Sunday, August 26, 2012

A fallen world

Modern science teaches that physical death began on earth when life began, millions of years ago. In contrast, "latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam." (Bible Dictionary, "Death.") When Adam fell, "the earth itself became subject to death [and] a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 20.)

We live in a fallen world. The very words "fallen world" suggest an earlier, higher state of existence. James E. Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, David A. Bednar, and Jeffrey R Holland have each contributed to our understanding of the phrase "fallen world."

James E. Talmage: "The Garden Room ... ceiling and walls are embellished with oil paintings—the former to represent clouds and sky, with sun and moon and star; the latter showing landscape scenes of rare beauty. There are sylvan grottoes and mossy dells, lakelets and brooks, waterfalls and rivulets, trees, vines and flowers, insects, birds and beasts, in short, the earth beautiful,—as it was before the Fall. It may be called the Garden of Eden Room, for in every part and appurtenance it speaks of sweet content and blessed repose. There is no suggestion of disturbance, enmity or hostility; the beasts are at peace and the birds live in amity....

"The World Room.... From Eden man has been driven out to meet contention, to struggle with difficulties, to live by strife and sweat. This chamber may well be known as the room of the fallen world, or more briefly, the World Room." (The House of the Lord, 157-158.)

Joseph Fielding Smith: "It is a fallen world. It has been a fallen world since Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden." (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:308.)

Joseph Fielding Smith: “Modern education declares that there never was such a thing as the fall of man, but that conditions have always gone on in the same way as now in this mortal world. Here, say they, death and mutation have always held sway as natural conditions on this earth and everywhere throughout the universe the same laws obtain. It is declared that man has made his ascent to the exalted place he now occupies through countless ages of development which has gradually distinguished him from lower forms of life.

“Such a doctrine of necessity discards the story of Adam and the Garden of Eden, which it looks upon as a myth coming down to us from an early age of foolish ignorance and superstition. Moreover, it is taught that since death was always here, and a natural condition prevailing throughout all space, there could not possibly come a redemption from Adam’s transgression, hence there was no need for a Savior for a fallen world.” (Old Testament: Student Manual, Genesis—2 Samuel, Third edition, 2003, 42.)

David A. Bednar: "We live in a fallen world. The very elements out of which our bodies were created are by nature fallen and ever subject to the pull of sin, corruption, and death. Thus, the Fall of Adam and its consequences affect us most directly through our physical bodies." (Ensign, Sep. 2001.)

David A. Bednar: "It is not just that the Son of God brought light into a darkened and fallen world; He is the Light (see 3 Ne. 11:11)." (New Era, Oct. 2005.)

Jeffrey R. Holland: “A life without problems or limitations or challenges—life without ‘opposition in all things,’ as Lehi phrased it—would paradoxically but in very fact be less rewarding and less ennobling than one which confronts—even frequently confronts—difficulty and disappointment and sorrow. As beloved Eve said, were it not for the difficulties faced in a fallen world, neither she nor Adam nor any of the rest of us ever would have known “the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.’” (Ensign, Nov. 1996.)


Blogger Lincoln Cannon said...

As 2 Nephi 2 clearly teaches, where there is no death, there is no life. As there was no death before the fall, there was no life before the fall. Clearly this is not an accurate characterization of our perspectives looking back at the history of our world. It can be accurate only if we consider it a characterization of the perspective of our evolutionary ancestors who could not conceptualize of life and death as we do. There must be opposition in all things, distinctions and categories in all things, or there is no sense nor insensibility -- no meaning whatsoever. There was no life before the fall.

8/26/2012 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Lincoln Cannon: I'm pretty sure that no one who is authorized to interpret scripture for the entire Church (First Presidency and Twelve) believes there was no life before the fall. I do understand that that is your point of view and I respect that. But you need to understand that the idea has no advocates among today's apostles and prophets.

8/26/2012 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

I believe one can reconcile without contradiction all the revealed words of the prophets concerning creation, fall, and atonement, including the idea of "a fallen world" as a result of a historical Adam and Eve fall, with the idea evolution.

Wouldn't you agree that it is a distinct possibility given current and past teachings/revelations of our prophets, that in time evolution may be confirmed by revelation to be a true principle?

8/26/2012 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steven: No. I would not agree. And here's why. Since 1909, the Church's official position has been that Adam was the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was not a development from lower orders of the animal creation. This has been corroborated and affirmed by apostles and prophets for more than 100 years.

Church published apostolic statements about the origin of man speak unanimously against the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man. I do not expect that God will change his mind about this.

8/26/2012 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

I believe you are referring to this quote, "It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race."

While this could be interpreted as an anti-evolution statement, it is not necessarily so. It points out that the idea "that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation" is a theory of man. It does not however say that this theory is wrong as you have suggested. I think it is significant that this specific portion of the statement was intentionally omitted when President Grant reiterated the statement with few modifications in 1925.

When it was recognized that the 1909 First Presidency’s statement didn’t address the origin of man’s physical body, questions among members persisted. Less than six months after the official statement, the following information was printed in the April 1910 Improvement Era: "Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, thru the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted thru sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God." Although there was no author’s name attached to this statement, a number of scholars have suggested that Joseph F. Smith was responsible for the material since he and Edward H. Anderson were the editors (see http://www.mormonfortress.com/evolution.pdf note 3).

There have been several apostles and leaders that have expressed thoughts both for and against principles of evolution, and their thoughts on the matter have hardly been unanimous. Rather, with actual consistency our prophets have reiterated time and again that the church has no official position on the matter (i.e. God has not revealed his mind to the church on the subject of evolution.) If our prophets have claimed there has been no revelation on the matter (the church could not be neutral if such a revelation were given to the church), how can you presume to know the mind of God for the church on the matter?

8/26/2012 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steven: I applaud your enthusiasm for this subject. I will gladly step aside while you preach evolution far and wide. But what I cannot do is allow you to use my blog to misrepresent the Church.

Yes. I was referring to the Church's (then and now) official position on evolution published in 1909. Your personal interpretation thereof is interesting. Apostolic interpretation views it as anti-evolution (click here). 
Duane Jeffery, a de facto spokesman for Mormon evolutionists, has said it is "anti-science" [1]  and "quite anti-evolutionary." [2]

In 1909, the First Presidency spoke to the Church membership. In 1925, the First Presidency spoke to the national media. Therefore, it is inappropriate to read hidden doctrinal meaning into the differences in wording.

There is no evidence that the 1910 comment was published with First Presidency approval and there is substantial evidence that it was not (click here). In documents that bear his name, Joseph F. Smith enunciated a consistent position on the origin of man. He clearly believed that the question of whether the mortal bodies of man evolved is answered in scripture: Adam was physically "the son of God." (Luke 3:38.) The Church itself has never attributed the April 1910 anonymous comment to anyone.

The Church publication doesn't exist that says the Church has no position on human evolution, and there has never been even one statement by an apostle published by the Church that endorses human evolution. Seems pretty one sided and unanimous to me.

1.  As quoted in William E.  Evenson and Duane E.  Jeffery, Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2005), p. 30.
2.  As quoted in Deseret Morning News, March 1, 2006, p. B3.

8/27/2012 12:16:00 AM  
Anonymous DB said...

I enjoyed reading Talmage's discription of the Garden and World rooms in the temple. I've also always enjoyed passing through the different rooms in the Salt Lake and Manti temples especially the creation room in the Manti temple which illustrates, in clockwise fashion around the room, the creation of the primitive world, early life forms, dinosaurs, prehistoric plants, prehistoric mammals, and finally modern mammals and plants.

8/27/2012 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

DB: It seems the more recent temples don't have as many large murals, although there are beautiful paintings. I particularly enjoy seeing the work of Minerva Teichert and Leconte Stewart in temples.

Let me just point out that I quoted James E. Talmage primarily because he described the Garden Room as "earth beautiful,—as it was before the Fall" and the World Room as "the fallen world."

8/27/2012 05:01:00 PM  

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