PREFACE: For the record, I believe the following is valuable and important information. It includes readings from documents provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as personal observations, and some of my own opinions. I am not an ecclesiastical leader, nor am I a person of authority. I am not trying to impose my opinions; I am trying to share and express my observations and thoughts about a topic I consider important (Faith in Jesus Christ unto Life and Salvation). I am just a man with a computer and a viewpoint. However, I consider myself a Disciple of Jesus Christ: I strive to learn of Him and follow His teachings and examples. The bulk of this information was extracted from historical study topics found on the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
BACKGROUND: The School of the Prophets and the Lectures on Faith:
In December 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation directing him to establish a school for the elders of the Church in Kirtland. “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 88:78)
“Joseph Smith and his contemporaries used the term ‘School of the Prophets’ to describe this new school. The first session of the school opened on January 22, 1833, in an upper room of Newel K. Whitney’s store. During the 1835 session, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon taught classes based on the theological lectures that came to be known as the “Lectures on Faith.”
“The Lectures on Faith is the popular title of a set of seven theological lectures delivered in the School of the Elders. These lectures represent perhaps the earliest attempt to formulate a systematic Latter-day Saint theology, informed by the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s early revelations. They define faith and the conditions on which it is acquired and nourished. Three things are necessary, the lectures teach, for any “rational and intelligent being” to exercise the faith in God necessary for salvation: first, the idea that God exists; second, a correct idea of His character, perfections, and attributes; and third, a knowledge that the course of life one pursues is in accordance with His (God’s) will. The lectures elaborate on and explain these ideas.
“All seven lectures were published together later that year (1835) in the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.” The lectures constituting “the doctrine,” and Joseph Smith’s revelations, “the covenants.” The lectures were included in English editions of the Doctrine and Covenants until 1921 and in most non-English translations.
“The lectures had no specified author, and no manuscript copies exist, leading to speculation about who wrote the lectures. According to Jedediah M. Grant, a resident of Kirtland in 1835, both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon acted as teachers in the school. Scholars who have examined the scant historical documentation argue that Sidney Rigdon was the author or at least a heavy collaborator in producing the lectures. Indeed, Brigham Young called them the lectures “Brother Sidney prepared.” The extent of Joseph Smith’s involvement in the production of the lectures, if any, is unknown. Nevertheless, the inclusion of the lectures in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 strongly suggests that Joseph Smith approved of the content of the lectures. The publication of the Lectures on Faith in the Doctrine and Covenants elevated its status among Church members.
“In the early 20th century, however, Church leaders became increasingly concerned about some of the statements in the Lectures on Faith. Elder James E. Talmage, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who led the committee that revised the 1921 Doctrine and Covenants, felt that it would be best to “avoid confusion and contention on … vital point of belief.” In addition, the lectures had not been accepted by the Church as anything other than theological lessons, Talmage’s committee argued. Based on these recommendations, the Lectures on Faith were dropped from the Doctrine and Covenants.
“Even after their removal from the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lectures on Faith have been studied frequently by missionaries and other Church members in reprinted editions, and Church publications sometimes quote from the lectures.”
“Appendix 1: First Theological Lecture on Faith, circa January–May 1835,” in Matthew C. Godfrey, Brenden W. Rensink, Alex D. Smith, Max H Parkin, and Alexander L. Baugh, eds., Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835. Vol. 4 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin and Matthew J. Grow (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 457–467.
Now that you have a little background and history of the School of the Prophets and the Lectures on Faith, please read on and focus on “Lecture Third.” This is the nugget I was most interested in sharing in this Blog Post.
“Lectures on Faith”
Prepared by the Prophet Joseph Smith
Delivered to the School of the Prophets in Kirkland, Ohio (1834-35).
(An Extract from pages 38-39).
“In the second lecture it was shewn how it was that the knowledge of the existence of God came into the world, and by what means the first thoughts were suggested to the minds of men that such a Being did actually exist; and that it was by reason of the knowledge of his existence that there was a foundation laid for the exercise of faith in him, as the only Being in whom faith could center for life and salvation; for faith could not center in a Being of whose existence we have no idea, because the idea of his existence in the first instance is essential to the exercise of faith in him. Romans 10:14: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (or one sent to tell them?) So, then, faith comes by hearing the word of God.
“Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
“First, the idea that He (Jesus Christ) actually exists.
“Secondly, a correct idea of His character, perfections, and attributes.
“Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he (meaning any rational and intelligent being) is pursuing is according to His (God’s) will.
“For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Italics, brackets, underlining, and color are added for emphasis.)