Dear Anon. ~
Ok, let's pretend that you have developed the skill of shorthand. Of course you're going to want to use it, right? So you start taking notes in every meeting you ever go to until you get so good that you can actually transcribe everything a person says. Deciding that you should share your talent with others, you start transcribing every sacrament talk, every fireside, by every bishop, stake president, missionary or even apostle that you attend. Then you compile these transcripts and publish them so that the entire world can have access to these great speeches that you heard, but they couldn't be a part of.
It's brilliant, isn't it? Except, maybe that one fireside in a rather casual setting where Elder Apostle was siding more on the side of stating opinion than official church doctrine. And of course, that one bishop kept passing along hearsay, and you weren't really sure all of it was true.
But all of this is ok, you reassure yourself. Everyone has attended Stake Conference and has heard their Stake President say things that weren't necessarily doctrine. Sure, most of it was, but opinion definitely plays a part at times. Everyone knows this. So, when you publish your book as a collection of talks gathered from various church meetings, everyone will be able to relate and understand that just because Elder Apostle said that outrageous statement over the Tabernacle pulpit, it's not necessarily doctrine. Right?
Welcome to the life of Elder George D. Watt. He was a stenographer who didn't make a whole lot of money with his skills at shorthand. Thus, he proposed a publication called the Journal of Discourses, where he would transcribe all of the discourses given by the brethren of the church, then he would publish them so that the Saints around the world could read the sayings of the brethren, even when they couldn't be there.
What transcription doesn't take into account is emotion, atmosphere, facial expressions, etc. How many times have you emailed or chatted with someone and said one thing and they interpreted something completely differently than how you intended it? Also, rarely can a person write in shorthand as quickly as a person can talk. They didn't have computers back in the day, remember. (Even then, most people can't type as fast as a person can talk.) Thus, a lot of transcription is biased greatly by what the stenographer heard or werf's choice in words in summarizing. It also assumes that everything that was said was perfectly clear and understandable. There's a lot of ifs in here, you realize.
The Journal of Discourses was never endorsed by the Church as official doctrine. The First Presidency did endorse the publication thereof, but the Church never went through and proofread everything to make sure it was completely accurate. They trusted that people would be able to read with the Spirit and judge for themselves, just as if they had been sitting in that fireside, listening to the speech.
Just because Brigham Young said something once doesn't make it a prophecy any more than Pres. Hinckley knighting Pres. Eyring in conference made him a knight nor did it even indicate that he would someday become one. Prophets are humans, too. They make mistakes, they have incorrect opinions, and they have stories that you will never hear in Conference. President Young could very easily have been stating his own personal opinion that the Civil War would not free the slaves. Nothing in his statement indicated that he was making a prophecy. In the second quote you gave us, please note one critical part, "Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think
it is." (emphasis mine) Prophecies and official church doctrine do not include the phrase "I think ___" in them. They are confident and sure.
The Journal of Discourses, though a valuable resource, is not considered official church doctrine. It has never been accepted as canon, and therefore is no more doctrine than a book published by an apostle by Desert Book. Of course both have much truth and much can be learned from them, but no where does either claim to be official doctrine.
Simply put, the Journal of Discourses must be read and interpreted with the Spirit as a close companion and guide, just as any other sacrament talk or fireside you go to. Let the Spirit tell you what is truth and what is error.
~ Dragon Lady
- "I Have a Question
" from the August 1978 Ensign.
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism
- "Will the current struggle free the slaves" Vol 10 pg 250. Here
- Living on the sun. Vol 13, pg 271. Here