[First Presidency to Sterling B. Talmage]
We have your letter of December 7, with reference to your father's sermon, 'The Earth and Man,' and to the statement made to you by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith regarding the same. You ask certain categorical questions concerning the sermon.
Inasmuch as categorical answers to your questions would not give ' even if it were possible to make them (which it is not)'a true picture of the situation, we feel it due you and your inquiry to advise you of exactly what happened, for your confidential information, regarding you father's sermon above referred to.
There were some antecedents to the preaching of the sermon, of which you may not be fully advised. Briefly they were as follows:
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith had preached a sermon expressing a view different from that later expressed in your father's sermon. The preaching of the sermon by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith brought some controversy between Brother Brigham H. Roberts and Brother Smith, which, after various exchanges, resulted in both brethren being told that they should cease their discussion of the matter.
Thereafter the matter seems to have been taken up with President Ivins by persons near to him who were not willing that the matter should be allowed to rest where it was. As a result of these activities, your father delivered the sermon, 'The Earth and Man.' It would seem that this was brought about through an arrangement between President Ivins and your father. The sermon was delivered at a meeting over which President Ivins presided.
Thereafter the sermon was brought to the attention of the Council of the Twelve, where it was the unanimous view, minus one, that the sermon should not be published. The one not fully approving of this decision asked that the opportunity be give your father so to recast the sermon as to make it acceptable. Accordingly there were some changes made in the sermon, and it was again submitted to the quorum of the Council of the Twelve. Upon this second submission it was again determined by the Twelve, one excepting, that the sermon should not be published. The member making the exception again pleaded that the sermon be further changed in order to make its publication possible.
At this point President Ivins withdrew the sermon from the consideration of the Council and himself decided that it should be published. It was printed within two or three days thereafter.
At the time this final decision was made, President Grant was not at home, and was not consulted.
The foregoing are the recorded facts with reference to the publication and 'approval' of the sermon, 'The Earth and Man.'
The later publication of the sermon in pamphlet form was made without president Grant's knowledge or consent, though, it is understood, with the approval of President Ivins.
You will see from the foregoing that the sermon 'The Earth and Man' cannot be regarded as an official expression of the Church, binding upon the Church and covering the subject matter discussed in the sermon. Its publication was never approved by the President of the Church.
We make this foregoing statement without making any comment at all upon the matters discussed in the sermon. The whole point of this explanation is that the sermon cannot be regarded as the official pronouncement of the Church. ...
[First Presidency, Letter to Sterling B. Talmage, as quoted in Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah 2010]