Chronological Doctrinal Development in Church History

March 1830
D&C 19:6–12: “Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.”

April 1830
D&C 20: Church is organized
D&C 20:38–59: Priesthood offices: Elder, Priest, Teacher, Deacon
D&C 21:4: “…the church… shalt give heed unto all [Joseph's] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them…”
D&C 22:1–4: Baptism is required, even for those baptized already in another church

July 1830
D&C 26: The law of common consent

August 1830
D&C 27:2 – “…it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament…”

September 1830
D&C 28:2: “…no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith Jun.”
D&C 29:34: “…all things unto me are spiritual…”
D&C 29:36: “…a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me…”

December 1830
D&C 35:2: “…even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am on in the Father…”

February 1831
D&C 41:9: First Bishop called
D&C 42:30–39: Consecration of properties
D&C 42:61–69: The New Jerusalem

March 1831
D&C 45:60–62: JST New Testament
D&C 45:63–75: The Gathering

May 1831
D&C 51:13–16: Bishop’s storehouse

July 1831
D&C 57:1–3: Independence, Missouri, is the place for the City of Zion.

November 1831
D&C 1:30: “…the only true and living Church…”
D&C 1:38: “..by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

February 1832
D&C 76: Three degrees of glory; Sons of Perdition; Escape from hell

April 1832
D&C 82:8–13: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when you do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

September 1832
D&C 84:39–41: Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
D&C 84:18–27: Aaronic vs. Melchezidek Priesthood roles

December 1832
D&C 88:21–24: Law and Glory
D&C 88:49 “…nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God…”

February 1833
D&C 89: Word of Wisdom

May 1833
D&C 93:3–4: Jesus as Father and Son explained (compare to Mosiah 15:1–4)
D&C 93:11–15: “And [Jesus] received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace…”

August 1833
D&C 97:21: “…for this is Zion – The Pure in Heart…”

December 1833
D&C 101:77–80: “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land…”

March 1835
D&C 107: Extended Priesthood organization

January 1836
D&C 137:7: “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.”

April 1836
D&C 110: Angelic Visits and Priesthood Keys, including Elijah returning

July 1838
D&C 119: Tithing established

October 1838
D&C 124:29–31: Baptisms for the Dead

September 1842
D&C 127:7: Records as Priesthood ordinances

April 1943
D&C 130:3: Personal appearances of the Father and the Son
D&C 130:22: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s…”

May 1843
D&C 131: Celestial marriage and Exaltation

July 1843
D&C 132:20: “Then shall they be gods…”

15 thoughts on “Chronological Doctrinal Development in Church History

  1. This is interesting. I am wondering what conclusions you draw from it. I am only asking because it is sometimes seen as a very “liberal” concept to say that there was doctrinal development over time. (examples, OD1 and OD2, and this one that you mention)

  2. Matt, it doesn’t make you liberal to recognize development. It makes you liberal to claim, “It was caused only by men, for fallen reasons” and “the doctrines are wrong now, and someday everyone in the church will know it.” Go read By common consent and Faith promoting rumor. That’s where the “Don’t follow the prophet, follow me” mentality of theological liberals putrifies forth.

  3. PC, please refrain from putting down other Mormon blogs on this site. Personally, some of the most faith-promoting things I have read are on BCC (I can’t comment on FPR because I haven’t read it much). Let’s concentrate on building things up, not tearing them down. Thanks.

  4. Matt W,

    The ‘conservative’ version of ‘development’ is ‘line upon line, precept on precept.’ It’s a well established doctrine so I suppose I don’t see liberals as owning this one.

    Psychochemiker, Geoff is right. But I still chuckled.

  5. Matt W,

    Your link to your article was interesting. I had noticed that too. I’ve written about it in the past. I could think of numerous other exmaples. When a revelation comes, it seems to not try to be so super specific and relies on the ability to clarify later.

    So, for example, the Nephites seem to have believed in just one heaven and hell and might have even thought that someone that goes to hell goes there forever. BUT they also seemed quite open to the idea that someone that had never been taught the gospel went to heaven. The Book of Mormon teaches both of these to us and doesn’t bother to try to reconcile it.

    Then comes D&C 76, which partially clarifies. Now people who receive the gospel after this life do not go to hell, but instead go to a middle heaven.

    Then D&C 136 comes, explaining that there is an exception to what was in D&C 76.

    And, finally, baptism for the dead comes along, explaining that actually even D&C 136′s exception has an additional thing: actual ordianances that must be performed. And then, much later on, the idea of the spirit in the spirit world needing to accept the gospel comes out.

    In short, line up line, precept on precept. Here a little there a little. But each one fits well to the previous one, clarifying it more and more.

    To me, it seems to follow the same sort of approach that we use in science as we move from paradigm to paradigm. It suggests to me that ‘truth’ isn’t understood in absolute terms (as Popperian epistemology also insists) but instead comes into focus over time.

  6. Geoff, perhaps you should add that to your comment’s policy…

    Although I have read some good posts there, I’ve also read some of the worst…

  7. PC, our comments policy says, “we expect those comments to uplift, rather than tear down.” Let’s also avoid thread-jacking. I think Bruce has developed a very interesting chronology here. What say you?

  8. Bruce: I absolutely agree. I hope my comment wasn’t construed as political. I was thinking more along the line of the common concept that God is unchanging from forever to forever, and that all his doctrines agree. Some term this a “conservative” approach in that it attempts to keep the total non-contradiction of all scriptural statements and calls for a sort of scriptural infallibility. I am not sure that is the right term, but I hope you see what I am getting at. I saw this approach a lot in CES publications I read from the 70s-80s. I think we’ve gone away from it somewhat, but I still run into it from time to time.

    Where the “liberal” bit comes in is the theological challenge to authority this doctrinal development can create. Loyd Ericson has probably been the best writer on this issue when he wrote for the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology here. In Summary, the issue is that people find themselves in a situation where they may feel a current doctrine is not “fully developed” to align with “total truth” and that they need to merely wait some time before the church comes around to the truth – (ie- the opinion of the person in question). Others take this to mean the church is somehow less trustworthy on any given topic because they change their positions over time. I’ve seen this concept of doctrinal development bandied about by believing church members on topics ranging from gay marriage and opening the temple to the public to illegal immigration and women and the priesthood.

    I personally hold that we simply need to live within the paradigm set before us, but I do understand where such concepts can cause turmoil for people. I am sorry I was not more explicit before, and I in no way had any intention of making any sort of political statement. I was just interested in your thoughts.

  9. “but I hope you see what I am getting at.

    Yes.

    First, of all, I didn’t think you were making a political statement.

    That being said, I like political statements. :)

    I think you summarized well how many (especially some people I’ve met on the bloggernacle, though I’ve seen this in the ‘regular pews’ as well) think of the issue of doctrinal development.

    To some degree they are probably right. Doctrine does develop, and if you wait, you might find it more to your liking. And perhaps this is even partially the appeal of the LDS Church.

    That being said, I do not think that the specific approach of believing you have the truth and so you are going to try to push the Church towards it is compatible with the actual teachings of the LDS Church (at least not as of today.)

    I do think this is a degree of incompatibility with the LDS Church and a lot of bloggernacle websites. (It was certainly an incompatibility with many posts on Mormon Matters were I blogged for a while.) But then again, I suspect most of the people that held to this incompatibility didn’t actually believe in the LDS Church to begin with. They were ‘practicing-but-not-believing.’ Some even admitted to this openly.

    I think the real difficulty lies for two categories of LDS Church members. The first is those that are “inbetweens”: i.e. those that 1) do accept the some or most of the truth claims of the LDS Church, 2) feel they have a truth the LDS Church does not, 3) can’t accept the idea that such “revelations” are not for them to try to advanced against the current teachings of the leaders of the Church and so they start to attack the leaders on these points and call for change.

    The other category that has problems is those that are practicing-but-not-believing but want to have ‘believing creds’ so they leave false impressions about their real belief in the LDS Church’s teachings.

    For better or worse, a religion that believes in a magisterium can’t allow for such an approach to go completely unchallenged and there will thus always be some tension and problems between the mainstream Church and those that fall into those two categories.

  10. Interesting though because the promise of the oath and covenant of the Priesthood is Godhood. So I don’t think its a development in 1843. D&C 132 certainly sheds a bit more light on the mysteries of the eternities.

  11. Chris,

    Actually, the earliest reference to ‘Godhood’ is in the Book of Mormon which is 1830. There are, in fact, strong hints of almost all later doctrines in the Book of Mormon.

    Also, look at the 1832 entry should have quoted the part of D&C 76 where those that go to the Celestial Kingdom are called “gods even the sons of God.”

    So when we speak of ‘development’ in my mind we are not talking about things coming out of the blue. We’re talking about actual development on earlier doctrines. However, there is no doubt that the language of 1843 on Godhood was considerably clearer than earlier language. D&C 76, for example, seems plausibly deniable as does the language in the Book of Mormon.

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