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One of the charges often levied against the LDS Church is that the doctrines change over time. For example, from http://20truths.info/mormon/doctrine.html and http://wakeupmormons.blogspot.com/p/latest-changes-to-lds-doctrine.html:

Changing Doctrine Over Time

In one of his more regrettable statements, Hugh Nibley said that one of the hallmarks of Mormon truth is that it has never changed over time:

"The gospel as the Mormons know it sprang full grown from the words of Joseph Smith. It has never been worked over or touched up in any way, and is free of revisions and alterations. Joseph Smith took the same elements that have proven so recalcitrant and so hopelessly conflicting in the hands of the churchmen and threw them together, with an awful lot of other stuff, to follow Brodie, into a single wildly chaotic mess. And lo and behold, everything fell into line of its own accord; all the haphazard elements in the bewildering heap fitted together perfectly to form a doctrine so commanding that not even a hint of rhetorical paradox is needed to support it, and no 'Gregorian compromise' with a pleasure-loving world has been necessary to assure its vigorous growth." (Hugh Nibley, No Ma'am, That's Not History)

The facts, however, show otherwise.

The site then goes on to list several doctrines that have, clearly, changed over time.

Other arguments levied by more "mainstream" Christians against the LDS Church include references to Malachi 3:6, which starts out "For I am the LORD, I change not;" The claim is that the LDS teachings are in contradiction with this.

They say, "If God never changes, then Truth never changes." They cite changing doctrine as evidence that the Truth taught in the LDS Church changes, and therefore, can't really be from God.

So, from an LDS perspective, what is the defense to this charge and these changes?

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According to the Neal A Maxwell Institute, a dedicated LDS apologetic organization within BYU, this is not a problem.

Some may see change in teachings and practices as an inconsistency or weakness, but to Latter-day Saints change is a sign of the very foundation of strength upon which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built—that God is always (yesterday, today, and forever) willing to reveal his will to his people if they are willing to listen and obey. Although the eternal saving principles of God's plan of salvation for his children do not change, the revelation of those principles and their application—to whom, when, where, how much—varies to meet a myriad of mortal circumstances and God's purposes and timetable.

Members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ believe that there are many great and important things yet to be revealed (see Articles of Faith 1:9); this indicates that our past and current understanding of things is incomplete and may need adjustment.

In other words, changing doctrine is not evidence that their "Truth" is wrong, just that it's incomplete: God hasn't yet revealed everything to us.

The official position held by the author at the Maxwell Institute is, in effect "We don't argue that our teachings have changed. We simply accept that our knowledge is limited, and we're doing the best we can with what's been revealed to us. As God reveals more, we may have to adjust our understanding. God doesn't change. Our understanding of God does."

This is in perfect harmony with the idea of continuing revelation that is accepted within the LDS Church. It's not a problem at all.

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  • We must also remember that occasionally things are taken away, because we are not able to live them fully yet, or we are not ready. – That One Actor Mar 15 '16 at 4:04
  • Moreover continuing revelation is not evidence at all of changing doctrine. All it means is that our understanding of the true doctrine can change over time as we see more of the things that teach us what the Savior's doctrine means. – pygosceles Jul 10 at 22:42
  • Continuing revelation and changing revelation are two different things. All religions accept the addition of new, non-contradictory teachings. The critique of LDS is specifically that revealed doctrine has been changed over time, thus proving that either the original revelation or the new revelation is false. – zippy2006 Jul 13 at 0:23
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As outlined here, the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ [of Latter-day Saints] (or of any-day saints, for that matter) has never changed.

The doctrine of Christ is that

"through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, and that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: First, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Second, Repentance, Third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, Fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."2

All of the Prophets have taught this since the beginning of the world. The doctrine of Christ is the doctrine of His church. Antichrists without exception try to modify this basic doctrine, either adding to or subtracting from it.

There are numerous policy changes, commandments, directives, explanations and other revelations that shed more light on the mind and will of God over time. Continuing revelation, as attested in David Stratton's answer, is essential. Through dispensations of the Lord's Gospel led by prophets such as Moses, God reveals laws, ordinances, covenants and commandments that He requires of the people of that generation or dispensation to whom the prophet is sent. His commandments are timeless, although many specific observances are temporal and subject to change in the Lord's own time, which He indicates by the voice of His prophets. However, the doctrine does not change over time. The doctrine is core.

Here's some proof for the doubter: The word "doctrine" is only ever used in exactly two senses in all Scripture (including both the Book of Mormon and the Bible):

  1. In the first sense, it is the Doctrine of Christ. This exact doctrine of Christ. There is no other. Nothing else that is of God is termed "doctrine".
  2. The second sense in which the term is used is to refer to false doctrines, of which there are many.

There are times when the Lord expounds His doctrine using a parable. But what is the effect of that parable? To show the mercy of God through the Atonement of His Beloved Son, to encourage sinners to repent, to help the meek to find faith in Christ, to promote covenants with God, and to reveal the truths of eternity by the power of the Holy Ghost. They never have any other purpose. There are many ways to encourage the mind and heart to keep and uphold the Doctrine of Christ. There are many ways to preach against it. If there were only a few ways to do it, then perhaps canon would have ended with the books of Moses, or even with the preaching of Adam. Revelation did not end there. As the Savior testified, "Those who are not against us are on our part". There are only two churches, and there are only two kinds of doctrine: Christ's doctrine, and false doctrine.

The Church of Jesus Christ has never undergone a doctrinal change of any kind. Mislabeling policies and temporal laws "doctrine" is as shortsighted a practice as any.

God does not change. Instead, we change. He teaches us "line upon line, precept upon precept". Everything He has ever taught us, including by continuing revelation in the church today, reaffirms the Doctrine of Christ and helps us to bring it into our hearts and souls in new ways, just like the parables of Jesus did. It never modifies that doctrine. It never has, and it never will. So the doctrine does not change at all.

Anyone can search decades of official teachings from the highest church leaders to verify the fact that the doctrine of Christ identified above has never been altered or amended in any way by the Church of Jesus Christ, going all the way back to Noah, Enoch, and Adam.

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