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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Where was earth created and out of what?

In a post at Mormons and Evolution titled "Mormons, Evolution & a Young Earth ," Jeffrey D. Giliam made the following comments, some of them directed my way.  In a comment on this blogspot, Jeffrey challenged me to "answer some of the things" he put forth in that article.  Below are four statements Jeffrey made to which I will respond in this article.

    1.  The only way that any person can really maintain that this solar system, this earth and all its fossils are not as old as they appear to be, would be by suggesting that God changed them to look old.  Coincidence, or accident is simply not an option.  God must have created the 'appearance of age' as the creationists call it.  God created things to specifically look not only older, but to look like they were 4.5 billion years old.  How can this be viewed as anything but deception?  Thus, not only is this view of the universe bad science, but it makes for bad theology as well....

    2.  Did [God] organize all those photons apparently coming from distant galaxies for any particular reason?...

    3.  The world is as it is because of Adam, not God.' Are we going to believe that Adam was somehow able to give the appearance of a specific age to the universe in his fall?...

    4.  The evidence for an ancient earth, complete with death before the fall is simply over whelming.  To suggest that God anybody else has altered reality to give it the appearance of age is not only bad science but terrible theology as well.

My answer to Jeffrey's challenge involves mentioning two ideas about the creation, both of which have found their way into the Ensign magazine in recent years—and therefore, I think these two ideas at a minimum deserve some consideration.

Idea number one:  The Earth Was Created Near Kolob

The following statements are in no particular order.  In reading them, we are given the idea that the earth was created near Kolob (star or planet nearest the throne of God) and fell from there to its present location in the universe at the time of the fall.

Ensign, March 1997: "According to President Brigham Young,… before the Fall of Adam, the earth was near the very throne of God.  But when the Fall occurred, the earth literally fell or moved from the physical presence of God to its present position in our solar system.  When all the effects of the Fall of Adam are finally overcome, the earth will literally move back into the presence of God.  Here are President Young’s words: ' When the earth was framed and brought into existence and man was placed upon it, it was near the throne of our Father in heaven....  But when man fell, the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system....  This is the glory the earth came from, and when it is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father, and it will dwell there, and these intelligent beings that I am looking at, if they live worthy of it, will dwell upon this earth.' " (Andrew Skinner, Ensign, March 1997, 22.)

Joseph Smith and John Taylor: "A member of the Church in the days of Joseph Smith reported that the Prophet taught that the time will come when the earth will be restored to its former place in the cosmos and again 'revolve in its original orbit next to Kolob.' …Others who were close to him and who were instructed by him also made statements in harmony with this report.  John Taylor wrote that the earth 'was organized near the planet Kolob.'" (Hyrum L. Andrus, God, Man, and the Universe, SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1993, 313.)

Joseph Smith: "This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God and crowned with Celestial Glory." (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps., The Words of Joseph Smith, 1980, 60; also in Franklin D. Richards, Compendium, 1898, p. 288; and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, 1976, 181.)

Brigham Young: "gave it as his opinion that the Earth did not dwell in the sphere in which it did when it was created, but that it was banished from its more glorious state or orbit of revolution for man's sake" ("Record of Acts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," 5 Jan. 1841, quoted in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps., The Words of Joseph Smith, 1980, 84.)

Brigham Young: "This earthly ball, this little opake substance thrown off into space, is only a speck in the great universe; and when it is celestialized it will go back into the presence of God, where it was first framed." (Journal of Discourses, 9:316-317.)

Lorenzo Snow: "The earth shall be rolled back in pristine purity, into its primeval orbit, and the inhabitants thereof dwell upon it in perfect peace and righteousness." (quoted in Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1884, 333.)

Hymns, 1891, no. 322

"Thou, earth, wast once a glorious sphere
of noble magnitude,
And didst with majesty appear,
among the worlds of God.

"But thy dimensions have been torn
asunder, piece by piece,
And each dismembered fragment borne
abroad to distant space.

"When Enoch could no longer stay
amid corruption here,
Part of thyself was borne away
to form another sphere.

"That portion where his city stood
he gained by right approved;
And nearer to the throne of God
his planet upward moved.

"And when the Lord saw fit to hide
the "ten lost tribes" away,
Thou, earth, was severed to provide
the orb on which they stay.

"And thus, from time to time thy size
has been diminished, till
Thou seemest the law of sacrifice
created to fulfil....

"When Satan's hosts are overcome,
the martyred, princely race
Will claim thee, their celestial home
—their royal dwelling-place.

"A 'restitution' yet must come,
that will to thee restore,
By that grand law of worlds,
thy sum of matter heretofore.

"And thou, O earth, will leave the track
Thou hast been doomed to trace;
The Gods with shouts will bring thee back
To fill thy native place."

(Eliza R. Snow, Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, SLC, Utah, 1891, 322; first published in Millennial Star, 13:17.)

Idea number two:  Earth was made of pieces of other worlds

According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "The word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship.  Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.  Element had an existence from the time he had.  The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed.  They had no beginning, and can have no end." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 350-352; italics in original; see also Joseph Smith Jr., "The King Follett Sermon," Ensign, Apr. 1971, 17.)

Ships made of particle board

The Prophet used the words "chaos—chaotic matter" (Teachings, 351).  A current view about the universe is that chaos represents "the disordered state of unformed matter and infinite space supposed ... to have existed before the ordered universe." According to this view, the earth also began as a chaotic nebula cloud or "diffuse mass of interstellar dust or gas or both," containing particles so small as to be termed "unformed matter." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000; see also here and here.)

But notice the Prophet also said, "the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship" (Teachings, 350; emphasis added).  Assuming the Prophet meant building the ship with chaotic matter and applying the above view of earth's origin, we must conclude that the first step in building a ship would be to gather large amounts of saw dust from which to form particle board components (the stern post, keel, and rudder, etc.) for the ship.

It is highly doubtful this is what the Prophet Joseph had in mind.

Ships were made with timber

At the time the Prophet made this statement, ships were made with timber.  Therefore, it is much more likely that the Prophet Joseph Smith had in mind using large trees to build a ship.

Now note that chaos also means "1. A condition or place of great disorder or confusion. 2. A disorderly mass; a jumble:  The desk was a chaos of papers and unopened letters." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000; italics in the original.)

Ensign quotes the Prophet Joseph on remodeling of earth

The Prophet also used the words "organized and re-organized" (Teachings, 352; emphasis added).  His private secretary reported Joseph Smith as saying in 1841:

"This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live" (as quoted in Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign, Jan. 1989, 32; emphasis added).

The Prophet Joseph quoted elsewhere as well

This same statement was published in 1882 with one difference in wording—the word 'broken' in place of 'broke'—by Elders Franklin D. Richards and James A Little in A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel, "This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broken up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live" (p. 287).  In 1908, Elder B. H. Roberts quoted the Compendium version of the statement in The Seventy's Course in Theology: Second Year (p. 31).  In 1890, it was published in The Contributor, with this comment:

"It should ... be borne in mind that Joseph Smith's instructors were heavenly messengers—beings of more than worldly scholarship; they doubtlessly lived on distant planets, and had explored the realms of space; they had viewed the mighty works of a Creator in various stages of development, thus possessing full cognition of the genesis of this earth." (Joseph B. Keeler, "Foundation Stones of the Earth," The Contributor, Vol. XI, Feb. 1890.)

President Wilford Woodruff also reminded "Joseph Smith was an illiterate man; but afterwards his teachers and instructors were angels" ("We Are Led by Revelation," Remarks made November 1, 1891, Tambuli, Dec. 1978, 17).

Do fossils belong to this earth or to other worlds

If you'd like the background for the next two paragraphs, visit my web site at http://ndbf.net.

John W. Welch believes "[Elder B.H.] Roberts pushed too far when he postulated that a great pre-Adamic cataclysm had occurred on this earth." Welch then points out that "Nineteenth-century LDS writers (including Roberts himself) had commonly suggested before 1929 that this earth was created from pieces of other worlds recycled by God in organizing this planet.  Under that theory, evidence in the rock record of prehistoric life did not imply that death had occurred on this sphere before the fall of Adam and Eve." (TWL, xiii-xiv; italics in the original.)

Thus, the Church's rejection of Elder Roberts' book was, in part, rooted in acceptance of the Prophet Joseph's teaching that "this earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live" (Ensign, Jan. 1989, 32).  Using "Geology, Biology, Archaeology, and Anthropology" to suggest otherwise was simply unacceptable.

Conclusion

What follows is an imaginary conversation between Gary and Jeffrey (using Jeffrey's actual words, of course).

    Jeffrey: If you can answer some of the things I put forth there to anybody's satisfaction I think this would be jumping over a huge hurdle.

    Gary: I will try.

    Jeffrey: The only way that any person can really maintain that this solar system, this earth and all its fossils are not as old as they appear to be, would be by suggesting that God changed them to look old.

    Gary: There are two ideas which, if accepted, answer your arguments.

    1.  Placing the earth near Kolob at the time of creation explains why it was a paradisiacal creation with immortal life on it and why it could have been made by remodeling older planets without melting everything in the process.  And, by the way, the idea that everything had to be melted in the process was not something originated by the Prophet Joseph (or any other President of the Church for that matter).

    2.  Remodeling older planets into this one explains why this earth and all its fossils actually could be as old as they appear to be, without suggesting that God changed them to look old.

    Jeffrey: Did [God] organize all those photons apparently coming from distant galaxies for any particular reason?

    Gary: If the earth fell from a more glorious location in the universe to its present position in our solar system, the photons would have been on their way from distant galaxies for millions or billions of years before the earth got here.

    Jeffrey: Are we going to believe that Adam was somehow able to give the appearance of a specific age to the universe in his fall?

    Gary: According to the two ideas presented above, Adam's fall has nothing to do with the age of the universe, or the age of the earth.  Nor did Adam's fall make the universe or the earth appear to be any age at all.

    Jeffrey: The evidence for an ancient earth, complete with death before the fall is simply overwhelming.

    Gary: Denying that older planets could have been remodeled into this one, seems to leave only one interpretion for the evidence, that's true.  On the other hand, within the context of the two ideas presented in this article, we could be living on a young earth that truly experienced no death before the fall.  We all believe what we want to believe, don't we!

29 Comments:

Blogger Jared* said...

Gary,

I'll have to mull this one over a little bit, but I suspect that this scenario is fraught with problems--when compared to the physical evidence--as well.

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of coral reefs, ice cores, and volcanic islands.

At what date do we draw the line for fossils that belong to this earth and those that don't?

5/27/2005 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Christian Y. Cardall said...

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 this earth was formed from fragments of previous planets 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), ...

Also a doctrinal argument: Those fossilized bodies from other planets should've been resurrected, and the planets celestialized, rather than recycled.

5/27/2005 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

You actually brought in the Kolob doctrines! Wow! This is where a refusal to accept some scriptures as being more symbolic than literal can really get one into trouble. It was because of quotes like Brigham's (whose views on the nature of the earth I don't even think you would be willing to fully accept "the tides are caused by the earth breathing") that church presidents went on to say things like people live on the moon and the sun. ON the sun!? The sun has no solid or liquid to stand 'on', it isn't even gas. There is no such thing as 'on' when it comes to the sun. The Moon? No atmosphere, no water, no life. And that, by some presidents, is the terrestrial kindom, a higher kingdom than this earth.

Where, exactly in this universe is Kolob from which the earth fell? Was it created in the big bang as well? Did the sun fall with the earth from it? To be honest, I don't see what bringing kolob into the NDBF discussion accomplishes. It seems like an attempt to re-hide the earths history in mystery and ignorance.

It should be mentioned that the idea that the earth was created here with the rest of the solar system is not an assumption, but is a conclusion backed by evidence.

As to the 'fossil from past creation' theory, I don't think that anybody who has ever used it has seriously thought through the issues.

1) Was God unable to resurrect those life forms from the previous creation?

2) The way in which the older fossils are clearly lower than the newer ones would have had to have been performed intentionally, bring the idea of deception back in again full force.

3) We are asked to believe that this earth wasn't just made from the material of other earths, but from actual chunks of other earths brought together in a VERY gentle fashion so as to maintain those fossils, probably so as to make the deception more convincing to us.

4) If this theory were true then we would find fossils that were either very young (less than 6,000 years) or very old from the previous earth. Such is not the case at all, especially for human remains which can very accurately be traced around the world going back 10,000's of years. We can trace somewhat accurately when what people mirgrated to what land, and lots of those migrations occurred before 6,000 years ago. Consider the inhabitants of New Guinea. On this matter I would recommend reading Jared Diamond's "the Third Chimpanzee" and his pulitzer prize winning "Guns, Germs and Steel". He doesn't even mention religion a single time in the book so it can hardly be considered hostile by anybody. The account of human (pre)history really isn't a theory by any definition any more, and he really helps convey this understanding.

5) There is a completely smooth transition in every aspect from the present to the ancient past in the geological record. No gaps in the dating. No ackward changes. Everything we would expect if we thought the earth was very old and inhabited by life for billions of years.

"Placing the earth near Kolob at the time of creation explains why it was a paradisiacal creation with immortal life on it and why it could have been made by remodeling older planets without melting everything in the process. And, by the way, the idea that everything had to be melted in the process was not something originated by the Prophet Joseph (or any other President of the Church for that matter)."

I don't think that I understand any of this. Why does making the earth close to Kolob mean there was no death on it? Who said anything about melting?

"If the earth fell from a more glorious location in the universe to its present position in our solar system, the photons would have been on their way from distant galaxies for millions or billions of years before the earth got here."

This is starting to sound a bit like my idea that instead of all creation falling with Adam, instead Adam fell into this creation. Now, granted you have the earth falling with Adam into the creation, but now it seems that you are merely trying to save a story without any regard for the pertenent doctrine or relavent science.

While Joseph Smith certainly is saying that the earth was made from materials from other planets, I think you are going well beyond what Joseph said, or what science allows. Either way, the ideas you are defending are a long way from being official doctrine and are clearly derived from the doctrine of eternal elements, a doctrine which science embraces in a certain form. It seems that you all hanging boat loads of weight on a very small piece of string.

5/27/2005 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...

For what it's worth, this would also appear to contradict Joseph Fielding Smith's views that planets are not destroyed and recycled. I don't have the reference now, but it's in Doctrines of Salvation, I think vol 1.

5/27/2005 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

In fact, isn't it the very earths that God uses that are supposed to be celestialized into "Suns"? Were these other planets not "obedient" enough? What in the world could that even mean?

5/27/2005 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

There were no less that five "laughing out loud" moments when reading these comments. Beautiful!

5/27/2005 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jonathan: Let's begin with the dictionary definition for the word ludicrous, which is "Laughable or hilarious because of obvious absurdity or incongruity. See synonyms at foolish." I myself am becoming accustomed to your warped sense of what is laughable—though I believe many Latter-day Saints would, in some cases, be less charitable.

For example, you said here (referring to "McConkie or Benson") that "while they might have believed in the procreative conception of our Lord, I reserve the right to think it is ludicrous." Granted, you didn't actually say it is ludicrous, you only reserved "the right to think it is ludicrous," claiming "there is nothing remotely close to authoritative that could be difinitive on the topic."

So I gave you here two "authoritative" statements that seem to delineate quite clearly a procreative process for the conception of our Lord in the flesh. The first was from Elder James E. Talmage in Jesus the Christ, and the second was from "A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve" as quoted by Talmage in The Articles of Faith and as reprinted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith.

Well, that prompted you to admit here "that there are many Authorities that might have believed in celestial procreation (in the physical sense)"—and among these, of course, is the following statement which you "reserve the right to think it is ludicrous."

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!" (Ezra Taft Benson, Come unto Christ, 1983, 4.)

Because I'm in such good company, Jonathan, it will always be my pleasure to amuse you.

5/28/2005 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared said: "For what it's worth, this would also appear to contradict Joseph Fielding Smith's views that planets are not destroyed and recycled."

My electronic libraries didn't find where Joseph Fielding Smith said anything like that. However, this is what I did find.

"It is the destiny of planets and heavenly bodies to endure forever, for the Almighty has never made anything great or small that was not to be eternal." (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things, 299.)

President Smith did not say planets endure forever "in the same state in which they were after they were created" (2 Nephi 2:22). In fact, our own earth hasn't done that. So, at what point would you say remodeling causes planets to cease to exist? Or, bringing it down to a more mundane level, at what point would you say remodeling causes a house to cease to exist?

5/28/2005 01:24:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Christian Y. Cardall said: "Those fossilized bodies from other planets should've been resurrected, and the planets celestialized, rather than recycled."

Regarding the fossils, how do you know they weren't? Regarding the planets, according to whom?

Where did you get the idea that every planet must be celestialized? What about the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms described in D&C 76? How will they be provided for?

I don't think the Lord has said what he plans to do with the other planets in our own solar system when this is all over. Why is it you are willing to assume so much and believe so little?

5/28/2005 01:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) said...

Gary, when Jesus was resurrected, he left an empty tomb. There are also statements about graves being opened, etc. Perhaps I'm naive, but an individual's bones left in the ground seem like an obvious indicator that resurrection has not occured.

The other planets in our solar system are not habitable, and whatever might happen to them is probably of no concern. And you might be right that some planets might have to become different kinds of kingdoms. But it would seem most likely to me that an inhabited planet would become some kind of enduring kingdom.

5/28/2005 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Now I personally don't believe that our actual physical body must be resurrected in the same way as Jesus but I would be utterly shocked to find Gary and myself on the same page, especially since Brigham forcefully said that it would be our actual bodies that would be resurrected. As we can all see, I have no problem with disagreeing with prophets, but Gary certainly doesn't. Joseph Smith also said that the pure priciples of element will be resurrected in our bodies, and will be ours forever (whatever that means).

As to the mention of other planets that seem life less, I thought all the planets around us are currently in the telestial kingdom. I simply can't imagine a planet which was teaming with life (maybe even a few planets) that would be considered unworthy of 1) resurrection and 2) celestialization.

Maybe it's because of my disbelief.

5/28/2005 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

This is a two part comment

Part one

Jeffrey said: "While Joseph Smith certainly is saying that the earth was made from materials from other planets, I think you are going well beyond what Joseph said."

Law professor and editor of BYU Studies, John W. Welch, reports that this earth being created from pieces of other worlds was once "commonly" suggested among LDS writers. "Under that theory," Welch points out, "evidence in the rock record of prehistoric life did not imply that death had occurred on this sphere before the fall of Adam and Eve." (John W. Welch in B.H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2nd edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996, xiii-xiv; italics added.)

If Welch is correct—if that is the way the Prophet's contemporaries understood him—I am not "going well beyond what Joseph said."

Part two

Jeffrey said: "Brigham forcefully said that it would be our actual bodies that would be resurrected."

Christian said: "Perhaps I'm naive, but an individual's bones left in the ground seem like an obvious indicator that resurrection has not occured."

If the Prophet Joseph Smith is correct (see part one), we are all probably missing something here. Wouldn't you agree?

5/28/2005 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

In the following interview, Jeffrey's words are taken from his comment here.

     Jeffrey said: The way in which the older fossils are clearly lower than the newer ones would have had to have been performed intentionally, bring the idea of deception back in again full force.

     Answer: If we build a ship with trees and the older tree rings are further down inside the timber than the newer ones, is that possible only by deception? And remember, the "build a ship" analogy is Joseph Smith's, not mine.

     Jeffrey said: We are asked to believe that this earth wasn't just made from the material of other earths, but from actual chunks of other earths brought together in a VERY gentle fashion so as to maintain those fossils, probably so as to make the deception more convincing to us.

     Answer: Your apparent questioning of the Lord's ability to be "gentle" brings to mind what the He said in 2 Nephi, "I am able to do mine own work" (2 Nephi 27:20). And in the very next verse, He said the exact same thing again, "I am able to do mine own work" (2 Nephi 27:21). I wonder if it isn't disbelief that causes you to see deception. If you believed, you might praise God and consider the possibility that your finite mind doesn't understand everything His does—maybe not even what happened on this earth 4.5 billion years ago.

     Jeffrey said: If this theory were true then we would find.... On this matter I would recommend reading.... and his pulitzer prize winning.... He doesn't even mention religion a single time.... There is a completely smooth transition in every aspect.... Everything we would expect if we thought the earth was very old and inhabited by life for billions of years.

     Answer: Jeffrey, you present your theories very well. I suggest you might consider giving the first three and the fifth Prophets (Smith, Young, Taylor, and Snow) credit for having some intelligence of their own (in addition to prophetic enlightenment).

     Jeffrey said: Why does making the earth close to Kolob mean there was no death on it?

     Answer: "And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it; And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me." (Abraham 3:2-3.) The creation happened in a place where there was no death—it happened near the throne of God. The earth fell from that "no death" environment to become the temporary telestial home of mortals.

     Jeffrey said: Who said anything about melting?

     Answer: Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum did. They said, "If the 'remains of other worlds' had been used to build this one, the heat involved would have melted everything" (Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum, Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001, 142). This is a classic example of not alowing God to be God.

     Jeffrey said: This is starting to sound a bit like my idea that instead of all creation falling with Adam, instead Adam fell into this creation. Now, granted you have the earth falling with Adam into the creation, but now it seems that you are merely trying to save a story without any regard for the pertenent doctrine or relavent science.

     Answer: How does it happen that the first three and fifth Prophets teach something and you attribute it to me? It wasn't my suggestion that the earth fell with Adam. And when you find an apostle or a prophet who teaches your ideas about the fall, I hope you'll let us all know.

     Jeffrey said: Either way, the ideas you are defending are a long way from being official doctrine.

     Answer: Do you limit your posts to official doctrine? Is there some blogging rule against quoting Ensign articles and other Church sources? Where are your Church sources?

5/28/2005 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Sorry Gary, my laughing out loud was while reading the comments to your post. Moreover, the laughing was not perjorative in nature but the result of sheer spectacle.

Ahhh, the joys of communication in an imperfect medium. Additional appologies for any miscommunication of my part.

PS: I still refuse to accept those quotes as definative. :^p

5/28/2005 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

We are talking about a ship in the analogy, not the trees. If we had a gigantic ship and the trees toward the midde of the ship were always older than the trees outside of them, then YES there is still deception going on. You are obviously clinging to Joseph's analogy far more than he ever would have intended it. He only used the example to show how he believed the earth was organized, not created, although to say God created the world isn't inappropriate, just like saying that I create a ship isn't inaccurate either. Anything beyond this get, yes I'll say it, ludicrous.

I'm not saying anything about the Lord's ability, only the earths history. Yes, God could have done it that way, but not without it amounting to deception. That was the point of my comment. The constant hiding behind "his ways are not our ways" gets very tiresome and it, as I said before, the promotion of ignorance and mystery, the hallmarks of creation 'science'.

I know that the first 3 prophets were very smart. They are, in fact, my favorite prophets by far and in a very real sense my heroes. I am fully convinced that if they were here with us today, they would not buy your ideas either. One of my favorite quotes is from Pres. Taylor:

"When we come to religious matters, we discover that, though men are naturally intelligent, they act like fools. They do not use their common judgment, reason, or intelligence. Suppose somebody was to tell you the result of some scientific analysis; you would be very likely to say—"I believe you in part, but I would like to test it for myself. When I have done that I shall know it.” Yet strange as it is, you are willing to take anybody's ipse dixit in relation to things of the most vital importance. In things pertaining to the immortal part of man, we act like the veriest babies or consummate fools, while in regard to the affairs of this life we act intelligently. There is a necessity of subjecting belief to tests and criticism."

The problem with your interpretation of the Abraham verses is that you add all of the information that you need. The verse doesn't say anything about a fall from Kolob or there being a no-death environment. You are adding all the information to the source you are trying to use as evidence to back up your original assertion. This, my friend, is circular.

Now we can allow God to be God, but let's make Him a Mormon God shall we. All other churches are only limited to logical possibility when discussing God's attributes (and even that can wear thin sometimes). We, on the other hand, are limited to physical possibility. God cannot break physical law or create mass or energy out of nothing. It is based on this understanding of God that they mentioned the melting, and we should confess that they have a point. It is because of these very ideas that the vast majority of the earth's mass IS melted today, 10,000 years (in your view) after that process fraught with HUGE amounts of friction was complete. I'm not sure that their understanding of God is as off as your understanding of the science to which God Himself is subject.

The possibility that Adam fell into an already fallen world was MY point not yours. I wasn't trying to criticize your position, only point out that its starting to look more like mine.

No, I don't limit my posts to official doctrine and I'm proud of it. But here is where we differ, for your blog is supposedly about official doctrine (isn't it?). Hence the posts on True to the Faith, The Early Brethren, Gospel Principle, and Boyd K. Packer. It was my refusal to bow before official doctrine that inspired this blog was it not? This is what makes your branching from official doctrine open for criticism.

I really should point out that Brigham and all his associates (including Joseph Smith) relied heavily on 19th centurey folk ideas concerning the nature of the universe, the earth and life. They spoke of animal magnetism, ether, and a whole bunch of other worn out ideas that are patently wrong. This isn't to say that their gospel was wrong. But it is to say that their interpretation of the false science which was swirling around is hardly the iron rod we should be clinging to. It's time we stopped believing that all of the American Indians are directly and exclusively descended from Lehi. It's time we stopped thinking that we all descended directly and exclusively from a man who lived a mere 6,000 years ago. It's time we abandoned the idea that the earth, during the fall, flew through space for billion of light years without utterly destroying every bit of life that was on it. It's time to stop believing that God 'built' the earth in any way analogous to building a ship beyond the use of already existing materials. It's time we stopped thinking that the earth's breathing causes the tides. We shouldn't believe there to be men on the moon who are dressed like quaker preachers. Mormonism is compatible with what we know about the world today, but all of those crazy ideas are not.

5/28/2005 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Christian Y. Cardall said...

Gary, regardless of how the Lord could have created the earth in principle, my understanding is that our planet was in fact melted. It is chemically differentiated, with the densest material (iron) having sunk to the center and the lighter materials towards the surface; a hot liquid earth at the time of its formation allowed this to happen. Part of the iron core remains melted. The inner earth retains residual heat from its formation, which drives plate tectonics and volcanism.

5/28/2005 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Regarding one of your favorite quotes from President Taylor, I've added using italics, some parts you left out. It reads a little different, doesn't it!

"Now, what can God think of a people, placed here on the earth, the most intelligent of his creations, possessed of reasoning faculties, who, in many instances, have investigated and understand the laws of Nature, I say, what can he think of men who set up every form, notion, and theory, every species of absurdity that can be imagined, and call it the worship of God? Suppose we were to put ourselves in his place for a little while, we should think there was something a little strange in relation to these matters. He might reasonably say, these men exhibit wisdom and intelligence in many respects. So far as discovering the operations of Nature, and examining and testing the laws thereof, they all agree; but in religious matters they exhibit imbecility and weakness, in that there is no union.

"The necessity of subjecting belief to tests and criticism.—In regard to Nature and its laws, the world and the elements with which we are surrounded, and the laws operating in the world with which we are acquainted, all men arrive at the same conclusions, and there is no difference, unless we come to theorizing, and then there is always difficulty. Well, in regard to all these things we all think alike, because our thoughts are based on correct principles. But when we come to religious matters, we discover that, though men are naturally intelligent, they act like fools. They do not use their common judgment, reason, or intelligence. 'Well,' say they, 'you know we are governed by the Bible.' Now that is exactly what we do not know, and therefore I doubt it. 'But our divines tell us we are.' Oh, do they? Well, suppose somebody was to tell you the result of some scientific analysis; you would be very likely to say—I believe you in part, but I would like to test it for myself. When I have done that I shall know it. Yet strange as it is, you are willing to take anybody's ipse dixit in relation to things of the most vital importance. In things pertaining to the immortal part of man, we act like the veriest babies or consummate fools, while in regard to the affairs of this life we act intelligently." (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p.75.)

John Taylor wrote that the earth "was organized near the planet Kolob." Isn't it rather far-fetched to suggest that the same John Taylor would label someone a consummate fool for believing what he himself had elsewhere written?

5/28/2005 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Re: Joseph Fielding Smith

"This passing away does not mean that earths grow old and die, beoming cold, lifeless bodies, wandering through space, perhaps to disintegrate, be broken up and in some unknown manner be recreated, by some natural force working on the energy in the universe. We have every reason to believe that the passing away of an earth simply means that it will undergo, or has undergone, the same definite course which is destined for our earth, and the Lord has made that perfectly clear. This earth is a living body. It is true to the law given it. It was created to become a celestial body and the abode for celestial beings." (Doctrines of Salvation vol 1 p. 72)

Gary said: "So, at what point would you say remodeling causes planets to cease to exist? Or, bringing it down to a more mundane level, at what point would you say remodeling causes a house to cease to exist?"

I'm not sure I understand what you are getting at here.

5/28/2005 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

The Prophet Joseph Smith said: "This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live."

Jared said here, "this would also appear to contradict Joseph Fielding Smith's views that planets are not destroyed and recycled." Jared quotes Doctrines of Salvation 1:72 here to show the contradiction.

There is no contradiction

President Joseph Fielding Smith was talking about earths—not planets—and did not contradict the Prophet Joseph Smith. Here is the Doctrines of Salvation passage with some additional context (I've included the paragraph before and the one after the one Jared quoted). And notice the absence of the word planet:

"EARTHS CREATED FOR MAN. The Lord declared to Moses that his great work and glory is 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.' For this purpose earths have been and are now being built; and the Lord's purpose is to provide for his children immortality and eternal life, not only on this earth, but on the countless earths throughout the universe. They are numberless to man, yet our Father knows them all and they are numbered unto him. The Lord has said: 'And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.' (Moses 1:27-40.)

"HOW EARTHS PASS AWAY. This passing away does not mean that earths grow old and die, becoming cold, lifeless bodies, wandering through space, perhaps to disintegrate, be broken up and in some unknown manner be recreated, by some natural force working on the energy in the universe. We have every reason to believe that the passing away of an earth simply means that it will undergo, or has undergone, the same definite course which is destined for our earth, and the Lord has made that perfectly clear. This earth is a living body. It is true to the law given it. It was created to become a celestial body and the abode for celestial beings. (D. & C. 88:17-26; Isa. 51:6-7; Ps. 102:25-26.)

"Other earths, no doubt, are being prepared as habitations for terrestrial and telestial beings, for there must be places prepared for those who fail to obtain celestial glory, who receive immortality but not eternal life. Moreover, since the Lord has never created anything to be destroyed, (Eccl. 3:14-15; D. & C. 132:13-14) every earth, whether created for celestial glory, or for terrestrial or telestial, will have to pass through the condition of death and the resurrection, just the same as our earth will have to do. The 'passing away,' therefore, means that after they have finished their 'probationary state' in mortality, they will die and be raised again to receive the 'glory' for which they were designed, and to become the eternal abodes of man." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 1954, 1:72-73; italics in original.)

The words as commonly used

Planet: "A nonluminous celestial body larger than an asteroid or comet, illuminated by light from a star, such as the sun, around which it revolves. In the solar system there are nine known planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto."

Earth: "The third planet from the sun, having a sidereal period of revolution about the sun of 365.26 days at a mean distance of approximately 149 million kilometers (92.96 million miles), an axial rotation period of 23 hours 56.07 minutes, an average radius of 6,378 kilometers (3,963 miles), and a mass of approximately 5.974 × 1024 kilograms (1.317 × 1025 pounds)."

World: "The earth [or] a celestial body such as a planet: the possibility of life on other worlds."

The words as used among Latter-day Saints

Earth: "The planet on which we live, created by God through Jesus Christ to be used by man during his mortal probation. Its final destiny is to become glorified and exalted (D&C 77: 1-2; 130: 8-9). The earth will become an eternal inheritance of those who have lived worthy of a celestial glory (D&C 88: 14-26). They will enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son (D&C 76: 62)." (Guide to the Scriptures, s.v. Earth.)

"Worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose;... But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you" (Moses 1:33, 35; italics added).

"All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form" (Alma 30:44; italics added).

"And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets" (D&C 88:43; italics added).

Not all planets are earths

Jared, with the above clarifications, I hope my comment here makes a little more sense. I'm sorry if it wasn't clear.

Planets and earths are not the same thing—not in the language generally, and not as used by the Latter-day Saints.

Can you show us President Joseph Fielding Smith's views in relation to the breaking up and remodeling of planets into earths like the one on which we live?

5/29/2005 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...

But is a mere planet likely to have fossils of organisms, some of which look very human-like?

Your argument seems to be that the reason we see fossils that make it look like life and death have been going on for millions of years, is because this earth is composed of previously existing planets which had life, but for some reason did not achieve earth status, or else they would not have been broken up and recycled. Is this correct?

5/29/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

I.

Jared: My argument has nothing to do with fossils, organisms, or the number of years life and death were going on. My argument is that President Joseph Fielding Smith did not contradict the Prophet Joseph Smith as you claimed here and here.

My question seems to have fallen by the way-side—I'd still like to know if you can show us where President Joseph Fielding Smith said "that planets are not destroyed and recycled."

II.

Christian: You said, "Regardless of how the Lord could have created the earth in principle, my understanding is that our planet was in fact melted."

You might be right. But if so, the Prophet Joseph Smith, as understood by his contemporaries, was wrong.

III.

Christian and Jared: My purpose on this post was to answer a challenge given me by Jeffrey Giliam. My post makes two points. (1) There is a rational theological explanation for certain evolution evidence, which (2) originated with the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Because of his stature among Latter-day Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith's proposal ought to be at least allowed as a respectable alternative to evolution as an explanation for the evidence.

Nevertheless, it is a theological, not a scientific, explanation. And while I believe the Prophet Joseph Smith would be able to answer your questions without retracting what he had previously said, I myself cannot give you the answers you seek. But that does not convince me to decide he was wrong.

Both of you are better educated than I am, a fact that has not gone unnoticed. I'm particularly impressed with Christian's professional background in physics and astronony, which I've studied as an amateur since high school. You should both know that I've struggled a few times in my own life to reconcile personal observations of the real world (the largest issue for me was a social one) with the teachings of the prophets. But I have learned to trust the Lord.

5/29/2005 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: My frustration here is increasing. Let me explain.

I was in Germany for two years on a mission. The Germans have a word—Weltanschauung—which means literally "world view." It refers to a person's overall philosophy of life.

Based on several weeks of debate with you, I'm starting to think your Weltanshauung does not allow for the existence of non-scientists who, under divine inspiration, can interpret science. I hasten to assure you that I could be wrong about this.

My own modus operandi is to quote scripture and the prophets when discussing almost anything. But this method of discussion doesn't work with you—you never seem to accept anything just because the quoted person said it. That leaves me in a quandary—I'm not quite sure how to proceed with our discussion. Any suggestions?

5/29/2005 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Christian Y. Cardall said...

Gary, I don't think one needs to believe that everything Joseph said had to be correct; didn't he say a prophet is a prophet only when he was speaking as such?

Having said that, I think one should separate what Joseph actually said---that this earth is made from recycled material, which in and of itself does not preclude melting of that recycled material---from the later, separate idea (as far as I know) that this recycling accounts for ancient fossils. One could accept Joseph's statement in some form while rejecting subsequent accretions and inferences.

Also, I appreciate your generous thoughts about my particular background, but it also makes me nervous. I'm glad you don't take me as a light. None of the stuff we discuss falls directly in my expertise, which for all of us is necessarily very narrow. Outside one's narrow expertise, everyone is an amateur. And even the experts can be wrong about their expertise (in fact, some of them always are, since there are always disagreements at the frontiers of knowledge).

5/29/2005 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jonathan: Now that you've pointed it out to me, your comment could be taken either way. My apologies for misunderstanding what you meant. And thanks again for the induction at Mormon Archipelago.

5/29/2005 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Gary,

I haven't searched extensively, but no reference pops up where Joseph Fielding Smith said that planets cannot be recycled. My assumption is that fossils would come from earths, not mere planets, but I suppose that can be debated.

I don't reject Joseph Smith's statement out of hand just because he was not a scientist. But neither do I automatically accept it (or at least the arguments built on it) just because he was a prophet.

I think you are right to label it as a theological explanation--I don't think that it (or at least the arguments built on it) would withstand scrutiny by scientific methods. Nor do I think it solves the problems that Jeff raised.

I agree with Christian and thank you for your kind words.

More general comments:

Have you confronted much in the way of anti-Mormon literature? One of their (critics) favorite things to do is hang difficult, controversial, or out-dated statements by Church leaders around our necks and make us defend them. To make it as difficult as possible, after providing a strange statement by Brigham Young (sometimes from a General Conference) they'll also provide a quote from him where he says that any of the sermons he has given could be used as scripture.

My judgment is that not everything prophets have said (or at least the intepretation thereof) is worth going to the mat for. We should be free to cast off that which is erroneous or out-dated.

I don't think we always have to take our cues from the Brethren on such matters since they rarely speak on such things, nor do they have time to investigate them fully. For example, as far as I am aware, the only current General Authority that has publicly given any support of the the "limited geography" model of the Book of Mormon has been Elder Oaks. In contrast, you can get a sense of what Joseph Fielding Smith thought of it in Doctrines of Salvation vol 3 chapter 12. Meanwhile, it is pretty much a given assumption of many LDS scholars these days. See this statement at FARMS, for example. They are carefully setting aside statements made by a number of church leaders, including Joseph Smith. If the only role of scholarship is to confirm what prophets have said, then there is no point in scholarship.

I suppose our present disagreements revolve around which things can be safely cast off or re-interpreted. We are all free to change our minds, and I think our best cases should be made.

Sometimes I fear that I sound like Zeezrom, which is not what I want. If I am crossing the words of prophets, it is not with intention to disqualify them as prophets.

5/29/2005 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Gary,

I think you hit it right on the button when you pointed out the difference between our techniques in communication. I've read almost all of the quotes which you have brought up and used to hold a world view very much like yours. But I must confess that I call it 'yours' in a very loose sense because it feels almost like we are debating with Gospellink instead of a person with their own views. You never say what you believe, only what other authorities believe complete with quotes gallore and a few entries from the dictionary. Now this isn't bad in itself, but I don't think that any of us are thumbing through a dictionary for every word we use (I made an exceptionally large amount of typos if you haven't noticed.) or read in the ensign. I don't think the speakers in general conference were using a dictionary either. Instead, we can all get a general feel for what is being intended by any given author by their tone and context, and appeals to the dictionary to force our personal reading on a verse seems a little cheap in my opinion.

I do accept many things that people say just because they say them. But before I do that I want to put any given statement in its proper context. When it comes to scripture and statements by G.A.'s this will usually mean ripping them from the artificial pedestal on which we have artificially (and incorrectly) placed them. I don't do this to tear them down in any way, only to place the statements in their proper place, no more, no less. When somebody claims revelation for a belief this means a lot more to me than simply saying it off the cuff.

This is especially the case for scientific statements from authorities. Nowhere is the original context of a statement so important. It is when we sidestep this process entirely that we get protestants writing books about how the Bible taught relativity millennia before Einstein, or Mormons which say that Abraham taught it. Neither the Bible nor Abraham did any such thing, not that we have record of anyway.

Science is based on criticizing, both one's own work and that of others. It is for this reason that when authorities bring science into the discussion (remember it is mostly the religious people you breach the science/religion divide) that they rightly leave themselves open for criticism.

Now, as to how we can proceed with a more meaningful discussion between the two of us: First of all, I don't think that I am you intended audience am I? It's pretty clear that I'm not going to be too swayed by your views, and it is people like Greg who have expressed more appreciation than I have. I don't think that you should change too much in order to cater to me and my particular tastes. That is how a I view your role.

My role on this site has been that of Simon Cowell. I'm a pretty harsh critic, but my main goal is for you to better fortify your position. My purpose here isn't to convert you into a full blown evolutionist, because I don't think that you are 'prepared' to make that kind of change in paradigm. Instead, I'm trying to expose the holes in your arguments in order for you to patch them up by addressing the relavent issues. Like I have said before, I have read most of the Creationist literature, have heard most of the Mormon versions of these arguments as well and have found them badly wanting. These people could really use some help in strengthening their position, and I think this blog is probably the best forum I have seen yet for this purpose.

My only advice would be for you to not rely too heavily on quotes. It might be better if you summarized and elaborated in some instances. The quotes from the 'old' Mormonism, tend to be very speculative and outdated. The quotes from the 'new' Mormonism tend to be very vague and non-commital. As Jared noted, we should not have to defend the old quotes, and the new ones aren't getting you very far in most cases. Maybe it would be better if you took the ideas, and/or revelation behind the statements and personally elaborated on them? Just a couple of thoughts.

5/31/2005 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. It turns out that I am working on a post that will address some of the issues you have raised.

5/31/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared: You said, "We should be free to cast off that which is erroneous or out-dated. I don't think we always have to take our cues from the Brethren on such matters since they rarely speak on such things, nor do they have time to investigate them fully.... I suppose our present disagreements revolve around which things can be safely cast off or re-interpreted. We are all free to change our minds, and I think our best cases should be made."

The FARMS page you linked me to contains this sentence: "Indeed, the diversity of nineteenth-century opinion is striking, attesting that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had no authoritative stance on what was—and continues to be—an open issue."

I am completely uninterested in bringing the Book of Mormon DNA issue into this forum.

However, I am very interested in whether or not you feel similar statements might be made regarding "No Death Before the Fall"—and if so, whether you know of any "inside" LDS Church sources that would support such a point of view? (You mentioned Elder Oaks on the other issue.)

I'm not talking about Sunstone and Dialogue authors, nor am I talking about web sites like this blog (I speak on these subjects without calling or authority, as do many others). That's not what I'm asking about.

I am asking whether you are aware of any movement within the Church that is addressing the doctrine of no death before the fall in a manner similar to the way "hemispheric" versus "limited" geography is being addressed.

5/31/2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

I am asking whether you are aware of any movement within the Church that is addressing the doctrine of no death before the fall in a manner similar to the way "hemispheric" versus "limited" geography is being addressed.

Gary,

I highly suspected you would ask me something like this. Of course, my answer is no.

My point is this: I think it is good to get some ideas out on the table, for at least a couple of reasons. (a) They might help some people (members and investigators) who are struggling with similar issues. (b) Maybe, just maybe, the ideas may be picked up by the Brethren and help them when they deal with the topic.

Do not misunderstand me. I do not presume to counsel the Brethren, nor do I presume to set myself up as a light (priestcraft). I am only suggesting that the marketplace of ideas is better for having variety to work with.

5/31/2005 04:08:00 PM  

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