Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dave Banack, LDS Seminary, and the Creation

Dave Banack's discussion "Creationism and LDS Seminary" ignores certain Creation teachings found in the Seminary Old Testament manuals. Why?

Do those Creation teachings "set up LDS kids to have a bad experience when they inevitably take high school or university science courses?" What if the teacher actually used the manuals? Wouldn't some LDS seminary students think those teachings accurately represent the LDS view on Creation?

Dave isn't interested in what Bruce R. McConkie or Joseph Fielding Smith said about Creation. He's interested in more contemporary statements and what the current Seminary manuals say. Great. So what follows are a few Creation teachings from the Seminary manuals along with other current Church manuals and Church published statements by contemporary apostles and prophets.

1. The Unfallen Creation of all things

The image below is from the Old Testament Student Study Guide. (p.12.) Click on the image to open it larger in a new window.

Three stages in Adam's existence

The physical Creation of all things was in an unfallen condition. Later, when Adam fell, all things became mortal and subject to death.

In other words, the creation was paradisiacal.  There was no mortality.  Death for all forms of life began when Adam fell.

2. Death came after the Creation

A chart on page 28 of the teacher's manual describes conditions before and after the Fall. It says: "After the Fall, all things became mortal and could die physically.... The earth also fell."

These statements from the Seminary manual are entirely consistent with Creation teachings in other LDS manuals. For example, the current MP/RS manual, Gospel Principles, teaches:

"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.)

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

The current Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals were established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Harold B. Lee manual teaches Creation without death:

"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." (p.20.)

Likewise, the Wilford Woodruff manual teaches:

"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.)

The missionary guide Preach My Gospel (on page 52) directs missionaries to study the LDS 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."

The First Presidency's doctrinal guidebook True to the Faith teaches that "the Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world." (p.46.)

3. The Creation was exclusively an act of God

We're not told how the Creation happened, but the teacher's manual on p.24 instructs the teacher to:

"Bring a puzzle that has about 200 pieces to class. Ask students to consider how simple and small the puzzle is when compared to the entire universe. Invite a student to try and assemble the puzzle by shaking the contents of the box and letting the pieces fall to the floor. Encourage the student to try again, this time trying harder to let the pieces fit together by themselves. Ask: If something as simple as this puzzle cannot simply fall into place, what does that tell us about something as immense as this earth or universe? Discuss what the experiment teaches about the need for a Creator in assembling the elements."

On that same page, the manual quotes Mark E. Petersen saying Earth's "creation was literally and truly, completely and exclusively, an act of God."

These statements from the Seminary manual are 100% compatible with the following teachings of Russell M. Nelson:

“Many ... people have concluded that the universe began as a 'big bang' that eventually resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.

“To me, such theories are unbelievable! Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary? It is unthinkable!" (Ensign, Jan. 1988, 64.)


Scriptures and the prophets have not told us how the earth was created, but they have made it abundantly clear that God was not merely an idle spectator, patiently waiting for the Creation to unfold on its own. Spencer W. Kimball so testified:

"The truth remains. The earth was made by the Gods as was the watch by the watchmaker. Opinions do not change that." (Liahona, June 1988.)

"Who can doubt that there is a designer?" declared President Monson in the April 2010 General Conference.

"If there is a design in this world in which we live, there must be a Designer. Who can behold the many wonders of the universe without believing that there is a design for all mankind? Who can doubt that there is a Designer?

"In the book of Genesis we learn that the Grand Designer created the heaven and the earth." (Ensign, May 2010.)

Any discussion about LDS Seminary teachings on Genesis 1 and the Creation should at least acknowledge what the Student and Teacher Old Testament Seminary manuals say about the Creation. And any seminary teacher who has intentionally or unwittingly controverted what's in the manuals should, to borrow Dave's words, "probably announce a correction to the class."


Anonymous Stanton Smith said...

The puzzle analogy is a fallacy. According to the rules set therein, the entire universe would have to be full of life--not just part of it.

It is much more probable that the universe (being as immense as it is) could get life right in a few places. A more proper analogy would be to have a puzzle made up of 10 thousand trillion pieces, shake up the box, and see if a few of the pieces land next to the ones they are "intended" to be next to.

Even that is being almost too simple.

9/20/2011 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton Smith: if the puzzle analogy is a fallacy, I suppose the print shop analogy is a fallacy as well. But the issue isn't whether those teachings are true or false, it's whether LDS seminary students will think those teachings accurately represent the LDS view on Creation. What do you think?

9/20/2011 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger BHodges said...

Do those Creation teachings "set up LDS kids to have a bad experience when they inevitably take high school or university science courses?"

Typically, they very well can, yes. I personally know people for whom this has been the case.

9/20/2011 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

R. Gary, I think a better title to this post would be "Quotes I Like From the Old Testament Seminary Manual." I'm not sure it really has much to do with my post at T&S.

I think almost all LDS seminary students are likely to accept what they hear in LDS seminary classes as accurately representing LDS doctrine. Which is why it is important for teachers -- and the manual -- to not misstate current LDS positions on sensitive topics.

9/21/2011 05:08:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Dave: are you suggesting that statements from the OT Seminary manuals quoted in the OP misstate the LDS Creation view?

Seems to me when other manuals and apostles/prophets corroborate the Seminary manuals, that is how we identify the LDS view in the first place. No?

9/21/2011 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Tempest, meet teapot.

R Gary, I found Dave's post at T&S to be enlightening and helpful as it casts the general discussion of the creation in an excellent light.

The issue of NDBF is also interesting, but is not the only feature of Creationism.

As for whether young students feel some conflict when taught NDBF and then are also taught sciene -- of course they feel conflict. And they will have to do what their parents and others have done and sort that issue out for themselves, including studying the published words of apostles and prophets, church manuals and their own prayerful pleas for understanding.

9/21/2011 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Paul: Yes, the T&S discussion addressed Creation. But the word "Seminary" (not in your comment) is in the title and ten times in the body of the T&S opening post. It is not a "general discussion of the creation," it is a discussion about creation and LDS Seminary that misrepresents by omission the Seminary Old Testament manuals.

9/21/2011 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

I do think the print shop analogy is a fallacy. For example, the way things form in the universe are not random. Particles follow certain rules of physics and chemistry, some being attracted to some than to others. If I had the time and means, I would love to make a computer program that would put the print shop analogy to the test. The rules of physics however, would be converted to the rules of the English language, based on probabilities. For example, a combination of the letters t and h is more likely than that of t and x. This combination is more likely to follow before or after a vowel, rather than a consonant. I think we'd all be surprised at just how many coherent, accurate words are formed. We could then take it to the next level, applying these same laws to words. If somehow the word "and" came into place, it would be more likely to follow other words out there in this "universe of letters". Feed a trillion letters into a program like this, and you would certainly have a lot of meaningless nonsense, but there would also be pockets of coherent language.

I think that what Elder Nelson's comments are more along the lines of "there is a God", although I wouldn't bet the farm on the accuracy of my interpretations of apostle's quotes.

I feel that a more appropriate (albeit imperfect) analogy would be that of a garden. I can say that I planted the garden in my back yard and that I grew everything that is in it, but did I really go in and "design" every leaf, every stem, every root? No, nature did that. But without me, would the garden be there? No.

9/21/2011 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton S: Wait. Did you just give me a 200 word essay supposedly proving that an explosion in a print shop could in fact produce a dictionary? Then did you accuse Elder Nelson of using words that mean one thing to say something entirely different? And finally, did offer him a "more appropriate" analogy?

9/21/2011 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

Gary: Assuming that letters were allowed to follow certain laws, in the same manner that particles do, then yes, I can see how an explosion in a print shop could produce bits of correct, formal English.

As for Elder Nelson's quote, I explained it the way that I understand it--that God exists, and that the universe isn't just something that came to be without God.

Finally, I offered an analogy that seems to "click" in my mind a little more than the print shop analogy, because, as we have seen here, it is easy to interpret the print shop analogy to mean entirely different things. I'm not pretending to speak for Elder Nelson, I'm just giving ideas that have helped me understand it better, and perhaps can do the same for others.

9/22/2011 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton S: Do you believe "the universe began as a 'big bang' that eventually resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it"?  Are you aware that, to Russell M. Nelson, "such theories are unbelievable!"? Are you rewording Nelson in the way that you understand him, or are you trying to create the appearance of not contradicting him?

9/22/2011 07:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

R. Gary: I believe that the universe began with the Big Bang, but that God is involved. I see it in the same way that He doesn't hold the earth and make it orbit the sun, He uses gravity to do that for him so that He can focus on more important things, like our spiritual salvation.

I believe that God performs miracles to strengthen and reward the faith of those who believe in Him. Before any of us were on the earth, what would He have to prove by performing some miracle to create the earth? Nothing. Which is why I believe that He let the earth come about by natural processes, while He is still the Creator, much like in my analogy of the garden.

I am aware that to Elder Nelson, the idea seems ridiculous. I also am aware that he isn't a physicist or cosmologist. I am also aware that he instructs and guides us to our spiritual salvation, as do all the Twelve and First Presidency, and pertaining to spiritual doctrines, we should not deviate from what they teach. I am also aware that the scientific opinions of church leaders may also not be my own, and that is ok with me.

And I am rewording him in the way that I understand the quote--in the way that it makes sense to me. However, I admit that as I previously stated, it is ok with me if my scientific views contradict those of a church leader. It is not ok with me if my spiritual views contradict those of church leaders.

9/22/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton S: Okay, the print shop analogy doesn't exactly "click" for you. Do you feel the same way about the watchmaker analogy?

The watchmaker analogy was made famous by William Paley, a nineteenth-century Anglican clergyman. Paley expressed his argument so well, in fact, that he has earned the respect of more recent evolutionists. For example,
Richard Dawkins took the title of his book The Blind Watchmaker from Paley's analogy. Dawkins claims, however, that
natural selection plays the role of watchmaker, as opposed to an intelligent being.

Spencer W. Kimball was President of the Church when he used the watchmaker analogy in a devotional address at Brigham Young University in September 1977.

The following year, the talk containing Kimball's watchmaker remarks was published as his September 1978 "First Presidency Message" in the Ensign. And in 1979, it was again published as his July "First Presidency Message" in the Tambuli. In this talk, Kimball strongly denies that the earth came into existence by chance. I quoted a brief excerpt from this talk in the OP. Here is a link to three pertinent paragraphs at LDS.org.

Do you agree with Spencer W. Kimball regarding the watchmaker analogy, or with Richard Dawkins?

9/22/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger BHodges said...

Do you agree with Spencer W. Kimball regarding the watchmaker analogy, or with Richard Dawkins?

This perfectly encapsulates one of my biggest reservations about arguments frequently employed here. We've turned away from analyzing theories and ideas in and of themselves and moved to agreeing with people. People, not ideas, reign here. If you have a church calling you should win by default, regardless of the quality or accuracy of the idea expressed. That's a problem for me.

9/22/2011 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

BHodges: The LDS Church is not a democracy, it is a kingdom. Today's apostles and prophets do not teach theories and ideas based on the scientific strength of the argument or on its popularity. The truth isn't established by vote. If Russell M. Nelson and Spencer W. Kimball are, to you, just two people with personal opinions, so be it. Many of us in the Church, however, believe they speak for God and we act accordingly. We do not stretch their words to fit scientific opinions.

Therefore, another way to ask the question at the end of my last comment would be this: Are your own opinions influenced by the atheist or the apostle?

9/22/2011 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger BHodges said...

Can I think about the idea apart from specific individuals who propound various views on it? Your either/or doesn't make any sense to me.

9/22/2011 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

BHodges: Everyone should think about ideas apart from their source and, since sources disagree to some extent, value must also be assigned to each source. Typically, it is assumed that conflicting sources can't both be right. The value you have assigned to each source will determine where you will look for flaws.

9/22/2011 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger BHodges said...

The value you have assigned to each source will determine where you will look for flaws.

Again, you assume an idea can't be truly considered apart from its evident source, no matter what. That is an assertion without sufficient justification.

9/22/2011 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

And you assume that you have all knowledge with no need for outside sources.

9/22/2011 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger BHodges said...

No I don't. But I'm happy to see you acknowledge your overriding concern, which is assent to authoritative position over cogency of idea.

9/22/2011 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Here's an thought with no source: Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.

Here's another one: No one realizes more fully than does the mind trained to scientific method how much we do not know.

I'm very comfortable believing him who has gazed into heaven over the trained scientist who has not.

9/22/2011 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

R. Gary: Going back to my garden analogy, the earth wouldn't be here without God, but did he need to design every aspect and detail of it as one does with a watch? In my opinion, no. When it comes to species arising on the earth, I agree with Dawkins. Natural forces bring these things about; however, without God none of it would exist, so ultimately He is the Creator.

"Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject." And when did Joseph Smith write that? Oh yeah, before anyone knew much of anything about the physical universe (comparatively to our day). What we have learned in the past 30 years alone far outweighs everything that was known about it in the previous millenia.

However, I believe that the Prophet was speaking about the heaven we associate with the afterlife, not with the universe outside the confines of our earth. In Elder David B. Haight's talk "The Sacrament," Ensign, May 1983, 14, he uses this quote to teach us about our "true relation to God". I absolutely agree that if I could look into the celestial kingdom for 5 minutes, I would know more about it than is explained in the standard works, or anything written by any prophet in any age.

9/22/2011 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton S: Let's first talk about the "gaze into heaven" statement. I intentionally didn't attribute it to anyone. That makes it just an idea with no surrounding text to determine its meaning. It can be analyzed in and of itself. Standing alone, that statement might well be talking about Moses who was shown the creation of this earth and many other worlds with their innumerable inhabitants.

Some of what Moses saw is recorded in the standard works, but not all of it. Okay. So what is the problem with believing Moses and his modern counterparts over the trained scientist?

9/22/2011 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

R. Gary: "So what is the problem with believing Moses and his modern counterparts over the trained scientist?"

Nothing, provided that what they write accurately explains what they saw to the extent that those in our day do not misinterpret their statements. Today, the trained scientist can look into the heavens and see the way things are, and postulate as to why they are that way. This is concrete. It is testable. Moses' vision is not testable by just anyone, because it involves the supernatural (i.e. someone receiving a vision from the Holy Ghost, which we cannot will to happen).

This is why I believe so many believe that they either have to choose God or science, when in reality science makes no attempt to explain or discredit God, simply because it cannot.

If you haven't, I suggest that you read Only A Theory by Kenneth R. Miller. I will be the first to admit that he does not establish LDS doctrine, but many of his ideas are good, and I believe that a lot of people would do well to merely consider what he puts forth.

9/22/2011 01:08:00 PM  

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