Sunday, August 24, 2008

This earth was made from other older planets

SteveP writes the Mormon Organon and teaches evolution at BYU. His comments are welcome on this blog. However, one of his recent comments has me wondering. He claims "no one is a 'moron' for not believing evolution."

The definition of a moron is "a stupid person." Yet on his own blog SteveP mocks what he calls the "Smashed Together and Uniting Planets Indurately Doctrine" or, as he abbreviates it, "STUPID."

According to SteveP, the "STUPID" doctrine offers a false explanation for the existence of fossils that are millions of years old on an earth that is only a few thousand years old. In spite of things like data and evidence, therefore, the "stupid" doctrine facilitates not believing evolution.

The problem, of course, is that the "stupid" doctrine was taught by Joseph Smith. So I'm wondering, does that make Joseph Smith "stupid"?

Twelve years ago, BYU Studies editor John Welch said nineteenth-century LDS writers 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." (In the introduction to B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2nd edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996, xiii-xiv; italics in the original.)

Again, I'm wondering, were those nineteenth-century LDS writers "stupid"?

Last year, the Church's Newsroom posted an article, "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," which links to a 1989 Ensign article that quotes Joseph Smith saying:

"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, p.27.)

I don't think the Church's Newsroom is "stupid" and I don't think the authors of the 1989 Ensign article are "stupid."

So I'm wondering, what did SteveP actually mean when he said, "No one is a 'moron' for not believing evolution."


Anonymous Geoff J said...

Hehe. That is a funny acronym. Kudos to Steve for coming up with it.

I wanted to point out that Joseph Smith did not teach the "STUPID" doctrine and that quote you link to shows it. Rather Joseph taught that matter is beginningless. So the matter that makes up earth has been in other forms before it became part of the earth (since the earth is not beginningless). What he said in the King Follett Discourse is a far cry from the wild speculations that humungous chunks of planets were mashed together to make up our planet.

8/24/2008 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous SteveP said...

Well, I’ll tell you exactly what I meant. Since I am indeed that very SteveP. First my statement “no one is a 'moron' for not believing evolution.” Was simply a defense of you and those likeminded individuals to hold the beliefs you do. You were attacked as being a moron for not believing in evolution. However, I know a number of intelligent people who do not and I was arguing for your right to hold your beliefs. Now of course I don’t think they are particularly good ideas as my blog argues at length and in detail, but I’ll grant that intelligent people can disagree. You in turn unkindly claim in that my tongue-in-cheek acronym STUPID (and I invite everyone to read the post to get a sense of the tone and its attempt to be humorous) was an attempt to claim the opposite--that I was arguing that people to hold that belief are in fact stupid. As I argued with the person criticizing you as a ‘moron’ I do not hold the opinion that intelligent people cannot disagree. If you read my response in fact you will see I make no such claim. In fact, my attempt to defend you was the opposite claim that you think I’m making with my acronym. The acronym was chosen because those beliefs about Earth's creation lack any evidentiary support in geological record. And we are geologically to the point where we could recognize a patchwork job of creation of the kind you argue for. Sorry Gary but if you are determined to not let Joseph Smith be a child of his times and argue that we must accept all of his cultural beliefs then you are going to have to accept a lot of strange things. Your call. But no I do not think you, Joseph Smith or anyone else are stupid. I just disagree with you.

8/24/2008 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Among those writers who knew Joseph Smith personally, it was commonly suggested that this earth had been assembled from pieces of other recycled worlds. And yes, Geoff J, it is possible that that isn't what Joseph Smith meant when he 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." But that is clearly how his contemporaries understood the doctrine.

8/24/2008 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SteveP, perhaps your attempt to defend me was misplaced because the other guy specifically stated "if an apostle today preaches against evolution, that apostle ... comes off like a moron." So naturally, I (not being an apostle) needed no defense. And yes, it is clear that your article was an attempt to be humorous, but humorous at the expense of people who believe the "stupid" (as you call it) doctrine. But let me hasten to say again that your comments are welcome on this blog.

I liked Kristine's comment on your blog today. She said, "it’s perfectly possible to disagree about *ideas* without feeling personally attacked or getting all huffy about someone else’s righteousness (or lack thereof)."

Thanks, SteveP, for your clarifying comment.

8/24/2008 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

I once wrote a post on James Talmage's Improvement Era article on how this teaching of Joseph "has been amplified and applied by some of our people in a way unwarranted by the Prophet’s utterance[.]" He posited that the belief that the world was formed from "dust" from previous worlds was the best way to view it (which from a scientific perspective is fairly accurate - supernovae, etc.).

As to how Joseph's contemporaries interpreted the phrase...well, I'm not sure that they are particularly reliable in the areas of astrophysics. Moon Quakers and sun-people, notwithstanding.

8/24/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

...also - I seem to remember a discussion about this, but I don't remember where) - Gary, have you discussed before how people that view fossils coming from other worlds incorporate the idea of resurrection into that? I can't remember.

8/24/2008 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J. Stapley: What brings you to this blog again? Goodness, how long has it been?

The Era article you quote was written more than a century ago by a Salt Lake geology teacher who appended no fewer than four academic titles to his name. After he became an apostle, he often used only the title Elder.

In his 1904 article, Professor Talmage carefully cultivated the idea that religion is wrong if it contradicts popular scientific views. In later life, Elder Talmage was a little more circumspect.

Joseph Smith said God organized this earth "the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship" (Teachings, p.350). Applying scientific views about earth's origin, we might 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.

Regarding resurrection, if religion is wrong when it contradicts science, then the answer is that resurrection is scientifically impossible. On the other hand, if religion prevails we must remember that one gospel truth doesn't invalidate another.

The resurrection question is irrelevant because "man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend" (Mosiah 4:9). Anyone who tries is like a busy ant trying to count all the grains of sand in the sea.

Anyway, welcome back, Jonathon. Your comments are always stimulating.

8/25/2008 02:09:00 AM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Thanks for the welcome. I have been reading, just not commenting so much.

Regarding resurrection, I think I may have mis-communicated. I meant to ask how believers in the fossil-are-from-other-planets model deal with resurection. I'm assuming that they believe that when God resurrects beings he doesn't leave their bones. If I am reading your comment correctly, it appears that this assumption is mistaken.

8/25/2008 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Cap said...

Again, I believe that we should leave Theology to the authorities of theology, and Science to the authorities on science.

I do not think J. Smith was stupid. I admire him. I have learned such great things from what he taught. However, I do not feel a need to believe every single word that came out of his mouth. Men did not live on the moon, and the Earth was not created by giant clumps of 'other worlds' which had dinosaur bones on them, and some how those fossils survived the intense process of forming a planet.

I also agree with what geoff j has posted.

Also, I don't see how believing one way or the other on this issue effects my salvation. And so I will believe the way of common sense. The way that has been proven countless times by the authorities on the subject.

8/25/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J., in my view it isn't necessary for the old-fossils-from-old-planets model to deal with resurection. I haven't really worried much about micromanaging God when it comes to fossil origins. Just because I don't know how to do something doesn't mean God can't do it. He is always able to do His work.

Cap, you've expressed youself well. I appreciate your stopping by to comment.

8/25/2008 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Collingridge said...

One of the concerns I have with proposing that ancient fossils came from other worlds is the understanding that all life forms will eventually be resurrected. If this is indeed going to happen in this world, then why would it not happen in other worlds? Why wouldn't the Trilobites and dinos from other worlds be resurrected, if they indeed came from other worlds?

Moreover, if this mortal sphere will one day be celestialized, then why not celestialize other worlds instead of smashing them into "bits" and using the matter in another world? Now I accept that the material from other planets without life can be re-used (like Mars or Venus), yet those worlds have no life on them. They are dead and, as far as we can tell, devoid of life - thus no fossils will likely be found in them.
2 cents

8/26/2008 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Dave Collingridge: You ask some good questions. I believe that among those who have taught the doctrine there will most likely be someone who can answer your questions. As for me, I wish only to point out that the doctrine has been around since 1841 when it was taught by Joseph Smith, it has been referenced by the Church as recently as last year, and it is not "stupid."

8/26/2008 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The argument about the resurrection really doesn't make much sense to me. It appears that the belief here about the resurrection is that the matter left over from our former physical bodies is what will be resurrected into new physical bodies. That’s the part that doesn’t make much sense. It’s a nice idea to think of our remains rising from the grave and being transformed into immortal bodies but here’s why it doesn’t make any sense. Whatever part of our old physical body that is still intact at the time of the resurrection (bones) could certainly be used as part of new resurrected body but what about all the other parts (soft tissue) that have long since decomposed? What material will be used to create those parts of the resurrected body? We should all know from high school science classes that when an organism dies, its body decomposes and returns to the soil to be become food for plants which are then eaten by animals, or its body is eaten by another animal and becomes part of that animal. This is all known as the circle of life. With this in mind, it is illogical to think that any of the original soft tissues of an organism would be used to resurrect that organism because those materials may have been part of many, many organisms. If the original soft tissues are not used to resurrect a body, why would it be necessary to use any of the original matter to resurrect a body? Think of the countless number of people who have died whose bodies are completely gone. When we are resurrected, it really doesn’t matter what materials are used to create those bodies and it won’t necessarily be what’s left of our old physical bodies. And speaking of fossils, fossilized remains of ancient organisms do not normally contain any original tissue but are usually hardened minerals that have seeped into and replaced the tissues of the dead organism.


1/26/2009 06:42:00 AM  

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