Friday, March 2, 2012

LDS UnBeliefs - a Doctrinal Reference

I was at Costco today buyin some strawberries.  As I walked past the different isles of items it was almost as if I was abruptly stopped in order to notice a few things.     

First though, the post title says "unbelief(s)".  So as to be on the same page I think that word includes the lack of belief in some truth, as well as an incorrect or misunderstood truth.  Or even a well intended notion that just isn't true.  It's all "unbelief".  When the book of Mormon talks about peoples "unbelief" the people referred to are always always religious.   The Lord put his own church under condemnation for "unbelief" (D&C 84:55).  So unbelief is not just agnosticism.  Anyway, on with my visit to Costco.   

Near the entrance there was this big display of artwork depicting Christ.  My wife and I both almost had to stop, we noticed how American these images looked.  Clean shaven, in fact so clean it appeared the skin on the subjects face never produced hair.  If you didn't know better you'd think you were looking at a well respected model from any number of entertainment industry materials.  Change the outfit and you could almost have an GQ model.  I think different artists will depict different things, and I don't mean to criticize an authors or artists act of worship.  Not at all.  When I see images of Jesus for sale at the store, it does give me pause.  But I do understand this is how some people make a living.  

The more LDS artwork I pay attention to, I do see a trend.  It' seems Jesus is becoming Americanized in a way.  The problem is when we change Jesus to fit our ideal or presumption.  Dare I saw we are vulnerable to creating an idol? Or a false image?  And then paying money for them?  Not all of these images of Christ resemble each other, but there are similarities.  Various artists have given their view, or version but if you line up the images you will have to admit that they are not all the same person.  But perhaps there is still value, and these images can stir something within us.  (I believe that is their intent).  I did notice today that eye color changes, hair color changes, facial features are vastly different.

The new Testament shows many examples of religious folks, who do not recognize Christ.  For them, he looked wrong, came from the wrong place, wrong social standing, and wrong leadership position.  He didn't fit the preconceived expectation.  I think this applies just as much now as it did then.  We have our expectations of what things "should" look and feel like.  And sometimes artists images can spark something within us, but other times may actually do something quite different.   Hence the importance of us to all come to know God for ourselves.  And not rely on other's depictions, art, and testimony, but instead have our own Spirit authored testimony.

As I past that display, next was the book section.  There was a nice shiny book for 40$ titled "LDS Beliefs, A Doctrinal Reference".  Being LDS and knowing the value of doctrine I picked up the book to have a look.  There were some parts that were a good reference for basic doctrine.  I also found parts that were very concerning. 

First thing I came to was the the "S" section, and the entry was "Scriptures".  It included a verse from D&C which only quoted half the verse, and thus changed the meaning.  A bracket [........] had been added by the author in place of scriptural text which was intended to clarify meaning, but which in reality changed the meaning of the scripture.  The bracket took what applied to an Elder, and instead made the scripture apply exclusively to the President or Leaders of the Church.  This wasn't what the scripture said.  80% or 90% truth is no good if the rest is misleading.  Worse still if we intentionally edit scriptures and give them incorrect meaning.  The scripture was plain and simple, but it was altered.  I thought it odd that in this books section about scriptures, the scripture the author used was misquoted, and altered.

The book's introduction I thought would provide a good basis for understanding the book.  So I next went there.  In the intro the authors quote the LDS newsroom article titled "Approaching Mormon Doctrine":

"Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church."

Despite the stated unstable and hit and miss nature of Church leader's comments, they build on that foundation anyway.  "And so we look to those upon whom the keys of the kingdom have been conferred to establish doctrine, interpret doctrine, clarify doctrine, and explicate doctrine.  In this volume we have not sought to be novel or creative in our presentation but rather to defer to the Lords anointed, saying "none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written"

The last part of that quote is D&C 52:9.  It's used somewhat out of context and only includes half of the verse.  They left out perhaps the most important part of that verse which includes a member of the Godhead and mention of the prayer of faith.  Neither of which were mentioned at all anywhere in the introduction describing the tools used in production of the book.  So it's oddly fitting they didn't quote it, because....well, they didnt claim they even sought the Spirit's guidance. Instead they defer to leaders, and referred to "reliance on a safety net", which includes: "the words of modern apostles and prophets", "The 4 standard works", "Church handbook of instruction", and "official meetings and manuals"  All of which can interestingly be misinterpreted without the Spirit as your guide.  Even Satan quoted scripture to Christ (Matthew 4).   So while not every statement made by a church leader constitutes doctrine, they still build on that foundation anyway.

So back to that Church newsroom statement.  How am I to decide when a leader speaks and it's considered a revelation, or doctrine and how am I to decide when they are speaking as any other man? And thus how can i evaluate the book that builds on the already unstable foundation? This one concept could alter a large portion of this doctrinal book because they chose to rely on a safety net of modern leaders words as a major foundation.  They quote the Church who says that not everything spoken by Church's leaders is doctrine.  The Church made the distinction, yet neither the church nor the book's authors inform the listener about differentiating.


  1. It would be fun to go to Costco with you some time.. sounds like it was quite an eye-opening experience.

    Continue on my brother in pulling off those scales of unbelief.

  2. I think the post title might actually make a good book.
    (With that I don't/didn't intend to diss on the book referred to in the post. It had some good stuff in there, so I support their effort to preserve true doctrine)

    But honestly I wonder if such a unorthodox doctrinal reference would be an interesting read. "LDS unbelief - a doctrinal reference"

    It would include the scriptural warnings and alphabetical list of unbelief and incorrect doctrine of all prior generations of God's church by topic. Thus we could reference prior generations unbelief and apply them to our own latter-day potential to make a mess. There are likely too many to get too deep but lots could be identified. Truth and error could be set side by side for contrast.

    It might make some folks angry, but none the less in the right Spirit could prove quite interesting and actually helpful.

    I suppose the scriptures and book of Mormon already contain that stuff. Nephi and Moroni were pretty clear on what failings would tempt latter day saints. But Nephi and others often gets applied to other religions or some other group and leaves us exempt, so a reference book that in no uncertain terms says "LDS unbelief - a doctrinal reference" would be an eye opener.


  3. Seems to me that the only way to know truth is being taught is as D&C 50 teaches - for the listeners and the speaker to hear/speak by the Spirit.

    What is doctrine? That's an interesting question. Can doctrine change? Can it change when we receive additional light? Can it change should we reject the light we've been given? So many questions.

    1. One example comes to mind of a change of doctrine based on the peoples inability to live a higher law. The law of tithing.

      The Lord's approach seems incredibly kind, and considerate of our weaknesses. He does in fact want us to get it despite what rung of the ladder we may need to begin on. My view anyway.

      More and more I'm of the view that doctrine has a ring to it. It rings with a chord of truth, and part of me recognizes it however faintly. And by contrast bad doctrine or impure doctrine also has a ring, which usually is much less pleasant.