by Robert John Stevens, June 18, 2015
Few LDS 19th century sermons were written down before they were delivered. Doing so was inconsistent with their philosophy that uneducated men and women can speak by the power of the Holy Ghost to deliver more enlightening and convincing sermons then wise and educated preachers1.
I’d like to know what percentage of Brigham Young’s Utah public discourses were recorded and published in the Salt Lake City Deseret News. Whether or not he read and reviewed them for inaccurate doctrine, certainly enough people he knew did.
Why then are pre-1971 LDS General Conference Talks (from 1830 to 1970) not available on lds.org?
Someone posted this reason, 1971 is when Correlation started reviewing content (coincides with release of the modern Church Magazines.) Anything before 1971 is not Correlated which would need to be done before official release.
But most are online:
LDS General Conference Talks from 1880 on archive.org
1 See Teaching by the Spirit—“The Language of Inspiration”, Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475, (2004), 35–40.
Brigham Young said of the Spirit’s convincing power:
“Anything besides that influence, will fail to convince any person of the truth of the Gospel of salvation. …
“… But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true. … My own judgment, natural endowments, and education bowed to this simple, but mighty testimony. There sits the man who baptized me, (brother Eleazer Miller.) It filled my system with light, and my soul with joy. The world, with all its wisdom and power, and with all the glory and gilded show of its kings or potentates, sinks into perfect insignificance, compared with the simple, unadorned testimony of the servant of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 1:90–91).
From my friend Mel:
I enjoyed your Brigham Young article. I’ve been reading about the scribes who took down Brigham’s lectures in shorthand. When scholars compare the shorthand versions with the scribes’ printed versions, they realize that the scribes often were not accurate with their notes. They would often try to summarize what he said or put in their own words or ideas as though they were Brigham’s. We have to be careful. Mel
I’m not surprised that no conference talks from the 19th century are available on line. The Gospel was not restored until the 19th century. I think the current publication policy is wise, considering that speakers in the 19th century were speaking primarily to the saints, whereas speakers today are speaking to a much larger world audience that is ready to pounce on anything they think is problematic….and, not everyone who speaks in a conference is necessarily inspired by the Holy Ghost in what he or she says. Not every missionary testimony is inspired by the Holy Ghost either, but some are, and the Spirit conveys the truth.
Also, after reading how those early “inspired” talks were recorded in shorthand, and how the recorders edited the talks according to their
own ideas before printing them gives me pause. What was recorded as Brigham’s sermons may not be 100% trusted. I guess that why we have modern prophets. Just some thoughts. Mel