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Thursday, May 19, 2005

No death before the fall taught by Boyd K. Packer

In a recent comment made here, Jeffrey D. Giliam claims "Elder [Boyd K.] Packer certainly allows for it [death before the fall]." Also, in a recent article at Mormons and Evolution, Jeffrey makes a similar point when he asks, "Is Elder Packer acknowledging death before the fall!?"

It turns out that Elder Packer does not "allow for" death before the fall; nor has he acknowledged it. On the contrary, he teaches that death would not "exist" without the fall and that only since the fall have "all living things" experienced "mortal or temporal death."

The year 1988 was Elder Packer's year to talk about death before the fall. He mentioned it in his paper on "The Law and the Light" which was was presented at the end of October in 1988 and he referred to it in both General Conferences that year.

1.

In the April 1988 General Conference, he said "the condition of mortality" (death) did not "exist" until after the fall:

"The creation of their bodies in the image of God, as a separate creation, was crucial to the plan. Their subsequent fall was essential if the condition of mortality was to exist and the plan proceed." (Boyd K. Packer, "Atonement, Agency, Accountability," Ensign, May 1988, 70)

If mortality (death) didn't exist without the fall, then it clearly didn't exist before the fall.

2.

In the October 1988 General Conference, he said the Fall marks the point in time after which "all living things" have experienced "mortal death":

"Since death is ever present with us, a knowledge of how essential it is to the plan of salvation is of immense, practical value. Every one of us should know how and why it came to be in the beginning.

"Mortal death came into the world at the Fall....

"It was as though a clock were set and a time given. Thereafter, all living things moved inexorably toward mortal death." (Boyd K. Packer, "Funerals—A Time for Reverence," Ensign, Nov. 1988, 18)

"Thereafter" means "from a specified time onward; from then on." In other words, it didn't happen before then.

3.

In his paper on "The Law and the Light," again identified the Fall as that point in time after which "all living things" have experienced "mortal or temporal death":

"The word fall describes well what transpired when Adam and Eve were driven from the garden. A transformation took place which made them 'a little lower than the angels.' (In the Hebrew text, the word “angel” is given as 'gods,' see Ps 8:5, Heb 2:7-9.) The bodies formed for mankind became temporal or physical bodies. The scriptures say “the life of all flesh is in the blood thereof” (Lev 17:11-13; Deut 12:23; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 199-200, 367 Kimball 5-6).

"After the transformation caused by the Fall, bodies of flesh and bone and blood (unlike our spirit bodies), would not endure forever. Somehow the ingredient blood carried with it a limit to life. It was as though a clock were set and a time given. Thereafter, all living things moved inexorably toward mortal or temporal death" (Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990, 12).

Conclusion

It seems clear to me that Elder Packer does not "allow for" death before the fall; nor has he acknowledged it. On the contrary, he teaches that death would not "exist" without the fall and that only since the fall have "all living things" experienced "mortal or temporal death."

4 Comments:

Blogger jeff g said...

With regards to (1) he is clearly referring to Adam and Eve and the mortal probation through which humanity must pass. I see no evidence of your position here.

(2) Again, he is clearly talking about mankind's mortality. One can very easily say that "yes, after the fall all things were mortal, but before, only some things were." I don't think that's what he really meant but to expand this statement into saying there wasn't any death of any kind before the fall anywhere on earth isn't a responsible interpretation.

(3) Using his talk the Law and the Light isn't any better. He clearly allows for the evolution of other animals in it (as Greg has noted). Evolution requires death, there is no other way.

I still maintain that Elder Packer does accept a form of death before the fall. Even if he didn't I would still believe it, so I am not merely searching for proof-texts to support my position. I'm only trying to show that you are going to have to do better than this to back up your claim that the church's official position, adopted by all 15 apostles and essentially all GA's is no death whatsoever before the fall. In fact, I have had 3 men from the 1st quorum of seventy tell me explicitly that there was death before the fall, outside of the garden.

5/20/2005 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Jeff,

Can you elaborate on your conversations with the seventies? No names are needed, but maybe some context?

5/20/2005 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

In a mission conference he covered his topic fairly rapidly and asked us if there were ANY questions he had for him. This of course was a missionaries wonderland. One person asked about the dinosaurs and he responded that we only have an account of what happened in the garden or terrestrial world in which Adam was. Outside of the garden animals were living and dying.

The other two were pretty much the same resonse only in a one on one setting.

In all three situations the GA emphasized that we don't know the whole story and that God was involved somehow.

5/20/2005 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Elder Packer's words are plain, uncomplicated and unambiguous. His message and meaning are clear. I find it interesting to think about how difficult it would be to teach the doctrine of no death before the fall using words that could not misinterpreted and, in reading your interpretation of Elder Packer's statements, I think that I myself would not be able to do it.

I say again, you are entitled to your view. I respect the fact that we don't see things the same way. But let me just reiterate some things you may have missed in Elder Packer's comments:

With regards to (1) you seem to be saying that the condition of mortality existed outside the garden prior to the fall. Now, in speaking of the fall, someone who holds your view might say, speaking of Adam and Eve, "Their subsequent fall was an essential step to their mortality." But Elder Packer didn't say, "their mortality." He said, "the condition of mortality" which is the very condition you claim already existed.

With regards to (2) Elder Packer said (see above—maybe you missed this part), "Every one of us should know how [death] came to be in the beginning. Mortal death came into the world at the Fall." You are saying, Death came for Adam and Eve at the fall. Elder Packer said, Death came in the beginning at the Fall and "thereafter all living things" died.

With regards to (3) Elder Packer does not "allow for the evolution of other animals" in "The Law and the Light." What he does say is that we "may safely study the adaptation of living things to the environment." (Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990, 10)

We may also "study 'things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth,' fossils of plants and fishes and reptiles and animals; 'things which have been,' dinosaurs, mastodons and mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, and, as a bird watcher, I must add pterodactyls.... Study to your heart's content any worthy field of inquiry, just remember that all knowledge is not equal in value. (Ibid.)

If—and only if—this was the only thing he had ever said about it, I would be able to understand why you think Elder Packer accepts some form of death before the fall. However, not even in this paper is this the only thing he said about it and he has spoken out against evolution in general on other occasions as well, as I will demonstrate below.

Near the end of the paper, he said "what application the evolutionary theory has to animals gives me no concern. That is another question entirely, one to be pursued by science. But remember, the scriptures speak of the spirit in animals and other living things, and of each multiplying after its own kind (D&C 77:2; 2 Nephi 2:22; Moses 3:9; Abr 4:11-12, 24)." (Ibid., 21.)

It's the "but" that some don't see. But remember what the scriptures say about animals and see 2 Nephi 2:22!

"And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end." (2 Nephi 2:22.)

Last Sunday (May 15th), I explained here how the entry in True to the Faith for
Fall clarifies a point of confusion some have expressed regarding 2 Nephi 2:22–23, namely that the word "they" in verse 23 leaves the meaning of verse 22 unclear. As I pointed out, True to the Faith eliminates this confusion by substituting the first occurrence of "they" in verse 23 with the words "Adam and Eve," which leaves the meaning of verse 22 clear—it means exactly what it says.

In "The Law and the Light," Elder Packer gives us another clarification of that same point of confusion regarding 2 Nephi 2:22–23 and the word "they." According to Elder Packer, the word "they" in verse 22 includes the animals. If 2 Nephi 2:22 refers to the animals, that leaves us with no death before the fall, doesn't it?

With regards to evolution in general, Elder Packer has said, "In the countless billions of opportunities in the reproduction of living things, one kind does not beget another.... The theory of evolution, and it is a theory, will have an entirely different dimension when the workings of God in creation are fully revealed.

"Since every living thing follows the pattern of its parentage, are we to suppose that God had some other strange pattern in mind for His offspring? Surely we, His children, are not, in the language of science, a different species than He is?" (Boyd K. Packer, "The Pattern of Our Parentage," Ensign, Nov. 1984, 67; italics in original.)

5/22/2005 06:44:00 PM  

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