Introductory Note: This blog, though long somewhat inactive, may begin to delve into areas found interesting to the author which may not be seen as directly applicable to the cause of freedom. It is not the intent to offend nor disparage persons, regardless of the boldness in which a certain principle or quotation may be criticized. To be upfront, the intent is assuredly based on a quest for Truth, no matter what persons, opinions, institutional interests may say otherwise. If better arguments and/or evidence is to be found, the author is the first to desire them to be brought to the attention of those behind this website. Please feel free to leave your comments, preferably with argumentation and not mere sentimentality.
FIRST OFF: THE WHY BEHIND THIS POST
The First Presidency Message from the March 2016 Ensign, an official magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS, for short), was claimed as written by none other than the current President of the church – namely, Thomas S. Monson. (found here)
The Church of LDS claim to be the “one true church” with all the gospel, ordinances and authority necessary for many of the salvific elements so commonly desired by people of this world, both for this world and into the afterlife. They claim to have power for this world, and into the next. Thus, with that context in mind – I felt to share a couple of thoughts pertaining to some of the teachings of this message that any intellectually honest person may find problematic.
Now, of course, this is not a categorical derision of every statement made therein, but simply a critique of specific passages either found incompatible even with the general theme of the article – and more importantly, with the principle of Knowledge, as well as the purpose and pursuit thereof, generally.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
Francis Bacon, the genius and father of The Baconian Method – once stated, in his brilliant essay Of Truth that:
“WHAT is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers, of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labor which men take in finding out of truth, nor again that when it is found it imposeth upon men’s thoughts, that doth bring lies in favor; but a natural though corrupt love of the lie itself…
But howsoever these things are thus in men’s depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature.”
Francis Bacon observed how people – even those who claim a sincere desire for the Truth, rarely actually desire it. It is so much more convenient to either undermine the value thereof and/or to “nobly” avoid the basis for desire of the quest, outright. Yet, in the modern era – if the author were to attempt to observe in a similar manner as Francis Bacon – it seems that even more prominently are the masses of people who simply assert that they already have the “truth”, and thus need it no more. And, of course, similarly – this route also sidesteps any basis for the quest.
In spite of Plato’s brilliant cosmology of old, most have no nuance in their understanding in order to recognize the significant difference between being opinionated, on one hand, and acquiring understanding on the other. Although all men have opinions, to maintain stale opinions in spite of reason, facts and evidence is to be opinionated. And all must acknowledge at some point that simply asserting opinion as Truth does not make it so.
Yet, the last of the beautiful observations made by Bacon quoted above seems as noble as anything could be: The Inquiry, Knowledge and Presence of Truth is the sovereign good of not just some humans, but of human nature, itself.
EARLY MORMONISM AND THE QUEST FOR TRUTH
On the face, this seems thoroughly compatible with LDS doctrine and scripture – esp. if thoroughly based on the teachings of the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. This blog post is an attempt to demonstrate this assertion.
It must be admitted that this post does not deal much with the merits of such a claim, in and of itself. It simply focuses on the narrower claims of historical and doctrinal compatibility. This post seeks to demonstrate the historical and doctrinal bases upon which the asserted discrepancies become apparent for the believer and invested/interested by-stander alike.
In the LDS religion, there seems to be much to back up a deep commitment to a quest for Truth. In the basic view of the religion itself, which (of course) ostensibly claims the necessity of Christ’s “atonement” for the salvation of mankind – Is not even Jesus Christ, Himself identified as “The Spirit of Truth”? (D&C 93:11) And yet, the theology does not stop there.
That same section of The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 93) defines the Truth as “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” – which clearly indicates it as distinct from anyone’s personal views and opinions of it. Truth is simply Reality, regardless of the feelings and opinions of men. Similarly, Francis Bacon stated in what is quoted above: “Truth…only judge itself“. Joseph Smith stated that “truth will cut its own way.” (TPJS, p. 313)
D&C 98 then states that “whatsoever is more or less than this [definition of Truth] is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.” Keep in mind that verse, since certainly arbitrary creeds and limits on the purposes and scope of knowledge would be less than “all” of what is.
The section, interestingly enough, also asserts that even the “glory of god is intelligence“, i.e. “light and truth“. The assertion that God’s glory is intelligence is quite astonishing, to say nothing of the timeless assertion that truth and light are metaphysically connected. D&C 84:45 also connects with this theme in stating explicitly that “whatsoever is truth is light.” (underline added.)
This set of doctrines, outlined in D&C 98, brings whole new meaning to the term: enlightenment. Far too often (and perhaps somewhat wrongly so), the term “enlightenment” is solely allocated as a “Rational” post-Renaissance historical period (collectively) rather than a quality of mind in people (individually). And, in a Mormon theological sense, a fitting term for various grades and levels of divinity, itself.
And of course, to add yet another connection to this series – how can one forget the classic King James Version (KJV) of John 8:32 which portrays Christ as stating that knowledge of the truth “shall make you free“? So, not only can knowledge of Truth be connected to God’s glory, but it can simultaneously be connected to freedom.
This theme of Quest for Knowledge of Truth – of course, often in conjunction with The Spirit of Truth (i.e. Christ), is found very prominently in the teachings of Mormon founder, Joseph Smith. When one digs even deeper, it becomes clear that D&C 98 is not a fringe exception.
In Smith’s classic exposition on “Priesthood” in D&C 121 – he states that “[n]o power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” except by, among other things – “pure knowledge“. Obviously, assuming that Priesthood is at all connected to God’s power, and assuming that God’s glory is intelligence – this should not be surprising. God’s Power and Priesthood is to be found in His (pure) Knowledge of Truth, or Reality. Then, in a case of direct application for adherents – Smith makes this clear as a standard for men’s use of that priesthood.
Yet, Mormonism goes even deeper by not only making this a descriptive observation about God(s) – but then goes on to make it a normative prescription about men and women who seek to become Gods and Goddesses, themselves. If this sounds radical, it is because it is.
In the spirit of attempting to briefly capture how prominent this theme is with the founder of Mormonism, here is a small collection of other notable examples, all from Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith (or TPJS). (And please note that all emphases have been added.)
- “without knowledge we cannot be saved” (p. 217) [Note: obviously, assuming this quotation – obedience and/or belief does not seem to be enough.]
- “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth.” (p. 217)
- “In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because he has greater knowledge; and hence he knows how to subject all other beings to Him. He has power over all.” (p. 288)
[Note: As an aside. this author cannot help but add that the popular adage here used by Joseph Smith (namely, “knowledge is power” or something similar) may actually stem from Francis Bacon, who was quoted earlier and is a kind of hero of this author. In Meditationes Sacrae (1597), Bacon stated “ipsa scientia potestas est” (knowledge itself is power) in a similar context as used above. For Bacon, God Himself was an example of the link between knowledge and power, since God’s absolute power comes with universal knowledge. For those interested in both thought, and gorgeous english prose – the work of Francis Bacon is recommended.]
- “The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and every one that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned” (p. 297) [Note the word: IS.]
- Similarly, “1st key: Knowledge is the power of salvation.” (p. 306)
- “A man of God should be endowed with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, in order to teach and lead the people of God.” (p. 311)
- “Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God, when all things with you are so uncertain. You are welcome to all the knowledge and intelligence I can impart to you. I do not grudge the world all the religion they have got: they are welcome to all the knowledge they possess.” (p. 320) [This clearly demonstrates an openness to the truths had by people who are studied in other areas. This will become more important later in the article.]
- “Angels have advanced higher in knowledge and power than spirits.” (p. 325) [Note the theological implications of this statement – namely, progression via more (i.e. “higher”) knowledge.]
- “Now, what I am after is the knowledge of God, and I take my own course to obtain it.” (p. 337) [Notice that this, nor the quotation around this – induces any members to follow a “standard” path toward this knowledge which is so key to/in early Mormonism.]
- “Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him” (p. 350) [Note: based on this and the surrounding text – knowledge is obviously seen as key, and in some ways perhaps even pre-requisite for further communing with (the) God(s).]
- “Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.” (p. 354) [This understanding of the importance of knowledge as the key to “eternal progression” seems to be the basis of the early Mormon version of what theologians label “Theosis”.]
- “Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits no man can be exalted but by knowledge… If a man has knowledge, he can be saved” (p. 357) [This powerful passage has deep implications which call into question many theological assumptions made so casually by modern LDS about the theology and doctrines of salvation as presented by the Mormon founder, himself.]
- “[Christ’s] Spirit will bear testimony to all who diligently seek after knowledge from Him.” (p. 29,) [Notice the word from as used in this sentence. This seemingly indicates knowledge broader than that which is simply about Him.]
I hope this is enough to, in as small a space as possible, demonstrate that this theme is clearly prominent. In fact, this theme – far from being “milk” (as they say), forms a foundation for the whole of early Mormon theology.
The theme even transcended the historically complicated and problematic divide between the Presidencies of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Regardless of what one thinks about the transferal of whatever conception of priesthood and/or authority between the two, clearly the teaching lived on.
Here is a quick collection of quotations to demonstrate this, all of which are attributed to Brigham Young. [The sources for these are all found in the Journal of Discourses. All emphases are added.] :
- “Our religion measures, weighs, and circumscribes all the wisdom in the world all that God has ever revealed to man. God has revealed all the truth that is now in the possession of the world, whether it be scientific or religious.” (JD 8:162)
- “We have the privilege of becoming classical scholars – of commencing at the rudiments of all knowledge – we might say, of perfection. We might study and add knowledge to knowledge, from the time that we are capable of knowing anything until we go down to the grave. If we enjoy healthy bodies, so as not to wear upon the functions of the mind, there is no end to man’s learning.” (JD 6:283-284)
- “I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it.” (JD 13:335)
- “In a word, if ‘Mormonism’ is not my life, I do not know that I have any. I do not understand anything else, for it embraces everything that comes within the range of the understanding of man. If it does not circumscribe everything that is in heaven and on earth, it is not what it purports to be.” (JD 2:123)
- “Our religion is simply the truth. It is all said in this one expression it embraces all truth, wherever found, in all the works of God and man that are visible or invisible to mortal eye.” (JD 10:251)
- “‘Mormonism’ embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, philosophical.” (JD 9:149).
- “‘Where is your code, your particular creed?’ says one. It fills eternity; it is all truth in heaven, on earth or in hell. This is ‘Mormonism.’ It embraces every true science; all true philosophy.” (JD 14:280)
- “Every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and in all science and art belong to the Saints, and they should avail themselves as expeditiously as possible of the wealth of knowledge the sciences offer to every diligent and persevering scholar.” (JD 10:224)
- “The philosophy of the heavens and the earth of the worlds that are, that were, and that are yet to come into existence, –is all in the Gospel that we have embraced. Every true philosopher, so far as he understands the principles of truth, has so much of the Gospel, and so far he is a Latter-day Saint, whether he knows it or not.” (JD 18:359)
- “We are made expressly to dwell with those who continue to learn.” (JD 17:141)
- “[The] most important labour we have to perform is to cultivate ourselves.” (JD 10:2)
- “‘Mormonism,’ so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to ‘Mormonism.’ The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belongs to this Church As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. ‘Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel.” (JD 11:375)
This theme should not be surprising, esp. if one assumes Brigham’s intent was to carry on the same or a similar doctrinal foundation, as that of Joseph Smith’s, into his presidency and beyond. Even the theme of inclusiveness in order to attain all truth, light – and the importance of knowledge as a means of progression was the foundation of what was early Mormonism. If there was a creed behind Mormon Doctrine, it seems that the first two presidents of the church saw it as, essentially, the entirety of all the knowledge that could be acquired.
MODERN MORMONISM AND THE QUEST FOR TRUTH (?)
In the First Presidency Message of March 2016 – Thomas S. Monson stated that: “the goal of gospel teaching is not to pour information into the minds of God’s children, whether at home, in the classroom, or in the mission field. It is not to show much the parent, teacher, or missionary knows. Nor is it merely to increase knowledge about the Savior and His Church….The aim is to inspire individuals to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles.”
This author hopes that the very real difference is immediately clear. The truth, esp. in the context of the doctrine discussed above, is not dependent upon how one thinks, feels, or even lives. Yet, there are deeper implications to the general attitude found in this letter. (Which, the author must say, is certainly not unique.)
What of the general principle of “knowledge”, for it’s own sake – as the basis of power and progression? Even eternal progression and Theosis aside (although that was clearly the basis of Joseph Smith’s theology), How can one truly live true gospel principles without a correct and thorough understanding of the gospel, itself?
Later in the article, Monson states: “Teachers,…[u]se Church-approved materials, especially the scriptures, to teach the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in their purity and simplicity.”
Why only “church-approved materials“?
If the LDS church is the “one true church” – would not any source of knowledge of the truth simply bolster church teachings and practices? Unfortunately, especially in the context of this article, “gospel” or “gospel principles” are not defined, let alone in a way that would make clear the distinguishing line between purity and impurity – to say nothing of the lines between simplicity, over-simplicity, and under-simplicity. It seems that all of this is left to the sentimentality of both the reader, and on a wider basis, the culture as a whole.
Even more tellingly, directly after directing the “use” of “church-approved materials, especially the scriptures“, Monson attempts to use a verse out of the New Testament to “prove” the asserted point:
“Remember the Savior’s injunction to ‘search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.’”
JOHN 5:39: A FEW INSIGHTS
The verse here cited by Monson is the KJV of John 5:39. This is quite an odd choice of scripture to aid in bolstering his limitation and encouragement of LDS teacher’s use of “church-approved” scriptures in teaching the gospel. Why this is stated will soon become clear.
Right away, it should be noticed that this quotation anachronistically assumes that the term “scripture” had the same meaning in John’s Gospel, written in Koine Greek and depicting events 2000-or so years ago, as the term means in the modern LDS church context in modern English. Yet, the problem does not stop there.
The verse, if studied more closely, actually states something quite different than what the quotation is intended to indicate.
The Koine Greek of John 5:39 is as follows:
ἐραυνᾶτε τὰς γραφάς, ὅτι ὑμεῖς δοκεῖτε ἐν αὐταῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἔχειν: καὶ ἐκεῖναί εἰσιν αἱ μαρτυροῦσαι περὶ ἐμοῦ
First off, when one carefully considers the Greek, the King James Translation – at least as it is often read by many in modern english – is a somewhat poor one. In a classic Translation and Commentary of John, the scholar Raymond Brown translates this verse as the following:
“You search the Scriptures in which you think you have eternal life – they also testify on my behalf.” (The Gospel According to John I-XII, p. 223)
The greek verb translated as “think” in both the KJV and Raymond Brown translations is the verb: δοκέω (do-ke-o). This word, when one consults Lidell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon for definition and usage states, in part: “to think, suppose, imagine, expect“, and then “to seem or pretend“. The idea seems to be a negative one, such as common usage of the word “suppose“.
So, to be more clear, the verse could (and perhaps should) be rendered: “You search the scriptures in which you suppose you have eternal life”.
The Jews at the Time, who Christ is here depicted as criticizing, generally believed that “the Law was par excellence the source of life.” (ibid, p. 225)
In the Pirke Aboth 2.7-8, based on teachings of the Rabbis from the Mishnaic Period (the aphorisms of Hillel) it states: “The more study of the law the more life…He who has acquired the words of the Law has acquired for himself the life of the world to come.” If that isn’t clear enough, in 6.7 it likewise states: “Great is the Law for it gives to those who practice it life in this world and the world to come.”
What is being criticized here is what some scholars have labelled the Deuteronomic Cult of The Law, wherein the Jews saw the Law and thus, Obedience to the Law – as the basis for “life”, both in this world and into the next world. Here, it was not knowledge itself that was the problem – but the hubris embedded in the mentality of those who “suppose” they know it all, already. Who, based on what they think they understand, suppose they can transcend death, in and of themselves.
“The verb [translated as “search”] itself (eraunao) implies keen scrutiny, tracking down the message of the Scriptures. The tragedy was that these people, for all their painstaking exploration of the sacred writings, had never found the clue which would lead them to their goal. The goal at which they aimed was eternal life, but that life could be received only through him to whom the Scriptures bore witness.” (F.F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John, pp. 136-137)
Judaism, both in doctrine and practice, had changed very significantly over time, and this emphasis on “obedience” to their “law” was it’s principal features in the time of Christ. In fact, many of the doctrinal changes that had occurred through the Deuteronomic so-called “reforms” are spoken of within the chapter as a whole. Even monotheism, itself, was a Jewish “reform” not found in the earliest times of Israelite religion.
The biblical scholar Margaret Barker, in her book King of The Jews, has a fascinating and rich comment on this and surrounding verses.
“Jesus said that the Hebrew Scriptures were in fact about himself, and that he was the source of the eternal life they sought. The early Christians understood Hebrew Scriptures as accounts of the Son of God, and the theophanies as appearances of Christ. They found in the Hebrew Scriptures Father and Son: El Elyon, the Father; and Yahweh, the Firstborn of the sons of God, the guardian of Israel. This way of reading was not devised by the Christians following Jesus’s example; it is how the Hebrew Scriptures were originally written, before monotheism was imposed in some circles by Josiah’s purges and the work of the Deuteronomists. El and Yahweh then coalesced, and a new way of reading the Hebrew texts was introduced. Jesus’ discussion with the Jews at this point concerns the question of the Father and Son, and the Son’s role in bringing both life and judgement.” (p. 241)
Ironically, though the verse is deep in it’s implications, both ancient and modern – it, in the First Presidency letter has been relegated to a position of simply seeming to “prove” an asserted point both out of step with Early Mormonism and the Christian context of the verse just employed. Ironically, it is knowledge (for it’s own sake) that demonstrates this.
Unfortunately, “church-approved materials” is more like the Jewish style of religion than the Early Christians that LDS-ism claims to be a current incarnation of. In fact, the exclusivity of a canon, at the expense of other equally historically/religiously valid books was also a feature of the very Judaism Jesus is portrayed in this chapter as opposing. (see Temple Mysticism by Margaret Barker, pp. 17-23)
One may reasonably state that this is an overreaction on the author’s part. Yet, for a modern LDS view, promoted by both leadership and membership alike, that one should “Follow The Prophet” (without qualification, in many cases) – this is simply not the case. If these words are to be taken as “God’s own”, in whatever way one would care to describe it, then a critical reaction should be as seriously considered as the non-critical one.
“OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS”
Many copies of texts of a book of Enoch have been found and translated during and since the time of Joseph Smith. Interestingly enough, once found and studied in greater detail – it soon became clear that these texts had a profound impact and were quoted (along with the Psalms, and Isaiah) as scripture by the New Testament authors. Yet, one of the many disputes in early Christianity led to this text not being considered canonical.
Referring to The book of Enoch texts, Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley wrote:
“The book of Enoch was given to the Saints as a bonus for their willingness to accept the Book of Mormon and as a reward for their sustained and lively interest in all scriptures, including the lost books: they were searchers, engaging in eager speculation and discretion, ever seeking like Adam and Abraham, for ‘greater [light and] knowledge.’ (Abraham 1:2) And we have been told that if we stop seeking we shall not only find no more, but lose the treasures we already have. That is why it is not only advisable but urgent that we begin at last to pay attention to the astonishing outpouring of ancient writings that is the peculiar blessing of our generation. Among these writings the first and most important is the book of Enoch.” (Enoch the Prophet, p. 95, emphases added.)
Keep in mind, The Book of Enoch, to say nothing of all the many many other books of similar import for any interested in ancient texts and ancient religions, is not part of what Monson has aptly-labelled “church-approved materials”.
Yet, Hugh Nibley, of course writing long before 2016 – always promoted the view that “[o]ur search for knowledge should be ceaseless, which means that it is open-ended, never resting on laurels, degrees, or past achievements…True knowledge never shuts the door on more knowledge.” (see Approaching Zion, chapter 3) The teaching found in this quote is surely within the same doctrinal vein as the Joseph Smith and Brigham Young quotes found above. This should not be surprising for any who have delved into any of the many essays authored by Nibley.
Even the Book of Enoch itself describes/promotes worship based on “accept[ing] the words of wisdom” based on “understanding” for those who are “saved” as being in contradistinction to worship “not according to knowledge” among those who “shall become godless by reason of the folly of their hearts” and the blindness that comes “through the fear of their hearts“. (1 Enoch, XCIXI; R.H. Charles Translation). Given the ancient view that the heart was the seat of knowledge, it is almost as if the passage begs that Joseph Smith’s statement that “knowledge is the power of salvation” be written in the margins.
In an essay on the general topic of LDS temples and specifically on various aspects of the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple as found in D&C 109, Nibley states that the Temple “is a house of learning. Is this a surprise? If we are supposed to be studying and teaching diligently, thinking deeply, we must have something to think about, as well as something to show for our mental effort. That is called learning. We are suspicious of too much learning in the Church Educational System where it is viewed as ‘unspiritual,’ but if anyone was ever more passionately dedicated than Brigham Young to learning all he possibly could about everything he possibly could, it was Joseph Smith.” (Eloquent Witness, p. 326, emphasis added.)
Certainly this assumes a more expansive scope for study than simply what is church-approved. And if Mormonism “is simply the truth” – why should those who subscribe to the goals and purposes of the label think, feel or act so limited? Whatever anyone else thinks of the matter, it is clear that Joseph Smith would have avoided even seeming like he promoted any form of limiting the scope for, or shaping anyone’s quest of, knowledge. He stated that the “[m]ethodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled.” (TPJS, p. 288)
Perhaps this general attitude was more prominent than is commonly thought. It has ever fascinated the author to find that the early mormon apostle Orson Hyde’s 1850 version of the Articles of Faith of Mormonism included this version of what most LDS will recognize is based on the accepted 8th Article of Faith: “We believe the word of God recorded in the Bible, we also believe the word of God recorded in the Book of Mormon, and in all other good books.” This seems to accord with the teaching in D&C 88:118 to “seek ye out of the best books“.
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Perhaps this is going too far, but when comparing the early mormon themes to the modern LDS themes – which include all of the LDS church manuals, the correlation committee and a strict emphasis upon interpretations based upon opinions of leaders; one cannot help but wonder if these things have become a kind of modern LDS de facto “creed”? One wonders if the emphasis has become more about obedience to norms rather than progression through light.
What is the threat to a singularly True church to have breathing room when it comes to the materials considered valid in relation to doctrine?
Joseph Smith stated that “[o]ne of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may” (p. 313) This is extremely inclusive, admitting humility on the side of what is left to learn, and confidence in a God who can enlighten the minds of man. His call to the Mormons was that “[w]e should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true ‘Mormons.’” (p. 316)
The author cannot help but end by typing along with the scribe of old for Joseph Smith – that “[a]ll I want is to get the simple, naked truth, and the whole truth.” (p. 372)
And let the consequences follow….
For those who have not yet – I could not recommend more emphatically the great essay by Hugh Nibley, titled Zeal Without Knowledge. For those who are interested in reading it in book form, it is chapter three in the book Approaching Zion.
Two great scholarly books on the great changes (in both doctrine and practice) which occurred over time in Judaism are The Older Testament and The Great Angel by Margaret Barker. There is also The Early History of God by Mark S. Smith.