Thursday, April 26, 2012

Russell M. Nelson: Thanks be to God, not the big bang.

The big bang is widely thought to explain the origin of the universe. Even some Church members take that view, although the big bang doesn't need God. The Church itself has no official position on the big bang, but there was a recent comment about it from Elder Russell M. Nelson, a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Nearly half a century as a medical doctor confirms his belief that all things, especially the human body, were divinely created:

"Scriptures declare that heaven, earth, and all things upon the earth are divinely created." (Ensign, Mar. 2008.)

In his most recent general conference talk, Elder Nelson took the time to elaborate on his belief that each organ of the human body "is a wondrous gift from God." He then gave this warning:

"Some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere. Ask yourself, 'Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?' The likelihood is most remote. But if so, it could never heal its own torn pages or reproduce its own newer editions!" (Ensign, May 2012.)

But it's not just the human body. To Elder Nelson "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44.)

Those familiar with Elder Nelson's ministry weren't surprised by his big bang comment. In the past, he has consistently argued that science need not challenge faith because, for him, science affirms faith:

"Scientists in many disciplines observe ... manifestations of law and order, whether in the predictability of the tides, the phases of the moon, or the location of stars in the sky. Such law and order undergird all creation. Those laws can be discovered and defined. Their consequences can be measured. Such order bears witness of a Supreme Creator. (See Alma 30:44.)" (Ensign, Mar. 2008.)

For more than 25 years, he has warned about theories which deny man’s divine origin. He has specifically mentioned natural selection, organic evolution, and the big bang. He has even asked for volunteers to help overcome such “foolishness of men.” (Ensign, Jan. 1988.)

Elder Nelson’s April 2012 general conference remark is best understood in its larger context which includes his prior teachings. This was not the first or the only time he has talked about the origin of the earth and man. His current comment is consistent with all of his previous teachings about Creation.

We should also remember that Elder Nelson's big bang comment relates directly back to the tropical fish he mentioned at the beginning of his talk. Let us thank God, not the big bang, for the universe we live in.


Blogger Steven Montgomery said...

Indeed. Thank God. Not mere chance.

4/26/2012 05:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

"Scientists in many disciplines observe ... manifestations of law and order, whether in the predictability of the tides, the phases of the moon, or the location of stars in the sky. Such law and order undergird all creation. Those laws can be discovered and defined. Their consequences can be measured. Such order bears witness of a Supreme Creator" (emphasis mine).

How does this not apply to the big bang? We see how galaxies are moving throughout the universe, and have been moving over time. You draw the lines of movement backwards to simulate what it was like in the past and everything comes together. What's not to get?

As mentioned in previous discussions by others, the big bang says nothing about God's existence or lack thereof. There is no reason to assume that if the big bang is real, then God isn't.

And lastly (although I'm beating a dead horse), I still believe the print shop analogy to be a fallacy, as I detailed out to you several months ago.

4/26/2012 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Hansink said...

While I agree with the sentiment that we don’t exist by “mere chance, “I also don’t think that we should deny the role of chance (or absurdly minimize its role) when trying to make the point of some divine role. Denying “chance” is like denying an old earth (older than Old Testament chronology).

4/26/2012 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous BHodges said...

Interestingly, Elder Nelson's comment doesn't outright deny the Big Bang theory entirely. The main point he was making is that God is the creator, whatever the process, and that it has not been the product of sheer chance. I agree with him. But his comment just as easily promotes a simplistic anti-scientific attitude. Thus I think the statement was mostly a distraction, an unnecessary brief swipe at a credible picture of the development of the universe as far as we understand it at the present, which is of course a limited understanding, but far from being baseless or silly or useless. I feel comfortable, as a believing Mormon, to firmly disagree with Elder Nelson in regards to how his comment reflects on science today, even while still sustaining him. To me, truly sustaining a leader means also recognizing that not everything a leader says is true.

Moreover, you mention Elder Nelson's secular credentials as a doctor, which is an interesting distinction because it introduces a different way of looking at him aside from his prophetic role. Being an expert in cardiology does not make one an expert in contemporary physics, though. These are two incredibly different fields of expertise. One deals with present-day human biology, the other with cosmology of the macro and micro--from general and special relativity to quantum mechanics to theoretical physics. Learning more about such things can increase OR decrease one's faith in a divine creator. It is not a necessary outcome either way. We all walk by faith in that regard.

Thus, I can contently disagree with Elder Nelson in a similar fashion to Henry Eyring disagreeing with Joseph Fielding Smith on the age of the earth and remain firm in the faith and fine in fellowship. :)

4/26/2012 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

BHodges: Three days ago, you could "completely disagree with Elder Nelson's strange remarks about the Big Bang ... and even criticize them." (Click here.)

Today, you narrowed the meaning of those same remarks such that you can now say, "I agree with him." And that's fine. Either way it's okay by me.

But I want to make it clear to the world that I sustain Russell M. Nelson fully, totally, and completely — not just those things I approve of. My religion goes deep and is not limited to beliefs and practices that are comfortable and easy.

And so, once more, we disagree. But so what? No harm done. Please visit my blog again.

4/26/2012 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's strange. I don't think God sustains anyone in the things they say that aren't true. And He doesn't expect me to either... My religion requires to only believe true things...

4/29/2012 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

The Lord doesn't "expect" us to believe anything that isn't true. But He does expect us to "give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles." He asks us to follow His apostles with a conviction born of the Holy Ghost that they are indeed His apostles and that they speak His truth.

In suggesting to the world (by way of this and other blogs) that today's apostles say things that aren't true, you are setting yourself up as knowing more than the apostles about what *is* true in those areas. You do so without authority.

4/29/2012 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger wage slave said...

The rejection of miracles in natural history is a trajedy of the modern age. Secular humanism has emerged as the dogmatic religion of mainstream science, trampling the divinity of nature like so many swine.

Kudos to Elder Holland for standing up Man's birthright - to see nature as the miracle it is.

4/30/2012 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


4/30/2012 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Don said...

In our church, we live with many tensions and contradictions. Young women, for example, should grow up to be mothers...yet we educate thousands of them every year to have careers. Similarly, the bretheren tell us to shy away from evolution and some aspects of astronomy, yet we teach those very subjects at BYU and many LDS scientists have gone on to achieve great things precisely because they were taught evolution and modern astronomy. If we did not teach these subjects, and if LDS young people throughout the world were not taught them, we would not be making any substantial contribution to human knowledge or progress in these areas. No one would be more proud of LDS scientific endeavors than Joseph Smith.

5/01/2012 07:48:00 PM  

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