What is Our Doctrine?

Robert L. Millett has written an excellent article that is available online answering the question, “What is Our Doctrine?” Basically he says that unless it is found in the standard works or is currently being taught from the pulpit by our living prophets in General Conference and other correlated sources such as lesson manuals or Church magazines, it is not “official Church doctrine” and we do not have to defend it as such. That is not to say that the teachings of the past are not true, just that they are not the official doctrine of the Church.

Robert L. Millett is the Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding and former dean of Religious Education at BYU.


12 Responses to What is Our Doctrine?

  1. SRA says:

    One of the wards I visited in UT…Robert Millet was the gospel doctrine teacher. You can imagine what a class that was. Pretty amazing. I don’t agree with him 100%, of course, but I can definitely say he has a lot of good stuff to say…solidly logical and reinforceable. ~~

  2. will says:

    Nice observation, Jeffrey, and very appropriate right now with Education Week in progress. I think some of those lecturers could get together and create an LDS National Enquirer.

  3. I agree with you, Geoff. I am more interested in Truth than merely “official Church doctrine.” That would explain my deep love for Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, both of whom went far beyond “official Church doctrine” in their doctrinal teachings. But there are so many Latter-day Saints currently preaching false doctrine, I think it is important to identify “official Church doctrine” so that the false doctrine may be identified.

    For instance, I participate on an LDS forum on which there are so many focused exclusively on God’s love and forgiveness that they utterly neglect those teachings that clearly state the need for repentance from sin. To hear them tell the story of the gospel, one would think that somehow Jesus is going to “save everybody.” That not only seems contrary to the correct doctrine as taught in correlated Church materials, it seem satanic to me. The devil advocated a plan in which everyone would be saved, not Jehovah. But false doctrine can only be countered with true doctrine, not the unauthorized extrapolations of various prophets like Smith and McConkie who have gone beyond “official Church doctrine.”

  4. It is interesting how little we care about whether a doctrine is “official” or not whenever we are not under attack. It almost as if the term were invented for the purpose of apologetics.

  5. Geoff J says:

    I really enjoyed the JST class I took with Brother Millet at BYU, but I find myself annoyed with most everything he says lately. I get the feeling he wishes we were all protestants sometimes (that’s probably unfair, I know…)

    Anyway, so he defines “official church doctrine” very narrowly. Whoop dee doo. That is very useful when fending off enemies of the church, but as a faithful Mormon I am only interested in Truth — not just “official docrine”.

  6. I don’t remember exactly but I’m sure it was from Doctrines of Salvation in the section about either the creation or evolution. I imagine it was the evolution section.

  7. Jeffrey, on your blog post to Mormons and Evolution of May 24, 2005 you quoted Joseph Fielding Smith saying:

    “The Lord has given us the information regarding his creations, and how he has made many earths, for there never was a beginning, never was a time when man did not exist somewhere in the universe, and when the time came for this earth to be peopled, the Lord, our God, transplanted upon it from some other earth, the life which is found here.”

    Can you give me a reference for this? I would love to read the accompanying text.

  8. J. Stapley says:


    Oh, I don’t disagree with the original statement. It just seemed like it came out of left field comming from John. I wanted to clarify my perceptions.

  9. I agree with Clark. I think that there are numerous levels of subsets within one another:

    What Mormons have said…
    What Mormons now teach…
    What Mormons officially teach now…
    Which of all those official doctrines are actually true.

  10. Clark Goble says:

    Justin, isn’t it simply the case that the apologists are right here? The problem is that many people want to make official doctrine more than what it is, I think.

  11. That is not the “stance of Mormon apologetics.” Mormon apologists do not deny that Bruce R. McConkie taught many things that are “official Church doctrine.” What they deny is that all of what Bruce R. McConkie taught is “official Church doctrine.” I believe that would also be Brother Millett’s understanding judging from his article.

    Obviously, when Bruce R. McConkie taught that the Book of Mormon was the Word of God, and when he taught that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, he was teaching “official Church doctrine.” However, he also taught many things that went far beyond that. And Latter-day Saints are not required to believe or defend those teachings as official doctrine of the Church.

    I personally believe that in nearly all cases McConkie’s teachings are true even though many of them are not official. Anyway, I really like Millett’s definition and discussion of what is and is not Church doctrine. I agree with it.

  12. J. Stapley says:

    Whoa, John. This is the stance of Mormon Appologetics. It basically states that everything McConkie ever said is not official church doctrine. Are you advocating this position?

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