LDS Religion and Doctrine | BYU Studies

LDS Religion and Doctrine

Revelations on the Priesthood: Historical Studies, Personal Essays, and Book Reviews from BYU Studies

Author Various,
In the April 1937 general conference, President David O. McKay, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, asked the following question, “If at this moment each one [of you] were asked to state in one sentence . . . the most distinguishing feature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?” He then said: “My answer would be . . . divine authority by direct... Read more

The King Follett Discourse

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles about Joseph Smith's famous King Follett Discourse is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles examining the King Follett Discourse and its doctrinal impact, including an amalgamated text of Joseph's greatest sermon. Contents: "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in... Read more

Are Christians Mormon?

Author David L. Paulsen,
"Harold Bloom, the self-proclaimed "unbelieving Jew" and distinguished scholar, recently characterized Joseph Smith as "a religious genius," stating that the religion Smith founded "is truly a biblical religion." More recently, Carl Mosser has written concerning the doctrine of that religion: "Mormonism's heresies are legion; they are also very interesting and often unique in the history of... Read more

Jesus Christ as Elder Brother

Author Corbin Volluz,
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often refer to Jesus Christ as their elder brother. This expression of endearment appears in sermons, lessons, and publications. In current usage, the term elder brother reflects an understanding that Jesus was the firstborn of the Father's spirit children and, since we humans are all spirit children of the Father, Jesus is our elder... Read more

Early Mormon Polygamy

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of articles and book reviews on Mormon polygamy is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on the Church's legal confrontation with government over polygamy, various aspects of plural marriage in St. George, the perspectives of two prominent Mormon plural wives (Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells), and several... Read more

Joseph Smith and Comparative Theology

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles comparing Joseph Smith's theology with the views of other religions and individuals is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on the Shakers, the making of a global religion, the problem of evil, the corporeality of God, Søren Kierkegaard, open and relational theology, preexilic... Read more

...Of Countries and Of Kingdoms

Jeffrey R. Holland, at that time the commissioner of education for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a luncheon address in connection with a Brigham Young University comparative religion symposium. The symposium was entitled "Deity, Ways of Worship, and Death" and was sponsored by the BYU Religious Studies Center in 1977. In this address, Holland emphasizes that Mormons should... Read more

Through a Glass Darkly: Trying to Understand the Scriptures

Royal Skousen talks about a number of passages from the scriptures that have caused misunderstanding and confusion. In each of these passages the source of the difficulty has been the language of the passage itself. Sometimes archaic words or changes in word meaning cause misunderstanding. Other times incorrect translations and even misprints can cause problems. Much of our confusion over these... Read more

The Expanding Gospel

When dealing with apocryphal texts, scholars can discount doctrines and themes that appear once or twice. However, themes that run consistently through many or most of the texts should be seriously considered. One such theme is that of a council in heaven in which a plan was presented and the opposition toward that plan. This article details the presence of these themes in ancient texts among... Read more

The Catholic Liturgy and the Mormon Temple

Most of the world's religions incorporate some form of ritual into their worship, be it merely the singing of a hymn in a meeting, the wearing of a particular attire, or kneeling at a certain time and place. The older the religion is, the more complex and numerous the ceremonies seem to be and the more they often resemble each other, indicating the probability of a common ancestral beginning in... Read more

Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. Edward L. Kimball discusses the former Mormon policy of restricting Church members of African descent from receiving the priesthood. He examines the traditional and proposed scriptural basis for the policy, its origin and implementation, and the chain of events that led his... Read more

Education: Moving Toward and Under the Law of Consecration

Question: What are some of the basic problems that need to be solved to improve the effectiveness of teaching religion to the members of the Church? Answer: This problem has been a deep concern of mine for a long time and I know it has all of the brethren. In order for us to more effectively teach the gospel to the members of the Church, we must first go to the home or the family. Where the... Read more

A Book of Commandments and Revelations: Editorial Introduction to This Special Feature

This short piece is the introduction to several articles in this issue of BYU Studies about the Book of Commandments and Revelations, a foundational document of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Commandments was published in 2009 as part of The Joseph Smith Papers . Shortly after arrangements were finalized in May 2009 for the publication of the BCR, a plenary session... Read more

The Principles of the Proclamation: Ten Years of Hope

Professor Wilkins tells the story of his initial involvement with the UN on the need for stable families. He explains the connection between international law, family policy, and the efforts of legal scholars and academic centers. He also argues that despite current efforts to redefine the family, continued erosion of what Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human rights calls “the... Read more

Which Is the Wisest Course?: The Transformation in Mormon Temple Consciousness, 1870–1898

From the 1870s to 1890, the first Latter-day Saint temples in Utah were completed and temple work was fully underway, and at the same time the Church was being legally compelled to abandon polygamy. In 1890, Wilford Woodruff faced disenfranchisement of the Church and the loss of the temples. He was prepared to defend polygamy, but upon revelation from God changed his course and issued the... Read more

Probing the High Prevalence of Polygyny in St. George, 1861–1880: An Introduction

This is the introduction to a trilogy of articles that interpret and map the unusually high incidence of polygamy (or polygyny, the proper term) that characterized St. George, Utah, from its founding in 1861 through the federal census of 1880. Polygamy was practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the 1840s to 1890. The first, and most theoretical, of the three... Read more

Understanding Christian Baptism through the Book of Mormon

Early Christianity saw a wide proliferation of theories and practices concerning baptism, and now many Christians, including Mormons, commonly understand it as a means to repent and wash away one's sins. But the Book of Mormon prophets taught that baptism is a covenant and a witnessing to God that one has already repented and commits to follow Jesus Christ, and that sins are remitted by the Holy... Read more

Healing Problems of Intimacy by Clients' Use of Gospel-Based Values and Role Definitions

A review of eight people accepted for counseling shows they sought more than moderation of symptoms or minimal control of problem behavior. Because of their values, they expected to achieve thorough and lasting change. To disregard this would have been an inadequate response to their needs. By open acknowledgment of values, client and therapist committed themselves to very specific outcomes. By... Read more

The Necessity of a Sinless Messiah

Christianity intrinsically relates to the earthly mission and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It relates to the remarkable necessity of a single special individual born into mortality to save all of mankind, this individual to be the first-begotten of the Father in the spirit world and the only-begotten of the Father in this mortal world. Furthermore, and even more remarkable, the saving plan... Read more

Reclaiming Reality: Doctoring and Discipleship in a Hyperconnected Age

The author—a husband, father, and medical oncologist—is an avid user of the latest technology, and yet he recognizes how it is changing him from the inside out. He describes “virtual doctoring,” which is reliance on the internet to stay abreast of the enormous, ever-changing body of medical literature. But he also worries that the internet is pulling him away from his patients. And the perils don... Read more

The Perils of Grace

Robert L. Millet offers his perspectives as a Mormon and a scholar who has engaged in the study of grace. He suggests gentle correctives to his evangelical friends and his fellow Latter-day Saints regarding their respective views of grace. To the Evangelicals he suggests they may place an excessive stress on grace, to the point that they emphasize forgiveness but neglect repentance. By contrast,... Read more

Introducing A Book of Commandments and Revelations, A Major New Documentary "Discovery"

This article is one of several in this issue of BYU Studies about the Book of Commandments and Revelations (BCR), a foundational document of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Commandments and Revelations (BCR) is the manuscript collection of revelations Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer took to Missouri in November 1831 from which the Book of Commandments was to be... Read more

Scriptural Perspectives on How to Survive the Calamities of the Last Days

Hugh Nibley provides insights from Latter-day Saint scripture about the last days. In the Little Apocalypse of Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew, Jesus prophesies of the events that will precede the end of the world and emphasizes that his Second Coming will be a complete surprise. People are not supposed to prepare for that day; rather, they should live every day as if the Lord were coming on... Read more

Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Polygyny

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. What percentage of nineteenth-century Mormons practiced polygyny? Estimates of the answer have evolved as have the methods of posing the question. The authors use a simple demographic model to derive mathematical limits on polygyny prevalence. These limits provide benchmarks... Read more

Confession in LDS Doctrine and Practice

In the Christian understanding, all are sinners (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22); consequently, in order that all may be forgiven, repentance is one of the first principles of the gospel. A key element of repentance is confession: "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them" (D&C 58:43). Accordingly, confession is one of the five steps of repentance... Read more

Conversation in Nauvoo about the Corporeality of God

Religion scholar Jacob Neusner looks at the corporeal nature of God through the lens of Mormonism and Judaism. He addresses anthropomorphism and incarnation, and concludes that the way to know God is through "our relationship with him, not through our act of the incarnation of God in heart and mind and soul." Neusner appreciates the powerful doctrine of God's corporeality taught by the Prophet... Read more

Brigham Young and the Mission of Mormonism

For the most part, Brigham Young chose to ignore his critics, but on occasion he personally responded to them. The letter printed below contains Brigham Young's 1869 answer to a newspaper editor's question, "What is the mission of the Mormons?" Mormonism's fruits, Brigham attested, substantiated its faith claims. Read more

The Constitution as Covenant

The Constitution of the United States is the legacy of "a peculiar moment in history when all knowledge coincided, when classical antiquity, Christian theology, English empiricism, and European rationalism could all be linked." And covenant was the linking concept. The religious idea of covenant was particularly and profoundly important in the evolution and inspiration of the American... Read more

The British Contribution to the Restored Gospel

In 1987, BYU Studies published two special issues on the 150-year history of the LDS Church in Great Britain. Robert D. Hales, then Presiding Bishop of the Church, presented these remarks on January 17, 1987, at a symposium at BYU, “The Church in the British Isles, 1837-1987.” He surveys the role of Great Britain in world history, looks at converts to the Church in the 1800s, and tells the... Read more

Moral Choices and Their Outcomes

Karl G. Maeser, the first president of Brigham Young University, once said, "I have been asked what I mean by word of honor. I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me... Read more

From Manuscript to Printed Page: An Analysis of the History of the Book of Commandments and Revelations

This article is one of several in this issue about the Book of Commandments and Revelations, a foundational document of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Commandments and Revelations (BCR) is a surprisingly unpretentious document, judging by its physical condition. Instead of appearing regal and glorious as would befit its important contents, the Book of Commandments... Read more

The Wages of Sin in Hawthorne

The loss of innocence as the result of sin is a theme running throughout many of Nathaniel Hawthorne's works. Many of his works look at the consequences of sin in individuals' lives. The most common sins Hawthorne wrote into his stories are intellectual pride and the violation of another's individuality. The author follows these themes through Hawthorne's works showing that the results of sin are... Read more

Spirit Babies and Divine Embodiment: PBEs, First Vision Accounts, Bible Scholarship, and the Experience-Centered Approach to Mormon Folklore

Eric A. Eliason, a BYU Professor of English who specializes in folklore, explores the phenomenon of prebirth experiences (encounters with spirit children not yet born) and how this folk tradition is deeply enmeshed with official LDS doctrines. Encounters with spiritual beings are reported more frequently in the general population than the more academically respectable mystic or transcendent... Read more

Reflections on the Nature of Mormon Art

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Bowels of Mercy

Although perhaps too earthy for squeamish readers, the idea of the "bowels of mercy" is found frequently in the scriptures, reflecting ancient views about human emotions and offering powerful insights about divine compassion. The scriptures often come to us like messages in a bottle, blown from distant times and places. They bring with them modes of expression that can sometimes be mysterious for... Read more

Mapping the Extent of Plural Marriage in St. George, 1861–1880

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. This article is one of a set on the practice of polygamy in St. George, Utah, from 1861 to 1880. It asks why polygamy rates in that Mormon settlement exceed the demographic limits produced by Bitton and Lambson in their article "Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century... Read more

Brigham Young's Word of Wisdom Legacy

During the thirty-three years that Brigham Young led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1844-77, he set the Church on a course of following the Word of Wisdom to the letter. While most Church members failed to obey the revelation's prescriptions during Brigham's lifetime, he set the goal that members would eventually comply with the Word of Wisdom. During his tenure, he changed the... Read more

Facilitating Intimacy: The Process and the Product A Response to Victor L. Brown Jr.

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Man, the Pinnacle of Creation

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Violence and the Gospel: The Teachings of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon

This is a study of religious teachings on force and war as they apply in the nuclear age. In particular, Old Testament prophetic teachings are examined, as distinguished from Israel's experience in the conquest of Canaan through the Davidic monarchy, teachings of Jesus on force and violence; and Book of Mormon teachings on force and war. These teachings may be more important now than ever. All of... Read more