Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mormons believe global Flood story

Recently, I noticed a couple of blog discussions about the great Flood — here and here. Was it local or global? Was it figurative or literal? As I thought about these discussions, I wondered: What do Mormons generally believe? Is there an official answer?

There are a lot of things about which Mormons don't agree. In fact, we pretty much believe what we want about most things. Sometimes we even disagree with our Church about its teachings, but seeking support from others for our disagreements with the Church, especially while doing Church work such as teaching fellow members, is discouraged.

Along with others of his associates, M. Russell Ballard has asked Church members to create and use blogs to help promote a correct understanding of the Church. He has also cautioned:

"We cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches.... All conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time....

"Discussions focused on questioning, debating, and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God." (Ensign, July 2008.)

What Mormons officially believe is that which has been approved by the First Presidency and Twelve and distributed to members in print or electronic form by the Church. It comes packaged in a wide range of magazines, manuals, and handbooks. An excellent example is The Guide to the Scriptures, a study aid that is now included in all non-English print editions of LDS Scripture and in all electronic editions (such as the Scriptures at LDS.org).

In an effort to dispel misconceptions that may exist at this time regarding what Mormons believe about the Flood, an official article from The Guide to the Scriptures has been downloaded to the window below from the Church web site at LDS.org:


My conclusion? Mormons (officially) believe that the earth was completely covered with water. And Mormons (generally) believe what the Church teaches.

For more information, see "The Flood and the Tower of Babel" at LDS.org. The author's credentials are listed here and here.


Anonymous Tim said...

What's your take on the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on this subject?

2/15/2014 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim: The Encyclopedia of Mormonism doesn't have an entry on this subject, but there are two paragraphs about it in the entry on "Earth." Aside from what I've already said above, here's what I think:

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism was published in New York in 1992 by Macmillan Publishing with the cooperation and assistance of BYU. The Encyclopedia occasionally echos, but is never a primary source for, the official position of the Church. The Church does not rely on scholars and New York publishers to establish its position on anything.

Occasionally, one hears talk about Gordon B. Hinckley's involvement in the preparation of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Thirteen years after it was published, he was Church Prophet and said this in general conference:

-------------- quote --------------
"Those of us who read and believe the scriptures are aware of the warnings of prophets concerning catastrophes that have come to pass and are yet to come to pass.

"There was the great Flood, when waters covered the earth and when, as Peter says, only 'eight souls were saved' (1 Pet. 3:20)."
-------------- end quote --------------

I think that pretty well sums it up.

2/15/2014 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So . . . given there is zero evidence for a worldwide flood -- zip, nada, none -- does that therefore mean that the Church is wrong is this?

2/15/2014 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous No evidence? None that you accept, maybe. Just because you aren't seeing what you've imagined you should see, doesn't mean there is no evidence. I think the problem lies in time scales.

I ask you to please bear with me for a minute here while I explain something.

The Church teaches that God created an eternal, deathless, paradisiacal world and that there was no mortality until the Fall of Adam, at which time "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" (reference here). The Church also teaches that the 7,000 years mentioned in D&C 77:6 has reference to the earth's temporal existence, meaning since the Fall of Adam.

It is my personal opinion that once we believe what the Church teaches about the Creation and the Fall, then time scales for what we see on this mortal earth are forced to change. Once that happens, evidence for a global Flood can be seen all over the earth.

2/15/2014 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Other Anon said...

That last comment... I know you have the best of intentions, Gary, but sometimes I really feel like you're trying to push me out of the church. It seems like you're proving the church wrong at every chance you get.

I like to think I have a strong testimony, and then I get pushed into either/or scenarios, and I fear that one day I will be inclined to abandon my faith.

I love the gospel and I love reason. Sometimes the views of the church are so out of alignment with reason that it makes the position very shaky...

2/18/2014 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Other Anon: The way I see it, science bases its conclusions about deep time on the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always done so in the past. This assumption is accepted as true without proof.

I admit that this assumption makes sense and that it appears to explain many phenomena. But projecting that same assumption in the opposite direction, popular scientist Carl Sagan said that billions of years from now our sun and earth will die (click here for more on that).

It should not challenge anyone's faith for Mormonism to believe Sagan was wrong about that. In fact, one of the most science friendly apostles of this dispensation said it this way:

-------------- quote --------------
"It is decreed that this earth shall become a celestialized, glorified sphere; such is the revealed word. Science has nothing to say on the matter; it can neither refute nor prove. But the Lord, even God, hath spoken it—and so shall it be! Amen." (James E. Talmage, The Earth and Man, 14).
-------------- end quote --------------

And so I say: Let science explain deep time. But let science also admit that its explanations of deep time are based on an assumption which may or may not be true. And let science therefore be respectful of alternate explanations that come by revelation from God.

2/18/2014 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Other Anon said...

Gary, while it's possible (i.e., can't be absolutely proven one way or the other) that the laws of physics change over scales of "deep time", a global flood happening in the last few thousand years is not deep time. As Ben S's post stated, there should be mountains of evidence for a global flood, yet there isn't any.

I'm all for the earth being celestialized, or burned up by the sun, or whatever may become of it. But to say that we have to declare things to be false, which are so obviously true (e.g., geology, biology, chemistry, physics, cosmology, etc.), simply because an apostle with an opinion said something to the contrary is ludicrous.

It's ok for people to be wrong. It's ok for apostles to be wrong. The big picture is that we are God's children and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. As long as I accept that, live a worthy life, and have the saving ordinances performed by the power of the priesthood, I'll be just fine in the eternities. But to make the matter such a black and white dichotomy, saying that we can't believe what science can obviously show if we want to believe in the church, and all that goes along with it, is very harmful to testimonies, and I believe is a major contributing factor to the number of young adults leaving the church in this day and age.

2/19/2014 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Other Anon: As members, we are not expected to agree about everything. We are not even expected to agree always with our Church. It's okay for members to think the Church is wrong about some things. The only problem, for me at least, is when people start drumming up support in public for their disagreements with the Church. Let me illustrate this another way.

Occasionally, I enjoy a cola drink. I've done so for more than fifty years. Yes, I know the Church frowns on it. But, as long as I'm not campaigning against what the Church teaches, there is no current Church policy that says I can't drink cola and also have a temple recommend.

This works the same way for a person who believes there have been billions of years of evolution leading up to where humankind is today. As long as he or she is not campaigning against what the Church teaches, there is no Church policy against issuing a temple recommend to that person.

Personally, I view cola use and believing evolution to be similar: I don't believe either one is any more serious than the other.

So, I believe you and I, even though we seem to be on opposite sides of the evolution debate, should nevertheless happily sit together in Church. We should gladly home teach each other, go on ward temple trips together, and in all other ways enjoy full fellowship with each other in the gospel.

Just like cola drinkers and cola purists do.

2/19/2014 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First let me be clear that I believe in a worldwide flood. Where I think I part ways with many is the idea that absolutely every inch of earth was covered and that all animals and humans were killed off besides Noah's family.

"Worldwide" and "completely covered" could be interpreted in various ways. For instance, Luke uses similar illusions: "there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2:1, other example Deuteronomy 2:25). Clearly the Nephites were not part of the tax.

In D&C 65:2 we read that in the last days that the gospel will be spread to the "whole earth" and yet we also know that there will still be non-members on the earth during the millennium.

In Genesis 9:10 we learn that that the animals on the ark were to go to the other animals not on the ark that had survived the flood. This is even more clear int he Hebrew translation.

Noah himself shows through his actions that he did not know the full extent of the flood by sending a birds to explore (Genesis 8:8). The birds were gone for 7 days which means there was sufficient food for them. If the flood truly was that extensive for that long I highly doubt that any olive leaf would be left to pluck an olive branch.

Finally, why would the Lord promise Noah that his seed would be the remnant of Enoch if everyone was already his descendents by birth? (Moses 7:51-52)

3/20/2014 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: The Church's view about scripture is taught by its apostles and prophets. Their words since 1971 are available at LDS.org and they speak in unison about the Flood. I think I'll just stay with them.

3/20/2014 10:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary: You are right that the brethren have spoken in "unison" that Noah experienced a world-wide flood. Where you and I part ways is what is meant by "world wide". Not every prophet or apostle has expounded on what they meant by world wide.

I can prove to you that there has not always been consensus on what worldwide means. I also stand with an Apostle of the Lord. Elder Widstoe like me believed in a worldwide flood but also did not know what extent worldwide meant. He once wrote "The details in the story of the flood are undoubtedly drawn from the experiences of the writer. Under a downpour of rain, likened to the opening of the heavens, a destructive torrent twenty-six feet deep or deeper would easily be formed. The writer of Genesis made a faithful report of the facts known to him concerning the flood. In other localities the depth of the water might have been more or less. In fact, the details of the flood are not known to us.(Evidences and Reconciliations, edited by G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, pp. 126-127)"

With all due respect I believe you are taking liberties where full explanation of the flood has not been provided in the latter days.

3/21/2014 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: It doesn't mean anything to me that there has not always been a unanimous interpretation among latter-day apostles regarding the Flood. Please let me explain what does matter to me.

First, by way of example. God commanded Abraham to slay his son (Gen. 22:2). That is history. But the teachings of God do not include the sacrificial slaughter of children, because as Abraham was about to obey, the same God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad" (Gen. 22:12).

What Church leaders taught 50 or 150 years ago is not relevant to me if it disagrees with the teachings of current apostles and prophets.

I do follow Widtsoe when his word is, or agrees with, the latest word from God on the subject. Prophetic teachings available at LDS.org go back to 1971 and they are unanimous on these two things: (1) We believe in baptism by immersion, and (2) During the Flood, the earth was baptized by immersion.

3/21/2014 07:13:00 PM  

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