January 10th, 2010
This year, LDS faithful will be returning to the basics, or core beliefs and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through studying the Gospel Principles manual. This instruction manual has been employed in the Gospel Principles Sunday school class that is primarily attended by new converts to review and teach all that the Gospel has to offer. For 2009, this manual has been revised and includes removing all references to apostle Bruce R. McConkie's book, "Mormon Doctrine"
. These have been replaced with references to "Teachings of Presidents of the Church"
manuals used over the past decade in Relief Society and Priesthood classes. According to church spokeswoman Kim Farah, this is "because it is available in 28 languages, while Mormon Doctrine is only available in a few" (SLC Tribune, Dec. 31, 2009
). Also omitted or replaced are references to deceased apostle John A. Widstoe's book, "Discourses of Brigham Young
", a 743 page compilation of discourses taken from the "Journal of Discourses
" which contained all available discourses of Brigham Young and other early General Authorities. Despite these changes, the revised edition is 90% the same, according to business analyst Matthew Witten (SLC Tribune, Dec. 31, 2009
). Witten also says that "the changes are not a big deal."
Below you will find a comparative review of some of the more significant and potentially doctrine changing revisions to allow you to make your own deductions on whether the changes are a "big deal" or not. While reviewing this post, please pull out your 2009 edition of Gospel Principles and if available, the 1997 edition (or earlier), so as to see the changes with your own eyes and not rely on this post alone. You will first find a list of the gospel topics that were revised, followed by a comparative review of each. Differences between the two editions will be marked as either underlined text
for additions, or strikethrough
for deletions. All comparisons are the 1997 to 2009 edition of Gospel Principles.
Gospel Topics potentially changed by this latest revision
--- The Plurality of Gods
--- Heavenly Parents (mother)
--- Eldest brother Jesus
--- Attributes of the Holy Ghost
--- Becoming a God
Comparative Review of Topics
--- The Plurality of Gods
Excerpts from Chapter 1: "Our Father In Heaven"
From pages 9 and 5 from the 1997 and 2009 editions respectively:
God is the
one Supreme and Absolute Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things (see Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 18–23) "the Great Parent of the universe," and He "looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 39)...
From pages 9 and 6 respectively:
Because we are made in His image (see Moses 2:26; 6:9), we know that
God has a body that looks our bodies are like ours His body.
All good things come from God. Everything that He does is to help His children become like Him—
and Eldest brother Jesus
Excerpts from Chapter 2: "Our Heavenly Family"
From pages 11 and 9 respectively:
Every person who was ever born on earth
was is our spirit brother or sister in heaven. The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ (see D&C 93:21), so he is literally our elder brother (see Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 26). Because we are the spiritual spirit children of our heavenly parents God, we have inherited the potential to develop their His divine qualities. If we choose to do so Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become perfect, just as they are like our Heavenly Father and receive a fulness of joy...
From pages 13 and 10 respectively:
We were not all alike in heaven. We know, for example, that we were
given sons and daughters of heavenly parents—males and females (see "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). We possessed different talents and abilities, and we were called to do different things on earth. (See Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 51.) We can learn more about our talents and callings "eternal possibilities" when we receive our patriarchal blessings (see Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye Thomas S. Monson, in Holy Places, p. 117). Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 82; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 66).
heavenly parents provided us with a celestial home more glorious and beautiful than any place on earth. We were happy there. Yet they Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left them Him for a time. They He wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that they have He has. To do this, we needed to leave our celestial premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. We needed to choose good over evil. Our spirits needed to be clothed with physical bodies. We would need to leave our physical bodies at death and reunite with them in the Resurrection. Then we would receive immortal bodies like those that of our heavenly parents Heavenly Father. If we passed our tests, we would receive the fulness of joy that our heavenly parents have Heavenly Father has received. (See D&C 93:30-34.)...
Excerpt from Chapter 3: "Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior"
From pages 17 and 13 respectively:
We understood that we would have to leave our heavenly home for a time. We would not live in the presence of our
heavenly parents Heavenly Father... Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was called Jehovah, said, "Here am I, send me" (Abraham 3:27; see also Moses 4:1-4)...
---Attributes of the Holy Ghost
Excerpts from Chapter 7: "The Holy Ghost"
From pages 37 and 32 respectively:
The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead (see 1 John 5:7; D&C 20:28). He is a
spirit that has the form and likeness of a man "personage of Spirit" (D&C 130:22)...
---Becoming a God
Excerpts from Chapter 47: Exaltation
From pages 301 and 275 respectively:
Jesus taught, "In my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2)... If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father to live with our Heavenly Father in eternal families. Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give His children (see D&C 14:7)...
From pages 302 and 277 respectively:
3. They will
Make your Deductions
have be united eternally with their righteous family members with them and will be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father. They will be an eternal family eternal increase...
Before reading on, take a few moments to ponder on each of the revisions noted above. Do these look like changes that merely simplify doctrine so as to be more easily comprehended? Could these changes have deeper ramifications including the possibility of cleaning up embarrassing doctrines that are unpopular or less mainstream? What other questions do these changes bring up? Knowing that this is just the most recent revision of gospel principles, does it leave you wondering what previous revisions may have revised, cleaned up, or omitted? Is the deletion of references to "Mormon Doctrine" and "Discourses of Brigham Young" only to make referenced material more accessible, or is it to prevent members from finding unmentionable, little known and embarrassing doctrine that is no longer taught? Only you can decide what makes sense to you. All of the above changes can be personally verified by comparing these two official Gospel Principles manuals.
When ever any publication goes through a revision, it presents the opportunity for several types of changes including but not limited to the following: Spelling and grammatical errors are corrected; sentences that weren't very clear may be reworded; new information that was previously unknown, unprepared or unavailable may be added; and some points may be altered or removed all together. It is this last item that may bring up the most questions: "some points may be altered or removed all together". Reviewing the revisions above, these are the points modified or removed that are potentially significant to long held Gospel Principles:
-- Heavenly Father may now be the
Supreme and Absolute God instead of "one" God among many (his siblings, parents and relatives who also reached God status).
-- The idea of a Heavenly Mother has been removed due to "heavenly parents" being replaced by either "Heavenly Father" or "God".
-- Jesus may no longer be regarded as our oldest brother or even our brother.
-- The Holy Ghost may no longer be a being that is in the form of a human man but is just a lesser defined "personage of Spirit".
-- You may no longer actually become a God, but just return to His presence with your worthy family members.
As is familiar to LDS missionaries and return missionaries, the gospel is generally taught in a "milk before meat" approach. Without first knowing and gaining a testimony of the rather benign first principles and ordinances of the gospel, it is highly unlikely that deeper gospel principles or ordinances will be believed or accepted. However, if long held "deep" doctrines or principles are continually removed from each revision of lesson manuals and/or are no longer taught, does that make them no longer accepted principles of the gospel? Does that relegate them to being gospel myths, deniable outright to the media and investigators? Is this revision practice a deceitful concealment of embarrassing or non mainstream "meat" principles? If you find these questions troubling, do as the General Authorities advise and allow yourself to seek answers, even if from unofficial or unapproved publications. Let the spirit help you recognize the answers from within. What you find through your own free inquiry, may surprise you. There are 3 things that can't long be hidden: The sun, the moon, and the truth. However, only an inquisitive and open mind is likely to recognize the latter.
You can find links to both editions here (HTML and PDF): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_Principles
Additional revisions to these and other chapters are reviewed here but may not represent a complete list of all changes: http://www.mrm.org/gospel-principles
Discourses of Brigham Young
Journal of Discourses