Guest Post: What is Mormon Doctrine? What is common consent?

January 9, 2007    By: Administrator @ 9:01 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Theology

[This guest post was submitted by Matt W., a regular contributor to discussions here at the Thang.]

Sometimes I like to pretend I am pretty smart about my faith and religion. At other times, I accept that I am just an eight year old in the Church. This is one of those times.

In a recent thread, Blake made a statement which has bothered me. He noted that one article on Agency “hasn’t been accepted by common consent…” as a basic way of debunking what was said therein. This bothered me not because I didn’t agree with Blake on that point, but because I have a hard time following the reasoning that Mormon Doctrine only equals those things sustained by common consent in General Conference.

For starters, I have no idea what has and has not been sustained by common consent. As a member of eight years, the only thing I have sustained in General Conference by Common Consent is the positions of general authorities within the Church. Does this mean I sustain all of their statements as doctrinal and binding on me and my family? Is that Mormon Doctrine today? Is it merely the statements and endorsements of our current living general authorities?

While there may be something to what is above, we are not sustaining any doctrine when we sustain General Authorities. We are sustaining people. I believe we are saying I will support you, help you, and follow your lead. And when I sustain men in this manner, does it really mean I accept everything they say as from God with authority? And what about the authorities who have passed on, like Moses, Lehi, Joseph Smith, Bruce R. McConkie?

The only examples of sustaining doctrine by common consent I am aware of are the sustaining of the scriptures for the Doctrine and Covenants. The reason this is readily available though is that is controversial. Ignoring the controversy of the time, the time of sustaining by common consent I am speaking of was before 1844. Were the scriptures sustained by common consent in General Conference in 1978-1980 when then the last editions came out? There are several sections in there that were not there before. Was the revelation on the priesthood sustained by common consent?

And what does it mean to be accepted by common consent anyway? The Guide to the Scriptures says:

The principle whereby Church members sustain those called to serve in the Church, as well as other Church decisions requiring their support, usually shown by raising the right hand.
Jesus Christ stands at the head of his Church. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he directs Church leaders in important actions and decisions. However, all Church members have the right and privilege of sustaining or not sustaining the actions and decisions of their leaders.

If it is a formula in general conference, has the endowment been accepted by common consent? What about the recent change in the temple? Or is it only what is accepted by the common consent of the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve (as we sustain them to make those decisions)? If that is so, how do I know what they accept by common consent in their meetings? It is not readily published on every issue. Even when it has been published in a letter of the first presidency on some issues, it is not typically explicitly stated as such and these statements are not archived and readily available as a church publication explicitly saying as much. (That is my fantasy priesthood and relief society manual, BTW) There are several publications which imply to be this in one shape or form. They include: The Standard Works, The Church Handbook of Instructions, Preach my Gospel, True to the Faith, Gospel Principles, The Guide to the Scriptures, and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Some would also include McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine and the Bible Dictionary, but both explicitly state they are either not the official doctrine of the Church or that they are the opinions of one man. (The Encyclopedia of Mormonism and may fall in the same category as Mormon Doctrine, and the Guide to the Scriptures may fall in the same category as the Bible Dictionary, but I am unsure at this point.)

These works all have their own problems though for a lay member.

The Standard Works are cryptic and contradict one another(or at least seem to contradict one another) on several occasions. They require a modern prophet to give us exegesis so that we may understand them.

The Church Handbook of Instructions is not readily available to the average lay member.

Preach My Gospel is what is taught an investigator, and while a vast improvement on the previous discussions, was written for missionaries, not lay members.

The Guide to the scriptures is not even available in print form in the English scriptures!

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is too expensive to be accessible to the Lay Member and is general ignored by the General Authorities as having any authority.

Gospel Principles and True to the Faith seem to be solid contenders, but even here, these are very underutilized in the Church. (And also, can we really consider it to be “doctrine” of the church that we should not have tattoos?)

I have consciously avoided the insight of revelation up to this point, and agree with Givens “Theology is what happens when revelation is absent.” It may truly define what Mormon Doctrine really is, but it does not address the question of common consent, and further, revelation is a very tricky companion. I am sure Blake, Geoff, Jacob and I could all claim revelation on a variety of things, and still come to very different conclusions about the very things we received revelation upon.

So How do you define official Mormon Doctrine?

How do you define common consent? And most importantly, Why?

55 Comments

  1. Matt,

    Nice job on this post; these are important questions, and you do a great job asking them.

    For me, the most important place to start in answering your questions is to be very clear about what question you are asking. Often, we munge too many questions into one and fail to see that they have different answers. Two questions that are often munged together are:

    1. How can we tell when a statement is true?

    2. How can we tell if a statement represents the official position of the Church?

    Just because something is true does not mean it is the official position of the Church, and just because something is the official position of the Church does not make it true. That seems obvious, but it gets ignored all too often. In some of your questions, you seem to be mixing these two issues.

    I view the question of what is “official doctrine” to be one concerned with identity. With lots of members, each one holding different views, we must make some effort to define what doctrines we hold in common, and which doctrines we have agreed to be judged by in the world. There is an obvious need for something like the Articles of Faith, and it is no accident that we canonized them (by common consent). However, if there is going to be significant intellectual freedom, then there cannot be too many official doctrines, and the official doctrines cannot attempt to settle matters which the Lord has not settled for us by revelation.

    Because there is no objective way to tell whether something is “true,” the best way to determine what doctrines the Church will be bound by is to ask the Church (i.e. the membership). This is my view of the role of common consent.

    The temple ceremony does not need to be accepted by common consent (in my view) because it is not something we put forth to the world as a definition of our beliefs. Our belief in temples is a doctrine of the Church (as established in the scriptures), but the contents of the ceremony do not define the Church itself. Many members have never been into a temple.

    You mentioned in the post that the only vote you are aware of was for the initial acceptance of the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, there have been other votes, almost always for the purpose of adding something to the standard works. If you haven’t read them lately, go check out official declarations 1 and 2.

    The only thing outside of the standard works I am aware of receiving a vote of acceptance by the church is something that was called an “Address of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the World,” which was issued in behalf of the Church by the First Presidency on March 26, 1907, and adopted by vote of the Church, in General Conference, April 5, 1907. You can read it in Messages of the First Presidency, Vol 4. pg 142. (The introduction of the address in that volume says that “This process makes the Address official doctrine, teaching, and viewpoint of the Church.”)

    Sorry for the length.

    Comment by Jacob — January 10, 2007 @ 12:21 am

  2. Nice job Matt. I also like Jacob’s comment.

    I might add a little something I thought about once. Talmage once disected the name of the churchinto two parts:

    The Church of Jesus Christ

    The Church of Latter-Day Saints

    There are a certain number of things that have been clearly revealed which are simply true. Other things are more-or-less the current concensus of the membership and leadership.

    The ninth article of faith is also helpful knowing that not all things have been revealed yet.

    I often feel that there is enough fundamentals to judge the consistency of many doctrinal ideas, which is helpful to me.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 10, 2007 @ 6:49 am

  3. Matt: You raise an interesting and very important question. It is addressed in a fairly responsible way, for instance, here: http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Brochures/What_is_Mormon_Doctrine.pdf

    The fact that a seasoned and well-informed member of the church is asking the question wisely, rather than assuming that you already know, speaks volumes. It means that just what is doctrine is something that is not settled. That has to be unsettling because we look to doctrine to resolve for us what is unsettled. Fortunately, we are not let off of the hook of inquiry so easily. Because there is absolutely no official doctrine beyond what is stated in scripture, and because scripture is open as to what it means, our doctrine cannot be more settled than the revelations and scriptures on which is it based. We simply live in a world where we must live by faith and lean on the spirit rather than the authority or wits of some other authoritative person. Such an approach drives evangelical wild because they want a target to shoot at. it drives ex_mos crazy because they want a system to blame and an oppressive over-seer that they can rebel against. It drives responsible members like you crazy because it means that a passage from one way of seeing to another way may be necessary to negotiate to continue to “make sense” of the faith. For some the way is treacherous and they don’t make it — crashing onto the rocks of uncertainty. Others find the freedom as a shout of joy and freedom to fly.

    That is good as I see it because it means we are not motivated to become a member of the herd, in the terms Nietzche spoke about, or Das Man in terms Heidegger spoke about, or inauthentic in terms Sartre spoke about. In other words, I cannot live by the light of another; I must choose and live by my own light. I cannot live an inauthentic life that has been chosen for me by another; I must choose my life and learn to discern truth for myself. Like it or not, it is left to me to determine what my doctrine shall be.

    Now this view of LDS doctrine is wildly counter to the picture that many members and almost all ex-members of the Church have of it. They see a sometimes oppressive hierarchy that decides all of the issues for them. It may be that some come to believe that they in fact are right and everyone else who disagrees is wrong (McConkie comes to mind) or that they speak definitively for the Church. It is not so.

    There is a transition from what Paul called a childish faith to what I call a response-able faith. It is a somewhat dangerous passage. The shift from being able to discern by the spirit for one’s self and trusting one’s own revelations is a precarious one. What if I learn something not already revealed? What if what I learn just doesn’t mesh with what I’ve been taught? Well then, the LDS view is that we trust the spirit. However, our revelations don’t arise in a vacuum and we are not the first to have experiences of revelation.

    We are not all on the same spot on the path of enlightenment and growth in the light. Joseph knew more in 1844 than he knew in 1820, but he was a prophet at both times. The prophets used to receive more revelations given to the church than it appears to be the case now. In part that is because the foundation has been laid. In part because we have enough to keep us choking on it for awhile and in part because we’re just not listening.

    So here is how I address your question. There is a hierarchy of authority to assist us on our path toward light. First, we are bound only by the scriptures accepted by common consent in all that they say. These are the accepted foundation of our faith. Included in these scriptures are official declarations accepted by common consent of the saints. Ironically, that does not entail that everything the scriptures say is true or happened just as they say. How could that be? Well, perhaps the scriptures challenge us and move us and speak to us in different ways. That Jonah was swallowed by a whale is not essential — that Christ resurrected is.

    Next in authority are statements and uncanonized revelations of Joseph Smith. Why? Because he is the founding prophet. Next come uncanonized revelations of other prophets. Next come statements of the First Presidency. Next come unofficial statements of the First Presidency and leaders of the Church. Next come guidance in general conference. At least, that is how I see it.

    If there is a conflict, then those sources higher in the hierarchy are given precedence. Such an approach, placed in the context of the recognition that there may yet be further revelations that inform and upset the apple cart, means that our “doctrine” is open textured. Our doctrine is a living conversation with God and the life of Christ that resides within us. Our doctrine is the still small voice that whispers to us. Our doctrine, in other words, is the living dialogue of the Saints as we lovingly discuss with each other the words of eternal life guided by the spirit.

    Can your revelations and mine conflict? Of course — because we are on different steps on the path. We can but trust our perspective since what the world looks like given my perch is different than your perspective. However, here is the challenge. Mine is not the only perspective from the path. So perhaps I can learn from your perspective no matter where on the path you find yourself. Those further up the path can give me valuable information. They’ve been there. Those behind me can warn me about what is coming up from behind me. So we engage in the dialogue of assisting each other to see what is beyond our perspective and sharing our own.

    Comment by Blake — January 10, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  4. Matt: I now wanted to add the counter-balance to the very individualistic approach to “doctrine” I wrote above. I seperated it out because it was too long and because it is a different movement of doctrine. Along the way we find that we cannot walk this path of doctrine alone. Our doctrine is that we cannot be saved all alone because salvation and exaltation are shared life in unity. Here is the wonderful paradox — we are moving toward a oneness of heart and mind. Divine life is always shared and interpenetrating life lived in each other. If we walk all alone, the say sometimes gnostics used to do it, we walk away from this light that grows brighter by sharing it back and forth and magnifying with our mutual love. To be of one heart and one mind does not mean you must surrender yours so that mine is the only mind involved — it means that in the dialogue there is such respect and love the mutual dialogue lifts each of us together.

    Comment by Blake — January 10, 2007 @ 8:18 am

  5. Well said Blake.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 10, 2007 @ 9:36 am

  6. Jacob: (1)

    Thanks for the length, I don’t think a short return would have helped at all, in any case. You are definitely correct that I have “munged”(I love this word, BTW) many questions togethor in this post. On the one hand, I just want to know the history, procedure, and facts (Thanks for pointing me to reread OD-2, that helped.) on another front, I am attempting to establish what Blake calls in his comment a doctrinal “hierarchy” for myself of what is most important doctrinally to me, and also I am trying to work towards finding the “truth.” Ultimately, my goal in all this may simply be the question “How can I be the best Saint I can be.”

    While it is obvious that all Truth is not doctrine (because much truth is irrelevant, like “the ball is red.”), it is challenging and less obvious that all doctrine is not true. I guess, under the view “Church Doctrine = Approved by Common Consent” there woulb be a simple sample case which proves you correct, being the D & C section on marriage or the “Lectures on Faith” that have been removed from the text. both were approved by Common consent along with the rest of scripture (I am assuming here. I don’t know, historically speaking, if this is true.) and aren’t now (based on these two not being given by revelation.) But this leads to more historical and procedureal questions. Were these removed “by common consent.” Maybe they were, as D & C 138 says on October 31, 1918, it was submitted to the counselors in the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the Patriarch, and it was unanimously accepted by them.

    Does this mean section 138 was never put before the whole of Church for acceptance bcc? I don’t know. Are any of you old enough to remember if the current standard works were asustained as such and what the verbage was? (As an aside, my wife thought the “proclamation on the family” may have been accepted bcc, but when I started asking questions, she decided it probably wasn’t, since her recollection was of a relief society meeting.)
    If 138′s header is correct that doctrine only need by sustained in the small setting, then I guess the proclamation on the family, having the 15 requisite signatures, is definitely offical church doctrine. But then the question of why OD-2 required the whole church to vote in favour? Was it a PR move? Was it an Issue of Policy change? Does the Church have it’s own internal layers of official doctrine with some items existing on upper and lower levels?

    Because this is getting long, in short, I think if I understood the history and procedure more clearly, I would be ale to better establish the theology. However, I have not found a solid source for the basic history on this. Maybe someone will have pity on me and throw me a bone.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 10:07 am

  7. Eric (2):
    I understand and agree, but another underlying issue in this post for me that I may not have clearly stated (I wrote multiple drafts of this post, believe it or not.) is the weight we as latter-day saints give to the epistemic “appeal to authority.”, especially to statements by presidents of the church. In my first draft of this post, I phrased it “Why doesn’t poop stick to Joseph Smith, but Joseph Fielding Smith is covered in it?” A perfect example is your rescent post on being a vivaporous child of God. Where should BY’s statements fall in my doctrinal hierachy? Where is the line between disagreeing with Brigham on whether God had intercourse to create spirit children (as I think you interpret it to be.) and getting excomunicated for unbelief. Bruce R. McConkie had his line (the testimony of the 5 things) But there are obviously additional things which cause the line to be more fuzzy than that. (Law of Chastity issues can bring about excomunication, but Word of Wisdom issues does not have the same effects, to my knowledge.) This may all be in the Church handbook of Instructions, but I don’t presently have a copy (and the Church Handbook of instructions, to my knowledge, were not sustained in General Conference. A new addition for 2006 just was published, maybe we shall sustain it in the next conference?) For that matter, it may all be in the Doctrine and Covenants. I have some reading to do.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  8. Matt,

    In order to make it into the standard works, it must be received by common consent. The institute manual provides this history:

    At the October conference of 1918, six weeks before his death, President Smith said:

    “As most of you, I suppose, are aware, I have been undergoing a siege of very serious illness for the last five months. It would be impossible for me, on this occasion, to occupy sufficient time to express the desires of my heart and my feelings, as I would desire to express them to you, but I felt that it was my duty, if possible, to be present. . . .

    “. . . Although somewhat weakened in body, my mind is clear with reference to my duty, and with reference to the duties and responsibilities that rest upon the Latter-day Saints; and I am ever anxious for the progress of the work of the Lord, for the prosperity of the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world. . . .

    “I will not, I dare not, attempt to enter upon many things that are resting upon my mind this morning, and I shall postpone until some future time, the Lord being willing, my attempt to tell you some of the things that are in my mind, and that dwell in my heart. I have not lived alone these five months. I have dwelt in the spirit of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination; and I have had my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1918, p. 2.)

    Two weeks after the general conference Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote down the vision as his father dictated it to him (see Smith and Stewart, Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 201). After it was endorsed by the counselors in the First Presidency and by the Quorum of the Twelve, it was published in the Improvement Era (Dec. 1918, pp. 166–70).

    During April conference of 1976 it was accepted as scripture and approved for publication in the Pearl of Great Price. In June 1979 the First Presidency announced that it would become section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    So, in order to become part of the standard works, it was accepted by a vote in the 1976 conference. If you go to the proceedings of that conference on lds.org, you will find this:

    During the April 3 Saturday afternoon session of conference, President N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency, read the following statement: (See page 19.)

    “At a meeting of the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve held in the Salt Lake Temple on March 25, 1976, approval was given to add to the Pearl of Great Price the following two revelations:

    “First, a vision of the celestial kingdom, given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, in the Kirtland [Ohio] Temple, on January 21, 1836, which deals with the salvation of those who die without a knowledge of the gospel.

    “And second, a vision given to President Joseph F. Smith in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 3, 1918, showing the visit of the Lord Jesus Christ in the spirit world and setting forth the doctrine of the redemption of the dead.

    “It is proposed that we sustain and approve this action and adopt these revelations as part of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    The proposal was unanimously accepted.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 10, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  9. Postmodern Mormonism… Hrmm… PoMormonism? PoMoism?

    As an outsider this is what I’m essentially heairng:

    There is no real official doctrine, certainly not the kind that can be equated with truth. Members are essentially allowed to believe whatever they want, as long as they remain within some basic parameters–parameters which have more to do with cohesiveness and community than truth. The hierarchy of authority helps provide some structure for this, but the “doctrine” put forth by the hierarchy could potentially be less truthful than the personal revelations and opinions of laymen.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  10. Blake (3 & 4): First of all, Mike Ash is fantastic, and was the first person who challenged my assumption that Dialogue was an ex-mormon anti-Mormon rant magazine.

    Your first post deals with revelation and the concept of a hierarchy of doctrinal sources in the Church. Your second post deals with the interconnectedness of human interaction. (BTW, if you ever decide to publish a lay-members Deseret Book version of your books, this would make a great starting point.) I agree with you theologically here, and I have put most of my procedural and historical questions in my responses to Eric and Jacob, so I’ll avoid a repeat here. The Question of Mormon Doctrine seems to bleed up into the larger question of Epistemology. Before I take that road, let me clarify that I am not well-educated here. I wouldn’t know Heidegger from Heineken, as it were. My basic understanding is that we know things traditionally via either an appeal to reason, an appeal to authority, an appeal to our senses, an appeal to our intution, or trial and error. Typically all examples of knowledge fall in these categories. There may also be a seperate category, religiously speaking, which we may define as the light of Christ or things we knew before we were born. That’s about as far as I get epistemically speaking. The problem becomes how we know what we know is true. to possibly misconstrue what Jacob said, I also don’t know that we can know what is true with absolute certitude. We can, as you say, have personal “revelations” which are in absolute conflict one with another, only to discover later they were gas anyway. Science quickly becomes superstition. Ultimately, we live by Faith.

    But, as stated previously, I think my questions are more on the non-clarity in the procedural process and overarching system rules. Your Hierarchy concept is valuable, and obviously “true”(which is a hard word to choke out after the preceding paragraph, but I will nonetheless.), but deciding the order is difficult. For example, when we drill down, what is the Hierarchy of doctrinal precedence in the standard works? I would say Book of Mormon, D & C, Pearl of Great Price, New Testament, Old Testament would be generally correct, but there are times that D & C trumps the Book of Mormon and there are times Old Testament trumps the D & C.

    As we all walk by our own light, we have only these sporadic great moments like the first vision to let us (as a society) know when we’ve completely gotten off course.

    I asked in my response to Eric where the lines were. I will expand on that and ask what divides celestial from the son of perdition? the obvious answer would be choice, but choices are made based upon beliefs. (Are all choices made based upon beliefs? Is this determinism?) If we are going through our life, walking by the light given us, using some system to select cafeteria style our own beliefs, the ultimate truth I find in all this is that we ultimately can condemn no one for their beliefs or actions? Can God? Does God?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  11. A funny quote by Stephen Robinson:

    “The official doctrine of the Latter-day Saints is clearly defined and readily accessible to all.” (New Era, May 1998, 41)

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 11:23 am

  12. Jacob (8): thanks for this. It is very valuable to me.

    As a further thought, branching from my replies to all of you, as we have discussed the fact that Truth Doctrine here, it has begged the question to me: What then is meant when God tells us this is the only true and living Church? Is it merely priesthood authority and the right to revelation. Doctrine must play some part in this, as that Authority and right to revelation was lost at some point. What are those lines which keep us out of apostacy?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  13. Aaron (#9),

    Your summary is pretty close to my belief, even given the tone. However, this is not a “postmodern” analysis of Mormon doctrine by any stretch. When Joseph F. Smith was called to testify before congress as the President of the Church during the Reed Smoot hearings, here are a couple of things he said (compare to what you have written in #9):

    Mr. Tayler. I think this would be as good a time as any, as to the method in which a revelation is received and its binding or authoritative force upon the people.
    Mr. Smith. I will say this, Mr. Chairman, that no revelation given through the head of the church ever becomes binding and authoritative upon the members of the church until is has been presented to the church and accepted by them.
    Mr. Worthington. What do you mean by being presented to the church?
    Mr. Smith. Presented in conference.
    Mr. Tayler. Do you mean by that that the church in conference may say to you, Joseph F. Smith, the first president of the church, “We deny that God has told you to tell us this?”
    Mr. Smith. They can say that if they choose.
    Mr. Tayler. They can say it?
    Mr. Smith. Yes, sir; they can. And it is not binding upon them as members of the church until they accept it. (Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Hon. Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to Hold His Seat. Vol. 1 pg. 98)

    On freedom to believe what we want, he said:

    Mr. Smith: I should like to say to the honorable gentlemen that the members of the Mormon Church are among the freest and most independent people of all the Christian denominations. They are not all united on every principle. Every man is entitled to his own opinion and his own views and his own conceptions of right and wrong so long as they do not come in conflict with the standard principles of the church. If a man assumes to deny God and to become an infidel we withdraw fellowship from him. If a man commits adultery we withdraw fellowship from him. If men steal or lie or bear false witness against their neighbors or violate the cardinal principles of the Gospel, we withdraw our fellowship. The church withdraws its fellowship from that man and he ceases to be a member of the church. But so long as a man or a woman is honest and virtuous and believes in God and has a little faith in the church organization, so long we nurture and aid that person to continue faithfully as a member of the church, though he may not believe all that is revealed.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 10, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  14. Aaron (9): To show how uneducated I am, the term postmodern to me always conjures images of kitschy pop art by Roy Lictenstein and Andy Warhol. Of course, in actuality, the motto of postmodern art is “everything has already been done.” I have no idea what is philosophicaly entails. I’d wiki it, but that would ruin your opportunity to elucidate what you mean.

    I think what is being conceded here is that truth itself is a very relative term. Take for example, my previous statement “Clifford is Red”. Well, not if you are color-blind, he isn’t. With truth being relative and all, and speaking for myself only hear, It is still my opinion and the view of God that our Church puts itself in position as “#1 most true.” I am aware, however, that almost every Church or intellectual group makes the same claim. I allow them that, but still rely on the light as I have received it to from my point of view.

    That said, your summary is pretty much on track, in my opinion.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  15. By the way, for those not familiar with the Smoot hearings, the above testimony from Joseph F. Smith was given in 1904.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 10, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  16. Jacob, thanks for the quotes, but how do they establish that my summary doesn’t resonate with postmodernism?

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  17. Aaron (#16),

    Sorry, I was not clear. I agree that your summary resonates with postmodernism. I disagree that the Mormon position on these matters is in any way a reaction to postmodernism, or a result of the postmodern movement.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 10, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  18. Matt, postmodernism can refer to a range of things, but I refer to it as the set of attitudes which are very skeptical toward the correspondence theory of truth and very skeptical toward the idea of text as an effective medium of communicating an author’s intended meaning. In evangelicalism, we use the label “postmodern” to describe the “emergent church” folks, those who value community over knowing truth. It’s worth noting that they are inclined to speak of theology as a “conversation in progression”… perpetually… never getting at the truth. I hope that helps a bit.

    Of interest:

    http://mormonwiki.org/Postmodernism

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  19. Sorry, everyone is replying at the same time and comments are out of order.

    In the wiki article I say it like this: “Some aspects of historic Mormonism make it fit very well with postmodernism, and contemporary Mormonism is heavily influenced by the trend as a whole.”

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 11:57 am

  20. Admin: It seems like everything is getting hit by moderation more often lately. Did you upgrade or something?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  21. Matt (#20) – The spam filter has been working on overdrive the last few days for some strange reason. We are hoping it is being retrained now…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  22. Aaron: If that is what you call post-modern, then you don’t have a clue about the post-modern movement do you? Admit it, you haven’t read any of the primary literature have you?

    Comment by Blake — January 10, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  23. Aaron: I took a look at your site (I checked out your post-modern page and then moved over to your beliefs page to get to know you better.) Anyway, while I am not expert enough enough to disagree with you, I am curious as to why you have the sight and why you evengelize at all. Your site states you believe we are saved by grace regardless of individual worthiness. I would imagine no one is damned in this point of view, so why evangelize? I am probably showing my fundamental ignorance of evangelicism here, but oh well.

    I found your definition of postmodernism very enlightening. Is this “Conversation in Progress” in evangelicism one to another, or does it include God’s input in the conversation, as I believe the Mormon Definition does? I’d suggest God’s direct input definitely changes the “lay of the land.” as it were. Of course, as I’ve previously stated, this post is intended to focus more on the procedural and historical aspects of Mormon Doctrine and it’s theological implications, and not on the revelatory aspects of our spiritual relationship with God. perhaps tihs is a mistake on my part, as the two may be inseperable.

    Anyway, I appreciate your contributions.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

  24. Blake, I don’t limit the definition of postmodernism to the literature of famous, academic postmoderns. It’s a term that is now used to describe a general cultural trend.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  25. I must admit. Aaron down below me in the bubble corridor has got some good thoughts worth considering.

    Comment by Todd Wood — January 10, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

  26. “Your site states you believe we are saved by grace regardless of individual worthiness. I would imagine no one is damned in this point of view, so why evangelize?”

    Because having personal worthiness isn’t the only criteria to consider. In fact, one criteria is admitting that if our salvation is contingent on our worthiness then we are hosed. God only justifies those who “don’t work” (Romans 4:5; verse 4 shows that this means not working to earn your dues/wages), but “trust him who justifies the ungodly” (contra the JST). If someone will simply come to God (as God really is) and trust him to justify the ungodly by faith, then he can sing the song of Romans 4:7-8. In other words, someone can’t be justified (completely forgiven and imputed with Christ’s perfect righteousness) unless they admit they’re unworthy, admit they never will be worthy enough (even with gracious assistance), and come to Christ with desperate, empty-handed faith. Only then will someone love Christ with works that God is honored by.

    The women in Luke 7 loved much because she was forgiven much. “I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (v. 47) Ironically, I believe that the only people who will have fruits (works) hanging off their tree at the final judgment are those who trusted God who justifies the ungodly by faith apart from works/fruits. Even if we try to be justified by our works that we give credit to God for, we still don’t get it.

    To quote someone from a Mormon blog:

    One of the pearls that dropped from the lips of our budding LXX scholar last weekend was the observation that every Mormon he’s ever known who was seriously conversant with Paul loves him unreservedly.

    Do you know why that is? I think I do. I think it’s because in Paul we learn to drop all that crap about worthiness. We’re not and it’s a very liberating concept. And right after that comes an awareness of the love of God, cause there’s literally nothing else left to distract us from that most important of important things.

    “Worthy” gets you the things that are controlled by the community. “Unworthy” gets you to the throne of Grace.

    That said, a “fair” afterlife is not really a big draw. Hopefully, it’ll not be fair. I’d be just fine with the way Revelation does it: one’s affiliation determines one’s final state. No matter how imperfect that affiliation, as long as it’s sincere it’s fine with me.

    http://faithprorumor.weblogs.us/archives/268

    -

    Is this “Conversation in Progress” in evangelicism one to another, or does it include God’s input in the conversation, as I believe the Mormon Definition does?

    “Emergent” folks would say that God is included in the conversation, and I tend to hear them focus on God speaking through both private impressions and through diverse perspectives brought out in community interaction. I hope you can see where I draw the connection with Mormonism. I agree that the popular view of “continuing revelation” in Mormonism shakes things up a bit, but I’m not convinced postmodern-ish Mormons take their prophets very seriously, nor do I think the modern prophet is pushing much to be taken seriously anyway. Hinckley is a great prophet for postmodern-ish LDS, since he isn’t very interested in doctrine.

    By the way, these two posts might be of interest.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  27. Aaron:

    As an outsider looking in, you seem to be saying that from an evangelical point of view, our individual worthiness of salvation is based upon the criteria of “admitting that if our salvation is contingent on our worthiness then we are hosed”. So the “work” we must do is to believe we are saved by grace and not by “work”.

    If however, you are saying that LDS people need to acknowledge that “we are saved by grace, after all we can do.” I’d say thanks for letting us know we are saved from you’re point of view, and we’ll keep on keeping on.

    Anyway, I hate to threadjack myself, and am very grateful to have learned a lot via this post.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  28. As an outsider looking in, you seem to be saying that from an evangelical point of view, our individual worthiness of salvation is based upon the criteria of “admitting that if our salvation is contingent on our worthiness then we are hosed”.

    No, no. *cringes*. That misses the point. Faith/humility/admitting our unworthiness and unrighteousness is in no way the basis for a worthiness/righteousness which saves us. Desperate faith looks outside of itself to the righteuosness/worthiness of another (Christ). I like way John Piper puts it, commenting on Romans 4:4-5:

    “The point of the word “ungodly” here is to stress that faith is not our righteousness. Faith believes in him who justifies the ungodly. When faith is born, we are still ungodly. Faith will begin to overcome our ungodliness. But in the beginning of the Christian life – where justification happens – we are all ungodly. Godly works do not begin to have a role in our lives until we are justified. We are declared righteous by faith alone while we are still ungodly. And that is the only way any of us can have hope that God is on our side so that we can now make headway in the fight against ungodliness. (>>)

    I hope the quote is sufficient to address 2 Nephi 25:23. If not, please continue dialog with me at aaronshaf[at]gmail.com.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — January 10, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

  29. Matt (#6),

    On the difference between doctrine and truth: I think you are on the right track when you mention LonF and the statement on marriage. There is also the fact that we only have a portion of the truth, and learning more truth often requires us to make room for that new truth by altering our current beliefs to some extent (e.g. compare 1 Pet. 3:19 with D&C 138:28-29).

    But this leads to more historical and procedureal questions. Were these removed “by common consent.”

    In a discussion about the LonF not too long ago, Blake argued that the LonF should still be considered canonical (although viewed in the proper historical perspective) precisely because they were not removed by common consent.

    The Question of Mormon Doctrine seems to bleed up into the larger question of Epistemology. (#10)

    I think this statement munges truth with doctrine again. The question of “what is truth?” is fundamentally related to epistemology, but the question of “what is doctrine?” is not.

    Some other things to consider:

    There is also a difference between doctrine and policy. The handbook of instructions is primarily full of policy. Church policies need not be a matter of common consent, and generally are not voted on. So, Church leadership can decide what the grounds for excommunication are, when we will meet for Sacrament meeting, how tithing will be spent, etc. without any of these things being voted on. These things are done by common consent only in the sense that we sustain our leaders by a vote of common consent at each general conference.

    When we say that a certain doctrine has been accepted by common consent and is therefore “binding,” this does not mean we are forced to believe it. Joseph F. Smith makes this point beautifully in the second quote in #13. We (as individuals) are bound by it in the sense that we may be subject to disciplinary action if we publically teach against it. We (as a Church) are bound by it in the sense that we define ourselves by those beliefs. We can legitimately have those beliefs ascribed to us by our enemies, for example.

    By the way, Clifford is still red even if you are color blind (#14). But that is a different discussion.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 10, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  30. Oh, and I have a question for you Matt. You started the post by saying that “In a recent thread, Blake made a statement which has bothered me.”

    Given all that has been said, does Blake’s statement make any more sense to you know than it did? Are you less bothered?

    What triggered Blake’s comment was a comment from you citing various people and an article from the Ensign. What were you trying to convey with those quotes? That those quotes put forth a compelling argument for a particular view? That we should believe what the article says because it is in the Ensign? I think if we zero in on your purpose in citing those quotes, we will quickly be able to clear up whatever the disconnect was.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 10, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  31. If nothing else I can see it is time for me to post on Blake’s three chapters on Paul (and the New Perspective on Paul) soon… This discussion now seems to be very connected to that subject (especially in light of the quotes in #26)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  32. Jacob J (28)- It has helped immensely, especially your references from the Institute Manual and the Smoot hearings. I feel like when I was a child and that cartoon “I’m just a Bill on capitol Hill” was playing on TV. I’ve learned a lot.

    To be cliche, the grain that was bothiering me in Blake’s statement has grown to be a pearl.

    And sadly, I was merely trying to convey perspective and solicit ideas, and not making an argument with those quotes. Blakes comment bothered me more as a non-sequitter and not in direct response to my central idea there. (Which still is that I see those 3 options as the only possible types for how the missing pages could have worked. Perhaps we should just take that post from where I said As I currently see it… until the end. But that would be the ultimate threadjack here, so I’ll leave that up to you as to whether you want to address it in another thread or not.)

    In short, I was more bothered by not knowing what was and was not accepted by common consent. We have narrowed the gaps on this, though I am sure I have posted some questions towards all in my comments above that are still unanswered, but Aaron actually answered some of my questions on Mormon Doctrine as I read between the lines in his comments as well. It seems Mormon Doctrine is much like the engineer’s kiss.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  33. Aaron,

    It sounds like you’re saying that historically speaking parts of Mormonism resonate what you are calling “post-modernism” and more contemporarily Mormonism has been influenced by postmodernism. Where exactly would you say that this influence is coming from?

    Comment by SmallAxe — January 10, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  34. Jacob: (29) regarding my #10 and munging epistemology, I was responding to Blake’s statement of “Our doctrine is the still small voice that whispers to us.” which I agree with.

    regarding my #6, if we have accepted by common consent the content of the standard works as a whole at any point since the removal of the LoF, wouldn’t that imply their removal as doctrine? I’d honestly give 3 right arms (In Ammon fashion of course) for a record of all the times anything has been accepted by common consent in the church. Maybe I will hire Ardis, do you think she takes arms? And would Blake say the same for the removed section on marriage?

    I agree there is definitely a difference between policy and doctrine. Is the line between fellowship, disfellowship, and excomunication one of policy or doctrine. I believe it is more at a Bishop’s discretion, as a “Judge in Israel” than by any hard and fast rules. Perhaps that discretion is actually the doctrine, and not any lines we can imagine as it were, which may be the reason for the vagueness.

    Perhaps colorblindness was a poor example. I still hold to a certain relativity of perceived truth in this life, but will seek a better example if you take it up in some future thread.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  35. One more question, then I’ll patiently wait for someone to get me out of the spam aisle here…

    Since the Standard Works are what are accepted by common consent, does this make the regular KJV more doctrinally relevant than the JST?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  36. Aaron, I think as a practical matter “postmodern” is a useless term. Now days it has more to do with its negative connotations than anything. I ought comment on your page over at my blog when I have time since I think you raise some good points along with a lot of misleading ones.

    Comment by Clark — January 10, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  37. Just a note, I put up a response to the postmodern page. Some of the claims made there strike me as rather odd to make.

    Comment by Clark — January 10, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  38. Smallaxe, I think several people are influenced by figures called postmodern. So, for instance, Blake is influenced by the process thinkers, Whitehead, and Levinas. I’m influenced by Derrida, Heidegger, Levinas and so forth. Jim Faulconer is influenced by the same. There are a few FARMS reviews that appeal to Kuhn, although I have a hard time seeing a neo-Kantian like Kuhn whose book was published by the logical positivism movement as a postmodern.

    Comment by Clark — January 10, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  39. Matt (#35), I think things are more complex. “Doctrinally relevant” is a tad complex. I think the standard KJV is clearly dominant. But I also think we have to judge the text by things external to the text. So, for instance, ancient history and languages, while not canonized, clearly affect how we read the KJV. Ditto the JST and works like TPJS.

    Comment by Clark — January 10, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  40. Clark: I was speaking more from a hypothetical situation a KJV version of a scripture were more doctrinally consistant with all things accepted by common consent than a JST version. I know of no such example in reality, but was just analyzing Blake’s hierarchy idea a little.

    Another By Common Consent Question: The Word of Wisdom is to abstain from Coffee, Tea, Alchohol, Tobacco and Illiegal Drugs. Section 89 is Hot Drinks, Achohol, Tobacco,less Meat, and eat grains. The first is obviously the “doctrine” of the church, the second is what was accepted by common consent…

    Comment by Matt W. — January 11, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  41. Clark,

    Not to be offensive, but I hardly think you, blake, Jim F., and a few people at FARMS are influential enough to justify a claim that Mormonism is being/has been influenced by post-modernism (not to diminish anything any of you have done of course). I simply think that if someone is going to claim that one movement has influenced another there should be significant points of contact to justify such a claim.

    Comment by SmallAxe — January 11, 2007 @ 8:50 am

  42. Smallaxe, well I was only mentioning a few. However you’ll find that the philosophy department at BYU is pretty dominated by folks interested in Continental philosophy.

    When critics talk about Mormonism being postmodern, in my experience, what they really mean are the kinds of defenses made of Mormonism by intellectuals. While I personally don’t like the “intellectual” label (makes me think of Sunstone) I think that perhaps postmodernism has influenced many thoughtful defenders of Mormonism. I don’t think it has influenced as many as our critics think. So, for instance, FARMS gets labeled with this a lot. But when I search only a few references to anything vaguely postmodern can be found there.

    So while I’m acknowledging some truth to the label, I think it is vastly over stated.

    Comment by Clark — January 11, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  43. Matt, I think there’s a big difference often between what is consented to and then what is implemented from that consent. The word of wisdom is a great example. Although, to be fair, one can see similar things going on in our government where the legislature passes a law and the executive branch interprets it and enforces it. I’m not saying it’s a perfect analogy, but there’s much to be said for it.

    But I think in practice common consent is overstated. Although I suppose one could argue for an indirect consent since we all “vote” for our leadership fairly regularly. Once again there are parallels to democracy in our own nation.

    Comment by Clark — January 11, 2007 @ 9:53 am

  44. I was just going to let Aaron’s #26 slide, but there is one line I can’t let go.

    Hinckley is a great prophet…

    The sentence starts out great, as you can see.

    …for postmodern-ish LDS, since he isn’t very interested in doctrine.

    But then it ends in rubbish. To claim that about Pres. Hinckley is to announce your ignorance of the man and his life.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  45. “I have a hard time following the reasoning that Mormon Doctrine only equals those things sustained by common consent in General Conference”

    That’s because Mormon doctrine isn’t only those things sustained by common consent, strictly speaking. Mormon scripture is.

    I believe that doctrines can exist that are not explicitly stated in scripture that has been canonised by common consent.

    Comment by Kim Siever — January 11, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  46. Clark: (43)I think Common Consent is useful and important as to reminding us what our ultimate focus should be. However, I have decided that in the future if I am every dismissed by the notion that some statement I have put forth not being accepted by common consent, I will probably simply ask where it has been denounced by common consent as well. I would defintetly say, in the case of the word of wisdom, that the implimentation is more binding now than the revelation. J. wrote an article that touched on this a long time ago..

    Jacob: (44)Aaron’s main strike against Mormonism is that LDS people believe we are saved by works. It is my typical understanding that LDS view their works(righteous acts and ordinances) as signs of their faith. I have seen this attack as typical of Evangelicals. Is this due to the fact that LDS perform works for the dead, which implies a need by all for the ordinances (ie- works) and not whether you are actually a good guy or not? Do vicarious ordinances for the dead imply salvation by works? What else in our faith might imply this? Personally the Faith v. Works argument has always seemed undeveloped and poorly executed to me.

    Kim: (45) I think you are right on this, however, all other aspects of Mormon Doctrine are much more susceptible to change. Of course, even Scripture is susceptible to change, as can be seen in the JST and changes to D & C and POGP. Perhaps an interesting exercise would be to whittle Mormonism down to those aspects which are theoretically not susceptible to change. Perhaps we would be left with only what is primarily presented in the missionary lessons?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 11, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  47. Matt,

    I have decided that in the future if I am every dismissed by the notion that some statement I have put forth not being accepted by common consent, I will probably simply ask where it has been denounced by common consent as well.

    I think your response only makes sense depending on what point someone is making. If someone says, “the Ensign is not accepted by common consent so it is worthless and why are you bringing it up”, then your response will make sense. However, if someone says “yes, an article in the Ensign did say such and such, but I disagree with that position and feel free to do so because said position is not the official position of the church,” then your response above will not make much sense.

    Kim (#45),

    There are lots of doctrines out there, sure. How do you propose that we differentiate between the ones that are official positions of the Church and those that are only of private interpretation?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2007 @ 2:48 pm

  48. Jacob: I should clarify I am not speaking directly to Blake, and am not trying to crush anyone’s freedom to believe anything they wish. My point was that more should be reasoned out than just saying, It’s not BCC, so it is junk. Blake definitely reasons out his ideas more articulately than this.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 11, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  49. I think a good working definition of binding doctrine is anything found in the canon of the Church (the four standard works) or supported unanimously by the living members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who together constitute the teaching authority of the Church (See D&C 107:22-24,27).

    Common consent of the body of the church is not required to establish doctrine, but is required to ratify changes or additions to the canon (cf. D&C 28:12-13).

    Comment by Mark Butler — January 21, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  50. Mark, I don’t disagree, but the challenge becomes knowing what is “supported unanimously by the living members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve”. Is the proclamation on the family supported by Elder Uchdorf and Elder Bednar? They didn’t sign it. It seems binding doctrine outside of “the Canon” has a very short shelf life or is difficult to know.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 22, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  51. Matt W.,

    As to the last question, I think the answer is a definite yes.

    However, as a technical matter, it makes no formal difference whether some minority of quorum members has a problem with prior unanimous statements.

    It takes the unanimous consent of least one of the three presiding quorums of the church to make any authoritative change to church doctrine or practice. See D&C 107:27-32.

    Comment by Mark Butler — January 28, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  52. An excellent point Mark, however, this scriptures points to the “decisions” of the administration, which may mean simply policy and proctice, and not doctrine or canon. I am not saying it is not binding. I would suggest it is not as binding as scripture.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 29, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  53. “Common consent” What a grand euphemism that is. What ever is presented for confirmation can in no way be practically and publicly challenged or debated. In those very rare cases where some person dissents the reason is never aired, nor is there any mechanism for an open discussion. Perhaps blogging just might change that, but I doubt it.

    Church doctrine is whatever the apostles and first presidency decide it is, because, having already confirmed their appointment, it seems it is an act of disloyalty to challenge anything presented.

    In any case, it seems to me that SECTION 107 of the D&C gives all authority for establishing doctrine to the “brethren.” No consent is required.

    The most ugly example of this in practice was the policy of denying ordination to men of color. This was apparently adopted by Brigham Young. There was never any attempt to bring this policy for confirmation but it was everywhere treated as a doctrine for more than a hundred years.

    Several justifications for the policy circulated throughout the church. The most odious being the “Mark of Cane” theory and the usually conjoined “lack of valiance in the war of heaven” theory. Some of the brethren were at pains to say that none of those justifications were endorsed by the church. Never the less, the policy endured. It was right out of Catch 22. There is no reason, it’s just our policy.

    Comment by Morgan — May 3, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

  54. Morgan,

    Catch 22 is a great book, you made me want to read it again.

    I see your point about the seeming disloyalty of challenging anything presented by our leaders, but do you think there is any added significance to something that has been presented to the Church for acceptance as compared to a letter signed by the first presidency, or a random statement of a prophet or apostle?

    By the way, which verses in D&C 107 lead you to your conclusion?

    Comment by Jacob J — May 3, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

  55. Section 107 clearly lays out a hierarchy of authority and does not bound or limit that authority in any practical way except by subordinating some bodies to other bodies. Verses 22-28.

    Verse 29 seems to indicate that the only appeal to the decisions of the first presidency is by an assembly of the entire body of the three presidents, the twelve, and perhaps the Seventy. There is no recognition of any authority residing in the body of the Saints.

    Verse 33 is the clincher. Note my capitalization.

    D&C 107. 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, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, AND REGULATE ALL THE AFFAIRS OF THE SAME IN ALL NATIONS, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.

    Finally, as a legal identity in the eyes of the US Government, the Church is a corporation in which the President of the Church is Trustee in Trust. As such he has complete control of the disposition of all church property. In this regard the President is more powerful than the Pope of Rome. The Pope is actually subordinate to the Bishops in several ways.

    If the the D&C had the power of a constitution, then verses 21 and 22 could be cited as evidence that the current mechanism of appointing the President is irregular. Verse 22 could be interpreted to mean that the President of the Church must be elected (“chosen by the body”) of the Melchizidik(sic) priesthood. The pivotal word above is BODY. Is that the body of the twelve, the body of the presidency, or the body of the Melchizedek priesthood?

    However, the only body in the church which has authority to interpret scripture or do anything else in a sovereign way, is the First Presidency. They seem to have interpreted this passage to mean that the President or the twelve or the presidents and the twelve appoint new apostles and upon the death of the President the most senior apostle inherits the office. The twelve and the first presidency are thus constituted as a self perpetuating gerontocracy.

    D&C 107 21 Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods. 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.

    Comment by Morgan — May 5, 2007 @ 2:35 pm