An Interpretive Tradition Rather than Church “Doctrine”

November 18, 2007    By: Blake @ 1:01 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures,Theology

With respect to your questions regarding what constitutes Mormon Doctrine, your question is best answered by the Japanese “mu,” which means that the question is misinformed so it is better to withdraw the question. Like Judaism, and it appears earliest Christianity, there is neither “official Mormon Doctrine” nor council or creed that establishes such matters. Rather, there is a tradition of interpretation that is like the common law approach to deciding what constitutes the law. It is taken on a case-by-case basis guided by prior precedent of revelations, decisions and practices. So everything in the scriptures is “doctrine,” but of course that leaves open a lot of different approaches. It is well-settled that the doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior. What these basic affirmations mean is left open. It is basic that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. What that means is left open to a range of interpretation.

The question also assumes that somehow getting doctrine right is vitally important. To the extent it facilitates a saving and exalting relationship with God, it is important. But it isn’t important, for instance, to be able to formulate the relations of the divine persons in the Godhead correctly. If that were the standard, then only very articulate and very bright people could hope to be saved and exalted. I get the idea from the scriptures that it is more about a soft and loving heart than a correct idea in the head. In fact, taking such issues seriously enough to cause dissension over them is counter-productive to loving harmony int he community of Saints that is much more important in the end.

So LDS doctrine is open-textured. Such openness is necessitated by the ongoing revelation and the fact that we admit that there is a lot we don’t know and a new revelation might put what we thought we once knew in a new light. That Jesus is our Savior must be affirmed — that one must accept the penal theory of atonement is optional (and in my view wrong-headed).

It follows that there is no authoritative and comprehensive work on LDS doctrine except the scriptures. However, there seems to be a hierarchy of authoritative sources that one uses in the interpretative context to persuade what constitutes truth and obligation. First, the scriptures are accepted in all that they say. However, just as there are many different religions and creeds that derive from the Bible, there are many that are possible within a Mormon context. Next in authority I would place the uncanonized revelations of Joseph Smith and his successors. Next in authority are the Official Statements of the First Presidency. Next I would place the sermons of Joseph Smith and after that those of his successors. Next I would place LDS Church publication. Knowing this hierarchy of authority doesn’t give one an encyclopedia of Mormon Doctrine — but it gives one the sources necessary to engage in the interpretive dialog about what LDS will accept and take seriously.

Let me give an example of how this interpretive context may work. As should be obvious, the mere fact that you can find something in scripture that seems solid to you (e.g., Second Isaiah’s statements that there is only one God who is Yahweh) is not going to be definitive because that must be placed within the wider context of interpretive sources and revelatory authority. It so happens that these statements are made alongside the recognition of foreign gods and gods who are the sons (and daughters) of God in the council of Gods. These Old Testament texts will be read in context of Jesus’ revelations about the Son of God who is called “God” in scripture and is not identical to the Father whom Jesus also recognized as God. These crucial texts will also be placed in the context of Joseph Smith’s observations about the God of all other gods in his revelations. These revelations will be placed in the wider context of his sermons about the council of gods and so forth. In the end, there is a sense in which there is only one God, but not in the sense that the creeds have assumed (based largely on the interpretive context of the Greek metaphysics in which the Church Fathers wrote). There is a sense in which there are three in the Godhead. There is a sense in which there is a plurality of gods. Among Mormons, there is a good deal of disagreement over whether these other gods are subordinate to a Most High God, or there is an infinite regress etc. because such matters have not been fully clarified by revelation.

In the end, it turns out that getting doctrine right is not what is essential about being a Christian Mormon. What is essential is being open to love others and do whatever that entails. It is also vital to be open to hear God’s voice when he speaks — and most often that is to assist to discharge the duty to love others. While one could not be Mormon while fighting against the kingdom of God established through the Church, one could follow God with doubt about just about everything fundamental and no clear views on even fundamental “doctrinal issues.”

I don’t know if that is very satisfactory to you, but it is, I believe, an accurate assessment of how Mormons go about determining what to believe.

45 Comments »

  1. Beautifully put Blake. This is one of the best and most succinct articulations of the Mormon approach to doctrine I have ever read. I look forward to sending people this way when the topic comes up next.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 18, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  2. Blake,

    Thanks for this exposition.

    I have one question; what does this statement mean from your perspective:

    “the scriptures are accepted in all that they say”

    Just curious. Thanks again.

    Comment by Mike — November 18, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  3. Mike: What that means is that the scriptures act like a constitution. It can be updated and amended, but it takes a very positive and affirmative act widely recognized by Church members (like the 1978 revelation for instance). The scriptures, like the Constitution, lay down broad and general statements of very foundational principals that control and govern all other possibilities of belief. So the scriptures must be accepted because they are the foundational revelation; however, they do not contain there own self-contained self-interpretation. There are numerous possibilities and the interpretive rules are not themselves authoritative. That is why the prophetic voice is crucial in Mormonism.

    It seems to me that what makes a tradition distinctive is the interpretive stance it adopts. Evangelicals adopt a kind of inerrant stance where they suppose that the scriptures are a self-contained systematic authority that provide authoritative and self-consistent interpretive rules for interpretation of the text. So how do we decide what the interpretive rules are? I believe that it is easy to see that the evangelical stance is logically circular, and I believe that it fundamentally and seriously misunderstands the scriptural texts by treating them as a consistent set of belief statement that can be worked into a systematic doctrinal statement that must be believed for salvation. Only the really intelligent and vastly literate can be saved on such a view. Indeed, given all of the different views that intelligent interpreters can adopt based on the scriptural texts, if one must get the doctrine right to be saved, then I don’t believe that it is possible for anyone to be saved at all.

    Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy likewise constitute distinctive interpretive traditions. The later writings of the Church Fathers for Eastern Orthodox and the Magisterium for Catholics constitute a crucial context for interpretive authority. The way they approach the texts is within the context of a later tradition that developed. The problem I see here is that there is no reason to give any authority to the later tradition or texts because they eschew revelation on par with scripture as a means of interpreting scripture. Thus, their interpretive context lacks authority — their sole authority is the validity of their reasoning. I find that reasoning seriously suspect and I have no other reason to grant the authority of such a tradition.

    It is different in Mormonism where the context is formed by revelation and the ongoing interpretive context is the continuation of the prophetic spirit. There is reason to grant authority beyond a systematic theology because we don’t have the entire revelation and we are guided by an ongoing and living voice rather than being left to our best reasoning to figure out the appropriate interpretation. So we could be given commands or truths that make no sense at present because they await further revelation to put them into a context that makes sense of them. However, there is authority beyond the authority of simply reasoning from what has already been given. So I will give assent to what I take to derive from revelation because it may well be beyond my ken; but I won’t give assent or authority when the sole basis is reason.

    Comment by Blake — November 18, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

  4. Blake,

    That’s a wonderful post. It restores my hope. Thanks.

    Comment by Jack — November 18, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

  5. the uncanonized revelations of Joseph Smith and his successors

    I’m sure the light bulb will click when I hear it, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what this refers to.

    Comment by Eric Russell — November 18, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  6. Blake (#3),

    I have long been fascinated by the fact that the authority of so many religions boils down to thinking they are smarter than everyone else. As you put it “their sole authority is the validity of their reasoning.” By coincidence, I posted a response along these lines earlier today on Todd’s blog. It seems that as long as authority is derived from the Bible, this will necessarily be the case because there is disagreement about what the Bible means. Each group claims that they have the correct interpretation, but without an appeal to revelation, the only explanation for one group being right and the others wrong is that the one group is smarter. Talk about a sandy foundation. Thinking of heart issues…lol.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 18, 2007 @ 7:36 pm

  7. Blake:

    I really appreciate what you are saying and for taking the time to respond, and I agree with you largely. I guess I am just hung up on the “all that they say” phrase and what this appears to say on the surface. This is an issue I have been thinking a lot about lately. Like you (I think like you anyway, correct me if I am wrong), I see differing and developing views through scripture, contradictions (or what appear to me to be contradictions anyway), varying opinions/options on different doctrines and beliefs, as well as some things I just don’t take to be true despite the author’s affirmation that it is true (for instance I currently just don’t think the harem on Canaanites in the DH came as a real historical order from God). Obviously here I am more specifically referring to the bible, though I see differing views espoused by general authorities in the modern Church on different issues throughout its history, and developing views through time. Clearly, my faulty reasoning and lack of understanding can be the problem and, like you said, it may just not make sense now because the right context and revelation is missing and I certainly allow that. But it isn’t that any of this (i.e., developing views or apparent contradictions) really bothers me anyway, because I certainly love the prospect of continual revelation (and thus the understanding that things can and do change in a positive sense) and God giving to us as we actively seek it from him (thus acknowledging we all–including those authors of scripture–are to some extent reflecting our human cultures and values).

    It seems to me that the bible as we have it was never ordered by God by revelation to be as it is today. In part, at least, it is indebted to human reasoning and opinion as to what should be included there. Sure the D&C says it is “true” and I very much believe God’s hand was involved in preserving what we have today. But to me there are things in there that are just spurious it seems, not to mention there are probably just as equally authoritative texts that are now missing or lost and forgotten. How can “everything” be affirmed if there are disagreements in the text itself? Yes, it is accepted as a “standard work,” or “canonical,” but does that mean it is all “inspired” to the same degree (or some even at all perhaps)?

    So let me see if I can wrap things up, as well as my head around what you are saying by the phrase “in all that they affirm” (and please correct and clarify me if I am wrong). What you are saying isn’t that all that the scriptures affirm is necessarily in complete harmony or all historically accurate, etc., but merely that scripture (i.e., what we currently use as the standard works?) –including all of its incongruities–simply acts as the broad context for which we discern what is true and not true. It doesn’t mean that everything there is true necessarily, but simply that it is the context that allows us to discern what may come from God as further light and clarification is given from heaven. Is this what you are saying?

    Sorry I am a little dense on this. Again, I appreciate your interaction.

    Comment by Mike — November 18, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  8. Sorry, I meant “all that they say” and not “affirm” in the last part. Didn’t mean to change your quote.

    Comment by Mike — November 18, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  9. Well said Blake.

    Comment by Clark — November 18, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  10. Nicely done.

    There are similar thoughts available at lds.org as well here.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 19, 2007 @ 6:54 am

  11. Yup Mike, I’m in full agreement with what you say. When I say that we accept the scriptures in all that they say, I’m not saying they are consistent (they are not) or that everything they say is true (which follows in any event doesn’t it?). However, if it is in the scriptures it has an authoritative pull on us to make sense of it in our assessing the interpretive matrix of our views. If the Bible says that a donkey spoke to his master, I am called upon to make sense of it in some way even if I believe it is a children’s story used for didactic purposes. I am called upon to explain how a book inspired and preserved by God would be allowed to contain such things. I don’t treat it like Grimm’s fairly tales. I am called to account by it and for it in a way that non-scriptural texts don’t call to me or make demands upon me.

    Comment by Blake — November 19, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  12. Thanks for taking the time to respond Blake. I appreciate the clarification.

    Comment by Mike — November 19, 2007 @ 7:45 am

  13. Blake,

    I would agree with much of what you say, although I think the ordering of what is authoritative is “left open to a range of interpretation.” I’d place official declarations and statements of the first presidency above (or beside) scripture in many instances. Further, I think such directives from our living prophets and leaders trump the scriptures in terms of authority on what we should do (of course, only if also given a second witness by the Holy Ghost). If the prophet tells us we need to serve in the military and that we should seek a spiritual confirmation of this, we cannot appeal to the scriptures to trump such instructions.

    We all individually have our “private” canon, of personal revelations from the Holy Ghost, and we all collectively have the “public” canon of the scriptures. I think modern prophets have the authority to clarify our understanding of both (and I think that’s doctrine), and we are under necessity to verify such claims by seeking personal revelation.

    So, for example, if our reading of the scriptures contradicts what the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the 12 said in the proclamation to the world on the family, we should seek to reconcile the two. If we cannot (or the Holy Ghost tells us the proclamation is wrong) we should not preach publicly that the scriptures contradict the prophets. At least, that is my impression. (By the way, just to be clear, I do accept completely the proclamation.)

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 19, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  14. P. Nielsen: The interface between scripture and present prophet is a fairly complex one. I suggest that what a modern prophet says, unless accepted by common consent of the Saints, is subject to scripture. Let me give two concrete examples. Brigham taught the Adam-God doctrine. We have many resources for dealing with this fact. One is to reconcile such teachings with the scriptures and revelations. I believe that there is a lot to learn from such an attempt. However, ultimately I believe such reconciliation is not successful. I believe that Pres. Young misunderstood Joseph Smith and the temple endowment (he took it literally where it wasn’t). If such a reconciliation could be done in good faith, it would be the appropriate way to deal with that issue from an LDS perspective. Since we teach that prophets are fallible and that they can act in a private or non-authoritative capacity even as prophets, we have a much better way to approach the issue it seems to me. We admit that Brigham was wrong or was onto something but not fully correct.

    I am bound or called on to make some sense of the fact that a prophet of God taught this doctrine. I am also called by the fact that the scriptures teach that Adam is the creation of the Father, that Adam worshiped God who created us all, that Joseph Smith didn’t believe the doctrine and Pres. Young’s successors haven’t taught the doctrine. In the total mix of the scriptural authority and subsequent rejection of that view, I conclude that it is either false or in material respects not totally true.

    Let’s assume that I am correct and that such a reconciliation of Brigham’s Adam-God doctrine with scripture is not fully successful. What then, were the Saints of Pres. Young’s day obligated to accept such teachings but we are not? Strange result it seems. It seems preferable at that point to simply recognize that even though Pres. Young taught his views in conference, he was mistaken. The scriptures trump on the issue of whether Adam is the God we worship. Answer: he ain’t. However, I believe that there is something very valuable in the teaching: We are all Adam and were in the council of the gods prior to this life. And BTW everything in the endowment regarding Adam must be seen as figurative.

    Let’s take the example of the Proclamation on the Family. It isn’t scripture. It hasn’t been presented to the Saints for acceptance. Am I bound by it? Why should I be? It is authoritative in the sense that it must be taken into consideration among the precedents that I consider. I give it some weight. But let’s say that I take its teaching that there a literal birth process by a mother in heaven to be a cultural over-belief (and I am open to that possibility).

    From an epistemological position, do I have reason to believe that the First Presidency received revelation on this subject and the Proclamation represents or embodies that revelation? Not as far as I can see. As far as I can see, it is their present interpretation of the subject matter given their best understanding. Thus, I give it some weight — the weight due to a document by church leaders giving their best thought to putting together the same mix that I am working with. But here is a caveat: why is their reasoning about such matters better than mine? I can’t see any reason to believe that their reasoning is more definitive or must be given weight over against scripture. If it were based on revelation, then it has an authority that mere reason doesn’t have. Does the Proclamation have such added revelatory authority? I don’t see a reason to believe that it does.

    I give some weight, but not overriding weight, to the First Presidency statements. I don’t give them greater weight than revelation and scripture. You of course are free to do otherwise, but I would ask why you do so other than political expediency?

    Comment by Blake — November 19, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  15. Blake,

    I agree that the interface between scripture and present prophetic statements is a fairly complex one. Some of that complexity is lightened when one accepts the idea that the Holy Spirit trumps all things. Then, when there seems to be a conflict between scripture and prophet, one has a source to turn to.

    But aside from the issue of which source is correct (or, if you will, *more* correct) there is the issue of authority. And even here there are many facets. The prophets, scripturally, have been given the authority to proclaim new scripture. Specifically, the Presiding high priest, as declared in the Doctrine and Covenants, has the authority to speak God’s word.

    The issue of Adam-God is an excellent example. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that your assessment is correct and that Brigham was simply mistaken. He was not teaching the truth. Suppose further that you pray for help in understanding the doctrine, and God tells you personally that Brigham was mistaken. It is my understanding that you are not authorized to share this revelation with others. Even if accepted as doctrine by common consent, you personally would not be obligated to believe it. In fact, the only doctrines we are *obligated* to believe (as I understand it) are those related to covenants we make during ordinances, and those taught us by the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless you would not have authority to contradict the President of the church (and neither would an apostle!).

    Now in reality such doctrines were never accepted as part of our collective canon. Time passed and one of the new Presidents (I think that at least Pres. Kimball spoke on the matter) of the church makes it clear that Adam was not our spirit father. (At least, as we use the words today.) Now that our Presiding high priest has made this clear, such teachings can be made public.

    At any rate, we seem to agree that prophetic pronouncements are authoritative enough that if the Spirit doesn’t immediately verify their truth to us, and we feel a need to verify it, that we are under obligation to seek personal verification.

    —————-

    I’ll get back to you on 1st presidency statements shortly. There we seem to have more to discuss. But my family is calling now.

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 19, 2007 @ 9:53 am

  16. Blake,

    Regarding messages from the 1st Presidency, why do you think they are any less authoritative than, say, the words of the prophets in General Conference? If anything, I would think them more authoritative. They are not spoken in the “heat of the moment” so to speak. They are issued only after serious contemplation and with the stamp from the *entire* highest quorum in the church, to the entire church, as a proclamation. Wouldn’t someone be under as much obligation to verify their truth as, say, conference talks? Or the scriptures?

    Are you bound by them? I would say that in many ways you are. You couldn’t, for example, preach in your sacrament meeting that the Proclamation to the Family is incorrect, and that the first presidency was wrong because of Daniel 3:17 (or whatever scripture you could pull out). That would be completely out of line. I would even go so far as to say that if the proclamation asked us (as members of the church of Jesus Christ) to do something that seemed to go against scripture, such instruction would “trump” (so to speak) said scripture (but not the Holy Ghost, of course). And, again, I believe it would be wrong to preach publicly that the scriptures contradict the proclamation of our leaders.

    Interpretations of the proclamation are open (e.g. in regards to spirit birth), but its authority in regards to public preaching (about what it clearly states) doesn’t seem to be questionable. So, in my mind, it is certainly a doctrine of this church, with the strongest stamp possible, that gender is a premortal characteristic. Further, I would state that this doctrine has more authority than any interpretation of the scriptures that would seem to counter it. We may not have formally raised our hands to add it to the scriptures, but we have collectively raised our hands in sustaining the First Presidency as prophets, seers, and revelators. And this stamp, at least in my mind, is stronger than the stamp of canonization (because canon has to be interpreted by someone).

    I hope this is clear. And, again, just to be even more clear: I agree with most of what you say and definitely agree that this can be a fairly complex interplay.

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 19, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  17. Interesting.

    So how much power and authority does a living LDS Prophet of today or in a future generation possess in declaring a “one meaning” prophecy that could possibly cut right through “interpretive tradition” (or LDS Mishna?)?

    Thanks for the post, Blake. I will put this link on my blog.

    Comment by Todd Wood — November 19, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

  18. Nicely articulated Blake. Like Jacob, I’m glad to have this succinct post to link to in the future.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 19, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  19. Blake: Nicely said. As you know, I basically agree with you on this. However, I think that you somewhat underplay the role that “doctrine” serves in Mormonism. I agree with you that our doctrine is not creedal but rather emerges from an interpretive tradition. On the other hand, I do think that the notion of doctrine acts as an authority in many places within Mormon discourse. To pick two examples at random: I think that church doctrine acts as a discipline in scriptural interpretation, foreclosing certain interpretations as mistaken or at the very least without authority. Second, I think that church doctrine acts as a disciplining force on the notion of personal revelation. Hence, if someone recieves a revelation in conflict with the authority of church doctrine (say one that requires polygamy or the drinking of beer or the public excoriation of church leaders) I take it that most Mormons would respond with something like, “But that conflicts with church doctrine!” The implication being that church doctrine somehow excludes the authority (even the personal authority) of such revelations. I think that many Mormon thinkers in a laudable desire to affirm Mormonisms anti-creedalism undersell the importance of authoritative doctrine (albeit of a non-creedal variety)

    Comment by Nate Oman — November 20, 2007 @ 7:50 am

  20. Nate: The purpose of my post wasn’t to deny or underplay doctrine, but to look at how we arrive at what constitutes doctrine. However, I do argue and maintain that doctrine has little importance with respect to the extent that correctly understanding a doctrine is somehow supposed to be salvific. Little children are exalted without understanding anything (as mortals) in our doctrine — tho even whether little children are exalted has been called into question on this blog (tho not persuasively I think).

    Further, what you point to isn’t doctrine but orthopraxis or the correct type of action. There are definitely “doctrines” about appropriate conduct. However, it isn’t really doctrine but just prudential counsel (in Kantian terms) that has the authority of revelation behind it. No one reasoned their way to rejection of polygamy — it is just given. No one did a medical, or for that matter scriptural or philosophical, study before the Word of Wisdom was received. Doctrine, on the other hand, goes to what we believe. Do I believe that God is timeless? One could be a Mormon and believe that God is timeless. Many do. In my view they are just overlooking the sheer incoherence of what they are asserting — but it isn’t a problem if someone is just wrong on that matter.

    Moreover, it isn’t so much doctrine that the Book of Mormon is true as it is a matter of revelatory experience. Let me make this vivid. I must believe that the Book of Mormon is from God in some significant respect to really be a Mormon. However, I don’t have to understand Amulek’s take on the atonement to be a Mormon. Amulek’s view of atonement is a doctrinal matter. The fact of the Book of Mormon is a matter of revelatory deliverance that doesn’t so much call for me to grasp and articulate as to acknowledge and learn.

    So I don’t know that we really disagree even on what you believe is the greater weight of “doctrine.” I don’t believe it is really doctrine so much as prudential counsel about conduct. However, Church doctrine definitely does lay out whose revelations count in the community. E.g., Mine count if I’m calling someone to a position as bishop; they don’t if I’m having revelations about which atonement theory is correct. The prophet’s revelations count — and they become binding on the community when accepted by common consent of the Saints. If they aren’t accepted by common consent, they aren’t binding per se, but have the epistemological authority of revelation.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 8:26 am

  21. Todd: A living prophet has the authority of the office and calling as God’s prophet. One does not lightly reject a prophet’s words. The prophet’s words are still just those of a man like you or me. However, once the prophet says: “I received the following by revelation,” then his words take on an entirely new kind of authority. It is no longer just his best wisdom and reasoning as he walks in the spirit. I have reason to believe that the prophet is open to the spirit and revelation in ways that others are not. If God wants to get thru to His Church, He does it through his prophet. However I don’t have reason to believe that the prophet is brighter or more able than anyone else. Nevertheless, when God speaks and the prophets delivers the revelation, I have very good reason to believe that God knows so much more than I do that I refrain from submitting God to the same tests of rationality and scrutiny. God doesn’t have to make sense in what He says because there is a lot more to come that I don’t have right now.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 8:27 am

  22. Blake,

    If the prophet never says, “I received the following by revelation . . . ” is he, by scriptural standards, a prophet?

    Does it seem to you that revelation from God has greatly diminished within the Church over time?

    Best,

    Joe

    Comment by Joe — November 20, 2007 @ 9:57 am

  23. The closest thing we have to a creed is our Articles of Faith (which as part of the scriptures Blake and everyone else would consider binding in the sense that they are accepted in all they say).

    But Article 11 specifically leaves it up to us as individuals to decide what we believe beyond the specific articles. We worship “according to the dictates of our own conscience.”

    Article 9 says we believe all that God reveals, but it doesn’t limit it to what he reveals to LDS prophets; this leaves room for our own revelation as well as revelations given to other people from which we can learn. So while ongoing LDS revelation is an important element, we can be open to learning from non-LDS traditions as well–so long as they are consistent with the scriptures, including the Articles of Faith.

    Comment by Jonathan N — November 20, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  24. Joe: When the prophet declares that a matter has been received by revelation that adds epistemological authority to his utterances. However, it doesn’t follow that the prophet’s statements are without authority unless such a declaration is made. The prophet is called as one open to the Spirit and guided thereby. There are moments and flashes of inspiration and insight that are as much revelation as visions and voices from heaven. Thus, the apostles and First Presidency and leaders of the Church act as a body insuring that their collective wisdom and inspiration will be pooled and represented in the Church’s pronouncements and action. Thus, for example, the Proclamation on the Family is accorded great weight — but not as great as an express revelation or scripture.

    Further, I agree that foundational revelations have definitely diminished … and for a reason. The foundations of the new dispensation of the Fullness of Times have been laid. In such circumstances, it serves for the prophet to allow the Saints who have been called to serve to receive their own revelations and inspiration for their stewardship. It seems to me that there is more, much more, revelation in the Church than in Joseph Smith’s day. Many of the revelations received by Joseph were due to questions asked by members of the fledgling Church. They could have received the revelation themselves but appear not to have trusted their own access to the heavens. I believe that it serves to grant space to the members to not have every question answered by a prophet but to urge the members and others to now seek their revelations and light and knowledge according to the light and knowledge that has already been vouchsafed to them. So the revelation is now more democratically emphasized and received. We are best served when everyone is guided by revelation as a kingdom of prophets.

    Jonathan: I agree whole-heartedly.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  25. Thus, for example, the Proclamation on the Family is accorded great weight — but not as great as an express revelation or scripture.

    And once again I strongly disagree. First, I think most Mormons would agree, that it would be wrong to appeal to scripture to trump the plain meaning of the declaration on the family. Second, if you like I can find many quotations from prophets declaring that modern prophetic utterances override the old. So, when the prophets in the proclamation call upon us to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” we cannot appeal to the scriptures, or previous express revelations, to avoid this responsibility. Third, I (and again, I think most Mormons) would disagree that the Proclamation does not represent the words of prophets acting in their prophetic roles as revelators. The proclamation *is* a proclamation of revelation, not a proclamation of well-thought-out opinion.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  26. Pace: First, I think most Mormons would agree, that it would be wrong to appeal to scripture to trump the plain meaning of the declaration on the family

    What do you mean by “wrong” here? Do you mean it would be a sin and would jeopardize one’s salvation or simply that it would be bad form? I agree that it would be bad form in terms of the community of saints, but I don’t think it would be a sin that would jeopardize one’s relationship with God.

    The proclamation *is* a proclamation of revelation, not a proclamation of well-thought-out opinion.

    What do you base this assertion on?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 20, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

  27. Geoff,

    By “wrong”, I’m speaking in the context Blake provided for interpreting doctrine, and not in a salvific sense. For example, as I understand it, it would be wrong (on an authoritative level) to stand up in Sunday school and state that the prophets are incorrect in their statement that premortal spirits have gender. It would be absolutely correct, as I understand it, for the presiding authority to stand up and correct the person (in LOVE!). On the other hand, the original person did not sin unless other factors are in play (such as God telling them not to say anything, that they understood they didn’t have the authority to “correct” the prophets, etc…).

    What do you base this assertion on?

    The proclamation was first introduced to the saints in General Conference. It is a solemn proclamation of ALL of the regularly sustained prophets, seers, and revelators, to the entire world, from the Church.

    Do you disagree with me that most Mormons interpret it as a revelation and/or authoritative statement of how we understand current doctrine/revelation? Would it surprise you if one of the general authorities has said the same thing? etc…

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

  28. Geoff,

    I just thought of perhaps an easier way to express myself.

    The scriptures have to be interpreted by someone. We each individually do this each time we read them. If you’ve ever tried to discuss Romans with a Calvinist, you know what I’m talking about.

    The prophets instruct us on how they interpret the scriptures, via General Conference talks, First Presidency messages, new revelations, and so forth. For example, the reason we read “predestined” and “foreordained” the way we do, is because of these extra instructions. So, in terms of understanding doctrine, I don’t understand how the scriptures themselves could be more authoritative than the interpretation given to the scriptures from the prophets. (The highest interpretor/revelator is of course the Holy Ghost. The scriptures, in my opinion, are just a nice tool to connect with the Spirit.)

    For example, suppose (for sake of argument) we canonize a revelation stating that eating over-ripened fruit is a sin. As I understand the doctrine of the church, if a few decades later, the president of the church said publicly we didn’t have to live that law, then that would override the previous revelation. It wouldn’t matter whether the new prophet announced this new policy in a letter to all church units, as a revelation sustained in general conference, as a first presidency message, as a declaration, or just as a talk in general conference. As long as the prophet made it clear He was speaking in his role as Presiding High Priest, the authority is clear. (And if we had problems, we could always pray and receive confirmation.)

    I hope this clarifies.

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  29. Pace,

    See here
    for details in the 1995 proclamation. (It was not introduced in general conference but rather in a general RS meeting, BTW).

    Do you disagree with me that most Mormons interpret it as a revelation

    I don’t know what most Mormons assume. But the document itself does not claim to be a revelation from God. As Blake has pointed out though, it need not be a revelation to carry authoritative and official weight in the church.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 20, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  30. Pace: if a few decades later, the president of the church said publicly we didn’t have to live that law, then that would override the previous revelation

    I think you are talking about practices here rather than doctrines. (See Blake’s comment to Nate in #20). Conflating the two creates all sorts of problems. Acceptable practices in the present are in a completely different category than metaphysical realities of the universe.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 20, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

  31. I have never thought of the Proclamation as a revelation. I certainly would question the assertion that “most Mormons” do. There is usually a very distinct difference in the composition of revelations vs. proclamations. Compare D&C 138 to the Proclamation or to the First Presidency’s statement “The Origin of Man” or to the 1916 statement “The Father and the Son.” I think the differences are obvious.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 20, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  32. Pace: The niceties that you point to about standing up in any meeting apply because of social etiquette and not because of any authority or correctness or incorrectness. What you suggest is a matter of political propriety and not weighing what to believe. They are different issues.

    Let me give an example. BY certainly had it out with Orson Pratt on the Adam God issue. Orson believed that BY’s doctrine was contrary to scripture and contrary to Joseph revelations. BY had greater authority. He used it. But BY was wrong. It isn’t the case that BY was right while he was prophet and then wrong when he died. He was always just a bit off with that doctrine.

    I don’t feel bound in the least to adopt the view of the Proclamation on the Family regarding eternal gender as a means of testing the scripture. As far as I can see it isn’t inconsistent with scripture — but I don’t see the fact that the Proclamation proclaims it as a definitive reason to adopt it either. What is the basis of the assertion? How does it fit in the interpretive context of the revelations, scriptures and prior prophetic pronouncements. Even now I leave it as an open issue. So I am doing precisely what I suggest Mormons really do — we place such matters into the totality of the interpretive context. Since it isn’t conflicting with anything more basic, we have some reason to adopt that view.

    However, your approach assumes a kind of infallibility for present prophets who suddenly become fallible after they die. While alive, they trump scripture even when they’re just thinking out loud. But that just isn’t a sound basis for assessing doctrinal commitments. In that context, I don’t care if other Mormons regard the Proclamation as revelation, I cannot see any reason to believe that it is based on anything more than the best wisdom and reasoning the leaders of the Church bring to the issue.

    The issues you raise are once again about orthopraxy. If the prophet receives a revelation to practice polygamy and then later says (without revelation) that God no longer expects us live polygamy, then it casts doubt on the mere opinion of the prophet. What is the basis of the prophet’s statement? If the prophet says that “God has told me that he no longer requires such a practice of the saints,” fine. But even a prophet can’t simply revoke God’s commandments without God saying so.

    Now let’s take a real doctrinal issue and not an issue of orthopraxis. Say that the prophets have received revelations that there are three degrees of glory. Then a later prophet says — “well, really there aren’t three, there’s just a heaven and hell and if you don’t make the fine-line cutoff, you’re going to hell. God just said that stuff about three degrees of glory to get us excited.” Such a circumstance casts into doubt the prophet’s grasp of the revealed truth.

    Now a prophet could by revelation say that “God has revealed to me that when God said there was “eternal punishment” he really meant that it was “God’s punishment” because God is eternal,” now I have some reason to accept that assertion — i.e., God clarified it thru revelation just the same way he revealed the original statement.

    Similarly, if a prophet now proclaimed that we should worship the Father of God, the Father of the Father of Christ, I would point to scripture and suggest that what is being asserted is contrary to scripture. I would place the issue in the interpretive context of the assertion to give it appropriate authority. I would weight the assertion in the total context of what has been revealed. But I would not trade political expediency for revealed truth (that is apostasy). However, if the prophet said (clearly) that “it has been revealed to me that there is a Father of God the Father, and we should worship him instead,,” then I would have reason to give it greater weight but still be called to make some sense of what is being asserted in light of the revelations and scriptural statements. In other words, I would be called to once again engage the interpretive tradition to make sense of the new information.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  33. Geoff,

    I’ve always thought of the General RS meeting as part of GC since they put them all together in the Ensign. Sorry for not being clearer.

    Also, you cut off part of my sentence, which greatly changed its meaning. I realized that my first post you responded to could be misunderstood (via my use of the word “revelation”, since I take a very open view on what revelation is) and so I added “…and/or authoritative statement of how we understand current doctrine/revelation”. Some church members might not think that God dictated the Proclamation (and they might be right), but very few (I think) would claim it doesn’t authoritively represent the Church’s view of doctrine (regardless of how ANYONE currently interprets any canonized scripture) and *reveal* doctrines not previously taught in such an authoritative setting (such as premortal gender).

    ——————-

    Jacob, I too get an entirely different ‘feeling’ from those First Presidency statements than I do from revelations like D&C 138. But that is because these statements are just that: statements of the current understanding. They don’t claim to be proclamations of what God says to the world via His prophets. They are statements of understanding. For example, “The Origin of Man” states things like “It is believed that a statement of the position held by the Church upon this subject will be timely and productive of good.”

    So, in some sense I can understand why people would place the scriptures on a higher pedestal than such statements. The scriptures less likely to change as we receive new light and knowledge. On the other hand, from an interpretational view, I think that the First Presidency statements represent the Church’s view on doctrine more authoritatively than private interpretation of scripture.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  34. The niceties that you point to about standing up in any meeting apply because of social etiquette and not because of any authority or correctness or incorrectness.

    No, no, no. It has to do with “public preaching” of our doctrine. It doesn’t matter if it occurs in Sunday school, or in an investigators home, or in our own home. The Lord’s anointed is the one authorized to give the public interpretation of scripture. When we take it upon ourselves to contradict this public interpretation, we have stepped beyond our bounds.

    Let me give an example. BY certainly had it out with Orson Pratt on the Adam God issue. Orson believed that BY’s doctrine was contrary to scripture and contrary to Joseph revelations. BY had greater authority. He used it. But BY was wrong. It isn’t the case that BY was right while he was prophet and then wrong when he died. He was always just a bit off with that doctrine.

    Using this example, it was incorrect for Orson Pratt to publicly defy Brigham Young. He was taken to task on it many times, and taught that only the Presiding High Priest (as an individual) has the authority to make public pronouncements on doctrine.

    If the public pronouncements are wrong, then it falls to the Quorum of the 12 apostles (as a body) to make corrections as the Lord sees fit.

    There are many instances in the history of the church were this doctrine is taught over and over. How certain members think to take it upon themselves to correct the prophet. Such actions are not appropriate, and if continued can end in excommunication. Brigham Young loved Elder Orson Pratt, and worked with him, trying to help him understand this. As did Joseph Smith with others who tried to contradict him by citing scripture.

    I don’t feel bound in the least to adopt the view of the Proclamation on the Family regarding eternal gender as a means of testing the scripture. As far as I can see it isn’t inconsistent with scripture — but I don’t see the fact that the Proclamation proclaims it as a definitive reason to adopt it either. What is the basis of the assertion?

    I never made such an assertion. If the Holy Ghost doesn’t prompt you, or you are not making sacred covenants via ordinances, I don’t see any reason you should feel bound to *personally* accept anything anyone every says in any context.

    How does it fit in the interpretive context of the revelations, scriptures and prior prophetic pronouncements. Even now I leave it as an open issue. So I am doing precisely what I suggest Mormons really do — we place such matters into the totality of the interpretive context. Since it isn’t conflicting with anything more basic, we have some reason to adopt that view.

    And here is where I (seem to) disagree with you. It is irrelevant whether their statement conflicts with previous pronouncements. The new announcement was uttered/written in the context of their positions of authority, as prophets of the living God, given them of Christ. As such, it authoritatively represents the current doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    However, your approach assumes a kind of infallibility for present prophets who suddenly become fallible after they die.

    Not infallibility. Authority. And only authority in terms of the authority they have been given by God in *representing* the position of the church. They have the authority to represent the church, period. That is the position God calls them to. And if they don’t do a good job, God will remove them from their place. It has nothing to do with when they live or die, or whether their statements are correct or incorrect. It has everything to do with the God-given authority to tell people what our doctrine is.

    While alive, they trump scripture even when they’re just thinking out loud.

    No, no, no. Being alive has nothing to do with it. While speaking/writing as prophets of the living God (whether alive or dead), and as duly sustained representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their words (when spoken by the Presiding High Priest, or as an entire quorum) trump all previous interpretations of scripture.

    And I’m not just making this up. This is what the scriptures and prophets have taught us.

    In that context, I don’t care if other Mormons regard the Proclamation as revelation…

    And neither do I. Good thing I wasn’t speaking in that context.

    But even a prophet can’t simply revoke God’s commandments without God saying so.

    I agree. That’s why, in my example, the prophet said so, as a prophet (and not as opinion). I apologize if this wasn’t clear.

    NOTE: When I use the word prophet, I mean prophet. I don’t mean the person called to the position. I mean the person ACTING in the authority of said position. A prophet is a prophet only when acting as such.

    Say that the prophets have received revelations that there are three degrees of glory. Then a later prophet says — “well, really there aren’t three, there’s just a heaven and hell and if you don’t make the fine-line cutoff, you’re going to hell. God just said that stuff about three degrees of glory to get us excited.” Such a circumstance casts into doubt the prophet’s grasp of the revealed truth.

    Certainly! And we would hope that the Quorum of the 12 would help clarify the situation. And we’d each seek personal help from the Holy Ghost to understand the prophets new words.

    But, if the prophet spoke them in his position as a prophet and presiding High Priest, then the quorum of the 12 would have to correct him (or he’d have to correct himself), otherwise his words WOULD represent the official doctrine of the church (whether or not they are true) by virtue of his position. [At least, that is how I understand the priesthood authority, and what the scriptures and prophets have said on the matter.]

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

  35. And just to make it clear, I don’t believe that “thinking out loud” is equivalent to “acting under the prophetic mantle.” Clearly things like 1st Presidency statements and Proclamations made to the worlds are not just “thinking out loud” and ARE made under the mantle of their calling.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 2:05 pm

  36. Pace said: So, in some sense I can understand why people would place the scriptures on a higher pedestal than such statements. The scriptures less likely to change as we receive new light and knowledge. On the other hand, from an interpretational view, I think that the First Presidency statements represent the Church’s view on doctrine more authoritatively than private interpretation of scripture.

    Given this, aren’t we in agreement?

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  37. [Note: After writing the first part of this post, I think I finally came to understand our different methods. I'll leave the top part to provide context, but it is the bottom part that really represents what I'm thinking now.]

    In some senses, yes, I think we are in agreement. But I think we “weigh” things slightly differently when trying to come to a knowledge of the truth. Let me give a very concrete example, which I think will help.

    As far as I can find, the old priesthood ban was started with Brigham Young. He claimed it as part of a revelation. Now, this wasn’t ever presented for ratification to the church, and as such it just became the de facto policy to deny the priesthood to certain people. I think we both agree that, when the ban was still active, it would be stepping beyond one’s bounds to contradict the Lord’s servants by claiming the ban was not of God (whether or not it was of God). On the other hand, it was entirely within bounds to pray that it end (whether or not it was of God). Where we seem to disagree (and after wading through this big discussion, it seems a minor point–but I guess all points are minor when not affecting ones salvation) is what level of attention we should give to Brigham’s words, and how we should use them to interpret scripture.

    For me, these words are very authoritative, even though they were not spoken in General Conference. And, as such, I give them serious contemplation. In terms of an “interpretive tradition”, I think our tradition would place such things high on the scale of what we (collectively) used to preach to the world.

    Similarly, I view the 1st presidency statements (even if just statements of current belief) as coming from the highest priesthood quorum, and representative of the Church’s position. As such, I weigh them very highly.

    It seems to me that you are a bit more conservative in what you view as inspired writings/sermons. If a prophet seems to contradict your understanding of scripture, I read you as not caring too much unless the prophet is clearly claiming revelation in some manner. I’m much the same way actually, EXCEPT when the prophet speaking is the Presiding High Priest. In that case, there is more authority in revealing new doctrine, and so I feel obligated (via my sustaining) to carefully ponder his words. And when the stamp of the 1st presidency is on a statement, I feel even more obligated. Such statements are not commonplace, and (in my opinion) represent the will of the Lord more fully than statements given by just one member of the quorum.

    If I had to choose which statements to ponder the most, among all of those spoken by the prophets, I would probably first choose the scriptures. But I wouldn’t say this makes them more “authoritative” in interpreting church doctrine. Next in line, I’d choose those statements made by the current prophets over and above Joseph Smith’s sermons, especially the recent documents signed by all of the prophets, seers, and revelators.

    —————–

    Thinking about it some more, maybe this is the difference:

    You seem to be coming from a “context-oriented” interpretive paradigm. I come from an “authority-oriented” interpretive paradigm. You “weigh” things by their contextual significance. As such, the scriptures trump everything in establishing context, and then come Joseph Smith’s early revelations and sermons, etc… On the other hand, I “weigh” things by their authoritativeness with regards to our public doctrine as a Church. It doesn’t matter (as much) to me that Joseph F. Smith might have misheard Joseph Smith when teaching about the salvation of little children–the main thing that matters to me is whether Joseph F. Smith was the president of the church, and claimed in his authority that such teachings are true.

    Does this seem a fair assessment? From a context-oriented paradigm, Brigham’s comments are thought of in terms of the culture of the day, whether Brigham was understanding Joseph correctly, and so forth. From an authoritative-oriented paradigm, Brigham’s comments are thought of in terms of whether he had authority to pronounce such doctrines, whether other prophets later clarified his remarks, etc…

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

  38. Blake,

    curiously i am writting to you from Portugal. I have to say that I have got both your books. I must admit that they have unlightend my mind in many aspects. It its very hard sometimes to get the kind of openess over here. My father being a stake president and a faithfull teacher in the institute together with the fact that I served a mission gave me much of the light to understand many of the things we have.
    When I say openess i do not refer to the new so called left or right ideas within our church.I dont agree with those positions. people tend to use similar terminologies to define spiritual things i think its all wrong. I see scriptures as a piece of wood. some people will stay with the piece of wood (doctrine in it self) and do nothing with it. they will smell it, take it whatever they go, but the piece of wood will stay the same. I believe we are to give life to the piece of wood as to get the idea of where did it come from. We have to stop seeing things as there were dead. We tend to limit our selves many times and we restrict interpretation that goes behond the solidity of things. Like people would say hell or heaven as if they were places with locked doors. I dont think those places exist in that form.
    Another think I deslike in many people is to put the word restoration as a past thing. (Please give your openion on this). Restoration is an ongoing process, we are always being restored, we are always being guided to get into the light in an on going process, as light grows or goes short so does darkeness. in my interpretation some of our people may live in the darkness, its also true that some people see well in the darkess or they relly more on their hands to hold them to the correct path…. Some other people may not be so cautios and fall…
    For instance people see God as the ultimate position as if he goes and sits in a chair all eternity, that is so no true in my eyes, limiting the position by taking space and time from it is not acceptable in my mind. Now I do think that joseph smith gave a great step in order to restore truth others followed him in maintaning the path, but we have to go on and restore even more, that is what missionaries do. I do believe lds philosophy to be the most evoluted of all. our interpretations of things goes on to clean the separation Plato created from Church and reason. Its funny how deep greeks influenced the world to into the state is is now.
    your free agency explanation gave me light in the interpretation of evolution versus Design, even though you did not give much objectivity i think I got your openion. free agency is a beautifull thing, it just answers it all, if somebody asks me the question again of wether do I believe in evolution or design I answer free agency. It is with us all by choosing the right we grow, together. One of the most accurate truths of all in my mind is our interpretation of the family salvation as a whole. others prefer to refere to salvation as an individual path…
    My friends that are non mormons know what I think and they love my explanations, they all come from the fact that we are trully iluminated in terms of our interpretation of God. The way you put it is absolutly beautifull in your book. I so wish we could have your books in Portuguese, my father would love to read you.
    Please reply

    Comment by sergio — November 20, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  39. Hi sergio. Nice to see someone from outside the US speaking up. We tend to get dominated by Americans on these forums.

    Comment by Seth R. — November 20, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

  40. Sergio: I am impressed that you can actually read my books. They are challenging even for native English speakers so I am simply amazed that you like my books at all. Thanks for the kind words. I agree with you. I think that LDS seldom appreciate the strength of our own tradition and the amazing flood of light it throws on the perpetual philosophical problems that have plagued the tradition. I also love your analogy of doctrine as a piece of wood that we can either appreciate at it is or work with it to mold it into something that serves us — or both. We can certainly benefit from the perspective of non-US Saints!

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

  41. Thanks,

    one of the things I like in your opinions is that you tend to give an historical perspective rather than having a straight foward openion. for instance some of the people that came from there USA, on missions came with a straight openion that Catholicism was sick and there is nothing good in it, I think that hinckley is actually making much effort to open the bounderies from some people´s minds in this case. With time and looking at this old churches with centuries of existence( as I can see them in every corner over here, I try to get a feeling of some apreciation. Would´t have been for this buildings and the history behind it as darken as it can be, we would not be a christian nation, so wouldn´t you and half of this world. if instead we could dream as some people might have dreamt that behind any building of worship remains the attatchment to a higher prespective. The spirit was what left this buildings. The same with the wood analogy, I can enter this churches and try to smell them and stop there….I try now to go a bit behond. The difference is that the skies were opened and we can see through it if we want, or we might choose not too and look down and centuries would pass and the buildings over there would also rotten and become dry, and dark…..
    The way I see apostasy was also a long time process, the same as restoration….we can see through some times if we decide to.

    Comment by sergio — November 21, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  42. Sergio,

    D&C 86:9-11 (recorded in 1832) refers to a restoration that had yet to begin, but was possibly completed as of D&C 132:40 (~1843).

    D&C 103:13 refers to a restoration that has never occurred. Of course some people, like Elder McConkie think that D&C 103 is moot.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 21, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  43. could ilumination be used instead of restoration? in this case?…

    Comment by sergio — November 26, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  44. It is very interesting for a Mormon to try to determine what is doctrine.

    I once had a conversation with a stake president where I commented how I appreciated the doctrine contained in Pres. Lorenzo Snow’s couplet. He responded that it was not doctrine. When I stated that I was sure I had heard it at General Conference, he stated that if so, it would have been said without authorization. Of course, I did a search at lds.org and found 6 or more instances of it being referred to by an apostle or member of the first presidency, including Elder Gordon B. Hinckley.

    So according to my stake president, something said at General Conference, even many General Conferences, is not necessarily doctrine. Do you believe that? Don’t the Qo12 and the FP know any better ;=)

    The issue of Adam-God is another interesting point. Brigham Young, a prophet of God, declared that he had learned it from heaven and from Joseph. A later president of the Church declares it wrong. What is a humble member of the Church to do? What if yet a later president declared it as truth? Surely the truth of the matter would not have changed from one president to another. What would have changed? The acceptance of the doctrine by the church. Somehow this seems like it could be a bit of a roller coaster ride.

    Another interesting doctrine is the identity of Jehovah. It seems in the early Church (pre-James E. Talmage) that most of the sermons pointed to the Father as the personage known as Jehovah. However, since then we preach that, no, it is the Son who is Jehovah. Now, the scriptures which show that the Father is Jehovah (i.e. D&C 109 and Psalms 110) have for the most part not changed. Some of the hymns have. But the scriptures have not. However, the doctrine has altered. How could that be? Particularly on something so fundamental as the knowledge of God?

    It seems to me that the end of the matter is that all of us must know by the witness of the Spirit the truth of these things. That way we do not have to worry about being dragged down by the incorrect opinion of one who is set as a light for us (JST Mark 9:40-48).

    In the end salvation is an individual affair and we must learn our lessons ourselves and depend on the Spirit and not on man.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — December 3, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  45. well, the intriguing thing to me and, this is becoming more clearer latelly.
    Joseph Smith had his intelligence pretty close to a higher state than any of his followers. for instance, if we acquire his teachings not by the spirit we will get lost. Normally this leads to a sort of conservative states which is very natural to happen when someone like JS get where he got.and his followers dont, leading to a consequent conservative state. Its like a mountain that people are climing, prophets will always be closer to the top than we are, but JS got to higher points than many of the other prophets did. Its a bit like the what I have said before some people get closer with their eyes because they see and other will get there with the stick. I can see this in Brigham Young for instance. He was an operations Man, the one that you need when you lead a bunch of people from one side of the states to the other, or when you get to a place where you need to build everything from scratch. as he goes he goes by the rod. SO you are right saying that the spirit does manisfest truth and truth may come from different people. And I think that gradually this conservatism, will get less unidirectional and people will grow up to be meek and therefore use the free will to actually get to highers states. Cultural America influenced very much the followers of Joseph smith after his death. Racism for instance invades in history of many countries that like to over take another land… This happen in my country also Portugal when we reached Brasil and Africa…We should not forget our history but we have to go on with this light that inspire us to understand the nonsence of it. the 1978 declaration acutally states my point of view, kimball actually states it clearly that they were iluminated (I love the word) to reach the state of mind that their conservativism blinded them for years…Now they were prophets, They really are, but they have to strive like all of us must, to reach the higher part of the mount, JS was pretty close to the Top where he so much more then any othe saw things that others try to get with a simple rod. Doing what is right is not going to church, pay tithing, etc… doing what is right is to reach a state of mind in which all this things are done in a way that we dont have to think all the time, as it is intuitive to the one that tries to reach to a highr part of the mountain.

    Comment by sergio — December 8, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

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