Starting from this question, I'm curious how the LDS church handles the doctrine changes.

I saw a similar question (What is the LDS position on changing doctrine), but what I'm wondering is how this works in practice:

  • Let's assume a new idea comes. Who validates that the new idea is right or wrong? Is there a vote?
  • Where are these changes published?
  • What are some examples of doctrine changes? I expect to see them reflected in the archives of the conferences (or other official archives).

Let's assume a new idea comes. Who validates that the new idea is right or wrong? Is there a vote?

Doctrine comes today as it did anciently-through divine revelations to prophets.1

Revelation may come by:

  • His own person
  • His own voice
  • The voice of the Holy Ghost
  • Messenger (Moses, Elias, and Elijah)

Revelation [for the church] may come to:

  • The President of the Church individually
  • Prophets acting in Council

Where are these changes published?

Modern doctrine can be found:

...in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations2,3, and the Articles of Faith.4 cite-not AoF

Mormonnewsroom will publish any official statements the LDS church makes. These statements are also commonly read in ward (local congregations) meetings. These are not doctrine changes but: official church stances, policies, practices, and/or warnings about certain matters that arise in modern times.

What are some examples of doctrine changes? I expect to see them reflected in the archives of the conferences (or other official archives).

  • Word of Wisdom(1833) -the Lord revealed which foods are good for us to eat and which substances are not good for the human body.
  • Official Declaration 1(1890) -led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.
  • Official Declaration 2(1978) -removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.

Joseph Smith said:

The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

(Some doctrine is more important than others...there has not been many major doctrine changes within the LDS church since it has been restored.)4

1 https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/09/how-is-doctrine-established?lang=eng

2 http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Proclamations_of_the_First_Presidency_and_the_Quorum_of_the_Twelve_Apostles the 4th one is available to watch https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/04/media/session_4_talk_2/2819783447001?lang=eng the first 3 are before the invention of TV

3 https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&old=true

4 https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/approaching-mormon-doctrine

  • Interesting! I'm missing something here. The Official Declaration 2 mentions that the GC took place in September 1978. In the archives, it appears as October, 1978, but I'm still having trouble finding the subject of race in that set of talks. Also, why are there only two Official Declarations? To make my initial question(s) clearer: where can I find an archive of all the changes across the years (e.g. read the doctrine which was presented in 1977 vs 1979)? Thanks! – Ionică Bizău Feb 15 '18 at 18:00
  • GC are held bi-annually on the first Sat/Sun of April and October. In 1978 the Sat was Sept 30 (the Sun was Oct 1) but it was for the Oct GC. As mentioned in April '11 GC Elder Holland said no man or woman who speaks here is assigned a topic. so you are right that there was no overall topic of race. – depperm Feb 15 '18 at 18:14
  • The Official Declarations are part of the LDS canon of scripture. Changes to our canon are a rare occurrence. They have to be if we are to use them as a measuring stick. ...Only 3 sections and two official declarations have been added to our canon since the death of Joseph Smith. In each case, there was either new doctrine to be declared or a major change in direction for the Church beliefs and practices.(better words then what I could come up with but not from an official LDS source) – depperm Feb 15 '18 at 18:14
  • Besides the Official declarations, there have not been any major doctrine changes over the years so there is nothing to compare-see the quote by Joseph Smith in my answer. There may be different policies but I don't know of a site where you can find all of them by year (and they aren't too relevant to this year). – depperm Feb 15 '18 at 18:16
  • So, if I get it correctly: it is not required that changes in doctrine would be passed through the General Conference, but whenever they come from the prophets, they are shared ASAP world-wide in the churches. Am I right? If it is so, is there an archive of these kind of announcements which happened in the past? – Ionică Bizău Feb 15 '18 at 19:31

Let's explore the process by looking at one notable example of a doctrine that has changed over time.

Doctrine & Covenants section 89, commonly referred to as "the Word of Wisdom" among Latter-Day Saints, was a revelation received by the prophet Joseph Smith in 1833 concerning the health of church members. It was explicitly given

2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom

The reason that it was "not by commandment or constraint" becomes apparent when you understand the content of the revelation: Among other things, Section 89 is the source of the well-known Mormon prohibition on the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Requiring the established members of the church, many of whom used such things heavily at the time, to quit cold-turkey would likely have led to chaos, for medical reasons that are much better-understood today than in the 1830s.

However, by 1851, nearly 2 decades had passed. During the General Conference of the church held in September, Brigham Young (Smith's successor as President of the Church) proposed to all Church members that the Word of Wisdom should be recognized by that point as a binding commandment and that the failure to follow its principles should be regarded as a sin and an act of disobedience.

President Young amongst other things said he knew the goodness of the people, and the Lord bears with our weakness; we must serve the Lord, and those who go with me will keep the Word of Wisdom, and if the High Priests, the Seventies, the Elders, and others will not serve the Lord, we will sever them from the Church. I will draw the line, and know who is for the Lord and who is not, and those who will not keep the Word of Wisdom, I will cut off from the Church; I throw out a challenge to all men and women.

-- Minutes of the General Conference

His proposal was put before the body of the Church for a sustaining vote, per the principle of Common Consent, and was accepted unanimously.

Today, a person who does not follow the Word of Wisdom, who partakes of addictive drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, is not able to be baptized and join the Church, and one who is already a member who breaks these principles is considered to be in need of repentance, and is not worthy to enter the Temple, a standard that everyone is taught that they should meet.

  • 2
    I'd just like to note that on sustaining or Common Consent from the other answer these sustaining votes are not a democratic election, but rather an opportunity for members of the church to show their agreement or opposition to the choices that have been made with regard to leadership positions. Even if a calling or proposal wasn't unanimous it could go forward, see: lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/… – depperm Feb 15 '18 at 16:42
  • @depperm, the handbook reference is for dealing with occasional complaints. If half the congregation voted against a call, that call would not go forward. This was the case with the Provo Academy, where the vote to dispose of it was "no." The church remodeled it instead. Common Consent is taken seriously, but it refers to a majority. 51% of the Church (an unbelievable number) can vote the president of the church out of his presidency. – JBH Mar 28 '18 at 16:42

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