Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Journal of Discourses: Treasure Trove of Doctrine



The Journal of Discourses is not some shady, unreliable source of doctrine.
Put in context with an early, doctrinally evolving church, the "J.D." is not something to be shunned, or ignored, but rather embraced.
Sure, there are some speculative and opinion kinds of doctrines found within its 26 volumes, but then there was no Correlation Committee back then either!
Talks were often impromptu in the 1800s.
The Journal of Discourses are generally under-rated and yet offer glimpses of pioneer life in Utah and reveal what doctrines the church leaders and members at the time of the mid-19th Century were wrestling with.




I've even noticed that in the past 10 years, occasionally, an official church manual has quoted from the Journal of Discourses.
Now to be accurate, all the J.D. is are re-prints of talks by church leaders as originally published in the Deseret News.
(A game played in many past church manuals would be that instead of listing the more easily found Journal of Discourses as a reference, the actual Deseret News reference would be cited instead, as if that was more accurate ... when it was the same thing.)
Scribes, or clerks, (like George D. Watt), tried to write down the talks of leaders, like Brigham Young, and they were printed in the Deseret News for a wider, regional church audience to read.
The 26 volumes of Journal of Discourses compiled many of those talks. It was Brother Watt who received clearance from the First Presidency to publish the Journals, mainly as a way to provide him income, but also to send these talks overseas, to church members in Great Britain.



I've read all 26 volumes of the Journal of Discourses.
I've also made my own index of each volume, since the official index for the Journal of Discourses is very lacking.
Sure, I came across some "there is life on the moon" kind of things talked about therein, but if you've read the Standard Works and 
have some solid doctrinal foundation, then the J.D. would do nothing but expand your gospel understanding.
I've compared many of the key Journal of Discourse talks, particularly those by Brigham Young, with the Deseret News and found no disagreement between the two.
However, I once in a while noticed that Brigham Young would come back a week later in the Deseret News and state he thought he was misquoted, or didn't make a point clear the talk prior and then he would briefly try to clarify or correct it.
 Those "corrections/clarifications" are NOT included in the Journal of Discourses, however.



Today's church leaders have found it wise to not speculate like their 19th Century counterparts did in the Deseret News/Journal of Discourses.
But anyone who takes a shot at the accuracy of the Journal of Discourses is also taking a swing at the accuracy of the Deseret News.
No newspaper, even today, is free from errors, but even the opinion pages in newspapers spur thought and reflection.
So, keep reading the Ensign and General Conference Ensigns, today's counterpart for the old Journal of Discourses.
Yet, if you have the time, you will not regret reading the Journal of Discourses, for the doctrinal rewards they offer.
The J.D. is a lot easier reading than the cumbersome newspaper microfilm!
Note that while virtually all of the past 3 or so decades of the Deseret News are on-line and searchable by Google, the Journal of Discourse's era of the Deseret News issues are not -- and may never be.
(That's probably because Google-searchable would make some of the off-the-wall segments of the Journal of Discourses too easily found by church critics.)



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