The following is a comment too long to include on R. Gary's blog, since my comments there were already getting a bit long. I thus post a response here:
Gary, I appreciated getting to understand your viewpoint better. It seems, however, that we indeed disagree on the role of "official church media". Take the Bible Dictionary, for example. It is part of "official LDS media", but its introduction states: "It is not intended as an official or revealed endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal, historical, cultural, and other matters set forth". Therefore, simply because the drafters interpreted a couple of scriptures as teaching that there was no death before the fall, it still isn't an endorsement by the Church on that doctrine.
As an aside, even though I agree with Elder Talmage, I would not prevent other views from being published (whether taught by Woodruff or Lee) because that's what they personally taught. But I also recognize that just teaching something and publishing it doesn't automatically elevate it to "truth" , nor does it canonize one "right" position simply because it gets included in a manual. Of course, this touches upon The Challenges of Defining Mormon Doctrine-another important conversation.
I certainly would not assume, as you seem to imply, that President Eyring in the current First Presidency disagrees with his father's published views about death before the fall simply because President Eyring "could" have prevented teachings to the contrary from being published but did not. If I understand your position correctly, then the lack of statements in church manuals or the inclusion of statements from old church manuals in current church publications demonstrates (according to you) an implicit endorsement by everyone in the current First Presidency and the Twelve on those positions. This makes absolutely no sense to me, and here is why:
1. Not everything published in official LDS media becomes an official LDS position.
2. But even if we take your view, it cuts both ways.
For example, Joseph Smith taught that "God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all" (p. 210 in the printed version of "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith" (2007). It is significant that this was published without any comments, footnotes or clarifications by Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, or Spencer W. Kimball. The manual does not include Joseph Fielding Smith's interpretation in "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" on how to read Joseph Smith. It is clear that the Church wants people to read Joseph Smith on his own terms. The fact that the First Presidency and the Twelve decided to publish Joseph Smith's teachings without Joseph Fielding Smith's interpretation is evidence that the the First Presidency and the Twelve all agreed and were united that it is better to publish Joseph Smith's teachings without Joseph Fielding Smith's commentary.
Another point. The editors of the Ensign approved an article containing Elder Talmage's words in the Sept. 1987 issue of Ensign. In fact, according to your logic, the First Presidency approved this because they are the ultimate editors of the Ensign: "We can only conclude, as Elder Talmage did, that “the whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation."
Now, how could the Apostles and Prophets allow the Ensign issue to go to publication if they disagreed with that statement? Unless you want to admit the fact that not everything published in the Ensign has been unanimously endorsed by the First Presidency and the Twelve. Because according to your logic, the fact that it was published in 1987 without any opposition by the First Presidency or the Twelve shows that they didn't disagree with it. If they disagreed with it, they would not have published it. That article was published twice--Sept 1987 (Ensign) and April 1988 (Tambuli)--which gave the Church two chances to reject the article but instead it was published twice in an official LDS publication.
The Ensign for Sept. 1987 lists the admin and staff as follows:
The First Presidency: Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson
Quorum of the Twelve: Marion G. Romney, Howard W. Hunter, Boyd K. Packer, Marvin J. Ashton, L. Tom Perry, David B. Haight, James E. Faust, Neal A. Maxwell, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, M. Russell Ballard, Joseph B. Wirthlin
All of these apostles and prophets allowed this September issue to be published and none of them rejected the article that quoted Talmage, including the current President Monson, as well as Packer, Perry, Nelson, Oaks and Ballard who are still current apostles.
What is Scripture?
55 minutes ago