Esteemed reader Andrew Ainsworth is writing a paper on the official doctrine on what constitutes official doctrine. He emailed me the following bleg for your help.
As Church members, we are often confronted with the question of whether a statement is â€œofficial doctrine,â€ as opposed to just being a Church leaderâ€™s opinion. Iâ€™ve found thereâ€™s a wide divergence of understandings among Church members about how we are to determine whether a statement is â€œofficial doctrine.â€ Iâ€™ve searched high and low for an official statement that defines â€œofficial doctrine,â€ but havenâ€™t been able to find one.
My search for an official doctrine about â€œofficial doctrineâ€ has raised a number of questions for me, and Iâ€™d be interested in hearing what understandings other people have about these issues. I am currently researching and writing an article on this subject and I want to get as wide a cross-section of answers from Church members on this issue as possible.
1. Are you aware of any official statement or official doctrine that explains how we are to determine whether a Church leaderâ€™s statement is â€œofficial doctrineâ€? If so, what is it and where is it found?
2. To be considered â€œofficial doctrine,â€ who must make the statement? The president of the Church? An apostle? (And how do you know that?)
3. To be considered â€œofficial doctrine,â€ does the statement have to be jointly made by a combination of Church leaders? For example, does a statement have to be made jointly by the First Presidency? The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? Both? (And how do you know that?)
4. To be considered â€œofficial doctrine,â€ does the statement have to appear in a source that is published by the Church? If so, what is your understanding of which sources are official Church publications? Church website? Ensign magazine? Church News? Sunday School manuals? (And how do you know that?)
5. To be considered â€œofficial doctrine,â€ does a statement have to have been made relatively recently? In other words, do the statements of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that have not been reiterated by prophets and apostles in relatively recent history lose their â€œofficial doctrineâ€ status? (And how do you know that?)
6. Are you surprised that in a Church as structured as the LDS Church there would be any ambiguity about how Church members should determine whether a statement is official doctrine?
Please post your answers and links to any useful articles, scriptures, blog discussions, etc., in the comments.