Lectures on Faith

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Lectures on Faith


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. [1]

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." [2]

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.


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Question: Who wrote the Lectures on Faith?

The authorship of the Lectures on Faith is not entirely known

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."[1] Furthermore, in January 1835 Joseph was engaged in "preparing the lectures on theology for publication."[2]


Notes

  1. http://ldsfaq.byu.edu/emmain.asp?number=219
  2. 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

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.[1]

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."[2] 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.


Notes

  1. La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 2 (13 January 1838): 6. off-site
  2. Bruce R. McConkie, "Lectures on Faith," in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 439. GL direct link

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".[1] 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.[2]


Notes

  1. Doctrine and Covenants, 1921 edition's introduction.
  2. As told to John William Fitzgerald, A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 344.

Additional Resources

To learn more about the Lectures on Faith: