What’s This Mormon Thing?

Hostile Anti-Mormon posts subject to editing or deletion

The Journal of Discourses – Not an Authorized Source of Mormon Doctrine

Posted by JLFuller on January 12, 2009

Just about everyone who questions LDS doctrine cites the JoD as an authorized source of true Mormon doctrine but is it a reliable source of current Mormon beliefs and practices? No, it is not. So I suggest that people who quote from it refrain from saying it is.  If it is important enough for you to comment on, check with an authoritative organ of the Church for an authentic answer to your questions or response to a statement before you publish what you think we believe.  We understand people make mistakes. We all do. Certainly I err and have to revisit something I said to clarify. But deliberately and knowingly misinforming others is not a mistake.  Don’t get caught up in bearing false witness. 

So why isn’t it authoritative? The JoD was written and printed in Great Britian between 1854 and 1886.  According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a MacMillian publication edited by religion professors at BYU and some others, “It served as the printed word of the LDS Church for members who had no access to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. It most often published sermons of Church leaders which were not always considered to be official statements of doctrine.”  At best it is an historic resource which often contains authorized doctrine of the times, but not always. 

Former BYU Religion Department Dean Dr. Robert Millet  presented a paper in 2004 to the faculty on Church doctrine. In it he again re-iterated how offical doctrine is determined. In his presentation he said   “…let me affirm at the outset that I understand implicitly that the right and authority to declare, interpret, and clarify doctrine rest with living apostles and prophets.” Dr. Millet re-affirmned what LDS members have been told for decades and in fact longer than that.  The prophet and the Twelve, when acting in concert, are the sole source of doctrine. Other members have no authority to declare what doctrine is. I should emphasize the living part of his statement.  There are no other authoritative sources. Our recently departed President and prophet, Gorden B. Hinckley said that a living prophet was better than a dead one, and so it is.

Authoritative sources are Church published teaching resources such as manuals and other printed documents, pamphlets, letters from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, presentations made at semi annual Conference or statements or proclamations issued by the Church. There are many highly reliable sources to which one can turn to report on Church doctrine such as Church magazines, official Church organ publications and schools such as BYU, presentations by individual General Authorities and other Church leaders. However, unless the message presented originates from one of the sources of authorized doctrine, it cannot be considered authentic. That means personal opinions don’t count even if they come from a high ranking leader. I encourage readers to read Dr. Millet’s paper and read his footnotes as a means of confirming what he said. 

Now, so I don’t mix messages here, counsel from our leaders is important. Guidance from our bishops, stake and branch presidents and others is intended to aid us in understanding gospel principles. We believe in taking their guidance and using it as an aid in our lives. When they provide us with guidance they will refer us to where their guidance comes from. We as members and they as leaders note, or should note,  when we state our opinions or those of others and if our message is not clear we hasten to clarify. Teachers are provided with training and teaching aids and manuals along with authoritative sources, from which their message is taken. In all cases, presenters of the message should have spoken with the aid and presense of The Holy Ghost after sincere prayer and supplication to the Lord. We as receivers of their message are admonished to pray for confirmation by the Holy Ghost of what is  said.

7 Responses to “The Journal of Discourses – Not an Authorized Source of Mormon Doctrine”

  1. Darrell said

    Most of what is in the JOD was spoken by either a Prophet or a member of the Quorum of the Twelve at an official church meeting (i.e. from the Pulpit). Why would what a Prophet spoke FROM THE PULPIT not be official?


    • JLFuller said

      Good question. Quite often, personal opinion is expressed by Church authorities. It even happens today. But suggesting that their opinion is what God would say is a different thing. The JoD was intended to be, and usually was accepted, as the best information available at the time. But then, even as today, personal opinions do not count as doctrine or even the official Church position. But the Church has said on many occassions that it is only by consensus of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency that a “Thus saith the Lord” is announced. The standard is that unless it is widely published in current church organs can it be accept as official. If it isn’t found in current teaching manuals or heard in Conference or by a letter from the First Presidency then it can’t be considered official.

      There is ample evidence in our history to suggest even individual leaders sometime get it wrong. That was especially true in the wild and wooly formative days of the early church. Many early leaders got into trouble for espousing their own versions of the “truth” rather than taking time to confirm whether their personal opinions were on target.

      We acknowledge that our leaders are susceptible to error too. In fact I think I am safe in saying that much of the misinformation about us came from well meaning members and some errant leaders too. We are a lay leadership church that depends on personal revelation to help us in our duties. But we are not always in tune with the Holy Ghost all the time. If you want to read more follow this link to see what Dr. Robert Millet, former Dean of Religion at BYU, has to say about such things. I think you will get a clearer understanding of the subject. It is where I get much of my information.

      I dare say that many LDS Church members left the church because they took for granted incorrect information they got from other members who didn’t know as much as they thought they did. That includes some highly placed Church leaders of the past. In this fugue of confusion you can include things Brigham Young and others said a century or so ago that when compared to todays standards seem extreme or even bizaare. But those were different people living in different times with a different understanding of how the world worked. They also had different ways of communicating. The majority would be considered functionally illiterate by today’s standards.

  2. jackg said


    Doesn’t it bother you that you have to hide behind the “Unofficial Church Doctrine” protection scheme for every false teaching that the LDS Church has found to be unpalitable in its attempt to be mainstream Christianity and mislead those who might be asking questions? I wonder when you will truly question the false teachings of JS et al have perpetrated against the world. Just so you know I’m still praying for you (and I fully expect you to nix my contribution).

    Peace and Grace!

    • JLFuller said

      Hey old buddy, that rhetoric is just gobbeldygook. You suggest I will not publish your comment. That didn’t happen. I suppose yuou think your opinoins have weight but they don’t. No offense intended, its just the way it is. My testimony was not given me by any man and no man can dissuade me from it. I don’t expect you will understand and that is OK. At some point you will. I am just a little burned out right now with all the anti-Mormon nonsense and so have laid off the site, and another I posted on, for a while. There is only so much darkness I can tolerate without it having an influence on my spirituality.

  3. jackg said


    I was beginning to wonder of you were sick or something since it took you so long to respond. There was another time when you went a really long time without responding or posting anything, and I was beginning to worry that you had died or something. So, I’m glad to see that you are still around and still in top JLF form. 🙂 I will venture to say that your testimony was given you by a false spirit. You see, I have my testimony of the falseness of the gospel of JS, and I received that testimony from the Holy Spirit. So, as I have said before (I think I have said it here), it’s an issue of who is following a false spirit. Naturally, I think you are, and you have to think I am. The difference is that I have tested my experiences against the biblical text, and they are in harmony with that. I can say that yours could not have been tested against the biblical text. Bold? Perhaps, but I have verbalized the same testimony you do. If you’re tired of the darkness, come into the light of God’s true grace and find rest for your soul. Again, I am glad to see that you are still around. How about another post? I think something on the subject of following false spirits would be a good one. Looking forward to it.

    Peace and Grace to you and yours, JLF!

  4. JLFuller said

    False spirits? Jack this is a dead end subject. I think I will pass.

  5. jackg said


    It’s dead end for you because then you just might have to take a look at your testimony in light of biblical scripture. Are you saying there aren’t false spirits? I think it’s curious that you pass on this. You might want to examine your motives. As always, I am praying for your release from the bondage of Mormonism.

    Peace and Grace!

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