My father climbs mountains. Every year he takes several members of the family to the top of Mount Timpanogas. Sometimes we stay overnight at Emerald Lake; but most often we start out early, climb to the top, eat lunch, and then slide down the glacier on our way back down. Our feet become terribly sore, and our butts get bruised on rocks that have settled below the surface of the snow, but we go back every year anyway. Or so it seems.
It is difficult, if not impossible to define orthodoxy within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in any systematic or consistent way. The very nature of Mormonism is opposed to creeds, or any type of rigid statements of faith. Indeed, Joseph Smith’s First Vision was sought in reaction to the competing creeds and claims of “true” Christian orthodoxy active during his youth in upstate New York.  Smith reported that when God the Father, and Jesus Christ appeared to him in the spring of 1820, he asked “the Personages who stood above [him] in the light, which of all the sects was right … and which [he] should join.” He was told “that [he] must join none of them, for they were all wrong” and that “all their creeds were an abomination in [God’s] site.” Further, according to the personages, the professors of religion in Smith’s time “[drew] near to [God] with their lips, but their hearts [were] far from [Him]” and thus, “[had] a form of godliness, but … [denied] the power thereof.” 
To Smith, rigid creeds denied God’s dynamism and unnecessarily closed the book (pun intended) on additional scripture and revelation. Not surprisingly, over the course of his prophetic career, Smith produced three books of scripture in addition to the Bible which eventually became part of the LDS scriptural canon.  Somewhat paradoxically, Smith eventually produced what have come to be known as the Articles of Faith to outline LDS beliefs and distinguish them from the Protestantism of his time. As an indication that these Articles of Faith were not rigid and static however, the ninth of these thirteen articles states: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (emphasis added). In other words, the canonical books as it were, are always open in Mormonism as Latter-day Saints not only accept, but also anticipate further revelation and doctrinal understanding.
This is not to suggest that there is no doctrinal stability in Mormonism. There are many claims and positions fundamental to Mormonism and in fact, define Mormonism. Central of these is the claim that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Closely related is proposition is that the Book of Mormon, a record which Smith translated and published is both ancient and divine. In the modern LDS Church, the largest and most prominent of the Mormon sects that exist today, an additional strong doctrinal position is that Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority was passed to Brigham Young, has been passed to each of Young’s successors, and is held by the current President and Prophet of the LDS Church. In strong relation to this last position is the concept of authority. In modern Mormonism, a very clear hierarchical ecclesiastical structure has been put in place which ensures ultimately that the Church’s First Presidency, and to a lesser degree, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, maintain absolute control over both doctrinal and administrative issues. The result then, is that orthodoxy, or what can be most closely identified as orthodoxy within the LDS Church, is more a question of acquiescence to the authority which defines doctrine, be it canon or hierarchal office, rather than to a set of doctrinal precedents. In modern Mormonism, a new revelation may significantly alter previous understanding and/or assumptions about theological questions. When such revelations are received, the question is not whether the content of the new revelation aligns with previous revelations but rather, the question is if the revelation was received and accepted by the proper authority within the Church. At least theologically, modern Mormonism has been able to keep itself un-tethered from statements made, and dogmatic positions held by previous Church leaders. The concept of continuing revelation allows Mormonism to remain agile in the face of continually changing circumstances and social realities. Centering its theological position on authority, rather than specific doctrinal propositions, the Church is able to navigate difficult situations by allowing itself to be open to new revelation and insight – even if that insight directly contradicts previous notions.
This openness may be best illustrated by Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1972 until his death in 1985. Prior to 1978 while serving as both a Seventy and Apostle, Elder McConkie had been one of the Church’s most outspoken leaders on the priesthood ban on blacks. In his first edition of Mormon Doctrine, he states:
“Those who were less valiant in [the] pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such sprits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin… Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty… The present status of the negro results purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord. The principle is the same as will apply when all men are judged according to their mortal works and are awarded varying statuses in the life hereafter.”
In 1978, shortly after the announcement of the revelation reversing the priesthood ban, Elder McConkie made the following remarks repudiating not only his, but also every other previous Church leader’s comments on the rationale for the previous policy:
“We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the second coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be Kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.
We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, ‘Yes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to the Negro people, because they are denied certain things.’ There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, ‘You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?’ And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.
We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter anymore.
It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year (1978). It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject.As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the gentiles.” (emphasis added)
 Accounts differ as to whether this was 1820 or 1824
 Pearl of Great Price, 1:18-19.
 These include the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants (first published as the Book of Commandments), and the Pearl of Great Price.
 Such authority actually resides within the LDS First Presidency– a quorum of men (usually 3) who constitute the ultimate presiding authority in the Church. The Church president sits at the head of this quorum but as will be discussed briefly below, the First Presidency has at times operated without a Church president, or when the president has been incapacitated.
 Perhaps the most recent example being the revelation in 1978 to Spencer W. Kimball, extending priesthood ordination to all men regardless of race. Previously, black men had been excluded due to a policy implemented in 1852 by Brigham Young.
 The LDS Church’s eventual abandonment of polygamy can be seen in these terms. The very existence of the Church itself was put in jeopardy by the various anti-polygamy laws passed by Congress. By being open to new revelation and inspiration, the Church was able to survive the federal government’s efforts at disenfranchisement and since this tumultuous time, has forged positive and fruitful relationships with all levels of the U.S. government.
 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 457.
 ———, “All Are Alike Unto God,” http://www.zionsbest.com/alike.html.