Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The church on understanding doctrine

The scrutiny the church is receiving has prompted it to discuss it's doctrine and how to approach it.  The church doesn't have an official set of doctrines that define it's beliefs, but rather has remained adaptive, not being pinned down by a set of doctrines or creeds.

Apparently, items taught as doctrine in the past are causing the church some difficulties as they try to present themselves as more mainstream Christian than it has in the past, and deemphasize aspects of i's more radical beginnings ("we're not weird").

The church laments that "mis-understanding about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revolves around its doctrine [and what] distinguishes the Church from other faiths. "  Excerpts of the statement follow:

The Church welcomes inquisitiveness, but the challenge of understanding Mormon doctrine is not merely a matter of accessing the abundant information available. Rather, it is a matter of how this information is approached and examined.

The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them.
  • A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four "standard works" of scripture, official declarations and proclamations , and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.
  • Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church's purpose and placing it at the very center. This is especially common among reporters or researchers who rely on how other Christians interpret Latter-day Saint doctrine.
  • Because different times present different challenges, modern-day prophets receive revelation relevant to the circumstances of their day. In our day, President Gordon B. Hinckley has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the family in our increasingly fractional society. In addition, the Church does not preclude future additions or changes to its teachings or practices. This living, dynamic aspect of the Church provides flexibility in meeting those challenges.
  • Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.  

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