Plain and Precious Parts Removed… Is It Happening Today?

April 5, 2009

No, it is not happening today.  But what we leave out is always as important as what we include.  And Satan is not just a tempter.  He also lulls and deceives.  We know what not to reveal or divulge.  At least we think we do.  Do we know as well what must be said?  Or are we in danger of leaving out “plain and precious parts?”  The conference talks of today are the scriptures of tomorrow.

I love Priesthood Correlation and I have a testimony that it is inspired by God. Ever since Priesthood Correlation became a bigger part of the Kingdom of God we are abused less and less by false doctrine and personal opinions being promoted as Church doctrine by some members and occasionally even by some leaders.

With that said, is it possible for Priesthood Correlation to be misused or even abused? Is Priesthood Correlation appropriate in all situations? If not, then when it is appropriate and when is it inappropriate? I am making no statement here. This is not a rhetorical question. I am genuinely ignorant in this matter, and I am hoping for some answers eventually.

I noticed years ago that books written by named authors are generally much better books than those written by committees. I’m not referring to Church books in particular, but to books in general. Textbooks are usually authored by committees and they are almost never as informative, interesting and inspiring as books covering the same material written by an authority in the field. The Encyclopedia Britannica, for an example, is considered by many to be the best encyclopedia in the world. But its individual articles are written by acknowledged experts and authorities in the field. And they sign their work so that if anything is wrong, the reader knows who to blame for the error. The short bibliography at the end of each article is also compiled by a specific scholar who has signed his work.

Now this doesn’t mean that individually signed articles are appropriate in every situation. Obviously when the Church is putting together a lesson manual or a book such as True to the Faith for new members, it needs to speak with one voice. We must not confuse new members with a multitude of conflicting opinions on the subject of doctrine. But does that mean that all Church books should be homogenized and pasteurized until they read like a shop manual or a textbook? Could the works of James E. Talmage or Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness have been widely read in the Church if they had been written today in our correlated environment rather than years ago?

And what about General Conference? Have you ever heard a General Conference talk that so carefully avoids offending anyone, or sticks so closely to saying things that could not remotely be disagreed with doctrinally that the talk seems to have been homogenized and pasteurized until what is left is true only in some vague and indiscernible way? Some without the spirit, including myself on occasion, find such talks boring and good only for encouraging sleep.

And when we take too much truth out of a talk or Church manual for the sake of correlation, if that ever happens, is it possible to do what the “great and abominable church” did with the scriptures as described in 1 Nephi 13?

I love the truth, whatever it is. I love the truth if I can find out what it is. I love and fervently believe the restoration prophets including those living today, especially those living today. They are true successors to Joseph Smith. They are true prophets.

But truth is more than what is said. It is also what is left out. And if too many “plain and precious” parts are left out of the truth, it is not true anymore. It becomes like a textbook, a book written by a committee. Nearly all of the scriptures, both ancient and modern, were written by individual prophets, not by groups and conclaves gathered to homogenize and pasteurize prophetic material until there is little truth left in it but just the dried husks and dead forms such as mentioned by John Wesley, the first Methodist:

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby, heaped riches and power and honor upon Christians in general, but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not as has been supposed because there was no more occasion for them because all the world was become Christians. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause of it was the love of many, almost all Christians, so called, was waxed cold. The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine His Church, could hardly find faith upon the earth. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church because the Christians were turned heathens again, and only had a dead form left.” (Wesley’s Works, vol. 7, 89:26, 27)

Correlation is good. It is from the Lord. Used correctly it can prevent confusion and certain apostasy. But we need to seek the help of the Holy Ghost and the counsel of the Savior’s true prophets in deciding how to use it. And we need to take care that we do not abuse correlation and in doing so serve the devil by leaving out “plain and precious” parts. Someday, our General Conference talks may become scripture.  After all, for us the canon is open, thanks to the miracle of continuing revelation from our Savior.  May it always be so.