Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What Constitutes Mormon Doctrine? New Statement at LDS.org

Some of our critics thrive on the confusion they create about LDS beliefs by finding strange quotes from various old LDS sources, presenting them as if they were official Mormon doctrine, even when they know we don't believe such things. To remind us what constitutes LDS doctrine, LDS.org has a new statement on official doctrine. I think it's helpful and timely. Read the whole thing, but here's a short excerpt:
The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context . . . and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them. . . .

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. 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. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. . . .
A hat tip to Mike Parker, who also notes that the statement can be accessed via http://tinyurl.com/2twzvc (redirects to LDS.org/newsroom).


Anonymous said...

But how do we know this is from the FP or Q12? This appears to be a press release. There is nothing in this statement that indicates this policy is officially promulgated by the FP or Q12. There is a bit of a feedback loop here...

Anonymous said...

And also, there is a doctrinally incorrect statement in this statement defining church doctrine!

"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)..."

Bzzzt! Wrong according to D&C 107:22-24

22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.
23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
24 And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

I think this statement needs to go back to the drawing board

Russell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell said...

Press releases are approved by the First Presidency. Also, in response to the above, it falls into the very trap that the press release warns against--not allowing for shifting organizational necessities as time passes on. Did MOses even HAVE a quorum of the TWelve? Deviationist liberal Mormon! No, alas, even the standards works application must be nuanced as time goes on. But in any case...

Some time ago, I gave myself some REAL heartburn over the "what is doctrine?" question. Nothing, I repeat, nothing satisfied the question. It got more complicated when I found general authorities disagreeing with one another.

What to do? Random quote says it best: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity" Otherwise, let's face it--our theology isn't so systematic once you get outside the core elements of the standard works. In other words, go with the flow, man. As long as you ride the boat of the standard works, it don't matter what waves you ride.

ruadamu2 said...

This PR is a desperate attempt to reign in public mormon oppinion as the truth about the early church is exposed.

The standard works are rife with mistake and contradiction. How do you know what is literal and what is figurative? These things you should get from the leadership of the church. But the church leaders tell us not to listen to the church leaders (hard to believe) because they are not prophets and only speak their own opinions.

Joseph was wrong about Polygamy - just his misinterpretation of the scriptures. It is/was not doctrine.

Joseph was also confused about the word of wisdom as he had no problem drinking beer and wine. Just his misinterpretation of his own revelation.

Brigham was wrong about blood atonement. Just his opinion.

Brigham was also wrong about the Adam/God theory.

And oh yea, he was wrong about Blacks being the curse of cain. For that matter all of the early leaders were wrong about these and many many other things.

Just their opinions. Don't listen to them.

RWW said...

In any doctrinal disagreement between Joseph/Brigham and Gordon (and there appear to be a few), I tend to side with Joseph/Brigham.

Russell said...

Standard laundry-list approach. Nothing new and everything hackneyed. Certainly failing to take into account either the totality of the sources (as good historians do--nothing like what is seen in the previous comment) or even what tho thoughtful, educated Latter-Day Saints have written on the subject (you can't trust a Mormon anyway--just a bunch of wild-eyed fanatics/conniving PR hatchetmen).

If you view the question in terms of a dichotomy between what "they" (joseph/brigham) said vs. what Pres. Hinckley says, you will be severely misled. Joseph himself never claimed that every quote from his lips was doctrine. Same with Brigham Young. Our doctrine is relatively free-wheeling--flexible enough for discussion with the core doctrines established as our standard.

ruadamu2 has placed upon LDS doctrine assumptions and interpretations that have never been there in the first place. Better analyze your Mormon doctrine a little more ruadamu2 because right now, I smell a simpleton.

ruadamu2 said...


Although I cannot know for sure, I would suppose (based on your comment) that I have forgotten more doctrine than you have ever ventured to learn.

Please tell me what I said that is not true rather than simply calling me a simpleton.

Brigham did indeed state on many occasions that Adam was God and that this was in fact doctrine. Look it up.

It is also a fact that Joseph drank beer and wine. He said so in his own writings. Look it up.

Russell said...

I'm afraid you definitely DO NOT know for sure--in fact, you are again incorrect. Both of your supposed "shockers" are old news--gossipy items that have circulated amongst legitimate Mormon historians for years. I've worked as a professional researcher in Mormon diaries--the obscure kind that can give folks heartburn given that odd statements come from first-hand witnesses (Abraham Cannon's journal makes for a doozy). Not to mention that I've had a fetish for Church history (and almost never the Sunday School version) since I was a youngster.

Re: Adam-God, I've read Gary Bergera's "Conflict in the Quorum" (at the least the sections on Adam-God) and am also quite familiar with Joseph's drinking habits. Old news.

The problems with your assertions however, are, as stated, not so much with incorrectness as it is with anemia of substance--the complexity of the picture is ignored. Even as it is a fact that qutoes support B.Y.'s rendering of the Adam-God doctrine, I can find just as many quotes from B.Y. that refute the doctrine. The Journal of Discourses thus make a really fickle source for tracing Mormon doctrine--everyone contradicts themselves! Since I am willing to grant these church leaders the benefit of common intelligence, I blame the Pitman shorthand long before I think they are a bunch triple-minded, Protean idiots. Furthermore, the Church has never given an "official" reason for polygamy, only stating that it is a practice of the past. There are myriad possibilities for the practice--some of which are often passed over by secularists who want a saultry story and all of which are supported by documentary record. I would refer you to Greg Smith's article for a fuller treatment than can be given here, http://www.fairlds.org/Misc/Polygamy_Prophets_and_Prevarication.pdf

I don't want to burden Jeff's blog with more. But just know that the Church's doctrine as an ecclesiastical institution (statements by the FP and Q12) is what we are interested as God-fearing members. In sum, you need to get your historical game on if you want to shock the educated Mormon.

ruadamu2 said...


I am in awe of your historical aptitude, but that only displays your level of cognitive dissonance.

You know, it really doesn't matter how many times the truth is told, it is still truth.

No one is trying to shock the "educated" mormon here. If you read the "official" statement on LDS.org you would see that it states that single quotes from GAs do not constitute doctrine.

My "laundry list" (in this case the Adam God Doctrine) is an item that is well documented, having been stated on many occasions and in many settings. Too many in fact to be ignored. It was taught as Doctrine by the Prophet of the LDS church whether you like it or not.

GAs contradicting themselves do not help your argument either, but that said, please tell me where to find a quote from BY that refutes the Adam/God Doctrine.

Russell said...

"I am in awe of your historical aptitude, but that only displays your level of cognitive dissonance."

Thanks. And I've always preferred dissonance to straight-out harmony--gives spice to life, you know? Otherwise, all you hear is doctrine in the harmony of traditional church hymns--pretty mundane stuff. In any case, I suggest that you are quite presumptuous in claiming to know my intellectual profile through such an incomplete venue as a blog.

Now, if Jeff doesn't object, this response is quite lengthy. Feel free to chide me if desired.

"My "laundry list" (in this case the Adam God Doctrine) is an item that is well documented, having been stated on many occasions and in many settings. Too many in fact to be ignored. It was taught as Doctrine by the Prophet of the LDS church whether you like it or not."

Certainly it's well documented--I've seen the documents after all. I've had to sort through my "cognitive dissonance" (so-called) more than many of my friends. It's not easy.

And re: the GA contradictions, you must not have read my post carefully enough. Please read it again. And as far as modern contradictions go, I reiterate that the church's doctrine AS AN ECCLESIASTICAL INFRASTRUCTURE must be relied on. Otherwise, we can only use other quotes for personal insight, reflection. Brigham Young even taught this (of course, I'm assuming again that we can rely in any extent on the scribe).

I'm reticent to expend time researching quotes for such a venue as this--my experience has been that no matter how high the quality of the evidence, it is often discounted simply because it doesn't fit a cut-and-dry paradigm (as demonstrated by your "It was taught as Doctrine by the Prophet of the LDS church whether you like it or not" quip). But why not throw out a bone or two (or more), just for kicks:

Brigham refers to Adam and "the Lord" as two different individuals, citing a traditional accounting of the Garden of Eden story (J of D. 9:168).

Brigham describes as "Father Adam" as the creator of things in the earth, but also notes that "he was commanded to multiply." This indicates that he was commanded by SOMEBODY. Again, the implication of Adam/God being separate beings. (J of D, 7:286)

Clear quote:
"We cannot avert the consequences of the fall as it is called, of Adam, which came through his transgressing certain words or laws given to him by his Father and God." (J of D, 9:103)

Shall I continue? Brigham reflects on the POSSIBILITY that Adam is God:
"Whether Adam is the personage that we should consider our heavenly Father, or not, is considerable of a mystery to a good many. I do not care for one moment how that is; it is no matter whether we are to consider Him our God, or whether His Father, or His Grandfather, for in either case we are of one species-of one family-and Jesus Christ is also of our species." (J of D, 4:217)

From one of the infamous Adam/God sermons, thus indicating that we probably need to revisit our understanding of the other elements of the speech:
"It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" (J.D. 1:51)

Oy vey...so much more. The point is not to demonstrate yeah or nay, but that these sources are self-contradictory and therefore not reliable to the SERIOUS historian. From a historian's point of view, I reinforce what Terryl Givens has noted: History's theology makes for perilous territory. Given its capricious nature, I actually prefer revelation. Far more reliable.

Ujlapana said...

An interesting PR piece--it appears to have no impact on everyday members, who still have to treat every Conference address by Hinckley as doctrine (get those extra earrings out, girls!), and is more an attempt to get reporters to think the LDS church is as mainstream as the Lutherans. This is probably coming out in response to The Mormons, in the hope that people won't think it matters that past prophets have taught that blacks represent Satan (or were at least poorly-behaved before birth). Do they teach that today? Of course not. But did it meet the criteria for doctrine in the past? Definitely. But the current leaders want their teachings to be accepted as Truth, and discounting previous teachings undermines that effort. Unfortunately, if something was doctrine 100 years ago, and today it is ignored (not publicly repudiated), then it is still doctrine (albeit not a commonly discussed one).

Here's my favorite line:
Those writing or commenting on Latter-day Saint doctrine also need to understand that certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions.

Yeah--words like "God."

Russell said...

"Do they teach that today? Of course not. But did it meet the criteria for doctrine in the past? Definitely. But the current leaders want their teachings to be accepted as Truth, and discounting previous teachings undermines that effort. "

Yet another example of blind skepticism--a prime case of impugning the worst possible motives with simplistic, sweeping accusations. Not very good scholarship.

Esp. re: teachings on blacks and the priesthood, as I intimated in the previous post, the record is splotchy, replete with complexities (I know some spurn that word, assuming it to be the academic's way of weasling out of a sticky question. Question if you wish, but it really is the best way representing reality).

For example, Brigham Young himself repudiated the "neutral in heaven" doctrine, stating that "there were no neutral [spirits] in heaven at the time of the rebellion, all took sides.... All spirits are pure that came from the presence of God. (Journal History, 25 December 1869, citing Wilford Woodruff's journal.)

Furthermore, Brigham Young also clarified what was required for a sermon to be called scripture:

"I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life. Not here, I do not allude to anything of the kind in this place, but in the councils of the nations—that Brigham Young has said "when he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them Scripture." I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible" (J of D, vol. 13--the page number eludes me due to formatting problems on my computer, if you really want it later, I can give it to you).

Anyway, Ujlapana, I'm afraid we've seen yet again that critics tend more towards blowheart methods than real scholarship/evidence. All I continue to see the ill-informed, hollow snide remark.

Flanders II said...

What's up with LinkedIn? Is that a service worth signing up for?

Anonymous said...

I have always appreciated the constant scrutiny that the Church faces in these times. We are so close to the restoration of Christ's Church that documentation is easily found and used by both members and critics alike. Great stuff and I think that the back and forth should continue.

A thought frequently comes to my mind however relating to what type of scrutiny the original Apostles faced in their day. We have the Bible in many translations but I don't think any reasonable man or woman, layman or scholar would say it contains every word, saying, teaching of the Apostles or even Christ. Now, I don't believe that Christ would ever make a misstep but I do allow for the possibility that the Apostles may have needed correction from time to time when it was unclear what they should be doing. There isn't any reason that this should make it into the Bible but surely it happened on a rare occassion. Many surely were miffed by this and those critical of the Apostles in the Lord's time no doubt used it against them. Clearly the members of the Church back then were confused about some issues and needed correction from the Apostles themselves.

John said...

So where does that leave us in terms of following the prophet? If Pres. Hinckley says one pair of earrings, are we to follow his counsel, or disregard it if we don't feel like it, since it isn't doctrine? If we look at all statements made by prophets and GA's and opinion and not doctrine, therefore not binding on us, what then is their function and what is our responsibility? Still trying to figure this out.

Russell said...

I think we need to have a clear understanding to what doctrine IS and what it is not. When the church speaks of core doctrines as they do in the statement, it does not speak of issues such as grooming, earrings, etc. You can still hold a temple recommend with outrageous hairstyles or 15 earrings (to my knowledge--it would be an interesting situation).

These teachings are meant as guides for increased happiness (DC teaches that a slothful servant is compelled or "officially bound" in all things). Even "official statements" are not also pressed on members, such as the Proc. on the Family (many Mormon mothers still work outside home so they can have a few extra luxuries/personal fulfillment). Some leaders may individually counsel members, but given the sporadic and unsystematic nature of the counsel, we cannot pin it down as being "binding."

I kind of like this about the doctrinal framework--it's free-wheeling, organic, and remarkably flexible. Those who have faced disciplinary courts for "heresy" seldom face it for individual opinions but because they begin to question the fundamental authority of the church in doctrinal matters (an authority which the church seldom uses).

Russell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
6inptc said...

So what about not being able to be a temple worker if you have a beard/moustache? I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Russell said...

Is that a universally held rule or something decided by specific presidents?

Anonymous said...

The comments about beards and earrings is interesting. This seems to me to feed directly into the mindless robots we are percieved to be by critics of the Church. Do you need to be told directly about every detail of your lives? Are you unable to decipher for yourselves what may or may not be acceptable behavior based on what values the Church clearly represents? Do we not have a culture within the Church that is unable to be captured by a PBS special? Seriously people! The goal of the Church is to better your lives in a Christ centered way.

Russell said...

What comments are you referring to specifically? Mine, where I referred to our doctrine are relatively "free-wheeling"?

Just looking for some clarification.

Anonymous said...


I was pointing to the comment made by John (concerning the earrings). It appears that he is wholly confused by the Church's press release and what it was trying to accomplish. I respectfully submit that anyone who would use it as an opportunity to relieve themselves for any personal responsibility for their actions is misguided.

Your post happens to be right on point. I breezed through it too quickly. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am not a member of the LDS Church, and probably never will be. I guess that's why I'm still confused about what constitutes doctrine and what doesn't.

During Mr. Hinckley's tenure as Prophet and President, what has been declared as new doctrine? Knowing that, and the process by which it was announced, would clarify things for me.

Dirk S said...

A few (too many) responses both to the Church’s released statement, and to a few posts here.

I enjoyed the released statement, because I think it is something that ought to be emphasized more. In the spirit of Jeff’s sometimes comical quips, I want to say “What, doesn’t everyone know they can find Mormon Doctrine in the book of the same name?”
Interestingly enough, there is a disclaimer at the beginning of that book, stating that it’s views belong to the author, and not necessarily to the Church. More about that later.

First, to Russell, I would like the page number on that quote from BY in JD vol. 13. I might like to use it in the future, and would also like to look it up.

Second, to anonymous above, I hope some of my comments in this post may help clear up the matter for you, but it is not an easy task. I do appreciate that you state you are not a member, but are looking for clarification.

I somewhat wish everyone in these posts would state whether they were “for” or “against” or what their purpose was, because sometimes it seems to not be very clear. I am not sure who is coming from the position of “faithful (or trying to be) member of the Church” or “Not a member, but a critic” or “Not a member, but just trying to understand” or “Facetious Member” etc, etc. Just so I could understand where they’re coming from. However, that seems kind of selfish of me. (I also wish ppl would state a name, so when others reply to them, they wouldn’t have to say ‘anonymous from such and such time’ and it’s good to be able to associate a name with a position or opinion or thought.)

As for me, I am a faithful member of the Church. When I first read the statement, I also paused, as did the poster from 7:36 pm, May 5, 2007 (second posted reply as of this time), as relating to the Quorum of the 12 being the second highest governing body of the Church. Now wait a minute…. Then after I thought about it a while, I realized that it is true, and such has been my understanding for some time. The scripture that ‘anonymous’ posted, D&C 107:22-24, does state that the 12 are “equal in authority and power” to the presidency. It goes on to state that the quorums of the seventy are also equal in authority to the 12 (and thus the presidency).
And it is good that it so, or there could be no succession in the presidency if those quorums did not have the authority. However, only the President is authorized to exercise all of the keys of the Priesthood. He is still the Presiding High Priest. The other quorums possess the authority and the keys, but use them under the direction of the presidency, as is stated in verse 33: “The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church…”. Yes, they have the same authority and power, so if the presidency is absent or dissolved as a result of the Prophet’s death, the officiating of the Church may continue. However, I see it as entirely accurate to call the 12 the second highest governing body.
I think as humans, it is natural for us often to view a statement at first critically, to try to find fault. The same with other people we encounter. We often ‘judge’ too soon. The Lord warned us against such. I believe to do so is counter to faith. Perhaps we should try first to see how things fit in harmony, and if we can’t find a way, then we should turn to prayer to seek the truth.

As for the matter of “what is doctrine?” I would say that it could be compared to saying “what is a prophet?” There are what have been called “little p” prophets, and then there is “Big P” Prophet. You and I can be “prophets” in our own sphere, according as we can receive revelation through the Spirit. Then there is the Prophet, the ordained servant of the Lord who leads the Lord’s people here on the earth.
Carrying on with the analogy, I could say there is “doctrine,” and then there is “Doctrine.” The first could include both false and valid doctrines, things periphery to the mission of the Church. “Doctrine,” on the other hand is what was referred to in the statement as “core” doctrine. That is, doctrine pertaining directly to the gospel of Christ, and the fullness of the gospel, and relating to what is necessary for the salvation and exaltation of mankind. Of course, this is my opinion. I do have reference to a few statements and scriptures. Pertaining to our salvation, it is most important that we accept “the gospel of Christ” and particularly the “fullness of the Gospel.” It D&C 39:6 it says: “And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.” And in verse 11: “…the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth in these last days, the covenant which I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel.” There are other scriptures to refer to as well, but the jist is we must accept the gospel, have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and accept and follow the covenant sent forth by the Lord, and endure to the end. The scriptures are further source of guidance to lead us back to the Lord, to help us understand the Plan of Salvation. There are many other things which are appendages to this. And sometimes there are ideas or ‘doctrines’ not necessary to salvation, which can creep in, whether they be false or true. If we focus too much on these, then we lose focus on the big picture.

A key on understanding Latter-day Saint Doctrine is that there is an obligation on the individual to seek out the truth of anything they learn, if they wish to know it. This is re-enforced in ancient scripture (James 1:5), modern scripture (an example being D&C 91, that the apocrypha can benefit those enlightened by the Spirit), and modern prophets, some key statements from Brigham Young showing this:

These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals.... say they, ... I depend upon you brother Joseph upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me.... Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate...
I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied....
How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand? ....
I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence....
Now let me ask you, if you trust to my faith, to my words and teachings, counsel and advise, and do not seek after the Lord to have His Spirit to guide and direct you, can I not deceive you, can I not lead you into error? . . .
Now, let me ask the Latter-day Saints, you who are here in this house this day, how do you know that your humble servant is really, honestly, guiding and counseling you aright, and directing the affairs of the kingdom aright? . . . How do you know but I am teaching false doctrine? . . . live so that you can discern between the truth and error, between light and darkness, between the things of God and those not of God, for by the revelations of the Lord and these alone, can you and I understand the things of God.

Journal of Discourses, 1:312, 3:45, 8:59; 9:150, 13:171, 14:204

Joseph Smith also taught according to these same principles, especially when new doctrine was being introduced. He asked people to pray about it, seek an answer from the Lord, and they too would know.

As for the modern day, during President Hinckley’s tenure, the proclamations on the family and the living Christ have been released. According to the statement, these would constitute sources of doctrine, since they are official proclamations. It goes thru a process, which includes being ratified by the counsels of the Church, as described in D&C 107:27-32. This includes an element of unanimity, and that the decisions which are reached are made in all righteousness in exhibiting the attributes of ideal Christianity.

Also, for those who decide to ignore the prophets’ counsel in this day and age, the following may be of some guidance. From D&C 90:4-5, the Lord speaking to Joseph Smith : “Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.
And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.”

And believe it or not, I would say more, but I’ve been way too longwinded already. Hope it can be of some use to someone. Of course, these are my views, though they might be shared by others. Thanks for reading,


Russell said...

"I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible (J of D 13:264).

Anonymous said...

Dirk S.:

I'm the anon who posted directly above your response. I'm not sure I fully understand what you were saying. At the risk of sounding combative by bringing up a hot-button topic -- being combative is honestly not my intent -- I'd like your thoughts on the following vis-a-vis what constitutes "D/doctrine."

Let us consider the following words from Dallin Oaks:

Dr. OAKS: The Lord revealed through his prophets that people of African ancestry would not have the right to the priesthood for a time. And then in 1978 revelation was received that they should have every blessing available to every other person. So now there's no distinction among men in who has the right to the priesthood. There is a distinction between men and women in that respect, and we don't know the reason why God has allocated responsibilities in that way. But we're loyal to it and have a witness that that's the will of God. --4/20/07 http://tinyurl.com/3y6y7a

Now, when I read that comment (especially since it comes from an Apostle), I think to myself that denying blacks the priesthood was, indeed, Doctrine. My basis? According to Mr. Oaks, this denial was revealed to the Prophets from God. Period, but perhaps a simplistic point of view from a non-Mormon perspective.

However, if I understand your comments correctly, I think you would argue that this was doctrine (small d). (Correct?) And to take your remarks further, am I correct to assume that you would argue that the denial of the priesthood to blacks was not "false doctrine", since it was revealed to the prophet(s) from God?

(I suppose my remarks are predicated on the assumption that you agree with Mr. Oaks. I do not mean to imply that all Mormons think alike, but I also would assume you do not take the words of an Apostle lightly.)

To further complicate things (sorry!)... Jeff Lindsay believes that denial of the priesthood was NOT Doctrine; rather, it was Church policy. See, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/2m6ler. With all due respect to Jeff, I just don't see how something can be revealed from God through a prophet, only to refer to that which was revealed as merely "policy." Do you agree with Jeff? (I'd also like to hear how Jeff reconciles his view with what Dallin Oaks said.)

Do you see where my confusion is?

I don't want to get into a counter-productive argument over whether the Church is racist. That is not my intent here. I am not going to participate in any cheap shots about something that ended thirty years ago.

Mormanity said...

There is a common assumption that any policy or action of Church leaders is implictly done through inspiration. Thus, a policy or administrative decision - such as how long we meet, or how many counselors a Young Women's leader has, or what color the cover of the Book of Mormon is - can be assumed to be guided by revelation in some way, but that does not mean that God formally revealed that blue is the divinely mandated color for the Book of Mormon and the only color that could be used. As for the previous priesthood policy, there is no record of any formal revelation being given. It may very well have been a policy (not a doctrine) suitable for that era, and there were exceptions to the policy. There is nothing in official declarations or in the scriptures suggesting anything like a revealed doctrine behind that practice. Ditto for whatever inspiration is behind numerous other policies of the Church.

Dirk S. said...

Response to Anon on Issues of Doctrine

To Anonymous poster above Jeff’s above comment:

First of all, your response and question do not come across as combative at all (at least to me). I would be glad to respond.

Please realize that my comments are my own, and not necessarily representative of official Church policy, etc. I’m just trying to explain things as I see it.

I would expect that some statement similar to the one I just made might have been attached to Elder Oaks statements in the PBS which you referenced for his remarks. While I do not take his remarks lightly, I also try to understand exactly what he meant. Whether he referred to the origin of the ban (which I doubt, seeing as the Church has officially stated that it does not know the exact origin), or to revelations which were received by Presidents of the Church in the decades preceding the lifting of the ban (which I would tend to think was the case), I cannot be sure.

Unless I was able to ask him myself. So many misunderstandings could be cleared up, I think, if those type of questions could be asked of leaders that make statements which cause some confusion as to the meaning. (What I would like to ask Brigham about, or Orson Pratt, or a few others, etc…. boy, that would be nice). And while Elder Oaks is still around for me to ask, I doubt I would actually get the opportunity.

Anyhow, I digress. Back to the issue at hand. Do I think of it as (D) or (d) doctrine? Well, before I attempt to form opinions on matters like that, I try to get somewhat informed. Just because one Church leader says something which could be construed as a binding fact, doesn’t mean all of them do. When I examine some of the history of the ban, I find some leaders thought of its source being a revelation, and some thought of it as a policy guided by 19th century influence, for the good of the Church. David O. McKay is even quoted as saying "It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice will some day be changed" in 1954, 5 years after the 1st Presidency defended the practice as doctrinal. There are several other instances where general authorities of the Chruch express opinion on the matter. Why do I bring this up? Well, on matters where Church leaders somewhat disagree, I find it difficult to view those matters as (D) doctrinal because I would say that (D) doctrines are conclusively agreed upon, at least by the apostles and first presidency. I hope I am not being more confusing trying to explain myself. It is difficult to get my exact thoughts across on it.

Now, I could see how it could be viewed as (D) doctrine, to those members who were of African descent before 1978, because one could argue that it had a direct effect on their exaltation/salvation in the Celestial Kingdom. However, I might disagree on that. I seem to remember reading statements of Joseph Fielding Smith (and others) to the effect that if they (blacks) did not have access to the Priesthood in this life, they would in the next, and that exaltation/salvation in the Celestial Kingdom would depend on their faith in this life, to the extent of what blessings they did have access to.
So, I have taken way to many words to say that I would consider it either policy or (d) doctrine. Though I have put much time into research, pondering, and some prayer on the matter, I don’t feel comfortable on putting my personal stamp on what it is, unless I put some serious prayer, fasting, and further pondering into it.

I would like to say that before I found out about some of the history behind it, I feel I had personal revelation to the effect that the membership of the Church/world would not have been ready to receive the lifting of the ban too long before 1978, regardless of whether it started as a policy or revelation. Then I found that a similar answer had been arrived at by a special committee of the Twelve (by David O McKay) that "concluded there was no sound scriptural basis for the policy but that church membership was not prepared for its reversal." Also, are the several accounts of Pres. McKay, Pres. Lee, and Pres. Kimball (pre-declaration 2) where they had prayed and fasted much on the matter, only to receive the impression that the time had not yet come. Pres. Lee reportedly had even fasted and prayed three days in the upper room of the temple on the matter, toward the end of his life. And Pres. McKay, reportedly, towards the end of his life, had finally received a message from the Lord indicating that he should not further pursue the matter with the Lord for it would not be during his time that it would be resolved. See http://fairwiki.org/index.php/Blacks_and_the_priesthood:Origin_of_the_priesthood_ban%3F for further light on the matter, and sources for what I have stated.

I am sure that there are many black members that have, and they have come to their own conclusions. Check out blacklds.org if you are interested. Also, search for some articles on it on fairwiki.org.

Anyhow, after another long-winded spiel, I hope I have explained myself without boring people to death. In any case, I tend to think of (D) doctrines as those pertaining directly to our course relating to salvation and exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God. I don’t view the ban on the priesthood as such a doctrine, though it was an actual practice, and could very well could have been a (d) doctrine.

As to the racist thing, I think the remark of Marcus Martins (faithful black member and chair of the department of religious education at BYU-Hawaii) can apply: “The [priesthood] ban itself was not racist, but, unfortunately, it gave cover to people who were.” - Marcus Martins, "A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel" (2006 FAIR Conference presentation)

LOGPE said...

I think this entire blog has been an entire argument about semantics. This is what I believe is what people are really trying to understand. What is truth and light? What statements are statements that the Lord would agree with and what statements are incorrect and do not display a correct understanding of the reality of the eternities and eternal law? When you pick apart a word such as “doctrine” it becomes meaningless. So the question isn’t about what a word such as “doctrine” means, the question is: “When Brigham Young said “…..” was that truth?” If a statement is correct, it doesn’t matter whether it is “d” or “D” doctrine. That is just silly. In order to be able to be a god and participate in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom we must accept, understand, and know ALL truth. We must understand the laws of the eternal realm. So I say, if President Young said that Adam was God, was there some truth to it? Is there something to be understood from that? Or is it just nonsense? It doesn’t matter if it is the official “policy” or “doctrine” of the church. All that matters is if it is true. Is it true that people will be happier if they do not follow the fads of the world that will lead them to be destructive to their bodies and put numerous holes in said bodies? If that is true then it is true. So how do you know it is true? Well, as posted above, Brigham Young told us how to know if it is true (you can read the post that mentions it for the exact quote.) If something is true, then we should follow it and except it IF we want the highest degree of celestial glory. If we don’t care for that, then argue if it is doctrine or not and find yourself in some other kingdom. All the kingdoms are good, so you don’t have any BAD choice there, just ones that are better than others.