I have mixed feelings.
The LDS church has published an updated edition of Gospel Principles (already available for purchase). Sunday school teachers use this manual to teach new church members and anyone thinking about becoming a member. For the next two years, the church will also use this manual to teach the other adult members during the last hour of Sunday services instead of another installment in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church series.
A number of changes have been made to the manual since it was last published in 1997. Among changes made for clarity, the church has also made changes that eliminate or significantly downplay a number of doctrines:
- Faithful members will become “a god”.
- God was not always a god.
- God became a god the same way members of the LDS church can become gods.
- Jesus Christ is our eldest spiritual brother.
- Satan is also our brother. That makes Jesus and Satan brothers.
- We are the children of “heavenly parents” (i.e. we have a Mother in Heaven).
- Adam and Eve are the “parents of the human race”. They are now simply called “our first parents”.
- The church in Jesus’ time had the same organization as the current LDS church.
- The organization of the church in Joseph Smith’s time was completed within “several years”. Instead, the manual says that the church is still developing.
- Faithful members must be obedient to all of the commandments in order to gain Exaltation.
I applaud some of those changes. One gives enough wiggle room that members can stop ignoring the evidence that humans evolved from apes. Another may help ameliorate the plague of perfectionism among Mormons. Others open the door to the admission that the church has changed over the years.
And hey, the new cover is an improvement.
At the same time, I’m sad to see the leaders of the LDS church continue to distance themselves from some of the doctrines that I cherished most as a member of their faith. These doctrines gave me hope and made Mormonism interesting. Without them, Mormonism becomes just another shade of Protestantism. yawn
Some will say that this doesn’t represent a change in doctrine, that the church is only simplifying things for new members. I would be tempted to accept that except for a couple of things. First, this is being used to teach all adult members, not just the new ones. If the intention was to ease new members’ learning curve, then why dumb doctrines down for everyone?
Second, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find those doctrines in any official publications. It would be an enlightening exercise to research the last official publication that explicitly mentioned, for example, that faithful LDS members would become gods and goddesses. Even the temple ceremony doesn’t present that doctrine. I’m not sure how anyone learns that doctrine anymore except by word of mouth.
More and more, the Mormonism that I grew up with is becoming an oral tradition expunged from the written record. That makes me a little sad, strangely enough.
[Crossposted at Green Oasis.]