What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Posts Tagged ‘Christian living’

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.

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What if Mormons are right and Catholics and Protestants wrong?

Posted by JLFuller on January 9, 2009

Eamonn McCann, an Irish writer, writes in the Belfast Telegraph in August 2008, concerning the Catholic response to The Church of Jesus Christ’s of Latter Day Saints’ doctrine of baptism for the dead. The LDS Church has sought the baptism and other records owned by the Catholic Church to use in doing this vicarious work. This practice and discussion has drawn a wave of comments from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In the article, McCann postulates that baptising babies makes less sense than baptising the dead. Indeeed, the baby is oblivious to the ordinance and requires an adult to act as mouth accepting the ordinance and making lifetime commitments in his stead. The infant has a lifetime to  learn about the complex belief system and then make up his mind as to whether he believes it or not and wishes to continue as a Catholic. The dead however are in a far different situation. I think the reader will find this an interesting article.

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Why Do Mormons Leave The Church?

Posted by JLFuller on July 5, 2008

It is easy to blame people who loose their testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel as we understand and teach it. Sometimes we say they just didn’t try hard enough or they allowed their weakness to lead them astray or have some other reason for explaining the phenomenon. But it isn’t just Mormons who leave. Certainly the 300,000 former Baptists in the Deep South had their reasons for converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I suppose there are about as many reasons as there are people who convert – at least as they see it. In some cases the Holy Ghost provides the confirmation we seek but probably not in each case. 

 

Years ago, a prospective member had to wait a year before being baptized.  Even today members who marry outside the temple have to wait a year before being sealed. It may be a worthiness thing but I have to think most need time to contemplate and thoroughly understand the step they are taking. The implication is people make decisions based on incomplete or erroneous information. That is part of the  human condition. I think there is a higher order of understanding where such judgments are made with Divine help and to get there we have to get better control of the natural man. Not everyone is ready at the same point in their lives. I talk a little about that below.

  

Others say about former Mormon’s they evangelized that when presented with the truth, as they understand it, it resonated. Maybe thier version did resonate for some. But thier story is still just their version of the story we present. They have an opinion just as we our version. It resonates among some too. We humans look outside ourselves when unsatisfied with life. We seek answers to our questions. We want someone to fill in the blanks and be a source of truth. We want someone we can absolutely trust. We want someone to relieve our burden. It goes beyond just looking for greener pastures. We want certainty where uncertaintly exists. Anyone who can convince us he knows the way can have our allegiance. That makes being a Mormon harder – at least until we gain control over the natural man and achieve a plain where we can have the constant presence of the Holy Ghost.

 

No one wants to believe he messed things up, is not good enough or strong enough or, as is the the case with some Mormons, does not believe he will ever receive the Holy Ghost’s confirmation. So he may look at the brighter or more positive things the other guy presents and think it could be better. In one way, that is a positive thing. It makes us willing to try new things in an attempt to live a better life or in some other way improve our lot. 

 

But is it the Holy Ghost telling us to abandon our previous Church and go looking elsewhere or is it just us abandoning our discomfort with what we have become? Maybe it is something else. I suppose we all have to discover the answer ourselves. Anti-Mormons and legitimate critics alike lay claim to having the truth about the our Church and seek to prove we are not what we claim by what they believe is the unseemly behaviors of the founders of our Church. Some claim Brigham Young or others settled doctrinal questions 150 years ago despite what we teach these days. It is a favorite pass time. They protest and parade and make loud pronouncements about what they have found or what someone wrote. 

 

I think most members agree that if the Church is the restoration of the Gospel of Christ in its fullness, it should be able to stand a close inspection of all aspects of its history and leadership. I don’t disagree with that entirely. But I am old enough and well read enough and have sufficient understanding of the human condition to know that not everyone can handle the truth in all its bareness. But just as the truth must stand on its own merits, we may not be able to adequately judge the merits with the information we have.

 

That is where the Divine assistance comes in. Without it all we see is what others see. Without it, members with tender testimonies are challenged beyond their ability to understand the entirety. Without it they are left to make these judgments with only the aid of the understanding of men. I suggest that judgments with eternal significance are too important to make this way. Without Divine assistance we would make the same judgments others make when they rely solely on man’s understanding.

 

Posted in Biblical searching, Christian bible, Mormon, Mormon History, Mormonism, testimony | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

How Do I Know if What I Believe is Correct?

Posted by JLFuller on June 20, 2008

Jackg makes a good point when he asks about whether we should accept biblical text as the primary confirmation of biblical questions. Given there have been countless numbers of people much smarter than I am who have studied scripture for centuries and have arrived at many different conclusions, it makes sense that legitmate seekers of truth should seek some help. One of the things I admire about Catholicism is the  attempt most Cathiolic theologians and scholars make to arrive at an honest answer. Of course there are othrs but I particulalry like Catholics. Just a personal preference I suppose. The Socratic method,  (typically involves two speakers at any one time, with one leading the discussion and the other agreeing to certain assumptions put forward for his acceptance or rejection) works well in an intellectual discussion. But it is limited to discussion and then stops with a common understanding among people. It is a man-made conclusion still subject to error. I suggest seekers, after doing all they can do, go the extra step and ask for Heavenly confirmation of what they have concluded. Key for Christians is to honestly live life according to Christian principles as they understand them in order to keep the connection to the Holy Ghost open and clear.

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