A while back, Russell suggested the possibility of a Mormon holiday to celebrate Joseph Smith’s birthday. Last Sunday, I took at least part of his suggestion to heart in my Elders’ Quorum lesson
My lesson was focused on what it is that we have learned as a result of the Prophet Joseph Smith. My idea was to try to distill out the key theological innovations that came through Joseph and discuss them. A long time ago, C.S. Lewis wrote a wonderful little book entitled Mere Christianity, in which among other things he tried to set forth the key doctrines of Christianity. My aim was to do something on a much smaller scale for Mormonism. What I produced was this handout, in which I tried to list the key doctrines restored through Joseph Smith. Obviously, any attempt to do this sort of thing is probably going to fail. Certainly, any list of “key” doctrines will be controversial. Of course, the discussion the list generates is the main point of the lesson! Take a look at the hand out and tell me what you would include or exclude.
The lesson was quite a bit of fun. Our ward’s High Councilor was there, and he enjoyed it. However, he got concerned by the claim that “God changes.” He wanted to clarify that I was not claiming that God pogresses in knowledge. Now, as it happens, I do think that God progresses in knowledge (contra Bruce R. McConkie), but it is a contested point and I could be wrong. I assured him that I didn’t mean to take a position on that point and was merely claiming that Joseph taught that God the Father has passed through all the changes of that Jesus Christ has passed through. In an era of Reader’s Digest talks, Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul, and the like, I thought it was wonderful to run up against a real live watchman on the tower who was genuinely concerned about false doctrine. It provides some drama in the life of the Elders’ Quorum instructor.
UPDATE: Here is another Elder McConkie sermon on the question of whether God is progressing, this one given in General Conference in October, 1980.