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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10. A Primary Catalyst in Parting the Veil

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 10th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

In my prior posts, you'll see that visualizing  -- or utilizing the "Eye of Faith" -- was and is a means whereby the righteous can not only look forward to the future, but also shatter barriers to the veil and (in the case of at least one person), thrust one directly into God's presence.

A primary catalyst?

"Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (Ether 3:9; emphasis mine)

Ahhhh, faith. Exceeding faith.  "Unprecedented Faith"...a principle of action that's powerful enough to part the veil! 

The Greatest (Mortal) Expositions Ever Given on Faith

The Lectures on Faith are a series of seven theological presentations made to the School of the Prophets in the winter of 1834-35 in Kirtland, OH. (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2nd ed). 

That Joseph Smith intended their inclusion in the D&C is clear:
"During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the Elders, and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which the committee appointed last September were now compiling" (History of the Church, 2:180).
The Lectures were published in 1835 as the Doctrine portion of the volume entitled "Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (better known simply as the Doctrine and Covenants)". The Lectures were selected for that volume 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 of Presiding Elders (consisting of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams) stated that the Lectures were included "in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation," and that the Lectures, together with the church-regulatory sections that followed, represent "our belief, and when we say this, humbly trust, the faith and principles of this society as a body." (Preface, D&C, 1835 edition, p. iii)

The book was presented at the August 17, 1835 General Conference.  Records indicate that "several priesthood leaders were apparently given unbound copies to read ahead of time. They were then able to testify at the conference to the truthfulness of the revelations. After hearing the testimonies, the whole conference voted, first as quorums, then as a congregation, to accept the book as arranged" (Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Dec. 1984).  The body of the church accepted the committee's compilation as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote." (History of the Church, 2:243-6).

The record is crystal clear: Joseph intended the Lectures' inclusion in the D&C, and they were properly sustained into the D&C by a valid, recorded and unanimous vote of the Church collectively (see D&C 28:13).

The Lectures on Faith were included in subsequent 1844 and 1876 editions (source).

44 years after their original publication, they were included in a new 1879 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.  However, this time, Apostle Orson Pratt questioned the Lectures' inclusion in the new publication, which he was preparing.  Quorum of the Twelve President John Taylor responded:
"The Lectures on Faith were published with the sanction and approval of the Prophet Joseph Smith and we do not feel that it is desirable to make any alteration in that regard at any rate not at the present" (John Taylor to Orson Pratt, 25 April 1879, retained copy in John Taylor letter book, 16 August 1878 to 27 May 1879, pp. 710– 13, at the LDS Church Archives, cited in Robert J. Woodford, "Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants" (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1:87–88).
(Wow, "published with the sanction and approval" of the head of this dispensation.  Talk about validation!)

Yet in late 1921, the Church printed the Doctrine and Covenants without the Lectures.  An interesting explanation was given: the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons." (See Introduction, 1921 edition).

It's not my desire to scrutinize the debate regarding the canonization/decanonization of the Lectures.  Still, one fact remains untarnished: even modern-day theologians and church leaders find tremendous value in the Lectures on Faith.  In addition to Pres. Taylor's comment above, we learn that:
"They were considered to be very excellent expositions of the doctrines contained therein" (Pres. Charles W. Penrose, Member of the First Presidency, 1921; emphasis mine).

"In my own judgment these Lectures on Faith are of great value and should be studied...I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ" (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Seek Ye Earnestly", p 194; emphasis mine).

"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"  (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 439; emphasis mine).

"In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language - that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University, Jan. 4, 1972; emphasis mine).
"Joseph Smith said that “faith [is] the principle of action and of power” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 72)" (Elder Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character", October 2010 General Conference).
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness' and that it is also 'the principle of action in all intelligent beings' (Lectures on Faith [1985], 1)" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Ask in Faith", April 2008 General Conference).

Read the Lectures on Faith...Today!

I believe no meaningful discussion regarding faith can occur without at least having invested time and deep, ponderous thought regarding faith...including the doctrines elaborated in the Lectures on Faith.

So, I invite you to read the Lectures on Faith.  What do you have to lose?  They're a fairly quick read, and you'll never look at the doctrine of faith the same way ever again (because you'll understand it better).

To facilitate this, I offer you the links below, and look forward to hearing your comments regarding the Lectures on Faith.

Free Download/View of the Lectures on Faith

HTML (Hint: This can easily be copied and pasted into a Word or Google doc)
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants (which includes all the LoF, which begin on page 13) 
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants
PDF (Based on original photos; 8.5 MB)

History of the Lectures on Faith

What of the Lectures on Faith?

The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective


  1. Thank you for the post and the reminder. I have read through this once before, but appreciate the push to do it again and put the same thought and study into it that I have with my other scriptures. I have felt a little lacking in this area, so I feel this is just what I need to do.

  2. I remember my grandparents had this book on their bookshelf and I was curious about it, but I was not allowed to touch any of the books there. Being a child, surely it was too difficult for me. I think we can draw a comparison here as to how members in general are thought of by our top leaders. Maybe we members can't understand such difficult doctrine and so it is better to just shelf it and not acknowledge it is of value. It is very interesting that all writings from a prophet, who is even recognized as the first prophet of the modern day Church, are not actively encouraged by our leaders for all to read. I think this says a lot about the continual slide away from "unpopular " or "difficult" doctrine. How are we, as children, to grow if we aren't encouraged to try increasingly more complex doctrine? And unfortunately the Church is losing much of its savor, due to it's increasingly generic doctrine.