record. Since they were given divine authority as the head of the Church, I will defer to them rather than historians or modernists. That makes the speculations, no matter how unlikely, still matter. Unless and until more light and knowledge becomes available on the subject through the same authoritative structure.

  14. Clearly, some of Joseph Smith’s successors felt that Joseph Smith had received a divine direction to withhold priesthood based on lineage and race, and the First Presidency in the middle of the 20th century taught that was the origin. But the Church no longer teaches either that the practice was started by Joseph Smith or that the practice was started by divine direction–and explicitly states that it knows neither the reason nor HOW the practice started. If a person wants to believe that, s/he certainly may; if the person does not wish to believe that, s/he certainly may also do that.

  15. Rame says: “Since I was not there when Joseph Smith was engaged in polygamy and polyandry, I cannot know for certain if he was commanded of God or was just testing out Biblical things.”

    I think this is a provocative statement, as it contradicts D&C 132, and thus requires that you suspend belief that the Doctrine and Covenants is the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith. But I agree with it. Things in Journal of Discourses, Mormon Doctrine, etc., can now be taken with a grain of salt if they seem out of sync with what modern prophets are telling us. But Rame is suggesting that this would also include Doctrine and Covenants. That would be great, because I would go along with that. But I don’t think we’ve arrived at a point, as a church, where official scripture like the Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon can be taken with a grain of salt.

    However, one day we may be able to embrace Rame’s philosophy, as I believe it is correct. I believe all scripture, all prophets, and all revelation is fallible. The essence of the church is not in the details of it’s doctrine. The essence of the church is in it’s claim to divine authority. A prophet is a prophet not because all his revelations are perfect, but because he indeed was called and authorized by God, even in his weakness.

  16. I appreciate the thoughtful comments. Earnest humble dialogue is a beautiful thing to behold-because it is rare. I was reminded of something Joseph F. McConkie would say in class at BYU: “Even good men can err in doctrine”. The best of us are fallible-and that is ok. The historicity of the revelations is worthy of our study and debate; knowing the mind and will of God as it pertains to our lives is worthy of our obedience and consecration. Having a list of “approved” doctrines would allow dogma to reign over the need each one of us has to find out for ourselves the truth of all things using the divine tools bequeathed to us.

  17. Alison, I too really liked John Harvey’s comment. He brought up an important point some of us tend to forget. We are not only judged by our acts, but by the desires of our hearts which are in part determined by our family upbringing, intelligence, reading comprehension, love for the scriptures, level of education, genetic background, personality and a very long list of other factors as well. So God has to judge us as only he can because he is omniscient and we are not. It would not be fair and hence not just for him to judge us by a law that we do not have. And yet our levels of understanding vary widely. If he wanted us all to believe exactly the same thing, even though we do not all have exactly the same understanding, he would give us creeds or a creed. But he has made it clear to Joseph Smith and his successor prophets that creeds are an abomination to him. They are too easily corrupted by the false precepts of men. I rejoice that doctrine is not set in stone in our faith. Because of that I can believe the “personal opinions” of whomever I please. In my case, the personal opinions of Joseph Smith, Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith are what I believe as best I can understand those opinions. Sure, they may have been wrong about some things, but so are those who seem to delight in pointing that out just as I am. It is a common saying in the Church that each of us has to work out his salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. If we all knew the doctrine perfectly, if there was a creed that we could understand perfectly, then there would be no need to work anything out. It would all be worked out for us already. I really like Rameupton’s post even though I am not in perfect agreement with all of it. It is very thought provoking.

  18. Official church publications (curriculum plus conference talks) and our canonized scripture contain plenty of teachings. But the doctrine, or what may be called “binding doctrine” is short and few.

    In 3rd Nephi, the savior gives a lot of teachings, but what he calls doctrine is in just a few verses in chaper 11.

    There are a lot of statements made by modern prophets which may be considered “doctrinal”, but not all of it is “binding” on the members.

    IMO, the essence of what is “binding” on us is what is in 3rd Nephi 11:32-40, and the temple recommend questions. Things such as polygamy, priesthood ban, prophetic infallibility don’t figure into baptism interviews, temple rec interviews, or interviews for callings.

    In other words, we don’t have a “catechism” other than perhaps the Articles of Faith, and the temple rec interview questions.

    IMO, everything beyond the basics (ie, scriptures and Gospel Princples) is taught us by the Holy Ghost as we read the scriptures and participate in and ponder the temple ceremonies.

    General conference talks mainly go over the basics of what is taught in sriptures. I think that learning any “higher truths” beyond that are dependent on the capacity of the individual, and their diligence in seeking it.

    Let’s remember that only one third of the gold plates of Mormon were translated and the rest are sealed, but have been promised to be given when we live up to what we’ve been given so far. That seems proper, because if we’re not living up to the light we’ve been given, we’re under condemnation, and further light would condemn us more.

  19. Many interesting comments, and I appreciate them all. Let me clarify a few things: first, I do believe that polygamy was once ordered of God, as we see in D&C 132. However, it is the ‘why” and “how” that catch up a lot of people. Was Joseph commanded to also practice polyandry? Was he commanded to do sealings to build a Joseph dynasty – completely different than how we render sealings today (families)?

    As for the priesthood ban, the Church now states that they don’t know why it was implemented, only that it was lifted via revelation. I agree with this. It is exactly in the “why” and “how” that we usually get our doctrines turned into traditional folk lore, which often hurts us in the long run. We do not have the right to preach curses, the lack of being valiant in the premortal existence, etc. Yes, some earlier GAs taught these things, but you’ll note that once the revelation was given, even Elder McConkie (who long had touted his father-in-law’s teachings) came forth and said that everything said previously was wrong and we need to move forward in light of the priesthood revelation. So, here we are 35 years later, and we still have BYU religion professors teaching these things? The best answer is now given in the new chapter heading for OD2: we do not know why.

    As for doctrine, the Church’s Newsroom has noted the difference between doctrines and “core doctrines”. I guess it means that doctrines can change, or even be wrong, but core doctrines never change and are right (as long as we do not supplement them with our own speculation). see http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

    I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, who insisted that the teachings on the curse and premortal existence in regards to blacks were true, but the Church today is caught up in being politically correct. We had to agree to disagree, even after I showed him the new heading for OD2, etc.

    I think one of the worst things we can do for our children is teach them that our prophets are infallible. Instead, we should teach them that our prophets are called of God, are trustworthy, and we should prayerfully consider all they teach us. So, when some troublesome history pops up about a prophet (Joseph Smith and polyandry, Brigham Young and Adam-God or MMM, Gordon B Hinckley and Mark Hofmann), they do not lose their testimonies or spiritual foundation.

  20. JWR wrote: “Remember, Joseph Smith was a living prophet too in his day. And if we can discount what he taught because he is dead, why not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? ”

    Article of Faith #8: 8.We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

    So, if there are portions of the Gospels that were not translated correctly, we have false or incorrect doctrine, correct? How many corrections/changed did Joseph Smith make to the gospels and New Testament? Many.

    We believe in continuing revelation, precisely because what we receive is not perfect nor complete. It is good enough to get us exalted, even with imperfect prophets, missionaries and members.

    We need the saints to learn what the current prophets are saying, and lessen their death grip on the dead ones. We need to focus (at least in Church) on the core doctrines, and allow everything else to remain in the arena of speculation. Speculation is not bad, except when it becomes doctrine by tradition, rather than by revelation. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young understood these concepts, even though speculation became part of the tradition when it comes to blood atonement, Adam-God, and the necessity for all to be involved in polygamy if they wanted to be exalted. I thank God for modern prophets to cause the needed course changes to the gospel, so that what we have today is stronger and more correct than at any previous time in history.

  21. ram,
    There is something about what (or how) you’re saying that feels quite wrong to me.

    I love studying the prior generation of apostles because it gives me insight to the current. And likewise the same would be true from the generation prior to that. You may feel that means I’m discounting continuing revelation, but rather I’m echoing the exact same thoughts as Pres Packer who says when he first joined the Quorum of the 12, he lingered behind with some of older members (like Marion Romney, etc) because those moments provided him insight with the previous generation.

    While I certainly agree 100% that we should not focus heavily on past topics that were perhaps more pertinent to previous generations, as well as the accompanying speculation, I would never want to suggest we abandon their words.

    Studying all we can the current teachings and then going even further and seeking unity with the prior groups of Apostles and their teachings has given me experiences with the ministering of angels and revelations that I never would have had.

    I seek unity with all the prophets and apostles, and I don’t actively discount their teachings, but rather am more than willing to table a thought for what I regard as my lack of understanding it combined perhaps with their lack of communicating it effectively.

    I often try to be charitable when I read something that others are so quick to dismiss from a deceased authority. “Well, I assume if they were here explaining it to me now they could do a better job of addressing my concerns and no doubt would be able to explain it a bit differently.” In this way, rather than simply declaring something I don’t understand as “wrong” (which may actually have a lot of truth to it and inadvertently being rejecting revelation as wrong, thus preventing my further light and knowledge on the subject), I try to take what I feel is the more humble approach.

    I don’t think I’m any worse for it and I don’t think it requires me to go battle in the contest of “who is more right” where we argue back and forth.

  22. Rameumpton:
    Yes, some earlier GAs taught these things, but you’ll note that once the revelation was given, even Elder McConkie (who long had touted his father-in-law’s teachings) came forth and said that everything said previously was wrong and we need to move forward in light of the priesthood revelation.

    That is not quite true. Elder McConkie told us to “disregard” everything that was taught before 1978. He did not confirm that any of it was wrong, only that he had taught it himself. I agree with what he said, not with what the commentators say is the proper interpretation of what he said.

    Also, why is McConkie the only witness? Why hasn’t this topic been taken up in General Conference, or in leadership training meetings? Why haven’t other apostles seconded what McConkie said in that one talk to CES educators? Truth is supposed to be established in the mouth of two or more witnesses, is it not?

    I believe the policy before 1978 was from God, and that the policy since 1978 is from God. God and his priesthood are responsible for all of it.

  23. chris,That would be the best way to learn from them, which is what I think PH/RS correlated materials try to do for us. However, I think you assess it in a way many LDS are not ready or able to do. If all could read the early prophets in light of things taught today, then we could remain on a purer path towards truth and correct doctrine.

    I just do not see that happening for many, however. They receive their father’s copy of X, devour it, and then that becomes THE doctrine. I’ve known people who left the Church when the priesthood ban was lifted, because it contradicted things said by Joseph Fielding Smith, Brigham Young and a variety of other General Authorities!

    As a young adult, I had a stake president and Institute director who had a running joke between them. If a General Authority was quoted, one of them would ask: “has he been dead long enough?” The idea being that we cherish long dead prophets much more than living ones.

    Another well-known saying is: The Pope is infallible, but the Catholics treat him as if he is not; and the Mormon Prophet IS fallible, but the Saints treat him as if he were.

    The best offered speculations by a General Authority affect our ability to receive our own revelation, as well as the Church receiving revelation on the subject. I wonder if the priesthood ban could have been lifted earlier, if the mind of the Saints would have been more intuned with such a revelation earlier. As it is, Edward Kimball notes in his father’s biography that President Kimball spent several years grooming the Twelve, asking their opinion and tossing out soft questions on the topic, long before calling them in to pray for a revelation on it.

    Perhaps we miss out on some important revelations (personal and Church ones) simply because we are unwilling to hear or accept something new from the Lord. Brigham Young Told the SLC Mormons that the SLC temple would have 6 spires, instead of just 1, and forewarned them so they would not apostatize over the change. I wonder if we are resistant to new revelation, as well, partially because we have become dogmatic over the writings and teachings of dead prophets.

  24. Rameumpton:
    As for doctrine, the Church’s Newsroom has noted the difference between doctrines and “core doctrines”. I guess it means that doctrines can change, or even be wrong, but core doctrines never change and are right (as long as we do not supplement them with our own speculation). see http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

    The difference between doctrines and core doctrines might not mean that doctrines that are not “core” are wrong or can change. It might merely mean that even true doctrines are not all of equal importance. I also think it is significant that only the president of the Church could tell us which doctrines are “core” and which are not. I have always felt that all truth is related and cannot be understood correctly out of context. It is not always helpful to think of core doctrines versus not core. What is to prevent another from deciding he doesn’t need to keep this or that commandment because it isn’t based upon a core doctrine? Would everyone agree on just exactly which and how many doctrines are of the core variety? I doubt it.

  25. Rameumpton:
    We need the saints to learn what the current prophets are saying, and lessen their death grip on the dead ones.

    In every General Conference most or even all of the living prophets quote and teach from the discourses and writings of the dead ones. Unless there is a contradiction, I think we should value the writings and teachings of those same dead prophets as much as we do the living ones. We can go with the living prophets when there is a disagreement which almost never happens. Unnecessarily making a distinction between living and dead prophets devalues the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, the teachings of Joseph Smith, and the teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley. We should make this distinction only when disagreement makes it necessary.

  26. Rameumpton:
    They receive their father’s copy of X, devour it, and then that becomes THE doctrine. I’ve known people who left the Church when the priesthood ban was lifted, because it contradicted things said by Joseph Fielding Smith, Brigham Young and a variety of other General Authorities!

    These people that you have known who left the Church, did they leave the Church because of the things taught by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, or because they didn’t check their understanding of those teachings with the Holy Ghost? Everybody makes mistakes including Smith, McConkie and the faithless person who uses their mistakes for an excuse to leave the Church. Ultimately, they are responsible for their decision, not anyone else.

    And lest you forget, Joseph Fielding Smith and his son-in-law Bruce R. McConkie taught long and hard for many years that there were no neutrals in heaven. Many of “sins” that are attributed to them are false accusations.

    The young, nineteen year old missionaries that taught me the gospel in 1962 taught me in great plainness that God had never revealed why blacks were not permitted the priesthood. Those who suggest that this is a new Church teaching or policy must be wrong. These are often the same people who put words into the mouths of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie that neither of them ever uttered or wrote.

  27. Moses is a dead prophet. He gave us the Ten Commandments. None of the living prophets mentioned the Ten Commandments in the last General Conference, so I guess it can break those commandments until they become official Church doctrine again. Am I right?

  28. Bravo Rame! Great post. I agree with much of what you have said. So much of what we believe to be absolute truth is either: tradition or policy. The way we do things, or what is emphasized at the moment, can change. The church has changed quite a bit in my life, and my elderly father says the same for him. Reading ancestral accounts of their experiences in the church, show even more differences. I believe our leaders, past and present, the pioneers etc… are all fallible and will let us down if we put them up on a pedestal. That pedestal is reserved only for G-d and Christ.

    What I have taught my children is to trust the manifestation of the spirit in their lives; to not depend on others, but instead depend on G-d for answers. Also one’s testimony is a fragile and delicate thing, so guard it closely. The way to do this is to keep what we “know” to be true a very very short list.

    For example, my short list is: truthfulness of G-d, the Atonement and mission of Jesus Christ, scriptures are mostly true (not perfect); the Book of Mormon being the most true, ceremonies of the church will always exist in some form, but words and structure subject to change. This way when change occurs or there is a discrepancy, it does not affect the basic core of our testimonies.

  29. Where is this dogmatic attitude toward old teacjings that prevents us from valuing current teachings? Btw the church is going through a lot of effort to put old conferences online, even though I’m certain a handful of things said then wouldn’t be said the same way now. Presumably they want to increase our access to study those teachings you say we should just move on from.

  30. There are forces at work within the Church membership that want to discredit former latter-day prophets and reduce or eliminate our confidence in the things they taught. We need to remember that without the work done by Joseph Smith in restoring the gospel, this gospel would not even exist upon the earth. There would be no Church. There would be no priesthood. God chose this dead prophet just a surely as he chose Thomas S. Monson. We can discount something said by Joseph Smith ONLY if Thomas S. Monson has specifically asked us to or taught something that invalidates a teaching of Joseph Smith. This is my opinion because I have the Gift of the Holy Ghost and this is what the Spirit teaches me. We cannot discount the teachings of Joseph Smith because we are influenced on the Internet with a lot of sophisticated rhetoric and commentators who have no stewardship and are probably wrong. The same is true for every other president of the Church including President Monson. These men speak with the voice of God. And there will rarely be a difference of opinion among them unless they are being “fallible.” I have never heard President Monson discount or contradict one of his predecessors. And if he did, it was probably a typo.

    You know, if the past prophets were wrong, the current one probably is too. Ever thought of that? These men make mistakes like everyone else. But they do not teach false doctrine.

  31. I’ve never heard President Monson contradict an older prophet, mainly because he sticks to basic things in his talks like service, love of fellow man, etc. The Ensign used to publish more doctrinal type articles (I ate them up as a new member 34 years ago) but now the focus is softer. I think we’ve been going through a period of about 100 years where the emphasis has been on “perfecting the saints.” Why don’t we get more “Doctrines of Salvation” or “Answers to Gospel Questions” or “Mormon Doctrine” type books anymore from prophets or apostles? I think because they’ve realized that there were a bit too many instances where leaders offered up well reasoned opinions. When ever you see a “Teachings of the Prophet” type books, most of the quotes are fairly general and address ideas and principles that don’t border on the speculative. Anyway, I think “doctrine” is found in things like the Gospel Principles manual and the True to the Faith manuals. These are things that new and young members study, cover a whole lot of ground, and form what I would consider “core doctrine.” Most other things are subject to interpretation.

  32. IDIAT wrote:
    Anyway, I think “doctrine” is found in things like the Gospel Principles manual and the True to the Faith manuals. These are things that new and young members study, cover a whole lot of ground, and form what I would consider “core doctrine.” Most other things are subject to interpretation.

    I agree, and I was thrilled when I learned we were going to spend two years in priesthood meeting studying Gospel Principles. Those teachings a “core.” They are most basic. But online or even in my Sunday HP group meeting I have been surprised by how often someone either did not know one of those teachings, or disagreed with it and said he thought it was a “personal opinion.” How can that be?

    I think that some people just do not find the study of doctrine very interesting or to their liking, so they do not know their doctrine very well. Some people like to make up their personal religion as they go along. And some people, even some active high priests, do not have particularly good testimonies or are so-called “cultural Mormons” who are offended by genuine Church doctrine because it is not politically correct.

    There is a reason why Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie were so widely disliked in the Church. I wish there were more saints who understood those reasons. I imagine that there were many who did not much care for Elijah or Paul.

    Someone once told me that some men preach what others want to hear, but that a true prophet teaches them what the Lord wants them to hear.

    I think there is a true principle there. We do not get our attitudes and values from the currently fashionable pop culture. At least we are not supposed to.

  33. Bruce R. McConkie was disliked in the church? Surely it’s the opposite. I can’t think of another member of the Seventy who had a book as wildly popular as Elder McConkie did (and yes, he was a Seventy when Mormon Doctrine was first published). I can’t think of another member of the Twelve who passed away in the 20th century who is currently as liked by the general membership of the church as much as Elder McConkie is (not counting, of course, those who served in the First Presidency).

    Interestingly enough, the church has more recently put out an Encyclopedia of Mormonism that basically serves as a replacement for Mormon Doctrine. They’ve also stopped publishing Mormon Doctrine. Unfortunately, far too many people are uncomfortable with uncertainty, and so they’ll continue to believe the “answers” in Mormon Doctrine (regardless of whether those answers are actually doctrinal or not) while ignoring the more careful Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

  34. John, the living prophets and apostles do quote dead ones in General Conference. But notice: they only quote the things that agree with today’s doctrine. You don’t see any of them quoting Brigham Young on Adam-God, polygamy as a requirement for exaltation, etc. The current Gospel Principles manual (which we used for 2 years in PH/RS) reduced the number of quotes from Elder McConkie and dead GAs, and replaced them with newer quotes. The current Scripture headings also show a distinct change: Lehi is ONE of the ancestors of Indians, OD1 states that monogamy is the standard with polygamy only occasionally practiced, OD2 stating we do not know why there was a priesthood ban and any other answer will be refuted by the Church (as they did to Randy Bot in 2012 when he discussed the curse of Canaan and blacks not being valiant in premortal existence). As with the PH/RS manuals, the quotes used in General Conference are picked to match today’s doctrines and teachings.
    You have to look at the pattern we are given today. When we get the PH/RS manual for Joseph Fielding Smith for 2014, you’ll see just how much of the quotes used reflect today’s thoughts, and how we’ll find nothing regarding his speculations regarding evolution, the priesthood curse, or man landing on the moon.
    The pattern given by the prophets today show us which concepts are actual doctrines we believe in today, and which are teachings from the past that do not hold any power nor influence today.

  35. You talk about what “we believe in today.” That is inaccurate. I believe in everything that was ever taught by anybody in or out of the Church that is true. All I’m interested in is the truth or in other words, “A knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24) The concept of “official Church doctrine” does not interest me. In fact I find it distasteful. The whole concept is useful only to those who want to refute and argue.

    And I have already read, believe and love much of what Joseph Fielding Smith wrote. If the Sunday School or RS/PH manual leaves anything out, they will be leaving out much that is true. No problem. I’ll just read it elsewhere. If some of it isn’t politically correct, well… the truth is often not politically correct. I never much cared for politically correct stuff anyway. Most of it is just propaganda and mind control. Truth is the most powerful mind control. Besides, I like books written by a true prophet more than those written anonymously by committees. They make for better reading. Committee written books are often boring unlike the sermons of Joseph Smith, Thomas S. Monson and Elder Holland.

  36. Rameumpton:
    John, the living prophets and apostles do quote dead ones in General Conference. But notice: they only quote the things that agree with today’s doctrine.

    As far as I’m concerned there is not such thing as “today’s doctrine.” There is true doctrine, false doctrine and not doctrine. But true doctrine is true forever. This attempt to change the beliefs of Church members by strategically leaving out the true teachings of the past is a bad idea. We need continuing revelation, but we do not need to forget the truth we already have. And as long as we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost we can discern between true and false doctrine in the teachings of dead prophets. We can discern between truth and incorrect personal opinion. Correct personal opinion we are supposed to embrace anyway.

  37. I think the problem here lies with your use of the word “truth”. Your truth may be very different from another’s truth. Joseph Fielding Smith and James Talmage disagreed on evolution and a variety of other things: which of them had the truth? Ezra Taft Benson and Hugh B Brown disagreed politically: which of them had the truth?
    I think you are setting up a false dichotomy here. Spiritual truths are not so easily determined for people as you pretend them to be. If they were easy to find out, then everyone on earth would be LDS, same politics, and believe all truths perfectly.
    Truth is important to find. But we need to be humble enough to realize that not everything we personally believe is the truth. We may know only a fraction of the truth in things of science and religion, because God has not fully revealed himself and his creation.
    And so, until we have all truth, we have doctrines. Core doctrines are truths that are generally easy to understand (God loves us, Jesus is the Christ). However, we tend to add a lot of supposition to the doctrines God gives us, some of which is probably not 100% true, and so we now slip into the “philosophies of men, mixed with scripture”. And we all do this, including prophets and apostles. This is why the GAs no longer speculate publicly, but focus on the pure doctrine.
    I do not want to go into a long discussion on truth vs doctrine. It would also be speculative. We can, however, note that some previous teachings do not match those current GAs teach. So to say that you believe all the things previously taught as truth, is a false dichotomy. Two contradictions cannot both equate truth.
    We have continuing revelation for a reason: to end wrong ideas brought up in the past and bring us closer to the truth. Course corrections are necessary where doctrine is given line upon line.

  38. Rameumptom on September 5, 2013 at 2:56 am said:
    I think the problem here lies with your use of the word “truth”. Your truth may be very different from another’s truth.

    Redelfs:
    I am not positive that I am the one that has the problem. There is no such thing as “your truth” and “another’s truth.” There is only truth and falsehood. Truth is absolute. President Kimball gave a talk on this very subject. I may have one understanding of the truth and another might have a different understanding, but that just means that one of us and possibly both of us have not learned the absolute truth. If we both learn the absolute truth, we will be in perfect agreement just as the Son is in perfect agreement of “one” with the Father.

    Jesus said that he was the truth. Is there “your Jesus” and “another’s Jesus?” I don’t think so.

    Rameumptom:
    Joseph Fielding Smith and James Talmage disagreed on evolution and a variety of other things: which of them had the truth? Ezra Taft Benson and Hugh B Brown disagreed politically: which of them had the truth?

    Redelfs:
    Who knows? What does it matter? Either both of them were wrong, or one of them was and the other one was right. In either case, these are not matters of mainstream, true doctrine. The answers to these questions about evolution and politics are not taught in PREACH MY GOSPEL, the scriptures or any of the correlated curriculum materials, nor are these questions answered from the pulpit in General Conference.

    Rameumptom:
    I think you are setting up a false dichotomy here. Spiritual truths are not so easily determined for people as you pretend them to be. If they were easy to find out, then everyone on earth would be LDS, same politics, and believe all truths perfectly.

    Redelfs:
    I don’t agree. The Holy Ghost teaches some people and not others. The Savior explained this in the New Testament when he talked about “his” sheep being able to hear his voice. The fundamental principles are extremely easy to understand well enough to learn more and eventually obtain salvation. Even a child can understand them as President Eyring pointed out in a recent General Conference. But the Holy Ghost has to teach them, and the individual has to learn them by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Rameumptom:
    Truth is important to find. But we need to be humble enough to realize that not everything we personally believe is the truth. We may know only a fraction of the truth in things of science and religion, because God has not fully revealed himself and his creation.

    Redelfs:
    I agree completely. I only know about three things for sure. Everything else I just accept as hypotheses of varying degrees of probability. There is a God. Jesus Christ is his Only Begotten Son. Joseph Smith was an honest man telling the truth about his experiences during the First Vision and with the gold plates. His authorized prophetic successor Thomas S. Monson is a genuine prophet and not just a clergyman. And since he is the Presiding High Priest over the Savior’s priesthood on this planet, all the stake presidents and Bishops are also genuine prophets within their stewardship. Every other doctrine and teaching in the Church may or may not be true. But the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie have a very high probability of being true because their teachings are in the most harmony with the standard works as I understand them. And my understanding is informed by the personal revelations that I have received. I do not see how I can very well use anyone else’s revelations. If I find a prophetic teaching or something in a correlated manual that seems out of harmony, then I need to ponder, pray and inquire of the Lord. No big deal. Nothing to argue about.

    Rameumptom:
    And so, until we have all truth, we have doctrines. Core doctrines are truths that are generally easy to understand (God loves us, Jesus is the Christ). However, we tend to add a lot of supposition to the doctrines God gives us, some of which is probably not 100% true, and so we now slip into the “philosophies of men, mixed with scripture”. And we all do this, including prophets and apostles. This is why the GAs no longer speculate publicly, but focus on the pure doctrine.
    I do not want to go into a long discussion on truth vs doctrine. It would also be speculative. We can, however, note that some previous teachings do not match those current GAs teach. So to say that you believe all the things previously taught as truth, is a false dichotomy. Two contradictions cannot both equate truth.

    Redelfs:
    Again, I agree. Two contradictions indeed cannot both be true. However, unless we are omniscient, have a perfect understanding, and are perfectly wise, your understanding of the truth can be different from mine, and of course I think that mine is the correct one.

    And while it is true that even a child can understand the core doctrines, even the presidents of the Church have written that they do not completely understand the Atonement. Does that mean that the Atonement is not a core doctrine? Of course not. It is core. But it can be understood superficially upon first reading, and it can be understood much more completely after a lifetime of study under the tutelage of the Holy Ghost. And of course, when we are finally exalted we may understand it still better.

    Rameumptom:
    We have continuing revelation for a reason: to end wrong ideas brought up in the past and bring us closer to the truth. Course corrections are necessary where doctrine is given line upon line.

    Redelfs:
    Again, I agree completely that course corrections are necessary and that doctrine is given line upon line. However I do not believe the reason for continuing revelation is only to end wrong ideas brought up in the past. I believe it is to bring us more truth to add to the truth that we already have. I further believe that disbelieving the teachings of the past that are true can lead a person astray as surely as disbelieving the living prophet. I further believe that some saints try bully others into discarding the teachings of the past that are true along with those that are false. They do it by insisting that unless it is currently being taught, it can be discounted and disbelieved. That is incorrect in my opinion. Truth doesn’t change. Our understanding of the truth is all that changes. Further each individual saint has a need for his own tailor made understanding. That cannot be obtained by imposing a specific set of beliefs from the top of a hierarchy by proclaiming invalid anything they did not teach in the last General Conference.

    Why not just admit it. We do not all agree on blacks and the priesthood or Darwinism as the origin of man. We do not all agree on the doctrine of blood atonement as it was once understood, or the teaching that a murderer cannot obtain eternal life regardless of how repentant he is, or whether the Great Flood covered the whole planet. So what? There is no reason why every single member in the Church today must believe these things alike. But on an individual level how much we believe past prophets has a bearing on how much we believe the living ones. And if that belief weakens, then many of us will fall away from the Church. The things taught by past prophets I learned while they were still living. To disbelieve their teachings I would have to know that the current prophets disbelieve them, and I do not know that. They may believe many things are are not best taught to the whole Church publicly. Do you imagine that what share among themselves in their weekly meetings are the identical set of teachings they share with the world in General Conference and the manuals?

    I do not understand how the past prophets could have been as wrong as some unauthorized critics suggest. If they were, I would doubt that they were true prophets, and that would cause me to doubt the prophets who lead our Church today. I prefer to have faith that all will be made clear, by and by. Until then I will believe what they taught even though I do not coerce others to join me in my belief as some seem bent on doing.

    One more thing, do not spend too much time wringing your hands about superstitions and philosophies of men believed by some members. You cannot eliminate them. And even if you could, it is not your stewardship. Fighting such superstitions and philosophies of men in others could backfire because you are not qualified to separate the truth from the false for others. That is the job of our Church leaders and the Holy Ghost. When you do it, you in danger of deciding incorrectly which teachings are superstitions and false philosophies. It is something that you have do do for yourself, of course. But that is true for all of us. Each of us must work out his salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord.

  39. Rameumpton:
    We can, however, note that some previous teachings do not match those current GAs teach. So to say that you believe all the things previously taught as truth, is a false dichotomy. Two contradictions cannot both equate truth.

    For twenty years I have challenged online saints to give me an example that established beyond reasonable doubt that something actually taught today is at variance with the teachings of Smith and McConkie. The only thing ever produced was something that McConkie said once to a group of CES educators at BYU shortly after the change was made that lifts the priesthood ban on blacks. And even that was a reference to something he taught previously that cannot be documented. When one considers how easily the whole matter could be cleared up in OD2 or some letter issued to the membership from the First Presidency, one must assume that the Church leadership does not want to further clarify the matter. We can all learn the truth of the matter by consulting with the Lord on an individual basis.

    But nothing correlated has ever suggested that something is false just because it is no longer on the front burner. Those things we do not hear in General Conference and the manuals that we once heard in the writings of Joseph Smith, James E. Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie may no longer be taught. But we cannot assume it is because they are false. It may be because they spur contentious discussion and obscure more important things. We can be certain that the controversial teachings of past prophets are false only if living prophets proclaim it. Otherwise we are stuck with the personal opinions of F.A.I.R., Robert L. Millet, outfits like the former F.A.R.M.S., Internet bloggers such as the two of us, etc. I’m sorry but our personal opinions do not trump the personal opinions of men such as Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, etc.

    But if you can produce authoritative statements denying this or that personal opinion of Smith and McConkie, I will amend my own opinion. But it has to be something from a living prophet who is doing more than just stating his personal opinion. I assume that the personal opinions of prophets are true by default. But if a living prophet has a personal opinion that overturns the personal opinion of a dead prophet, I will tentatively accept the new opinion and table the old one. Things are not always what they seem, and it may be that the contradiction is just a problem with my own understanding.

    Has it ever occurred to you that speculation and the philosophies of men might be part of the pondering process that is essential for receiving personal revelation from the Holy Ghost as describe in Ninth Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. I can never become “official Church doctrine,” whatever that is, unless the Church leadership puts it in their conference talks, lesson manuals, new editions of the standard works, etc. The rank and file do not make the doctrine true or false. I can have all kinds of funny ideas from reading Smith and McConkie, and it matters not. There is no danger to the Church unless Church leadership takes it up. I think they are doing a pretty good job of avoiding that.

  40. John, you are playing with semantics here. We all desire to believe the truth. The issue is trying to determine what is truth, versus just teachings that may not be truth.
    You stated that you believe most of what Joseph Fielding Smith said. Well, so do I. Most of what he taught was focused on key doctrines, and not on speculation. You also noted that you believe the things he said that are true, you believe. Well, how do you determine that? Do you have your own Liahona or Urim and Thummim, whereby you can review all he wrote and said, and determine which things were 100% truth and which were not? If you do, can I borrow it, as I have many questions I’d like answered. If you do not, then your guess regarding which things are truth is as good as mine, or anyone else’s.

    The way I see it, there are some core doctrines that are firmly established as truth. These are all binding upon the members. Then there are many other doctrines, which may or may not be 100% true/correct. For these, they are not binding upon the saints, but we are expected and taught to ponder them and seek via the Holy Spirit our own revelation regarding them.

    When we get the Joseph Fielding Smith manual, it will contain the core doctrines that are binding upon us. It will not contain the other issues that may or may not be true.

    You are welcome to believe as you see fit on what is correct. That is the right of all the Saints. That said, none of us has the right to promote our own ideas/beliefs as core doctrines or God’s final word on the topic. This goes for General Authorities that speak on subjects not well defined as core doctrine.

    My concern with all of the speculations by dead prophets is that members read these things and blindly accept them as 100% truth and binding on all members. Instead, as I’ve noted before, we are to consider and ponder such teachings for ourselves. I would also note that Joseph Smith taught that all members have a right to revelation, from the prophet and apostles down to the individual member. The difference is, the prophet can make things binding on the Church via common consent, while the things I receive through inspiration is for me. I can share my thoughts, but cannot be so dogmatic as to insist it is the only possible truth. I can also use logic and scripture to support my beliefs and find the cracks in others’ beliefs.

    But to say one embraces all truth AND all that former prophets have written, is baloney. Truth and teachings are not necessarily the same thing, and when apostles and prophets contradict one another, we can easily tell that at least one of them is wrong. To pretend otherwise is playing gymnastics with the truth.

    I’m not interested in playing gymnastics. To find the truth is too important for me to waste time on playing semantic games (or any other kind of game). Yet, many members play these games. I know people who left the Church when the 1978 revelation happened, because it contradicted what Elder McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith and others stated. I know people who have left for other reasons, as well, including members who still insist in giving the curse of Cain/Canaan as the reason for the priesthood ban. I know people who leave the Church because Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder McConkie continually attacked evolution based upon bad science from a 7th Day Adventist geologist named Price (even after Elder Talmage showed JFS that the science being used was seriously flawed).

    We were headed down a path that would have destroyed our Church, had the prophets not restrained the GAs on their speculations. Now they can speak as one and focus on the truths we have, until God reveals more truth.

  41. Rameumpton:
    You are welcome to believe as you see fit on what is correct. That is the right of all the Saints. That said, none of us has the right to promote our own ideas/beliefs as core doctrines or God’s final word on the topic. This goes for General Authorities that speak on subjects not well defined as core doctrine.

    But all truth is part of the same whole. Every truth is a brick in a infinite wall. Which doctrines are “core” is different for each individual because we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. That part of the infinite truth that I need to further my education and progress toward Godhood may not be the same as it is for you. You may be more advanced than I am and need to learn something completely different.

    The point I keep belaboring here is that only God and his true prophets can come up with an authoritative list of what teachings are “core” and which are “not core.” You can come up with such a list for yourself but not for others. It is the same for me. That is what personal revelation is all about. The Presiding Quorums of the Church can define what is “core” for the whole Church. But not even they can do it for me personally because they do not know where I am in my line upon line spiritual education. Learning is all about what do discard because it is no longer useful and what to retain. President Joseph Fielding Smith personally believe that our sun was part of the Celestial Kingdom and that celestial being lived upon it. I believe him. It makes sense to me. They don’t teach this in correlated manuals. So what? You can say it is not core doctrine, but it is core doctrine that there is a celestial kingdom and it is real. It exists somewhere. If a true prophet of God in the past said the sun was part of that, why not? I’ll accept it as true unless I learn otherwise. Who is to deny it? Some folks disbelieve everything but what can be proven. Others such as myself believe everything but what has been disproven. It is too different mind sets. Who is to say that one is better than the other?

    And yes, I have a personal Liahona. It is called the companionship of the Holy Ghost who teaches me the truth of all things as clearly taught in the 14th Chapter of John. I do not have to give you my Liahona. You already have it, to the best of my ability. No, I cannot reply with 100 percent certainty that the things I learn are true. But that is the case with everything, not just strange teachings of 19th century prophets. If I make a mistake, the Lord will help me figure it out. That is what my daily prayers are all about. That is why I study the scriptures.

    I refuse to limit my gospel education to only what I can learn from prophets living today, the standard works, and conference talks. President Kimball is dead. He taught truth that can be found nowhere else in his book THE MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS which for many years has been sold in the Church Distribution Centers. I have no doubt that someday, when the prophetic teaching of this dispensation are published as canonized scripture in future dispensations, some of that book will be included just as the letters of Paul were included when the New Testament was made up. Kimball is dead. Some of those teachings are no longer taught in General Conference or our correlated manuals. It doesn’t matter. It is a highly concentrated source of truth for anyone who is interested and believing. Is it 100 percent true? Probably not, but neither is the Bible and probably not the Book of Mormon either. The Book of Mormon is “the most correct book on earth.” That does not mean that it is perfectly correct.

    You accuse me of playing with semantics. If I do, I am doing it on a subconscious level, not intentionally. Besides, in blogging or email discussions what choice does anyone have? We have to use words to convey our ideas. And when we communicate using words, we “play with semantics.” Language is a poor way to communicate, but in most cases it is all we have.

    Bottom line: No one can determine for someone else what is “core” doctrine. It is an individual thing.

  42. JWR and Ram: EXCELLENT discussion!

    I think you guys are essentially talking past each other, and the disagreement is mainly semantics, but this is a *very* educational discussion for us members of the peanut gallery.

    Please don’t think this has been a waste of time or a useless Internet exercise. I’m confident that many lurkers are picking up gems too.

  43. Thanks, Bookslinger. The only concern I have with what John is speaking about is the concept of truth. We need to be very careful not to confuse truth with our own perception of truth. There are many who think they proclaim the truth and insist it is doctrine, or core doctrine, but in reality there is little core doctrine that the Church has.

    And that’s how it should be. Other religions have a well-documented theology that is rigorously set in stone. There is little room for change in such theology, because of the process that establishes dogma such as the Trinity or Predestination.

    However, in Mormonism, Joseph Smith taught us that our strength is we have continuing revelation. With the exception of a few core doctrine that will never change (God is our Father, Jesus is the Christ, etc), most everything else is subject to change.

    This was true in Joseph’s day, as we can see the difference between the concept of God we get in the Lectures on Faith (from the early Kirtland era) to the advanced teachings we get in the Nauvoo period. We also see this in the development of the priesthood offices.

    The Kirtland temple was not designed to have an endowment, but was designed for preaching and administrative offices. The Community of Christ designed their temple with such purposes in mind. However, the LDS Church has focused temples on endowments, sealings and baptisms for the dead – extremely different than in Kirtland. And when the day comes that we build on the temple lot in Independence Missouri, do you really think we will still build 24 small temples, most for administrative work? Or do you think that modern revelation will change the purpose, create fewer buildings (perhaps some sky scrapers?) and will include not only admin offices for the different priesthoods, but also endowment rooms and baptismal fonts?

    The problem with truth is that there are eternal truths and there are relative truths, which can be changed, and it is hard for LDS to recognize the difference.

    Does chocolate and cocoa go against the Word of Wisdom? How about cola drinks? It all depends on which GA you read. Some said yes, while others said no. Last year, the Church stated that cola drinks do not break the WoW, and yet Pres Kimball did include it in his list of WoW violations, etc.

    http://mormonmonsters.blogspot.com/2009/09/caffeine-and-word-of-wisdom.html

    So, truth is a complex thing, as each person takes facts and uses them differently, according to his/her perspective. It is for this reason, I suggested in the OP that we realize there are core doctrines that will not change, but everything else falls under speculation or doctrines that are subject to change as we gain more “truth” from God.

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