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Question #86757 posted on 05/28/2016 11:10 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Why are there no portions of the "King Follett Discourse" to be found in the Doctrine & Covenants?

-Ando from Idaho

A:

Dear Ando,

For those who are not familiar with the King Follett Discourse, it can be found here.

In my cursory research, I have come across many different internal debates that have occurred over this document, and have come to some of my own conclusions: 

  • In 1902, Church President Joseph F. Smith did not want it the Discourse published in The History of the Church.  President Smith never gave a reason for his decision, so it is left up to the individual to decide why.  Some people believe President Smith was uncomfortable with the teachings in the Discourse, but it is entirely speculation.  
  • The Discourse was later added to The History of the Church, but with some disclaimers included. and From The History of the Church, vol. 6, pages 302–17: “...there are some imperfections in the report and some thoughts expressed by the Prophet which were not fully rounded out and made complete...” (emphasis added).  It could be that many people were simply confused by some of Joseph Smith's thoughts, and later leaders of the church did not want to confuse people on important church doctrine.
  • Even though it was later added, the Church no longer claims The History of the Church as an official Church publication.  Therefore, it could be that everything in it should be taken with a grain of salt.  Researchers did find that there were over 64,000 words either added or deleted to the publication (some historians claim this as a common practice during the original 19th century publication of it), and the King Follett Discourse is a small portion of it that (undoubtedly) has its own flaws.
  • Another potential reason could be that since there is technically no verbatim copy of the speech itself, leaders may feel uncomfortable adding the discourse as it stands now, which is a conglomerate of what multiple scribes heard.  As stated above, there are no doubt some inaccuracies or missing pieces that may have been beneficial to the Discourse, and therefore could be proven detrimental for the Discourse as a whole.
  • Not everything that every prophet says is canonized.  In fact, most of what prophets say is not canonized.  There have only been a handful of additions to our standard works since the original publication of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
  • I cannot find any evidence that anyone has actually tried to add the Discourse to our canon.  I feel that many other policy changes, talks, announcements, or other addendum would be added to our canon before the Discourse.

I conclude this with my own disclaimer: I am by no means a Church historian, but merely an amateur Church history enthusiast.  It is possible I am entirely wrong in my findings, and if there is a more experienced historian reading this, you are welcome to add corrections.

-April Ludgate