Tuesday Morning Theological Poll: Scriptural Authority Edition

Your Tuesday Morning Theological Poll:
Which set of sacred writings is more important theologically?

State your reasons and cite your sources below.

Bookmark By Common Consent


  1. adam e. says:

    It was close, but I picked the conference report. The C.R. tells me what the prophets believe is important for me to know and do today. The Standard Works contain a more varied set of messages that may not be as pertinent to me right now. I think of the S.W. as the wide-angle shot of a camera and the C.R. as the close-up. Both are important, but the close-up shows me exactly what I need to see.

  2. Matt W. says:

    This is a hard one. I chose Conference Reports because as a new convert, they are much easier to understand and more in line with the reality of the church currently, but as a blogger, I’d never argue a point based on the authority of a conference report, plus the older the conference report, the less it matters.

  3. I chose conference reports because they are for us right now. The same principles are in the SW as in the CR, but the CR apply them more to our time. They are why it is important to have a living prophet.

  4. Depends on how you define theology. In the proper sense, conference reports are often theologically vacuous as they tend to more deal with contemporary ‘moral’ issues and ways of living rather than an exploration of theological topics – there are the exceptions of course, such as Holland’s talk in the recent conference.

  5. adam e. says:

    Hmm. I was defining “theology” as “religious,” which is probably way off, but I’m no religious (or theological) scholar.

  6. I agree with #1 and #4. But I chose the standard works. Most of the speakers in GC are not the prophet, and their words, while valuable, are not equivalent to the standard works (thank goodness re: Oaks talk this go-around and Beck’s previously).

  7. Concur with Emily. I probably would have voted differently if, rather than the Conference Report, the option was “Conferences addresses by current prophet.”

  8. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    I’d say scriptures because if a point in a conference talk ever seemed to contradict the scriptures I’d probably reject that point in favor of the scriptures unless the point came from President Monson.

    Doctrines taught in the CR that go beyond what we have in the Standard Works I treat the same way as I treat the Apocrypha – prayerfully and carefully.

  9. nasamomdele says:

    Chose Standard Works. I think emily gives the reasons. Much of the time, I feel that Conference is folks working out what is in the Standard Works.

    That said, I think that addresses by the 12 and First Presidency are more relevant for the reasons adam e. states.

    Throw out the others (70s, bishopric, Primary) and I think you’ve got something. I left RS in out of personal preference and to counter emily’s Sister Beck comment- loved that talk!!!

  10. Easy call. Scriptures. We generally get marching orders as an organization from conference, not theology.

  11. Standard works. Conference reports are helpful in terms of application of the theology in the scriptures to present circumstances, and can’t be discounted, but the scriptures are the root source of our religion.

  12. To me this isn’t even close. Scriptures for sure. Conference reports aren’t in the same neighborhood.

  13. Without the Bible, there would be no Church today, and consequently no Conference talks. Theologically, if JS hadn’t read in the NT that he could ask God for wisdom, he probably would not have even known that such a thing was possible. And if the NT didn’t exist to contextualize Christ’s life, teachings, atonement, resurrection, and gospel, the Book of Mormon would make almost no sense as it talked about some guy who lived 2000 years ago who was in fact a savior.

    Scriptures win this one hands down.

  14. Craig M. says:

    Don’t mean to stir up the “what is doctrine” discussion again, but I believe theology must be based primarily in doctrine, and our church’s bona fide doctrine is always accepted by common consent — the Standard Works fit this test precisely, while General Conference only does so loosely. However, I don’t believe that this diminishes the short-term importance of General Conference, which may be paramount to the Standard Works.

  15. Latter-day Guy says:

    No question, Standard Works. Most of General Conference consists of jazz riffs based on themes found already in the Scriptures. To wit, Hollands killer solo this time.

  16. Well put, Latter-day Guy.

    I agree. Standard Works, hands down. With a little searching, I’m guessing I could find a statement in GC from an apostle regarding the value we place on the Standard Works . . . perhaps in a talk addressing whether Mormons are Christians . . .

  17. Standard works hands down.

  18. Natalie says:

    I don’t think conference reports have nearly the same staying power as the standard works. Plus, people are more familiar with and influenced by the standard works than conference reports, so they have much more power to shape our theology. Also, conference reports haven’t gone through the canonization process yet, and many of us are likely to talk conference reports as suggestions rather than doctrine.

  19. Gilgamesh says:

    Even the prophets note that the Standard Works are scripture. Their words, until added to the Standard Works, are cousel.

    The Standard Works can be added to, and therefor any Conference Report that should be scripture, will be scripture and thus part of the Standard Works.

  20. Elphaba says:

    Standard Works by far. I’m not seeing a lesson in the Conference Report taught directly by our Savior, however I can find that in the standard works.

  21. Elphaba says:

    After I submitted that I thought “whether by my voice or the voice of my servants it is the same. ” Must ponder some more.

  22. I think that the way we read the standard works depends heavily on our modern leaders. We read the standard works through the interpretive lens of modern leaders’ words. And we generally accept our modern leaders’ additions to the standard works (like OD-1, OD-2, D&C 138).

    So the theological influence of the standard works and modern leaders’ teachings can’t be disentangled, in my opinion. For one example, look at the difference between the way that we read D&C 132 compared to the FLDS.

  23. How come Dianetics wasn’t a choice? These polls are just too simplistic.

  24. My view is that theology generally comes from the scriptures, but modern application comes from Conference. That said, there seemed to be several talks with heavy theological implications.

    President Monson’s line that “The future is as bright as your faith” struck me as one of the most profound things I have ever heard. For me it was a slap the forehead “ahah” type moment. It brought together many ideas I have had floating in my head for many years like the one piece of the puzzle I was missing.

  25. They should both be used, along with the Spirit, reason, and things written in the book of Nature.

  26. MikeR.M. says:

    I’m sure most of you are familar with the following quote from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith manual. Without latter-day prophetic interpretation, our theology of the standard works would likely be very different.

    “When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the [living] oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’”

    Wilford Woodruff, in Conference Report, Oct. 1897, pp. 22–23; punctuation modernized;

  27. Scott B says:

    I voted for the Standard Works, but I wonder how Joseph Smith would have voted. One of the most-frequently cited attributes of JSJ was his flexibility in receiving new revelation. Is there any possibility that a Standard Works-or-Die approach might lead to the rejection of new revelations, as they are given in GC? While I don’t think I’m personally at that point today, I find myself now wondering exactly how flexible I am on various points of revelation, and how quickly I might jump to a verse of scripture to counter some words of the living Prophets that seem un-good to me.

  28. Either can be creedalized.

  29. Antonio Parr says:

    Let’s see —

    The Sermon on the Mount or the Parable of the Pickle . . .

    Hmmm . . .

    . . .

  30. Antonio Parr says:

    Hands down, the 4 Gospels (plus 3rd Nephi), because they show me how Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught and atoned.

    He taught the way of perfection. And never before or since has anyone done anything nearly so divine as that.

  31. Antonio Parr says:

    (My “hands down” comment was written too quickly and may have come across as flippant. I love General Conference, as well, and always benefit from the great spirit that attends this wonderful time of year.)

  32. The standard works may be more important for doing systematic theology, but theology itself is of limited value. Ours is not a religion of creeds, but of a living prophet and the spirit working within each member. For that, the conference talks may be equal to the standard works. The scriptures, after all, are old conference talks. They have as much inconsistency and evolution of doctrines as we have seen over the last 180 years.

  33. Antonio Parr says:

    32. “The scriptures, after all, are old conference talks.”

    Respectfully, the Scriptures are much more than old conference talks. By way of example, the four Gospels are not just “talks”, but offer accounts of the life of the Master. In addition, scripture have the benefit of passing the test of time, a test that the most recent General Conference addresses have yet to pass.

    Moreover, I question this process of focusing incessantly on the most recent General Conference addresses, but then burying our November Ensign’s as soon as the May issue comes out. This approach treats eternal wisdom as if it were a fad, somthing that I find most unsettling.

    Next, all talks are not created equally, and all are not cannon. For heaven’s sake, read the things that Brigham Young said in General Conferences past about Blacks or about women. Isn’t that enough to put to rest the notion that General Conference addresses carry the wait of scripture merely by occurring during General Conference?

    Finally, and most importantly, it is absolutely impossible to overstate the significance of the life of the Master, the accounts of which are found solely in scripture. To suggest that a talk given last week in General Conference did or can trump the life of Jesus Christ is something that is plain wrong, and must make us look quite fickle to those of good will outside of the Church.

    (Again, this is not to say that General Conference is not wonderful and inspired and Spirit-filled. It is all of those things. But let’s not be so quick to dismiss the value of Scripture . . . )

  34. Easy – The Standard Report.

  35. Okay. Scriptures are old, proven, accepted conference talks, including what Paul wrote about slaves and women, but not all conferences talks are scripture, or of equal worth.

    I should have made that clear, and I mean to dismiss neither scriptures nor conference talks. If I personally were cut off from one or the other, however, I would rather have access to new conference talks, revealing, as I believe they do, the life and work of the living Jesus Christ.

  36. Antonio Parr says:

    35 — Good thing that you don’t have to choose. For what it is worth, I would be very wary of suggesting to anyone that the life or the teachings of modern day apostles or prophets can in any way supercede the grandeur of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Never before or since has there been a life such as His. Never before or since has there been a teacher such as He. He alone is our Examplar, a fact confirmed time and again by modern prophets and apostles.

  37. I like the Book of Mormon answer: Don’t limit the amount of God’s acceptable words.

  38. Antonio Parr says:

    Ray: Agreed.

    But we must not allow our faith in continuing revelation to result in our treating Jesus of Nazareth as if He is merely another prophet. He is the Light of the World and the Bread of Life and the Word made flesh, and His life warrants a reverence and a focus that is entirely unique.

  39. Antonio,

    You seem to me to be arguing in the abstract. Who here has advocated treating Jesus as “merely another prophet”? (Paul, on the other hand, is a different story)

    For those of us who believe the Conference Reports rival the Standard Works in theological significance (I’m still not sure exactly what that means), it is because many on this earth believe Christ’s life and teachings (and those of the apostles) as contained in the Bible is the last word of God to mankind. Mormonism would be no different from many other Christian faiths (and Mitt might be president) if we believed the scriptures are the key to our theology. But our rock is revelation from Christ to prophets today, and the principal way God reveals that revelation to the Church is in General Conference.

    I know you understand all these principles already, but I’m not sure you understood why someone could think that CR’s are as theologically important, or more so, than the Standard Works.

  40. 36 – I am very grateful that I don’t have to choose. I love the scriptures, and especially what they describe of Jesus’ mortal life.

    But I keep remembering that the scriptures were written by, basically, the general authorities of the time. Listening to the current GA’s helps me frame the scriptures in their human context, to calibrate them, and to better appreciate both.

  41. Antonio Parr says:

    39. Adam: It was not my intention to argue or to do so in the abstract. Instead, I detected a them in this thread that one doesn’t really need scripture because we have modern prophets and apostles to tell us what we need to do today, and that is all that we really need. While I value immensely the presence of a living prophet, I become concerned when virtually all of my Sacrament meetings pass without any meaningful references to Jesus of Nazareth or to His life or to his extraordinary teachings (by way of example, the Sermon on the Mount; the parables; etc.), and, instead, focus exclusively on a recent conference address. This absence of focus on Christ burdens me, hence my perhaps excessive desire to encourage my fellow Saints to remember to remember Jesus Christ in our meetings (especially Sacrament Meeting).

    Very few of us possess the extraordinary capacity of an Elder Holland (or an Elder Oaks, as demonstrated in his conference address “He Heals the Heavy Laden”) in talking about Christ. But we all should try to get an “A” for effort . . .

  42. Antonio Parr says:

    Here I go again with sloppy editing . . .

    In 41, I detected a ~theme~, not a ~them~ (although I once heard on my mission that Van Morrison was investigating the Church . . . )

  43. Two points:

    First, by “argue” I don’t mean “fight;” I mean “present arguments or assertions.”

    Second, I agree with your assertion that our emphasis should always be on Christ. Everything comes back to Him and should be centered on Him.

%d bloggers like this: