Statement on Doctrinal Authority

When I write concerning Christian doctrine or otherwise analyze scripture, I open myself to a great deal of opposition.

Part of this is because beliefs that are already popular don’t need any support from my pen, so when I write, I tend to promote new or unpopular ideas. Another part of this is because from the scriptures and the words of modern-day General Authorities, one can find sources of authority to combat any of a multitude of other scriptures or General Authorities.

I suppose that in many cases this is principally due to the incomplete knowledge and imperfect understanding of our prophets (et alli). Lacking perfect knowledge, all yet practise the injunction given in D&C 80:4—

Declare the things which ye have heard, and verily believe, and know to be true.

In cases where authorities put this into practice, it sometimes happens that they are called upon to apologise for their teachings (e.g. Bruce R. McConkie and Mormon Doctrine) or to emend their teachings (e.g. Joseph Smith and JST).

In some cases, incorrect teachings arise because someone represents a citation as though it were a quotation, when in fact it is transcribed incompletely or lifted out of vital context. What results is countless tertiary sources claiming that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young taught a particular principle, when the original record, if it exists, is not made by the supposed speaker and may reads something like:

Sabath Meeting—Joseph Read the 2 & 3d Chapters of Malichi & stated that there was a preistHood Confered upon the sons of Levi throughout the Jenerations of the Jews…[i] [sic]

[i] Ehat, Andrew F. and Lyndon W. Cook. The Words of Joseph Smith. 1980. p 67

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