Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 35 does NOT promote false doctrine

In an article posted yesterday titled "Before You Teach or Attend Gospel Doctrine 35 on the Handcart Rescue, Read This," Ardis Parshall claims a particular statement from the current Sunday School lesson manual is "false and problematic" and that it promotes "seriously false doctrine." The disputed paragraph says:

" ' Three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue; and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of that ill-fated handcart company across the snow-bound stream. The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it. When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, "That act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end" ' "

Ardis apparently sees false doctrine in the claim that an act of physical bravery can guarantee celestial glory worlds without end. She apparently feels Brigham Young's promise was based on the idea that a single act can be so heroic that nothing else in the person's life can overshadow it. But, that doctrine doesn't exist. And Brigham Young was not referring to such a doctrine, nor was he creating it.

The "false doctrine" claim is hard to reconcile with the fact that the manual quotes the above paragraph from President Thomas S. Monson's April 1990 general conference talk (Ensign, May 1990, p.46). In addition, President Gordon B. Hinckley (Ensign, Nov 1981, p.40) and President James E. Faust (Ensign, Nov 1992, p.84) in general conference quoted the same Brigham Young declaration regarding the three young men.

If the words "false doctrine" come up in your ward during this lesson, you might want to share the following paragraph:

Brigham Young was NOT declaring doctrine. He spoke of a single event and about three specific young men. As God's Prophet, Brigham Young spoke with authority. And it appears that Presidents Monson, Hinckley, and Faust also think Brigham Young spoke with authority.


Blogger Tim said...

You're assuming that Brigham Young actually said that, and that he was quoted correctly by Solomon Kimball. Solomon Kimball's recollection of that quote is the only one we have; was it correct?
Does it make it correct because general authorities have repeated it?

9/12/2009 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Gary, did you happen to read the BYU Studies article that Ardis linked to? Just because someone said Brigham Young said something, doesn't mean that he actually said it, even if people in authority mistakenly assumed he did.

It is a touching story, but just because a Church authority, even the president of the Church, repeats something that isn't true, it doesn't mean that it automatically becomes so.

9/12/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


Tim and J. Stapley

Brigham Young, as quoted, does not promote false doctrine. Therefore, Lesson 35 does not contain false doctrine.

9/12/2009 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Again Gary, did you happen to read Chad Orton's piece that Ardis linked to?

9/12/2009 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J. Stapley, False doctrine in Lesson 35 is the subject of my post, not historical inaccuracies. If you want to open a post on historical inaccuracies in Lesson 35, I'll be glad to read it.

For the purposes of this discussion, I ask you to let us assume there are no historical inaccuracies in Lesson 35 and that Brigham Young actually made the declaration as quoted. Again, this is just for the sake of discussion, so I can ask you this question:

Is the Brigham Young statement, as quoted in Lesson 35, necessarily a declaration of—or based on—doctrine?

A "Yes" answer implies that Presidents Monson, Hinckley, and Faust either (a) did not understand the doctrinal implications of the quotation, or (b) they taught false doctrine intentionally. Neither of these options is credible in my view, so I say the answer is "No."

The Brigham Young statement, as quoted, does not declare doctrine at all and, therefore, no false doctrine is promoted by using it. That's my take. What's yours?

9/12/2009 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

R. Gary, the reason I bring up Chad Orton's piece in BYU Studies is that he includes a section entitled "What Did Brigham Young Promise the Rescuers?" that discusses how the promise of eternal life for the one heroic act is inconsistent with Church doctrine.

Now, it appears to me that you are trying to frame this discussion in way that precludes the possibility of false doctrine in the lesson essentially by question begging with reference to your core question: "Is the Brigham Young statement, as quoted in Lesson 35, necessarily a declaration of—or based on—doctrine?"

9/12/2009 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J. Stapley, if Brigham was declaring doctrine, there's a problem. I agree.

9/12/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

How is this effectively different than having your calling and election made sure? No number of works is going to do it, so why is one big one more improbable than many? (as in the case for Hyrum Smith)

I see Brigham's promise as a declaration of the kind of young men they were - and there for, the kind of reward they had waiting for them. That one work would not have done it by itself, but it would have never been done if they had been righteous young men to start with.

9/13/2009 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug Towers said...


I would have to support that completely. You took the words right out of my keyboard.

10/22/2009 07:37:00 PM  

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