Saturday, November 01, 2008

David H. Bailey, creationism, and the 1931 First Presidency

In his recent Mormon Organon article, David H. Bailey claims the Church's view on evolution was made clear by the 1931 First Presidency. Actually, there was no 1931 First Presidency statement on evolution.

Bailey is quoting from an internal 3,200 word memo that was distributed by the First Presidency to general authorities in 1931. The subject of the memo was a proposed priesthood manual written by Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy.

Despite its length, the 1931 memo doesn't even mention evolution and apparently has no problem with Roberts stating that "the claims of evolution ... are contrary to all experience so far as man's knowledge extends" or his claim that "each subdivision of life ... produces after its kind, whereas evolution in all its forms destroys that thought."

For two and a half years, the Twelve had urged Roberts to rewrite the chapters on reconciling creation scripture with "geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology" while Roberts insisted that scripture should be interpreted using science.

The First Presidency concluded in the 1931 memo that further discussion of the manual would lead only to "confusion, division, and misunderstanding," therefore it could not be used by the Church.

The intent of the 1931 memo is not what Bailey implies. He reads "Let scientists interpret scripture using science," but the memo actually says "Don't stretch the gospel to fit scientific views."

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David H. Bailey, creationism, and death before the fall

Over at The Mormon Organon, David H. Bailey recently expressed mock surprise that Latter-day Saints would think there was no death before the fall of Adam. But here's what Bailey forgot to mention:

Gordon B. Hinckley's First Presidency approved publication of NDBF teachings in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff:

"We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned." (p.81.)

Gordon B. Hinckley's First Presidency also approved publication of NDBF teachings in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee:

"Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death.... How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state." (p.20.)

The issue here is NOT pre-fall death per se. Rather the point is that, while no Church President has told the Church there was death before the fall, at least two Church Presidents (whose NDBF teachings were approved by Gordon B. Hinckley) taught there was NO death before the fall.

Actually, it's okay for David H. Bailey to claim there was death before the fall. But it's NOT okay for him to claim the LDS Church supports that idea because the Church's Presidents have taught otherwise.

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