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D&C Changes: Lectures on Faith

As a new UB feature, I'm intending to take a look over the year at the changes that have taken place in various editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. The best tool to do this is the website Saints Without Halos. They have a nice side-by-side comparison of the D&C changes. These changes get some people excited (FAIR dismisses any significance in such things). They are generally typographical, but some are a little more interesting. This is not something I have ever studied, so I'm interested in having a look for myself.
D&C 1 does not have any substantial changes, so this week I'll just say a few words about the Lectures on Faith (LoF). These were included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and constitute seven theological lectures (who says Mormons don't have theology?) that were used in the Kirtland School of the Elders. Interestingly, there is no clear evidence for who actually wrote them, but the consensus is that they are mainly to be credited to Sidney Rigdon. The lectures tackle three major themes: 1. What is faith? 2. On what does faith rest? 3. What effects flow from faith? (for summary of the LoF see Dahl in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.)

The lectures were commended to the Church by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who wrote that the LoF contain "the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe". Bruce R. McConkie stated that they constitute "some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead." Why, then, were the LoF removed from the D&C in 1921? An introductory statement in that edition of the D&C explains their deletion thus: "they were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise then theological lectures or lessons". In other words, they are not revelation.

Conspiracy theorists out there might point to the concept of the Godhead taught in the fifth lecture and its comparison to D&C 130. It teaches that:

- Two personages constitute the supreme power over all things - the Father and the Son
- The Father is a personage of spirit
- The Son is a personage of tabernacle
- The Son possesses the same mind as the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit

Millet in Dahl and Tate, (eds.) The Lectures on Faith in historical perspective, dismisses any contradiction here with the traditional LDS view of the Godhead (that the Father is also a personage of tabernacle, and the Holy Spirit is more than just the mind of God). Apologetics are not necessary here, however. Joseph (or Rigdon with Joseph's consent) simply did not know the true nature of God in 1834/5. Is there any reason that they should have? It is interesting, however, to wonder about the processes that lie behind LDS theology, and to note how radically things can change.

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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (January 02, 2005 11:24 PM) 

David Paulsen has some interesting things to say about these concepts of God in " The Development of the Mormon Understanding of God: Early Mormon Modalism and Other Myths" http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=392 

Posted by Ben S.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (January 03, 2005 9:21 AM) 

I just read Paulsen's article. It's too early in the morning for me to out my head around the theological complexities in it, but it is certainly an essential apologetic resource in clearing up what on the surface seem to be doctrinal inconsistencies. At times Paulsen's argument is stretched a little thin, but I don't think Joseph's conceptions changed as much as some claim. 

Posted by Ronan


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (January 03, 2005 4:11 PM) 

There's no substitute for Robert Woodford's huge dissertation on the D&C, but there are some other interesting resources available online:

Melvin Petersen's BYU thesis on the changes:

A Study of the NatureA few Ensign articles by Petersen and Woodford:

D&C resources 

Posted by Justin


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