Much misunderstanding about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revolves around its doctrine. The news media is increasingly asking what distinguishes the Church from other faiths, and reporters like to contrast one set of beliefs with another.
[This is uncomfortable for us, because we have to admit that in some cases, erroneous ideas were taught as doctrine. We want to get the focus off the past, and bring it to the present]
The Church welcomes inquisitiveness, but the challenge of understanding Mormon doctrine is not merely a matter of accessing the abundant information available. Rather, it is a matter of how this information is approached and examined.
[Remember Boyd Packer's favorite saying: Some things that are true are not useful...]
The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context, and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them.
[You can't accept at face value, what you hear. You must spend hours pondering it's meanings and making them fit within the context of your current beliefs]
News reporters pressed by daily deadlines often find that problematic.
[They are too quick to judge us, and present information in unfavorable light without devoting the time necessary to analyze what they learn]
Therefore, as the Church continues to grow throughout the world and receive increasing media attention, a few simple principles that facilitate a better understanding may be helpful:
[We will now teach you reporters how to do your jobs better, so that we look better to the public. This is how you should portray us from now on:]
- 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. The quorum of 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. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 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.
- Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center. This is especially common among reporters or researchers who rely on how other Christians interpret Latter-day Saint doctrine. [We don't want to have to defend Brigham Young's teachings on blood atonement, the curse of Cain upon the blacks, men inhabiting the moon , Adam is our father God and had literal sex with Mary to 'beget' Jesus, etc... so we would prefer it if you don't bring it up anymore when reporting or researching our beliefs.]
- Based on the scriptures, Joseph Smith declared: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” [So, all the things that make us different than the other Christian churches need to be de-emphasized as much as possible, so we can be accepted in every community. There is no need for us to call ourselves the 'one true church' anymore.]
- Latter-day Saints place heavy emphasis on the application of their faith in daily life. For example, the active participation of Latter-day Saints in their community and worldwide humanitarian programs reflects concern for other people. As Jesus Christ declared, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” [Even though the church has spent less than $3 million of its $60 billion annually on humanitarian programs throughout the entire world. But we will wear bright yellow shirts and make ourselves highly visible to the community while we work so you can report on our efforts. We don't want you to know that we routinely turn down requests for assistance from the poor simply because they aren't members of our church.]
- Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together. [As long as you use trusted source materials published by Deseret books, and avoid talking with 'our enemies' or using the internet]
- Those writing or commenting on Latter-day Saint doctrine also need to understand that certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions. For example, Latter-day Saints generally view being born again as a process of conversion, whereas many other Christian denominations often view it as a conversion that happens in one defining moment. Sometimes what some may consider an argument or dispute over doctrine is really a misunderstanding of simple differences in terminology. [ We will continue to privately teach that men can become like Gods and have their own "Earth" populated with their own "spirit children" , but that is something we would not teach our members until they are stronger in testimony and belief. We know that many Christian denominations would dispute that doctrine, but it isn't taught to everyone anyway, so there shouldn't be any reason to bring it up to the world at large.]
Journalists, academics and laymen alike are encouraged to pursue their inquiries into the Church by recognizing the broad and complex context within which its doctrines have been declared, in a spirit of reason and good will. [Anything you say or write that isn't 'faith promoting' will be deemed offensive and we will encourage our members to avoid your work. We can't have you guys going around pointing out our history when we have gone to great lengths to re-write it so that the 'spirit' can be felt.]