Friday, April 29, 2005

NDBF Unvailed, and a Poll

[UPDATE, 2 May 2005: After Gary's comments, I have changed the wording of this post in a few places in the "disagreement" paragraph, crossing out old wording and placing new wording in brackets.]

Justin is our winner! He deciphered the acronym NDBF. (Actually, it's an initialism, as Silus informed us.) Well done, Justin.

The initialism appears in the address,, of a website put together by one Gary Shapiro. Can you believe anyone would set up an entire website devoted to the notion of No Death Before the Fall? Sheesh, it's almost as bad as devoting an entire site to a reconciliation between Mormons and Evolution.

The NDBF site contains ideas I agree with, ideas I disagree with, and one statement that made me curious enough to try a poll.

What I agree with: Most of the material is devoted to clarifying what the discussion was about that led to a 1931 decision by the First Presidency, a brief part of which is quoted in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism's article on Evolution. I agree with Gary that the spin often put upon it by scientists---that it is a directive to General Authorities to refrain from contradicting the conclusions of "geology, biology, anthropology and archaeology"---is wishful thinking. Instead, it seems to be a directive to General Authorities to not, at least as part of their public ministry, attempt overt reconciliations of the theories of these scientific fields with scriptural accounts of the creation.

What I disagree with: For one thing, obviously, the idea that there was no death of any organism on Earth before about 4000 B.C. But I also disagree with Gary's claim that this idea is now official [settled] doctrine. (Not that it particularly matters; I think one can reasonably and respectfully disagree, in unofficial venues, even with "official [settled] doctrine.") His claim is that while the 1931 decisions did not settle questions about death before the fall, a Melchizedek Priesthood manual from the early 1970s published by the First Presidency under President Joseph Fielding Smith did settle the issue. The manual is described as quoting at length [recommending numerous passages] from previously published teachings of President Smith in Man, His Origin and Destiny and Doctrines of Salvation; the selection and republication of these by the First Presidency puts an official imprimatur upon them, Gary argues. My sense is that just as official doctrine is not settled by private letter, it is not settled in Melchizedek Priesthood manuals either. Surely a more formal method would be chosen if officially settling a controversy were the intent; after all, we don't consider Nibley's Melchizedek Priesthood manual An Approach to the Book of Mormon to be official doctrine. Or, maybe both of these are official [settled] doctrine---but only to the brethren of the Church. Rejoice, sisters, you are free to believe in death before the fall! And as a bonus, the sisters don't have to wade through Nibley. (I myself enjoy reading Nibley.)

What made me curious was this statement of Gary's: "In our day, the doctrine of no death before the fall clearly is accepted as doctrine." I wonder, how many denizens of the Bloggernaccle "accept" this? Leave your input in the poll on the sidebar.

[Did anyone catch the allusion intended by the intentional misspelling of Unvailed? I would expect Justin, at least, to get this one too!]


Christian:  You are in error about me claiming "this idea is now official doctrine." acknowledges three times  (here , here, and here) that the doctrine is not "official." lists here five entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary as evidence that the doctrine is no longer considered controversial. Millions of Mormons carry the LDS Bible to Church with them every Sunday. I seriously doubt that even a significant minority of them would stand up in Church and argue against the doctrine if it were taught in Church out of the Bible Dictionary.

Regarding imprimatur: When the author (Joseph Fielding Smith) is presiding officer of the publishing group (The First Presidency), it goes without saying that "official approval or license to print or publish" was granted (American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2000). And "Published by the First Presidency" on the Title Page is as close as you can get to "a mark of official approval"—not an official pronouncement, mind you, just "a mark of official approval." (Ibid)

I have an original copy of An Approach to the Book of Mormon. It was the 1957 Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood. It was published by The Council of the Twelve Apostles. Joseph Fielding Smith was President of the Twelve. He wrote the Preface (which I doubt he would have done if death before the fall were taught in the book). And Hugh Nibley wasn't President of the Church at the time anyway, so the comparison fails on numerous points.

Once again, not at or anywhere else, do I claim that the doctrine of no death before the fall is "official." My claim is, where it might have been made controversial in 1931 by B. H. Roberts and his unscientific and doctrinally unsupportable theories, today the doctrine is no longer controversial. It has been accepted by the Church. I hope at least some of your readers will be willing to consider my many reasons for saying this by visiting rather than accepting your spin at face value.

By the way: What does Nibley say in An Approach to the Book of Mormon that pleases you?
Comment by Gary | 4/30/2005 12:50:00 AM  

I love Nibley too and would love to have An Approach to the Book of Mormon as my Melchizedek Priesthood manual. I seem to recall a copy (either your's or Taylor's from you dad) which reads:

Correlation Committee: It'll go over their heads.

Bro. Nibley: Let them reach for it.

Comment by Mike Wilson | 4/30/2005 12:53:00 AM  

So, how did this site come about? Are you a believer and yet willing to question? I can't say that I've found that much in Mormon circles.

I used to be a Member but now the missionaries avoid me. I ask too many questions and, no offense, but they often seem to get unsettled if they have to think.  
Comment by Rose Pyles | 4/30/2005 01:15:00 AM  

I can't believe that I didn't guess it. I even visited his site. Doh!!!

Mike, I thought that it was Pres. McKay who said "let them reach for it" as he over turned the commitee's rejections every time. 
Comment by Jeffrey Giliam | 4/30/2005 02:10:00 AM  

Gary,  I don't want to misrepresent you. I appreciate you taking the time to help me better understand your position. I am willing to update the post if necessary.

Let me see if I can get closer, tell me if I've got it right. Based on your comment above, I gather you would say the doctrine of no death before the fall enjoys "official approval," but has not been the subject of an "official pronouncement," and is therefore not "official doctrine." (No offence intended, but many "plainspoken" people will find that sentence, well, overly lawyerly.) Would you characterize it as "settled doctrine," "accepted doctrine," or "uncontroversial doctrine"?

Are these synonyms, or are you making a three-tiered distinction between "accepted doctrine," "settled doctrine," and "official doctrine"? I think the vast majority of readers of your site will not grasp a difference between "official doctrine" and "settled doctrine," particularly in light of your quotation of Pres. Clark. Your site came across to me as is saying that NDBF was an "accepted" doctrine in 1931, but that it was upgraded to "settled/official" doctrine by the 1970s manual.

A direct statement on your site along the lines of "NDBF is not an official  doctrine, but it is a settled doctrine" might help prevent future misunderstandings. (Sometimes things that are obvious in our minds are not obvious to our readers, who do not have the same access to our minds that we do!) Not all will agree that there is a meaningful distinction between "settled" and "official" doctrine (I don't), but at least such a statement would help others better understand your position.

I would agree that there is a useful notion of "accepted doctrine," though I would prefer the term "presumed doctrine." I am not persuaded of a useful distinction between "settled doctrine" and "official doctrine," however. There has to be allowance for the President, and even the First Presidency, to teach "presumed doctrine," without attaching undue weight to it. I think the marker is the presence or absence of an official pronouncement of some sort, and that there is no operational procedure for distinguishing between "settled doctrine" and "official doctrine."

Hence, in my view, the 1970s priesthood manual simply represents promulgation of "presumed doctrine" ("accepted doctrine", if you prefer Elder Lund's term). I just don't see any evidence they were "quietly settling" anything. Moreover, the lack of repetition of doctrines that have not been the subject of official pronouncements weakens how "presumed" they are. That NDBF has not been overtly taught by members of the First Presidency since the early 1970s weakens its status, in my judgment.

I would say most members would not contradict (literally, "speak against") even "presumed doctrine" in Church meetings. As I expressed in On Doctrine , I would not speak against "official doctrine" in Church meetings. And in most instances I would not raise questions about "presumed doctrine" either. But in some circumstances, and about some presumed doctrines, I might. For example, if a teacher departed from the official lesson and pulled out all the Bible Dictionary statements on NDBF, I might read the disclaimer against official doctrine at the beginning of the Bible Dictionary, and say something about widespread scientific evidence.

In the end, Gary, I can agree with your final appeal on your site. I see no need, and hope nothing I have said is taken, to impugn the integrity of President Joseph Fielding Smith.
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 4/30/2005 08:53:00 AM  

Let's not quibble over semantics.

Simple explanations of gospel topics from "Aaronic Priesthood" to "Zion" can be found in the Church's new guidebook True to the Faith  . Issued in April 2004, this gospel reference was written specifically for teens, young single adults, and new members. It's a collection of short statements on gospel doctrine  and principles.

In the "Message from the First Presidency" found on page 1, readers are promised "that through regular personal prayer and study of the scriptures and the doctrines of the gospel you will be prepared to withstand evil influences that would deceive you and and harm you." (Emphasis added.)

Readers are informed by the First Presidency that "this book is designed as a companion to your study of the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets." (Emphasis added.)

Readers are encouraged by the First Presidency "to refer to it as you study and apply gospel principles" and readers are admonished by the First Presidency to "use it as a resource when you prepare talks, teach classes, and answer questions about the Church." (Emphasis added.)

Christian, have you looked at the entry for Death, Physical? It says, "The Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world (see Moses 6:48)."

Do you feel this statement urged upon Church members by the current First Presidency disagrees with the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for death? It says, "There was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall." (s.v. death, p. 655.) Do you know of any current apostles or prophets who've said there's a disagreement here?

Have you looked at the entry for Paradise? It says, "In the tenth article of faith, the word paradisiacal describes the earth's glory in the Millennium" (Italics in the original). The quote from A of F 1:10 is, "the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory."

The word renew means, "To make new or as if new again; restore" (American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2000).

So how does True to the Faith contradict what the LDS Bible Dictionary says regarding the two words "restitution" and "restoration"? It says these terms "denote a return of something once present, but which has been taken away or lost. It involves, for example, the renewal of the earth to its paradisiacal glory as it was before the fall of Adam." (s.v. restitution; restoration, p. 761.) During the millennium, of course, "there shall be ... no death" (D&C 101:29).

Honestly, Christian, it looks to me like No Death Before the Fall is currently being promoted by the First Presidency in True to the Faith.
Comment by Gary | 4/30/2005 12:18:00 PM  

Shucks! I didn't want to play the semantics game, but I think I've just added one to the list:

We previously had official doctrine, settled doctrine, accepted doctrine, controversial doctrine, uncontroversial doctrine, approved doctrine, pronouncement doctrine, and presumed doctrine. Now I've added promoted doctrine.

In reality, I just don't think it's all that complicated. Last night, over at Virtual Theology, I posted this  comment about doctrine. What's wrong with just following the Brethren (i.e. First Presidency and Twelve who hold the keys)? Let the living Brethren have the last word, but let the teachings of any apostle or prophet in any dispensation be considered, as long as we accept "the latest word from God  ... in preference to any former revelation, however true" (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 56; emphasis added).
Comment by Gary | 4/30/2005 01:01:00 PM  

Mike , my dad did have a copy of An Approach to the Book of Mormon that, as I recall, was inscribed by Nibley himself quoting the exchange you paraphrased. But I think Jeffrey is right, it was Pres. McKay that said "Let them reach for it."

The book must be in my brother Taylor's hands now. Damn him! (just kidding)

Greg, I don't have a copy of that particular book of Nibley's, I just meant that in general terms I enjoy reading him (doesn't mean I would always agree with him). Just for fun, comparing manuals published by the First Presidency or by the Twelve, I might point out D&C 107:23-24 .
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 4/30/2005 06:44:00 PM  

Rose , welcome, thanks for stopping by. For some initial answers to your question you can look at Welcome to the Spinozist Mormon . Reading my other posts and exchanges in comments will also give a something of a feeling for where I'm at. If you have more specific questions, you can ask them via email.
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 4/30/2005 08:04:00 PM  

Christian:  There is another misunderstanding in the above article. You said, "The manual is described as quoting at length from ... Man, His Origin and Destiny  and Doctrines of Salvation."

A more accurate statement would be, "The manual is described as recommending passages from ... Man, His Origin and Destiny (see here ) and Doctrines of Salvation" (see here).
Comment by Gary | 5/01/2005 10:05:00 AM  

Christian:  Just for fun, can you tell me where in the standard works it says manuals published by the First Presidency or by the Twelve have no more authority than a private letter? 
Comment by Gary | 5/01/2005 10:11:00 AM  

Gary,  sorry for the delayed response to your comment yesterday, I'm trying to limit the amount of time I spend blogging.

Thanks for the tip on True to the Faith.  This does indeed suggest that NDBF's status as doctrine has received a recent booster shot, though "compantion" and "resource" suggest it doesn't carry the greatest possible weight. (I'll agree to avoid modifiers to "doctrine," but good-naturedly point out that you were the one making distinctions on your web page, and taking me to task for the adjective "official." In my post On Doctrine  I was content to leave adjectives off.) I'm curious to know why your site doesn't use this as a principal evidence instead of an early 1970s manual.

I am certainly willing to "use it as a resource when [I] prepare talks, teach classes, and answer questions about the Church," and not contradict it in official settings. What is wrong with just following the Brethren, you ask? In the case of NDBF, I believe it contradicts abundant scientific evidence, and am willing to say so in unofficial settings.

If there is a material difference between "recommending" and "quoting," it seems to be one that would weaken the status of the "recommended" material. If there is no material difference, I perceive a spirit of making me an offender for a word.

I don't know a whole lot about the McKay/Stokes correspondence. I seem to recall there was permission to publish the letter, which would seem to make it more than a private letter. Letters of Paul to specific, limited groups eventually became canonized. (Obviously I don't expect that McKay letter to be canonized, I'm just saying, just for fun.) I am not aware that "manuals" is a scriptural term, so asking what the scriptures say about them is setting up a straw man. 
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/01/2005 02:34:00 PM  

In reading all the exchange here and on Mormons and Evolution, I just keep wondering why we seem to be (at least over the last 100 years) becoming more conservative in our thinking within the church.

I don't know if this analogy will work, but here goes.

Not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic or beats their wife/kids or drives drunk. There seem to be a reasonable percentage of those who are able to drink their glass of wine with dinner and that's it. So why is alcohol prohibited in the Word of Wisdom? It seems to be to protect us from potential harm to ourselves.

With regards to the doctrines surrounding the fall: Are the traditions so deeply rooted and changing them so difficult and potentially damaging to faith and understanding that the Lord allows us to continue on in this way (as it really doesn't affect our covenant relationship with Christ and potential for salvation) instead of directly revising traditional beliefs that may be incorrect?

I hope that I made my point. I am just curious about explaining to myself the why, if something else (other than the promoted, accepted, etc. type of doctrine) is true, the Lord doesn't correct it.

Has secularization become so rampant that the Lord needs to protect us from the edges? I don't know. I would appreciate any thoughts.

Comment by Mike Wilson | 5/02/2005 04:05:00 AM  

Mike,  good questions. I think there are two possible responses for the believer who is convinced some falsehood or inaccuracy is being perpetuated: (1) The Lord purposely causes some misapprehensions to be perpetuated, for the reasons you describe. There is precedent for this: the meaning of "eternal punishment," as described in D&C 19 as I recall. (2) The Lord would be willing to correct things, but waits on a prophet to specifically ask about it, as we've discussed previously.

These are not persuasive to the unbeliever, but they may allow the believer to sleep better.

I am sympathetic to what you've said about the Word of Wisdom, and tend to chafe against a "one size fits all" policies.
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/02/2005 08:46:00 AM  

Christian:  It sounds like you and I both would prefer a more leisurely blogging pace. Between you and the others at Mormons and Evolution, I'm worn out. I'm too old to work all day and blog all night.

I agree that "companion" and "resource" don't suggest the greatest possible weight—which means True to the Faith  isn't up there with the formal 1909 First Presidency statement, for example.

I agree that we should worry less about modifiers for the word doctrine. Being the literalist that I am, it's not all that complicated for me anyway.

However, when discussing the 1931 affair, some modifiers are necessary because the discussion was about doctrine and the decision was based on what the doctrine of the Church was and wasn't.

I suppose I was somewhat harsh in taking you to task for using the word "official." However, some of your readers do notice the modifiers and just wanted to rule out possible misunderstandings regarding what I had said. I apologize for the sharp tone of that comment.

I used Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions for two reasons. First, the manual was written by Joseph Fielding Smith, a much-maligned participant in the 1931 affair. Second, it was published by President Smith's own First Presidency, a fact that is significant for the following reasons:

Some, including Duane Jeffery, have claimed J. Reuben Clark's 1954 talk "When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?" was directed at President Smith's 1954 book, Man: His Origin and Destiny and his 1954 talk about the new book.

Just as Jeffery's version of the 1931 affair is greatly oversimplified and distorted, so also is his version of the 1954 affair. President Harold B. Lee explains in in this letter written only a few weeks before his death, that he (Lee) was responsible for inviting President Smith to give his 1954 talk introducing his new book. (I found the letter last fall on the BYU-Idaho web site.)

Fast forward to 1972. By the time Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions was published, Joseph Fielding Smith held the very keys that were at issue in President Clark's talk—thus the roles became reversed and President Clark's logic now works in favor of President Smith instead of against him (a more complete explanation is here ). By the way, the word "settled" came from President Clark's talk.

I agree that "recommending" something doesn't give it the same status as "quoting" it. That is why I thought it would be important to request accuracy about what I had said on my web site. Again, I just wanted to rule out possible misunderstandings regarding what I had said.

On the other hand, material that is "recommended" enjoys a much stronger position than material that isn't recommended or quoted. That is why I mentioned the "recommending" on my web site. And if Isaiah and Jacob are correct about making someone "an offender for a word," I hope not to be found in that category.

I recently read an essay by William Lee Stokes titled "David O. McKay's Position on Evolution." In 1968, it became obvious to Stokes that in spite of what President McKay had said in the 1957 letter, other Church authorities were continuing to publish what Stokes thought were contrary views. Therefore, he "wrote to President McKay and asked for permission to publish the essential statements from his 1957 letter." (Sterling B. Talmage, Can Science Be Faith-Promoting?, ed. Stan Larson, Salt Lake City: Blue Ribbon Books, 2001, xliii).

Stokes relates that he received a reply from the secretary to the First Presidency telling him "there was no objection to my use of the quotation—'on the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position'—in a book I was then writing" (Ibid).

Please notice that, according to Stokes himself, permission was granted to use one sentence from the letter, not to publish "the letter."

Some Church leaders, including David O. McKay, seem not to be concerned about how evolution may apply to plants and animals. However, for nearly a hundred years now, Church leaders seem to be overwhelmingly in agreement that "to the degree the theory of evolution asserts that man is the product of an evolutionary process, the offspring of animals—it is false!" (Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990, p. 23; or see here, p. 13).

And finally, you are right about the straw man. My question was asked in jest.


I've added a separator at this point because I have to sincerely apologize that I have taken so long to say what follows.

Christian, I am grateful for what you've said in the fourth paragraph of the above discussion opener. It contain the best summary of my web site that I've seen. It also helps me state my own case less ambiguously.

You are correct that the general understand of the 1931 First Presidency statement is the opposite of what was actually intended. General Authorities were not directed to avoid contradicting science.

The 1931 First Presidency rejected a specific attempt by Elder B. H. Roberts to publish a reconciliation of scripture with the thories of "Geology, Biology, Archaeology, and Anthropology." By extenson, the Presidency directed all 1931 General Authorities not to undertake similar efforts.

In Seers, Savants and Evolution, Duane Jeffery claims "his [Joseph Fielding Smith's] manuscript was subjected to the same publication injunction as that of Roberts" (p. 65). The question is, if Man: His Origin and Destiny is "openly antagonistic to much of science" (p. 66) as Jeffery claims, by what logic would it be subjected to an injuction to avoid open reconciliation of scientific theories with scripture?

Surprisingly, in this context one could even mistakenly assume that "in 1931, ... there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution," yet the meaning of 1931 excerpt quoted in the Encyclopedia Evolution article would remain clear: Do not attempt open reconciliation of scientific theories with scripture.

Christian, you are a clear thinker. In this instance, you have helped me explain my own thesis more clearly. Thank you!
Comment by Gary | 5/02/2005 10:01:00 AM  

Gary, I have enjoyed our exchange and learned a good deal. I have found the discussion so interesting that I even ordered a copy of Elder Roberts' The Truth, the Way, and the Life.  Thanks for bearing with me; sorry if I was defensive at times.

I can't promise I won't discuss reconciliations of scientific theories with scripture; but as I understand the 1931 statement, that's okay, because I'm not a general authority, and am not in danger of becoming one!
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/02/2005 10:47:00 PM  

If you already ordered the Signature Books  version of The Truth, The Way, The Life , please consider ordering the BYU Studies version also. There are two reasons. First, BYU Studies had available all three manuscript revisions, not just one. Second, you'll find the editorial bias against Joseph Fielding Smith at Signature is all too apparent in the explanatory material contained in that version of Roberts' book. 
Comment by Gary | 5/03/2005 02:24:00 PM  

I did order the BYU Studies version. Does the explanatory material in the Signature version add anything worthwhile in your view, in spite of the bias you perceive?
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/03/2005 04:57:00 PM  

In the back of the book, it has word for word replication of many of the associated documents including the 1931 First Presidency memo. 
Comment by Gary | 5/03/2005 06:23:00 PM  

Gary, if the Church generally accepts this position of NDBF, then why is a church organization that is directed by the Quorum of the Twelve, namely BYU, calling attention to the fact that one of its faculty recently gained nationwide recognition for discovering remarkable evolutionary adaptations in a species of stick bug that purportedly lived and died over 50 million years ago?

This was on the front page of BYU's web site, highlighted in BYU Magazine, and lauded by BYU leaders for some time.

See Jeff Lindsay's excellent discussion of the compatibility between good science and good religion:

Greg, I feel that you are emphasizing a single notion to the distortion of many other valid and compelling arguments given by many prophets of God. Furthermore, I believe that God mercifully allows prophets to be inspired and yet be wrong about many subjects. 
Comment by Carl Youngblood | 5/03/2005 07:05:00 PM  

Carl , I think it would be a stretch to imagine the Quorum of the Twelve overseeing press releases from the College of Biology and Agriculture. Still, your point is well-taken: There is widespread acceptance in the Church of death before the fall.

Thanks also for the link to Jeff Lindsay's site. It seems to have a lot of good material.
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/04/2005 07:09:00 AM  

Carl:  "Nationwide recognition" or "the front page of BYU's web site," etc. does not establish Church doctrine. I remember President Hinckley saying, "I hope you will never look to the public press as the authority on the doctrines of the Church" ("Drawing Nearer to the Lord ," Ensign , Nov. 1997, 4, last sentence, para. 3). Alternatively, please consider some of the direct evidence cited earlier in the current discussion here. And for a more in depth discussion, read both chapters at

When discussing "valid and compelling arguments" given by Prophets, it's my rule that dead or previous Prophets can't be used against living or more recent Prophets. For example, Jesus himself instituted the sacrament using wine. Joseph Smith later said "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament" (D&C 27:2) and the Latter-day Saints use water instead of wine. In fact, the Saints always accept "the latest word from God ... in preference to any former revelation, however true" (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 56).

Joseph Fielding Smith held the apostolic keys for more than 60 years and was the Church's tenth Prophet. During his entire ministry, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that there was no death before the fall. Click here to read 42 such statements made in seven different decades (1910s through 1970s). Notice that four are quoted from his three volume set Doctrines of Salvation which was approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve as a meetinghouse library resource for priesthood leaders, teachers, and the general membership. Notice also that ten were published after he became President of the Church and the last one was published by his First Presidency.

Five Prophets have followed Joseph Fielding Smith in succession as President of the Church. Can you tell me which of his successors has said that Joseph Fielding Smith, as President, was wrong about no death before the fall?
Comment by Gary | 5/05/2005 02:31:00 AM  

Christian:  You acknowledged here  that "no death before the fall" is taught by the Church in the book True to the Faith . You also acknowledged a willingness to contradict that book regarding death before the fall "in unofficial settings."

Do you actually believe there is "widespread acceptance"—claimed here—for your views as opposed to what's taught in True to the Faith?

In your opinion, just how many of the Church's 12 million members think True to the Faith contains false doctrine? And what meaning would a numerically large answer have? Does widespread lack of Church attendance negate the Lord's instructions on that subject (see 3 Ne. 18:22, 4 Ne. 1:12, Moro. 6:5-6, D&C 20:55, 75, 59:9)?
Comment by Gary | 5/05/2005 03:25:00 AM  

Gary, BYU is not the "public press," and therefore its publications are not outsiders' views of Church doctrine but church-sanctioned positions, and your quote from Pres. Hinckley does not apply. Furthermore, none of the evidence you cite is that. You are merely playing "prophet poker" with us. "I'll see your quote from an apostle and up you two quotes from a member of the First Presidency." You can prove a wide range of contradictory doctrines with this technique. In my opinion it demonstrates over-reliance on the words of the prophets and an unwillingness to seek out truth for oneself. That is not to say that quoting prophets is bad, but that their words rarely serve as infallible proofs but rather as wisdom that we must ponder and consider for ourselves. "Thy mind, O man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch unto the utmost heavens, and must reach in and contemplate the darkest abyss. Thou must commune with God." (Joseph Smith) Please see the quotes at the end of my post for some good advice from the prophets along these lines.

>When discussing valid and compelling arguments" given by Prophets,
>it's my rule that dead or previous Prophets can't be used against
>living or more recent Prophets. For example, Jesus himself instituted
>the sacrament using wine. Joseph Smith later said "it mattereth
>not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of
>the sacrament" (D&C 27:2) and the Latter-day Saints use water instead
>of wine. In fact, the Saints always accept "the latest word from God
>... in preference to any former revelation, however true" (Orson F.
>Whitney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 56).

You are implying the use of water in the sacrament of the Lord's supper is somehow superior to wine because it is newer. I would argue that there is nothing superior about it and that it is merely a custom that was the result of practical reasoning on the part of Joseph Smith and that has received the Lord's sanction. I personally believe that Christ will use wine when He returns, since He himself said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He drinks it again with us in His Father's kingdom. We follow the current teachings of the Lord's prophet, but this does not mean that they are superior to the teachings of those who have gone before. I prefer to say rather that some doctrines are de-emphasized because they are controversial and susceptible to misinterpretation, and yes, that sometimes they are just wrong, or even that the current stance is wrong and they are right but that it is more important for the Church to save souls than to achieve doctrinal perfection in our present state.

A truly schizophrenic aspect of your argument is your appeal to Orson F. Whitney, a long dead general authority who does not speak for the Church, to establish this notion of doctrinal succession. While I agree that it is true that the current customs and practices of the church are established by the current leaders, it does not logically follow that current doctrine is superior nor that it is always right. In fact I would say that in many matters on which prophets have previously spoken, today's leaders keep quiet, recognizing that many controversies and disagreements have arisen in the past over doctrine, even among the general authorities. I believe they rightly avoid these matters and leave them as personal studies for those who are interested.

>Joseph Fielding Smith held the apostolic keys for more than 60 years
>and was the Church's tenth Prophet. During his entire ministry, Joseph
>Fielding Smith taught that there was no death before the fall. Click
>here to read 42 such statements made in seven different decades (1910s
>through 1970s). Notice that four are quoted from his three volume set
>Doctrines of Salvation which was approved by the First Presidency and
>the Twelve as a meetinghouse library resource for priesthood leaders,
>teachers, and the general membership. Notice also that ten were published
>after he became President of the Church and the last one was published
>by his First Presidency.

Joseph Fielding Smith also said that blacks were not entitled to the priesthood because they had been less valiant in the pre-mortal existence, a doctrine with which many church leaders would disagree today, and which Elder McConkie even admitted was wrong. The prophet is not infallible. The Lord never violates the agency of men, even prophets, and so long as their errors don't do irreparable damage to His work, He allows it to continue.

>Five Prophets have followed Joseph Fielding Smith in succession as
>President of the Church. Can you tell me which of his successors has
>said that Joseph Fielding Smith, as President, was wrong about no
>death before the fall?

As I said earlier, I don't believe that they necessarily agree with him but that they choose to remain silent on the matter and not foment controversy.

Ultimately, when there is a contradiction between one doctrine and another, logic dictates that they cannot both be accurate. The following quotes from various leaders of the Church represent what I believe to be good advice in relation to these issues:

"We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true 'Mormons.'" (Joseph Smith, HC 5:517.)

"'Mormonism' embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical." (Brigham Young,
Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 2)

President Joseph F. Smith said, "We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never." (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248)

Apostle Charles W. Penrose, who would later serve as counselor to President Smith, declared: "President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when 'Thus saith the Lord', comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill." (Millennial Star 54:191)

"And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God... would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves." (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593-95)

"What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually." (Brigham Young, JD 9:150)

"How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves." (JD 4:368)

"I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied...Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, 'If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,' this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord." (JD 3:45)

"...Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer." (JD 1:312)

"President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: 'If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing...the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.']...said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church -- that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls -- applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall -- that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves..." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)

George Q. Cannon, Counselor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: "Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;" (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in Gospel Truth, 1:319) 
Comment by Carl Youngblood | 5/05/2005 01:43:00 PM  

Gary,  I don't think of True to the Faith  as a monolithic entity, that one must accept all-or-nothing. And I don't see a behavioral standard like Church attendance and a factual question like death before the fall to be so easily comparable.

I don't know how many members think there was death before the fall. Church-wide, it might well be a small fraction. (Perhaps the Perpetual Education Fund will help change that---maybe I should increase my contributions!) And as we're fond of pointing out, popularity is not a measure of truth. Still, I would guess (though of course do not have the data to show) that among educated members there a certain openness to the idea. The BYU press release shows, at least, that no one involved was afraid of losing their jobs over it.

Carl, that's quite a set of interesting quotes about an important principle. Thanks!
Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/05/2005 08:31:00 PM  

Christian:  Again, I appreciate your clear thinking and reasoned approach. And for that reason, I can accept the fact that your point of view is different than my own. 
Comment by Gary | 5/06/2005 01:20:00 AM  

Carl:  The Ensign  says the book True to the Faith helps "Explain Doctrine " (Apr. 2004, 79)—and every issue of the Ensign contains this note, "An Official Magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

The New Era says True to the Faith answers the question "What Do We Believe?" (Sept. 2004, 41)—and every issue of the New Era contains this note, "Official monthly publication for youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

The book True to the Faith is available for free download on the Church's web site here—and the front page of the Church's web site says "Welcome to the official internet site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Christian's response here to the True to the Faith evidence cited here was, "Thanks for the tip on True to the Faith. This does indeed suggest that NDBF's status as doctrine has received a recent booster shot."

For the above reasons, I submit that the evidence cited here  is evidence and shouldn't be lightly tossed aside.

Oh, and am I just missing something? I can't find anything on the BYU or BYU Magazine web sites anywhere that says either of them even claims to be a Church sanctioned outlet for official doctrine.

I find it interesting that you claim to know so much about why "today's leaders keep quiet."

Speaking of which, here's an interesting doctrinal comment published by one of today's leaders just last year: "The Fall is the process by which humankind and all things upon the earth fell and became mortal" (Adhemar Damiani, "The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator," Ensign, Mar. 2004, 8; emphasis added). A short biography about Elder Damiani of the Seventy is here.

And by the way, Church members (myself included) who prefer the doctrine in official Church sources like True to the Faith and the Ensign according to the principle of doctrinal succession (as you call it) or because these sources represent the latest word from God (as opposed to a wide range of contradictory doctrines), are not for that reason schizophrenic.
Comment by Gary | 5/06/2005 01:22:00 AM  

Gary, now you are deliberately misinterpreting me. I claimed merely that your appeal to Orson F. Whitney to support your argument of doctrinal succession was schizophrenic, because you appeal to a long-dead general authority to support the notion that we should avoid appealing to long-dead general authorities. That is all I was saying. I wasn't calling you or your whole argument schizophrenic. In fact, I agree with you that the principle of accepting current teachings over old ones is common practice, but I go further to claim that this doesn't necessarily mean the old stuff was wrong and that the new stuff is right. More about this in a minute.

I think you and I are really making two tangential claims here. You are saying that Church doctrine is defined only by certain publications and that the publications you cite make it clear that NDBF is supported as doctrine.

I am claiming that although there is good support for your claims within your admittedly limited set of parameters, said publications are not the _only_ source of church doctrine and that even they themselves aren't as non-contradictory as you claim. I am also claiming that your dismissal of BYU and its publications as completely irrelevant is puerile and that you are on that account guilty of creating a Procrustean bed--overlooking things that weaken your argument and insufficiently scrutinizing things that strengthen it. You reach back to general authorities such as Joseph Fielding Smith when they support your claims, but overlook other ways in which some of their other doctrinal assertions have by your own standards been exposed as incorrect. If they can make a mistake about one thing why not another, especially in matters about which they have very little expertise and that are not essential to the salvation of man?

Finally, I am appealing to prophetic counsel from our history to demonstrate perhaps the most dangerous aspect of your claims, as I see them. I believe your standards for establishing church doctrine are concerned only with orthodoxy and demonstrate a near-complete apathy towards truth. I do not believe that it is possible to achieve one's full potential on this basis:

"These are they who say they are some of one and some of another--some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant." (D&C 76:100-101)

I believe that whenever we show a greater regard for orthodoxy than for truth, pinning our faith on another's sleeve, so to speak, we show a lack of courage and smallness of mind that demonstrates our unwillingness to endure the everlasting burnings of the celestial kingdom. Obedience and humble submission to priesthood authority is good, insofar as
it does not promote unrighteous ends, but we must never abdicate our personal integrity and commitment to a relentless pursuit of truth, wherever that may lead us.

I support my position with some of my favorite counsel from the prophets:

"One of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism' is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may." (The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.313)

"Mormonism includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:375)

"If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it. I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it, whether it is popular or unpopular. Truth, eternal truth, I wish to float in and enjoy." (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 1:155)

"We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p.1)

"I want to see truth in all its bearings and hug it to my bosom. I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol 6, p 477) 

Comment by Carl Youngblood | 5/07/2005 03:12:00 PM  

Elder John A. Widtsoe's EVIDENCES AND RECONCILIATIONS is an excellent discussion of some of the points I am trying to make. I especially like his treatment of the unwarranted and frequent antagonism between science and religion. The rest of this message is from the book:

Does Science Contribute To Religious Faith?

It is a cardinal doctrine of our religion that the gospel of Jesus Christ embraces all truth. Truth may well be another name for the system of faith professed by the Latter-day Saints. In the words of Brigham Young: "Our religion is simply the truth. It is all said in this one expression -- it embraces all truth, wherever found, in all the works of God and man that are visible or invisible to mortal eye whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical." (Discourses of Brigham Young, 1941 edition, p. 2)

Such a doctrine eliminates any conflict between science and religion. Every statement must be tested for its truth. If found to be true, it is incorporated into the gospel structure. If found to be false, it is rejected and forgotten. That places factual knowledge high and inferences or theories much lower. Latter-day Saints must be certain of the truth the accept. To be ever searching for truth, and of course practising it, is the real business of Latter-day Saints.

When man sets out to discover truth for himself, he must rely on the evidences drawn from a study of the external world. The whole of nature is a witness of the truth of things not visible to the naked eye, and of the directly revealed word of the Lord. Truth is always truth and must of necessity support its parts.

That great truths may be found or confirmed by a study of the things about us, is verified by the scriptures. When Jesus faced unbelief in his divinity and mission on earth, he declared that his works would bear witness of the truth of his claims.

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. (John 14:11)

Later, the Apostle Peter made the same statement in emphatic words:

...the invisible things of him (God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.... (Rom. 1:20)

It could not be otherwise in the minds of all who believe that the visible and invisible worlds are but manifestations of the one universe in which we have our being. In one sense, every worker in science, in any branch thereof, is contributing to the truth of revealed religion, and adding to our understanding of the words of revelation.


Science contributes help in numerous corners of religion. The fields of prayer, eternity of man, the resurrection, life hereafter have been made clearer to the human understanding by the facts of science. Indeed the progress of knowledge by the scientific method has been a handmaid to faith.

It is a fascinating activity to check the truth discovered by man against the larger and more comprehensive truth which has come by revelation. No conflict will be found, if one uses only the facts of science. Instead, a series of confirmations of sound religions truth will be discovered. Faith will largely increase in such a study.

So, the answer to this query is that science does contribute, helpfully, to religious faith.

The entire contents of this book can be found here: 

Comment by Carl Youngblood | 5/07/2005 04:00:00 PM  

Science contributes help in numerous corners of religion. The fields of prayer, eternity of man, the resurrection, life hereafter have been made clearer to the human understanding by the facts of science. Indeed the progress of knowledge by the scientific method has been a handmaid to faith. 

This is an unusual claim. It's been many years since I read Evidences and Reconciliations; I'm moderately curious to go back and see how Widtsoe backs these claims up. It seems most are more comfortable trying to separate science and religion, either by saying one is mostly right and the other mostly wrong, or by saying science reveals the facts and religion gives meaning. I think history shows that the kind of direct integration Elder Widtsoe is suggesting has not often turned out well. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/07/2005 07:16:00 PM  

I think the main gist of his argument is that science's discovery of worlds of complexity beyond what can be seen with the naked eye is evidence that there may be much more beyond what we know now that would vindicate the claims of the faithful. He also seems to say that it has also provided a more concrete and confined framework for contemplating the possible means by which God carries out his work. However, I agree with you that this doesn't do much for anybody but those who already believe. Remarkably though, I agree with him that my understanding of science has only increased my faith in the beauty and wonder of what I consider to be God's creations. 

Comment by Carl Youngblood | 5/07/2005 08:26:00 PM  

Carl:  It's okay with me if you find your doctrine outside "orthodoxy" and without an "over-reliance on the words of the prophets." And it doesn't bother me that you  think I suffer from "a near-complete apathy towards truth." But you shouldn't critize the Church's tenth Prophet when his successors haven't—when, in fact, on the subject of death before the fall his point of view has been carried forward, as my sources clearly demonstrate. 

Comment by Gary | 5/08/2005 09:20:00 PM  

Two recent news articles ( here  and here )touch on some of the questions we have been dealing with here. With regards to evolution and church doctrine, from these articles, it seems that whichever General Authority promoted his opinion and was more authoritarian in tone has won out with the membership of the church. Also, I didn't realize (from ignorance) that Elder McConkie was not an Apostle when the first edition of Mormon Doctrine was published. I am looking forward to reading the book on President McKay's presidency and the evolution of church doctrine and practice. It seems that establishment of church position isn't as cut and dried as we think. I wonder what Pres. Hinkley's take would be on these topics as he was in the Council of the Twelve during part of this era.

It seems that it was during/after the presidency of Pres. McKay that there has been less ability to intellectually explore issues than there had been prior. 

Comment by Mike Wilson | 5/08/2005 09:33:00 PM  

Mike:  The David O. McKay book does indeed sound interesting—thanks for the link. Regarding McConkie's Mormon Doctrine , the second edition will be forty years old next year and the Church is still using it. I've discussed a current example here . 

Comment by Gary | 5/08/2005 11:02:00 PM  

Mike,  thanks for the links to the interesting news stories. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/09/2005 10:20:00 AM  

Hi Gang - Looks like Christian calls Gary "Greg" often enough for me to make an appearance. From my perspective, what I will call Christian's "disclaimers," - warnings about accepting truth without a "personal check" - really amount to an entirely personal theory of doctrine. In other words, any doctrine, whether correlated in Scriptures or approved "officially" by the First Presidency or even the entire 15 keyholders (i.e., "Proclamation on the Family") - may be false. Intellectually, this may be understandable, but, as a policy upon which to build one's faith in the Kingdom, this personal theory creates such a loophole as to drain the substance out of the very idea of doctrine as truth, from my perspective. The whole purpose of having Standard Works and First Presidencies is to single out truth from the thousands of alternate voices extant in the world. As one who was genuinely deceived and led away from the Church by such voices, I absolutely crave the safety I find in the mechanism established by the Lord. I find it ingenious. Unanimous counsels. Seasoned men. Leadership by seniority. Four Standard Works. And yes, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Because I was deceived before, since gaining my testimony by the Holy Ghost, I have carefully inspected neary every word spoken in Conference for 33 years. I take nothing for granted. So far, for me, the Holy Ghost has ratified everything. It also "fills in the gaps" or potential ambiguities that a lawyer can easily find in almost each verse of Scripture. This ratifying voice is, for me, so clear. I feel it as well as think it. None of Christian's quotes say anything really close to "look at things taught in the Scriptures and by the First Presidency with a critical eye, lest you be deceived." Rather, they warn against those potential doctrinal sources that fall well short of such stature. I don't see a fundamentally rational difference between questioning a formal, doctrinal statement against the evolution of man, or the Adam - God theory, with questioning the proclaimation against ending plural marriage. One can single out behavior, but, I would say "I love my 5 wives purely and without lust, while current priesthood holders struggle with pornography." Once you leave the safety of the Lord's established mechanism, you are basically on your own. No one person's "deviation" can be any more justified, rationally, than anyone else's, in my view. Elder Packer tells a story from teaching a seminary class. Someone brought a baby animal of some kind to class, and the class was having a difficult time establishing its sex. "Let's vote on it!," said the teacher. Well, there may be a few "mistakes of nature," (and, by the way, before genetic testing, the few "priesthood or not" transgender cases that came up were handled, I'm told, by the first presidency) in which case careful examinations identifying sex may prove later to be false. But, 99% of the time, they are going to be accurate, and it would be unwise, it seems to me, to treat every case as if it may someday be false because such is always possible. I read an article about male homosexuality in a pamphlet put out by sympathetic LDS psychologists. The author, upon obtaining his Phd and intially coming to BYU, was convinced that there was no sex orientation agency in man, and that the Church's postion was either false or unfair. Later on, this professor discovered that he had been "frozen out" of 50 years of good research and that his information had been highly politicized; and that the Church was right and he had been literally sold a bill of goods. My somewhat untrained mind sees similar patterns in some current scientific theories. I will close by issuing a challenge - to provide an example of a false doctrine that has been taught in either the standard works in a clear and correlated fashion, or been proclaimed by the First Presidency in the modern Church, and has been shown to be demonstrably false by either a renunciation or "cold, hard science."  

Comment by Greg | 5/11/2005 06:05:00 PM  

Greg, thanks for coming by. Looking above, I see I did call Gary "Greg," but just once, and that Carl also did it once.

this personal theory creates such a loophole as to drain the substance out of the very idea of doctrine as truth, from my perspective. 

I agree there is a danger of this, and that the moment one is in disagreement could be the moment one could most use a prophet's counsel. A comparison I like is the answers in the back of a math book: they're correct most of the time, but you don't learn the math by just copying them down. You work it out yourself and see if you can make it to the same answer. It sounds like you do that.

Once you leave the safety of the Lord's established mechanism, you are basically on your own.

This is part of the test of mortality. If we actually are going to become gods, presumably we will have to learn to operate on our own. (Do we expect anyone is telling God what to do? I tend to think not, though I suppose it might be possible, if there's an infinite regression of gods...)

Just for the record, the long list of quotes in a comment above was Carl's, not mine.

As an example for your final challenge, how about No Death Before the Fall?  

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/11/2005 07:27:00 PM  

Christian - Hi! Please excuse my laziness in hanging you with some of Carl's work. (Guilt by association is an old trick of mine.) Now, as far as operating on one's own. I tried this. I discovered that - in my view, one doesn't really operate on one's own here in mortality. As reflected in an old Bob Dylan song "you gotta serve somebody," we always operate here in tandem with some very strong influences. We can only choose their source, not to be free from them. For me, the whole idea of Jesus' council in 3 Neph 11:38 " must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the Kingdom of God" is to recognize that if we are going to put our hands in someone's hands here it might as well be God's. When does a little child operate "on his own?" The issue is, does he walk with his father, or a stranger? He cannot really choose, under this scenario, to NOT be a child. And, that is really my whole point. If one could always reach the same conclusion as doctrine does, on one's own, why does one need doctrinal authority. It seems to me that it is most needed when a choice may be more difficult.

I see a whole generation of both youth and adults operating "on their own" when it comes to the law of chastity. Obviously, in this area, instead of operating "on your own," i.e., listening to your body, you have wisely chosen to follow doctrine. From my perspective, for you to follow Darwin on the issue of your physical heritage, rather than the First Presidency, is no different. I believe that your previously stated "behavioral" exception is not very rationally explainable. It might sound justifiable in our culture, but, if you tried to present the differences to my book club, they would probably - and politely, laugh at you. You might explain how compelling the Darwinian evidence is - and they would counter with arguments in sympathy with Freud and Kinsey. (While these chastity "pioneers" may currently be a bit out of favor theoretically, their ideas certainly are not).

I will await your response before going further in this arena and move on to NDBF as disproven doctrine. My eyes are, I hope, wide open to scientific evidence. As I mentioned at Gary's sight, I look upon Doctrine and Scientific truth as "twin towers" much like a physicist looks at relativity and quantum mechanics - 2 irrefutable sources of truth that have not yet been linked. Rather than favor one over the other, I await the "superstring" solution. I recognize that neither "creation science" or "intelligent design" have made much progress here. Meanwhile, I am "trying to get there on my own" but without letting go of the hand of either God or science. NDBF says NOTHING, as far as I can tell, about the fossil record that existed in the material from which Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael (and probably you and I) contructed this earth. If I were doing it, I would see great wisdom in uniformity. Why? So that 19 through 21st century scientists could construct useful theories to harnass nature and create modern "miracles" in health and other sciences. Usable theories require uniformity. Could such uniformity also "trick" scientists into disbelieving scripture? You bet!! But, only, in my view, if significant evidence, both scientific and "personal" (the light of Christ) is ignored.


Comment by Greg | 5/12/2005 11:29:00 AM  

Greg, I cetainly don't claim that anyone operates entirely on their own. Clearly we are social creatures, and our environment and social networks influence us heavily. Also, I do agree that one's understanding of the nature of reality influences behavioral choices. But I don't think beliefs and behaviors are regulated with the same intensity by the Church. Moreover, one can choose to live by a set of behavioral standards for the sake of allegiance to a chosen group (e.g. wear a Scout uniform or a white shirt, or live the Word of Wisdom) without requiring a fundamental connection of those standards to cosmic reality.

NDBF says NOTHING, as far as I can tell, about the fossil record that existed in the material from which Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael (and probably you and I) contructed this earth. 

I'm not an expert in the relevant fields, and perhaps there are things you can teach me, but my immediate reaction is this that idea fails in numerous ways: radioisotope dating of well-ordered strata in which the fossils are found, strata that are correlated worldwide, plate tectonics destroying and renewing the Earth's crust on a much faster time scale than the age of the Earth (i.e. all present-day crust has been created long after Earth formed), evidence the entire Earth was molten in its earliest history (not allowing any putative initial rocky strata to survive intact), ... 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/13/2005 07:27:00 AM  

Sorry, I have been away for a little while. Gary, I feel that you haven't been fair or honest in your response. I said that your argument seemed to value orthodoxy over truth. Your response is to claim that by saying this I am confessing that my views are unorthodox. There seems to be a large and presumptuous leap in your logic, for I did no such thing.

Besides this, your argument about NDBF seems to be that since no prophet has contradicted Joseph Fielding Smith's views on the matter, there is unanimous agreement on the matter. I don't understand how you can convincingly claim this. No news simply means no news. It does not mean that there is consensus among the brethren on this. 

Comment by Carl Youngblood | 5/13/2005 11:37:00 PM  

Christian - Hey - what does an astrophysicist get paid to do these days?

Whoops! After carefully developing my own theory that it turns out pretty much paralells B. H. Roberts' TWTL, I somehow got "converted" to a much harder NDBF position. Actually, by my own doctrinal rules, there could have been DBF, as long as Adam started things over. I have read about 30 articles by LDS scientists on various "scriptural-conflicting" subjects, but none have specifically addressed Roberts' position as being seemingly impossible. The scriptures limiting the age of the temporal earth require only that it fell in its current "cycle." If you remember the 1931 controversy, Roberts' postion was not condemned, per se, but only silenced as far as publication that many church members might feel conflicted with scripture. By the way, "Earth in the Beginning," by Eric Skousen, is a modern treatment like Roberts.' And, I have private information that the First Presidency asked his father, Cleon, NOT to publish it in earlier drafts.

Another thing I just want to post SOMEWHERE before I forget it. I know for myself that Blake Ostler is wrong that God cannot know the future exactly way ahead of time, because I am a personal witness on several occasions that He can. There, Blake, (and Jeff).

Comment by Greg | 5/14/2005 08:19:00 PM  

Greg, I work on supercomputer simulations of exploding stars (supernovae).

Okay, I was critiquing what I understood Gary's position to be, the `fossils left over from pieces of previous planets' view. As I understand it the BH Roberts view (and yours) is different. My own present guess is that the genetic data tie us more closely to the animal kingdom than procreation of Adam by God would allow for.

I haven't followed the omniscience/freewill debates. It seems to me Joseph believed in omniscience, or else the Words of Mormon episode wouldn't make much sense. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/16/2005 03:42:00 PM  



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