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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Science versus the Fall of Adam and Eve

There was a discussion earlier this week at Boap.org's Blog about Gospel Principles, Chapter 5: "The Creation."

There were a variety of comments on related subjects, including the observation that "an anti-science suspicion ... still lurks in Mormonism." But Last Lemming made what was (in my opinion) the most cogent comment when he said: "I hope you noticed that the printed lesson was free of any explicit science-bashing."

The same cannot be said for Chapter 6: "The Fall of Adam and Eve."

"When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden,... there was no death" (p.28). "Their part in our Father's plan was to bring mortality into the world" (p.27).

Chapter 38 corroborates:

"Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world" (p.219).

Science claims the birth and death of numerous generations over long periods of time results in speciation, the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. [1]

The Fall of Adam and Eve happened only about six thousand years ago. [2]  Before that, speciation was not possible because there was no death in the world. Therefore, Chapter 6 is neither evolution friendly nor science neutral.



Notes

1.  Wikipedia, Speciation, as of Mar. 20, 2010.

2.  See D&C 77:12. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand Himself" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 252). See also Marlin K. Jensen, Ensign, Dec. 2002, p.60; The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp.104-105; Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, pp.253-254; Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Oct 1983, p.3; George Albert Smith, Tambuli, Jan 1980, p.39; Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, Nov 1989, p.35; Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1978, p.100; Marion D. Hanks, Ensign, Jul 1971, p.60; Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Nov 1977, p.14; Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Sep 1987, p.6; Guide to the Scriptures, Chronology; Bible Dictionary, Chronological Tables; Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, p.9. Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp.8, 65, 95-96, 241, 252; Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.445; Faith Preceeds the Miracle, p.326; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp.104, 403, 555; Messages of the First Presidency, 2:221, 3:93; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, Meridian of Time.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Steve EM said...

Gary,

So what’s your point? The LDS church is out to lunch and informed Mormons should send in their resignations?

You’re making two faulty assumptions in my opinion: The story of Adam and Eve in the garden is fact, not allegory or metaphor, and the Bible genealogies are complete. I and many other informed people reject both assumptions.

Our Adam living 60,000 years ago is far more plausible than 6,000 years ago. And the Garden of Eden story? That’s obviously metaphorical.

3/21/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

The fact is that in my adult lifetime, including my high school and mission years plus more than 40 years of marriage, there has not been one Church published statement by any apostle or prophet that teaches death before the fall. In addition, the LDS Church has never published a statement by any apostle or prophet sympathetic to human evolution.

By contrast, *no death before the fall* is taught repeatedly in current official Church media, as I've pointed out again and again for over five years.

It is not required, however that a person believe all Church media. You can believe whatever you want.

3/21/2010 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary,

I'm sure this is all rehash for you, but when -- in the creation/garden story -- do the scriptures change from metaphorical to literal? General authorities have talked about the creative periods being interpreted as very long stretches of time. They've talked about Eve's creation as being metaphorical, etc.

I think one has to explain *exactly* what the fall is and how it came about in *literal* terms in order to demonstrate how evolution is *not* part of our present creation -- as per the scriptures and prophetic pronouncements.

I am a firm believer in the fall and that before it came about there was no death. However, I'm not certain as to how or when it took place -- or even exactly where.

Jack

3/21/2010 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jack,

Long creative periods and a figurative rib story do NOT throw open the door wide to any and every private metaphorical interpretation of scripture. Specifically, the most recent seven Church Presidents and the most recent thirty four Apostles have have demonstrated a remarkable unity in their public teachings about *no death before the fall*.

It is my belief that God has called apostles and prophets (the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) specifically to teach doctrine, so that "we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." (Eph. 4:14.)

I believe the apostles and prophets are appointed to teach doctrine and interpret scripture. The Lord says twice that the elders of His Church are to say "none other things" than that which the apostles and prophets teach (D&C 52:9, 36).

In his book, President Hinckley included the following paragraph twice:

"The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles, called and ordained to hold the keys of the priesthood, have the authority and responsibility to govern the Church, to administer its ordinances, to expound its doctrine, and to establish and maintain its practices. Each man who is ordained an Apostle and sustained a member of the Council of the Twelve is sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.77 and p.84; emphasis added.)

Because the words of the dead don't trump the words of the living, it is actually very simple for me. The creation/garden story is metaphorical when the apostles and prophets say it's metaphorical, and the creation/garden story is literal when the apostles and prophets say it's literal.

3/21/2010 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary,

In my last paragraph I state emphatically that I support the doctrine of no death before the fall. What is not clear to me is how that demonstrates that evolution cannot be viable. Do we really know exactly where, when, or even how the Fall took place? Have the prophets been crystal clear in response to those questions? If not, then there is no way to invalidate evolution by asserting that there was no death before the Fall.

Jack

3/21/2010 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jack,

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee is part of a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Keeping that fact in mind, let's see what President Lee has to say about where and how the fall took place:

"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." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p.20.)

When did the fall take place? Every copy of the LDS Bible has bound in with it the LDS Bible Dictionary (English) or Guide to the Scriptures (Spanish); and all electronic editions of the LDS Scriptures have them both. The Bible Dictionary entry for Chronological Tables and the Guide to the Scriptures entry for Chronology are just two of the sources listed in footnote 2 of the original post above, each of which indicates that the Fall of Adam and Eve happened only about six thousand years ago. No exact dates are given, but without death prior to about six thousand years ago evolution isn't a viable explanation for the origin of life on earth.

3/21/2010 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger cinepro said...

Another interesting post, R.Gary.

While you may not be able to convince others of the Doctrine, at the very least you are showing the degree to which believers in "pre-Adamites" and evolution must ignore Church published sources such as Conference talks and lesson manuals (including the newly-revised Gospel Principles manual).

3/22/2010 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So when I read about Clovis Man who lived in the Americas more than 10,000 years ago, I should not believe it? Is nothing true until a General Authority tells me it's true?

3/23/2010 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous, you completely misunderstand. My post says nothing about whether it's true. My post merely points out that current official LDS media teaches no death on this earth before six thousand years ago.

3/23/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave C. said...

Hi Gary,

You and I assail macroevolutionary processes, but from different perspectives.

It is my personal belief that no death before the fall refers either to mankind or is limited to the Garden of Eden dispensation. By mankind I mean that there was no human death before Adam fell, and by the garden dispensation I mean that nothing died during the time when the garden of eden was on the earth.
(I am trying to find a way to reconcile scientific evidence for an ancient earth and death long before Adam arrived with the NDBF doctrine.)
I believe that some things died while Adam was in the garden of eden. For instance, he and Eve ate fruit. If you pick a piece of fruit and eat it, it dies. Moreover, for things to grow in the earth, there must be small dead organisms and bacteria "eating" and breaking down decaying matter or else the soil is sterile.
Thoughts?

3/23/2010 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Dave, as I pointed out above in an earlier comment, the most recent seven Church Presidents and the most recent thirty four Apostles have demonstrated a remarkable unity in this: All comments from them in Church media agree there was *no death before the fall*. No dissenting opinions have been expressed by any of them in any Church magazine or manual.

Therefore, my reasoning is this: Conclusions drawn from Adam and Eve eating fruit or things growing in the soil prior to the fall are meaningless unless you can say positively beforehand that all of the natural processes of life and death were exactly the same then as now. But you can't prove that. In fact, you are using what we know about growing/eating fruit today to prove there was death before the Fall. The argument seems a bit circular to me.

3/23/2010 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous,

I've never said anyone is "obliged to believe" what's in LDS media.

3/25/2010 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The difficulty with glibly rejecting evolution is that you thus must reject data that comes from so many directions: fossil evidence, molecular evidence, morphological evidence, systematics, genetics, geology, etc. You have to reject the scientific method upon which the theory is built. In so doing you then have to distrust any aspect of science, whether it be physics, chemistry, medicine or even engineering or technology; for the underlying methodology for understanding observable phenomena is the same. You put people of faith who are also people of reason into a very precarious position. You are so confident in your assertions, and make NDBF sound like such an important doctrinal issue, upon which everything else seems to hinge, that there is no room for a person who is honestly trying to understand scientific principles to also enjoy faith in the doctrines of the gospel. I think you risk inadvertently driving people away from the very religion you cherish (and I do too). And if instead they cling to the religion they instead perpetuate anti-science sentiments based on gross misunderstandings of science and its methods.

3/25/2010 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Kevin,

You misrepresent my views when you say that I "make ndbf sound like such an important doctrinal issue, upon which everything else seems to hinge." That is NOT what I believe. The rest of your comment, however, makes a valid point.

The fact that official Church manuals, scripture Study Helps, and the teachings of living apostles unitedly and consistently teach ndbf makes it difficult for you to deal with.

But let me reemphasize my opinion that ndbf is not binding, or a revelation, or the official position of the Church. In fact I've never claimed anyone is obligated in any way to believe ndbf. You can believe whatever you want, just don't try to tell me the Church doesn't teach ndbf.

3/26/2010 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

The church in the past has also taught death before the fall. James E. Talmage, in a pamphlet published by the church, stated that life lived and died before Adam.
And yet from a doctrinal point of view, no one is obligated to believe Talmage either.

3/26/2010 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim,

Four years ago, I posted here on this blog about James E. Talmage and Death Before the Fall. Personally, I think there is a lot of truth in that Talmage sermon.

3/26/2010 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim,

Here's another thought about your comment.

The Church taught many things in the past that it no longer teaches today. It doesn't concern me when my beliefs don't agree with what the Church taught in the past. I try to have my beliefs guided by what the "living" apostles and prophets teach and what they approve in Church manuals.

President Harold B. Lee was once asked "Didn't the Prophet Joseph Smith say that this was contrary to the order of heaven to name high priests as presidents of the First Council of Seventy when they were named in the beginning?"

President Lee answered, "Well, I had understood that he did, but had you ever thought that what was contrary to the order of heaven in 1840 might not be contrary to the order of heaven in 1960?"

President Lee then taught a lesson to all Church members, "You see, he had not thought of that. He ... was following a dead prophet, and he was forgetting that there [is] a living prophet today. Hence the importance of our stressing that word living."

3/26/2010 07:25:00 AM  

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