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About the LDS Church

Differentiating between valid LDS
doctrine & opinions of its past leaders

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Misinformation being circulated:

There is a great deal of misinformation circulating about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the LDS Church.

bulletA common anti-Mormon attack technique used by many conservative Protestants is to take a single past statement by a Mormon leader and treat it as a formal LDS doctrine that is binding on all LDS members today. In reality, there are many beliefs expressed by early LDS leaders that have been abandoned and are no longer recognized by the present-day church. Some, in fact, have never accepted as valid.

Other beliefs, like the advocacy of polygamy, and racism in the Church were formally repudiated after what the Mormon leadership believe were two revelations from God in 1890 and 1978.

In still other cases, the beliefs simply fell into disuse. Two prominent examples are:

bulletA belief of Brigham Young that Adam, Michael and God the Father are one and the same entity. This is generally called the "Adam-God theory."
bulletAnother belief by Brigham Young was that Adam and the Virgin Mary were the parents of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was "... begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven." 1

These beliefs have formed part of the doctrine of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). But they were never made part of the LDS Church's doctrine. Further, they are rejected by that church's leadership today.

In 1976, Mormon Prophet Spencer W. Kimball who was the LDS Church's twelfth president from 1973 to 1985 stated:

"We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine." 2

bulletMormons occasionally assign different meanings to common Christian terms than are used by other conservative Christians. This is very common among all Christian faith groups. One example is the nature of God:
bulletTrinity: Almost all Christian faith groups teach that the Trinity consists of a single God of one spiritual substance, who is present in three persons: God the Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit. This is considered a truth that is beyond the ability of humans to fully understand and must be accepted on faith.
bulletGodhead: The LDS Church teaches that the Godhead consists of three separate and distinct beings. However, they are one in purpose. God the Father and Jesus Christ, the son, have glorified physical bodies; the Holy Ghost is a spirit and has no physical body. They also believe that other Gods with their female consorts exist elsewhere in the universe.

So, when the LDS Church, and -- for example -- the Southern Baptist Convention talk about God, they are referring to very different entities. The beliefs are so different that only one can be correct. Both may be wrong. Jews and Muslims may be right with their belief in a single, indivisible God. Strong Atheists may be correct when they assert that no God exists.

Another example, that of being "born again" is given below in a news release of the LDS Church.

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2007 News Release by the LDS Church:

The "Newsroom" is a section of LDS.org, an official LDS Church website, directed at the media. A news release was issued on 2007-MAY-04 titled: "Approaching Mormon Doctrine." Copyright laws required us to delete portions of the document to meet size requirements. It states, in part: 3

"Much misunderstanding about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revolves around its doctrine. The news media is increasingly asking what distinguishes the Church from other faiths, and reporters like to contrast one set of beliefs with another. ..."

bulletNot every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four 'standard works' of [Mormon] scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.
bulletSome doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Churchís purpose and placing it at the very center. This is especially common among reporters or researchers who rely on how other Christians interpret Latter-day Saint doctrine.

Based on the scriptures, Joseph Smith declared: 'The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.'
bulletBecause different times present different challenges, modern-day prophets receive revelation relevant to the circumstances of their day. This follows the biblical pattern (Amos 3:7), 4 in which God communicated messages and warnings to His people through prophets in order to secure their well-being. In our day, President Gordon B. Hinckley has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the family in our increasingly fractional society. In addition, the Church does not preclude future additions or changes to its teachings or practices. This living, dynamic aspect of the Church provides flexibility in meeting those challenges. According to the Articles of Faith, 'We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.'
bulletLatter-day Saints place heavy emphasis on the application of their faith in daily life. For example, the active participation of Latter-day Saints in their community and worldwide humanitarian programs reflects concern for other people. As Jesus Christ declared, 'By their fruits ye shall know them. ...'
bulletThose writing or commenting on Latter-day Saint doctrine also need to understand that certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions. For example, Latter-day Saints generally view being born again as a process of conversion, whereas many other Christian denominations often view it as a conversion that happens in one defining moment. Sometimes what some may consider an argument or dispute over doctrine is really a misunderstanding of simple differences in terminology.

Journalists, academics and laymen alike are encouraged to pursue their inquiries into the Church by recognizing the broad and complex context within which its doctrines have been declared, in a spirit of reason and good will. 3

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Comments by New Order Mormons on the above press release:

"New Order Mormons" is an Internet community for LDS members who want to stay in the church even though they are skeptical of some of the LDS church's teachings. When their web site posted the news release, 63 comments were posted. Some were:
bullet"KC:" "For me, this is an historical press release. There is so much in here ó I could write a book. We should all print this out, and keep it with our scriptures, and quote from it regularly in church. To editorialize for a minute, this makes me very, very happy."
bullet"Phil:" "Growing up as a Mormon, I was always taught that whatever GAís said is considered scripture. End of story." 5
bullet"Sally" "This just leaves me more confused. I had always been taught that it is scripture if said in Gen. Conference. The press release seems to say that a GA making a statement isn't doctrine. How do we decide if the statement is true or just an opinion? It says that we are to get our own confirmation, but if we have to do this every time a GA speaks because we canít be sure if it is true or not, there will undoubtedly be many people getting many different answers. It feels like the ship has lost its guidance system and everyone is on their own to figure out what is doctrine.
bullet"Tom:" "... there is one great thing about it: we can cite it and point to as an authoritative statement when people want to make a random JD quote into Mormon doctrine."
bullet"Me:" "This might actually come as a surprise to many faithful LDS who think everything ever said by every General Authority is an absolute truth. That might be a little exaggerative, but many have ideas that approach this view."
bullet"Mayan Elephant:" "I noticed today something that is quite possibly the most significant reversal in the history of the LDS church. In my opinion, this position, as it is presented on LDS.org is bigger than the reversal of the race ban, it is bigger than the Manifesto regarding polygamy, it is bigger than the 1978 change that allowed women to pray in Sacrament Meeting."
bullet"Wes:" "They are running scared. They know the floodgates are open and there is no stopping it. It is a matter of damage control now."
bullet"Equality:" "Have you read Ezra Taft Bensonís Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet?Or Boyd Packerís Unwritten Order of Things? Or the Mantle is Far Far Greater than the Intellect? Because they really bear little resemblance to what is in this press release. But, I guess according to the press release those apostolic talks are no more doctrinal than, say, a press release. If there is a conflict between a non-doctrinal press release declaring doctrinal talks apostles non-doctrinal, what takes precedenceĖthe non-doctrinal talk by the apostle or the non-doctrinal press release by anonymous church employee?"
bullet"Mayan Elephant:" "This press release provides a reference and qualification for positions held by the majority of members. And more, it provides relief to many members that may otherwise feel pressure to apologize for or incorporate every damn thing said by every damn apostle in any damn circumstance from 1820 to the present. It is not perfect, but, until I see a reference I will consider it progress and an advancement for members and a contradiction to previous counsel."
bullet"Ricercar:" "If the prophet is not speaking scripture and is just a well informed opinion, what sets him apart from other good people?"
bullet"Tom:" "I have had annoying conversations trying to get critics to understand that not everything in the Journal of Discourses 'matters' and Iíve been annoyed with journalists who, albeit understandably, donít get that they canít pick and choose historical teachings and broadly characterize the Church based on those quotes in isolation. The press release may make life a little less annoying and for that Iím grateful."
bullet"Wes:" "... the days of old when the Mormon church could hide information are over. The internet has put the final nail in the coffin on Mormon church censorship. People are no longer going to remain silent in the face of lies and deception."
bullet"Tony:" "Impact: Minimal. I think this statement is helpful to those who are struggling in the church and looking for a little justification in becoming a 'buffet Mormon,' as John has termed it. Yet, with the rank and file members, it will do little in changing their opinion of the current leadership or any other general leader who comes along in their lifetime. They will always consider what the prophet has to say as 'gospel truth.' He is after all THE prophet and spokesman for Christ on the earth. And the other leadership ARE inspired and above criticism. Each generationís prophet was, for the most part, above scrutiny according to the faithful. They regarded the most heinous statements as truth simply because it came from the Lordís mouthpiece. I think that mentality will continue. The press release, however, does provide an escape clause for those heinous statements of the past. ..."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Brigham Young, "Self-GovernmentóMysteriesóRecreation and Amusements, not in Themselves SinfulóTithingóAdam, Our Father and Our God." Published by G.D. Watt, "Journal of Discourses by Brigham Young ..." Vol. 1, F.D. & S.W. Richards, (1854), Pages 46Ė53. Online at: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/

  2. Spencer Kimball, "Teaching the truth," Conference Report, 1976-OCT-1 to 3, Page 115. Online at: http://www.irr.org/

  3. "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," The Newsroom of the LDS Church, 2007-MAY-04, at: http://www.lds.org/

  4. Amos 4:7: "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." King James Version.

  5. "GA" means "General Authority." It refers to approximately 105 male priests who have responsibilities across the entire church. It includes members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Presidency of the Seventy, etc. The term is sometimes used to refer to a single member of the GA.

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Site navigation:

Home page > Christianity > Christian personalities > here

or Home page > Religious information > here

or Home page > Spirituality > here

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-SEP-26
Latest update: 2007-SEP-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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