This month the LDS Church released a statement about what constitutes Mormon doctrine. You can read it here in full. My favorite quote from this release is:
“Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. 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.”
I’ve visited many sites where people quote Brigham Young saying some outrageous thing and state that it is what Mormons believe (i.e. blood atonement, God had sex with Mary). These audacious statements that were “hidden” from them shock some members. The truth of the matter is that many of these things are unknown to Mormons simply because they are not doctrine and for that reason are not taught in LDS meetings. If they were doctrine members would be taught to accept and believe them. They would also be widely known among members. However, this is just simply not the case.
Frequently someone will ask, “If you believe Brigham Young (or any other LDS prophet) is a prophet of God, why don’t you believe everything he preached?” The simple answer is that no human on this earth is perfect. Everyone is subject to their own bias and reasoning. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Many times prophets and members apply their own earthly experiences to doctrinal concepts in an attempt to reason with themselves. A common example of this are the cornucopia of excuses for polygamy spread around the church like idol gossip.
I think it is significant that the LDS Church continues to say that not every statement of a Church leader is doctrine. This places the responsibility of a person’s salvation squarely on their shoulders. It is up to you to decide what is from God and what is not. There are LDS members and non-LDS Christians that are perfectly content to take every word from each interview Gordon B. Hinckley has done on prime time television as the word of God. This is a mistake. Doctrine of the LDS Church must be based on the canonized scriptures. If it is not, then it is just opinion and should be understood as such.
What do you think? Do we hold prophets (Bible or LDS) to an impossible standard?
Do you think members are bound by past statments made by Brigham Young and others?