In 1835, the church published the Doctrine and Covenants, which contained significant additions to the 1833 Book of Commandments. At the beginning of the collection of revelations were seven theological lectures that had originally been delivered at the Kirtland School the preceding winter.
Details about the purpose and curriculum of the Kirtland School, later referred to as the “School for the Elders” or “School of the Prophets,” are uncertain. Most of what we know is taken from late reminiscences recorded nearly fifty years after its commencement. Lessons included at least an English grammar element and the seven theological lectures, which were part of a series to “unfold … the doctrine of Jesus Christ.” The classroom consisted of prospective missionaries and church leaders and, by all accounts, was presided over by Sidney Rigdon.
The lectures were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1921 edition, but they did not fade away. They have proven to be particularly buoyant as they have experienced resurgent popularity over the years and an ability to maintain a loyal following. But the history of the Lectures on Faith are a cautionary tale for members of the church that illustrates the dangers of historical forgetting.
It was common knowledge in the 19th century that the lectures were written by Sidney Rigdon, but by the mid-twentieth century it was thought that the Prophet Joseph Smith had penned them. Perhaps enamored with the arcane rhetorical style of the arguments, some members latched on to them as a source of deep theological thought. What they didn’t realize was that the style mimics that of the preachers of the 19th century and of the Campbellites in particular. Especially telling is the reference to a binary Godhead in the fifth lecture. Joseph Smith explicitly declared in Nauvoo that his concept of the Godhead had never changed, and he had always taught the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost were separate entities.
But all the historical evidence to discredit Joseph Smith and attribute Sidney Rigdon as author was circumstantial. It wasn’t until Noel Reynold’s discovered some new documents that he realized he had found the “smoking gun” and the confirmation that he needed to form a solid argument for Sidney Rigdon as the author.
Join Laura Harris Hales as she discusses with Noel Reynolds the mystery of the authorship of the Lectures on Faith and what we can learn from this episode in Mormon history.
God is our father. More than an essence. He has a form and a body, though his influence is everywhere. God’s corporeality (having a body) was taught until the 4th and 5th centuries. We aren’t depraved creatures. We weren’t created out of nothing. Creedal statements about a triune deity were incorrect. These and other truths were restored. Joseph’s views are absolutely revolutionary when you consider what Christians believe(d).
“Joseph Smith returned modern Christianity to its origins.”
Elder Oaks was awesome yesterday. A few of my thoughts below:
John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
What Christians believed in Joseph’s day and for centuries before was not true: that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were an incomprehensible, unknowable mystery. According to Elder Oaks, “We believe that the truth about the nature of God and our relationship to him is knowable and is key to everything else in our doctrine.”
Paul references the three members of the Godhead below:
2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”
3 separate and distinct beings in the Godhead:
God the Father: Creator and Ruler of the Universe; Father of our spirits; Author of Plan of Salvation
God the Son: First Begotten in the Spirit and the only Begotten in the Flesh; Redeemer and Mediator; He saved us from death by Resurrection and from sin by the Atonement; Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel speaks to and through prophets; God of the whole Earth
God the Testator or Witness: Holy Ghost; Comforter; Personage of Spirit; Agent of Personal Revelation; Mission is to testify of the Father and the Son; Guides into all truth
So what, you ask?!
Please contemplate what Joseph restored. With these truths restored and a clear plan of salvation we have the ultimate road map. We know who we are, who we can become, we know who makes it all possible, and we know whom and why we worship.