The Idolatry of Worshipping Dead Prophets

The under title of The Iron Rod blog has been updated. It now reads, “Mormon doctrine in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie and Gordon B. Hinckley.” I have made the change because of some criticism that I have received from people who did not understand the old under title which was “Mormon doctrine in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.” There was even one mystery man named Area Authority who commented on one of my blog posts calling me to repentance for teaching doctrine “in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.” He correctly pointed out to me that an undue emphasis on the doctrinal teachings of dead prophets is contrary to the Restored gospel, and that I should only teach as doctrine what is currently being taught by the living prophets, especially the President of the Church. I agree completely with one proviso which needs to be understood by anyone reading The Iron Rod.

That proviso is this: Prophets don’t make up the doctrine as they go along, but they learn it from the same unchangeable God as it is revealed to them by the Holy Ghost in a process that we Mormons call “continuing revelation.” This process is one of our thirteen Articles of Faith, and if we do not believe this fundamental principle, then we are not really believing Latter-day Saints.

Further, since God is an unchangeable God, and truth does not change, true doctrine does not change either. When a doctrine changes, either a mistake was made and false doctrine was taught as a result of that mistake, or the new doctrine is a mistake and is false. What was true once is true forever.

Keeping this in mind, the President of the Church is the only mortal upon the earth with the keys, authority and stewardship to proclaim new doctrine, change old doctrine, or give scriptural interpretation that is authoritative for the whole Church. This principle is clearly revealed by God in the Doctrine and Covenants. Because of this, doctrine cannot be changed by gossip, rumor, scholarly studies, propaganda, grassroots activism on the Internet, the personal opinions of doctrinal commentators such as myself, others with a different opinion, popular authors, influential books, organizations such as FAIR and FARMS, or secret combinations in our midst made up of communists, Signaturi, so-called Fundamentalists, or any other group or faction with a hidden agenda to confuse the saints about the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Only Satan has anything to gain from confusing the saints about the true doctrines of the Restoration that have been revealed to us by Joseph Smith, the Twelve, and all of his successors down to and including Gordon B. Hinckley and the Twelve who are serving in the Quorum of the Twelve today. Lucifer wants to do what he did in ancient times. He wants to lead off the saints into believing a variety of conflicting doctrines so that he can bring about today a repetition of The Great Apostasy that he had so much success with in the early Christian Church.

Therefore, I renounce every doctrine or scriptural interpretation that was ever taught by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie that can be clearly shown to be false because it has been changed or overturned by Gordon B. Hinckley or his predecessors as President of the Church since the death of Joseph Fielding Smith. But I retain and accept as true doctrine all that these men taught that has not been overturned by Gordon B. Hinckley or his predecessors in the First Presidency. Gospel doctrine is not something that we make up as we go along. We cannot reject true doctrine just because we don’t like it. Nor can we proclaim to be true doctrine some personal opinion or scriptural interpretation just because it appeals to us.

But more than that, we are all bound by the truth whether it is “official Church doctrine” or not. There are many things that are true that are not “official Church doctrine.” The Family: A Proclamation to the World is not official Church doctrine by a strict definition, because it is not in our standard works, and it has not been specifically sustained as scripture by the membership of the Church assembled in General Conference. Neither is much of our temple ritual. Neither were any of the Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants before they were included in our standard works and sustained by the Church membership. But they were just as true before they were added to the standard works and before they were sustained by the Church membership as they were afterwards. The Law of Gravity is also not in our standard works or sustained by the membership of the Church as “official Church doctrine,” but it is just as true and just as binding upon everyone as the truth always is. We don’t have to believe it. We don’t have to agree with it. But we are bound by it nevertheless. The truth, whatever it is, is binding upon everyone whether he likes it or not. And life’s greatest challenge is to find out what the truth is and get our lives in harmony with it. Official Church doctrine is just a beginning, a foundation. The Lord expects all of us to believe it and order our lives by it, but he expects us to go on from there by learning true doctrine until we know as much about the Plan of Salvation as he does. And that will occur long after this life is over for all of us if it happens at all. Because men truly are free, some will choose to follow other paths and to accept as true that which is false.

So my bottom line is this: This blog is my commentary on Mormon doctrine in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie as modified and filtered by the doctrine taught by Gordon B. Hinckley and the prophets living today. Where President Hinckley disagrees with Smith and McConkie, I will not accept as authoritative the earlier teachings. But unless it can be clearly documented otherwise, I will assume that President Hinckley agrees with the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, and all of the other prophets of the Restoration for that matter. Where someone claims that I am teaching the dead prophets, they must point to some teaching by living prophets that shows Smith and McConkie to be wrong. In almost every case they cannot do this because all of these men get their understanding of doctrine from the same standard works and revelations from the same Holy Ghost. Teaching Smith and McConkie is teaching Hinckley. They are agreed on matters of doctrine. And only the President of the Church has the authority to declare that they are not.

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22 Responses to The Idolatry of Worshipping Dead Prophets

  1. Gordon Cummings says:

    It seems to me that, when it comes to putting the words of the living prophet above those of any dead prophet, we in the church make an exception to the rule foir Joseph Smith, and even, to a lesser degree, for Brigham Young. The question is, should we?

  2. Dear Joe, among the various definitions of “doctrine,” you will learn from any dictionary that one of them is a synonym for “teaching.” In fact that is one of the most common definitions for doctrine. So Elder McConkie could have named his book Mormon Teachings and it would have meant exactly the same thing. No educated or intelligent person would have mistaken a book not published by the Church or not written by the President of the Church and approved by the Twelve as “official Church doctrine.” The book even included a disclaimer.

    If a person wants to be taken seriously when he claims there is a doctrinal error in Mormon Doctrine he must do more than merely make an assertion. He must identify the doctrinal error and demonstrate how it is contradicted by something that is “official Church doctrine” because it came from the President of the Church while he was “speaking as a prophet,” always keeping in mind that Presidents of the Church also have personal opinions that are not “official Church doctrine.”

  3. Dear Joe, among the various definitions of “doctrine,” you will learn from any dictionary that one of them is a synonym for “teaching.” In fact that is one of the most common definitions for doctrine. So Elder McConkie could have named his book Mormon Teachings and it would have meant exactly the same thing. No educated or intelligent person would have mistaken a book not published by the Church or not written by the President of the Church and approved by the Twelve as “official Church doctrine.” The book even included a disclaimer.

    If a person wants to be taken seriously when he claims there is a doctrinal error in Mormon Doctrine he must do more than merely make an assertion, he must identify the doctrinal error and demonstrate how it is contradicted by something that is “official Church doctrine” because it came from the President of the Church while he was “speaking as a prophet,” always keeping in mind that Presidents of the Church also have personal opinions that are not “official Church doctrine.”

  4. Joe says:

    I just read through most of the thread and I am a bit perplexed as to this issue of McConkie’s MD. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine is a misnomer in that it is not doctrine (canonized, official, etc.). Just because some/most of what he says in that book is true doesn’t make the work as a whole doctrine.

    John, you expressed some concern over people dismissing some of McConkie’s and Smith’s writings as “personal opinion”. What is wrong with that? Those men certainly had personal opinions. Just because a man becomes an apostle or a prophet does not mean he knows everything, or that everything that comes out of his mouth is doctrine. He is still a man, an imperfect man that has opinions and may say or write things from time to time that are not accurate. That’s because he’s a man.

    True, when these men are acting, speaking, writing officially and under the direction of the Spirit, we can accept that as the will/word of the Lord (though it may not necessarily be canonized). But if an apostle writes a book that is not officially recognized by the church as doctrine, as far as the church is concerned, it is merely the writings of a man. It may contain truth, it may be inspiring, but it’s the work of a man nonetheless. Something canonized, on the other hand, becomes so because it is the will of the Lord, therefore it is safe to assume that he is the real author/inspiration behind it; they are essentially His words. There is a big difference.

    What I am saying is that it shouldn’t come as any big surprise that McConkie and Smith held some opinions that were wrong. Most certainly, writing that is not officially endorsed by the church should not be confused with, or compared to, official canon or anything a current prophet says or writes when acting officially and under the direction of the HG.

    Joe

  5. Joe says:

    John,

    I agree with your overall point in that the Lord continues to reveal to his prophets, therefore the teachings and counsels of the current prophets are the most relevant to us, and are what we are accountable for (where new seems to conflict with old).

    However, I don’t agree with your statement in the third paragraph, though I may have misunderstood what you were trying to say. I don’t believe that God being an unchangeable God means that He cannot change doctrine, or that any change in doctrine means a mistake was made. I think that perhaps doctrine is being confused for gospel principles here. I would agree that gospel principles (ie faith, repentance) do not change, however doctrine can and does change as the Lord sees fit. Another way to describe doctrine is as rules or policy. The Lord can alter, change, remove, add, etc., certain policies (doctrines) as the needs of his children for a particular time, era, circumstance, etc. may require.

    For example, before 1978 a particular doctrine of the church was that black men could not hold the priesthood. That doctrine has since changed. It doesn’t mean that the prophets before were mistaken, or that Pres. Kimball mistakenly changed it. Both were acting according to the will of the Lord at that time. The Lord applies, removes or changes policy (doctrine) to bring to pass his purposes, and sometimes different policies (doctrines) are implemented for different times.

    Another example to consider where the Lord changes his policy is the Law of Moses. Sometimes whether or not we are commanded to live certain principles becomes doctrine. The law of consecration and plural marriage are true principles. There were respective times when the Lord commanded that both of these be lived by some saints, however that has changed, and we are no longer commanded to do so (However this will likely change again at some point).

    Do you see the difference? Gospel principles do not change; doctrine can and does change as the Lord sees fit.

    Joe

  6. Dear ed42, every six months we sustain the First Presidency (three men) and the Qurorum of the Twelve (twelve men) as “prophets, seers and revelators.” We don’t have to, but that is what Mormons believe, and that is what Mormons do. (See the Fifth Article of Faith). This means that all 15 men are prophets (lower case “p”).

    Anything that is true trumps anything that is false. The reason we have been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost is so that we can tell the difference. Often a living prophets “trumps” a dead prophet, but only if the living prophets is teaching the truth while the dead one was not. If they are both teaching the truth, they will be teaching the same thing.

    Does X from a living Apostle trump NOT X from a dead prophet? In the absence of confirmation one way or the other from the Holy Ghost, and all other things being the same, the answer is “Yes.” We also believe in continuing revelation according to our Article of Faith. And since the Restoration is ongoing, and will continue until the Second Coming, anything that we receive later is more reliable than anything we receive earlier. That does not mean that a later or living prophet is free to teach false doctrine. Because that could happen too. And if he does, then the Holy Ghost will surely alert us that something is amiss. This has never happened to me during the 43 years that I have been a student of doctrine. But theoretically it could happen.

    Right now I am deeply puzzled by what I see as a teaching which if true seems to contradict the principle of free agency. In 1927 or 1929 Orson F. Whitney quoted Joseph Smith long after he was dead to the effect that children who wander are not lost and will return to the fold because of the covenant. I do not understand how anyone could make that promise without violating the agency of the child born under the covenant. It sounds like the Lord is going to force children who have strayed from the gospel to return to Jesus against their will. And of course we know that God will force no man to heaven. So I am very puzzled about how that is reconciled, but some of the more recent prophets seem to be placing a lot of stock in Orson F. Whitney’s 1927 Conference remarks.

    Bottom line: IF there is a difference, and there usually is not, then the more recent prophet is to be believed unless he is teaching false doctrine. And we should all so live our lives that we can tell whether he is or not because of our own ability to receive revelation from the Holy Ghost.

  7. ed42 says:

    John,

    I’ve been thinking about what you said in terms of mathematical sets and a problem I have is reduced to Apostle1 (not a prophet) said X and Apostle2 (not a prophet) said NOT X, both lived at the same time. Given no other inspired words about X do we automatically accept the most recent statement? I have no concrete examples.

    Also does X from a living Apostle triumph NOT X from a dead prophet?

  8. Ron, old friend, I am trying to find a better picture that I can put on my blog. But the one that is there was taken in early June of this year by my brother, Mike Redelfs, when he visited Esperanza and I here in Ketchikan, Alaska. I cropped it from a much larger picture, and it is the best one I have right now.

    And no, I have not had a face lift. I hope you are suggesting that I look better in this photo than I did when I visited with you in your home a couple of years ago. I have lost some weight since then. And I may not have been smiling as much when I visited you. I will try to put up a better picture soon.

  9. Ron Scott says:

    Correction: The last pgh in my comment above should read: “By the way, I did NOT see a picture of the John Redelfs I know at the top of this blog. Have you had a face lift since I saw you, or is the picture on the blog intended as some kind of inside joke?

    RB Scott

  10. Ron Scott says:

    John:

    Lief’s experience differs from mine only in that I served my mission 30 earlier than he did and taught in old mission home in SLC thereafter. As I’ve mentioned to you, as missionaries we were “forbidden” to read McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” or use it as a reference book because, at the time, it was considered highly speculative stuff, a collection of opinions, some of which were not consistent with established church doctrine (he was a member of the Seventy at the time).

    His theories about the origins of the practice of denying priesthood to black members of the church are examples of personal opinion that ran counter to church teaching.

    As you know, my mission president was Boyd K. Packer, who succeed Truman Madsen as president of the New England Mission. When I taught at the mission home in 1967, missionaries were instructed to leave their copies of MD home. Missionaries were encouraged to focus on the standard works of the church, but were often grudgingly permitted to use other books written by church authors. MD was the exception. Elder Packer was quite adamant about it.

    You may verify the my claim with your former stake president, now an area authority. As you know, he was also my missionary companion in New England and served as assistant to the president under Elder Packer.

    We’ve been over this ground before, so I don’t expect you modify your position at this point no matter what any of us say.

    By the way, I did see a picture of the John Redelfs I know at the top of this blog. Have you had a face lift since I last saw you, or is the picture on the blog intended as some kind of inside joke?

    RB Scott

  11. Gary says:

    Mark IV,

    Are you referring to McConkie’s apostolic authority (about which there is no question), or to his wide acceptance among Church members (about which some feel there _is_ some question)?

    Yes, there are a few Church members who feel uneasy about Elder McConkie. But as I’ve pointed out in my blog articles, this group is not very well represented among those who produce Church curriculum; they are apparently not found among the editors of Church magazines; and if any of them are general authorities, they are keeping very quiet about it.

    By the way, C.S. Lewis, Alexander Pope, and William Shakespeare also enjoy wide acceptance among Church members. So what?

  12. Mark IV says:

    Gary,

    I don’t think it makes good sense to measure the extent to which someone is authoritative by the number of times he is quoted in conference and in the Ensign.

    By that standard, C.S. Lewis, Alexander Pope, and William Shakespeare all carry more weight in the church than Joseph B. Wirthlin or John Taylor.

  13. Gary says:

    lief, Elder McConkie was never a member of the First Presidency. However, according to one published and very reliable source, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve looked to him as a source of doctrine.

    President Ezra Taft Benson, while serving as President of the Council of the Twelve, spoke of Elder McConkie’s gospel scholarship: “Often when a doctrinal question came before the First Presidency and the Twelve, Elder McConkie was asked to quote the scripture or to comment on the matter. He could quote scripture verbatim and at great length. [He] provided the entire Church with an example of gospel scholarship. He could teach the gospel with ease because he first understood the gospel.” (Ensign, June 1985, 16.)

  14. lief says:

    I haven’t made much of a study of Bruce R. McConkie and remained blissfully unaware that he was post-humously under attack by pernicious forces until now. But, I think I can see why that may be the case.

    First of all, why I love Bruce R. McConkie: he was undaunted in presenting his testimony of LDS doctrine, the role of the Savior, and all of the truths of the restored gospel. He held nothing back. He emphasized the uniqeness of the restored gospel’s truths and defined what it meant to be a member of our church. I think that if pernicious forces are at work today, they are tearing down these things, i.e. they are watering down the unique truths of the restoration and making our church look more like a generic evangelical church.

    All of the things I appreciate about Bruce R. McConkie relate to the way in which he said and presented doctrines. In terms of the content of his “opinions” or unique doctrines, though, I cannot accept Bruce R. McConkie as a primary source. Perhaps more than any other apostle, he is on record for having been wrong about many points (i.e. thousands in Mormon Doctrine alone), and having to publicly recant misstatements he previously cited with sure authority (i.e. Blacks will never have the priesthood). (See the comments on your related post re: leading the church astray and my previous link for citations). For me – surely there are more reliable sources for learning about mormon doctrine (ironically). Perhaps other apostles throughout history have made thousands of public misstatements and only Bruce R. McConkie was singled out for correction? However, I can understand that Bruce R. McConkie is your man and respect your opinion.

    I am puzzled that anyone should have to prove that the current church leadership disagrees with Bruce R. McConkie on any point, say the progression between kingdoms issue. Has there been complete silence on this issue since Bruce R. McConkie’s time, or have other prophets or apostles explicitly agreed with him? If they have explicitly agreed with him, isn’t the burden on you to show us the agreement? If there has been nothing but silence and other apostles have differed with Bruce R. McConkie in the past, your point is unproven that the current leadership agrees with him. (In fact, given the sheer number of misstatements Bruce R. McConkie made, I would be incined to give a little more weight to the other apostles).

    Again, though, given the the forces at work to water down the strength of our core doctrines, I think that Bruce R. McConkie’s words are a powerful rhetorical tool to keep us on the strait and narrow, to the extent they are consistent with core doctrines (i.e. faith, repentance, baptism, etc.). Therefore, Bruce R. McConkie as a special witness of Christ – yes, as a source of doctrine – no, thanks.

  15. lief wrote:
    If all of the prophets or members of the First Presidency from Joseph Fielding Smith’s time until the present had the same understanding of doctrine (summarizing your last paragraph), then why do you need to differentiate your beliefs as being “in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie?”

    JWR Responds:
    Of course you are right. It should not be necessary for me to characterize my beliefs as “in the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.” But the fact is, there is a widespread and pernicious movement among saints on and off-line to dismiss everything these two great prophets wrote as mere “personal opinion.” But the same could be said of every other prophet and apostles that was not specifically making “official Church doctrine” as Wilford Woodruff was when he issued the 1890 Manifesto or Spencer W. Kimball was when he removed by revelation the inspired priesthood ban in 1978. So why is it that Smith and McConkie are the only prophets singled out for abusive treatment by those who disagree with a few of their personal opinions? The fact is, as others have pointed out in this comments thread, many of their personal opinions were correct and true doctrine whether they were the official position of the Church or not. Truth is truth whether it is “official” or not. Do people treat the personal opinions of Neal Maxwell, B.H. Roberts or Hugh B. Brown this way? Not that I have observed. I discuss Mormon doctrine in the tradition of these men to counteract the tendency of so many to dismiss their teachings because they disagree with a few of their opinions. I believe all faithful saints should pay close attention to all of the personal opinions of men called and set apart as prophets, seers and revelators. If we disagree with something, we should confirm our disagreement with the Holy Ghost, and accept the possibility that we ourselves are wrong unless the Holy Ghost confirms by personal revelation that the “personal opinion” we are concerned about is in fact in error. I detect a certain knee-jerk rejection of the opinions of Smith and McConkie which is unsaintly in my opinion, a sort of “blind follower” tendency in reverse.

    lief wrote:
    I was a missionary about 10 years ago and taught at the MTC for some years after that. During that time there was a rule in effect for missionaries that they may not read from, and preferably not possess, a copy of Mormon Doctrine (the rule was rarely enforced, though). What is the church saying institutionally when it treats Bruce R. McConkie’s seminal work in this way?

    JWR wrote:
    I cannot speak for the Church “institutionally,” and I am surprised that you feel that you can. It seems to me that your question is worded to solicit a specific response. Was Bruce R. McConkie the only author not permitted at the MTC? Was Mormon Doctrine the only book? That is what you are implying. Yet I suspect that your implication is false. It is my understanding that they are also not permitted to read any authors or titles that are not on an approved reading list which is very short. That would mean that at the MTC missionaries are not allowed to have a copy of The Abundant Life by Hugh B. Brown either. Does that mean that there is some bad doctrine in Hugh B. Brown’s book? I don’t think so. Yet I am sure that none of Hugh B. Brown’s doctrinal teachings in that book are anything but “personal opinion.” I’m also sure that nearly all of Hugh B. Brown’s doctrinal “personal opinions” are exactly the same as the “personal opinions” of Smith and McConkie. These men do not have “personal opinions” about Church doctrine, for the most part. With a few exceptions, Church doctrine is not something that prophets have personal opinions. Rather they know what the doctrine is. And they agree on what the doctrine is.

    For instance, I have it on good authority that the prophets living today no longer differ in their opinion on progression between kingdoms, or the fact that God is no longer progressing in knowledge. Yet there is no “official Church doctrine” settling these two matters. Still, they agree with Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie on this. I challenge you or anyone reading this to provide evidence that they do not. I personally do not believe that any of our currently living prophets disagree with Smith and McConkie on the subject of the role played by evolution in man’s origins either. If I’m wrong. Prove it. There may be no “official Church doctrine” on the subject, but our apostles and prophets know what the truth is. I also don’t believe there is any disagreement in the First Presidency with the things that President Benson taught about secret combinations in our national government today. If I’m wrong. Prove it.

    Those who claim our authorities are divided on these and other issues have the burden of proof. We who believe that our leaders know what the truth is, do not have to prove our belief. There is only one truth, only one Holy Ghost, and the Twelve are commanded by Jesus Christ to “be one” even as our Father in Heaven is “one” with the Savior. We will never have Zion any other way. Eventually we all have to have the same understanding of doctrine.

    lief wrote:
    If your answer is that the missionaries must teach the milk before the meat and MD is “meat,” I note that: 1) MD is a very basic book with simple definitions of gospel concepts tastefully written for a general audience (i.e. content of sacred things is not disclosed, etc.), and 2) missionaries are expressly encouraged to read much more complex works, such as Jesus the Christ.

    JWR responds:
    I do not say anything about milk and meat. You are saying it and then answering yourself. I don’t believe there is any difference between milk and meat in the gospel. The milk is the meat. But there are a lot of people who don’t understand the milk, and that includes most of the people who are looking for meat. The most obscure and mysterious teachings of Joseph Smith and the most difficult to understand passages of Isaiah and the Book of Revelation are just additional information about the Plan of Salvation and the Four Principles of the Gospel which are faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. That is why it is so silly to make a distinction between milk and meat. It is all meat. And anyone who knows anything about the gospel knows that the “knowledge” that is needed beyond the barest milk outline is something that can no more be learned from reading a book than the knowledge needed to be a virtuoso violinist. Did anyone ever learn to play a world class performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by reading a book?

    Where is the best place to pick up that little bit of understanding? Yep, the writings of Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith. Their “personal opinions” are filled with admonitions that “meat” cannot be learned out of book but must come only by receiving revelation after the trial of your faith or in other words, many years of living the gospel of Jesus Christ valiantly. Saints who ask for more meat just betray their own ignorance of the milk. The meat comes from what you do over a period of many years and what you are, not what you read or what you hear from a Sunday School class or a Sacrament talk. And once you have learned the meat, it isn’t something that you can put into words any more than you can put the violinist’s performance into words.

    Do you believe prophets or not? That is the big question. Because if you believe them you will follow them. If you don’t, you won’t. That is milk that is also the meat.

  16. lief says:

    Mark-

    The church is saying that Bruce R. McConkie once wrote something useful. It is also saying that a modern encyclopedic book written by a member of the First Presidency titled Mormon Doctrine should not be used by our missionaries (and by extension, their investigators) for the purpose of finding out what Mormon Doctrine is. The fact that many other books should also not be used for this purpose does not make such an obvious statement of mormon doctrine any less glaring of an omission from the approved list.

    At any rate, President McKay’s notes and other statements quoted and referenced in this discussion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Redd_McConkie, clear up for me Bruce R. McConkie’s lack of authority to speak freely on dotrinal issues.

    Now, that said, I really like Bruce R. McConkie. But what I like about him is his way of saying things, not his doctrinal innovations. The latter are aparently apocryphal anyway, whether you rely on President McKay’s assertions that he made “many misstatements” and wrote a book “full of errors” or study it out yourself and discover that some percentage of his teachings lack consensus. His fiery spirit and testimony of the restored gospel remain an inspiration to me. I’m just not sure what there is about his unique doctrines that is worthy of putting on a pedestal.

  17. Gary says:

    Let me say that another way. Mormon Doctrine continues to be quoted in the Church’s official curriculum and magazines, as well as in general conference by General Authorities who, apparently, didn’t “get the memo.” An example is found in the most recent general conference (see Ensign, May 2006, p. 106).

  18. Gary says:

    lief’s Aug 8th, 2:22 pm comment is misleading.

    The current approved missionary library includes (1) the standard works, (2) Jesus the Christ, (3) Our Heritage, (4) Our Search for Happiness, and (5) True to the Faith (as listed in Preach My Gospel, p. viii).

    I served a full time mission 40 years ago and all of my seven sons except the one who is not yet old enough have also served full time missions. During that entire time there has been a rule in effect for missionaries that they should not study any book not specifically authorized by the missionary department.

    All other books, including innumerable books written by the apostles and prophets (living and dead), are and were proscribed. This establishes a missionary focus, but says nothing about non-missionary libraries.

    Mormon Doctrine continues to be quoted in general conference. An example is found in the most recent general conference (see Ensign, May 2006, p. 106). What is the Church saying institutionally when it treats Bruce R. McConkie’s seminal work in this way?

  19. lief says:

    If all of the prophets or members of the First Presidency from Joseph Fielding Smith’s time until the present had the same understanding of doctrine (summarizing your last paragraph), then why do you need to differentiate your beliefs as being “in the tradition of Joesph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie”? Aren’t you implying that there are other traditions out there? If I expound doctrine in the tradition of David O. McKay and Harold B. Lee, for instance, should I believe that my doctrine is 1) no different than your doctrine, or 2) somehow inferior to your doctrine?

    I was a missionary about 10 years ago and taught at the MTC for some years after that. During that time there was a rule in effect for missionaries that they may not read from, and preferably not possess, a copy of Mormon Doctrine (the rule was rarely enforced, though). What is the church saying institutionally when it treats Bruce R. McConkie’s seminal work in this way?

    If your answer is that the missionaries must teach the milk before the meat and MD is “meat,” I note that: 1) MD is a very basic book with simple definitions of gospel concepts tastefully written for a general audience (i.e. content of sacred things is not disclosed, etc.), and 2) missionaries are expressly encouraged to read much more complex works, such as Jesus the Christ.

  20. Yes Ben, but that is the whole point. We are not at liberty to decide on our own who “seems to be in the vein of” whomever when it comes to prophets and doctrine. If you are going to shoot down another’s “personal opinion” by claiming that they are merely “dead prophets,” the burden of proof is upon you to show that the current Prophet is teaching something that is contrary to what has already been taught. Otherwise, we are all bound to assume they are agreed on matters of doctrine. After all, they are spokesmen for the Lord, and he is only one person. If his spokesmen are true and faithful to their callings, they will speak with his voice and they will be agreed on matters of doctrine and scriptural interpretation because they will all get it from Him. Those claiming there is some disagreement among the Brethren on matters of doctrine must show from what they have said and written that the disagreement actually exists. If that is not done, then agreement must be assumed. The burden of proof is on those who claim there is disagreement. In my opinion, a great deal more disagreement is claimed than actually exists. Some of this is due to honest ignorance. But much of it is done by people who are actually trying to change the doctrines and make trouble for the Church.

    The prophets speak with one voice unless it can be proven otherwise. Allegations do not take the place of documentation.

  21. Ben says:

    President Hinckley does not, to me, seem to be in the vein of Joseph Fielding Smith or Bruce Redd McConkie…

  22. dp says:

    Nice clarification. I think it’s a bit like the good old “favourite apostle” issue. I know that I always felt that (and apparently I wasn’t alone) Elder Neal A. Maxwell was my ‘favourite living apostle’ until his recent passing, but that just wasn’t the type of thing that you could normally say in public.

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