Mormonism and doctrine/Repudiated concepts/Why were some doctrines later repudiated

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Why would a current prophet repudiate the teachings of an earlier prophet?

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Question: If a doctrine is repudiated, does that mean that it was false when it was being taught?

Some ideas that were once taught are now considered false

Several teachings that were once considered doctrinal in the 19th-century Church have been repudiated by the modern Church. Among these are polygamy, the "Adam-God theory," the priesthood ban on members of African descent, and "blood atonement."

In the case of the "Adam-God theory," there was disagreement within the Church leadership regarding whether or not the teaching was true. The teaching was specifically repudiated by the Church.

Some ideas that were taught are considered to be true, but no longer authorized

On the other hand, the practice of polygamy was institutionalized within the Church and was only stopped when it became necessary in order for the Church to progress. Although the Church repudiates the practice of polygamy today, it does not repudiate the practice of polygamy among early Church members in the 19th-century. In other words, it does not consider the doctrine of polygamy to be false for the time - it would only consider it to be "false," in a sense, for the present day among living members of the Church.


Neil L. Andersen: "The doctrine...is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk...The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men"

Neil L. Andersen:

A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.

The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Ether 12:6) [1]


Question: Does the repudiation of a doctrine that was once taught by a prophet mean that that prophet is now considered a "heretic"?

If a doctrine that was once taught by a past prophet is rejected by a later prophet, we do not consider the earlier prophet to be a "heretic": We simply consider him to be human

Certain doctrines that applied to 19th-Century and 20th-Century Latter-day Saints were indeed later repudiated. If a doctrine that was once taught by a past prophet is rejected by a later prophet, we do not consider the earlier prophet to be a "heretic": We simply consider him to be human. For example, Brigham Young taught Adam-God and "blood atonement," yet we do not today consider Brigham to be a heretic. We simply disregard those teachings which have been repudiated. Any Latter-day Saint who attends church will be fully aware that Brigham Young is not considered to be a heretic.


Repudiated concepts: Blood atonement

Summary: It is claimed that during the administration of Brigham Young apostates were secretly put to death. They claim this is in line with the teachings of LDS leaders at the time that apostasy was the unforgivable sin, and that the only thing an apostate could do to redeem himself was to give his own life, willingly or unwillingly.

Repudiated concepts: Adam-God theory

Summary: Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father. Since this teaching runs counter to the story told in Genesis and commonly accepted by Christians, critics accuse Brigham of being a false prophet. Also, because modern Latter-day Saints do not believe Brigham's "Adam-God" teachings, critics accuse Mormons of either changing their teachings or rejecting teachings of prophets they find uncomfortable or unsupportable.

Notes

  1. Neil L. Andersen, "Trial of Your Faith,", Ensign (November 2012)