Saturday, February 27, 2016

Defining and Determining Mormon Doctrine

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing portions of his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the first post here.

            Over and over again the consistent message from LDS apostles and prophets is that Mormon doctrine comes from the scriptures (the four standard works) as interpreted by prophets and apostles. The way new doctrine or modification of present doctrine comes is by revelation to the President of the Church (such as section 138 and the two Official Declarations in the Doctrine and Covenants). As fundamental as this principle is, many still seek to change, reinterpret, alter, or reject church doctrine. The reason is usually because some of it does not mesh with modern social issues and the philosophies of men.

            Along with this and future blog posts in this series, readers are encouraged to review the following essays on the subject: the Mormon Newsroom article on Approaching Mormon Doctrine, Robert L. Millett’s fine longer examination What is Our Doctrine, and FairMormon’s piece on What is “Official” LDS Doctrine.

Other authors and bloggers have also posted various opinions on the subject but often (though not always) these are so academically oriented or misinformed (or even hostile) as to be either worthless or worse than worthless.

            The below quotations should help with providing a more rounded perspective of how to determine genuine, authentic, gospel doctrine. Later blog posts will continue with this important matter as it relates to prophets, scripture, teaching, and revelation:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Where did Joseph Smith get the Gospel?

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing portions of his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the first post here.

            Some prominent educators today argue that Joseph Smith (because of his innate religious “genius”) got much of the gospel of Jesus Christ by recognizing and then adopting truths found in other Christian churches of his day. They say he then combined those borrowed doctrines with the priesthood keys that were given to him by angels. One of these educators wrote: “The grand project of restoration, then, relied upon a vision of apostasy as retreat and admixture, rather than absence. His task would involve not just innovation, or ex nihilo oracular pronouncements upon lost doctrines, but the salvaging, collecting, and assimilating of much that was mislaid, obscured, or neglected. I pause to make one all-important caveat which I can’t elaborate today: . . . Smith believed that apostasy did involve corruption beyond remedy of certain ordinances and covenants; and only heavenly transmission of authority could recuperate those essentials.” So states our learned professor.

Disagreeing with him are others (quoted below) of somewhat more orthodox and authoritative stature. The fact that various and sundry truths are found in other churches and religions should simply confirm their presence in the Bible and not delude us into thinking that such (other churches) is where Joseph got them from. These quotations should serve to dispel this academic mythmaking:

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Revelation for the Church is Obtained by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing portions of his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the first post here.

            On January 10, 2016, President Russell M. Nelson gave a marvelous talk to young adults in which he shared internal details of how the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles work together in unity to obtain divine solutions to the “thorny” problems that confront the Church. By so disclosing, he gave comfort and assurance of Divine direction to the spiritually-attuned and prepared listeners in his world-wide audience. But he also caused some other observers to begin debating among themselves regarding how the process works and even to question its legitimacy. He stated:

We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When a thorny problem arises—and they only seem to get thornier each day—these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord. After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my Brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned. And my Brethren have the same experience.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Determining Doctrinal Authority in Mormonism

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing portions of his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth.

Introducing a series of blogs:

Determining Doctrinal Authority in Mormonism

Some fourteen or so years ago I spent a few years researching, collecting, and organizing a substantial compilation of statements from many church leaders (and a few leading scholars) enumerating what constituted doctrinal authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I later learned that I had missed some items that I should have found and included in the book, I was still able to find most of the best quotations existing on the subject of determining/discerning/identifying true doctrine. (This work took place before the LDS newsroom published their fine statement.)

I was not trying to write another Mormon Doctrine-type explanation of doctrinal topics, but was instead seeking to let the authorities define doctrinal authority themselves. Having noted this, there are many selections in the volume that do explain doctrinal subjects to some extent. In 2005 this compilation was published as Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. Most of the edition has now been sold, though several dozen or so hardback copies remain available through Eborn Books and Deseret Book.

             I am now sharing selected parts of this compilation with a wider audience as a means of countering, correcting, clarifying, or refuting some of the less-than-enlightening or accurate blogs and comments so often made in the (unorthodox and liberally-inclined) “bloggernacle,” and also the many falsehoods and half-truths posted by critics, dissidents, and activists. One of the truisms that great doctrinal minds like Elder McConkie and President Romney and others commonly counseled (long before the advent of the internet, blogs, and social media) regarding suspect sources of doctrine went like this: “don’t drink below the horses.”

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gay Activism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Ruminations on Promoting Sin

by Dennis B. Horne 

President Gordon B. Hinckley knew exactly what he was talking about when, in a 1997 general conference, he cautioned members of the Church, saying: “I hope you will never look to the public press [or bloggers/social media] as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” His point was that most commentary from such sources fails to one degree or another to accurately represent or communicate Church doctrine, practice, and policy. The result is that many readers are given a false impression of the Church’s position and judge it falsely thereby. Of course, such a result (misunderstanding) is usually what the reporter or blogger—often a gay activist—seeks. They know there is nothing easier to sway than an outraged but misinformed audience.

The Position of the Church

The Proclamation on the Family teaches that “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[1] The First Presidency has stated:

We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord. As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.[2]