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The New Gospel Principles

I have mixed feelings.

The LDS church has published an updated edition of Gospel Principles (already available for purchase). Sunday school teachers use this manual to teach new church members and anyone thinking about becoming a member. For the next two years, the church will also use this manual to teach the other adult members during the last hour of Sunday services instead of another installment in the Teachings of the Prophets series.

A number of changes have been made to the manual since it was last published in 1997. Among changes made for clarity, the church has also made changes that eliminate or significantly downplay a number of doctrines:

  • Faithful members will become “a god”.
  • God was not always a god.
  • God became a god the same way members of the LDS church can become gods.
  • Jesus Christ is our eldest spiritual brother.
  • Satan is also our brother. That makes Jesus and Satan brothers.
  • We are the children of “heavenly parents” (i.e. we have a Mother in Heaven).
  • Adam and Eve are the “parents of the human race”. They are now simply called “our first parents”.
  • The church in Jesus’ time had the same organization as the current LDS church.
  • The organization of the church in Joseph Smith’s time was completed within “several years”. Instead, the manual says that the church is still developing.
  • Faithful members must be obedient to all of the commandments in order to gain Exaltation.

I applaud some of those changes. One gives enough wiggle room that members can stop ignoring the evidence that humans evolved from apes. Another may help ameliorate the plague of perfectionism among Mormons. Others open the door to the admission that the church has changed over the years.

And hey, the new cover is an improvement (which happens to nicely complement this blog’s theme).

At the same time, I’m sad to see the leaders of the LDS church continue to distance themselves from some of the doctrines that I cherished most as a member of their faith. These doctrines gave me hope and made Mormonism interesting. Without them, Mormonism becomes just another shade of Protestantism. yawn

Some LDS members will say that this doesn’t represent a change in doctrine, that the church is only simplifying things for new members. I would be tempted to accept that except for a couple of things. First, this is being used to teach all adult members, not just the new ones. If the intention was to ease new members’ learning curve, then why dumb doctrines down for everyone?

Second, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find those doctrines in any official publications. It would be an enlightening exercise to research the last official publication that explicitly mentioned, for example, that faithful LDS members would become gods and goddesses. Even the temple ceremony doesn’t present that doctrine. I’m not sure how anyone learns that doctrine anymore except by word of mouth.

More and more, the Mormonism that I grew up with is becoming an oral tradition expunged from the written record. That makes me a little sad, strangely enough.


  1. anubys said,

    August 11, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

    so where are your sources and references for the above (not doubting you, just curious). also, reading this post made me feel kind of proud of the distanced mormonism that i grew up in- one that will not be recognized by near-future generations. i feel like a pioneer, in a way! men on the moon? yeah-that-was-taught-in-my-day kind of thing.

  2. anubys said,

    August 11, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

    oh, and i think that the “wiggle room” referred to on human evolution does not suffice. i don’t see any sign of an attempt at such, either (although i’d LOVE to see it one day).

  3. Jonathan said,

    August 11, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

    Well, on top of the list of changes that’s linked to in the post, someone’s also listing the changes on Mormon Apologetics.

    I hear what you’re saying about feeling like a pioneer. I feel like current Mormonism is somehow less authentic, though I suspect that every generation of Mormons has had reason to think that way.

  4. Andrew S said,

    August 12, 2009 @ 9:18 am

    I replied at MSP too, but I think this kind of distancing is only beginning to get to me.

    I mean, when I was growing up…I used to not really care as much about non-authoritative manuals. It was just easier (for apologetic purposes) to say that the quad of scripture counted…that way, I just brushed aside — categorically — any mentions of Mormon Doctrine, the Journal of Discourses, Teachings of the Prophet (Insert name). Because those weren’t authoritative.

    But I imagine that critics must say…”but your “authoritative” modern version of Mormonism isn’t what it was in the past…how can you just ignore that?”

    So now that I’m looking at the possibility that the version of Mormonism I grew up in may not survive the next few decades, it’s interesting. And frightening. What will happen when the Mormon culture I know is unrecognizable to anyone else?

  5. Jonathan said,

    August 12, 2009 @ 11:32 am

    And they might tell you that your version of Mormonism never existed. That’s pretty freaky.

  6. Anonymous said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    Joyce said,
    Wow! So much for the one true church I grew up in! How can the “Truth” be so changeable? I only began to see the light four years ago as my intellectual RM children all “fell away”. Are TBM’s totally oblivious to the obvious lack of integrity behind the principles, doctrine, and history of the church? Do they really not even begin to perceive the church as the “great sham” Pres. Hinckley called it to be?

  7. Jonathan said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    It is amazing what we human beings can manage to ignore in order to preserve our cherished beliefs. *le sigh*

  8. Anonymous said,

    January 2, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

    I don’t get your point? Do you have any better to do with your time?

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