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Friday, January 06, 2006

LDS leaders trumped by established facts?

Recently, during a discussion about "God and science" at M*, it was suggested (here) that, "at least as recently as 1987," Elder Russell M. Nelson was uninformed about evolution because he said something that "undeniably betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution."  The comment continues,

The opinions of most LDS members and many LDS leaders are trumped by established facts.  I would love it if church leaders who become aware of this would publicly retract previously stated opinions, but that's not how things are done.  In this church, false notions aren't killed; they're simply allowed to slowly fade.  As I look at anti-evolution statements over the past several decades, I see this fading process in action.  (see here.)

According to this "fading process" theory, it must be quite an embarrassment to certain unnamed, but more enlightened and "aware," Church leaders when publications like True to the Faith or the 2002 (Harold B. Lee) and 2006 (Wilford Woodruff) Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society manuals are published containing views that have supposedly been "trumped by established facts."

The Church's current and official internet site must also be an embarrassment to these unnamed, enlightened Church leaders due to its "Gospel Topics" list of recommended resources about the "Creation" which is headed by Elder Russell M. Nelson's April 2000 General Conference talk on "Creation" in which he rules out evolution entirely by teaching the LDS doctrine of no death before the fall:

"The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God. Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam. ... Eventually, 'the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.' (A of F 1:10.) At the Second Coming of the Lord, the earth will be changed once again. It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new." (Ensign, May 2000, 84-86.)

Let's look at this paragraph in more detail.

(a.) "The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God." To Latter-day Saints generally and to Elder Nelson specifically, "paradisiacal" means "terrestrial." Elder Nelson made this clear in the April 1990 General Conference when he said, "It is true that scriptures foretell the final days of the earth’s temporal existence as a telestial sphere. The earth will then be renewed and receive its paradisiacal, or terrestrial, glory. (See A of F 1:10.)" (Ensign, May, 1990, 17; italics added; see also D&C 77:6-7.)

(b.) "Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam." Looking at the words immediately before this sentence (see a.), the meaning is that the earth was changed when mortality and death came to the previously paradisiacal planet through the Fall of Adam. What he clearly did not say was that mortality and death came to only Adam and Eve and their posterity through Adam's Fall because the rest of earth had been mortal for millions, perhaps billions, of years prior to the Fall of Adam.

(c.) "At the Second Coming of the Lord, the earth will be changed once again. It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new." The words "changed once again" refer back to earth's first change from a paradisiacal, or terrestrial, deathless state to its present temporal, or telestial, mortal state (see b.). Here he is clearly saying that earth will be changed back to its previous paradisiacal, or terrestrial, deathless state. "It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new" is another way of saying that, before the Fall of Adam, the earth was paradisiacal and new and it will be "returned" [the act of bringing something back to a previous condition] to that same terrestrial, deathless state that existed before the Fall of Adam.

Elder Nelson has consistently taught his views on these issues over many years. I've quoted Elder Nelson here in 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, and 2000, teaching no death before the fall. In the April 2001 general conference, Elder Nelson said, "I like to recommend ... short explanatory paragraphs in the Bible Dictionary, listed under ... 'Fall of Adam' (page 670, paragraphs 1–2)" (Ensign, May 2001, 32.)

The following year, Elder Nelson wrote, "I recommend ... selected paragraphs under Fall of Adam (page 670, paragraphs 1–2) ... in the Bible Dictionary" (Ensign, Mar. 2002, 17.) Here is what it says on page 670, paragraphs 1-2, in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There was no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the "forbidden fruit," Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life. Adam became the ‘first flesh’ upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal.

According to Elder Nelson, there was no death before the fall and without millions, perhaps billions, of years of death and dying, evolution is ruled out completely. Elder Nelson has clearly stated his views about this using plain and simple language at least seven times during the past 19 years. Furthermore, it is not true that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve is unenlightened or unaware, or that his views about evolution and death before the fall have been "trumped by established facts."

36 Comments:

Anonymous Gary said...

will,

Your M* God and science #211 comment is worth discussing. I hope you don't mind moving the discussion to my blog.

1/06/2006 03:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Geoff J said...

According to Elder Nelson, there was no death before the fall

I'm of the opinion that the Fall is symbolic of the point at which our spirits/intelligences became sentient after eternities of progress (see my post on that). Therefore there was no death before that Fall.

But even if that is not what Elder Nelson meant -- isn't he allowed to have an incorrect opinion too?

1/06/2006 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, the fading of anti-evolution rhetoric in the church seems pretty obvious to me. In the 80's, we got talks like The Seven Deadly Heresies, The Pattern of our Parentage, and The Magnificence of Man, all of which pointedly rejected evolution. Nowadays, if you want to find church support for an anti-evolution position, you have to do it inferentially. (You can also, I might add, find support for the neutral position inferentially.)

When studying a subject like evolution, quotes from church leaders are important, but they aren't the only data points. There are also reams of empirical data, which eventually must be reconciled with the quotes. If that requires interpreting the quotes more liberally, or concluding that some speakers were mistaken, so be it.

When I say that evolution is an established fact, I'm not voicing my own opinion, but rather the virtually unanimous conclusion of those who are familiar with the evidence.

Regarding Elder Nelson, I'm not sure why you feel a need to defend his level of understanding regarding evolution, especially since you have no evidence other than his degrees. (By the way, what was his Ph.D. in? I assume it was a medicine-related field.) All of us are weak in the vast majority of fields; there's no shame in that.

1/06/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will said, "I'm not sure why you feel a need to defend his level of understanding regarding evolution." and Geoff J asked, "isn't he allowed to have an incorrect opinion?"

The apostles are under divine mandate to teach correct doctrine, and they know it. Elder Nelson is allowed to hold private views on any subject. But what he teaches publicly, especially in general conference, is (for him and for us) no longer just private opinion. Therefore, an adequate level of understanding on any subject on which he chooses to speak publicly is to be assumed. These principles were explained in a helpful way by Elder John E. Fowler, of the Seventy, when he spoke in general conference about “Becoming Wise unto Salvation” (Ensign, Nov. 1992, 78).

1/06/2006 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I appreciate your defense of our leaders' words, but sometimes they're based on limited understanding, as Elder McConkie said: Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

1/06/2006 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

(I hope you got my email, Gary. I'm having trouble with my email server.)

I think there are at least a couple of issues here. One is the reasoning of Church leaders (at least in public talks) and how we should deal with flawed reasoning--something I may take up at my blog. Second is the teachings of the Church and whether they necessarily represent the ultimate truth, or whether they in some degree reflect the very conservative process that guides the Church. Third is the responsibility the leaders feel to teach what is approved by God--whether or not it represents the last word on an issue.

One way to look at NDBF is that it was unsettled in the past, but is settled now because behind-the-scenes revelation has endorsed this reading of the scriptures. Another way is that is settled partly because very influential teachers taught it in the past, and without clear information/revelation to the contrary, Church leaders are content to let it continue (no blood before the fall would seem to fit here). A final possibility a mix between the two--it is true, but in a nuanced way that has not been revealed, so Church leaders talk about it in simple blanket terms.

1/06/2006 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

On Tuesday, Will said, "I would love it if church leaders ... would publicly retract previously stated opinions, but that's not how things are done. In this church, false notions aren't killed; they're simply allowed to slowly fade."

Today (Friday), Will quotes Bruce R. McConkie's public retraction of previously stated opinions about issues related to Official Declaration–2, opinions that were "based on limited understanding."

So which is it, Will? Do newly enlightened Church leaders retract previously stated opinions or simply allow them to slowly fade? Not that I've noticed either when it comes to no death before the fall, mind you.

1/07/2006 12:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Jared said, "One way to look at NDBF is that it was unsettled in the past, but is settled now because behind-the-scenes revelation has endorsed this reading of the scriptures."

I like this way of looking at it. I think we should expect behind-the-scenes revelation on doctrine taught in general conference (see John E. Fowler, “Becoming Wise unto Salvation,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 78).

Jared said, "Another way is that [it] is settled partly because very influential teachers taught it in the past, and without clear information/revelation to the contrary, Church leaders are content to let it continue."

I like this idea also. This would be especially true if that very influential teacher was a Church President who taught it as revealed truth.

The final possibility suggested by Jared sounds a lot like, We don't really understand this so we'll just "talk about it in simple blanket terms."

Personally, I would accept that if it were explicitly announced as such but, off hand, I can't think of an example. Can you, Jared?

p.s. Your email arrived (only once).

1/07/2006 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Personally, I would accept that if it were explicitly announced as such but, off hand, I can't think of an example. Can you, Jared?

At first I thought you were asking for an example of something that fit the catagory. I was going to answer, "How about what went on in the Garden of Eden?"

On second reading I believe you are asking for an explicit example for NDBF. I can't think of one either (post 1931).

1/07/2006 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, if you look at the evolution of what is taught in the church, it seems that letting old notions fade is the rule, and explicitly repudiating them is the exception. Consider birth control, or the hemispheric model of the BoM, or any other topic on which the church's attitude has shifted. I brought up Elder McConkie's rare acknowledgement of previous statements in order to counter your claim that general authorities always have a good understanding of their sermon topics.

I still stand by my approach. When a leader's words contradict well-established facts, I go with the facts. I don't know if you agree with this approach or not, but in order to convince me that Elder Nelson's argument is valid, you'll need to address the argument itself instead of Elder Nelson's credentials.

On a separate note, it occurs to me that neither of us will ever change our position, because neither of us has anything to lose by being wrong. My recommend won't be revoked if I'm wrong about NDBF, your car won't stop running if you're wrong about the origin of gasoline, and neither of us works in a field that requires an accurate knowledge of this stuff. Since neither of us will change, I'm wondering why we bother.

1/07/2006 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will,

Congratulations. You found an exception to the rule that apostles have an adequate understanding of subjects on which they choose to speak publicly—the 1978 revelation did prove some previous notions wrong. But the exception doesn't change the rule, does it. So the apostles are still under divine mandate to teach correct doctrine, and they still know it. And until the Prophet says he is wrong, what Elder Nelson teaches publicly, especially in general conference, is still more than just his personal opinion.

As evidence that Elder Nelson's views might have changed or be changing, you offer the fact that some college students change their views on evolution during freshman biology, but Elder Nelson's academic credentials prove he isn't a freshman biology student. So you challenge his academic credentials, saying, "(By the way, what was his Ph.D. in? I assume it was a medicine-related field.) All of us are weak in the vast majority of fields; there's no shame in that." And last week at M*, you said, "Elder Nelson's 'explosion in a printshop' argument undeniably betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. This in no way detracts from his academic degrees or his calling as an apostle."

Unfortunately, your criticism detracts from both his academic degrees and his calling as an apostle. It detracts from his academic degrees because it categorizes him with those freshman college students who have a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. It detracts from his calling as an apostle because it denies that he has any spiritual insight about the subject.

While the veracity of his words must be determined by each individual, most Latter-day Saints accept without question that what he says is true.

A different question entirely is whether his words indicate where the Church stands on the question. Just because you think Elder Nelson's "words contradict well-established facts" and you choose to "go with the facts," doesn't mean "the church's attitude has shifted." The Church's attitude about no death before the fall remains as it was outlined by Elder Nelson in the April 2000 General Conference and posted on the Church's current official "Creation" web page.

The current Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society manual teaches the doctrine of no death before the fall as taught by Wilford Woodruff. The current Gospel Doctrine and Primary manuals teach the doctrine of no death before the fall as found in the LDS Bible Dictionary. How often must this doctrine be reiterated by the Church to convince you that the Church's attitude has not shifted?

You are welcome to go with the facts as you see them—believe as you wish. But, until you have tangible evidence to support such a claim, you can't go around telling people that the Church's attitude toward death before the fall has shifted.

1/08/2006 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, you're right, the exception doesn't make the rule, which is why an occasional erroneous statement from an apostle doesn't detract from his calling. If you want to argue that it does, then where does that leave Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, and Elder McConkie? Not to mention Elder Talmage, who you think was wrong on the NDBF issue.

You seem to be privy to the extent and quality of Elder Nelson's education in evolutionary biology. Please share. What did UofU medical students learn about evolution in the 40's? If you don't know, then on what basis do you claim that his degrees imply an accurate understanding of evolution?

I stand by my observation that anti-evolution rhetoric has faded in the past few decades. Regardless, the position of "the church" isn't necessarily the same as the position of some of its leaders and manual writers, and is typically harder to pin down. I happen to accept President McKay's statement that the church has no position on evolution, which necessarily means that it has no position on NDBF, notwithstanding the position of certain leaders on it. (Your thesis seems to be that church has taken a stand, but not officially. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

If I may be so bold, I'll try to summarize the points we agree on:

1. NDBF claims can be found in the words of our leaders, manuals, and Bible Dictionary. Some scriptural passages can also be interpreted as teaching NDBF.

2. Our leaders generally base their talks on inspiration and sound understanding, but not always.

3. The church has no official position on NDBF.

4. NDBF is rejected in several disciplines taught at BYU.

And some points on which we disagree:

1. We know no more about the pre-4000BC earth than we do about the post-millenial earth.

2. NDBF isn't controversial in the church. (I suppose this is a question of semantics.)

3. The lack of controversy explains why our leaders haven't made it official doctrine.

Please correct me if I've misrepresented your position.

1/09/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will,

I respect your efforts to help us at least understand each other. All of what follows is in response to your above comment.

will said: "an occasional erroneous statement from an apostle doesn't detract from his calling."

Gary answers: That's true. But your criticism of Elder Nelson does detract from his calling because you don't have priesthood authority to say that his statements about creation are erroneous.

will said: "you claim that his degrees imply an accurate understanding of evolution."

Gary answers: I make no such claim. I believe Elder Nelson has enough education—and on this point the field of study isn't relevant—to know that he should research the topic of evolution before giving a major address on that subject. I also think his education taught him how to do that research. By any other logic, no Church leader has ever been qualified to talk about evolution, with the possible exception of James E. Talmage who didn't accept it.

will said: "the position of 'the church' isn't necessarily the same as the position of some of its leaders."

Gary answers: This is sometimes true. But how does this apply to Elder Nelson? Are you saying his words have been contradicted by other contemporary Church leaders? If so, who and when? If not, then I believe the current position of the Church is best described by referring to his comments, especially since his comments agree with the most recent position outlined by a Church president.

will said: "I happen to accept President McKay's statement that the church has no position on evolution."

Gary answers: The Church has never published such a statement by President McKay. Therefore, such a statement cannot represent the position of the Church. The actions and statements of subsequent Church presidents have indicated otherwise anyway.

will said: "Your thesis seems to be that church has taken a stand, but not officially. Correct me if I'm wrong."

Gary answers: The ecclesiastical practice of the Church at the general level reveals the position of the Church—the Church practices according to its position. I think defining what is "official" is a little more difficult. My blog attempts to document the ecclesiastical practices of the Church at the general level related to the doctrine of no death before the fall.

will said: "NDBF claims can be found in the words of our leaders, manuals, and Bible Dictionary. Some scriptural passages can also be interpreted as teaching NDBF."

Gary answers: We are agreed on this point.

will said: "Our leaders generally base their talks on inspiration and sound understanding, but not always."

Gary answers: I would say it just a little stronger. Our leaders nearly always base their talks on inspiration and sound understanding, and only their leaders are authorized to criticize their teachings.

will said: "The church has no official position on NDBF."

Gary answers: As previously stated, defining what is "official" is difficult. The Church teaches no death before the fall quite matter-of-factly, as if it were official doctrine, in spite of the fact that there has been no official pronouncement declaring it to be such.

will said: "NDBF is rejected in several disciplines taught at BYU."

Gary answers: I assume you are talking about some of the science classes and, in that case, I trust you on this. However, I'm pretty sure this would not be true of Religion classes. And I'm also quite sure it's not true of Seminary classes, Institute classes, Priesthood and Relief Society classes, or Sunday School classes.


Now, regarding points you've listed on which you think we disagree:

First, yes. Apparently we disagree on this point. I believe we don't know any more about the pre-Fall earth than we do about the post-Second Coming earth. The scriptures and the words of the prophets say mortality began with the fall of Adam and will end with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Science can only guess about events that happened outside of that seven thousand year period.

Second, I'm not sure whether we agree or disagree. I believe no death before the fall is not a controversial doctrine among the general membership of the Church. And, at least once, you seem to have agreed with me. When it was claimed that 90 percent of LDS think the Church is against evolution, you said "the 90% number ... probably applies to religious people as a whole, not just LDS. The vast majority of people are simply uninformed on this issue." The fact that you think 90 percent of us are "simply uninformed" begs the question—it still isn't controversial.

Third, I think we actually agree that the lack of controversy is unrelated to making it official doctrine. As we discussed last month (here, here, and here), I believe it's because the LDS doctrine of no death before the fall is generally understood correctly that the First Presidency hasn't issued an official statement on the subject.

1/09/2006 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, we've expanded this discussion to include several different points. I'll try to address them, in no particular order, separated by a "----".


----

My pointing out an error in a GA's talk may detract from his calling in your eyes, but not in mine. I already knew that our leaders are fallible, so finding examples of fallibility doesn't change anything. I have a tremendous respect for Elder Nelson and for his office. I could never be a surgeon, much less an apostle; I just don't have what it takes.

I don't need any priesthood authority to point out that something is logically or factually incorrect, any more than you need authority to disagree with Elder Talmage on NDBF.

----

I was under the impression that Elder Talmage did accept evolution, with the exception of the descent of man. I don't have my sources with me, so I can't categorically say that he never indicated otherwise. Do you have a reference to such a statement?

From his talk, The Earth and Man:

From the fossil remains of plants and animals found in the rocks the scientist points to a very definite order in the sequence of life embodiment, for the older rocks, the earlier formations, reveal to us organisms of simplest structure only, whether of plants or animals. These primitive species were aquatic; land forms were of later development. Some of these simpler forms of life have persisted until the present time, though with great variation as the result of changing environment.

Geologists say that these very simple forms of plant and animal bodies were succeeded by others more complicated; and in the indestructible record of the rocks they read the story of advancing life from the simple to the more complex, from the single-celled protozoan to the highest animals, from the marine algae to the advanced types of flowering plant -- to the apple-tree, the rose, and the oak.


Sounds like evolution to me.

----

Your claim that Elder Nelson has researched evolution and gained a sound understanding of is nothing more than a conjecture based on his level of education, his calling, and general endorsement of leaders' words by other leaders. My claim that he didn't understand it as of 1987 is based on the mathematical fact that the probability of the occurrence of a given random combination is unrelated to the probability of the same combination occurring through iterative selection and descent with modification. This fact invalidates Elder Nelson's argument. You're countering fact with conjecture.

----

BYU professors are also under a mandate to teach with the spirit and not teach anything that isn't in harmony with the gospel. By your logic, that means that they're all teaching the truth.

Of course, that logic is belied by disagreements between religion professors and science professors, and among religion professors themselves. One of my religion teachers openly accepted the various prehistoric forms of life; I'm sure others would disagree with him.

----

Is your position that President McKay never said that the church has no position on evolution, or that he said it but was wrong, or some other alternative?

----

It's obvious that NDBF represents the mainstream belief of the church's members, leaders, and manual writers. For you, this is tantamount to the church taking a position, albeit unofficial. For me, it simply indicates that this particular opinion is popular, which isn't surprising since most people have a very meager background in science.

The practice of the church is to allow its members to believe and teach anything they want with regard to NDBF, even if it contradicts certain leaders' views. To me, this means that if we must ascribe a position to the church (which we don't), it would be one of neutrality.

----

Several different fields of science and reams of empirical data independently agree on the fundamental characteristics of prehistoric earth. If you can't trust something that's so well established, then you can't trust scientific methodology at all. But, in fact, you do trust scientific methodology, as your quality of life depends on it. I see a lack of consistency here.

----

Whether NDBF can be termed controversial is, as I said, a question of semantics. If only 90% of members think that the church has an anti-evolution position, that leaves out over a million members, which in my mind constitutes a controversy.

----

I think that the reason for the church not taking an official position is best explained by the words of past leaders indicating that science is best left to the scientists and isn't essential to our salvation.

----

I apologize for the length of my post. We're covering a lot of ground here.

1/10/2006 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will: I don't mind the length of your post because we are covering a lot of ground here. But my wife thinks I should also spend a little time with her, so please give me a day or so on this one.

1/10/2006 08:04:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, we're in the same boat. Please take a day, a week, a month, or whatever. Our families come first.

1/10/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

I don't think Elder Nelson was making much of an argument with his analogy--it seems like more of a rhetorical expression to me, and I can give him the benefit of the doubt about whether he thinks it constitutes a rigorous argument.

Unfortunately it's the kind of thing that people who don't know what they are talking about also say, which is why it raises red flags.

1/10/2006 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will,

My response to your above comment, is posted here.

1/13/2006 02:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Jared,

Some feel the printing shop analogy is flawed and therefore conclude Elder Nelson didn't know what he was talking about. However, I believe it's possible for someone who himself understands the theory of evolution to prefer an over-simplified analogy to the discussion of "iterative selection and descent with modification" when addressing a large group of students, most of whom are not studying biology.

Therefore, I think you are correct. It was probably more of a rhetorical expression and not intended as a rigorous argument.

1/13/2006 02:39:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, sorry, I didn't notice your response to my long post until just now. I'll try to respond without getting too long-winded.

- First, I won't argue the question of what I am and am not allowed to say; that's between me and my bishop. Of course, as the blog owner, you're always welcome to censor me. In any case, my arguments stand or fall on their own, not on my authority or lack thereof, so the question seems irrelevant to this discussion.

- Elder Talmage said that death preceded the advent of man. You say that it didn't. How is that not a disagreement?

- My impression that Elder Talmage believed in evolution (though not necessarily Darwinism, and definitely not the evolution of man) is based on the fact that he spoke approvingly of evidence for it in "The Earth and Man." I'll leave it at that, unless I can dig up some quotes by his son.

- What was the point of Elder Nelson's exploding printshop analogy?

- My point about BYU professors was in response your point that apostles are given a mandate to preach the truth. As to whether we have a mandate to agree with everything they say, see my first point above.

- I'm aware of Elder Packer's response to President McKay's letter. I disagree with him, just as you and he disagree with President McKay.

- There are many things that will get us in trouble if we publicly denounce them. I don't know if Divine Investiture is one of them, but NDBF definitely isn't. This indicates some degree of neutrality on NDBF, as opposed to, say, the Atonement.

- Regarding the problem of different perspectives, is there such a thing as objective truth, and are there reasonably objective ways of finding it? How do we know that the earth is round, that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president, and that Clorox is bad to drink?

Whew, it's late. That's all for now.

1/19/2006 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will: God commanded Abraham to slay his son (Gen. 22:2). That is history. But the teachings of God do not include the sacrificial slaughter of children because, as Abraham was about to obey, the same God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad" (Gen. 22:12).

Not once, on this blog or anywhere else, have I pointed the finger at Elder Talmage and said, "He was wrong about death before the fall," and I'm not saying it now. That would be like saying, "What God said in Gen. 22:2 was wrong."

On the other hand, pointing out what subsequent apostles and prophets have said about death before the fall is no different than reading Gen. 22:2 in its more complete and correct context which includes Gen. 22:12.

1/22/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

I don't know Gary. I read the post expecting to find a treatment of what happens and what we should do when established facts do not agree with what the church has told us. Instead, your argument was the same as it has been in every other post: "Elder X said Y and that's good enough for me."

Pinning ones faith on another person like this is hardly inspiring in my opinion.

1/23/2006 01:04:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, do you agree with, disagree with, or have no opinion on the following statement?

The whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.

1/23/2006 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

That is the conception of geologists, as Talmage said. I'm sure he understood the conception of geologists. Beyond that, his statement is of little concern to me because it was not his intent to assert the sermon as the Church position on the subject.

1/23/2006 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Elder Talmage, as one of the geologists to whom he referred, clearly believed in death before Adam. The point, which you're avoiding, is that you disagree with him.

1/23/2006 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will said, "The point, which you're avoiding, is that you disagree with him."

That's your point.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
My point, which you are avoiding, is:
      I've been very careful never to say that.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

1/23/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Gary,

The point that you either missed or avoided was:

"Gary, do you agree with, disagree with, or have no opinion on the following statement?"

We are all still waiting for your answer.

1/24/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Jeffrey, there's no need to wait for an answer. It's here. That was (and is) my answer.

1/24/2006 01:43:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

So is that a "no opinion" then? If so, it would seem to me that if you are going to dedicate an entire blog to this subject, perhaps you should have an opinion on such a basic matter.

Do you agree with Elder Talmage in that there was death on the earth long before man ever was on it or do you disagree with that particular Apostle upon this matter? Either way it is VERY clear that Talmage believed in death before the fall.

1/24/2006 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Here is perhaps a better statement which you quote of Talmage's:

"I cannot agree with your conception that there was no death of plants and animals anywhere upon this earth prior to the transgression of Adam, unless we assume that the history of Adam and Eve dates back many hundreds of thousands of years."

I've never heard ANYBODY suggest that the fall happened 100,000's of years ago. So what is your opinion of this statement by this prophet, seer and revelator?

1/24/2006 02:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Talmage believed in death before Adam and I am fully aware of that. But not once—not on this blog or anywhere else—have I said, "Talmage was wrong," and I'm not saying it now.

I don't point fingers. I don't name Church leaders and say they've been "trumped" by established facts, or that their words are based on a "limited understanding," or that they don't have an "accurate knowledge." That's what I carefully refrain from doing—pointing fingers at the apostles and prophets.

1/24/2006 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

"Talmage believed in death before Adam and I am fully aware of that. But not once—not on this blog or anywhere else—have I said, "Talmage was wrong," and I'm not saying it now.

I don't point fingers. I don't name Church leaders and say they've been "trumped" by established facts, or that their words are based on a "limited understanding," or that they don't have an "accurate knowledge." That's what I carefully refrain from doing—pointing fingers at the apostles and prophets."

Oh c'mon. Isn't the strategy of pointing fingers toward the authorities exactly what this blog is all about? Or is it only point fingers at the authorities when they agree with you? Tell us, do you think that this Apostle's position was right or wrong?

If you think he was right, then obviously you have greatly deceived everybody here, something which I could hardly believe.

If you think he was wrong then isn't the central point of your entire blog undermined? Nobody is asking you to cast stones at anybody, only to take a stand on the very issue which you have dedicated yourself to.

Saying that somebody isn't perfect isn't a sin anymore than thinking that somebody isn't perfect. This is exactly what us evolutionists have been trying to say all along; that the prophets and apostles, though good and inspired men, simply are not perfect and have made mistakes on some issues. Evolution is simply one of those issues. What's the big deal?

1/24/2006 02:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Jeffrey, The central point of my blog (as previously and carefully explained here) is "to highlight the existence and validity of the LDS doctrine of No Death Before the Fall." And what's the big deal? Please refer to my comment here.

1/24/2006 02:51:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

So when Talmage says that there was death before the fall, the entire point of your blog is to preach against that? C'mon just admit it. You think that he was wrong and consequently this undermines your central idea which holds your whole blog together, namely that all faithful latter-day saints will agree with them.

"to highlight the existence and validity of the LDS doctrine of No Death Before the Fall."

While you have certainly highlighted the existence of the LDS doctrine of NDBF, I have yet to see anything at all which highlights the validity of such a doctrine. This is what makes your position so unfulfilling in that while the existence of the NDBF is definitely established, it's vailidity is about as doubtful as anything can be.

1/24/2006 04:12:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, here is one the simplest logical arguments that can be constructed:

1. A believes X
2. B believes not X
Conclusion: A and B disagree

If you can openly accept the 2 premises above, but you can't openly draw the logical conclusion, why should we expect an open, honest, and rational discussion with you?

While I have great respect for your approach to authority, I think that it's an impediment to logical debate.

1/24/2006 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

will,

Let James E. Talmage be A, and "death before the fall" be X.

If Wilford Woodruff is B, A and B disagree on X.

If Harold B. Lee is C, A and C disagree on X.

If Joseph Fielding Smith is D, A and D disagree on X.

If Bruce R. McConkie is E, A and E disagree on X.

If Boyd K. Packer is F, A and F disagree on X.

If Russell M. Nelson is G, A and G disagree on X.

The kicker is that B, C, D, E, F, and G are all authorized to clarify or correct A about X, but I'm not so I don't.

Now, let's have you be A. Based on comments you've made, you seem comfortable clarifying or correcting B, C, D, E, F, and G. This is a difference between us. And I'm fine with that, as long as all the cards are on the table.

1/24/2006 07:38:00 PM  

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