The below quotations are taken from an online “Reddit” interview of Terry Givens, (wherein he was pitching a new book he has written about the Pearl of Great Price) containing his responses to questions, and also a few relevant comments from questioners. These are followed by statements of true church doctrine that refute Givens’ statements:
Givens: I think the significance of the BofM, for Joseph and the world generally, was that it was a sign pointing to a renewal of the miraculous universe. It contained very little that was new theologically.
Response: I don’t think most members of the Church would recognize this assertion on the “significance of the Book of Mormon.” If by a “sign” of the “miraculous universe” he means the Book of Mormon is a sign of the beginning of the unfolding of the restoration of the gospel to the earth, then, yes, it is—but why not just say that? Otherwise, the title page of the book indicates its true purpose: “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” Further, the assertion that it contains very little new theologically is unjustified and would be disputed by many students of that volume of scripture.
Interview question: How can I strengthen my testimony once I’ve started to doubt Joseph’s gift of translation?
Givens’ answer: Try to unlearn everything you assumed about how revelation works. In the words of Abraham Heschel: An analysis of prophetic utterances shows that the fundamental experience of the prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God, sympathy with the divine pathos, a communion with the divine consciousness which comes about through the prophet’s reflection of, or participation in, the divine pathos. The typical prophetic state of mind is one of being taken up into the heart of the divine pathos. . . . The prophet hears God’s voice and feels His heart. He tries to impart the pathos of the message. . . . As an imparter his soul overflows, speaking as he does out of the fullness of his sympathy." I dont think that's an exact description of how JS worked, but its closer than the common set of cultural assumptions.
Response: This reply is spiritually dangerous counsel. Most members will have learned how revelation works from reading about it in the scriptures and the talks given by Church leaders; and most will have received revelation themselves; some will even have experienced the gift of tongues or discernment or have had pure intelligence flow into their minds. To unlearn such knowledge would indeed damage a testimony. While many theories abound as to how Joseph Smith translated, he said he did it “by the gift and power of God.” The purity and simplicity of Moroni 10:3-5 takes over for the seeker, followed by the teachings in the early sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. To quote a worldly philosopher’s description of how revelation was given to Joseph Smith, or anyone else for that matter, is absurdly out of place. Givens does not know how Joseph Smith received revelation, nor how he translated languages that Joseph himself did not know; therefore, his descriptions are worthless and meaningless. We are not told what the common set of cultural assumptions are supposed to be, so we cannot make a judgment on them, but surely most members of the Church would know, from appropriate sources, better than philosophers, how revelation works.
Givens: Section 76 was, as far as we know, unique as a revelation. Vivid, detailed, jointly shared, explicit. Many LDS clearly assume that JS heard Gods voice dictating revelations to him and he simply recorded them. Or that he dictated them after personally conversing with Jesus. I dont think the record bears that pattern out.
Response: Most every word of this rings false. Section 76 is indeed a marvelous revelation, but is certainly not unique. Joseph received many “vivid, detailed,” and “explicit” visions. Yes it was shared with Sidney Rigdon, but Joseph also shared a vision or visitation with Jesus and other great prophets from past dispensations, with Oliver Cowdery, depriving these situations of uniqueness.
The surveys that have been done on the various categories of the kinds of revelations that are in the Doctrine and Covenants indicate that Joseph received them a number of ways: by vision, by hearing the audible voice of God, by hearing the voice of the Lord in his mind, by the Spirit dictating to him what to write, by pure intelligence flowing into his mind, by the Urim and Thummim, and by other ways.
Givens: It helps to recognize that church leaders are not historians, and they have not used their position to access secret archives with the real history of Mormonism chronicled. They were raised on the same manuals we were. And many times the inaccuracies are of no one's deliberate doing. For instance, JS himself used the term Urim and Thummim to refer both to the interpreters and to the seer stone in hat. No wonder we got those details wrong for so many years. And in cases where the record was inaccurately transmitted, does the misdeed of a church historian 50 or a hundred years ago have anything to do, really, with my discipleship to Christ?
Response: This is a mixture of semi-truths jumbled together. While church leaders are not professional historians they are church leaders—Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is much better than being a historian. Historians are limited in their fields by access to historical sources. Where such is non-existent or sketchy, their contributions become likewise non-existent or sketchy. To rely on the word of certain historians/academics can become a tragic trap that may cost a person their testimony and even eternal life. Plural marriage in Nauvoo is one of those areas where limited and sketchy documentation has devalued the worth of the input of historians. While there is no alleged “real history” (or alternate history) of the Church (a favorite theme of anti-Mormons) hidden in church archives, there are minutes of meetings of the First Presidency and the Twelve, diaries of apostles, and many sacred, private, and confidential church historical records that are access restricted, and for mostly good reason (hinders critics from mocking the sacred). This means that senior church leaders do have access to restricted information that others are denied, contrary to Givens’ assertions. Further, there is a huge difference between past church histories containing “inaccuracies” which they really didn’t, and these past church histories avoiding the parts of church history that did not build faith in Christ. The purpose of Sunday School and priesthood/Relief Society lessons was and is to strengthen faith in God, not review all church history. Those who have thought otherwise, and then declare themselves as feeling betrayed, are dealing with self-imposed illusions that feed their doubts. Details were not “wrong” so much as they were omitted for good reasons. Studying the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Sunday School would have deepened no one’s testimony, while studying the Book of Mormon deepened many testimonies. Only those who mistake the purposes for church classes ever accuse the church of inaccurate history. I can’t help but think that if some past church leaders (such as President Joseph Fielding Smith) were enabled to return and explain themselves today, and talk to some historians and academics, they would be doing some rebuking.
Givens: It doesnt bother me that he [Joseph Smith] turns out to have been channeling rather than translating-- esp. given the fact that that is how we got the BofM.
Response: Givens is here advocating the dubious theory that Joseph Smith didn’t know that he wasn’t translating the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon, but that instead he had owned an Egyptian papyrus that triggered or catalyzed his mind into “channeling,” evidently by revelation, the text of the Book of Abraham, that he dictated to scribes, all the while thinking he was translating an actual existing papyrus, or in the case of the Book of Mormon, from gold plates. This is the kind of nonsense that a few academics theorize. No Church leader has taught that Joseph channeled the text of the Book of Mormon. On the contrary, they have all taught that he translated it by the gift and power of God. There is some debate in play as to whether he used the Urim and Thummim or a seer stone, or, more probably both, in the translation process, but that is beside the point. He said he “translated [not transmitted or channeled] by the gift and power of God.” Also we read, “And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;” (D&C 20:8; the “means” “before prepared” meant the interpreters, not the seer stone) and these statements mean that the Holy Spirit was involved. In a famous letter, Joseph Smith wrote: “With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called ‘Urim and Thummim,’ [the Interpreters] which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rims of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.” Here we have Joseph’s physical description of the Urim and Thummim (or Interpreters), not a seer stone, “through the medium of” which he says he translated the Book of Mormon (not channeled). More scripture: “And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters” (Ether 4:5). Joseph used the means before prepared as the scriptures and letter he wrote say he did. Joseph knew no Egyptian (reformed or otherwise) and never claimed he did. But he was a Seer and Translator as part of his calling as the Prophet of God on earth. The academics, like Givens, claiming he was not a translator but a channeler are misleading people and contradicting scripture; a sad and sorry development.
Questioner: What advice do you have about studying and coming to understand the Pearl of Great Price for someone who struggles with the Old Testament as well? How can I open my heart and mind to God's word, when a lot of ancient scripture seems irrelevant or implausible in the current times?
Givens’ answer: Parley Pratt set us on the wrong track hermeneutically [interpretation of scripture]. He was an avid literalist. JS emphasized time and again the fallibility of scriptures. 1 Nephi 13 tells us that our blinded condition is a consequence of biblical corruption, but as LDS we are reluctant to actually call out those corruptions specifically. In our PERSONAL study I think we have to do that. I follow CS Lewis's rule: As he wrote to a friend, it is dangerous to dismiss out of hand certain biblical depictions, such as “the atrocities (and treacheries) of Joshua. I see the grave danger we run by doing so,” he wrote, “but the dangers of believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, and then, in mere terrified flattery calling Him ‘good’ and worshiping Him, is still greater danger. The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible.”
Response: This is largely rubbish, or mixed rubbish. Joseph Smith did emphasize that the Bible was troublesome and fallible because of its many translation and transmission errors, but in relation to his own revelations, he said the Book of Mormon was the most correct book (doctrinally and revelatory) on earth, and he also said that “there is no error in the revelations which I have taught,” meaning the doctrinal accuracy of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants and other books of scripture he brought forth. The Book of Mormon does indicate that there is the possibility of the errors of men in the text, but Joseph did not emphasize that. So Givens has completely misstated the case. And no matter how much C. S. Lewis is quoted in Conference, and how correct many of his teachings were (and how great the likelihood that he has now joined the Church in the spirit world), he was a Protestant theologian that did not really know much solid doctrine. Let us not follow him or his rules of interpretation, and instead follow those of the prophets today. Joseph Smith taught: “What is the rule of interpretation? Just no interpretation at all. Understand it precisely as it reads.” Some scriptures are meant to be interpreted literally, some figuratively. We can have the Spirit of the Lord to assist us, and the apostles and prophets, or C. S. Lewis or some other modern philosopher. Which is best? Elder Maxwell’s advice seems relevant to answer this questioner: “There is a risk when we contemplate the doctrines of the Restoration that we might ‘stagger’ in the face of such bold and promising truths. Given such breathtaking revelations and translations, let us, therefore, heed King Benjamin’s counsel: ‘Believe in God; … believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend’ (Mosiah 4:9).”
Givens: I believe in a severely self-limiting omnipotence. And I believe in a tragic universe, in Hegel's sense. Some conflicts are irresolvable, even by God.
Response: The omniscience and omnipotence of God is longtime well-settled church doctrine; that Givens does not believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God speaks volumes about him, but says nothing about the Church and its doctrine—which is not beholden to his or Hege’s philosophizing. Notice how often Givens appeals to the philosophers of the world to justify his warped gospel opinions. Is this where we really want to go for knowledge of the plan of salvation? All I have to do is skim a few General Conference talks and everything there contradicts Givens’ assertions.
Givens: Personally, I find the King Follett theology perhaps the single most intellectually appealing aspect of Mormon theology. As even Ricard Dawkins [an atheist activist] admitted in print and on air, "I could believe in God as a super-evolved human intelligence," or words to that effect. Evolution, progress out of opposition, increasing complexity, self-organizing systems everywhere around us- this is the world king follett describes. I could not, personally, be a conventional theist. I cant embrace an always existing infinitely perfect Being of goodness and compassion. My mind cant go there. But I can embrace a material universe, in which hydrogen becomes helium becomes the stuff of planets and stars and human life and Mozart and Shakespeare. And God as the supreme instance of such boundless energies moving toward perfection-- I can get my mind around that.
Response: If Givens is pushing evolution or the big bang theory here, then he is just parroting modern scientific theories that contradict scripture and the teachings of the prophet. Anyone can read the Prophet Joseph’s King Follet discourse for themselves to find out what it really says and teaches, rather than accepting an academics explanation for what it says. D&C 20: “we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them;” Do we seek after the finite man-made explanations of this liberal/progressive academic or do we desire and love and believe the word of the Lord? “And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them; And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.” Givens teaching that God is “moving toward perfection” is blasphemy that every sound and stable church members should rise up and condemn (Matthew 5:48)!
Givens: A general hostility to biblical criticism in general, as well as a pervasive suspicion of non-LDS scholarship is crippling our ability to read the scriptures more intelligently.
Response: This call to seek after and accept the Bible scholarship of the world is spiritually and doctrinally dangerous and contrary to the continuous counsel of Church leaders from the Prophet Joseph Smith till now. From the 8th article of faith: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” to other stronger warning from prophets and apostles, the church as a whole should be on guard against contrary counsel from Givens or others. Let us not mix the pure doctrine of the church with the religious scholarship of the world!—not at all costs! Higher Biblical criticism denies the miraculous, the supernatural. The First Presidency and Twelve have long guarded the Church against what Givens here promotes.
Inquirer: What do you personally believe it means to become "gods" in exaltation? Can we one day be everything that our Father in Heaven is now? Do you believe that our Father was once a mortal in some eons or eternity past? Or do you believe becoming a god in exaltation is something other than repeating the pattern of spirit child => mortal life =>become a god => spirit children.
Givens: I dont know what "becoming a god" means or entails, but Moses 7 gives us the most information available to us. It has something to do with acquiring an infinite capacity for empathy and compassion. I incline to the belief that we will foster/shepherd/adopt or otherwise help to educate other spirit entities in the ways of the eternities, in companionship with our spouse.
Response: Givens’ response speaks of either ignorance of, or disbelief in, the many scriptures that teach what it means to become like God; whether this is willful or not I couldn’t say, but is unconscionable for someone professing to be educated and working for BYU. His audience deserves far better and doesn’t get it; but they don’t seem to go to the scriptures and teachings of the prophets either; also deeply regrettable. We are not a church that relies on the opinions of scholars; we are a church that relies on revelation, that already canonized or that coming from the current prophet of God. Anyone teaching differently than this is teaching false doctrine and is in conflict with all of the prophets and apostles—those who hold the keys of the kingdom.
There is a list of scriptures longer than your arm, to use the colloquial saying, that teach that the faithful can become as God is and do exactly what He now does:
“If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).
“All things that the Father hath are mine” (John 16:15).
“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” (D&C 84:8)
“Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48).
“Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them” (3 Nephi 19:29).
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. . . . And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:11, 20-23).
“Ye shall be even as I am” (3 Nephi 28:10).
“Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me” (John 17:22, 24).
“If you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father” (D&C 93:20)
. “And John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things’ (D&C 93:26-28).
“Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (John 17:2).
“Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son. But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin” (D&C 50:26-28).
“Wherefore, as it is written they are gods, even the sons of God—Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (D&C 76:58-59).
“Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; . . . and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths. They shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness of a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods” (D&C 132:19-20).
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
“Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins . . . which were to continue to long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the starts; or, if you were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them. This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself” (D&C 132: 30-31).
This list is already too long, and most will not read each verse, and there are many more, but how one can supposedly be familiar with the scriptures and not know that the faithful can become just like God is now, is beyond me. Elder McConkie told CES religious educators: “So simple a passage as John 17:3 has a limited meaning for all men, but it is a celestial beacon of blazing light to us. From it we learn that to know God and Christ is to be like them—thinking what they think, speaking what they speak, doing what they do—all of which knowledge is beyond the capacity of an unenlightened mind to receive.” For other sources refuting Givens’ philosophizing, see here. His alternative theories conflict with the scriptures, except perhaps if we categorize them as angels. The angels, who are not Gods in eternity, but who remain as angels forever, might do the kinds of things he theorizes. Too bad they will never be anything but angels. They “are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.” Sounds to me like Givens’ best thinking will allow him to become a ministering angel for someone who could grasp the concept of, and pursue and attain far greater glory.
Inquirer: I've read everything you've ever written or said, and I have a great love for the parts of Mormonism that both you and I have had an intellectual conversion to. What I am sensing today is that there are two Mormonisms. One Mormonism is this kind of Dallin H. Oaks, obedience based, old historical narrative, literal interpretation of scripture, one true Church narrative...and the other Mormonism is one you would find from nuanced Mormons. The other Mormonism has a different historical narrative, approaches scripture differently, sees Christ as more of a healer than the sins rhetoric, has a different idea on what prophets are, focuses on the larger Church of Christ versus one true church, is wary of pharisee like rules in the Church, etc. It goes back to the idea of Iron Rodders and Liahonas. Except then I felt like when that was written, the two could co-exist. Now I feel like we are in a battle over which Mormonism is the true Mormonism, and which one is going to move forward. I sense a crossroads for the religion. Do you get that sense? Is it possible that the Church will move away some of the more beautiful aspects of our philosophy to the point that we lose the essence of it altogether until all that is left is truth claims and Mormon fundamentalism, with the hinterlands of Mormonism abandoned, . . . to the dangerous outskirts? Do you sense a Crossroads? Can we adjust and shift the narrative fast enough to not lose all of the "intellectual, feminist, and gay" Mormons that are considered threatening to the Church?
Givens: I share some of these concerns. Many who stay do so because they are intellectually incurious and not apt to be troubled by new developments or discoveries. And many who leave do so because they are intellectually curious, but not intellectually open enough to reformulations of faith paradigms. So we may be losing the moderate middle. On the more positive side, I think the Mormonism I apprehend is coming into its own. Distinctive voices in the quorum have spoken feelingly about the place for doubting disciples who struggle. And they have emphasized the fallibility of prophets, and the inadequacies of our historical narrative. And the massive revisionist work going on (JSP, topics essays, Saints volume) all attest to a new sensibility that is in the ascendancy. I think our leadership and culture alike have always been populated by those who emphasize the gentler side of Christ and his gospel, and those who feel the need to hold the line against the encroachments of secularism and progressivism. Thats fine and healthy. The most polarizing voices I hear are not from the leadership. They are, on the one hand, from those who have rigid, inflexible views of what constitutes orthodoxy and impugn the character and faith of those who differ. And on the other, from those who evince the attitude that they are enlightened and hope the church will catch up to their progressive views. As a whole, I see developments from the top as inspired developments.
Response: So, here we have a doubter, a dissident, who believes the church is fragmenting into two camps; one for the doubters and dissidents, and one for the followers of (falsely labeled supposedly) rigid people like President Dallin H. Oaks—and Givens shares some of those concerns!? Turns my stomach. The church is not splitting, but there are some that leave it because they become enamored of the world and imbibe its social and philosophical agenda. And they will receive the reward the world can offer them. I would encourage people to find out for themselves what the voices of the Quorum of the Twelve are teaching and have taught. While they sometimes touch on the issue of the doubters and dissidents, they do not give comfort and aid to the enemy. While they know that they themselves and their predecessors are and have been fallible men, they also know they hold the holy Apostleship and receive revelation from Jesus Christ that guides His Church. Alleged inadequacies in the historical record are really gaps where the record did not build faith and were therefore purposely left out as gaps. Let no one have fear that the Church will splinter or that dissidents will get their own church of intellectuals, feminists, and gays that becomes the real church. Such is not in the offing.
Then we have the 64-dollar statement: “The most polarizing voices I hear are not from the leadership. They are, on the one hand, from those who have rigid, inflexible views of what constitutes orthodoxy and impugn the character and faith of those who differ.” There is little doubt this statement is aimed at me and others like me, who are labelled as dogmatic and inflexible in our views and who supposedly impugn the character of those who differ.
Well, let’s think about this notion. Just how much flexibility and unorthodoxy should Jesus and His prophets and apostles allow to creep into the Church and its doctrines? Enough to cause its apostasy? More? Less? How long would The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last as a unified identifiable body of covenant believers if Givens philosophizing became the norm? He quotes many worldly philosophers in his interview and also in other writings. How long until we would cease to be the Restored Church of Jesus Christ?
Was Jesus dogmatic? Did He allow His disciples to teach false doctrine? What caused the great apostasy in the first place? Was it a mixture of true doctrines as taught by the apostles with Greek philosophy? What about those who differ from orthodoxy? Should we give them a pulpit to preach their doubts and differences and social agendas? Do we stand as watchmen on the tower or do we hand the keys of the gates to the enemy or anyone who happens to wander past with an opinion and a learned reputation? Eternal truths are indeed “dogmatic” and I love them.
Rigidly, inflexibly holding tight, dogmatically, to the iron rod keeps people on the path to the tree of life, and then also keeps them from wandering into forbidden paths or into mists of darkness to get lost. Does President Nelson’s voice polarize? If you think not, you are a fool. “Truth is truth” he recently stated. The prophets and apostles would have all men and women come into the church, no matter their background, but they would not allow them to preach and infuse the philosophies of men or their former church’s theology into the doctrine of the Church. It is one thing to come in or stay in and seek to promote the false agenda of the world around us, and another to come in repenting and meekly accepting truth as found in the word of God. This church is governed by scripture and modern revelation to a prophet, not by the thinking of the eminent philosophers that Givens loves quoting.
If someone feels their character has been impugned when in reality their false doctrine has been corrected, so be it; I can live with their mistake easily and happily. The General Authorities suffer from that kind of misunderstanding constantly; it goes with being a watchman on the tower.
Givens: The difference is that in the intervening century, we have acquired culturally shaped expectations about prophets and revelation that are highly unrealistic and inconsistent with Smithian doctrine. [emphasis added]
Response: The Church has been taught by prophet in “the intervening century” and people have had them and their teachings before them as examples. This has lifted and inspired and edified the Church for all that time and still does. Only fools ever believed prophets were perfect and infallible. Their lives and spiritual experiences have been used as examples to edify and instruct members of the Church. This has been done with purpose and forethought and direction from the Lord. Givens’ explanations here are more than troubling.
But one of the most egregious things he wrote in the online interview was to raise the notion of a “Smithian” doctrine. The whole foundation of the restoration is the fact that Joseph Smith did not have his own doctrine. There is no such thing as “Smithian” doctrine. Two quotations of refutation will suffice. From President Charles W. Penrose: “The revelations that we have are not simply utterances of the Prophet Joseph or others to whom they have been given. They are the word of the Lord. Don’t let us forget that. When we talk about Joseph Smith as a scientist, that is all right when we go to show that things revealed to him as truths have since been received and understood by the learned of the age and have come to them without knowing that he predicted them, but was he their author? We do not pit him against them, but we take the word of the Lord, and don’t let us forget that it is the word of the Lord that has come to us, and this Church is founded upon it.... The word of the Lord…is truth and can be relied upon, and we can take our stand upon it and bring everything to it, and that should be with us the standard.”
(Conference Report, April 1918, 21-22.)
One more from President Gordon B. Hinckley, who quoted from D&C 76 and then said:
“These are not, I submit, the words of Joseph Smith the man. They are words of divine revelation that speak of the glorious opportunity, the promised blessings made possible by the Son of God through His divine atonement in behalf of all who will listen and obey. These words are the promise of the Redeemer of the world, who rules and reigns in that celestial kingdom and who invites us to qualify ourselves to come into His presence.” I suggest that Givens ought to distinguish between the teachings of men and those from God through his Prophet. He loves to quote and believe the teachings of the philosophers of the world, so his own teachings echo theirs, not a good guide to follow. Elder Robert D. Hales said: “What I would emphasize more than anything else is that Church doctrine remains constant. It used to be that the Church and the world weren’t very far apart. Now the world is accelerating downward fast. There are many who would like to have the Church be a few steps behind the world but moving with it. But wherever the world goes, however deviant it becomes, the Church will remain constant.”
I conclude with President Packer’s counsel: “As I grow in age and experience, I grow ever less concerned over whether others agree with us. I grow ever more concerned that they understand us. If they do understand, they have their agency and can accept or reject the gospel as they please. It is not an easy thing for us to defend the position that bothers so many others.
Brethren and sisters, never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never apologize for the sacred doctrines of the gospel.” As we have seen, Givens seems not only to apologize for gospel doctrines, but to agree with those of the world seeking to disbelieve or change them.
I hope people can find better scholarship on the Pearl of Great Price than that offered by Givens or the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, such would seem to be a wise search indeed.