FAIR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormonism and doctrine/Publications
Church publications as doctrine
Summary: Are Church publications considered doctrine? It is claimed that anything that is, or ever was, officially published by the Church at any time ought to represent doctrine, thus define what Latter-day Saints really believe. However, just as Brigham Young taught principles that applied to the 19th-century saints, modern prophets teach us what we need for our particular time.
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Is everything that is published by the Church considered doctrine?
- Question: Are some publications misrepresented as "official" publications of the Church?
Question: Is everything that is published by the Church considered Mormon doctrine?
We consider the inspired words of the prophets as scripture for our time. Not everything taught in the 19th century applies to the 21st century
It is sometimes claimed that anything that is, or ever was, officially published by the Church ought to represent doctrine. We consider the inspired words of the prophets as scripture for our time. Just as Brigham Young taught principles that applied to the 19th-century saints, modern prophets teach us what we need for our particular time. Not everything taught in the 19th century applies to the 21st century.
The Church states,
Because different times present different challenges, modern-day prophets receive revelation relevant to the circumstances of their day. This follows the biblical pattern (Amos 3:7), in which God communicated messages and warnings to His people through prophets in order to secure their well-being. 
The Church manual, Gospel Principles, clarifies what is accepted as scripture,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts four books as scripture: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These books are called the standard works of the Church. The inspired words of our living prophets are also accepted as scripture. 
Joseph Smith left clear revelation that the scriptures should govern the Church (D&C 42:12-13, 56-60), after having been submitted to and approved by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (D&C 107:27), and submitted to the general body of the Church for ratification (D&C 26:2; 28:13).
Question: Are some Mormon publications misrepresented as "official" publications of the Church?
Some tend to misrepresent whether or not a publication is officially sanctioned by the Church in order to suit their agenda.
- It is claimed that some publications are official Church publications when in reality they are not.
- D. Michael Quinn claimed that the Encyclopedia of Mormonism "was an official product of the LDS Church."
- It is claimed that some publications are not official Church publications when in reality they are.
- Richard Abanes states in Becoming Gods that the book "Gospel Principles" contains a 1978 copyright by the Church, but the author states that it contains a disclaimer that indicates that it is not an official publication of the Church, and that "the views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not represent the position of the Church."
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism was not an official production of the LDS Church
The author of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View wants to make the Encyclopedia of Mormonism an 'official' work, when the book, its editor, its authors, and publisher all assert that it is not. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism was not an official production of the LDS Church as the Church News noted:
The encyclopedia, according to its publisher and board of editors, is not an official publication of the Church. Daniel H. Ludlow, editor-in-chief, emphasized that the encyclopedia is not intended as a substitute for the scriptures, other official publications of the Church or doctrines as taught by the apostles and prophets.
This is indicated in the introduction to the Encyclopedia:
Lest the role of the Encyclopedia be given more weight than it deserves, the editors make it clear that those who have written and edited have only tried to explain their understanding of Church history, doctrines, and procedures; their statements and opinions remain their own. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is a joint product of Brigham Young University and Macmillan Publishing Company, and its contents do not necessarily represent the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In no sense does the Encyclopedia have the force and authority of scripture.
Gospel Principles is an official publication of the LDS Church
From the title page of Gospel Principles:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Salt Lake City, Utah 1979.
The next page:
Copyright (c) 1978 Corporation of the President
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America.
We cannot find the disclaimer mentioned by the author in Becoming Gods about Gospel Principles not being an official publication.
Regarding the LDS Bible Dictionary, the Church has been explicit that it is not to be taken as a statement of revealed Church doctrine
Regarding the LDS Bible Dictionary, the Church has been explicit that it is not to be taken as a statement of revealed Church doctrine. The introduction to the Bible Dictionary includes the following statement:
[The Bible Dictionary] is not intended as an official or revealed endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal, historical, cultural, and other matters set forth.
Robert J. Matthews, who was part of the committee in the late 1970s to create the LDS editions of the scriptures, including the study aids, said:
The new Bible dictionary is not intended as a revealed treatment or official version of doctrinal, historical, cultural, chronological, and other matters found in the Bible.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie had this to say regarding "the Joseph Smith Translation items, the chapter headings, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, footnotes, the Gazetteer, and the maps":
None of these are perfect; they do not of themselves determine doctrine; there have been and undoubtedly now are mistakes in them. Cross-references, for instance, do not establish and never were intended to prove that parallel passages so much as pertain to the same subject. They are aids and helps only.
To summarize, entries in the Bible Dictionary are not part of the canon of scripture and are not binding upon anyone, save as they accurately reflect the contents of scripture or joint statements by the prophets, seers, and revelators.
Introductory material to the Book of Mormon is not regarded as scripture
The only part of the Book of Mormon regarded as scripture is the original text as published by Joseph Smith, Jr., with a few changes later made by him or his successors for reasons of clarity or grammar.
Thus, introductory material published in the modern Book of Mormon is not regarded as scripture, and has been modified from time to time. A representative from Church Public Affairs noted:
I have found that over that last 20 years a number of changes have been made in the introduction to the Book of Mormon - and that it is not consider[ed] scripture.
- LDS Newsroom, Approaching Mormon Doctrine (4 May 2007)
- Gospel Principles, "Chapter 10: Scriptures
- Gerry Avant, "Encyclopedia of Mormonism," LDS Church News (12 July 1991).
- Daniel H. Ludlow, "Preface," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:lxii.
- Robert J. Matthews, "Using the New Bible Dictionary in the LDS Edition," Ensign (June 1982), 48.
- Mark McConkie (editor), Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1989), 290. ISBN 978-0884946441. GL direct link
- Mark Tuttle, personal e-mail to Tyler Livingston (1 March 2007).