On the phrase “trying to write scripture”

This morning I ran into an article which was of no worth at all except for a turn of phrase that I am not sure the author himself understood. The author was writing about how much he hated Bruce R McConkie until he realized that when Elder McConkie wrote, he was “trying to write scripture”.

What I don’t think the author realized is that “trying to write scripture” is what the Lord requires any member of the church to do whenever they teach or write about the gospel.

What is our “official” doctrine?

D&C 68:4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

Our official doctrine (as officially declared by the Lord in this verse, officially) is that whatsoever is spoken when moved upon by the Holy Ghost is scripture.

And that teaching should be paired with another verse:

D&C 42:14 And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.

What we speak (or write) when moved by the Holy Ghost is scripture. On the other hand, when we do not have the Holy Ghost, we are commanded not to teach.

Joseph Fielding McConkie relates this story about his father, Bruce R McConkie: “I asked my father once how he could be so confident in teaching a particular matter when others to whom we look for clear instruction were reluctant to say much. I noted that some with whom I taught would jump on me for saying the same thing, suggesting that I was going beyond the period that ended the sentence. His response was, ‘If you cannot go beyond the period that ends the sentence, you do not have the Spirit, and if you do not have the Spirit, you have no business teaching in the first place.'”

And that sentence is perfectly good scripture all on its own: “If you cannot go beyond the period that ends the sentence, you do not have the Spirit, and if you do not have the Spirit, you have no business teaching in the first place.”

The standard works are the writings and words of men moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Yes, they were particularly good men through whom the Holy Ghost could convey a message with peculiar purity. But what makes scripture scripture is that the writer was moved upon by the Holy Ghost as he wrote.

And that is what we are to strive for in all our teaching: to write and speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. If we fail in that, we are commanded not to teach.

True it is that the Holy Ghost comes upon men and women in varying degrees.

But if what we are writing is not scripture, if what we speaking is not scripture, that means we are not teaching by the power of the Holy Ghost according to D&C 68:4. And if we are not teaching by the Holy Ghost, we have no business teaching in the first place.

The commandments in the scriptures are plain enough and are given to all members of the true church. If our teaching is not scripture, we are commanded not to teach. If our writing is not scripture, we are commanded not to write.

 

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John Robertson

I am nothing more than a regular member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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