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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Uniformitarianism

I have put together an illustration that helps me visualize the gospel view of the four stages of earth's existence.  This is the image in my mind when I think of the time before the fall when there was no death.  Both the beginning and the end of mortality are shown.

The current scientific view is also illustrated.  According to this view, the present order of nature extends back "approximately 20 billion years" (Big bang theory, American Heritage Dictionary, 2000) with the earth being "4.5 billion to 5 billion years old" ("Earth, in geology and astronomy," Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004).

Many LDS scientists would agree with the gospel view (as illustrated) that mortality for the earth and man will have an end.  I'm confident they would also agree that mortality had a beginning, but the question is when was that beginning.

Missing the first act of the play

Latter-day revelation seems to suggest a gospel view that the current order of nature began abruptly six thousand years ago with the fall of Adam.  Yet, some LDS scientists, because of the concept of uniformitarianism, consider the scientific view superior to the gospel view as it applies to the past.  (Interestingly, many of these same scientists do not question the gospel view as it applies to the future.)

In some ways, this is like arriving late to a play, missing the first act (the creation), and formulating their own ideas about the first act based on what they observe in the second act (mortality) instead of first talking to those who actually saw the first act.  These individuals, for some reason, cannot believe that the scenery has been changed.

Yet Prophets have seen the creation (the first act) and have written about it.  Moses, for example, "beheld the world and the ends thereof [and] cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God"  (Moses 1:8, 27).

And with respect to the first act (the creation), the voice of the Church for the past thirty years has been clear and unified and continuous.  The creation was paradisiacal.  There was no mortality.  Death for all forms of life began when Adam fell.

Donald W. Parry on uniformitarianism

Donald W. Parry is an assistant professor of Hebrew at Brigham Young University and a member of the international team of translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In a Jan. 1998 Ensign, he said this about uniformitarianism:

"The concept of uniformitarianism,... has been described simply in this way: 'The present is the key to the past.' Uniformitarianism, first postulated by James Hutton in 1795, proposes three primary concepts: (a) there were no processes (such as geologic processes) operating in the past which are not operating now; (b) there are no processes operating now which were not operating in the past; and (c) process rates have not changed.  Because modern scientists observe geologic change to be relatively slow now, many have naturally concluded that geologic processes have always been slow.  Yet uniformitarianism, a premise on which much of geologic science is based, is an idea, not a fact.  With our limited knowledge, it presently is a powerful paradigm for examining the earth, and given our ignorance of how the Lord has done things, it does help explain many things.  The science that uses the idea has found for us such things as gas, oil, and certain types of minerals.

"Yet although uniformitarianism is a powerful perspective, it is still a premise, not a fact.  Uniformitarianism cannot explain all of the oddities and anomalies about the earth.  Further, it neglects a God who can speak and have the dust of the earth obey, who can move mountains at will, and who can divide the Red Sea.  As Latter-day Saints, we have scriptural evidence that God has intervened in the affairs of the earth and modified the landscape on numerous occasions.  Among other things, he changed the earth's environment after the Fall, he gave Enoch power to move mountains and rivers before the Deluge, he caused the Flood, and he was the cause of the catastrophic events in America at the Savior's death.

"For Latter-day Saints, the Flood [as also no death before the fall] is a matter of faith and belief.  We believe in many events that today we cannot scientifically explain.  For example, in a world where change and death are the norm, the scriptures promise immortality and eternal life.  Indeed the scriptures teach that this earth will be burned (see 2 Pet. 3:10), receive a resurrection (D&C 88:26), and become a celestial kingdom (D&C 88:17–18).  Such future events will make the incident of the Flood look like child's play in comparison.

"Further, with all of the advancements of science in recent decades, we still cannot explain how angels are able to defy gravity and descend or ascend through a building's ceiling (see JS—H 1:43); how rapid interplanetary travel is possible for heavenly beings (see D&C 130:6–7); how a righteous man can raise the dead using God's power (see 1 Kgs. 17:17–23); how heavenly messengers can appear to mortals (see D&C 110:2, 11–13); or how Jesus Christ's divine sacrifice is able to atone for our sins.

"Though we cannot yet explain the physics or dynamics behind those events, we look forward to the time when the Lord will come and explain them.  In the Millennium—a time of great physical change in the earth—he will  ' reveal all things—

" ' Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—

" ' Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven '  (D&C 101:32–34)."  (Donald W. Parry, "The Flood and the Tower of Babel," Ensign, Jan. 1998, 35.)

Hugh Nibley on uniformitarianism

In 1973, Hugh Nibley said this about uniformitarianism:

"We have all grown up in a world nurtured on the comfortable Victorian doctrine of uniformitarianism, the idea that what happens in this world is all just more of the same: what lies ahead is pretty much what lies behind, for the same forces that are at work on the earth today were at work in the same manner, with the same intensity and the same effects, at all times past and will go on operating inexorably and irresistibly in just the same way forever hereafter.  There is no real cause for alarm in a world where everything is under control beneath the watchful eye of science as evolution takes its undeviating forward course, steady, sure, reliable, imperceptibly slow and gentle, and gratifyingly predictable.

" ' The skies as far as the utmost star, are clear of any malignant Intelligences,'  wrote an eminent British scholar of the 1920s,  ' and even the untoward accidents of life are due to causes comfortably impersonal.... The possibility that the Unknown contains Powers deliberately hostile to him is one the ordinary modern man can hardly entertain even in imagination.'

"In such a world one needed no longer to run to God for comfort.  The matter-of-fact, no-nonsense approach of science had, since the days of the Miletian school and the ancient Atomists, banished all childish fears and consigned the horrendous and spectacular aspects of the human past and future to the realm of myth and fantasy.

"Quite recently, however, scientists have noted with a shock that in looking forward not to the distant but to the immediate future what they discern is not just more of the same but something totally different, something for which they confess themselves entirely unprepared, since it is all entirely unexpected.  The idea that what lies ahead is by no means the simple and predictable projection of our knowledge of the present has, as John Lear points out, reconditioned our minds for another look at the past as well as the future.  Since the past is wholly a construction of our own imaginations, we have always found there just what we expected to find, i.e., more of the same.  But now  ' future shock '  has prepared us for  ' past shock,'  and we find ourselves almost forced to accept a view of the past that is utterly alien to anything in the experience of modern man."  (Hugh Nibley, "The Genesis of the Written Word," New Era, Sept. 1973, 38.)

F. Kent Nielsen on uniformitarianism

F. Kent Nielsen teaches the history of science and the philosophy of science at Brigham Young University.  His thoughts about uniformitarianism were published in a 1980 Ensign article.

"The laws which maintain the natural order constitute  ' truth,'  which is  ' independent '  only  ' in that sphere in which God has placed [them] '  (D&C 93:30).  Thus, as Latter-day Saints we understand how science can discover truths about our present order.  In other words, as Latter-day Saints, we recognize that there are some limitations about the extent of uniformity in our present mortal order of nature.

"The first limitation [on uniformitarianism] is that the same order or set of laws does not necessarily extend to other  ' spheres.'  A sanctified, millennial world, or a glorified celestial world, or a pre-Fall paradisiacal world obviously functions under a different order of nature.  Its order—perfectly  ' natural '  to it—would seem  ' unnatural '  to our mortal world.  Imagine, for instance, the biology of a world in which there is no death.  Or try to fit the second law of thermodynamics (which states that all energy processes of the universe are  ' running down ' ) into a world of eternal progression.  Clearly, God has placed us in one  ' sphere,'  but there may be many other types of  ' spheres '  for us to learn about at some future time.

"The second limitation the gospel places on the concept of uniformity is that the same God  ' who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power '  has the power to perform miracles—to make what appears to us to be temporary exceptions to the order of nature as we understand it—if it is his will to do so (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel.  Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 345).  These miracles, however, may be the result of higher laws for our  ' sphere '  that are not understood by us.  Thus, since God has promised that he will indeed exercise his power if we seek him in faith, he encourages us to seek his aid.  Mormon scolded the people of his day for thinking that miracles had ceased.  He wrote:  ' Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.

" ' For it is by faith that miracles are wrought;... wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief '  (Moro. 7:33, 37).  His son, Moroni, reinforced the message by asking his future readers:  ' And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things [events to occur at the time of the resurrection of the dead] passed, of which I have spoken?  Has the end come yet?  Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles '  (Morm. 9:15).

"To Latter-day Saints, the image of God as a master machinist, setting up an unalterable course of nature, contradicts our knowledge of him as a loving Father who wants his children to seek after him in prayerful faith for the fulfillment—even the miraculous fulfillment—of their righteous desires.

"The third clarification the gospel gives us [about uniformitarianism] is a reminder that time will change the order of nature—even in our present, mortal world.  When the earth was  ' new,'  before the Fall, it was in a paradisiacal state, and  ' if Adam had not transgressed... all things which were created must have... remained forever, and had no end '  (2 Ne. 2:22).  Both man and animals ate only plants (see Gen. 1:29–30).  Adam and Eve would have had no children (see 2 Ne. 2:23).  Apparently, the earth did not then bring forth  ' thorns... and thistles '  to vex man (Gen. 3:18).  These are just three differences between that state of the earth and our current one.  Because of the Fall,  ' the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,'  waiting with  ' earnest expectation '  to  ' be delivered from the bondage of corruption,'  when the redemption shall bring its present condition to an end (Rom. 8:22, 19, 21).

"The present condition of the earth will end when Christ comes to reign personally upon the earth, giving it again its  ' paradisiacal glory '  (A of F 1:10).  For,  ' as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it... even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth '  (D&C 77:12).  This coming sanctification of our sphere will not result from [uniformitarianism, or] the present natural order uniformly continuing its course.  Instead, that order will change drastically because of the direct intervention of its Creator and Maintainer.  All living things and even the elements of the earth  ' shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth '  (D&C 101:24–25)."  ("The Gospel and the Scientific View: How Earth Came to Be", Ensign, Sept. 1980, 67.)

Conclusion

As quoted above, uniformitarianism is a powerful paradigm for examining the earth and it helps explain many things, but it is an idea, not a fact.  And although uniformitarianism is a useful perspective, it cannot explain everything about the earth.  Uniformitarianism does not even contemplate a God who can speak and have the dust of the earth obey, "Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved" (Helaman 12:8-13), or who can move mountains at will (Matt. 17:20, Ether 12:30, and Moses 7:13).  A scientist attempting to interpret the results of events such as these that have happened in the past would be confused to say the least if uniformitarianism were the only acceptable evaluation method.

26 Comments:

Blogger jeff g said...

Its not as simple as merely saying that things were different in the past. When we look at stars, which can tell us what was happening there billions of years ago we see that things were pretty much as they are now with regards to radioactive decay.

We should also mention that carbon 14 is not the only way scientists measure time. There are actually lots of ways, and they all seem to match up with one another. Uniformitarianism is actually a conclusion, not an assumption.

See here for a christian's perspective:
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html

We could suggest that God somehow changed all of these things, but doesn't this seem a bit like deception?

5/17/2005 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Sorry to get ahead of myself, but that page I posted (I highly recommend it) says this in summary:

"* There are well over forty different radiometric dating methods, and scores of other methods such as tree rings and ice cores.
* All of the different dating methods agree--they agree a great majority of the time over millions of years of time. Some Christians make it sound like there is a lot of disagreement, but this is not the case. The disagreement in values needed to support the position of young-Earth proponents would require differences in age measured by orders of magnitude (e.g., factors of 10,000, 100,000, a million, or more). The differences actually found in the scientific literature are usually close to the margin of error, usually a few percent, not orders of magnitude!
* Vast amounts of data overwhelmingly favor an old Earth. Several hundred laboratories around the world are active in radiometric dating. Their results consistently agree with an old Earth. Over a thousand papers on radiometric dating were published in scientifically recognized journals in the last year, and hundreds of thousands of dates have been published in the last 50 years. Essentially all of these strongly favor an old Earth.
* Radioactive decay rates have been measured for over sixty years now for many of the decay clocks without any observed changes. And it has been close to a hundred years since the uranium-238 decay rate was first determined.
* Both long-range and short-range dating methods have been successfully verified by dating lavas of historically known ages over a range of several thousand years.
* The mathematics for determining the ages from the observations is relatively simple."

5/17/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: This is where I have sympathy for your point of view. What you are saying is that you didn't arrive late to the play. There was no first act. As far as the earth is concerned, it is all simply a continuation of what we see now.

Yet with respect to the first act (the creation), the voice of the Church for the past thirty years has been clear and unified and continuous. The creation was paradisiacal. There was no mortality. Death for all forms of life began when Adam fell.

5/17/2005 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Well, it would probably be more accurate to say that I believe the act analogy to not really work as a description of life. It works very well to describe how you see things, but not how I do.

While no GA has ever come out and said Lehi, BRM, JFS2 and everybody else who has ever quoted Lehi was wrong, I think to say that the church has been absolutely unified for the past 30 years probably isn't all that accurate either. The church has become very good at avoiding the evolution due to their learning from the Roberts/Smith/Talmage affair. (I know that it wasn't really evolution, as you have shown, but this hasn't prevented them from learning the evolution lesson.)

I really do believe, and I believe myself to be in good company, that the churchs official position regarding evolution, including the evolutioin of man, is that we have no position. I also know that they officially preach that there was no death before the fall. I don't think that accepting both is impossible, but some 'jimmy-rigging' will be necessary if we are to do so.

I have very little doubt that if you were to ask each of the 15 apostles if they believed that there was death on the earth before Adam came in any form, at least half would respond yes.

5/17/2005 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Since you have very little doubt that at least half of the 15 apostles (and because you use the number 15, we can safely say you mean the living apostles) believe there was death on the earth before Adam, perhaps you would be so kind as to name the seven or eight who make up that half. Thanks.

5/18/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

I wasn't trying to put forth a proof of any kind. I was merely making an assertion which I believe fairly strongly. I'm sure you of all people can understand that.

5/19/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Okay, name just one.

5/19/2005 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Although I have nothing to quote from, I will almost quantee that Elder Russell believes in some kind of death before the fall. I suspect that Hinckley might think it as well. Elder Packer certainly allows for it, he being the most "iron-roddish" of them all. I'm almost positive that Eyring does do to his father's influence. But again, I must point out that these men have been very careful to avoid the subject all together so such things can only be pointed out indirectly.

5/19/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Are you talking about Elder Russell M. Nelson, or Elder M. Russell Ballard?

5/19/2005 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Boy, I bet I sounded pretty stupid there, huh? Russell M. Nelson, the neurosurgeon. I simply can't imagine a top-rank neurosurgeon not accepting evolution. Or take the idea of the pres. of BYU, Elders Holland and Oaks.

5/19/2005 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Let's see, I think you initially named four of the living apostles who you thought might believe in death before the fall. I decided to elevate Elder Packer to a post here. In this comment, I'll deal with Elder Russell M. Nelson, the heart surgeon.

First, however, we need to look at one dictionary definition. The word "instituted" means "to establish,... set in operation; to initiate; begin."

Now here is what Elder Russell M. Nelson has said about death before the fall:

"According to the Lord as revealed through his prophets, the fall of Adam instituted the aging process, which ultimately results in physical death" ("The Magnificence of Man," Ensign, Jan. 1988, 64).

Elder Nelson continues, "Through the ages, some without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species, or organic evolution from one form to another. Many of these people have concluded that the universe began as a 'big bang' that eventually resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.

"To me, such theories are unbelievable! Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary? It is unthinkable! Even if it could be argued to be within a remote realm of possibility, such a dictionary could certainly not heal its own torn pages or renew its own worn corners or reproduce its own subsequent editions!

"We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. Recently I studied the scriptures to find how many times they testify of the divine creation of man. Looking up references that referred to create, form (or their derivatives), with either man, men, male,, or female in the same verse, I found that there are at least fifty-five verses of scripture that attest to our divine creation....

"I believe all of those scriptures that pertain to the creation of man. But the decision to believe is a spiritual one, not made solely by an understanding of things physical, for we read that 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' (1 Cor. 2:14.)

"It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of men who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved. By the Spirit, we perceive the truer and more believable wisdom of God." (Ibid.)

Not only is Elder Nelson labeling death before the fall an "unbelievable" theory, and "foolishness of men," he is asking the "informed and spiritually attuned" among us to help overcome such misunderstandings in the Church.

By the way, Elder Nelson's article was first published in the the Church's youth magazine, the New Era (Oct. 1987, 44).

5/20/2005 04:53:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Regarding the specific doctrine of no death before the fall, President Hinckley hasn't ever said one way or the other, as far as I can tell. However, based on what he has said about organic evolution, I'd say you are probably wrong. President Hinckley has said he doesn't buy into the geology of evolution or the biology of evolution.

He makes it very clear that he studied Darwinism in college, "but," he said, "I did not let it throw me." (The word "throw" means "to cause confusion or perplexity in; disconcert or nonplus: We didn't let our worries throw us.") Here are President Hinckley's words:

"I remember when I was a college student there were great discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it throw me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God. Since then I have become acquainted with what to me is a far more important and wonderful kind of evolution. It is the evolution of men and women as the sons and daughters of God, and of our marvelous potential for growth as children of our Creator. For me, this great principle is set forth in the following verses of revelation:" ("God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear," Ensign, Oct. 1984, 5.)

Five years later, this article was reprinted by President Hinckley in a book. In the book version, the first two words of the paragraph, "I remember," were deleted; discussions about evolution were described as "many" instead of "great"; and instead of not letting it "throw me," the book version says it didn't "sway me." (The word "sway" means "to incline toward change, as in opinion or feeling; to fluctuate, as in outlook.")

"When I was a college student there were many discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it sway me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God. Since then I have become acquainted with what to me is a far more important and wonderful kind of evolution. It is the evolution of men and women as the sons and daughters of God, and of our marvelous potential for growth as children of our Creator." (Faith: The Essence of True Religion, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989, 18.)

In May 2004, there was an article in the New Era titled "My Answer to Evolution" on p. 36. A sidebar to this article on p. 37 quotes the same 1984 statement about evolution that I've quoted above. You can view the full color layout of this magazine in pdf format here.

Based on what he has said repeatedly about organic evolution and in the absence of any indication that he does believe it, I question whether President Hinckley believes "there was death on the earth before Adam."

5/20/2005 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...

I wonder if Elder Scott personally accepts radiometric dating given that he is very familiar with nuclear physics.

In fact, a couple of conferences ago he told a story of a janitor that accussed he and his fellow workers of lying, because he (the janitor) couldn't detect with his senses what they were doing.

5/20/2005 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared: Yes. It would be interesting to know what Elder Scott personally thinks about radiometric dating. I wonder if he'll ever say anything about it.

5/20/2005 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Man, I am really making a lot of mistakes. I knew that he was a heart surgeon. It was his performing surgery on Elder Maxwell which 'helped' him become an apostle.

Now I haven't read the comments which follow your first response so I hope that I don't say anything too stupid. First of all, I get a VERY different feel from Elder Nelson's talk. He seems to be saying that the big band and evolution BY THEMSELVES were not enough, but God was involved. He never even comes close to endorsing NDBF for the entire earth. I think you are reading a lot into it in order to support your position. I'm sure I am too, but I am only saying what he did not say rather than adding thing which I felt he meant to his statement.

5/20/2005 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Again with Pres. Hinckleys statement I think you are adding a lot to it. He is simply saying that evolution didn't sway him from his testimony of the gospel as far as I can tell. I say the same thing. I'm not saying that he believed in evolution (evolution in his day was rather different, and far more socially oriented, than it is today), just that he is hardly defending your position.

I really do feel that both of those men accept a form of death before the fall.

5/20/2005 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: It was Spencer W. Kimball who had the heart surgery:

"Brother Russell M. Nelson, then a practicing heart surgeon, was asked to examine President Kimball, who was then serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve. President Kimball desperately needed open heart surgery, but because of President Kimball’s advanced age, Dr. Nelson told the First Presidency he could give no assurance that the surgery would be successful.

"When the First Presidency told President Kimball they felt he should have the operation despite the risks, he told them his greatest fear was that he might emerge from the surgery in some partially incapacitated state, unable to do his work.

"But he followed their counsel and submitted to the risky surgery. The Brethren gave Dr. Nelson a special blessing. During the surgery, which went flawlessly, Dr. Nelson received a strong spiritual impression that President Kimball would one day be President of the Church.

"After that miraculously successful operation, President Kimball continued on, against the odds, raising his cancer-stricken voice like a beacon in the night. How we all loved him. How we prayed in gratitude that his life was spared so many times." (Bruce C. and Marie Hafen, "Opposition, Joy, and the Nice Life," Ensign, Dec. 1992, 16)

Elder (then Dr.) Russell M. Nelson described that dramatic moment:

"In the month of March, I joined with President Kimball as he assembled his wife and the First Presidency. President Kimball said, 'I am an old man. I am ready to die. It is time for a younger man to come to the Quorum and do the work I can no longer do.' President Lee interrupted and pounded his fist on the desk and said, 'Spencer, you have been called not to die but to live.' President Kimball then humbly and submissively announced, 'In that case, I will have the operation.' Sister Kimball wept. The decision had been made." (From a devotional speech at Weber State College, 10 Nov. 1978, as quoted by Neal A. Maxwell in "Spencer, the Beloved: Leader-Servant," Ensign, Dec. 1985, 10.)

5/20/2005 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Boy!, What is that? Strike three?

5/20/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Gary, I hope you get that recent comments thing working soon.

I doubt Elder Scott will ever publicly give his view. Either way, a group of members would be up in arms about it.

Jeff's comment on another thread brings up an interesting question: how often do general authorities have views that diverge from the "correlated view"? It's impossible to tell, I guess.

5/20/2005 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared: Here is how it works. I'll illustrate it first with a bit of humor:

"The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve ordinarily meet in the Salt Lake Temple each week to conduct the business of the Church and often have lunch together. For years it was the practice to pass a box of Cummings chocolates around after lunch, beginning with the First Presidency. By the time the box got to the newest member of the Twelve, at the end of the line, the pieces of candy with light chocolate were always gone. On one occasion—after President Kimball asked, 'Is there any further business? '—the junior member said, ' Is there any chance to reverse the usual order of choosing Chocolates? I don't care for dark chocolate and that is all there is left by the time the box gets to me.' President Kimball replied, ' If you live long enough, you'll move up into the light chocolates.' " (Edward L. Kimball, "Spencer W. Kimball: A Man of Good Humor," BYU Studies, Vol. 25, No. 4, Fall 1985, pg.59).

President Kimball told the Church in general conference: "The matter of seniority is basic in the first quorums of the Church. All the apostles understand this perfectly." (Spencer W. Kimball, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet," Ensign, Jan. 1973, 34)

The same procedures are followed in stake and ward councils, as outlined in general conference by Elder Ballard:

"Free and open expression ... is essential if we are to achieve the purpose of councils. Leaders and parents should establish a climate that is conducive to openness, where every person is important and every opinion valued. The Lord admonished: 'Let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified' (D&C 88:122; emphasis added). Leaders should provide adequate time for council meetings and should remember that councils are for leaders to listen at least as much as they speak....

"Participation is a privilege. With that privilege comes responsibility—responsibility to work within the parameters of the organization, to be prepared, to share, to advocate vigorously the position you believe to be right. But just as important is the responsibility to support and sustain the final decision of the council leader, even if you do not agree fully....

"When a council leader reaches a decision, the council members should sustain it wholeheartedly." (M. Russell Ballard, "Strength in Counsel," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 78.)

When there is general agreement on something among Church leaders, as there appears to be on the subject of no death before the fall, those who have differing private opinions will not be found arguing against the prevailing opinion in general conference or in the Church publications like the Ensign magazine.

And even when someone with such views gains seniority, the boat will not be rocked, so to speak, unless there is a clear reason for doing so and support for it is given by fellow leaders.

I believe that is how it works. And that is why we'll never know how often general authorities have views that diverge from what you are calling "the correlated view."

And, by the way, check out the recent comments!

5/20/2005 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Gary,

The recent comments will make it much easier to keep track of the conversation.

I agree with your comments above. The Brethren seem very deferential to senority--both to those living and those passed on.

5/20/2005 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: You claim above, "Elder Nelson... seems to be saying that the big bang and evolution BY THEMSELVES were not enough, but God was involved. He never even comes close to endorsing NDBF for the entire earth."

We aren't talking about whether or not there was death before the fall, we are talking about what Elder Russell M. Nelson said about death before the fall. And this is what Elder Nelson said:

"According to the Lord as revealed through his prophets, the fall of Adam instituted the aging process, which ultimately results in physical death" ("The Magnificence of Man," Ensign, Jan. 1988, 64).

The word "instituted" means "to establish,... set in operation; to initiate; begin."

Now let's combine his statement with the dictionary definition for "instituted:"

"The fall of Adam instituted [established, set in operation, initiated, or began] the aging process.

How could the process have existed before the event that instituted it?

With regards to President Hinckley's statement, the New Era recently used it—and I am one hundred percent confident they had his permission to do this—in an anti-evolution context. The article was titled "My Answer to Evolution" (New Era, May 2004, 36.) You can view the full color layout of this magazine in pdf format here. Look for President Hinckley's statement on page 37.

5/22/2005 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger tmg_founder said...

I have always been a catastrophist at heart! Not that I enjoy seeing suffering or the struggle against trying times. I have believed in this idea mainly because it is in opposition to Uniformitarianism. In one of my first astronomy classes we were assigned to find a book about astronomy and report on it. I went to the book store and i found a fascinating book written by one Immanuel Velikovsky. I was enthralled with every word. I took the book to show my astronomy professor. You probably can imagine what happened! He took the book from me and threw it in the trash can and yelled at me to get out! That forced me to learn everything I could about catastrophism! Some few years later I ran across Elder Bruce R. McConkie's talk, "The Seven Deadly Heresies". Besides stomping all over the idea of evolution he also stated that, "There is no salvation in believing a false doctrine". He further said, "Truth, diamond truth, truth unmixed with error, truth alone leads to salvation."

Evolution and Uniformitarianism are false doctrines.

Radiometric dating is misleading, regardless of how many elements are used. Deterioration of radioactivity is fast at some times and slow at others, depending upon the exposure to cosmic rays. Cosmic rays more than age determine the answer. The uniformitarians beleive that cosmic rays only come from deep space. This is false. Our own sun as been observed in the last few years to have intermittent bursts of cosmic radiation.

This is only one of many many proofs that evolution and uniformitarianism are false. But scientific proof is not what this arguement is about. It is a matter of personal revelation, a matter of following the Prophet, keeping the commandments and so forth.

Jeffrey states that, "Uniformitarianism is actually a conclusion, not an assumption." In reality evolution is taught in all of our schools as a fact not a theory. Scientists, in general, base their ideas on uniformitarianism as if it were reality. They DO assume that it is a fact, which, according to the rules of the scientific method corrupts their own findings.

Remember there is no Truth in false doctrine.

6/03/2005 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Wow! It this guy even Mormon? He sounds an awful lot like a born again. If only absolutely true, unadulterated truth leads to salvation then we are all going to hell in a hand basket. Everybody believes wrong things, even prophets. Even Jesus did for that matter. It's not a sin. But nice try.

Yes, scientists do assume a uniform AVERAGE decay and this assumption is based on a lot of evidence. That is why it is called a conclusion. But I guess that all the people who spend their entire lives on these things are completely wrong and you, who got kicked out of your only relevant class, know much better than they. Prophets are just as human as are scientists. They both over-step their bounds and say somethings that are just ridiculous. We can find no better example than in McConkie (the commitee of Apostles which reviewed Mormon Doctrine found over a 1,000 doctrinal errors in it!).

6/03/2005 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Uniformitarianism is not incompatible with catastrophies. See here for more info.

6/03/2005 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Please read carefully my comment policies before adding any more comments about Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Please pay particular attention to President Gordon B. Hinckley's admonition that we should be able to consider various sides of many questions "without looking for flaws in the Church or its leaders" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "True to the Faith," Ensign, June 1996, 6).

6/04/2005 06:16:00 PM  

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