Saturday, February 27, 2016

NDBF in the March 2016 Ensign

An article featured in the March 2016 Ensign consists entirely of excerpts from Bruce R. McConkie's last (April 1985) general conference talk. Bearing apostolic witness of the Savior, McConkie teaches the doctrine of NDBF (no death before the Fall):

"We must cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth....

"In Eden we will see all things created in a paradisiacal state—without death, without procreation, without probationary experiences.

"We will come to know that such a creation, now unknown to man, was the only way to provide for the Fall.

"We will then see Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, step down from their state of immortal and paradisiacal glory to become the first mortal flesh on earth.

"Mortality, including as it does procreation and death, will enter the world. And because of transgression a probationary estate of trial and testing will begin....

"Thus, Creation is father to the Fall; and by the Fall came mortality and death; and by Christ came immortality and eternal life.

"If there had been no Fall of Adam, by which cometh death, there could have been no Atonement of Christ, by which cometh life." (Ensign, March 2016.)

Occasionally we hear rumors that the Church is backing away from NDBF teachings. The March 2016 Ensign refutes this unfounded rumor.


Blogger Glenn Thigpen said...

I do not know how the Garden of Eden story squares with the natural history of the earth, or at least what we know of the natural history of the earth. Adam and Eve are central to LDS theology and indeed all Christian theology. However, there a lot of things we do not know yet. Things that have not been revealed by science or God. Once they are revealed, all supposed conflicts will disappear.


2/28/2016 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Glenn: I believe you mean, what we THINK we know of the natural history of the earth.

2/28/2016 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous JLM said...

In the February 2016 issue of The New Era, on page 41 there is an brief article that is titled, "What does the Church believe about dinosaurs?"

The article's first paragraph states, "Did dinosaurs live and die on this earth long before man came along? There have been no revelations on this question, and the scientific evidence says yes. (You can learn more about it by studying paleontology if you like, even at Church-owned schools)"

Clearly church does accept that prehistoric creatures lived and died on this earth before the coming of Adam.

2/28/2016 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

JLM: A good place to look for Church doctrine is between the covers of the standard works. The anonymous author you cite challenges the doctrinal validity of the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for "Death" which says:

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

The Church's official missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are to study and teach. In Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation, Preach My Gospel instructs missionaries to study the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for "Death."

In addition, the Church's official Guide to the Scriptures is now included in all non-English print editions of LDS Scripture and in all electronic editions (such as the Scriptures at LDS.org). Regarding death before the Fall, the Guide to the Scriptures says:

"The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."

2/29/2016 03:40:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Richardson said...

Hi R. Gary! I think I understand the problem. The LDS general authorities have never within our lifetimes addressed the problem of how to reconcile theology with science.

I think what you're trying to say is, it's time for an actual general authority to bring these two apparently conflicting fields into harmony in the same talk. If that's where you're going, I agree with you completely.

2/29/2016 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steve Richardson: On issues related to the Creation and the Fall, the apostles and prophets in my lifetimes have consistently taken the position that revealed truth need not answer to the theories of men.

Reconciliation is, therefore, not likely until after the Second Coming "when the Lord shall ... reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—." (D&C 101:32-33.)

Until that day, we follow God's authorized servants, the apostles and prophets, even when their teachings conflict with science.

2/29/2016 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Richardson said...

So what about those that want to believe, but get inadequate support from their leaders? You and I and they can go into a natural history museum and see fossils of crabs and spiders and flies and leaves, apparently identical to those we see living today. To become a fossil, one has to die and then be preserved in unusual circumstances.

Did these and the dinosaurs die after the Fall of Adam? If we take the position that there was no death before the Fall, we'd have to conclude yes. Why won't the general authorities just come out and say it then? To present a convincing argument for a belief, a person has to offer evidence that he has reconciled his position with conflicting information.

3/02/2016 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steve Richardson: On the sidebar of the front page of this blog is your answer: ""When confronted by evidence in the rocks below, rely on the witness of the heavens above." —Boyd K. Packer

Revelation IS the convincing argument. But revelation isn't enough for those who prefer the arm of flesh.

3/02/2016 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Richardson said...

R. Gary, thank you for that response. And thank you for that reference, which came from a talk I found and enjoyed reading. I noted it was preceded by a disclaimer initialed by Elder Packer:

"Only the Standard Works and statements written under assignment of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles are considered official declarations by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The talk which follows was given without such assignment and no such approval has been sought or given. The author alone is responsible for the views set forth therein. They do not necessarily represent the Church."

This seems to put his talk into a category of personal theory. The thing I like about our church is that it encourages us to be seekers and thinkers, as suggested by Elder Packer:

"No Latter-day Saint should be hesitant to pursue any true science as a career, a hobby, or an interest, or to accept any truth established through those means of discovery. Nor need one become a scientist at the expense of being a Latter-day Saint of faith and spiritual maturity."

So here I am looking at a dinosaur bone. The animal from which it came is obviously dead. Did it die before or after the Fall of Adam?

3/02/2016 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steve Richardson: I'm glad that what the First Presidency and Twelve say is important to you.

The Teachings of Presidents of the Church series is a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. As stated in the Introduction to the individual volumes, one purpose of this series is to help members answer questions about Church doctrine.

Here are three answers to the death before the Fall question that have been published by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles in Teachings of Presidents of the Church:

1. “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.” (Teachings: Wilford Woodruff, p.81.)

2. “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. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state.” (Teachings: Harold B. Lee, p.20.)

3. “Temporal and spiritual death [was] brought into the world by the fall of Adam.” (Teachings: Joseph Fielding Smith, p.51.)

“It was appointed … that Adam our father should … partake of the forbidden fruit and fall, thus bringing suffering and death into the world…. Had Adam and Eve not partaken, the great gift of mortality would not have come to them….. The fall of Adam brought to pass all of the vicissitudes of mortality. It brought pain, it brought sorrow, it brought death.” (Ibid., p.61.)

“Marriage [was] instituted on this earth before death came into it…. It naturally follows that the family organization was also intended to be eternal.” (Ibid., p.77.)

3/02/2016 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Richardson said...

I'm not suggesting that you change the name of your blog, R. Gary, but I sense there's a real problem when we attempt to reconcile what the rocks tell us with what some of the general authorities say. I find it much easier to keep the commandments and live a clean life than to accept an idea that doesn't seem to fit with scientific evidence.

I mentioned a dinosaur bone. Did the dinosaur die before or after Adam fell? Based on the teachings you've presented, we should conclude that every creature from cave men to dinosaurs to trilobites to stromatolites died after Adam partook of the fruit. These things all lived in various chronological eras of time, but this would mean those epochs also took place after Adam.

There's an alternative interpretation which is kind of popular among the Mormons. I've never heard if from a general authority, but it says the fossils lived and died on other planets that were later assembled to build the earth. I had a class from Hugh Nibley in 1971 and he suggested the possibility that the Garden of Eden was perhaps near Kolob, and when Adam and Eve were cast out, it was to our earth that they were sent.

What is your personal belief on this?

Elder Packer encouraged us to study the sciences and learn what we can from them. I've done that; I wonder how much flexibility we're allowed in making sense from what we learn.

When I was a missionary in the late 1960s we memorized what could be called the Mr. Brown discussions. Early in the first discussion we established that in Bible times there were people known as apostles and prophets who could ask God for the answers to questions. After mentioning the conflicting ways today in which one could be baptized, we asked "Suppose you were alive in the days of the apostles and prophets and had a question about religion. How would you find the answer?"

3/03/2016 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


The following statements are in no particular order.  In reading them, we are given the idea that the earth was created near Kolob (star or planet nearest the throne of God) and fell from there to its present location in the universe at the time of the fall.

Ensign, March 1997: "According to President Brigham Young,… before the Fall of Adam, the earth was near the very throne of God.  But when the Fall occurred, the earth literally fell or moved from the physical presence of God to its present position in our solar system.  When all the effects of the Fall of Adam are finally overcome, the earth will literally move back into the presence of God.  Here are President Young’s words: ' When the earth was framed and brought into existence and man was placed upon it, it was near the throne of our Father in heaven....  But when man fell, the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system....  This is the glory the earth came from, and when it is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father, and it will dwell there, and these intelligent beings that I am looking at, if they live worthy of it, will dwell upon this earth.' " (Andrew Skinner, Ensign, March 1997, 22.)

Joseph Smith and John Taylor: "A member of the Church in the days of Joseph Smith reported that the Prophet taught that the time will come when the earth will be restored to its former place in the cosmos and again 'revolve in its original orbit next to Kolob.' …Others who were close to him and who were instructed by him also made statements in harmony with this report.  John Taylor wrote that the earth 'was organized near the planet Kolob.'" (Hyrum L. Andrus, God, Man, and the Universe, SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1993, 313.)

Joseph Smith: "This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God and crowned with Celestial Glory." (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps., The Words of Joseph Smith, 1980, 60; also in Franklin D. Richards, Compendium, 1898, p. 288; and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, 1976, 181.)

Brigham Young: "gave it as his opinion that the Earth did not dwell in the sphere in which it did when it was created, but that it was banished from its more glorious state or orbit of revolution for man's sake" ("Record of Acts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," 5 Jan. 1841, quoted in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps., The Words of Joseph Smith, 1980, 84.)

Brigham Young: "This earthly ball, this little opake substance thrown off into space, is only a speck in the great universe; and when it is celestialized it will go back into the presence of God, where it was first framed." (Journal of Discourses, 9:316-317.)

Lorenzo Snow: "The earth shall be rolled back in pristine purity, into its primeval orbit, and the inhabitants thereof dwell upon it in perfect peace and righteousness." (quoted in Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1884, 333.)

3/03/2016 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "The word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship.  Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.  Element had an existence from the time he had.  The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed.  They had no beginning, and can have no end." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 350-352; italics in original; see also Joseph Smith Jr., "The King Follett Sermon," Ensign, Apr. 1971, 17.)

The Prophet used the words "chaos—chaotic matter" (Teachings, 351).  A current view about the universe is that chaos represents "the disordered state of unformed matter and infinite space supposed ... to have existed before the ordered universe." According to this view, the earth also began as a chaotic nebula cloud or "diffuse mass of interstellar dust or gas or both," containing particles so small as to be termed "unformed matter."

But notice the Prophet also said, "the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship" (Teachings, 350; emphasis added).  Assuming the Prophet meant building the ship with chaotic matter and applying the above view of earth's origin, we must conclude that the first step in building a ship would be to gather large amounts of saw dust from which to form particle board components (the stern post, keel, and rudder, etc.) for the ship.

It is highly doubtful this is what the Prophet Joseph had in mind.

At the time the Prophet made this statement, ships were made with timber.  It is much more likely that the Prophet Joseph Smith had in mind using large trees to build a ship. And the age of the tree is not the age of the ship.

Now note that chaos also means "1. A condition or place of great disorder or confusion. 2. A disorderly mass; a jumble:  The desk was a chaos of papers and unopened letters." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000; italics in the original.)

The Prophet also used the words "organized and re-organized" (Teachings, 352; emphasis added).  His private secretary reported Joseph Smith as saying in 1841:

"This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live" (as quoted in Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign, Jan. 1989, 32; emphasis added).

"It should ... be borne in mind that Joseph Smith's instructors were heavenly messengers—beings of more than worldly scholarship; they doubtlessly lived on distant planets, and had explored the realms of space; they had viewed the mighty works of a Creator in various stages of development, thus possessing full cognition of the genesis of this earth." (Joseph B. Keeler, "Foundation Stones of the Earth," The Contributor, Vol. XI, Feb. 1890.)

President Wilford Woodruff also reminded "Joseph Smith was an illiterate man; but afterwards his teachers and instructors were angels" ("We Are Led by Revelation," Remarks made November 1, 1891, Tambuli, Dec. 1978, 17).

3/03/2016 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Richardson said...

Thank you for that information, R. Gary. I've enjoyed working through this topic with you. I'll continue to puzzle over it and look for supporting evidence.

3/03/2016 09:34:00 PM  

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