How are Mormon Beliefs Established?

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Summary: In my previous post (Are Mormons Brainwashed?) I pointed out that Mormonism is not driven by systematic theology. I use the term in a very narrow sense. I take it to mean a precisely defined, unified system usually involving philosophical methods and authoritative sources like scripture. Consequently, if one element is changed, or expressed differently, then the other elements must be altered to maintain consistency. The theologian’s job is to iron out the inconsistencies that arise.

This level of precision is behind most religious schisms. At some point someone interpreted the bible differently and concluded the existing tradition was flawed. To a Mormon many of the differences seem trivial, but to those involved, the very truth, and ultimately salvation, is at stake. So they form a new church claiming it is more correct.

Mormonism did not come about through doctrinal schism. Our tradition goes back to the First Vision (The First Vision); our doctrines are based on revelations given to the prophets. And we accept this. There are no professional theologians in the Mormon tradition who work out inconsistencies, define terms, and make the belief system uniform. The famous book by Bruce R. McConkie is title Mormon Doctrine, not Mormon Theology. 

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  1. The LDS Newsroom has issued this statement

    Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides 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 proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.

    Approaching Mormon Doctrine
    accessed 20141211.