Lectures on Faith Preface

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Publisher's Preface

The lessons popularly known as the Lectures on Faith were originally delivered to a class of the elders in Kirtland, Ohio, in the winter of 1834-35. They consist of seven theological and doctrinal treatises prepared chiefly by the Prophet Joseph Smith (with perhaps some assistance from other brethren) and were written so as to give instruction about faith needed to enable one to obtain the fulness of salvation. The lectures are logically and systematically arranged and scripturally based. Their purpose, as stated in the first lecture, is "designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ" (Lecture First, Paragraph 1).
A brief survey of the plan of each lecture is as follows:
1. The first lecture explains precisely what faith is. It is described as the first great governing principle, the foundation of all righteousness, without which there is no power
2. The second lecture shows the object on which faith rests and demonstrates that it was by revelation that correct knowledge of the existence of God first came into the world so that men could have faith in him.
3. The third lecture details the character, perfections, and attributes of God as given in the revelations and shows that these attributes have been the same in all ages. It is shown that three things are necessary for true faith: (1) an idea that God does exist, (2) a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes, and (3) the assurance that one's course of life is according to and harmonious with God's mind and will.
4. The fourth lecture explains why the exercise of true faith in God depends upon one's having correct ideas and knowledge about God's attributes. It provides examples showing that without the awareness that God is supreme and infinite in his character, the mind of man could not have unshaken confidence and trust in him.
5. The fifth lecture is an inspired declaration of the nature of Deity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, showing the perfection, harmony, and unity that exist between these personages. The lecture explains that God's purpose is to enable man to become like him in fulness and perfection.
6. The sixth lecture explains why it is necessary for a person to have knowledge that his course of life is acceptable to God so that he is able to exercise unwavering faith. It is further shown that the sacrifice of all things is required in order for the mind of man to lay hold on the faith needed for eternal life.
7. The seventh and final lecture is truly the capstone and crowns the foundation built in the first six lectures by showing the effect or results that flow from true faith. Possessors of faith described in these lectures will be able to obtain every necessary thing (including personal revelation) to become perfected in Jesus Christ. Jesus is spoken of as the prototype of all saved beings: to become like him is to be saved; to fail to become like him and the Father is to fail of salvation.
The lectures were published in the forepart of the Doctrine and Covenants in all editions from 1835 until 1921, at which time they were removed because they are not specific revelations to the Church and were never sustained as such. However, they are profitable for doctrine, for learning, and for instruction.
Since the lectures have not been included in the Doctrine and Covenants for several years, many members of the Church have not known of their value and hence have not studied their content nor appreciated their doctrinal importance. President Joseph Fielding Smith lamented this condition when he said: "I suppose that the rising generation knows little about the Lectures on Faith. . . . In my own judgment, these Lectures are of great value and should be studied. . . . I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ."fn
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has appraised the lectures as "some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character, perfections, and attributes of God; on faith, miracles, and sacrifice. They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars."fn
In a discourse at Brigham Young University, Elder McConkie quoted certain portions of the lectures that dealt with the Deity and praised them as follows: "In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, intelligent, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language—that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It is written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true. I will only read part of it, and even then, because of the deep content that is involved in the words, we cannot measure or fathom their full intent. We need to study and ponder and analyze the expressions that are made."fn
As originally prepared and delivered, the lessons were for a class of elders only. However, the lectures were introduced to the membership of the Church in the preface to the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as follows:
To the members of the church of the Latter Day Saints—
DEAR BRETHREN:
We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with a lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say, that it contains in short, the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe.
The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place [Kirtland, Ohio], and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work.
The second part contains items of principles for the regulation of the church, as taken from the revelations which have been given since its organization, as well as from former ones.
This preface was signed by the First Presidency, which consisted of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and F. G. Williams. At that time the lectures had a slightly different title:
Theology
Lecture First
On the Doctrine of the Church of the
Latter Day Saints.
Of Faith.
Section I
Each of the succeeding lectures was titled in similar manner, being Lecture Second, Lecture Third, etc., and also called Section II, III, and so forth. In each case the title was "Of Faith." It was not until 1876, in an edition of the Doctrine and Covenants edited by then Church Historian Orson Pratt of the Council of the Twelve, that the title was given as "Lectures on Faith."
When published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the lectures were introduced thus:
Lectures on Faith
Lecture First—Section I.
On the Doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, originally delivered before a class of the Elders, in Kirtland, Ohio.
It is evident that the lectures were held in high esteem by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the early Brethren, even as they now are, though they are not currently published as part of the standard works.
The scriptural citations in the lectures are from the King James Version of the Bible, except as noted from the "new translation," which is the Joseph Smith Translation (abbreviated JST). Citations from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price have been updated to correspond to the 1981 editions published by the Church.
Joseph Fielding Smith, Seek Ye Earnestly (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970), p. 194.
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 439.
Bruce R. McConkie, "The Lord God of Joseph Smith," discourse delivered January 4, 1972, Speeches of the Year (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1972), p. 4.

(Lectures on Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], v.)