The Doctrine of Christ

The latest speculation about Mormon doctrine comes from lawyer turned “apostle” D. Todd Christofferson who spoke about the subject at the April 2012 General Conference, calling it “The Doctrine of Christ.”

LDS Leaders Then-NowIn this talk Christofferson makes the following observation:

“In some faith traditions, theologians claim equal teaching authority with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and doctrinal matters may become a contest of opinions between them. Some rely on the ecumenical councils of the Middle Ages and their creeds. Others place primary emphasis on the reasoning of post-apostolic theologians or on biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.”

According to Christofferson, then, Mormon doctrine is the teaching of “authorized” church leaders given by “divine revelation.” He continues,

“At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that ‘a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.’

“President Clark, quoted earlier, observed:

“ ‘To this point runs a simple story my father told me as a boy, I do not know on what authority, but it illustrates the point. His story was that during the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk.’”

In a footnote, Christofferson adds that Clark didn’t actually know if the story his father told even happened. So for Christofferson and Clark, an unverified story, perhaps folklore, illustrates the principle that even the President of the Church himself may not always be moved upon by the Holy Ghost when he addresses the people? This is not what those like Orson Hyde said about Brigham Young:

“Some persons say that Brigham does not give revelations as did Joseph Smith. But let me tell you, that Brigham’s voice has been the voice of God from the time he was chosen to preside, and even before. …He possesses skill, wisdom, and power that trouble wise men and rulers. God will make him a greater terror to nations than he ever has been. I will now quote a few passages from the revelations of God as contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants:—‘My words shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice out of the heavens, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.’ Again, concerning his servants—‘Whatsoever you shall speak by my Spirit shall be Scripture—shall be the word of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the mind of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.’ Again, from the New Testament, Jesus says, ‘Whosoever heareth you (whom I send) heareth me.’” (Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 8:234-235, October 7, 1860)

Which Mormon “prophet,” will they claim, didn’t have the “constant companionship” of the Holy Ghost? If they can’t tell us that, then they can’t say the “prophet” did not always speak by his power.

“Apostle” Moses Thatcher claimed that unlike “hireling” Christians, Mormons speak the truth when delivering doctrine to the “saints”:

“They [the elders of Israel] speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost and not as those paid with a price. A true servant of God is not afraid of public opinion, but will rebuke that opinion if wrong. …I bear to you my testimony that Wilford Woodruff is a prophet of the Most High God. I know that he speaks by revelation. He communes with Brigham Young, though Brigham Young, we say, is dead. Joseph, the great modern prophet since death, has communed with our venerable living leader. Thus are we lead step by step through the inspiration that comes from God and his servants;…” (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses 2:316-317, November 2, 1891)

Brigham YoungBrigham Young was emphatic that neither he nor anyone authorized by him ever taught false doctrine and challenged the world to show otherwise:

“You may ask the question: Has no one Elder in Israel ever taught false doctrine? Yes, but no man has who has been authorized to teach, guide and direct the Saints. Did Jesus, Peter, James, John or Joseph Smith ever teach a false or incorrect doctrine? Not that you or I know of; we cannot find it.” (Journal of Discourses 12:310, November 29, 1868)

“I am at the defiance of earth and hell to put a finger on the place or time that a false doctrine was taught to any one, a wrong taught to any one, or when evil was justified in any one, all the liars and all the lies on earth and in hell to the contrary notwithstanding.” (Journal of Discourses 13:217, July 17, 1870)

This would include Young’s teachings on Adam-god, blood atonement, and the priesthood ban on blacks.

Brigham Young also said that false doctrine, if taught, would be detected by the “saints” almost immediately:

“I can say this for the Latter-day Saints, and I will say it to their praise and my satisfaction, if I were to preach false doctrine here, it would not be an hour after the people got out, before it would begin to fly from one to another, and they would remark, ‘I do not quite like that! It does not look exactly right! What did Brother Brigham mean? That did not sound quite right, it was not exactly the thing!’ … I will defy any man, to preach false doctrine without being detected; and we need not go to the Elders. of Israel, the children who have been born in these mountains possess enough of the Spirit to detect it.” (Journal of Discourses 14:205, August 13, 1871)

What is Christofferson talking about when he says that “It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church?” He gives no specifics, but I can provide examples from Conference Addresses when the speaker gives his opinion — and clearly states that it is an “opinion.” Here’s one:

“In my opinion, there were classes and races, and separation into different groups and conditions before we came to this world, and all are getting what they are entitled to receive here.” (Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, April 1915, 62. For a few more examples see Journal of Discourses 1:220, 8:21; Collected Discourses 4:277; Conference Report October 1951, 85)

The Conference Addresses of the Church (from the Journal of Discourses to the present) are full of such opinions. How can you know when these men are giving their opinions? Why, they tell you so.

Christofferson would have members think Church leaders are prone to intermix opinion, speculation and folklore in with their doctrinal teachings without mentioning it, perhaps forgetting that they are (and were) commanded to speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wilford Woodruff taught the opposite:

“When the Apostles and Elders of Israel are called to teach you, when they are called to go abroad and to teach the inhabitants of the earth, they are commanded of the Lord to speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and when a man speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, it is the word of the Lord, it is the mind of the Lord, it is the will of the Lord, it is Scripture, it is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believes. If we do not have the Holy Ghost we have no business to teach. But when the Elders of Israel do teach you by the Holy Ghost, you have the revelations of God to you. We have these revelations lying before us for our guidance day by day, as well as the living oracles.” (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses 2:46, April 6, 1890)

Try to pin down these current “apostles” about how and when Mormon “prophets” and “apostles” did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit, or when their “apostles” were not authorized to teach and proclaim doctrine. They will not give any satisfactory answers. What is the doctrine of Christ according to Mormon Scripture? It is the voice of Christ spoken through his servants by the power of the Holy Ghost:

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

Since no Mormon audience that we know of ever spoke out against any of the sermons in the Journal of Discourses or subsequent Conference Reports, we can rest assured that these men were speaking by the “power of the Holy Ghost” and were indeed teaching doctrine and scripture unless (as they did frequently) they indicated that they were just giving their opinion.

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107 Responses to The Doctrine of Christ

  1. Rick B says:

    Lurkers, One more thing, Shem Claims I lie and he is as Honest as God is.
    Yet Shem said this

    shematwater says:

    August 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Rick

    Actually, I never read the challenge because I have been ignoring Grindael as best as I can. I have no desire to enter into another pointless contention with him where he mines quotes and then misrepresents them; then he ignores everything I say,

    He claims he ignores Grindael, yet then says, Grindael misrepresents him. How would he know that if he ignores him? Just a thought.

  2. shematwater says:

    Rick

    So, Rick, do you lie? Yes, in almost every sentence. Only an idiot would not be able to see it.

    “Some quietly listen to those who speak against the Lord’s servants, against his annointed, against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have a half dozen devils with them all the time. YOU MIGHT AS WELL DENY “MORMONISM,” AND TURN AWAY FROM IT, AS TO OPPOSE THE PLURALITY OF WIVES. Let the presidency of this church, and the twelve apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 203)

    I know this quote very well, but tell me where it once mentions practicing plural marriage. It doesn’t, and yet you are claiming it does. It talks about accepting the doctrine and not denying that it is doctrine. That is true, and that is what I have always maintained. What it doesn’t do, and what you have thus lied about, is state that if we don’t practice plural marriage we would be damned.
    When it comes to D&C 132 you again lie, for you misrepresent the words and their context. If wecontinue reading we get a detailed description of the New and Everlasting Covenant that is being spoken of in verses 3-4 It states
    “verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”
    The New and Everlasting Covenant is the Covenant of Exaltation by which men are brought into the presence of the Father, and if we reject this covenant once it has been revealed to us (meaning personal revelation and ordinance) we are then damned. An appendage to this covenant, or a small portion of it, is that of Plural Marriage, which God has told us is only practice when he specifically commands it, and is an abomination when he does not (Jacob 2: 27-30).

    Rick, this is just an example of how you lie and twist the truth. I used to think this was out of ignorance, but that is no longer a consideration.

    Oh, and just so that people realize just how dishonest Rick is, he says “He claims he ignores Grindael, yet then says, Grindael misrepresents him. How would he know that if he ignores him? Just a thought.”

    Of course he wouldn’t want to mention that I have, in the fairly recent past (a few months at most) engaged Grindael in several discussions on various topics and have experienced his dishonestly first hand. For this reason I have currently chosen to ignore him as best as I can. See, Rick wants you to think I am dishonest, and so he will take anything he can twist and manipulate to make it appear so. He even wants to exaggerate my claims of honesty. Who is the dishonest one here?

  3. Old man says:

    Shem
    Many of the problems which arise in debating issues with LDS members can be put down to this.
    All genuine Christians know that the message of the Gospel is very simple, Christ gave us the ‘fullness’ of the gospel in one verse (John 3:16) but the problem with Mormonism is the turning of that simplicity into something so complicated it can be correctly interpreted & understood only by those with special gifts such as LDS apologists.
    Rick, like most of us here, read what the LDS leaders say & interprets their words in the most obvious way. You however, in order to defend the LDS corporation, interpret their words in such a convoluted way that only you can understand what they say. This leads to a couple of problems, not only for Christians but also for the ‘less gifted’ members of your organization. It seems that we & they have to turn to apologists to decipher what LDS prophets say in order to understand what they actually mean, we also have to decide who among them is actually speaking for God at any given time. Because of this problem I could ask questions of a dozen different Mormons & get several different answers but at least the majority would be honest & say that they don’t have an answer.
    Therefore I see in Rick’s interpretation of the Journal of Discourses nothing to indicate that he is lying, he is simply following the principle of ‘occams razor’ i.e. the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

    You said
    “Of course he wouldn’t want to mention that I have, in the fairly recent past (a few months at most) engaged Grindael in several discussions on various topics and have experienced his dishonestly first hand. For this reason I have currently chosen to ignore him as best as I can. See, Rick wants you to think I am dishonest, and so he will take anything he can twist and manipulate to make it appear so.”

    I’m sure you have engaged Grindael in several discussions but you’re also very quick to accuse those who disagree with you of dishonesty. From all that I’ve read on this site over the last several years you have accused almost every non Mormon who debates with you of lying. As for ignoring people all I can say is that you are doing what appears to be common practice among LDS Mormons, ‘if you can’t answer your critics, ignore them’ Why is that, could it be that if difficult questions can’t be answered in any sensible way a Mormon apologist finds it easier to ignore the questioner than to honestly admit that he has no answer?

  4. Rick B says:

    Shem said

    I know this quote very well, but tell me where it once mentions practicing plural marriage. It doesn’t, and yet you are claiming it does. It talks about accepting the doctrine and not denying that it is doctrine. That is true, and that is what I have always maintained. What it doesn’t do, and what you have thus lied about, is state that if we don’t practice plural marriage we would be damned.

    Shem, Everyone except Mormons know very well that if you take this quote along with all the many other quotes and saying on plural marriage it clearly is saying to practice it. God is not going to say, it is a principle. It clearly says in the quote

    YOU MIGHT AS WELL DENY “MORMONISM,” AND TURN AWAY FROM IT, AS TO OPPOSE THE PLURALITY OF WIVES.

    So If I deny it, I’m in the wrong, so if I agree with it then that means one of two things, I either also practice it, or if I dont practice it, then I am at least ok with those who do and I except it.

    It is no different than the whole Homosexual agenda now being pushed in the U.S, And here in MN where I live. If I disagree with their life style and claim it is wrong, I can lose my Job or go to jail, and be called a bigot and face hate crime charges, otherwise I must except it and say, I’m ok with it even if I dont practice that life style.

    Then the quote goes onto say

    Let the presidency of this church, and the twelve apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.”

    It is clearly saying, If they dont agree with this doctrine they will be damned. It does not say, If they deny the doctrine, they wont be damned.

    Shem said

    An appendage to this covenant, or a small portion of it, is that of Plural Marriage, which God has told us is only practice when he specifically commands it, and is an abomination when he does not (Jacob 2: 27-30).

    Funny how God must threaten JS to practice plural Marriage. Then Jo must lie about it and keep it a secret from his wife, and then when she finds out she does not agree with it. Your god is so cruel he does not care about all the women that were hurt, so please, dont even try telling me I am wrong, your the one thats refuses to pull his head out from a dirty dark hole. You cannot honestly tell me, you really believe God told JS take many wives or die. And then he needed to keep it a secret from his wife. Then send people on “Missions” and then take their wives. What a joke.

  5. shematwater says:

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  6. shematwater says:

    Rick

    “Everyone except Mormons know very well that if you take this quote along with all the many other quotes and saying on plural marriage it clearly is saying to practice it. ”

    So, what you are saying is that those of us who grew up in the religion, who have studied the doctrine, learned the principles, and practiced the faith for 20 or more years don’t actually know what it is we believe and practice, but need to go to those who have never been part of the faith to learn what it is we are actually doing.
    Are you serious?

    “So If I deny it, I’m in the wrong, so if I agree with it then that means one of two things, I either also practice it, or if I dont practice it, then I am at least ok with those who do and I except it.”

    Perfectly said, and I couldn’t agree more. Practicing it was never required, but accepting the practice has always been required. When have I ever said anything else?

    “It is clearly saying, If they dont agree with this doctrine they will be damned.”

    But not practicing the doctrine does not equal denying it.

    “It does not say, If they deny the doctrine, they wont be damned.”

    Please clarify your meaning in this sentence.

    “Your god is so cruel he does not care about all the women that were hurt”

    You have no understanding of God if you can actually claim this. God cares deeply about all the suffering of all his children, and I might say more especially to the suffering of his daughters. But he has his laws, and he cannot go against his word. People suffer for many reasons, and one of those reasons is because they reject the laws of God. God is saddened by this and hates to see his children suffer for it, but it is their choice, and they must abide by it.
    As to all the woman hurt by it, that is actually comparitively few if you had any real understanding of the practice. It was actually the woman who spoke out in favor of the practice when it was made illegal. It was the woman who embraced the doctrine more quickly and more deeply than the men. The practice itself caused no greater harm to woman than monogomy has through the years.

    “You cannot honestly tell me, you really believe God told JS take many wives or die. And then he needed to keep it a secret from his wife. Then send people on “Missions” and then take their wives. ”

    I can honestly say that I have heard accounts that Joseph Smith was told to teach this doctrine or be removed from his position. whether they are true or not does not really concern me, so I do not deny them, nor do I actively speak of them.
    I can honestly say that whatever Joseph Smith did he was justified in doing because it was obeying the commands of God. Yes, he kept some of his marriages hidden from Emma, and was justified in this because she had rejected the doctrine and had turned against Joseph in this matter. He never once took another man’s wife, and despite all the accusations to the contrary there has never been any credible evidence to say otherwise.

  7. grindael says:

    I can honestly say that whatever Joseph Smith did he was justified in doing because it was obeying the commands of God. Yes, he kept some of his marriages hidden from Emma, and was justified in this because she had rejected the doctrine and had turned against Joseph in this matter. He never once took another man’s wife, and despite all the accusations to the contrary there has never been any credible evidence to say otherwise.

    You speak of things you know nothing about Shem. Please read this by D. Michael Quinn. He presents all the evidence that anyone could ever want. You are simply wrong here. Demonstrably wrong.

    Only the cult mentality places men on such a pedestal that one would say that they are justified in doing ANYTHING.

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