D&C Section 77 and its companion section 113 have an interesting history. An “older” high priest was publicly debating with local ministers about doctrine and was winning the debates. Local church leaders felt he was espousing false doctrine and decided to excommunicate him. At his trial he had a surprise advocate who spoke passionately in his defense, even though he was 100% wrong on the doctrine.
The advocate who completely turned things around: Joseph Smith (whose corrections became those two sections). He gave what is one of my favorite sermons about how we have freedom to believe and how open the Church should be to all.
What is interesting is that we have a trend in the Church to reduce the amount of teaching that is considered “doctrine.” Officially, there is little change. But as a Church we are redefining what we believe at the core and what is speculation. We have a significant shift away from the “fill every niche” approach and a huge shift towards the Book of Mormon as a testament of Christ.
The move makes a great deal of sense in two completely different ways. The first is a growing appreciation for a core teaching of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith that our understanding is limited by our context: our language, experience and knowledge shape what we can understand and how we understand. There is truth in describing some things as the unutterable things of the Spirit — there are things beyond the words we have.
It also works very well if we accept dualism; that is, that multiple conflicting descriptions can be true. Not that it is a “blind men & the elephant” situation, but rather that somethings are both waves and particles (rather than just particles made of waves). That is, the latest viewpoint is not necessarily the “full” or correct one, it is just another one.
If there is a significant amount of dualism, then a wide range of acceptable points are all part of the truth. In fact, dualism requires an openness to multiple, perhaps conflicting viewpoints in order to encompass all of the truth. It is not a matter of one view transcending earlier partial views. It is, instead, a need to accept “both” or “many” views as true in order to have all of the truth.
Which means paring the core teachings so that they do not block dualism where it applies. By paring things down we are actually expanding our access to truth and our ability to teach it by keeping ourselves from rejecting those areas where dualism applies. In this case it means, very strongly, that less is actually more, and the only path we have to encompassing more.
I am curious where you see dualism applying in the Church today and in the doctrines we have reduced to no longer being exclusionary of other viewpoints.