Mormon Doctrine: Blacks

By: Mormon Heretic
February 25, 2013

I wanted to start a new series on the book Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie.  Some have referred to this book (no longer being published) as “Bruce’s Doctrine.”  In Greg Prince’s biography of David O. McKay,  Prince cited a study by some general authorities that the book had over 1000 errors.  The first edition of the book was published in 1958, and is now a collector’s item.  (This one is currently for sale at a price tag of a mere $2000!)  I purchased a 1979 second edition for $5.95.

The Second edition was first published in 1966, and some of the language has softened, but I thought it might be interesting to look at some of these so-called errors and get your opinions on whether the 2nd version was a big improvement, or if there were still things to be desired. (I’m curious why the 1979 version is not considered a Third Edition.)  Because Bruce’s writings have often been criticized for his writings of blacks, I thought that would be the first place to start.  I want to thank one of our wonderful readers (a lurker that rarely comments) for offering me a copy of a first edition to compare with my second edition.  (Thank you anonymous person!!! I am extremely grateful.) I am also amused that the 1958 term “Negroes” was used instead of either “Blacks” or “African-Americans.”

1958 Version “Negroes”Deletions and Additions1979 version “Negroes”
See Cain, Ham, Pre-existence, Priesthood, Races of Men.

In the pre-existent eternity various degrees of valiance and devotion to the truth were exhibited by different groups of our Father’s spirit offspring.  One-third of the spirit hosts of heaven came out in open rebellion and were cast our without bodies, becoming the devil and his angels.  (D&C 29:36-41; Rev 12:3-9.)  The other two-thirds stood affirmatively for Christ; there were no neutrals.  To stand neutral in the midst of war is a philosophical impossibility.  The Lord said:  “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”  (Matt. 12:30)

See Cain, Ham, Pre-existence, Priesthood, Races of Men.

In the pre-existent eternity various degrees of valiance and devotion to the truth were exhibited by different groups of our Father’s spirit offspring.  One-third of the spirit hosts of heaven came out in open rebellion and were cast our without bodies, becoming the devil and his angels.  (D&C 29:36-41; Rev 12:3-9.)  The other two-thirds stood affirmatively for Christ; there were no neutrals.  To stand neutral in the midst of war is a philosophical impossibility.  The Lord said:  “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”  (Matt. 12:30) As with all men, Negroes are the mortal descendants of Adam and the spirit children of the Eternal Father.  They come to earth to gain mortal bodies and be subject to the probationary experiences of the present life.

See Cain, Ham, Pre-existence, Priesthood, Races of Men.

As with all men, Negroes are the mortal descendants of Adam and the spirit children of the Eternal Father.  They come to earth to gain mortal bodies and be subject to the probationary experiences of the present life.

Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others.  Adam and all the prophets so distinguished themselves by diligence and obedience as to be foreordained to their high earthly missions.  (Abr. 3:20-24)  The whole house of Israel was chosen in pre-existence to come to mortality as children of Jacob.  (Deut. 32:7-8)  Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes.  Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin.  (Moses 5:16-41; 7:8, 12, 22.)  Noah’s son Ham married Egyptus, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood.  (Abr. 1:20-27.) Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others.  Adam and all the prophets so distinguished themselves by diligence and obedience as to be foreordained to their high earthly missions.  (Abr. 3:20-24)  The whole house of Israel was chosen in pre-existence to come to mortality as children of Jacob.  (Deut. 32:7-8)  Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes.  Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin.  (Moses 5:16-41; 7:8, 12, 22.)  Noah’s son Ham married Egyptus, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood.  (Abr. 1:20-27.) In the providences of the Lord the gospel and all its attendant blessings are offered to one nation and people after another.  During Jesus’ mortal ministry he and his disciples took the gospel to the house of Israel only; after his resurrection the word went forth to the Gentiles also.  Those who live when the gospel is not on earth may receive its blessings in the spirit world after death.In the providences of the Lord the gospel and all its attendant blessings are offered to one nation and people after another.  During Jesus’ mortal ministry he and his disciples took the gospel to the house of Israel only; after his resurrection the word went forth to the Gentiles also.  Those who live when the gospel is not on earth may receive its blessings in the spirit world after death.
Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty.  (Abr. 1:20-27)  The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them (Moses 7:8, 12, 22), although sometimes negroes search out the truth, join the Church, and become by righteous living heirs of the celestial kingdom of heaven.  President Brigham Young and others have taught that in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man.  (Way to Perfection, pp. 97-111.) Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty.  (Abr. 1:20-27)  The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them (Moses 7:8, 12, 22), although sometimes negroes search out the truth, join the Church, and become by righteous living heirs of the celestial kingdom of heaven.  President Brigham Young and others have taught that in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man.  (Way to Perfection, pp. 97-111.)In all past ages and until recent times in this dispensation, the Lord did not offer the priesthood to the Negroes. However, on June 1, 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple, in the presence of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation from the Lord directing the gospel and the priesthood should now go to all men without reference to race or color.In all past ages and until recent times in this dispensation, the Lord did not offer the priesthood to the Negroes. However, on June 1, 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple, in the presence of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation from the Lord directing the gospel and the priesthood should now go to all men without reference to race or color.
The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence.  Along with all races and people he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord.  The principle is the same as will apply when all men are judged according to their mortal works and are awarding to their mortal works and are awarded varying statuses in the life hereafter. The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence.  Along with all races and people he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord.  The principle is the same as will apply when all men are judged according to their mortal works and are awarding to their mortal works and are awarded varying statuses in the life hereafter. This means that worthy males of all races can now receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, perform ordinances, and hold positions of presidency and responsibility.  It means that members of all races may now be married in the temple, although interracial marriages are discouraged by the Brethren, and that the full blessings of the gospel may be made available to their ancestors through vicarious temple ordinances.  It also means that Negro members of the Church may now perform missionary service and should bear the burdens of the kingdom equally with all other members of the Church.This means that worthy males of all races can now receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, perform ordinances, and hold positions of presidency and responsibility.  It means that members of all races may now be married in the temple, although interracial marriages are discouraged by the Brethren, and that the full blessings of the gospel may be made available to their ancestors through vicarious temple ordinances.  It also means that Negro members of the Church may now perform missionary service and should bear the burdens of the kingdom equally with all other members of the Church.
In this connection it should be noted that other nations, also, have had lesser restrictions placed on them as pertaining to receipt of the gospel truths in this life.  Christ limited his ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and did not preach to the Gentiles.  (Matt. 15:24.)  He sent his apostles out initially with the same restriction (Matt. 10:5-6), and it was with some difficulty he persuaded them to go to all men when the period of Israel’s prior rights had expired.  (Mark 16:15; Acts 10) In this connection it should be noted that other nations, also, have had lesser restrictions placed on them as pertaining to receipt of the gospel truths in this life.  Christ limited his ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and did not preach to the Gentiles.  (Matt. 15:24.)  He sent his apostles out initially with the same restriction (Matt. 10:5-6), and it was with some difficulty he persuaded them to go to all men when the period of Israel’s prior rights had expired.  (Mark 16:15; Acts 10) This new revelation is one of the signs of the times.  It opens the door to the spread of the gospel among all people before the Second Coming in fulfillment of many scriptural promises.  It has been received with joy and rejoicing thought the Church and is one of the evidences of the divinity of the Lord’s great latter-day work.This new revelation is one of the signs of the times.  It opens the door to the spread of the gospel among all people before the Second Coming in fulfillment of many scriptural promises.  It has been received with joy and rejoicing thought the Church and is one of the evidences of the divinity of the Lord’s great latter-day work.
The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin.  It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate.  Certainly the negroes as children of God are entitled to equality before the law and to be treated with all the dignity and respect of any member of the human race.  Many of them certainly live according to higher standards of decency and right in this life than do some of their brothers of other races, a situation that will cause judgment to be laid “to the line, and righteousness to the plummet” (Isa. 28:17) in the day of judgment. The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin.  It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate.  Certainly the negroes as children of God are entitled to equality before the law and to be treated with all the dignity and respect of any member of the human race.  Many of them certainly live according to higher standards of decency and right in this life than do some of their brothers of other races, a situation that will cause judgment to be laid “to the line, and righteousness to the plummet” (Isa. 28:17) in the day of judgment. The official document announcing the new revelation, signed by the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney) and dated June 8, 1978, is as follows:The official document announcing the new revelation, signed by the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney) and dated June 8, 1978, is as follows:
As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.“As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.”
Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.“Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.”
He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.“He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.”
We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.“We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.”

From the revisions, it seems that the following errors happened in the First Edition.

(1) Pre-existent explanations were wrong.  (However the 1979 entry for “Races of men” still says “The race and nation in which men are born in this world is a direct result of pre-existent life.”

(2)  Mark of Cain was wrong.  (However, the 1979 entry “Cain” states “The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race.  (Moses 5; Genesis 4; Teachings, p. 169)”

What are your impressions of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie?

  • I'm glad it is no longer being printed. The 1979 version is still terrible. (75%, 48 Votes)
  • 1979 version is a vast improvement. (22%, 14 Votes)
  • The 1958 book should have been left alone. It was the best. (3%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 64

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43 Responses to Mormon Doctrine: Blacks

  1. LDS Anarchist on February 25, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    Before age 14, I thought it was a great book and thumbed through it often. I assumed that since a titular apostle had written it, it must contain only truth and must have been written by inspiration. Much of my young Mormon learning came from that book. Between ages 14 and 20 my focus shifted to the scriptures. Once I turned 20, I never read it again. I now see it in the same light as The Miracle of Forgiveness, as a more or less useless book, to be thrown away because these are not inspired writings.

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  2. Mormon Heretic on February 25, 2013 at 7:20 AM

    On the one hand, the 1979 version for this entry is a vast improvement, but there are still lots of problems. Bruce still clings to pre-existence as a predictor for where we are born, and he discourages interracial marriage (though to be fair, Pres Kimball did too.) There are still lots of things he clings too that are just plain wrong.

    I went to a meeting with a woman in her 60s and she kept quoting Mormon Doctrine. I wanted to tell her that wasn’t a very good source, but I kept my mouth shut. One of these days, the McConkie fans will die off and the book will be in the scrap heap of history.

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  3. hawkgrrrl on February 25, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    Well, the TV show the Jeffersons was only barely on the air for a few short years in 1979. Interracial marriage was still very controversial in mainstream US. Now multi-racial people are very common. Unlike the hymn says, there IS an end to race.

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  4. Howard on February 25, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    I think this demonstrates the limitation of care taking prophets who must struggle to understand the will and intent of God via inspiration which is far more man than God instead of clear revelation which is far more God than man. Are we in a better place today? Certainly with regard to blacks but aren’t we subject to the same biased misunderstandings and limitations in understanding? It also showcases McConkie’s hubris something Elder Packer and Oaks might consider.

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  5. Mike S on February 25, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    This is why we need to reopen our canon – we teach that God didn’t stop revelation with the Bible, yet we haven’t added anything in decades (excepting a few minor declarations as in 1978). Things that are officially added to the D&C could be considered as binding revelations on the Church, revealed through our prophet, as God’s direct words to us.

    This would make things like “Mormon Doctrine” much less troublesome. It would be much easier to distinguish between the opinions of one Church leader such as Elder McConkie and actual gospel doctrine.

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  6. FireTag on February 25, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Fascinating topic, MH.

    The modern CofChrist largely ignores both questions about pre-existence, and about the afterlife, and leaves the canonical references unexplored.

    As a physicist, I can’t let those kinds of questions alone, and think modern cosmology REQUIRES us to think about the relationship between the physical and the spiritual very differently than have past theologians. Otherwise, we may not be able to preserve a meaningful concept of eternal life at all.

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  7. European Saint on February 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    I think perhaps we need to consider some things (information that we have already been given) in more depth than we have — things whose importance we sometimes have a tendency to minimize, namely The Family: A Proclamation to the World. If you consider that document a sign of hubris, then perhaps the time is not ripe for further light and knowledge. Perhaps.

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  8. Howard on February 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    European Saint,
    Are you arguing the Family Proclamation is revelation?

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  9. European Saint on February 25, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    In 1995, upon its release, I did not exactly view it as such. I have since reconsidered my position, but who cares what I think? My guess is these thoughts more closely mirror yours: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2011/05/rethinking-the-proclamation/

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  10. Will on February 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    What tribe (as defined in Genesis: 49) you are born into is where all the blessings are defined, with Joseph and Judah receiving the greatest blessings.

    For those that join the gospel that are adopted into one of the 12 tribes. So even if they are the seed of Cain, they can alter thier progression.

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  11. Howard on February 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    European Saint,
    Well, I was trying to draw you out a bit in an effort to understand what you meant in 7 but after reading 9 I have no idea what point you are attempting to make! Please enlighten me.

    I commented on the thread you refer to, I wrote: If the FP was written by a committee of Seventies headed by an Apostle doesn’t that make it a creed?

    The point I’m making here is Joseph didn’t require a committee to receive revelation for the church nor did he think much of creeds so what is the family Proc. and where does it fit in LDS Mormonism? 70s are GAs but to my knowledge they are not sustained as Prophets so at best these are men inspired in their callings. If the Apostle leader of the group who is sustained as a prophet received the Family Proc. as revelation what need is there for a committee of 70s to create it? In short this document appears to be far more man than God to me. But I’m open to hearing your rebuttal.

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  12. Ziff on February 25, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    I have nothing to add except that I love the post and look forward to the series. I really enjoy side-by-side analyses to show how things have changed over time (or how they’re presented differently to YM and YW, as in LRC’s analyses over at D&S). Great stuff, MH!

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  13. Jeff Spector on February 25, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Like a lot of new converts, I used it a lot in my early days. After all, the title IS “MORMON DOCTRINE.” Of course, as I got a bit smarter in the Gospel, I have used it less and less. I do look at it occasionally, but I am not sure I’d ever quote it again.

    I now have the same sort of problem with the CES Institute/Religion class manuals. A bit too much BRM and JFS.

    I once removed a Gospel Essentials teacher from ever teaching investigators again because he quoted the 1958 edition on the Catholic Church. And that was in 1984.

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  14. Neal on February 25, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Great post! You inspired me to dig out my 1966 Second Edition, which is a bit like looking at a High School Annual. I used that copy on my mission, so I wonder how many people I led astray with it!?

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  15. Douglas on February 25, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    #13 – I take it that this errant teacher had been counseled about using lesson plans and the Standard Works, and went against it. .Else you may have overreacted. Just sayin’
    The title was unfortunate b/c it unintentionally misleads the naive into thinking MD was official. If a different title had been used some of the controversy might have been avoided.
    McConkie himself mentioned in Conference soon after the PH revelation that everything he’d said on the subject prior should be disregarded. Even for an Apostle it’s line upon line….at least appreciate that the old boy was willing to dine on crow in public.

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  16. Jeff Spector on February 25, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    Douglas,

    No, it was for calling the Catholic Church “The Great and Abominable Church” to a investigator who was Catholic and never came back to Church after that. False Doctrine!

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  17. Will on February 25, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Jeff

    False doctrine. How do you explain 1 Nephi 13. Or the first vision?

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  18. Jettboy on February 25, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    I take it you won’t have anything positive to say about Mormon Doctrine? These kinds of “reviews” never do. As for me, I found it and still sometimes do a great resource for quick reference. Should it be the only or even main resource? No, but it is great for those who are learning how to study the Scriptures and prophets.

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  19. LDS Anarchist on February 25, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    #17 Will,

    False doctrine. How do you explain 1 Nephi 13. Or the first vision?

    How about this?

    http://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/1-nephi-13-14-commentary-using-ctcs-view/

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  20. Mormon Heretic on February 26, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    #5 Mike, I’d love to reopen the canon, but how do you propose to do that?

    I really enjoyed FireTag’s post. One thing I admire about the CoC is the slogan they use that they want “a prophetic people”. But when you see it in action, with different liberal and conservative factions proposing competing proposals, is that the kind of opening the canon you’re looking for? I mean the latest revelation they received allows different countries to think differently about gay marriage. In fact, it’s quite similar to the Boy Scout proposal. Is that reopening the canon?

    Will #10, this whole idea of a chosen people is the grounds for crusades, Joshua’s unholy war, and lots of ethnic cleansing. We say that God is no respecter of persons, but then we claim the 12 tribes as God’s chosen people. Which is it?

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  21. Mormon Heretic on February 26, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    Ziff and Neal, thanks for the compliments. I’m beginning to wonder if they 1966 is really different from 1979, and I’m beginning to wonder if I should get a version of that one too.

    Douglas, yes McConkie did eat some crow, but he never seemed to repudiate his “caste” system or pre-mortal explanations. Those just don’t square with the 8th Article of Faith that we are punished for our own sins and not for Adam’s (or Cain or Ham’s) trangression.

    Jettboy, I did say that 1979 was an improvement, and I actually do like some of what McConkie has to say about the Word of Wisdom, but my main purpose is to examine the 1000 errors pointed out by Mark E. Peterson in his report to Pres McKay. I do think we idolize our leaders too much, and a little scrutiny isn’t a bad thing.

    Regarding comments about the “Great and Abominable Church” of course that is offensive if it is incorrectly applied to the Catholic Church. It more fully applies to the ancient Roman church. They’re the ones that persecuted the saints, fed them to the lions, etc. Read in that light, the ancient Roman emperors fit the description in the BoM much better than the Catholic Church, IMO. Check it out.

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  22. hawkgrrrl on February 26, 2013 at 3:02 AM

    I’m not sold on reopening the canon. Frankly, some crazy stuff would probably have gotten in there. I prefer our current plausible deniability model. Plus one could argue that Gen Conf talks are the open canon, and yet they contain plenty of errors too. Not that our scriptures don’t.

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  23. Howard on February 26, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    I’m not in favor of reopening our canon to accompany the current committee method of inspiration that often passes as revelation to much of the membership. That would just result in the codification of minutia, we have far too much of that already! Instead I favor a reopening of the heavens through a Prophet and a reopening of canon to accompany it.

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  24. IDIAT on February 26, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    I used to look at MD occasionally as quick reference. I’d be curioius to know whether the 1000 errors or minor or major gaffs. Maybe GA’s should get a higher stipend so they don’t have to write books to make a living.

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  25. lurking on February 26, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    I believe that any organization or institution that is NOT the Church of the Lamb of God IS the G&A church. And, as the CofJCofLDS never claims to be the Church of the Lamb of God, or the Church of the Firstborn, it may be a bit of an eye-opener to read the Book of Mormon from that perspective. Just a suggestion. It never hurts to take a critical and non-prejudiced look at oneself.
    The Church of the Lamb, or Church of the Firstborn, will be formed by individuals, not by an entire existing organization.

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  26. European Saint on February 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Howard (#11): I apologize for my admittedly cryptic (and therefore unhelpful) reply. I was juggling kids and attempting to multi-task (epic fail, I concede). I do view the Proclamation as a revelation in the sense that the information, while not “new,” is not found in the scriptures all together with that degree of clarity. To be more specific, I view every line of the document as inspired of God. This fact is not diminished to me simply because it was, as you correctly pointed out, approved by a committee. “Joseph didn’t require a committee to receive revelation for the church nor did he think much of creeds.” I do not disagree with you; that said, whether Truth is conveyed to us via pure/raw revelation from the prophet or via copy-edited/”perfected” documentation that inspired brethren approve–to me it mattereth not, in the end. At a local level, I might compare this to a Bishop being inspired all by his lonesome regarding how to reach out to a lost lamb, versus a Ward Council reasoning together and (stumbling upon?) unified light and knowledge that they then feel good about acting upon/sharing with others. While the raw, pure intelligence from on High is surely sexier in nature, the correlated/administratively influenced content can, in my mind, be just as needed, just as powerful, just as true. The Lord works in mysterious ways, whether those ways rub us wrong or not.

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  27. Howard on February 26, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    European Saint,
    Thank you for your clear response. While I agree somewhat in principle and respect your position I disagree in magnitude and practice.

    How does one tell the difference and how does one resolve the revealed (in your belief) Family Proc. and the Ban on Blacks and the words of Brigham regarding blacks and the “prophetic” concept of God not allowing the prophet (President) to lead the church astray? At some point your position appears to become a rationalization that allows saints to neither see nor hear even clear contradictions.

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  28. Mike S on February 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    #20 MH: #5 Mike, I’d love to reopen the canon, but how do you propose to do that?

    I like Howard’s comment in #23. If there is a single person on the entire earth uniquely qualified to give God’s words directly to mankind, it is our Prophet. This is what we’ve taught my entire life. If things added to our canon are directly from God through the prophet, then by definition they should be true and accepted, and not merely someone’s opinions.

    This would make many things much more clear. If President Hinckley says, I don’t see why women need more than one pair of earrings (opinion) and it is turned into pseudo-doctrine that will even keep you from going to EFY on the BYU campus, that is entirely different from if he said, based on actual revelation, Thus saith the Lord, women should only have one pair of earrings.

    There is a world of difference. While we might not understand the second case, it is at least revelation and God’s will – and his ways are not our ways. For the first (current) case, Church “doctrine” can change according to opinions of whoever happens to speak in a leadership position. Many people considered Elder McConkie’s opinion as doctrine. It is what we are left with.

    So, it’s actually an easy fix. If we have a prophet who speaks with God, we include those revelations from God in our canon.

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  29. MH on February 26, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    it’s actually an easy fix. Mike, here is where I’m going to call BS. In your original comment, you said “This is why we need to reopen our canon”

    Mike what can WE do? Are you going to get a revelation for the church? Are you going to command Pres Monson to start receiving revelations? In fact there is very little WE (you and I) can do. It is absolutely not an easy fix, unless through your Buddhist meditation you have somehow acquired the ability to receive and produce revelation.

    WE can try to do as the CoC does and propose revelations for the church, but in the LDS Church, such a move would be seen highly heretical. So NO, I do not think this is an easy fix. We have only 5 prophets that have ever received a revelation canonized in the D&C in the last just under 200 years: Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, Wilford Woodruff, and Spencer W. Kimball. (John Taylor wrote Joseph’s eulogy that is in D&C 135; perhaps he could be included in the list too, though I wouldn’t categorize it as a revelation.) Apparently receiving a revelation was only easy for Joseph Smith. For the other 4, it was rather difficult, and for the rest it has been impossible. This is far from easy.

    < If we have a prophet who speaks with God, we include those revelations from God in our canon.

    Are you saying Monson (or Hinckley or Hunter or Benson or anybody else) is not a prophet since he hasn’t produced anything worthy of the D&C?

    So once again, what can WE do to reopen the canon?

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  30. Howard on February 26, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Are you going to command Pres Monson to start receiving revelations? Well yes, more or less!

    MH it isn’t going to be quick but slowly through forums like this one it is becoming apparent to many that our prophets images as viewed by many members significantly exceeds their substance and ability to deliver. I doubt they are unaware of this changing view or unaware of the work required to actually receive the OD2 revelation. At some point they will seriously seek the reopening of the heavens or risk becoming obsolete. Their aura cannot be sustained indefinitely on watered down skim milk and minutia.

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  31. Mike S on February 26, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    MH: I obviously can’t do anything personally. After several much more time consuming callings, I currently play piano in Primary (my favorite calling of my life). The scope of my revelation for the Church is extremely limited. I don’t even choose what songs I play.

    By “we”, I meant “we” as a church. If there is a potential for misunderstanding what is “revelation” and what is someone’s well-meaning opinion (such as Mormon Doctrine and other talks / books), we DO have a mechanism in place for distinguishing between these. For the former, add them to our canon. This would clear up a lot of things.

    Under the current system, since we DON’T add to our canon any more, we (as a Church) are essentially asked to accept everything that comes from any Church leader as potential revelation, even though there are things that are merely opinion and which ultimately prove to be false. In my opinion, this ultimately weakens actual revelation, as its mixed up in presentation with everything else.

    But I do agree with you – the chance of anything you or I say making a difference with regards to anything is nil. That’s why my last post on a truly “Mormon” topic was nearly a year ago.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on February 26, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    European Saint: “I do view the Proclamation as a revelation in the sense that the information, while not “new,” is not found in the scriptures all together with that degree of clarity.” And yet, when Pres. Packer referred to it as “revelation” in General Conference, his talk was immediately edited to remove that claim. It seems clear to me that it doesn’t meet at least a consensus definition of “revelation” held by the Q15. Which also makes me wonder what does.

    I can state with certainty it has flaws: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” By definition “gender” is cultural, and culture is contextual, time and location bound, not spanning the eternities. Do they mean biological sex is eternal? What about intersex people (1.7% of the population have ambiguous genitals)? Do they mean gender identification? There have always been people whose gender identity doesn’t match the plumbing. The wording is imprecise and in this case the meaning is not clear.

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  33. European Saint on February 26, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Hawgrrrl: How do you view Genesis 1:27? To me, it goes hand in hand with that gender line from the Proclamation. I absolutely agree that English, like all mortal languages, has its flaws; therefore it is impossible to perfectly convey Truth by using it as the medium. Regarding the revision of President Packer’s talk (removing the word “revelation”): I am not convinced that move carries the meaning you see in it (discrediting the Proclamation?). At the end of the day, are we attempting to benefit from the messages God gives us through his servants, or are we too busy trying to pick out perceived flaws? These are not the days of the Priesthood Ban, IMO, although I get the impression that some in the left-leaning blogosphere hold that example up as the paradigm within which we should view all things GA-ish. Big mistake, in my view.

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  34. ji on February 26, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    The way I see it, those who serve in the Church’s highest councils are men, good men, even holy men, who do their best to teach their friends and neighbors and fellow Saints. We do them and ourselves a disservice when we try to see REVELATION in EVERY word they speak. They teach, they counsel. I appreciate their teachings and counsel, especially when the Holy Ghost adds its witness to something I’m hearing or perceiving.

    If the perspective of President Monson as a prophet isn’t working for someone, he or she should drop it for a while and use the President of the Church perspective — in one way, it changes nothing, and yet in another way, for some people, it might make a big difference. In my mind, the President of the Church perspective is the more accurate, more healthy perspective. But whichever perspective one uses, there isn’t a need to mock the perspective of someone else.

    I wouldn’t want to open our church’s canon if the decision is made by men and women for the sake of satisfying the itching ears of men and women — but if God wants to say something else, I’m happy to listen.

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  35. European Saint on February 26, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    ji: I am not mocking others’ perspectives; I am disagreeing with them (respectfully, I think), just as you are doing. “try to see REVELATION in EVERY word they speak”–>there is a big distinction between “every word” and Proclamation document, in my opinion. This wasn’t a hastily said thought at a local chapel to a local audience. But indeed, it is your prerogative to determine via your own spiritual channels how true and how valuable it is. I wish us all well in this endeavor (learning the language of the Spirit), as it is one of the big challenges of life, to be sure.

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  36. Howard on February 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    I’m on board with both Ji 34 and European Saint 35. Those two perspectives bracket a very reasonable and practical range of belief with regard to current LDS church inspiration/revelation.

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  37. hawkgrrrl on February 26, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    European Saint – I don’t see it as “discrediting” the PoF to point out that there is clearly not Q15 consensus that it qualifies as revelation. It is written by committee, though. I’m not aware of any preceding revelation coming through committee, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if it had been called a revelation. The fact that it wasn’t means something.

    “are we attempting to benefit from the messages God gives us through his servants, or are we too busy trying to pick out perceived flaws” I thought we were supposed to seek personal revelation when given counsel. That’s the model I follow.

    I take Gen 1:27 to be also a somewhat ambiguous translation. The hebrew is elohim, the plural for god(s). So the gods made man male and female like them. And yet, we know from real life that there have always been some people who are neither male nor female or whose external genitals don’t match their self-identification. They aren’t addressed in either place. Perhaps specifying male & female in genesis was to illustrate that the gods were also both male and female.

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  38. Howard on February 27, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    MH,
    The Spirit is currently being poured out (broadcast) to humankind at an increasing rate that is not being missed by many secular sensitives and it has been the buzz among them for some time. Is it any wonder some stand at the perimeter of the tent shaking the flaps and wondering if those dozing will finally catch the wave? The parable of the ten virgins comes to mind.

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  39. Rigel Hawthorne on February 27, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    I appreciate the launching of this new series. It is a great opportunity for discussion of dealing with personal opinion being conflated with official doctrine. It demonstrates one Apostle’s attempt to avoid the current default answer of “we don’t know” and the negative impact that can happen when those attempts proceed without the unity of the quorum of the 12.

    I remember my mission companion asking our mission president about very nagataive statements Elder Spencer W. Kimball had made about beauty pageants in ‘Faith Precedes the Miracle.’ Sharlene Wells had won the Miss USA Pageant the year prior. The mission president basically said that these books are ‘trash’, which unsettled my companion, as Spencer W. Kimball was then, the President of the Church.

    But I tend to agree with LDS Anarchist in that they are useless books, to be thrown away (trash), and that our focus should be on the scriptures. I am looking from a faithful LDS perspective on reconciling that the writings were not inspired, but the men who wrote them were, which is probably a different perspective from LDS Anarchist.

    My youthful enthusiasm for Mormon Doctrine was that it was a one stop look for answers on many things. It was like what ‘Especially For Mormons’ was for finding a seminary devotional. When we got the new scriptures with the index and bible dictionary, and now lds.org with its search functions, Mormon Doctrine was not needed. It was also my early introduction to disagreeing with the brethren when I didn’t see eye to eye on playing cards. As to the survey in the opening post, the 1979 revision did not come nearly far enough in the topic at hand. The admonition against inter-racial marriage is a blantant reminder. One of my Japanese instructors in the MTC told of very harsh prejudism by local church leaders when he decided (a Caucasian) to marry a Japanese woman. He was told such vile things as he was marrying below his spiritual plane. Yet, there he was teaching in the MTC, bringing his family to meet us, and sharing his story with us.

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  40. MH on February 27, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    the chance of anything you or I say making a difference with regards to anything is nil. That’s why my last post on a truly “Mormon” topic was nearly a year ago.

    Mike, I hope you’re not disillusioned. I never thought I was here to change the church. I write here because I enjoy it, and I find the conversation much more stimulating than I find at church. My contribution to changing the church is minuscule–I never thought anything I said would change a leader’s mind. It seems a bit presumptuous for you to think you would change a leader’s mind. But I do miss your posts, and I enjoy the banter back and forth. I and others would welcome some of your posts, even when I disagree with you. They are thought-provoking, which is why I thought you wrote.

    Howard, you’ve got an interesting perspective. This idea of caretaker prophet is an interesting concept. Somewhere I heard that it was David O. McKay that first asked to be referred to as “prophet”. Everyone else prior to that was simply a “president”. Perhaps we should go back to that designation, and reserve the title “prophet” for people like Kimball, Young, and Smith who actually put forth a canonized revelation.

    I always thought Genesis 1:27 referring to Elohim as the Mormon concept of gods, but as Hawkgrrrl wrote recently, the ancient Jews were polythestic. This idea that the gods created the earth could easily include the idolatry of Asherah, Baal, Molech, Yahweh, and Elohim: the pantheon of ancient Israelite worship. This could actually be a remnant of the ancient idolatrous worship.

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  41. Howard on February 28, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I think that’s right MH. With 3,000 stakes in the church each of them goes forward without a Prophet at the helm, an inspired Stake President seems to do along with occasional guidance from local 70s. I’m sure there’s a problem now and then requiring raining in, or correcting or releasing a SP or two. The same basic thing goes on with a ward. So this idea that Christ stands at the helm directing minutia like the number of ear rings or age of missionaries is uninformed. Joseph said I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. This is the status quo mode of the church and it chugs along just fine but largely going nowhere new spiritually, just marching in place. In parallel with this we have secular enlightenment which is largely free to move forward absent the limiting pharisaical rules of religion. Recently we’ve witnessed secular enlightenment pressure the church with regards to blacks and it’s forced the church to sprout a real prophet! This is being replayed with gays causing our inspired brethren to get behind a new website with a very old idea “Love One Another!”. We can’t accuse them of leading here can we? But, given this softening I doubt the gay issue will be resisted as long as the ban on blacks was and we may get a prophet out of this issue too. And while he’s at it it would be wonderful to see more Christianity, gospel principles, governing ourselves practiced and far less enforcement of Mosaic rules.

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  42. Douglas on February 28, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    #16 (Jeff) – yeah, if one of my teachers used Gospel Essentials or GD to bash another faith, I’d ’86 him too. I don’t have my teacher development manual handy but I recall that behavior was expressly ‘verboten’. Good (de)call.
    And that’ s precisely the problem. Yes, there are folks out there who have ‘itching ears’ and look for every faux pas, real and trumped-up. OTOH, there are the sincere who can be driven off by rank boorishness. Just because we proclaim “it’s twue, it’s twue!”, we’re not given license to be jerks.
    I had the pleasure of Bruce R McConkie’s company in 1981. I’ll give Andrew S, one of the moderators, permission to share my email to give detail as to WHY. Suffice it that fifteen minutes with that man was about as close as you could get to a one-on-one

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  43. Douglas on February 28, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    I meant to say with the Savior

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