I stumbled across a Greg Prince talk giving a nice overview of Mormon thought in the past and present. It's not an approach one often sees as so few Mormons are comfortable with the thought of "evolving doctrine." It's interesting to see how Prince identifies the key doctrinal shifts as he evaluates the contributions of various LDS presidents:
- Joseph Smith "was the most progressive thinker of any LDS president," but he "left behind an unruly patchwork theological quilt."
- Wilford Woodruff terminated the adoption doctrine put into practice by Brigham Young and "replaced it with the continuous sealing of child to parent for as many generations as genealogical research would allow." Oh, and there was that Manifesto thing, too.
- Joseph F. Smith swerved to the right. Faced with the twin modernist threats of evolution and higher criticism of the Bible, he supported a new orthodoxy (reflected in his book Gospel Doctrine) that pushed LDS doctrine "towards fundamentalism, which was the common, knee-jerk reaction to modernism."
- David O. McKay "facilitated a counter-culture of doctrinal moderation by broadening the tent, preaching a gospel of tolerance and inclusion," but other leaders "continued to push LDS doctrine in a fundamentalist direction."
Prince sums up the present state of LDS doctrine with the following paragraph:
Our manuals and our sermons have increasingly focused on behavior rather than doctrine. While fundamentalism continues to be the predominant doctrinal philosophy of most Latter-day Saints, perhaps the most significant development of the past decade has been the gradual erasing of Bruce McConkie’s influence on doctrine. New church manuals either eliminate bibliographic references to McConkie quotes or eliminate the quotes entirely. Even more significant to the masses was the decision a year or so ago to take McConkie’s landmark book, Mormon Doctrine, out of print, a half-century after it was first published.