Lectures on Faith
(From Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pages 166-167)
In 1835 the "Lectures on Faith", which were originally delivered before a class of the Elders, in Kirtland, Ohio, were printed in the Doctrine and Covenants. In these lectures it was definitely stated that God the Father was a personage of spirit. In the fifth lecture we find this statement about the Godhead:
"... the Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, ... a personage of tabernacle ..." (Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 Edition, page 53)
The "Lectures on Faith" not only taught that God the Father is a spirit, but also that God is omnipresent — i.e., present everywhere at the same time. In the second lecture the following statement is made:
"2. We here observe that God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fulness and perfection dwells; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnicient [sic]; without beginning of days or end of life; ..." (Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 Edition, page 12)
On page 26 of the 1835 Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants the following is stated: "... he is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnicient; without beginning of days..."
President Joseph Fielding Smith admits that Joseph Smith helped prepare these lectures: "Now the Prophet did know something about these Lectures on Faith, because he helped to prepare them, and he helped also to revise these lectures before they were published..." (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, page 195)
These "Lectures on Faith" were printed in all of the early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, but they have been removed from recent editions. John William Fitzgerald, in his thesis, A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, states as follows:
"The reasons for the omission of these Lectures from the Doctrine and Covenants beginning in the 1921 edition and all the subsequent editions as given to the writer by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith were as follows:
'(a) They were not received as revelations by the prophet Joseph Smith.
'(b) They are instructions relative to the general subject of faith. They are explanations of this principle but not doctrine.
'(c) They are not complete as to their teachings regarding the Godhead. More complete instructions on the point of doctrine are given in section 130 of the 1876 and all subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.
'(d) It was thought by Elder James E. Talmage, chairman, and other members of the committee who were responsible for their omission that to avoid confusion and contention on this vital point of belief, it would be better not to have them bound in the same volume as the commandments or revelations which make up the Doctrine and Covenants.' " (A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, page 344)
The reasons Joseph Fielding Smith gave John William Fitzgerald as to why the "Lectures on Faith" were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants are very interesting. Reason (a), that they "were not received as revelations," could hardly be considered at all. If every section that is not a revelation was removed from the Doctrine and Covenants, it would be a much shorter book. There are a least nine, if not more, sections from the Doctrine and Covenants that are not revelations; they are sections 102, 113, 121, 123, 128, 131, 134 and 135.
Reason (b), that they were not doctrine does not agree with the statement on page 256 of the 1835 Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. This statement reads as follows: "... that the lectures were judiciously arranged and compiled, and were profitable for doctrine..."
Joseph Smith himself signed a statement which was printed in the Preface to the 1835 Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this statement we read: "The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important DOCTRINE OF SALVATION, we have arranged them into the following work."
Reason (c) "that they are not complete as to their teachings regarding the Godhead" is getting much closer to the truth than the first two reasons. A more correct way of wording this, however, might be, "they contradict what is now taught concerning the Godhead in the Mormon Church."
Actually, these lectures were considered complete with regard to their teachings concerning the Godhead at the time they were given. On page 58 of the 1835 Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants the following question and answer appear:
"Q. Does the foregoing account of the Godhead lay a sure foundation for the exercise of faith in him unto life and salvation?
"A. IT DOES."
Now that the Mormon Church teaches a plurality of Gods and that men become Gods, these lectures are considered "not complete" as to their teachings on the Godhead. Actually, they contradict what is presently taught by the Church leaders with regard to this subject.
Reason (d), that to avoid "confusion and contention on this vital point of belief, it would be better not to have them bound in the same volume," is probably the true reason they were left out. Certainly it would cause confusion and contention in the Mormon Church if one of the elders started to teach that God is a personage of spirit and is everywhere present at the same time, as the Lectures on Faith taught.
To avoid "confusion and contention" the Mormon leaders slyly removed the Lectures on Faith from the Doctrine and Covenants, even though Joseph Smith had thought them important enough to be included. John William Fitzgerald states as follows on page 345 of his thesis, A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants: "The 'Lectures on Faith' were voted on unanimously by the conference assembled August 17, 1835 to be included in the forthcoming book of doctrine and covenants. The writer could find no documentary evidence that they were voted on by the general conference of the Church to be omitted in the 1921 and all subsequent editions of the Doctrine [and] Covenants."
For further information on the Lectures see "The 'Lectures on Faith': A Case Study on Decanonization," by Richard Van Wagoner, Steven Walker, and Allen Roberts, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Fall 1987, Vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 71-77.
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