18 noiembrie 2014

Lectures on Faith

I recently downloaded all the page images for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, and had them printed and spiral bound so I could study them. Why? First, because they contain the Lectures on Faith, and second, because I wanted to read the modern revelations in their original format, without all the formatting, footnotes, and distractions that have been added in recent editions. I would like to study the teachings and revelations of Joseph Smith in a format that is closer to how he received them and passed them on to us.

The first thing that is interesting is the Lectures on Faith. I don't think I knew until a couple years ago that they were a part of the scriptures in Joseph Smith's day, all the way until 1921, when they were removed by committee. The Church published the Book of Commandments in 1833. In 1835, an expanded version was published, with seven theological lectures added to the beginning of the book, titled "Lectures on the doctrine of the Church of the Latter Day Saints of Faith," representing the Doctrine. These lectures were followed by the Covenants and Commandments of the Lord. Hence, the Doctrine and Covenants. The church accepted the entire volume as scripture by common consent, and Joseph Smith, while it is possible that he is not the primary author, was heavily involved in the editing, and said they "embrac[ed] the important doctrine of salvation" and additionally stated he was personally willing "to be called to answer to every principle advanced" therein (preface to the D&C 1835). So I believe we can agree, whatever the opinion of the 1921 committee, that the Lectures on Faith are important, and can help us further our understanding of the basic doctrines we profess to believe.

With all our manuals, books, magazines, study guides, and other course materials, I think it is easy to lose sight of what true doctrine actually is. Luckily, we have a very clear and simple definition in modern revelation. It is found in 2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, and D&C 10, to name a few instances:

"Whoso believeth in me and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and these are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God....and whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil..." (3 Ne 11)

This here is the crux of everything. And so when I read, in the very first sentence of the first lecture of the Lectures on Faith, that these are "a course of lectures which are designed to unfold to the understanding the docrine of Jesus Christ," I expect to see something having to do with belief in Christ, baptism, and/or salvation. And it turns out, while baptism is not specifically mentioned in the lectures, belief, or faith, is expounded upon in detail, and what the qualities of correct faith are--the kind that leads to salvation. Additionally, in order for these lectures to be true, they must advance NOTHING ELSE as doctrine besides what is  listed in the above definition. 

I will be writing a series of posts about the Lectures and their contents. The language in the Lectures is a bit archaic, and I'd like to work it out for myself in plain, modern English, what it all means. This idea came when I started getting irked at the use of the phrase "the Deity." In a document that is explaining to you how important it is to truly know God, it seems awkward and out of place to refer to Him in such an impersonal way. (I guess that is one of the sections penned by Sidney instead of Joseph.)

PS: in most languages, "faith" and "belief" are the same word, so I will not be making any distinction between the two as I write about the lectures.

Read the next post in this series here.

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