37 thoughts on “How to make sure you don’t teach false doctrine

  1. Let’s see if this works…..

    I will now recite from the scriptures without commentary!

    Proverbs Chapter 31: 6-7

    6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

    7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. ;)

  2. Very good! :-)

    Obviously, my point was that there is no way to guarantee that you don’t teach false doctrine, except to remain silent. (Or is there?)

    Given this, how much should we be concerned about teaching false doctrine?

  3. The answer to all such problems: correlation, correlation, correlation. In fact maybe Mstar should be correlated, just to be safe!

  4. HL:

    We actually are. We’re also the press organ of the Committee for Strengthening the Members, which, to put it lightly, is kind of worried about you.

  5. Don’t forget Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…” This is the passage of scripture that Joseph Smith corrected by adding the word “not.”

  6. We should be preeminently concerned about preaching false doctrine. There is so much false doctrine that is thrown about in the Church today. If we don’t actively try to stamp it out, it will continue and can have a negative effect on individuals.

    For example, there is a quote routinely attributed to Pres. Packer, or another GA, that talks about the youth of today being generals in the war in heaven, and that in the spirit world, we will meet people from many other dispensations. Some will say they lived at the time of Enoch, or Elijah, or Paul, or whatever. When it is said we lived in the time of SWK or GBH, the courts of heaven will grow silent, and others will bow down before us.

    You’ve probably heard the quote before. You can buy fancy plaques of this quote with pictures of clouds and doves on it. I hope no one wasted their money, because some time ago, Pres. Packer made a statement in the Church News that expressly rejects this quote as untrue.

    You’ve probably all heard the story already.

    My point is that every teacher in the Church (and remember, there is no greater call than Teacher), including Gospel Doctrine, Course 15, CTR 5, etc. must be constantly concerned about false doctrine.

  7. I agree that sunday school is not the place to discuss the things we do here in the blogs, but I get very worried when people get overly concerned with orthodoxy. I see no reason why a bit of constained speculation is a bad thing as long as it is clearly labeled as such, relavent to the topic at hand and not too distracting and time consuming (by this I mean that it should not instigate too much contention. Being wrong is not a sin. Jesus himself was wrong a couple of times, why can’t we?

    I fear that in learning our lesson from the 19th century speculations, we might have tightened the reigns a little too much. Let’s raise questions. Let’s have the courage to be wrong, the courage to be corrected both the other and the Lord. I added “the Lord” to bring up what I believe to be an inevitable consequence of our fearing speculation and being wrong. We will shut down the main catalyst for revelation, both personal and institutional. We will stop to wonder. We will begin to think that all the loose ends have been tidied up. Perhaps worst of all we few questioners will begin to feel alone, prideful and even resentful.

  8. I know thias is simply begging for a response, so let me be the first one:
    “Jesus himself was wrong a couple of times, why can’t we?”

    Somehow I’ve missed this particular doctrinal gem.

    In response to Davis: So you are the guys who bugged my phone after visiting Hugh Nibley’s daughter’s house!!??!!

  9. The problem with not studying the scriptures is that faith-promoting rumours abound, and those who find answers to prayers in “feelings” just know they have to be true.
    The raising of false doctrine in class is not the issue. It will happen. The issue is how in tune we are to be able to counter it with the truth and not some other fabrication.

  10. The raising of false doctrine in class is not the issue. It will happen. The issue is how in tune we are to be able to counter it with the truth and not some other fabrication.

    OK, somebody who is in tune help me out with this one. Last Sunday, our GD teacher related something that his former girlfriend’s mother had told him. He did not proclaim it as doctrine, but made it clear that he believed it.

    1. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead
    2. The Father is a member of the Godhead
    3. Therefore, if we are comfortable in the presence of the Holy Ghost in this life, we will be comfortable in the presence of the Father in the next.

    My first reaction was “false doctrine.” I was thinking of D&C 76, which tells us that inhabitants of the telestial kingdom will experience the presence of the Holy Ghost (and presumably be comfortable there). But those same folks would not be comfortable in the presence of the Father, which is reserved for those in the celestial kingdom. On second thought, however, D&C 76 is not parallel to the teacher’s comment because it deals entirely with the next life.

    So, false doctrine or not?

  11. What is “doctrine”?

    Doctrine is

    1. what the Church currently promulgates in its materials
    2. what is true, real, and accurate
    3. Other?

    By definition #1, the GD teacher is certainly not doctrinal.
    Be defintion #2, the GD teacher may be teaching doctrine but has not suffficiently demonstrated it as such.

  12. HL,

    Sorry to keep you waiting with bated breath. When was Jesus wrong you ask?

    1) Anybody who thinks that Jesus was never wrong in his entire life, infancy to adulthood simple believes in a Jesus that never existed.

    2) “Let this cup pass from me.” He must have thought that it was at least a plausible possibility, but it wasn’t. True, he wasn’t uttering a propostional statement, but we was answered “no.” This was a form of speculation, speculation that in the end turned out to be wrong.

    3) Jesus clearly believed that the “Second Coming” as we call it now, was going to come very soon. Paul also believed it. In fact people have been believing that for the past 2,500 years and Jesus was no exception.

    There might be others but this was just off the top of my head.

  13. Jeffrey:
    1. Interesting but neither well-reasoned nor supported by anything
    2. Highly speculative. To garner from the Gethsemane scene something so unrelated to anything taught about the Christ before, during, or after the event is a bit of a stretch to say the least.
    3. Escatology is very interesting stuff as many peoples/groups etc, have believed the second coming to be tomorrow and have “proof” to show. However, first, the claim that Paul thought the Second Coming was rapidly approaching runs into some problems in the face of the fact that he taught there would be a falling away first or as translated in some non KJV bibles, that first there would be an apostasy. Seeing as the Church remained in some form until after his death makes it appear that he did not entirely think it was right around the corner. Second, Joseph Smith Matthew makes it fairly clear that Jesus did not think his Second Coming was right around the corner but in fact thought there would be some time lapse. Further, aside from textual support (which is sparse in the extreme) the idea that Christ did not know of Joseph Smith’s advent and the restoration of the Church is very hard to fathom from a Mormon theological standpoint. Especialy in the face of textual support believed by Mormons that OT prophets prophecied of Joseph Smith’s coming (in Isaiah and Daniel).

    Your commnets would be slightly persuasive if they weren’t made in the face of 175 years of contradictory prophetic statements and beliefs (namely those of the post-restoration prophets). However, in light of Mormonism strong belief in canonical and noncanonical propehtic utterances those statements are nearly unsupportable from a Mormon theological perspective.

  14. Jeffery,

    I agree with HL Rogers. A perfect atonement could not have been performed by an imperfect being. There is no scriptural basis for your conclusions.

  15. Last lemming,

    Since the member of the Godhead that is our companion in this life, and the one we can have if we are in tune, then what your GD teacher said must be true. The standard of measure we use here is whether or not we are in tune with the Holy Ghost.

  16. HL,

    The fact is Jesus asked for something from God and the answer was no. He was corrected. I don’t believe that this means he was straight out wrong, but he was speculating, if not why even ask.

    As scholars have shown rather conclusively for the past century, Paul did believe the the second coming was very soon. The apostasy scripture was not written by Paul, but by somebody else and attributed to Paul. The same can be said about the JST version of Christ’s views, they were not written by Christ or one of his associates but by Joseph Smith as a way to curb dissonance between what Jesus said would happen and what did happen. Take another example in revelation, “Lo, I come soon.” I don’t think 2,000 years is soon by anyones definition. The fact is that until the second century when it was clear that their hopes had not been fulfilled, essentially all christians believed the second coming was very soon. They inherited this for Paul and from Jesus himself.

    Larry,

    Your comment only says the same thing I was trying to say, namely that being wrong is not a sin. Jesus was wrong, but he was still sinless and able to effect the atonement.

  17. My views on that topic are mixed, Jeff, though I lean in your direction. Regarding this statement “I don’t think 2,000 years is soon by anyones definition,” I wonder if you’ve included God in “anyone”?

  18. We must keep in mind that the people whom Jesus was addressing in the revelaiton beleived that the earth had only been around for 4,000 years or some short span of time in that neighborhood. Jesus was addressing them, not God.

  19. In your opinion, do the Gospel accounts accurately capture Jesus’ words to the people (as per your last post) or are they, like Paul’s writings, pseudepigraphic, as per your post #20?

  20. In my last post I was referring to the book of Revelation.

    With regards to the Gospel accounts, I believe them to be fairly accurate, though modified to suit their intended audience and compensate for historical context.

    For instance, the gospel of Mark and Matthew are big on the coming (soon) “Son of Man” and the kingdom of heaven (the millennium as we call it). But the later gospels are not so caught up with it due to their addressing a wider audience and the fact that it (the second coming) had not yet happened and it could be a long time yet.

    I am not sure that the gospels were written by who the 3rd century christians decided they were written by, but they are decent depictions of Jesus and his words nonetheless.

  21. Jeffery,
    1. to claim Jesus was wrong to ask for the cup to pass from him b/c Jesus believed it was a plausible possibility is to presuppose that either it was not a plausible possibility and/or that Jesus was asking from at least the motivation to not have to pass through the atonement process in some way. I think both suppositions are highly speculative. How do we not know it was a plausible possibility? Could there have been another way, slightly different? Perhaps, granted nothing largely different, it still had to include a sacrifice of life in some way and the atonement of Christ. But do we know exactly to which portion of the process Jesus was referring to have pass from him? Not really. Granted, I think there are seeds there for an interesting idea but when questioning the perfection of deity the presumption for proof must lie a bit higher than mere idea.

    2. “as scholars have shown rather conclusively.” That is a bit of an overstatement. There is very little in biblical scholarship that has been proven conclusively. Granted there are serious questions about the authorship of certain Pauline epistles and have been for hundreds of years. However, a legitimate debate still rages. I don’t think you can pull out the authority card on that issue without backing it up with empirical proof. Especially since it is a proposition most mainline Mormons would disagree with. Secondly, the idea that Jesus was wrong about the proximity of the 2nd Coming again relies on Jesus not knowing about the advent of Joseph Smith. While this is something most non-Mormon Christians would believe readily, it hardly fits into a Mormon theology that relies heavily upon the preoridnation of Joseph Smith. Thus perhaps your points bifurcate into mainline Christian claims and arguments about Jesus and Mormon claims/arguments about Jesus. Also, the point that JS-Matthew was written by JS to curb dissonance is an interesting idea but falls outside mainline Mormonism. By these normative statements about Mormon theology I do not mean to say your arguments are baseless. However, when the debate began on the topic of teaching false doctrine among Mormons; and your original point was that it is ok to be wrong in gospel doctrine class sometimes b/c even Jesus was wrong sometimes, I think the argument has been framed within mainline Mormon theology and thus it becomes relevant to point out which arguments would fit within mainline Mormon theology and which would fall squarely without those walls.

  22. HL,

    With regards to your first point, Jesus was not fully divine during his mortal life. He was the sinless son of God, but nowhere do the scriptures say that he was Deity complete with perfection (meaning all those omni’s). He came down to be a man like us. He forgot everything. He had to learn. This means not knowing a lot and being mistaken a lot. This is what his prayer was. If we really are talking about Mormon doctrine then we know full well what he was asking to pass from him, all that suffering. But the answer was no. I know you don’t like to commit yourself to this, but appealling to things we don’t know is your speculation not mine.

    As to the second point, about half-way through the paragraph I was kind of put off by the notion that since mainstream Mormons don’t believe what I am saying it doesn’t count. But by the time I read your justification for this at the end I calmed down considerably. I am bringing up points based on historical evidence for what really happened historicaly speaking. If Mormon doctrine doesn’t agree with history, which is it that should be silenced? What is false doctrine, something that isn’t true, something that isn’t taught or something that isn’t believed?

    The fact is there is lots of things that aren’t true that are taught in Sunday school. I don’t mean this to accuse anybody of apostasy or take on a smarter-than-thou attitude. I am just as ignorant and biased as the next guy. But this was the point of my original comment #10, that we should not be overzealous in our desires to weed out false doctrine.

    As to Jesus’ views concerning the second coming see Jesus : apocalyptic prophet of the new millennium by Bart Ehrman

  23. Jeffrey Giliam wrote:

    The same can be said about the JST version of Christ’s views, they were not written by Christ or one of his associates but by Joseph Smith as a way to curb dissonance between what Jesus said would happen and what did happen.

    Yes, it is true that that can be said. But is the thing being said true? And your evidence is . . . what?

    Take another example in revelation, ‘Lo, I come soon.’ I don’t think 2,000 years is soon by anyones definition.

    That 2000 years is not “soon” by anyone’s definition is demonstrably false, as a few minutes of experimenting with Google readily indicates.

  24. Jeffrey Giliam wrote:

    As to the second point, about half-way through the paragraph I was kind of put off by the notion that since mainstream Mormons don’t believe what I am saying it doesn’t count.

    Sort of like your apparent belief that since mainstream Biblical scholars don’t believe what we’re saying, it doesn’t count?

  25. Chris,

    All who have done studies on the JST have come to the same conclusion, it is not a restoration of the original text. It is given to help us in our times have more faith. Most of the JST is given to resolve what we consider on first readings to be false doctrines or statements. My evidence for this, besides the studies I mentioned, is the JST. Almost every correction is correcting something which we would intrpret to be wrong.

    With regards to the Google people, the book of Revelation was not written to them (though they never tend to accept this). A similar point can be made with regards to Jesus’ words. He did not write them down. He was not speaking to anybody other than those who stood in front of him and heard his voice. This does not mean that we can’t gain anything from them, only that we should excersize caution.

    With regards to your second post, you have misunderstood. I’m not saying Mormons don’t get to have opinions and teach them as doctrine. I am saying that there are some people who are really well informed on these matters, and even though they may be operating in a different paradigm, it would be unwise to ignore them. If they have evidence, and they do, let’s have a look at it and see if our beliefs actually hold water. But when opinions backed by evidence are matched against opinions held in spite of evidence, is it wrong for me to side with the evidence?

  26. One of the reasons that I give so much creedance to those Biblical scholars is that they are acting under the assumption that men are wrong quite often, a doctrine which I strongly adhere to. They leave room, ideally speaking, for correction and this they do with out cries of “false doctrine” “heretic” and the like. I identify with this much better than I do with the pulpit pounding I see in many religous people.

  27. Jeffrey I agree that we should examine what other biblical scholars have to say. many are doing interesting and important work. However, when bringing such studies into Mormon themed discussions they should be reconciled with Mormon belief in some way. This is one of the general critiques I had for you above. Scholars may have good evidence to say something that is opposite of what mormons believe. In a Mormon themed discussion this evidence will obvisously be contextualized and discounted accordingly. Thus a reconciliation should be made. I don’t think this is asking too much in a forum such as this. There is much Mormon scholarly response to the Paul authorship question for instance and Mormon scholars have done a lot of work. I know some Mormon scholars who question certain Pauline authorship but they place such questions within a Mormon context.

    As far as the JST I would disagree slightly with your assessment. There are actually several changes in the JST that have little to do false doctrines or statements. In fact many of the changes fall under the camp of grammar changes and other small better under clarity of wording rather than fixing false doctrines (though this is certainly the thrust of the JST). However, it is a large leap from the statement, the JST corrects false doctrine to the JS-Matthew is merely JS solving dissonance and that the original text is athentic in showing Jesus was wrong about the timing of his 2nd coming.

    If Mormon doctrine doesn’t agree with history, which is it that should be silenced?

    This is a claim I hear often. I am not trying to silence any view. In fact one of the reasons I enjoy the blog is the voicing of many different views from many different angles. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t and don’t give different weight to different sources depending on our beliefs and world-views, especially in a Mormon discussion blog. Also, this statement seems to portray a very objective absolute history. I think this is a very hard iead to support. History as we have it is merely a retelling by those who choose to do so from their own biases. I often find historical data interesting, persuasive, and at times authoritative. But yes in a hierarchical framework I do give more weight to mormon doctrine as spoken from the mouth of prophets, whether cannonized or correlated, than I do to current historical scholarship.

  28. Jeffrey Giliam wrote:

    All who have done studies on the JST have come to the same conclusion, it is not a restoration of the original text.

    You said the JST was written by “Joseph Smith as a way to curb dissonance between what Jesus said would happen and what did happen”. It is demonstrably false that all who have done studies (e.g. Robert J. Matthews) on the JST have come to that conclusion.

    I am saying that there are some people who are really well informed on these matters, and even though they may be operating in a different paradigm, it would be unwise to ignore them.

    Among the people who are really well informed on these matters and whom it would be unwise to ignore are the apostles and prophets.

    But when opinions backed by evidence are matched against opinions held in spite of evidence, is it wrong for me to side with the evidence?

    So, let’s see, you’re saying that what textual critics say counts as evidence but what prophets, seers, and revelators say doesn’t?

  29. Evidently I did not work the block quote properly. Only the first line of the block quote in number 31 is a quote from Jeffery. Though I do have to say the block quote feature is very cool and I only hope to truly understand it’s machinations someday.

  30. Chris,

    1. I did not say that the entire JST was written to curb dissonance between what Jesus said would happen and what did happen. I said that about his revision of Jesus’ words regarding the second coming and I stand by it.

    Also, see Kevin Barney’s article in Dialogue Fall, 1986 which says:

    “Robert J. Matthews, the Church’s foremost authority on the JST, believes that the JST restores the intent of the original to some extent, although he does not insist that every JST reading is a restoration of ancient textual material (Matthews 1975a, 234-37; 1975b; 1980; 1982; 1983; 1969; 1976, 24).”

    We have seen that the majority of JST changes lack ancient textual support. Although we cannot say with complete assurance what stood in the original text, manuscript discoveries have made the argument that there could have been massive early deletions from the text untenable, at least for the New Testament. We have also examined the few passages that parallel ancient variants; if inspired textual restoration exists in the JST, these would be the most likely examples. A few of these JST emendations parallel the original text, although these changes could be due to reasons other than inspiration. But most of them do not; they parallel nonoriginal ancient variants and seemingly for the same reasons these ancient variants arose: assimilation to better known wording, harmonization of contradictions, and doctrinal clarification of problematic texts. For these reasons, it is unlikely (with very few exceptions) that the JST represents a literal restoration of material that stood in the original manuscripts of the Bible.
    We emphasize that this does not mean that the JST cannot be regarded as an inspired “translation” in the sense of a paraphrase or interpretation of Joseph Smith’s exemplar, the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, this may be the most promising approach to understanding the JST from a believer’s perspective.”

    2. In my opinion, if Apostles and Prophets are uninformed on any matter they should not speak on it. Of course receiving revelation is being informed.

    3. I consider revelation to be evidence. If the prophets and apostles have some evidence to give us, let them and it will count all that it should.

  31. I have changed my mind about teaching opinions in class. Perhaps it is better to remain silent after all, but not as a way of protecting us from false doctrine. It is better not to speculate or offer ones opinion in class because there is usually a person present who considers himself to be a doctrinal sentinal, called to refute anything approaching what he considers false doctrine.

    This self-authorized enforcer will never let an opinion he disagrees with be the last thing said in class. He will say things like “not well reasoned,” “based on nothing” and “highly speculative.” He will start every sentence with “the prophets have said… ” not recognizing that at least one prophet has said just about anything one can think of. He honestly believes that the prophets are on his side, therefore anybody who disagrees with him must not believe anything the prophets ever say. He feels a surge of “righteous indignation” against such people and “feels the spirit” as he verbally undresses the opposition.

    When a point is made he will bring up every single idea the point is based on and will insist that each one be defended rigorously, thus leading the class into an interminable side-track and thereby diverting attention from the real issue at hand. He will attribute things to you which you did not say, usually in the form of over-generalization, strawman misrepresentation and combining two unrelated ideas to make you sound as rediculous as possible.
    It was people like him that caused the dark ages. It was people like him who started the witch hunts. It was people like him that fought so ardently against Galileo, Copernicus and still fight against Darwin. It is people like him that write anti-mormon books and anti-anti-mormon books.

    It is to him that Jesus said let the contention stop, not let the false doctrine stop. It is to him that Presdent Hugh B. Brown was speaking when he said,

    One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking…
    More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God—given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts…
    But while I believe all that God has revealed, I am not quite sure I understand what he has revealed, and the fact that God has promised further revelation is to me a challenge to keep an open mind and be prepared to follow wherever my search for truth may lead.
    Revealed insights should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers—that we in fact have a corner on truth. For we do not…
    And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then one’s logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion must come from within.

    Should we be able to state our opinions and speculations in class without being heckled by this bruiser? Yes. Even if they are false? Usually. But can we in our current condition with such people around? It would be better if we did not. There are too many people who are too anxious to argue with us. They ruin it for us all, for it is because of them that sunday school is so boring.

  32. Jeffrey Giliam wrote:

    I did not say that the entire JST was written to curb dissonance between what Jesus said would happen and what did happen.

    Well, of course, it wasn’t, because much of the JST has nothing to do with what Jesus said would happen. When I said that you said “the JST” was written for this purpose, “the JST” was shorthand for “the part of the JST that dealt with Jesus’ statements on the timing of the Second Coming”, just as I assume that your phrase “the JST version of Christ’s views” was shorthand for the same thing. (You don’t think that all of the JST that has to do with Christ’s views was written to curb dissonance between what Jesus said would happen and what did happen, do you?)

    I said that about his revision of Jesus’ words regarding the second coming and I stand by it.

    But why the digression into what “[a]ll who have done studies on the JST” have concluded, when that which they all have concluded is not the same as your claim that I was questioning?

  33. Jeffrey Giliam writes:

    at least one prophet has said just about anything one can think of

    I consider that to be a gross overstatement which provides license to simply ignore what the prophets say.

    When a point is made he will bring up every single idea the point is based on and will insist that each one be defended rigorously

    I’m surprised that a math major is so sensitive about having to defend the assertions on which his argument is based. If a student of mine gives a false proof of a true statement, I spill purple ink all over it. (Purple, studies claim, is less damaging to student self-esteem, than red.)

    It was people like him that caused the dark ages. It was people like him who started the witch hunts. It was people like him that fought so ardently against Galileo, Copernicus and still fight against Darwin. It is people like him that write anti-mormon books and anti-anti-mormon books.

    Boy, this guy sounds really bad. Did he also kidnap the Lindbergh baby?

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