Tuesday, March 22, 2016

False Doctrine sometimes believed and taught in the True Church

Editor's note: This is number 11 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the first post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determinining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

            While critics sometimes try to make a mountain out of a mole-hill with this unfortunate reality, for Latter-day Saints it is understood to be but a part of our mortal probation, struggling to improve and learn and do better. Even with the scriptures, with prophets and apostles, the priesthood, the gift of the Holy Ghost (with the attendant gifts of the Spirit), correlated manuals and handbooks, training meetings, general conferences, stake conferences, and everything else the church has provided to indoctrinate and inoculate its members, far too many still get it wrong. We shake our heads in wonder and are baffled, but then we remember that people are imperfect mortals and that the devil is alive and well and working hard to thwart God’s purposes. Yet we are encouraged by the fact that among the faithful, who take the Holy Spirit and the scriptures for their guide, far less false and erroneous notions are found than elsewhere. Having said that, one could still wish that more Latter-day Saints diligently sought to become gospel scholars and pillars of spiritual strength—following the example of today’s prophets and apostles. To adjust a word of scripture to make the point: “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [them], behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17)—may it one day be so.

Bruce R. McConkie:

            I do not know all of the providences of the Lord, but I do know that he permits false doctrine to be taught in and out of the Church and that such teaching is part of the sifting process of mortality. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1981.)

Joseph Fielding Smith:

            The brethren of the General Authorities long ago discovered the difficulty in trying to get members of the Church to comprehend the truth. It is futile to attempt because there is such a lack of faith, prayer and study and the Spirit of the Lord cannot function. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.” (Teachings, p. 331) …

            Of course I realize that all of this…may fall on deaf ears and hearts that are hard to penetrate…. I would have you remember that the Lord has said that when his servants speak by the power of the Holy Ghost it is scripture just as much as it was scripture in days of old. (Joseph Fielding Smith Correspondence, 1952.)

Bruce R. McConkie:

            Even in the true Church there are few sound scriptorians and theologians who have a comprehensive knowledge of revealed truth. So far this dispensation has not been noted for the diffusion of real gospel scholarship among the elders and saints generally. There are few modern experts on the gospel. Few have paid the price of intense study, of determined self-discipline, and of righteous living necessary to gain a broad knowledge of the truths of salvation. Nearly all members of the Church need to study the revealed word far more than they now do. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965], 1:59.)

Paul H. Dunn:

            I have never sat through a sacrament meeting but I have heard two or three wonderful people teach false doctrine innocently, from the high council straight through to the bishopric to the regular members of the Church, every week. And mainly [it is] because they have pulled something from unofficial sources which agrees with their personal thinking. (“Truth or Speculation?” Transcript of unpublished address given at Provo MTC, 1990, 6.)

Bruce R. McConkie:

            Occasionally things get said in sacrament meeting that aren’t exactly so. (“Salvation for the Dead,” unpublished BYU 1967 Summer School lecture to religious educators, 8.)

J. Reuben Clark:

            I can tell you from my observations that our young people grow up without too much knowledge of the gospel. They have a lot of knowledge about other things, some very indefinite information, and sometimes erroneous about the gospel. (“Preparation of Teachers—Build a Simple Faith,” Pre-School Faculty Meeting Address, September 19, 1956, 25.)

Joseph F. Smith;

To be Latter-day Saints men and women must be thinkers and workers; they must be men and women who weigh matters in their minds; men and women who consider carefully their course of life and the principles that they have espoused. Men cannot be faithful Latter-day Saints unless they study and understand, to some extent at least, the principles of the gospel that they have received. When you hear people, who profess to be Latter-day Saints, running off on tangents, on foolish notions and one-horse, cranky ideas, things that are obviously opposed to reason and to good sense, opposed to principles of righteousness and to the word of the Lord that has been revealed to men, you should know at once that they have not studied the principles of the gospel, and do not know very much about the gospel. When people understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will see them walking straightforward, according to the word of the Lord and the law of God, strictly in accordance with that which is consistent, just, righteous, and in every sense acceptable to the Lord who only accepts of that which is right and pleasing in his sight; for only that which is right is pleasing unto him.—Improvement Era, vol. 14, 1910, p. 72. (Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939], 114.)

Boyd K. Packer:

            The one who presides is responsible for the conduct of the meeting and has the right and the responsibility to receive inspiration and may be prompted to adjust or correct something that goes on in the meeting. (“The Unwritten Order of Things,” in Brigham Young University Speeches, October 15, 1996, 3.)

Boyd K. Packer:

            Ordinarily but not always, if the presiding officer speaks, it will be at the end of the meeting. Then clarification or correction can be given. I have had that experience many times at the close of meetings; “Well, brother or sister somebody said such and such, and I’m sure they meant such and such.” (“The Unwritten Order of Things,” in Brigham Young University Speeches, October 15, 1996, 3.)

Brigham Young:

            We want the truth, and the whole truth; and we look forward with gladness to the time when we can say we have nothing but the truth. We cannot say that now; we have an immense amount of error, and we are very far from being perfect; but we hope to see the time that we can say that we have truth only, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., 14:94.)

L. Aldin Porter:

            One’s intentions may be of the purest kind. The sincerity may be total and complete. Nevertheless, pure intentions and heartfelt sincerity do not give members of the Church authority to declare doctrine which is not sustained by the living prophets. While we are members of the Church, we are not authorized to publicly declare our speculations as doctrine nor to extend doctrinal positions or other conclusions based upon the reasoning of men and women, even by the brightest and most well-read among us. (Conference Report, October 1994, 82.)

Gordon B. Hinckley:

            I have spoken before about the importance of keeping the doctrine of the Church pure, and seeing that it is taught in all of our meetings. I worry about this. Small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997], 620.)

Bruce R. McConkie:

            I do not get concerned when a good and sound person who, on the over-all, in teaching the truth happens to err on a particular point and say something in conflict with what he has said himself on a previous occasion. We are all mortal. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. No single individual all the time is in tune with the Holy Spirit, but I do get concerned when some person or group picks out false statements and makes them the basis of their presentation and theology and thus ends up having a false concept of the doctrine, which in reality, was not in the mind of the person whose quotations they are using. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1981.)

Bruce R. McConkie:

            It’s a considerably more serious thing to teach false doctrine than most people suppose. You have to use a little wisdom and a little judgment in applying this rule. This doesn’t mean that if someone goes into a high priest’s quorum or some class of the church, and expounds some view that is in error that he is going to go to hell. Because basically, overall, he is sound, but he just errs is some respect. And we would hope that through counsel and training and getting more light to him that he would line up and end up in the category of people that are sound and teach true doctrine. But the end result of teaching false doctrine is to send the teacher and the hearer to hell. The end result is that you begin to teach sufficient false doctrine that people fall away from the Church and you have an apostate organization. You teach sufficient false doctrine so that the basic fundamentals of the [gospel] are no longer recognizable and so you become [another church]….

            This is a matter of vital and important perspective and view for us to have…. It’s tremendously important to teach true doctrine. (“1st and 2nd Timothy,” unpublished lecture transcript, University of Utah Institute, April 1, 1968, n.p.)

Wilford Woodruff:

            I am very much opposed to false doctrine, either preaching it myself or having anybody else preach it. I, therefore, wish to make this correction if there is any need of it. God never had a church or a people, in any age of the world, that were governed and controlled except by revelation. The living oracles of God were among them—those who held the keys of the kingdom, and they had to receive revelation to assist them in all their work.—MS 51:548-549 (1889) (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 53-54.)

Boyd K. Packer:

A member, at any given time, may not understand one point of doctrine or another, may have a misconception, or even believe something is true that in fact is false.
There is not much danger in that. That is an inevitable part of learning the gospel. No member of the Church should be embarrassed at the need to repent of a false notion he might have believed. Such ideas are corrected as one grows in light and knowledge.

It is not the belief in a false notion that is the problem, it is the teaching of it to others. (Conference Report, April 1985, 43–44; or Ensign, May 1985, 35.)

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