6

So after reading the comments here. I got curious. I see non-mormons citing the Journal of discourses all the time, but have never heard a mormon cite them.

Wikipedia tells me where they come from and what they are, but why do modern mormons not use them and not consider them scripture?

8

The Wikipedia article actually covers the answer to this fairly well:

It is a compilation of sermons and other materials from the early years of the Church, which were transcribed and then published. ... Questions have been raised about the accuracy of some transcriptions. Modern technology and processes were not available for verifying the accuracy of transcriptions, and some significant mistakes have been documented.

For perspective, see the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on Record Keeping. Among Latter-Day Saints, anything that was not properly recorded is not considered "official", in order to prevent confusion resulting from inaccurate records.

The sermons from the Journal of Discourses were written down unofficially by people in attendance when they were given, and in the absence of modern recording technologies, they were generally transcribed while they were being delivered, in some form of shorthand. Obviously, this is not an optimal set of conditions for preserving accuracy, especially as it was common practice during those days to throw away the shorthand notes once they had been "decompressed" into longhand.

This allows for two places in which transcription errors can enter the material, with no way to verify their accuracy later. It's not surprising, then, that "some significant mistakes have been documented" in the final product.

Because of this, the works preserved in the volumes of the Journal of Discourses, as interesting and historically valuable as they may be, cannot be considered canonical by the Latter-Day Saints.

3

The above answer is extremely good. I wish to add a couple of things that have come up in the last few years.

When the Journal of Discourses is used as a point of LDS doctrine, one must call it into question. These talks were not recorded except in shorthand and notes, and reconstructed by an individual for profit. They were not produced by the LDS Church, despite the talks being by official sources. Significant portions were never even approved of by the speakers.

Only in the last few years has LaJean Carruth broken the code of the original shorthand notes, and the differences between the shorthand, and what was printed are stark and notable. A news report about her accomplishment can be found on YouTube here.

That doesn't mean there isn't a lot of good in there, and things one can learn, but it does mean that one should probably look to LDS.org to get accurate doctrinal points rather than the JoD.

A great discussion on the JoD with modern understanding can be found in this podcast episode. It gives some scholarly direction as to how to look at the JoD.

Today current members may refer to the JoD, but it has been relegated to more of a tool and a curiosity than a source of doctrine.

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