Doctrine and Covenants/Lectures on Faith

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The Lectures on Faith

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.

Lectures on Faith

  • Is the Father embodied or a spirit?
    Brief Summary: When the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835 it portrayed God the Father as a personage of spirit whereas Jesus Christ was portrayed as a personage of tabernacle, or one having a physical body. Yet the official LDS First Vision story portrays the Father as a physical Being. Some claim that this is evidence of an evolution of story; and that the evolution of this story is evidence of fraud. (Click here for full article)
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  • God a personage of spirit?
    Brief Summary: Lectures on Faith, which used to be part of the Doctrine and Covenants, teach that God is a spirit. Joseph Smith's later teachings contradict this. More generally, critics argue that Joseph Smith taught an essentially "trinitarian" view of the Godhead until the mid 1830s, thus proving the Joseph was "making it up" as he went along. (Click here for full article)
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  • Lectures on Faith removed from Doctrine and Covenants
    Brief Summary: Critics argue that the Lectures on Faith were "quietly" removed from the Doctrine and Covenants without general church membership consent, that the Lectures on Faith are not available to the general Church membership through Church sources, and that they can only be obtained through non-LDS sources (despite their availability at Deseret Book). (Click here for full article)
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The Neal A. Maxwell Institute responds to these questions

Noel B. Reynolds,"The Authorship Debate concerning Lectures on Faith: Exhumation and Reburial", The Disciple as Witness, (2000)

The issue that continues to provoke the most interest relative to the Lectures on Faith is their authorship. Who wrote them? The available evidence tends to undermine the view that Joseph Smith was primarily responsible for them. It is unfortunate that some feel so strongly about maintaining Joseph Smith's authorship or responsibility for these lectures. This makes it difficult for other faithful Latter-day Saints to assess the evidence critically, and it also plays into the hands of critics of the church and Joseph Smith. Critics find much in the lectures and in the church's eventual exclusion of them from the scriptural canon with which to embarrass faithful Mormons.9 Insisting that Joseph was responsible for the lectures only makes the critics' task easier. For example, Lecture 5 provides Dan Vogel with his principal evidence for an evolving Mormon concept of God that in 1835 reflected "Sidney Rigdon's Primitivistic background and not the orthodox LDS view of three distinct personages in the godhead."

Opinions on the authorship and status of the lectures in Latter-day Saint literature have varied widely among both scholars and church authorities. Elders Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith both saw Joseph Smith as a principal author of the lectures and believed he had approved them in full, having revised and prepared them for publication.11 However, that view does not appear to have been generally shared by the church leadership that discontinued official publication of the seven lectures in 1921, allowed the copyright to lapse, and explicitly reiterated that these lectures were not scripture but merely "helps."12 The "Explanatory Introductions" of subsequent editions have included such explanations as this one from page v of the 1966 edition:

Certain lessons, entitled "Lectures on Faith," which were bound in with the Doctrine and Covenants in some of its former issues, are not included in this edition. These lessons were prepared for use in the School of the Elders, conducted in Kirtland, Ohio, during the winter of 1834–1835; but they were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons.

At least some of the presiding brethren possibly held the view published later by Elder John A. Widtsoe, who believed they were "written by Sidney Rigdon and others."13 Three independent authorship studies conducted in recent decades and using different reputable techniques all conclude that Sidney Rigdon was the primary author of the lectures. Based on these studies, not a single lecture can conclusively be attributed to Joseph Smith.

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