The Lectures on Faith were originally presented as a course of study in the “School of the Prophets” in Kirtland, Ohio in 1834, after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The School of the Prophets in Kirtland was established so that Joseph Smith could instruct the Elders of the Church in the basic principles of the Church’s doctrine.
Exact authorship is considered to be uncertain. Sidney Rigdon may have written large portions of the Lectures, but the prophet Joseph Smith was still heavily involved. In fact, Joseph wrote "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." With this in mind, while Sidney may have had a hand in writing some portions of the Lectures, Joseph edited, prepared, and finalized them, all with the intent of publishing them in the forthcoming "book of Doctrine and Covenants."
There are seven lectures. A short description of the contents of each lecture follows:
- Lecture One- The definition of the effects of faith, and faith as the first principle of the gospel. Without faith there is no power or existence.
- Lecture Two- Why faith is the first principle of the gospel. Without faith it is impossible to please God or do His will. God is the center of faith. How man came to know that God existed. Faith comes from hearing the word of God.
- Lecture Three- Understanding the character and attributes of God and how He understands His children.
- Lecture Four- God’s attributes are the knowledge of all things, faith, power, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth.
- Lecture Five- The nature of the Godhead. How the Godhead works. The members of the Godhead.
- Lecture Six- The purpose of life on this earth. Understanding the nature of sacrifice and its importance to God's plan.
- Lecture Seven- The effects of faith. Christ as the example. Faith gives way to knowledge.
The Lectures were included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. In that original edition, the font size selected for the Lectures was considerably larger than the font size of the later Revelations, leading some to believe they were of primary importance. Others claimed that, since the Lectures came first, and were "designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ", that they were the "Doctrine" portion of the newly published "Doctrine and Covenants."
The Lectures on Faith were later removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921, although they are still available in book form and as a website. Some have criticized the Church for this removal, claiming that the Church changed its doctrine; in response to these claims, the Church has given a number of justifications for their removal. In particular, Joseph Fielding Smith (a member of the committee that chose to remove the Lectures) gave these reasons:
- They were not received as revelations by the prophet Joseph Smith.
- They are instructions relative to the general subject of faith. They are explanations of this principle but not doctrine.
- They are not complete as to their teachings regarding the Godhead. More complete instructions on the point of doctrine are given in section 130 of the 1876 and all subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.
- It was thought by James E. Talmage, chairman, and other members of the committee who were responsible for their omission that to avoid confusion and contention on this vital point of belief, it would be better not to have them bound in the same volume as the commandments or revelations which make up the Doctrine and Covenants."
It was also claimed, in the introduction to the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, that the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons." However, in the General Assembly wherein the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was sustained, multiple members and quorum leaders stood and announces to the rest of the assembly their conviction that the volume they had read--which contained the Lectures--were true and ought to be accepted. After their testimonies, "the several authorities, and the general assembly, by a unanimous vote, accepted the labors of the committee [the Doctrine and Covenants, which included the Lectures]."
Whatever the case may be, while the Lectures on Faith are not considered official doctrine of the Church, they still teach many truths of the Gospel. Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle of the Church, said:
- "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." (Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University).
Selections from Lectures on Faith
- If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thought and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental (Lecture 1).
- We here observe that God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell; and that he is the Father of lights; in him the principle of faith dwells independently, and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings center for life and salvation (Lecture 2).
- From the foregoing testimonies we learn the following things respecting the character of God: First, that He was God before the world was created, and the same God that He was after it was created. Secondly, that He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and that He was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting. Thirdly, that He changes not, neither is there variableness with Him; but that He is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that His course is one eternal round, without variation. Fourthly, that He is a God of truth and cannot lie. Fifthly, that He is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of Him. Sixthly, that He is love (Lecture 3).
- In view, then, of the existence of these attributes, the faith of the saints can become exceedingly strong, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God, and can exert its mighty influence in searching after wisdom and understanding, until it has obtained a knowledge of all things that pertain to life and salvation (Lecture 4).
- From the foregoing account of the Godhead, which is given in His revelations, the saints have a sure foundation laid for the exercise of faith unto life and salvation, through the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ; by whose blood they have a forgiveness of sins, and also a sure reward laid up for them in heaven, even that of partaking of the fullness of the Father and the Son through the Spirit. As the Son partakes of the fullness of the Father through the Spirit, so the saints are, by the same Spirit, to be partakers of the same fullness, to enjoy the same glory; for as the Father and the Son are one, so, in like manner, the saints are to be one in them. Through the love of the Father, the mediation of Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they are to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Lecture 5).
- Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God (Lecture 6).
- We ask, then, were is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude, as to the answer of this question, there will be no dispute among those who believe the Bible, that it is Christ; all will agree in this, that He is the prototype or standard of salvation (Lecture 7).
For More Information:
- ↑ Documentary History of the Church (DHC), Vol. 2:180; Emphasis added
- ↑ Lectures on Faith, lecture 1, Paragraph 1
- ↑ As told to John William Fitzgerald, A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 344.
- ↑ FairMormon.org
- ↑ Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, starts on page 255
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