'The Spiritual Concept of Form and Function as One': Structure, Doctrine, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Daimon: Annuario Di Diritto Comparato Delle Religioni, Vol. 6, pp. 115-160, December 2006

40 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2008 Last revised: 23 Jul 2015

See all articles by Cheryl B. Preston

Cheryl B. Preston

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Abstract

Relying on analogies to the legal system, this Article illustrates how the structure (form) of the LDS Church interacts with theological substance and doctrine (function). Part I considers the question of LDS structure from an academic perspective, along the line of a comparative religion study. It considers: What is the canon? Who are the lawmakers? What forms the theology; specifically, who are the official interpreters, what comprises the body of theological works, and what are the methods of interpretation? These are quite intriguing questions in the LDS context since we do not customarily speak of "canon," "lawmakers," or "theology" with the meanings these words have in many world religions. It considers the LDS Church as a formal, but not always expressly articulated, institution system and provides a framework for thinking about LDS organization in comparison to other churches.

Part I. A describes the two elements of the vertical structure of the Church - leaders and canon - and the importance of the lack of a third pillar of official theological interpreters. Part I.B turns to horizontal structural forms, noting that in many respects these are dissimilar to the structure of other churches. Horizontally, the LDS Church is formed by the use of lay leaders, councils, and the communitarian and experiential learning processes.

Part II is a personal and religious discussion of how the structure, both vertical and horizontal, of the LDS Church facilitates the learning and application of certain unique doctrinal tenants. Part II.A discusses individual ownership of the religious experience; Part II.B, the significance of experience in LDS Church theology; and Part II.C, the related concept of individual light and knowledge.

Of course, not every detail of the current form of the LDS Church is perfect and some of the individual components may change. I only argue that the design of these forms currently facilitates the development of core LDS spiritual principles in members of the Church.

Keywords: LDS canon, Mormon Church, theology, continuing revelation, prophets, canon law

Suggested Citation

Preston, Cheryl B., 'The Spiritual Concept of Form and Function as One': Structure, Doctrine, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Daimon: Annuario Di Diritto Comparato Delle Religioni, Vol. 6, pp. 115-160, December 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1155247

Cheryl B. Preston (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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