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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bloggernacle dodgeball

Last Sunday, I was accused of fashioning a quote from Gospel Principles that conveys meaning not found in the manual. Here's the quote:

Chapter 6: "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).

And here's the allegation (the entire comment is here):

"his ellipsis and his creative selection of this bit from p. 28 carefully placed in front of that bit from p. 27 differs very little from clipping stray words from a magazine to rearrange them into a ransom note. Chapter 6 makes nothing like the cogent argument he sets out in his comment."

I disagree completely. Read the manual (here) — it teaches ndbf. Furthermore, both the quote and the manual are consistent with the larger context of LDS media in general.

The larger context

Gospel Principles was written in 1978 and ndbf has been in it all along. So let's look at a sampling of what the Church has said about ndbf since 1978.

1.

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 ndbf teachings in the LDS Bible Dictionary (see death, p.655; Fall of Adam, p.670; flesh, p.676; paradise, p.742; and restitution; restoration, p.761).

2.

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. Guide to the Scriptures says: "The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)." ("Death, Physical.")

3.

Teachings of Presidents of the Church is a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who approved Churchwide distribution of ndbf teachings in the Harold B. Lee and Wilford Woodruff manuals.

4.

In 1988, Boyd K. Packer taught ndbf in both General Conferences. Again in 2008, President Packer emphasized that the Fall was "essential if the condition of mortality was to exist ." If the condition of mortality could not exist without the Fall, then it clearly did not exist before the Fall.

5.

In his April 2000 general conference talk, Russell M. Nelson taught ndbf. In the April 2001 general conference, Elder Nelson recommended the Bible Dictionary entry for "Fall of Adam (page 670, paragraphs 1–2)" (Ensign, May 2001, p.32). The following year, Elder Nelson recommended the same Bible Dictionary paragraphs (Ensign, Mar. 2002, p.17). Part of the first paragraph in the Bible Dictionary entry for Fall of Adam states:

"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." (Bible Dictionary, Fall of Adam.)

6.

Current Sunday School and Primary manuals ask teachers to understand the Bible Dictionary entry for "Fall of Adam" before teaching certain lessons.

7.

The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are expected to study and teach. Twenty eight times, missionaries are directed by Preach My Gospel to read and become familiar with ideas found in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

The Scripture Study section on page 52 asks missionaries to study the Bible Dictionary entry for "Death" which states explicitly:

"Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."

8.

The First Presidency's doctrinal guidebook, True to the Faith, teaches that "the Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world (see Moses 6:48)."

Conclusion

The above sample is large enough to demonstrate how pervasive and persistent ndbf is in LDS media. My quote is not misleading — it faithfully echos both the manual and the larger Church context.

And my accuser is playing Bloggernacle dodgeball.

Granted, if we were talking about just one manual, there's a slim chance the game might have worked. But Church published manuals, scripture study helps, and the teachings of living apostles unitedly and consistently teach ndbf, and that makes it a lot more difficult to dodge.

Keep in mind, however, that ndbf isn't binding, it's not a revelation, and it's not the official position of the Church. Nobody is obligated to believe it. You can believe whatever you want.

What you cannot do is claim ndbf isn't being taught. It's taught in the Church generally and it's taught in Gospel Principles.

5 Comments:

Blogger Steven said...

With all the evidence you present on this blog regarding NDBF, how can it not be considered the "official position of the Church"? What more is required for NDBF to be considered "official"?

3/28/2010 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stephen,

It might actually be my personal official position. But it isn't the Church's official position unless the Church, it its own official media, makes that claim. Published statements by the First Presidency establish the official position of the Church. Here are two examples:

1.  "The Origin of Man" was formally issued by the First Presidency in 1909 and reprinted in the February 2002 Ensign with a statement that it "expresses the Church's doctrinal position on these matters" (p.26) and a reminder that it contains "the Church's official teachings on the creation of mankind and evolution" (p.80).

2.  "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" is an official declaration of the Church. The first few words make that clear, "We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim...."

The vast majority of members accept ndbf matter-of-factly. Hence, there is no need for a First Presidency statement. This type of reasoning was explained by Gerald N. Lund, a former member of Seventy.

"Generally, the First Presidency issues official doctrinal declarations when there is a general misunderstanding of the doctrine on the part of many people. Therefore, the Church teaches many principles which are accepted as doctrines but which the First Presidency has seen no need to declare in an official pronouncement." (Ensign, Feb. 1982, p.38.)

3/28/2010 06:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Sam B. said...

Gary,
Interesting accumulation of statements. I do have a couple quibbles, though. First, in spite of the authoritative voice of the Bible Dictionary, it is not canonized and, in fact, doesn't reference any source for its assertions, for example, that Adam and Eve had no blood before the Fall or that death did not exist before the Fall.

And you make a (logical, but not required) conclusion in number 4 (I think--Blogger's comments page makes it hard to look back at the OP): that is, even assuming that the Fall was necessary for death to exist in the world, it does not necessarily follow that the Fall had to precede death. We see in scripture some temporal disconnects: Nephi is able to rejoice in the Atonement even though the Atonement won't happen for several hundred years, and the Brother of Jared is able to see Jesus' physical body in spite of the fact that He would not become incarnate for presumably thousands of years.

Like I said, you conclusion that the Fall had to predate death is not an off-the-wall conclusion. Nonetheless, it is a conclusion, and is not a necessary one.

3/29/2010 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Sam B.,

1. Regarding your claim that the Bible Dictionary "doesn't reference any source for its assertions," the 1979 LDS Bible was not produced in a corner. At least three members of the Quorum of the Twelve were involved in the project every step of the way and the First Presidency and Twelve approved the final product. When the prophets do something of that magnitude, they ARE the source and the citation you should use is: LDS Bible Dictionary, "Fall of Adam."

At the same time, pease add "it is not canonized" to the following list from my OP: "it isn't binding, it's not a revelation, and it's not the official position of the Church."

The truth of what's in the Bible Dictionary is not the issue here. I'm not asking anyone to believe it. I'm only asking for what you have done, acknowledge that it is taught.

2. Given your examples of "temporal disconnects," your statement that "it does not necessarily follow that the Fall had to precede death" actually does make sense, but only against the few words I quoted.

When you follow the two links in that same paragraph, you'll see that President Packer does in fact believe and teach that the Fall had to precede death in the world. And again, the question on this post is what does President Packer believe and teach about death before the fall, not whether he is right or wrong.

3/29/2010 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger cinepro said...

It's not like you quoted from some obscure text only rarely seen. The Gospel Principles manual is online, and anyone can see that your quotes accurately conveyed the intended meaning.

If you had really misquoted it, they would have provided that actual quotes and shown how you twisted the meaning. If someone just accuses you of misquoting without actually showing the correct meaning, then they know they're just putting up a smokescreen and hoping nobody Googles it.

Your obviously getting critiqued by amateurs.

3/30/2010 03:00:00 PM  

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