Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Determining Official LDS Doctrine

newsroom.lds.org released a statement entitled Approaching Mormon Doctrine on 4 May 2007 clarifying what constitutes official LDS doctrine.

The prophet, Joseph Smith, encouraged the LDS people to be a record keeping people. Accordingly, nearly every talk, discourse, and letter from nearly every leader in the LDS church since its inception is recorded and available in the church archives. Surprisingly, despite the hundreds of thousands of talks, speeches, discourses, and letters; I don't think any other religious organization could boast a more uniform doctrine than the Latter-day Saints. LDS Doctrines on faith, repentance, baptism, atonement of Jesus Christ, restoration, priesthood, revelation, prophets, temples have virtually remained unchanged to this day. Accordingly, discourses, talks, and books from early church leaders are routinely quoted in modern LDS meetings and literature.

However, you can imagine that out of all the hundreds-of-thousands and even millions of source materials available in the Church archives, it is easy for adversaries of the LDS church to dig up a few obscure statements on a few obscure religious topic to criticize, misrepresent, and attack the LDS Church. Consequently, the LDS Church released the following statement to clarify what constitutes official LDS Doctrine and what does not.

1. Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.

2. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith.

3. Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

4. The Church does not preclude future additions or changes to its teachings or practices. This living, dynamic aspect of the Church provides flexibility in meeting those challenges. According to the Articles of Faith, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

5. Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.

27 comments:

Eric Nielson said...

Very nice review. I agree that the consistency is amazing. When you think of the volume, and the range of topics addressed....wow.

Kathleen said...

Interesting!

I don't know if this is the place to ask this question, but I've been pondering it and it has to do with Scripture and doctrin, so I thought I'd ask. Why does the LDS church use the KJV instead of the JST? It seems rather silly to me if the KJV is corrupt and JS was correcting it...

Jer said...

I am not posting to make a comment but rather to find out what the name of the painting that you used on May 26, 2007 is and who is the artist. I posted the question first on the day in question. I don't care to post to your blog for this but I have been unable to locate a contact section yet. Feel free to delete this post. and just answer to the email address below.

I have searched for a couple hours now to find this information with no luck.

Thanks
I will say that the post is well written and thought out keep up the good work.

Please send your answer to jbeal@cedarfort.com

BRoz said...

We do use portions of the JST which can be found in the Pearl of Great Price. However, we do not exclusively use the JST because #1 Joseph Smith did not complete the translation. #2 The KJV was the most popular Bible translation at the time and using it has helped us build on a foundation of common beliefs with those of other faiths.

NoCoolName_Tom said...

Kathleen,
There are many answers to that question, and I'd assume that neither one nor all of them are incorrect.

First, it has been suggested that the Community of Christ holds the copyright to the JST (they call it the "Inspired Translation") and that they have graciously given us permission only to include it in our footnotes and appendices.

Also, the Jehovah's Witnesses receive a LOT of flack for their New World Translation. Perhaps the Church wishes to avoid similar attacks against us using "our own" Bible and against "corrupting" the King James text (although few Christian denominations use the KJV anymore, instead relying on modern, more accurate translations).

Finally, it has also been suggested that the JST has never been presented to the Church to be sustained as part of our canon. This doesn't mean that the Translation isn't true, but that it merely isn't yet part of our open canon.

There may be other reasons, but those are the three that I know of.

I'd love to talk the second part of your question (about how JS was correcting the corrupt parts of the KJV; we actually don't know if the JST edits were fixing ancient corruptions in the text, adding doctrines that were not written down by the original authors but were nevertheless needful for us in the latter days, or both), but that's probably a whole post's worth of stuff and this isn't my blog so I'd feel bad about thread-jacking.

Doc said...

Amen Brother,
I am really starting to get frustrated with those of our own who make the claim that our doctrine is fluid and ill defined. Much of the ill defined is so for a reason.

They are somewhat besides the point, or at the very least not definitively settled in a Church that believes God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

The one exception I see with the list is temples, which are a rather meaty subject, (the law of adoption and sealing did take a little ironing out, but the wonderful thing is that with Wilford Woodruff, it happened), Isn't modern revelation great.

tiredmormon said...

It is pretty clear that JS was not fixing translation errors, because his corrections relate in no way to mistranslations.

I would disagree with your comment on uniform doctrine. I would argue that Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, 7th Day's have all done a much better job at towing the line on doctrine.

Can anyone who has read Quinn possibly say what you have said? Have you read those old church books in their original unadulterated form? Have you read the talks as they were originally given? Have you read the Journal of Discourses, History of the Church and the Scriptures before changes?

What you are speaking of is revisionist history at its worst.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for the insights, y'all. It sheds some light, anyway.

Just out of curiousity, and because I can't resist ;), why wouldn't JS have removed the Johannine Comma (1 Jn 5.7-8)? It is known to be a late insertion and doesn't appear in newer translations. If it is indeed false doctrine, why would he have left it in?

Kathleen said...

And a second further question. Broz said, "Joseph Smith did not complete the translation." What do you mean? He finished it in 1833.

BRoz said...

Kathleen,

Please read at wikipedia for more on the JST. There is a debate on whether the translation was considered complete. I have always been under the assumption that it was not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Translation_of_the_Bible


Good point about the Johannine Comma (1 Jn 5.7-8) which we know from the writings of the Apostolic Fathers who were known to have support the doctrine of the Trinity yet quoted these verses without the Comma proving that it was added later.

jer,

I am sorry, I dont know the artist of the picture. I should probably cite all the pictures I use. I find most of my pictures using Google Images.

BRoz said...

tired mormon,

I have read Journal of Discourses, History of the Church and the Scriptures before changes and my opinion is not revisionist history. It is my honest and educated opinion.

tiredmormon said...

If you have read and compared the original versions, and you are telling me that doctrinal harmony exists/has existed -- then you rock on. But I have never that from anyone who has read the material.

You are the first one on my list to accomplish such a feat, congratulations.

Shell said...

I consider the LDS church a good religion. But I can't accept a lot of LDS Doctrine. I don't believe in the garden of eden story, for instance. If Adam and Eve brought mortality into the world, how do we account for the fact that dinosaur lived and died long before Adam's fall.
It seems to me you cannot join the LDS church unless you also accept a lot of nonsense. I can't drink a cup of tea? Enforcing such nonsense is a perversion and insult to the human spirit. In a free country it is up to those who want to ban something to provide a good reason. After all that: What is the minimun belief one must have in order to be accepted a member in good standing of the LDS church? How much dissense is tolerated?

BRoz said...

What makes humans separate from animals? Animals behavior is based solely on unbridled instinct. Humans, on the other hand, are able to control their passions and appetites.

About Freedom. Laws do not limit, they liberate. Commandments are directions to happiness and not restrictions. Is the command to not commit adultery an insult to the human spirit?


About tea, coffee, and alcohol. Does prohibition violate our civil liberties? When we drive cars we are expected to observe the speed limit. Does the concept of a speed limit insulting to our human spirit? It could be argued that you and I should be free to drive at whatever speed we can safely travel. However, the reason that our speed is limited is because although we can operate our car safely at 80 and 90mph, there are others who cannot and who become a threat to others.

The same principle applies to the word of wisdom. I may be able to drink and use tobacco and stimulants responsibly, but there are clearly many who cannot. Therefore, for the overall good of society and my love for my fellow men, "the weakest of Saints" according to the revelation, we are invited to observe these inspired health guidelines.

And you don't think it works? Research supports that active LDS members are, on average, some of the healthiest and wealthiest people in the world.

Also, you should know that I work as a physician in an inner city ER. And it should not surprise you that a great majority of the tragedy I see on a daily basis is as a direct or indirect result of chemical dependance and abuse.

If you want to live in a society where everyone is "free" to satisfy their animal appetites, urges, passions, and instincts then I hope you are prepared to accept the anarchy, and inhumanity that is the consequence of such unbridled behavior.

Allen said...

Concerning the Garden of Eden story and Mormonism, I have a blog on Convergence of Science and Religion, and I take the position that there are two paradigms in effect: the religious paradigm, that is based on the Biblical account of the creation, the Garden of Eden, flood, etc, and the scientific paradigm that is based on scientific research. Presently, the two paradigms aren't compatible, and rather than trying to force-fit them together, I keep them separate. I go to church and wear my religion "hat". Then I put on my science "hat" and read about new discoveries in the Cosmos.

Two Paradigms

Daniel said...

Or you could, you know, apply your scientific training to all areas of your life, instead of fencing off the religion side.

A double-hatted man is unstable in all his ways.

Daniel said...

If you want to live in a society where everyone is "free" to satisfy their animal appetites, urges, passions, and instincts then I hope you are prepared to accept the anarchy, and inhumanity that is the consequence of such unbridled behavior.

Oh, and BRoz? Shell is talking about tea. A cup of tea.

BRoz said...

I wasn't referring to the tea. I was referring to "Enforcing such nonsense is a perversion and insult to the human spirit"

There is now scientific evidence that coffee and caffinated teas are harmful to pregnancy. See my other post for the link to the scientific data.

Daniel said...

Well, I understand what Shell is getting at. Try looking at it from a non-member perspective. You think LDS prophets are inspired by supernatural beings; I understand that. I happen to think that, like all gurus, they claimed to have special knowledge, and people believed them. There were loads of gurus in the 1800s. Rudolf Steiner (just one example) used to go into a trance and free-associate, and his followers believed the stuff he wrote from that.

So I'd say Joseph Smith made up the tea thing (sorry, the hot drinks thing) not because of any scientific evidence, but because it was something he thought and other folks believed. If science confirms any of the many things he said, Mormons today are quick to point it out. They don't worry so much about the other stuff though.

Seen this way, yes, it is an insult to human intelligence that people would believe any guru who pulls doctrines out of the air, whether it's about drinking tea or purple Flavor-Aid.

On the other hand, if there's well-established scientific evidence against tea, then I'd be interested. Although I never drink the stuff myself.

Allen said...

Here are links to a number of recent articles about caffeine, coffee, and tea.

Allen said...

A double-hatted man is unstable in all his ways.

The reason I wear two hats is that I'm not ready to give up one of the hats, whether it be the religious hat or the scientific hat.

I'm a member of the LDS Church because of choice. The Church uses the religious paradigm in its teachings, classes, sermons, etc. and by wearing my religious hat during those times, I can enjoy the church activities without the frustration that so many people experience because they can't reconciliate the two viewpoints. I study religion, not to learn how our world was created, but to learn how I can be closer to God and more like Jesus Christ.

I'm not a scientist, but I am an engineer and have had enough math, physics, etc. to have a general understanding of science. I enjoy learning about new developments in science. By wearing my science hat when I read about science, I'm able to read the reports from the viewpoint of the scientists who wrote the reports, and I don't have the emotional battles that many religious people have about science.

A double hatted man can be at peace with both disciplines.

Allen said...

Two other aspects of the Mormon code of health are tobacco and alcohol. Here are links to recent scientific reports about those substances.

Tobacco

Alcohol

Allen said...

Daniel,

You said you believe Joseph Smith made up our belief that tea is harmful, not because of scientific evidence. You're right about the lack of scientific evidence in his decision about "hot drinks". There is an interesting story behind this.

Joseph and a number of the leading men in the church were meeting in a training class known as the "School of the Prophets". Many of the men used tobacco and weren't very neat about depositing spit and possibly cigarette butts in proper receptacles. The result was a mess that Joseph's wife, Emma, had to clean up after each meeting. She complained to Joseph about this, and he inquired of the Lord. The result was the revelation that is in our Doctrine & Covenants Section (chapter) 89. Here is a link to that chapter.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, what you write about Steiner is not correct.

"There were loads of gurus in the 1800s. Rudolf Steiner (just one example) used to go into a trance and free-associate, and his followers believed the stuff he wrote from that."

Steiner did not free-associate, and certainly would never go into a trance. He insisted on the "I" of the individual being in charge at all times and retaining full consciousness. What his teachings are based upon is the fact that there are spiritual worlds above this material world, and spiritual beings, and the possibility of evolving in oneself the psychical organs of perception necessary to perceive them.

Anonymous said...

Prophets of God are not gurus. Your thread suggests a lack of true revelation, and even suggests that God does not speak to man, and could be said to denounce the Lord, for it appears you would consider Him to be just another guru. Those who reject the true prophets today would no doubt have found the same faults in Jesus In His day. If one would stop trying to reason by his own genius alone, and thus humble himself with respect and real intent, and then seek truth, then it would not be kept from him. What does man know without the aid of the Spirit? The world is flat? The sun revolves around the earth? Putting your faith in science (man's attempts to learn and make final conclusions on mathematics, when they do not have all the numbers) is/was warned against; beware of putting your trust in the arms of the flesh. People truly mock what they do not understand.

Anonymous said...

I see things somewhere between the light of truth as it was established by Joseph Smith, and the darkness that has enveloped that truth through man's reasoning of that truth over a long period of time.

The greatest change is not the Doctrines that have taken on a different flavor over time, which is only a symptom of the problem.

The problem seems to be that more and more members, including our leaders, are envisioning truth through the eyes of mans REASONING, rather than through God's eye...His Spirit.

The Official Church Apologetics approach to defending the truth, has taken on a very scientific flare to replacing God's Spirit with Man's Reasoning abilities to come up with scientific and humanly logical BACKUP to God's Truth. Science is man's reason, not God's.

The Spiritual Nature of discernment has taken a hike out the back door of man's way of reasoning which has distorted & minimalized God's Truth over time.

We are no longer allowed the free agency to think for ourselves..."When the Brethren have done the thinking, the thinking has been done"...PERIOD. All we are permitted to do, is to have our own MISREASON CONFIRM those lies to us.

God has given us the agency and EXPECTS us to reason on our OWN, through His Spirit. And NOT merely parrot the false notion that the "Thinking has been done". Not until we THINK for OURSELVES can it be done. And have that TRULY confirmed through God's Spirit. And NOT through the unjust demands of our leaders who usurp God's Voice and proclaim it as their OWN.

Our leaders have led the way in adopting this Apologetic Way of defending the Truth. Why does the truth need to be defended at all? Truth is Truth. Some will believe it, while others won't. Case closed.

Why do we need to constantly use the logic of men to defend our Faith ? It seems rather condescending & backward to me.

I understand perfectly, the concerns of those outside of our faith, have. They see us more clearly than we see ourselves in many just cases.

I'm not speaking of those who attack us unfoundedly. I'm speaking of those who ask simple questions of the spirit. Like some of the comments made to this post.

It would behoove ourselves to not reject things of the spirit in favor of man made inspired "Facts" concerning a Truth that can ONLY be discerned through God's Spirit.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the comment just made about Prophets of God are not gurus and that this statement suggests that a lack of true revelation exists between man and God.....I would say that is only half true.

Of course God speaks to man but not our leaders. You must be more specific in you general observations.

Our leaders speak for themselves and receive many personal revelations based on an exchange of ideas between GA's that never reaches higher than the ceiling of the room they are discussing these things in.

There is monumental evidence with regard to inconsistencies among them throughout the past four generations, that suggest they have a problem with understanding God.

Maybe they should invite Him into the room once in a while and stop APOLOGIZING for these inconsistencies that most members seem to accept as Inspiration from God.

To heck with inspiration...Where are the Prophecies and Revelations of God during a crisis time when we need them most ?

We nee some UPDATES from God, Guys...

Twisted versions of the past are no longer giving us the answers we need.

Joseph Smith was Great. But he isn't here anymore. Where is a Prophet like Joseph ? Surely our time dictates even a much Greater Need for Revelation in the form of 'THUS SAITH THE LORD". Rather than consistently rearranging old needs of the past.

I'm certain this won't be posted, but I hope the moderator takes the time to consider this before it is deleted. At least one person may wake up.