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Thursday, February 02, 2006

James E. Talmage and Death Before the Fall

On Sunday, Aug. 9, 1931, Elder James E. Talmage of the Council of the Twelve Apostles spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. In his sermon, Elder Talmage affirmed his geologist's perspective on earth's early development, with life and death before man's advent.

"According to the conception of geologists,... plants and animals ... lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation." (Pamphlet, "The Earth and Man," published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931, 4.)


President Heber J. Grant — or, as another account has it, his First Counselor Anthony W. Ivins (pp. 87-91, here) — authorized publication of the speech as a Church pamphlet, hence some view it as a statement of the Church on the question of death before the fall.

This view disregards the fact that only a few months earlier the First Presidency, as a Presidency, had considered that question and declined to rule one way or the other — which leads to what I believe is another possible (and more probable) explanation as to why the pamphlet was published.

Balancing the public record

For two and a half years (from the fall of 1928 to the spring of 1931), Church leaders had privately discussed a Melchizedek Priesthood manual written by Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy. A reading committee consisting of five Apostles had recommended that the manual remained unpublished primarily because its double creation theory asserted death on this earth before the time of Adam.

In April, 1931, after discussions had escalated to include the full Council of Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency ruled in favor of the reading committee regarding publication of the manual, but declined to rule on the question of death before the fall.

Only once had anything appeared in print that was related to these closed-door discussions. In a speech delivered in April 1930 and published six months later, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith (without mentioning Roberts, his book, or his double creation theory) had presented scriptural evidence against death before the fall of Adam.

Publication of the Talmage speech the following year (again without mentioning Roberts, his book, or his theory) thus created a more balanced public record of what had otherwise been a private discussion. Historian James B. Allen explains:

"Most significant ... is Elder Talmage's explanation as to why he gave the talk.... In his lengthy journal entry for November 21, 1931 [the day his talk appeared in the Deseret News], Elder Talmage briefly reviewed all the recent discussions, then noted that many LDS students had inferred from Elder Smith's 1930 address that the Church refused to recognize the findings of science if there was even a seeming conflict with scripture and that therefore the policy of the Church was opposed to scientific research. In other words, because Elder Smith's statement had been published and Elder Roberts's had not, Elder Smith's view was catching on among the youth of the Church." ("The Story of TWL," in B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2nd edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996, 711.)


Richard Sherlock and Jeffrey Keller further point out that "it was not Talmage's intent to assert [the sermon] as the church position on the subject." ("The B. H. Roberts/Joseph Fielding Smith/James E. Talmage Affair," in The Search for Harmony, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993, 104.)

Apostolic clarification

Elder Talmage died in 1933. The following year, Apostle John A. Widtsoe informed Talmage's son, Sterling, that "there appears to be no evidence on file that your father's splendid article, ' The Earth and Man,' went out with what is held to be full authoritative approval, that is, the vote of approval of the Presidency and the Twelve." (As quoted by Sherlock and Keller in The Search for Harmony, 106.)

First Presidency clarification

In 1935, the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, and David O. McKay) told Sterling that his deceased father's 1931 sermon "cannot be regarded as an official expression of the Church." (Ibid., 108-109.)

Responding to the younger Talmage's assertion that his father's speech had been delivered and published "by appointment," the First Presidency said, "These 'appointments' are made merely in order that certain work shall be done ... but that does not mean that the Church must approve everything" that is said or done "by appointment." (Ibid., 109.)

These comments by the 1935 First Presidency support the conclusion that the Church published Talmage's 1931 speech primarily (if not only) to balance the public record with respect to previous non-public discussions about the Roberts manuscript.

Sterling Talmage's response is also noteworthy. He accepted without question that his father's speech was not authoritative:

"I am very grateful to you for clarifying my mind in this respect. I shall not again, either in publication or in private correspondence, place undue stress on the authoritativeness of this document, or any statements contained in it." (Ibid.)


According to Sherlock and Keller, Sterling Talmage remained true to his promise "although he had several opportunities" to do otherwise. (Ibid.)

Discussion of the Roberts manuscript halted

The doctrine of no death before the fall has been around since the early days of the Church. However, it is thought by some that, subsequent to 1931, General Authorities were forbidden to discuss death before Adam in their public writings and sermons.

In reality, it was discussion of the Roberts theory itself that was proscribed, not the doctrinal assumptions on which his theory was based. Public teaching of no death before the fall continued unabated.

For example, during the remainder of President Heber J. Grant's administration, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith published no death before the fall teachings in 1936, 1942, and 1944.

During the administration of President George Albert Smith in 1947 and 1948, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith's no death before the fall teachings were found in Melchizedek Priesthood manuals written by him and "Published by The Council of the Twelve Apostles."

In 1947 and 1948, four of the five Apostles who had served on the 1928-31 reading committee were still living and these four, along with Elder John A. Widtsoe (also a 1931 Apostle), knew full well the meaning of the 1931 injunction, which quite obviously did not mean no death before the fall couldn't be taught in Melchizedek Priesthood manuals.

In 1954, while serving as President of the Council of the Twelve and at the urging of members of that Council, President Smith published Man: His Origin and Destiny, which teaches the doctrine of no death before the fall from cover to cover.

And in 1966, while serving as a member of the First Presidency, President Smith again published unequivocal no death before the fall teachings.

Additional First Presidency clarification

In 1972, the First Presidency (Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and N. Eldon Tanner) published and distributed no death before the fall teachings in a Melchizedek Priesthood study guide. This First Presidency action significantly clarified the Church's position on the subject

In 1979, the Scriptures Publication Committee (Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer, and Bruce R. McConkie), under the direction of the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney), placed no death before the fall teachings in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

The LDS Bible Dictionary is not intended as an official endorsement of the doctrinal matters set forth therein. Nevertheless, it should be obvious that some articles may be viewed as more reliable than others simply because of their apostolic origin and how they are currently used by the Church and its leaders.

In 2002 and 2006, the current First Presidency (Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust) approved distribution of no death before the fall teachings to all adults members in the Priesthood and Relief Society study guides for those years.

Unlike the Bible Dictionary, these Priesthood and Relief Society study guides do not carry a disclaimer. On the contrary,

"The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have established the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series to help you deepen your understanding of the restored gospel and draw closer to the Lord through the teachings of latter-day prophets. As the Church adds volumes to this series, you will build a collection of gospel reference books for your home." (Introduction, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff; emphasis added.)


A reference book is "a book, such as a dictionary or encyclopedia, to which one can refer for authoritative information." Therefore, these "gospel reference books" also update the status of the 1931 Talmage pamphlet.

Conclusion

This year, "The Earth and Man" is seventy-five years old. Personally, I think there is a lot of truth in the sermon — things we haven't talked about in this article. Apparently, the sermon was delivered and published "by appointment." But here's the bottom line for me.

I've subscribed to the Improvement Era and the Ensign since January 1970 (five weeks after I was married) and I've read and kept every issue. During the years since then, the six Church Presidents and thirty one Apostles have served in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve and they have demonstrated a remarkable unity in their public teaching that there was no death before the fall.

I think that unity is a pretty good indication that "The Earth and Man" does not represent the Church's current position on death before the fall.

10 Comments:

Blogger SunGazer said...

But the unspoken question remains, exactly what is death? Is the death of a bacteria or virus the same as the death of a human? I don't know, but the question would be a lot easier if we had a perfect definition. But scientists can't even agree on a perfect definition of what life is or is not. It sounds like a trivial question, but it is not.

So, I think we not only need to ask, if there was death before the Fall, but what that actually means. It may well be that from one persective, there was not, and yet, we still get "dead" animals. I don't know, but I don't think this will be completely and clearly settled until we can answer that.

2/02/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

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SunGazer,

There was a discussion about "Death, defining what wasn't before the fall" on this blog last year.

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2/03/2006 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger SunGazer said...

Thanks Gary, that was interesting. But let me elaborate. Death was defined causally as separation of body and spirit. Did that mean Adam and Eve could not eat any fruit they picked? Were any oranges eaten still alive? Or, what if Adam dropped a rock on two earthworms. The half of one was smashed. The other worm was divided in half, and then smashed. Would one case be considered death and the other not? We could consider gedanken experiments like this all day long. Death as separation of spirit is an easy definition, but it is not as clear as we need, when we don't understand just how a plant or animal spirit differs from our own.

2/03/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

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SunGazer,

"And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death." (D&C 101:29.) This verse describes the millennial earth when there will be no death. Righteous men will not "sleep in the dust" but will be changed from mortality to immortality in the "twinkling of an eye" (D&C 43:32; D&C 63:49–51; D&C 101:30–31). What is your opinion about these immortal beings eating fruit? And what about mortals who haven't yet experienced the change? Will they eat such things as fruit? And yet the scriptures are clear, No Death During the Millennium. For me, it's the same problem looking at the future as it is looking at the past.

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2/03/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I came at this blog in a round-about way. I've now had a chance to read through most of the site’s content and conversations. I think I understand your reasoning. I'm not trying to be patronizing when I say I appreciate your sincere search for truth and desire to align yourself with true doctrine and the Lord's annointed. A person can’t go wrong on anything that truly matters in this life with that desire. You, and related blogs, bring to light important issues of context regarding the nature of the 1931 discussions and statement. I also appreciate your defense of the character of Joseph Fielding Smith. I’ve read (most of) both of the biographies on him and many of his works. I sustain him completely, am in awe of his life and character, and have personally benefited from his gospel scholarship and acumen. He was a true apostle and prophet in every sense of those words.
I wanted to raise some points and ask a couple related questions about the thesis of this site and its defense.

1) J.S. said, "a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such." Those holding priesthood keys, including the prophet of the church, are entitled to hold opinions. They may even hold them with fervor and they may even preach them publicly. This is a wonderful aspect of the church. However, they exercise caution when they are “acting as such.” I am not aware of any statement on this issue that has been connected with modern revelation. On this issue, at some point, all these statements are always anchored back to reasoning from the scriptural record. Certainly, revelation may come on this issue (and clearly set down by Priesthood keys), and then the discussion would be over. For this issue, I believe we are still to search, ponder, pray, and reflect on the words of the prophets.

2) If, as you maintain in various places, that NDBF has not been proclaimed official doctrine, why not consider the full scriptural support and implications of accepting that doctrine?

As JFSII said, “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by authorities of the church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted”. Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 2, p. 113-114.

And Harold B. Lee, “The only person authorized to bring forth new revelation is the prophet. If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as a revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth. (73-26)
(Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 544.)

As I pointed out earlier, the scriptural (canonized) support for NDBF is scarce. In many ways, I find that it contradicts other scripture. Derivative doctrines contradict many direct, clear scriptural statements. (Perhaps when I have some more time I can give some examples and not all this vagary :) )

Thus, IMHO, I find that NDBF is not “substantiated by the standard Church works” and I find it to be “in conflict with what the Lord has revealed.” I think the scriptural canon is very relevant to the issue since I believe NDBF remains undecided as a matter of doctrine (albeit some apostles have expressed opinions on the matter).

3) If I understand correctly, this site holds that NDBF is the “accepted” doctrine of the church (rather than official) based mainly on priesthood/relief society manuals (especially 1972, but also Harold B. Lee, Wilford Woodruff), statements in these manuals representing the settling of the issue through priesthood keys. Although these manuals are always excellent and offer wonderful insight into the life and work of the Lord and his Kingdom, it hardly seems the place to end a controversy.

Concerning the current manuals, three statements at the front of these books bring them into context:
A) On the copyright page: “Your comments and suggestions about this book would be appreciated…Then offer your comments and suggestions about the book’s strengths and areas of potential improvement.”
These do not sound like the words one would attach to something that was to be the definitive source for deciding doctrine. For instance, it is hard to imagine these words prefacing the D&C or the Family Proclamation.
B) From the Intro to Wilford Woodruff: “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have established the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church series… " This sounds like the approval was in the establishment of the series, not necessarily for every phrase in them.
C) Again from Intro to Wilford Woodruff: “This book feature the teachings of President Wilford Woodruff…” Again, an emphasis on the ownership of the statements.

Nibley’s book was a priesthood manual in `57…

Questions:
1) In your opinion, is NDBF official doctrine? If not, then what? Is it binding on the church?
2) I am wondering if you claim the NDBF issue settled? (in the J. Reuben Clark sense)
3) When, in your site, you suggest that NDBF is an accepted doctrine of the church, do you mean that the majority of church members and brethren believe it, or that the Brethren have settled the issue in a quiet sort of way?

2/20/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Re: Those holding priesthood keys, including the prophet of the church, are entitled to hold opinions. They may even hold them with fervor and they may even preach them publicly.... However, they exercise caution when they are "acting as such."

1) Those holding priesthood keys are "acting as such" in general conference and I am not aware of a single instance of Death Before the Fall being taught in that context.

2) Publicly preached private opinions that are out of harmony with canonized scriptural truth on any subject constitute barely a blip on the doctrinal radar.

3) Public preaching of No Death Before the Fall, on the other hand, is much more than a blip on the radar. Beginning with the testimony of early brethren and continuing through the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith right up through the general conference teachings of Elder Russell M. Nelson and President Boyd K. Packer, not to mention the current First Presidency's "doctrinal guidebook," True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, the apostles and prophets teach 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.

4) The most recent six Church Presidents and thirty one Apostles have have demonstrated a remarkable unity in their public teachings regarding No Death Before the Fall.

2/23/2006 03:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The phrase, "Adam's Fall brought death into the world" may be interpreted in one of two ways:

1) Adam's Fall introduced death to mankind (i.e., the world from the perspective of mankind)

2) Adam's Fall brought death to all living things (perhaps this could be referred to as NDBF For All Living Things, or NDBF-FALT).

To say that Adam's fall "brought mortality" or that Adam's fall "brought phyical death to the world" does not clarify between #1 and NDBF-FALT. One cannot contest the fact that many GA's have publicly taught NDBF-FALT. However, there is a difference in the treatment of this matter in General Conference and also more official publications such as "True to the Faith" or "Gospel Principles" compared with other sources (e.g., the Bible Dictionary). Both Elder Nelson and Elder Packer in general conference and the "True to the Faith" and "Gospel Principles" manuals do not clarify between #1 and NDBF-FALT. Without exception of which I am aware, in these more official sources, NDBF-FALT is never explicitly espoused, even by those who obviously believe it; the statement concerning Adam's fall bringing death is always said very generically so as not to distinguish between #1 and NDBF-FALT.

I find this most striking. If NDBF-FALT is to be preached as if it is the official doctrine, why the hesitation to say it in the more official setting?

IMHO, there is good reason why those four additional words, "for all living things," are never added in these more official settings: The doctrine that Adam's fall brought death to mankind is completely settled (or rather, it has never really been up for question); however, the doctrine that Adam's Fall brought death to all living things remains--in the face of strong opinions on the matter--an unsettle doctrine of the church.

In this context, it bears repeating that NDBF-FALT is weakly supported in the standard works and that pronouncements of NDBF-FALT are always traced back to an interpretation of the standard works and not to any other modern revelation.

3/15/2006 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

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Anonymous,

Your present argument seems to be based on a theory that finds absolutely no doctrinal support among Church leaders, past or present — namely that Adam and Eve were placed on an already mortal world as its only immortal beings.

The Church teaches that "all things [were] created in a paradisiacal state — without death." (Bruce R. McConkie, General Conference, April 1985, Ensign, May 1985, 11; emphasis added.)

Apostles since 1970 have taught no death before the fall using the standard works. Public apostolic interpretation of no death before the fall scriptures during the past thirty-six years is relevant. The complete absense (during those same thirty-six years) of any public apostolic controversy regarding no death before the fall is especially relevant.

Two living Apostles, Boyd K. Packer and Russell M. Nelson, have taught no death before the fall for all living things in general conference using the standard works. Follow the links. Read the articles.

When was Death Before the Fall ever taught in general conference?

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3/16/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad others have noticed this is the 75th anniversary of Talmage's "The Earth and Man." I've read everything here in this Blog and responses. As a note: I am LDS; I own every LDS book published on Doctrine and Science since 1906 - only about 30 books in all - and, since 1995 I have studied this topic as an intensive study in my life. I am now 57 years old; I am my Ward's Gospel Doctrine teacher. My background professionally - I was a Biblical archaeologist for several decades, almost 50 trips to the Mediterranean and Israel, a serious scholar of the scriptures. Over the last 2 years I have made over 10 trips to BYU talking to LDS scientists in the Geology and Biology departmennts; since 1995 I have also studied over 150 science books on ALL fields of science, including recent landmark studies in meteorites, chondrules, and impact structure evidences on Earth which, with now almost 200 discovered, clearly confirm and validate the geological age of the earth in billions of years, and, of Life and Physical Death on Earth prior to the organization of Adam, the Garden, the Fall. In Sterling Talmage's book "Can Science Be Faith Promoting?" published in the early 1990's, he quotes from a letter his father James E. Talmage wrote regarding "Physical Death before the Fall:" Simply, Talmage Sr., a PhD Geologist, went to Adam Ondi-Ahman and observed the following evidences: He noted that in the stones Adam piled for the Altar, identified by Joseph Smith, there are "fossil corpses" of pre-Adamic sea animals. He also noted that in the hill under the Altar there is a coal seam. He concludes that, by these evidences, Life with ordained Physical Death existed on this earth for ages upon ages before the Earth was fit for human habitation, prior to Adam, before the Fall. These facts are true. As LDS we are able to speak of both Physical Death and of Spiritual Death, separation from the presence of God. With this understanding, the firm LDS Doctrines of Adam, the Garden, the Fall and the Atonement remain unchanged: all Physical Death ordained over ages to prepare the Earth for the Advent of Man was only Physical Death, as the Earth remained within the Spiritual Presence of Elohim and Jehovah until the moment of the Fall of Adam; at this time, Spiritual Death fell on all Life past and Present on this Earth, and, Physical Death fell upon the Race of Adam and all Life in the specially planted Garden; Physical Death continued as it always had over the rest of the Earth. James E. Talmage declared the fossil record to be Jehovah's testament of Creation written in the stony pages of the Earth; Harold B. Lee called the Earth's fossiliferous layered shales by the same expression: Earth itself is the Third Witness, after the Scriptures (1) and the modern Living Oracles (2). For those who are interested in this subject, in about 8 weeks I will come back and post the info about the already planned and in-preparation 75th Anniversay James E. Talmage Symposium. These and related topics will be addressed by numerous LDS scientists, the papers will be published as a new book. TThis Symposium is being organized as a fulfillment of the 1931 Statement by the First Presidency that it was leaving these questions to the sciences of astronomy, geology, biology, etc., - delegating that stewardship of research and finding the answers to science, while the Brethren fulfilled THEIR holy callings to work for the Redemption of Mankind. The Symposium is being prepared as a response to that delegated responsibility, as a Report after 75 years, on the evidences and indicated conclusions to 3 questions only: What is the approximate age of Earth; Did the Lord ordain Physical Death as a means of preparing the needed organic biomass of Earth to ready the planet for the Advent of Man (as the vast fossil record would indicate)? and, what is the genetic DNA connection of the fossil generations to the Post-Adamic Fallen World's genetic populations, if any, most especially to our Primary Parent, Adam? Another book on this subject is already in MS form, in editing for press, I have read it, very interesting. In summary, the 1931 Statements declaring the NDBF notion is not a doctrine of the Church, nor is DBF notion a doctrine of the Church, is indicated in the 1931 Statement leaving these questions to science to research and answer - a clear stewardship requiring humble response in Report form. The comment made here quoting JFSII that no matter who says it, if it is not true, it isn't true, is key LDS reality and truth. The comment here that Church study manuals are NOT sources for only defined, resolved, settled Church Doctrine, pointing to the invitation to make suggestions for improvements, is absolutely correct. The history of the "contention" (First Presidency word) between JFSII and Apostles Talmage, Widstoe and Merril is far more extensive than alluded to here, and, Pres David O MacKay settled the question of "Man: His Origin and Destiny" as JFSII's personal opinion in his letter, published, in which he stated that JFSII's book was not athorized, nor approved, and it presents ideas solely the personal feelings of the Author. Final note: When JFSII became Prophet, he notably refrained from making any First Presidency Statement on these issues - at all. This would have been the time for him to speak as Prophet; he remained silent, and did not re-visit these issues, except to invite Br. Henry B. Eyring into his office to hear his point of view on the subjects, after which JFSII declined to speak his own views that day; he remained silent on these issues, and died without giving his former opinions the stamp of First Presidency Authority. Since his death, vast additional witness has come forth from the Lord's Geological Testament, leaving no doubt as to the certain exietence of Physical Death prior to Adam. Jehovah, both Creator and Redeemer, knew and knows that the existence of ordained Physical Death prior to the Fall of Man in no way affects Man's need of an Infinite Atonement. If you are like me, you will eagerly await the Symposium; I will pass on the details as soon as I know the certain details. Sincerely, DS

4/03/2006 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

DS,

Thank you for the above comment. There is much that could be said in response. Here are some thoughts.


I.

Regarding your claim that President Smith "remained silent and did not re-visit these issues" while serving as Prophet, please consider the following:

A.   During his entire 60 year ministry (including his relatively short ministry as Prophet), Joseph Fielding Smith taught No Death Before the Fall. Click here to read 42 such statements made in seven different decades (1910s through 1970s). Notice that the last ten of these statements were published after he became President of the Church and the last one was published by his First Presidency.

B.   On October 2nd, 1970, President Joseph Fielding Smith stood in the full authority of his calling as Prophet and reaffirmed his lifelong criticism of scientific speculation. Here are his words:

-------------------- quote --------------------
"As agents of the Lord we are not called or authorized to teach the philosophies of the world or the speculative theories of our scientific age. Our mission is to preach the doctrines of salvation in plainness and simplicity as they are revealed and recorded in the scriptures....

"The truths of the gospel are everlastingly the same. Like God himself, they are the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I have taught and written in the past I would teach and write again under the same circumstances." (General Conference, October 1970, as published in the Improvement Era, December 1970, p. 2; italics in original.)
------------------ end quote ------------------


II.

Regarding your claim that President David O. McKay "settled" the Church's position in his letter to William Lee Stokes:

The Church has never published the David O. McKay one you quote. Therefore, it cannot represent the position of the Church. Furthermore, the actions and statements of subsequent Church presidents contradict what the letter says. In addition, you should be aware (if you aren't already) of the following warning about this particular letter:

-------------------- quote --------------------
"I should take note of one letter signed by a president of the Church addressed to a private individual. It includes a sentence which, taken out of context, reads, 'On the subject of organic evolution the church has officially taken no position.' For some reasons the addressee passed this letter about. For years it has appeared each time this subject is debated.

"Letters to individuals are not the channel for announcing the policy of the Church. For several important reasons, this letter itself is not a declaration of the position of the Church, as some have interpreted it to be. Do not anchor your position on this major issue to that one sentence! It is in conflict with the two official declarations, each signed by all members of the First Presidency." (Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990. 23; emphasis in original.)
------------------ end quote ------------------


III.

The Church quite simply has not elevated the fossil record to the status of Third Witness or Geological Testament, especially not when scientific interpretation thereof contradicts current Apostolic interpretation of canonized scripture.


IV.

Your appeal to the 1931 First Presidency statement as a "stewardship requiring humble response in Report form" is pure irony and is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the 1931 statement.

Attempting to reconcile creation scripture with science is precisely what was rejected in 1931 by the First Presidency.

4/04/2006 03:37:00 PM  

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