Official Doctrine (long)

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Official Doctrine (long)

Postby Ishmael » Tue 25 Sep, 2007 01:03 pm

Last year I wrote a Primary talk for my son in Sunbeams. It was about the scriptures, and basically consisted of eight sentences: one describing each book in the standard works, and one giving an example of a story from that book. (For example, "The OT is about the prophets who lived before Jesus was born. The 10 Commandments are in the OT." Etc.) I thought it was a pretty good talk. :wink:

After my kid sat down, the conducting counselor stood up and said it was a great talk, but he forgot one very important book of scripture: the Ensign.

I knew where she was coming from, but I was a little annoyed at the comment because the Ensign is not really scripture, and at any rate I thought she could have gotten her point across about modern-day revelation without suggesting that my kid had screwed up.

I mention this story as an example of how common it is to hear the Ensign (or General Conference talks in particular) described as scripture in the Church. Again, I understand the point being made, but you open a big can of worms when you go that far. The GC issues of the Ensign are more like the modern equivalent of the Journal of Discourses, and we all know how we go to great lengths to remind ourselves that the JoD is not Official Doctrine, much less Scripture.

The question of what constitutes Official Doctrine seems to come up quite a bit, so I was happy to see a recent post on the Church's website that addresses the issue. In "Approaching Mormon Doctrine" they state
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 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.

The thing that stands out to me in this definition is the inclusion of proclamations. Everything else, including the official declarations and the Articles of Faith, are found in a typical quad. The proclamations are not. In fact, with the exception of the Proclamation on the Family, the proclamations are not publicized at all, and can be quite difficult to track down.

In his interview for the PBS documentary on Mormons, Elder Packer mentioned that when the Proclamation on the Family was given, there had only been five other proclamations, so that tells you how important they are. (Source.) But if they are so important, why don't we ever talk about them? Do any of us even know what the other five proclamations are about, or when they were given?

Unlike with the Ensign in general, I wouldn't complain if someone referred to the Articles of Faith as scripture. Or the official declarations or even the Proclamation on the Family. Shouldn't the other proclamations enjoy the same prominence in our gospel study? They rank higher than the most recent First Presidency Message on the hierarchy of Official Doctrine, after all.

FYI, the other proclamations can be found here:


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Postby Karenins_SuperSon » Tue 25 Sep, 2007 02:36 pm

That's a good point.

From one of the proclamations (the 1865 one), comes this:
This document was issued to members of the Church to correct certain theories about the nature of God that had been published by one of the Twelve in official Church literature, without having those statements cleared and verified by the First Presidency and the Twelve.

So, if the Ensign (or its 1865 equivalent) is considered "Official Doctrine", then why was it printed without being "...cleared and verified by the First Presidency and the Twelve."

I think that they do a much better job, nowadays, of verifying things being printed, but I would be glad to hear something definitive from the First Presidency and the Twelve that states: "The Ensign is Official Doctrine". I just don't think it's out there.

It may be official church literature, but that doesn't necessarily make it official church doctrine. (And that's how I've always viewed it).
Her lips were saying "no," but her eyes were saying, "read my lips."---Dr. Niles Crane

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Postby Lowdoggy Dogg » Tue 25 Sep, 2007 03:11 pm

In materials from the Church curriculum department they are also very careful to mention the office of the speaker of a quote. For example, today in my seminary lesson I read a quote by Ezra Taft Benson "given while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve." It then said "Elder Benson said:"

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Postby treen » Tue 25 Sep, 2007 03:32 pm

I don't know why the historical Proclamations would not be included in official Church curriculum (part of the Doctrine and Covenants/Church history in Gospel Doctrine, perhaps?) but apparently they aren't as - maybe - important these days? I don't know.

I did notice that:

1 - the "Approaching Mormon Doctrine" link is not addressed to the members of the Church. It's sort of buried in the press releases and addressed to the media.

2 - In that link, the scriptures and Articles of Faith have links directing the press release readers to other sections of, and the official proclamations noted have no such link. Are they even on I'm not finding them there. Ishmael's links to the text are to an outside source, not within Church's official website.

Just some observations ... 'Tis a puzzlement!

(I have read the text of the 1907 proclamation from the Reed Smoot Senate hearings mess - it was printed entirely in Joseph F. Smith's biography written by Joseph Fielding Smith.)

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Postby RenLass » Wed 26 Sep, 2007 08:17 am

We would wish the Saints to understand that, when they come here, they must not expect perfection, or that all will be harmony, peace, and love; if they indulge these ideas, they will undoubtedly be deceived, for here there are persons, not only from different states, but from different nations, who, although they feel a great attachment to the cause of truth, have their prejudices of education, and, consequently, it requires some time before these things can be overcome. . . . Therefore, let those who come up to this place be determined to keep the commandments of God, and not be discouraged
This quote from one of the proclamations could still be sent out to all members today and be of great value for them to remember.
When the devil reminds you of your past,
remind him of his future

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Postby anubis » Fri 28 Sep, 2007 11:46 am

I have a question about this topic of official doctrine. Is the official curriculum of the Church doctrine? For example, the Sunday School manual, or teachings of the prophets that we currently read in priesthood/relief society? Can one proclaim these as official church doctrine or what? I've always been under the impression that these things are approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 for the whole church, and thus fell under approved doctrine. Does anybody know what the truth is?

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Postby Momma Snider » Fri 28 Sep, 2007 12:18 pm

I think so. It is, as you said, approved by the First Presidency for widespread instruction.

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Postby Lowdoggy Dogg » Fri 28 Sep, 2007 02:14 pm

I think it is, or at least it is an explanation of doctrine. That's not to say that it couldn't be modified as needed, whereas the scriptures are the scriptures.

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Postby jds88 » Fri 28 Sep, 2007 04:29 pm

I think anything that's been through the Correlation Program--which would be any instructional materials released in the last 20 or 30 years--could pretty safely be considered "doctrine".


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