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Doctrine and Covenants/Lectures on Faith/Removed
Removal of the Lectures on Faith from the Doctrine and Covenants
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).
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: What are the Lectures on Faith?
- Question: Who wrote the Lectures on Faith?
- Question: Why were the Lectures on Faith removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921?
- Question: Were the Lectures on Faith revelations?
- Question: Are the Lectures on Faith not made available through Latter-day Saint sources?
- Noel B. Reynolds, "The Authorship Debate concerning Lectures on Faith: Exhumation and Reburial"
Question: What are the Lectures on Faith?
The Lectures were published in 1835 as the Doctrine portion of The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints
The Lectures on Faith are seven lessons on theology delivered by the presiding officers of the Church to the School of the Elders at Kirtland, Ohio, in late 1834. The lectures are organized in the form of a catechism, with each lecture starting with instructions on doctrine, and the first five lectures concluding with a question-and-answer section to check class participants for understanding. Scholarship seems to indicate that the lectures were mostly written by Sidney Rigdon with some oversight of Joseph Smith. 
The Lectures were the "doctrine" portion of the Doctrine and Covenants
The Lectures were included as the "doctrine" portion of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (the revelations comprised the "covenants" portion). The Lectures were suggested to be added to this version of the D&C by a committee appointed on September 24, 1834 by a general assembly of the church to arrange the doctrines and revelations of the church into a single volume. That committee consisted of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. The general body of the church accepted the committee's compilation on August 17, 1835 as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote." 
While the Lectures on Faith were at one time included in the Doctrine and Covenants, they were subsequently removed from the 1921 edition (along with other items; for more information see D&C Textual Changes) that were not considered official revelation and binding doctrine by the church.
Question: Who wrote the Lectures on Faith?
Recent authorship studies ascribe the wording of the lectures "mainly to Sidney Rigdon," with Joseph Smith substantially involved, and others perhaps having some influence. Willard Richards writes in his history that Joseph was "busily engaged" in November in making "preparations for the School for the Elders, wherein they might be more perfectly instructed in the great things of God." Furthermore, in January 1835 Joseph was engaged in "preparing the lectures on theology for publication."
Question: Why were the Lectures on Faith removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921?
The Church said that they were removed because they had never been presented to or accepted by the membership as being anything other than theological lectures or lessons
The Church removed the Lectures from the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1921 edition with an explanation that the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons". This is in contrast to the remaining pages of the original Doctrine and Covenants which are officially recognized as divine revelation given specifically to the church.
Joseph Fielding Smith said the following concerning their removal:
- 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.
Question: Were the Lectures on Faith revelations?
The Lectures were not revelations
Even hostile readers in 1838 understood that there was a distinct difference between the Lectures and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants:
The first part [of the D&C] contains seven lectures on Faith, but the second is of most importance, containing what are termed, “Covenants and Commandments of the Lord, to his servants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.” This part includes one hundred and two sections, ninety-seven of which are occupied by as many professed revelations.
Bruce R. McConkie wrote regarding the lectures, "They were not themselves classed as revelations, but in them is to be found some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character, perfections, and attributes of God; on faith, miracles, and sacrifice. They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars." The 1990 republication of the Lectures signals the desire of some LDS scholars to stimulate interest in their historical and doctrinal significance for the Church.
Question: Are the Lectures on Faith not made available through Latter-day Saint sources?
The Lectures on Faith are available through Deseret Book
The Lectures on Faith are available through Church-owned Deseret Book in hardcover, softcover, illustrated and audio formats. They are also available in English and Spanish. (See: Deseret Book: Lectures on Faith). If there is an effort by the Church to hide or suppress them in any way, then they are not hiding them very well.
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: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.
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.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- See Larry E. Dahl, "Lectures on Faith," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:818–821.
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:243–246. Volume 2 link
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:169–170. Volume 2 link
- Doctrine and Covenants, 1921 edition's introduction.
- As told to John William Fitzgerald, A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 344.
- La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 2 (13 January 1838): 6. off-site
- Bruce R. McConkie, "Lectures on Faith," in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 439. GL direct link