I am already hearing of BYU professors mocking the new LDS.org gospel topic articles as non-official.
Elder Steven E. Snow, LDS Church Historian and Executive Director of the Church History Department, explains that each of the articles was submitted to the “presiding Quorums of the Church and the First Presidency for approval”:
“How does the Church provide answers to historical questions?”
Most who study our history well understand the context of these matters as far as time and place. But some members of the Church — many, really — are surprised by some of the things they learn in our history. And we want them to be able to go to a place where they can read accurate information and be able to seek to understand those historical chapters in the context of time and place. And understand that those answers have been approved by the presiding brethren of the Church. I think that will give many of our members confidence that they can rely on these answers.
We have actually retained outside the Church History Department — we have retained scholars, for the most part outside the Church History Department — known LDS scholars to do some very extensive research. And this has been groundbreaking in a way. These issues have not always had academic attention. They haven’t really been researched carefully. So we are very pleased that these scholars would agree to do this research. They then submitted a draft of their paper to a committee of historians here in the Church History Department as well as General Authorities who have reviewed their work and adjusted some edits. Those edits are made with the permission of the original writer. And that’s then submitted to the presiding Quorums of the Church, the Twelve and the First Presidency for approval. And then it’s published in Gospel Topics under LDS.org.
Much of what’s written now, these arguments and these issues, have been around for decades — 150 years. And it’s the same material repackaged. And we understandably have not spent a lot of time in the past worrying about these issues because our mission is to promote faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. But as the information age is now upon us? We feel with all of this information out there, we owe it — particularly to the rising generation — to provide good, reliable information about these matters.
Of course, not even that will stop a BYU religion professor or history professor from ultimately dismissing these articles as “not official”, not binding, and just the opinions of some men who shouldn’t be held accountable for what they publicly teach.