Sunday, May 15, 2005

No Death Before the Fall taught in True to the Faith

The doctrine of no death before the fall is currently being promoted by the First Presidency in the book True to the Faith (36863).  Any ambiguity about this doctrine in True to the Faith is resolved by consulting corresponding entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

A doctrinal guidebook

The April 2004 issue of the Ensign magazine contains this announcement:

"The Church has issued a new doctrinal guidebook aimed at youth, young single adults, and new members.  True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference is a collection of brief, simple statements on gospel doctrines and principles....

"Priesthood quorums and Relief Society groups may also offer the book to new members to better acquaint them with the doctrines of the restored gospel.  True to the Faith is available at Church distribution centers"  ("New Guidebook Helps Explain Doctrine Behind Church Standards," Ensign, Apr. 2004, p. 79).

True to the Faith (36863) contains simple explanations of 171 gospel topics.  The New Era magazine describes the book as "a collection of short statements on gospel doctrine and principles ... written specifically for teens, young single adults, and new members."  ("What Do We Believe?" New Era, Sept. 2004, p. 41)

The book True to the Faith (36863) is available for free download on the Church's web site here.

Message from the First Presidency

A "Message from the First Presidency" at the front of the book contains a strong endorsement of the book's contents.

The First Presidency promises readers "that through regular personal prayer and study of the scriptures and the doctrines of the gospel you will be prepared to withstand evil influences that would deceive you and harm you"  (True to the Faith, p. 1).

It is explained that "this book is designed as a companion to your study of the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets"  (Ibid).

Readers are encouraged by the First Presidency "to refer to it as you study and apply gospel principles" and are admonished to "use it as a resource when you prepare talks, teach classes, and answer questions about the Church"  (Ibid).

The doctrine of no death before the fall

    1. The entry in True to the Faith for "Death, Physical" teaches that "the Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world (see Moses 6:48)."  This simple statement is in full harmony with the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for Death which says, "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 (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48)."  (BD Death, p. 655.)

    2. The entry in True to the Faith for "Paradise" says, "In the tenth article of faith, the word paradisiacal describes the earth's glory in the Millennium."  (italics in the original.)  The tenth article of faith says, "the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory."  (A of F 10.)

The word renew means "to make new or as if new again; restore"  (Renew, American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2000).  In Joseph Smith's day the word renew was defined similarly, "to make new, begin again, repeat"  (Noah Webster, A Compendious Dictionary Of the English Language, Hartford, CT: Hudson & Goodwin, 1806, p. 254).

Therefore, the entry in True to the Faith for "Paradise" is in full harmony with the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for Restitution; Restoration which says "these terms denote a return of something once present, but which has been taken away or lost.  It involves, for example the renewal of the earth to its paradisiacal glory as it was before the fall of Adam (A of F 10)."  (BD Restitution; Restoration, p. 761.)

During the millennium, of course, "there shall be no sorrow because there is no death" (D&C 101:29).

    3. The entry in True to the Faith for Fall clarifies a point of confusion some have expressed regarding 2 Nephi 2:22–23.  It has been suggested that the word "they" in verse 23 leaves the meaning of verse 22 unclear.  True to the Faith eliminates this confusion by substituting the first occurrence of "they" in verse 23 with the words "Adam and Eve" as follows:

22.  If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden.  And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23.  And [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.  (See p. 57; bracketed words in True to the Faith.)

This clarification leaves the meaning of verse 22 clear—it means exactly what it says.

True to the Faith agrees with Bruce R. McConkie

All three of the above doctrinal clarifications in True to the Faith are in complete harmony with the following declaration regarding death before the fall by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

"At this point we must insert a statement from our tenth article of faith: 'We believe … that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.' [A of F 1:10] That is to say, when the earth was first created it was in a paradisiacal state, an Edenic state, a state in which there was no death.  And when the Lord comes again, and the Millennial era is ushered in, the earth will return to its paradisiacal state and be renewed.  It will be made new again; it will become a new heaven and a new earth whereon dwelleth righteousness.  In that day, 'there shall be no sorrow because there is no death' as we know it.  (D&C 101:29.)

"Thus we learn that the initial creation was paradisiacal; death and mortality had not yet entered the world.  There was no mortal flesh upon the earth for any form of life.  The Creation was past, but mortality as we know it lay ahead.  All things had been created in a state of paradisiacal immortality.  It was of this day that Lehi said: 'And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.' (2 Ne. 2:22.)  If there is no death, all things of necessity must continue to live everlastingly and without end."  (Bruce R. McConkie, "Christ and the Creation," Ensign, Jun. 1982, 9-15.)

Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions

Some have asked why True to the Faith wasn't used as the primary exhibit at ndbf.net.  The answer is that Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions was used instead for two reasons.  First, the manual was written by Joseph Fielding Smith, a much-maligned participant in the 1931 affair.  Second, it was published by President Smith's own First Presidency, a fact that is significant for the following reasons:

    1. Some, including Duane Jeffery, have claimed J. Reuben Clark's 1954 talk "When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?" was directed at President Smith's 1954 book, Man: His Origin and Destiny and his 1954 talk about the new book.  And just as Jeffery's version of the 1931 affair is greatly oversimplified and distorted, so also is his version of the 1954 affair.  President Joseph Fielding Smith did not go to BYU on his own accord in 1954 to promote his book.  President Harold B. Lee explains in in this letter written only a few weeks before his death, that he (Lee) was responsible for inviting President Smith to give his 1954 talk introducing his new book.  (I found the letter last fall on the BYU-Idaho web site.)

    2. Fast forward to 1972.  By the time Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions was published, Joseph Fielding Smith held the very keys that were at issue in President Clark's talk—thus the roles became reversed and President Clark's logic now works in favor of President Smith instead of against him (a more complete explanation is here ).


The doctrine of no death before the fall is currently being promoted by the First Presidency in the book True to the Faith (36863).  Any ambiguity about this doctrine in True to the Faith is resolved by consulting corresponding entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary.


Blogger Jeff G said...

It is one thing to show that church authorities are teaching a doctrine but it is another to show that the doctrine actually has its authority in God rather than men. As far as I can tell, the NDBF doctrine, as taught today, was popularized by BRM and JFS2 in their zeal to 1) fight against evolution and 2) better understand the nature of the fall. Now they got the doctrine prinicpally from 2 Ne. 2 where Lehi is speaking.

This brings up a number of questions which are vital to the discussion. 1) Were did Lehi get it?
2) Since I embrace Ostler's Expansion Theory, was JS's translation totally accurate or did it reflect a notion held by his protestant neighbors?
3) How was this doctrine first revealed? Vision, Voice or a hunch? Or maybe a sort of midrashic expansion on Lehi's part, or even a midrashic expansion of Lehi's speech done by Nephi.

My point is that we need to see what was the original revelation if there was one.

5/17/2005 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: It is my sincere testimony to you and the world that the doctrine taught in 2 Nephi 2 actually does have its authority in God. With millions of fellow Latter-day Saints, I solemnly proclaim "the Book of Mormon to be the word of God" (A of F 8). To me it doesn't matter where Lehi got it or how the Prophet Joseph translated it because Jesus Christ himself told the Three Witnesses, "as your Lord and your God liveth it is true" (D&C 17:6).

And by the way, the doctrine of no death before the fall predates both Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith. Not only is it found in the standard works, but see here.

5/17/2005 07:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff - just a comment on Ostler. If I am not mistaken he also has a theory that God is limited in His ability to know the future precisely. Like your "essentialism," he has philosophical labels that are beyond my vocabulary, and may have one for this limitation of future knowledge.

I am a personal witness that God does have extremely detailed foreknowledge. I am not talking about 20 minutes' "precognition," but the power described in the Scriptures of the future being as visible as the past or present to him. My wife and I have witnessed some of this power together.

As far as an "expansionist" Book of Mormon translation, a 15 year study by an internationally known expert has just been completed on the original Book of Mormon manuscript that provides confirming evidence that it was dictated by direct revelation.

Whenever I read serious intellectual challenges to basic Scripture or Doctrine, I think to myself, "this person has not had the same kind of spiritual experiences as I have had. Otherwise, he would agree with Elder Packer that "the mantle is far, far greater than the intellect."

5/17/2005 08:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff - the previous "anonymous" post was mine.

5/17/2005 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff said:

"It is one thing to show that church authorities are teaching a doctrine but it is another to show that the doctrine actually has its authority in God rather than men."

Pres. Harold B. Lee said the following at a General Priesthood Meeting in 1972.

"Now I want to impress this upon you. Someone has said it this way, and I believe it to be absolutely true: 'That person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire.'”

I was at that meeting sitting in the first or second row. I had waited hours in line to get that seat. Why? I had recently returned to Church after 4 years. When I was young, (like Alma the elder) powerful, peruasive "alternate voices" had gotten my attention. I followed them, absolutely convinced by things I had seen, heard, thought and felt that they were correct. They turned out to be false voices.

One voice I had not yet learned to cultivate and listen to was that of the Holy Ghost. I could have lost my soul by following alternate voices.

When I heard Pres. Lee's description of what it means to perceive the "mantle" that rests, uniquely, on the authorities of this Church to teach truth, it truly did go into my heart like fire. It was an amazing spiritual experience, and one that I have carefully cultivated and kept alive.

Having had to almost literally "go through hell" to be motivated to find a "voice" in mortality that can be counted on to teach truth, my observation is that there are many who have yet to feel the "fire" that I do. But, people can change and learn; especially if and when they recognize that, short of the voice of the Holy Ghost, every other voice is suspect.

Examples of change:

A BYU Prof. I had who had been a Bishop and was openly talking of leaving the Church for "intellectual" reasons. He was a very kindly person. After I had left school, I heard of him twice more. A close friend had met him while a missionary on his campus when this Prof. had been a graduate student. My friend distinctly remembered him proclaiming "how can God know everything?" Flash forward now 15 years after I had him for a teacher. I am living temporarily in a city that gets BYU TV. A BYU Devotional is coming on (which I don't often watch) and this Prof. is to be the speaker. He is introduced as having been a Bishop a 2nd and 3rd time. When he speaks, this is not the same man I knew. Making veiled referrence to his "intellectual" days, it was clear he had moved on to other, more satisfying ways of "knowing."

A final example. Elder Packer tells the story of the infamous "1906 three" BYU professors from major universities who - leading with evolution, went on a mission to "intellectualize" BYU students and "bring them into the 20th Century." After much confusion and even a downtown demonstration in their favor, they were fially dismissed from BYU by the Pres. (Brimhall?) after he had a dream.

Fast forward to 1955 where Pres. McKay is speaking at a public gathering. Elder Packer is there, not as a General Authority, but in connection with his CES position. After the speech, a very elderly man is helped to the podium by his daughter. Elder Packer cannot help overhearing the exchange. He is one of the "1906 three" and has come to ask forgiveness and unburden himself. Pres. McKay recognizes his name, and kindly receives him.

Summary: how can one know that Church Authorities are teaching truth?

1. First, develop that part of your testimony described by Pres. Lee and actually learn, by the Holy Ghost, to "see" the mantle, and "feel" the fire, because they exist.

2. Having developed this sense, cultivate it and keep it alive, then, check every word in Scripture, Conference, or any other source to see if the fire burns or is quenched when an Authority speaks.

5/17/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

I think that Gary is using slippery terms to accomplish a lot of work in your response. I too believe the BoM to be the word of God in the more generic way which is obviously intended in the AofF. But I believe that the words of Mormon are really the words of Mormon, not God. I don't think that God has personally authored any book that we can now read. As soon as we introduce human intermediaries we also introduce fallibility to one extent or another. Are we to honestly believe that every word which is spoken in conference is exactly the same as what God would Himself say? I don't know anybody who literally accepts that. Most of us believe that the speakers do play a part, to their own credit, not condemnation. They have agency, which implies fallibility.

The whole point of modern revelation is to replace some of our beliefs which aren't entirely correct with revelation, for we do have beliefs which are not entirely correct, even in scripture. Remember in sec. 19 where God says that He intentionally used a misleading term to let it "work on the hearts of men"? It was because of this misleading term that church members believed in something which was not entirely correct. It is for this reason that I think it wise to evaluate the original source and context of any given doctrine before we are ready to go to the floor with it.

I know that people taught about NDBF before BRM and JFS2 but they certainly put that verse at the forefront of the evolution debate like nobody had before or since.

As to Ostlers work I should briefly address his issue with foreknowledge. He says that if we believe in absolute foreknowledge, then God already knows everything which we will do. He doesn't cause what we do, but this is totally beside the point. If He already knows what we will do, then what we will do has already been decided ahead of time. (Remember, the God of Mormonism exists within time.) Therefore, since our decision is already made before we make it, we are not really free, regardless of whether God causes it or not. We cannot do otherwise. Now I personally do not view things the same way as him, but we cannot accuse him of making God not powerful enough. For we suggests that while God doesn't know what we will do, He does know everything which we could do and has plans to fit every option. Therefore God knows the entire future and then some, He just isn't sure which future will play out. Now this isn't so bad is it? I should also mention that Blake doesn't rely solely on a priori reasoning but uses numerous examples from the scriptures to back up his position very well.

With regards to his ideas about the BoM, which really don't have too much to do with my original point, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism considers his expansion theory to be a viable option for LDS. In fact, all LDS adopt the expansion theory with regards to JST and BofA to one extent or another. His theory really does account for the ligitimate criticisms which people have brought against the BoM. The evidence brought out by Royal Skousen doesn't actually have too much to say about Blakes theory. See the recent discussion we had over at times and seasons for a general overview. The discussion is still going to a certain extent if you want to ask Blake anything about, but I would hurry.

I must admit, I am not able to muster the kind of faith that you seem to have in your human superiors Greg. I don't mean this in an insulting way toward anybody but myself. I haven't had an experience which allows be to trust in another man addressing an issue which he obviously doesn't understand that thoroughly to that degree. I wish I had in some aspects, but I guess I don't in others. It seems like it would be rather frustrating when confronted with things like evolution or BoM criticisms and the like, or even members like myself who do give creedance to such things. I don't think that I could do that.

It's getting late and my wife is calling me. So I'll respond more tomorrow.

Gary, I got your email from Jared and will respond tomorrow. I did have my profile posted, but it took up too much space on my sidebar so I took it out. I don't have any digital pictures of myself, but I am a rather young guy (25 years old). I do hope to get a picture up soon, but who knows how long it will actually take.

5/18/2005 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

There is a difference between believing that Church leaders have the spirit of the Lord upon them, and saying that they ALWAYS have it upon them. The first is good faith, the second is false doctrine, even church leaders don't want us to believe that. They don't want such a heavy burden placed upon them. Thus, I strongly believe in JS's statement that a prophet is only a prophet when he says he is. This to me means that they have opinions, which may or may not be entirely correct, but when they are conveying revelation, they will let us know so we are not confused.

Your account of the men who came back after having intellectual problems is inspiring. It is actually very much in line with James Fowler's book "Stages of Faith" which you might be interested in. A lot of the sunstone people find comfort in his theory for it gives them hope that they will be able to overcome their intellectual problems and embrace the faith in what would actually be a more mature way.

5/18/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Did you really say, "I believe that the words of Mormon are really the words of Mormon, not God"? Don't you see a contradiction here? What do we mean when we say we believe "the Book of Mormon to be the word of God"? Please explain "the more generic" meaning of the eighth Article of Faith.

I don't read D&C 19:7 as an admission by God that "He intentionally used a misleading term." Has any President of the Church applied the word "misleading" to any part of that verse?

You say it is wise to "evaluate the original source and context of any given doctrine before we are ready to go to the floor with it." I think it is also wise to consider carefully what the apostles and prophets have said about it. See my comments here about how to evaluate scripture.

5/18/2005 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff said:

"I don't think that God has personally authored any book that we can now read. As soon as we introduce human intermediaries we also introduce fallibility to one extent or another."

(Jeff - let me say that you carry a couple of burdens I do not: you are smarter and better educated than I, and, I am no longer 25.
Until I was in my 40's, I carried this huge, spiritual blind spot that affected others but was invisible to me. I hope that the basic spiritual witnesses that you now have will carry you and your family safely as mine did, until I was able to see more clearly.)

Thanks for your insights about Blake's theories. I don't see any loss of agency with God's complete forekowledge of what I am going to do. However, I cannot defend this intellectually, and also cannot explain it to my wife. It is something I can "see" without being able to explain it. As far the the "space" Blake and others see between what God might say if He were speaking in Conference or writing Scripture, and what is actually said or written - for me (and others) - this "space" is completely filled in by the Holy Ghost. When I read the words of "Scripture," (to include conference, etc.) - there is a transmission from God through the writing through the Holy Ghost through my own brain to my spirit.
Dallin Oaks has written about this process. He compared the Scriptures in an Ensign article to each of us having our own Liahona or Urim and Thummim. This is exactly how they work for me.

It just doesn't matter that God is not writing or speaking persoally, or that there is "fallibility," the message gets to me anyway. Of course, if the "errors" are gross, the Spirit will hopefully call that to my attention, and I will edit it out. But, while not infallible, the idea of having just the 4 standard works, among all the books in the world, and just a few conferences, of all of the broadcasts in the world, is that these sources have already been carefully screened by the Lord.

As you know, we don't know the relationship between the Book of Abraham and the scrolls Joseph possessed. Also, there is strong evidence that the writing on the Plates were not even in view when Joseph was doing some of the translating of the Book of Mormon. Thus, there is something (or can be) "magical" about Scripture. It can be just the catalyst, so to speak, for God to speak to YOU through the Spirit. But, if one insists on filtering THE ENTIRE process, or prospective process, through the intellect, the "process" either shuts down, or loses much of its power. An analogy - think about "forcing" your whole relationship with your wife through your intellect. Since your wife is not "just" words, the temptation to confine that relationship to the intellect is less compelling. However, the temptation is stronger when the medium appears to be just language, which must be processed, in part, through the intellect.

I remember a man I knew who had been a Bishop with especially beautiful daughters. He mentioned how easy it was for the less attractive girls to be "good." In the same way, those who are less "intelligent" and less educated may have an easier time restraining their intellects when the Lord is trying to override it with something "far, far greater."

5/19/2005 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Greg: Your ability to explain things as you see them is extraordinary. President Kimball also spoke in conference about Our Own Liahona (see Ensign, Nov. 1976, 77).

5/19/2005 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

Now I agree that we simply cannot reduce our relationship with any person to 'intellectual processes' but to completely throw it out the window as you guys seem to be close to doing is even worse. To not use our intellect as the main intrument in interpreting, reconciling and understanding doctrine is absurd because these three words refer to intellectual processes. We can use our feelings to confirm the conclusions reached by our intellects, but even then it would be wise to view such feelings with at least somewhat of a critical eye. Labeling what we feel as the spirit confirming the truth of what we think is but one of many options.

Now if you guys have prayed about death before the fall and are absolutely sure that you have not only received an answer, but also interpreted it correctly then there simply isn't very much that I can say. I have done these things and have reached the exact opposite conclusion as you guys as I wouldn't expect you to have much to say that could persuade me either. Many at this point would say "lets agree to disagree" but where is the fun in that? There is still a lot that we can learn from one another, not in spite of our differences but because of our differences.

5/19/2005 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff said:

"but to completely throw it out the window as you guys seem to be close to doing is even worse."

I think everyone on here is very serious about using their intellects. My approach is different than Gary's, although we are both in the same "camp." Gary may be one of those persons, (as exemplified by him being published as a "scriptorian" at a very young age) who never found the need to seriously question Church Authority. I once left Church activity, questioning all authority, not just church authority. My role models now are people like Dallin Oaks and Neal Maxwell - and I hope these individuals cannot be faulted too heavily for their approaches to truth vis'a'vis intellect vs. doctrinal authority.

Jeff Said:

"Now if you guys have prayed about death before the fall and are absolutely sure that you have not only received an answer, but also interpreted it"

I have only mentioned my praying about NMFA (no men from apes). I would not have done it, except that Jeff - from my viewpoint, bore his "intellectual testimony" about the veracity of evolution, including MFA (men from apes), in a post that analyzed Elder Packer's views and witness about evolution. I thought Jeff's "witness" needed some balance.

I would be glad to make Jeff a "deal." If he will admit that it is POSSIBLE he is wrong about MFA (men from apes), I will strike any mention of "spiritual witnesses" from the record.

Since, in my view, an underlying theme of those questioning doctrinal authority of Church leaders is that they made an error in denying blacks the Priesthood (and, if I am not mistaken, Jeff has made that referrence at Mormonism and Evolution at least once), I am placing a link here to a presentation by Dr. Martins, who is now Dean of Religious Instruction at BYU Hawaii. As I have read essays and research from others on this subject, especially from what I will refer to as "white liberal non-apologists," who criticize the Church and its leaders, I have always felt something was missing, and this particular source in my view is better qualified to speak and includes factual history I haven't seen presented before.

Gary - thank you for your kind remarks.

5/19/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

How about this for a deal Greg: I do indeed admit that I might be wrong, but it will take a lot, and I mean A LOT to show that I am though. The same can be said about all of our testimonies about the church. We say we KNOW the church is the one and only, but really we all just believe it very, VERY strongly and it would take an awful lot to show us otherwise. Greg, you don't have to take back your spiritual witness at all. I'm not at all uncomfortable with you laying out your cards for everybody to see.

I too have read the article you reference about the Blacks and Priesthood issue. It's a good article which presents some things not entirely correct, but not misleadingly either. It is meant to calm troubled hearts, not inform truth seekers. Let's not go into this issue though for only bad things can result from any discussion of it in my opinion.

5/19/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff and Gary -

The link I posted above was actually the wrong one. I meant to lead you here. The first one is about race in general. This one one specifically anayzes issues surrounding the 1978 Revelation.

5/19/2005 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff and Gary -

I again put in the wrong link. I will try one more time. If Jeff has read both of these, I will do a short summary later of what I find interesting. here

5/19/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff - I will drop the Priesthood issue. But - I cannot resist responding to the following with a question:

Jeff Said:

"The same can be said about all of our testimonies about the church. We say we KNOW the church is the one and only, but really we all just believe it very, VERY strongly and it would take an awful lot to show us otherwise."

What will it take to convert one's very very very very strong belief's on a Church testimony issue, in your view, from belief to KNOWLEDGE?

5/19/2005 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

Boy, that's a tough question which involves an awful lot of philosophy which I am not qualified to handle responsibly. I guess it would be very analoguous to what it would take to make belief in evolution into knowledge. There never will be "proof" in the way the creationists are holding out for, so we can only reach a point where we have experienced so much evidence (be it physical or spiritual) that we have gone beyond the reasonable doubt mark.

5/19/2005 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff said:

"...We say we KNOW the church is the one and only, but really we all just believe it very, VERY strongly and it would take an awful lot to show us otherwise."

I read your first reply. I have another question. (I was a lawyer). From what you have said, niether of us are scientists. But, if you are mathematician, you are closer to that discipline than I. That said, I think I understand the process of receiving a kind of "knowledge" through study.

Here is my question - describe what happens to a person who didn't live in Ancient America; didn't see the Gold Plates; didn't read all of the farms studies about the Book of Mormon, but prays about it and receives the witness from the Holy Ghost promised in Moroni 10:4-5 that there really was a Lehi colony and that the book published to the world as "The Book of Mormon," is a translation of actual first-person history of that colony.

In my view, this is not a philosophical question. There are such terms for "knowing," but, I would rather that you answered in lay terms. I feel that this is a fair question, since you have equated, from what I understand of what you have said today, knowledge by study of a theory to knowledge obtained by applying Mor. 10:4.

5/19/2005 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

Well there are a lot of variables there which most members tend to ignore. 1) What is the source of this feeling which I experience in response to my prayer? 2) What is the intended content of this feeling if it is in fact from God? 3) The BoM being true doesn't directly indicate that the current church is true at all. It points in that direction, but a lot of reasoning and/or evidence is needed to connect A with B. I discussed a lot of these issues in my sunstone paper which I presented a few weeks ago.


Now unless these gaps are filled in by something other than more of the same feeling, the process gets a little circular. I'm not saying its wrong, only that belief is probably a more accurate word than is knowledge in most cases.

Now when people do say that they 'know' the church is true, I don't get all that worked up because I know where they are coming from and what they mean by this.

But if we are going to let this slide, maybe its not all that wrong for people to run around saying that they 'know with every fiber of their being that evolution is true'. Yes, it is possible that they could be wrong, and even they, when properly pressed, will admit that. The classic response to full blown skepticism is that there is no good reason to endorse it so we don't. Evolution has a lot of evidence going for it based on observable facts, sound reasoning, consilience and predictability/verifiability. Not only that but some people, such as myself, pray about it and feel good. Now sure, evolution isn't as important to our salvation as is the BoM, but we must admit that the evolutionist isn't reaching too far in his claims.

5/20/2005 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff - I am on my semi-monthly visit to my grandchildren. I look forward to reading your SS paper. My short, initial response is that the experience I had that resulted in my own testimony of Book of Mormon historicity cannot be described as a "feeling." There is no way to describe it.

5/21/2005 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff - the preceeding comment was mine.

5/21/2005 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Greg.

5/21/2005 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: I have read your SS paper on Inspiration versus Revelation. I have a couple of thoughts. But you know me, it will take a lot of words to share them with you.

Revelation Today

On June 8, 2003, members of the Church gathered at the Salt Lake Tabernacle to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the revelation on priesthood. Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy, who presided and spoke at the fireside, said: "Tonight we commemorate one of the most significant revelations in this dispensation,... a revelation that allows the gospel in its fulness to be taken literally to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people." (Fireside Commemorates 1978 Priesthood Revelation, Ensign, Sept. 2003, 78.)

All members of the First Presidency and 10 members of the quorum of the twelve were present when the revelation on priesthood was received. Elder David B. Haight had been sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve just two years earlier. In 1996, he spoke in general conference about some of his feelings related to that event:

"I was in the temple when President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation regarding the priesthood. I was the junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was there. I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards. We just left quietly to go back to the office. No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience.

"But just a few hours after the announcement was made to the press, I was assigned to attend a stake conference in Detroit, Michigan. When my plane landed in Chicago, I noticed an edition of the Chicago Tribune on the newsstand. The headline in the paper said, 'Mormons Give Blacks Priesthood.' And the subheading said, 'President Kimball Claims to Have Received a Revelation.' I bought a copy of the newspaper. I stared at one word in that subheading—claims. It stood out to me just like it was in red neon. As I walked along the hallway to make my plane connection, I thought, Here I am now in Chicago walking through this busy airport, yet I was a witness to this revelation. I was there. I witnessed it. I felt that heavenly influence. I was part of it. Little did the editor of that newspaper realize the truth of that revelation when he wrote, '...Claims to Have Received a Revelation.' Little did he know, or the printer, or the man who put the ink on the press, or the one who delivered the newspaper—little did any of them know that it was truly a revelation from God. Little did they know what I knew because I was a witness to it." (The Work is True," Ensign, May 1996, 22; italics in original.)

In terms of its acceptability and factuality, the unambiguity of its source, its majesty and clarity of content; in terms of its reliability and authority, the revelation on priesthood is as real as any revelation ever given to man.

I implore you to step back for a few minutes and give careful and prayerful thought to Greg's comment here where he quoted Pres. Harold B. Lee:

"Now I want to impress this upon you. Someone has said it this way, and I believe it to be absolutely true: 'That person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire.' " ("The Strength of the Priesthood," Ensign, July 1972, 102.)

A person who sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this church will not claim, as you did in your SS paper, "that the church, by no longer being made aware of these gifts, has not received as much revelation as it once did. This is not a mere opinion, but a verifiable fact." This is vitally important, Jeffrey, because until we believe we are being led in the right way, we are not truly converted.

Jeffrey, it seems to me (this is just Gary speaking) that you are falling into a trap warned about by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. It seems to me you are "advancing erroneous explanations of the process" by which revelation should come, in your opinion, to modern prophets. Elder Maxwell said:

"Those who think of revelations merely as accommodations do not realize how much they reveal of themselves. When some are unable to accept a teaching before an amplifying revelation comes, and then are unable to accept the revelation—even though it was one they said they hoped for—the reasons reflect deep-seated personal difficulties. What is so transparent (to everyone except them) is that they do not really want to bear the responsibility of believing in modern and continuing revelation, because of the demands this would make upon them. If they rejoice in one revelation, they affirm a process that may produce other revelations that, for them, would be hard to bear. By shifting their ground so unconsciously, they cut the very ground from under themselves. By advancing erroneous explanations of the process, they seek to shield themselves from responsibility." (Neal A. Maxwell, Things As They Really Are, p.72)

The witness of the Holy Ghost

Now there is another thing. "There is an avenue to truth greater than intellect and more certain than the five senses. The most glorious of all avenues to truth is direct revelation from heaven. A saving testimony will never come from a spectacular historical or archaeological find, and a testimony need never be lost on the basis of such a find." (Glenn L. Pace, "The Elusive Balance," New Era, Mar. 1989, 46–47)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained it this way:

"The original Apostles were eyewitnesses to the ministry and resurrection of the Savior. (See Acts 10:39–41.) He told them, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8; see also Acts 10:42–43.) However, he cautioned them that their witnessing would be after they had received the Holy Ghost. (See Acts 1:8; see also Luke 24:49.)

"An eyewitness was not enough. Even the witness and testimony of the original Apostles had to be rooted in the testimony of the Holy Ghost. A prophet has told us that the witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than 'a visitation of an angel. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954, 1:44.) And the Bible shows that when we testify on the basis of this witness, the Holy Ghost testifies to those who hear our words. (See Acts 2; Acts 10:44–47.)" (Dallin H. Oaks, "Witnesses of Christ," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 30)

See my post here for a more thorough discussion of this topic.

5/22/2005 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

First of all, I did say in the talk that my uses of the words inspiration and revelation may not apply to any specific context or usage of any particular person, so quoting people that called the 1978 'incident' a revelation accomplishes nothing.

Second of all, what, exactly, was the 1978 revelation. We know the outcome of it, or the interpretation which those involved drew from it, but we have never had the revelation made known to us members.

Finally, as I also said, there is a difference between the church being lead by revelation and the church receiving revelation. The first one each person can answer, as you have done, according to what they believe or have a testimony of. The latter, one merely has to look through church history, it is a fact that nobody says "thus saith the Lord..", "I saw..." or "I heard..." This isn't belief or opinion, it is a verifiable fact as I said.

5/23/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff said:

"Second of all, what, exactly, was the 1978 revelation. We know the outcome of it, or the interpretation which those involved drew from it, but we have never had the revelation made known to us members."

That shared revelatory experience has been discussed, as you know, by Elder McConkie, Elder Haight, and others. Precisely what the revelation was can only be experienced, in my opinion, by the Holy Ghost delivering a similar communication to one's individual spirit.

The first time I watched a video presentation prepared by BYU follwing the 25th anniversay (Pioneers o Africa) that includes interviews with many of those "who waited," I am certain that I received a portion, at least, of the same message received by the Apostles. I could not speak, and could not restrain the tears. These were physical manifestations, but not descriptions of the revelation that I was receiving.

"I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards. We just left quietly to go back to the office. No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience." (David B. Haight). David B. Haight is the former Mayor of Palo Alto, California. I was in the second class at BYU Law School, and was around when the new building was dedicated. At that time, a Latter Day Saint was the secretary to the Supreme Court, and the Chief Justice and some other justices of the court attended. These individuals told the press that - describing the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, that they had never been in the presence of such a powerful group of men.

I, personally, have the typical, "pre-60's" history of American prejudice against African Americans. My family are converts, so I can't fully appreciate the Latter Day Saint version of this affliction. In the sense of prejudice, though, I am pretty much a product of my time, and, it was a long personal journey to overcome it.

If I can gain personal access to the 1978 revelation, anyone else should be able to do so. My only qualification is that I have learned how to receive revelation from the Holy Ghost and recognize it.

5/24/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

Greg, I completely respect your views, and actually admire how honest you are about it. I should reemphasize that I feel that the 1978 was a badly needed revelation that definitely came from God. It would have come earlier had it not been for a few hangups in the higher-ups but that is really beside the point. If I call it inspiration, I am not saying that it is not from God. Inspiration is just as much from God as is revelation, but this doesn't make them the same things at all.

Too many people interpret my essay as saying that revelation is good and inspiration is bad. That is NOT what I am trying to say at all. I am merely pointing out the differences, and if a person sees this as making inspiration bad then it is they who have the issues not me. There were a few paragraphs toward the end where I pointed out the inspiration is better than revelation for a number of reasons which should not be ignored. There is, however, one big reason why we should consider revelation to be better than inspiration, namely that we try to claim exclusive rights to revelation, and if we don't have that (I'm not saying we don't) what happens to our special status? These are questions each person can deal with on their own, but I feel that the basic thesis of the paper stands up to scrutiny very well.

5/24/2005 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

This discussion has moved. See "The Voice Is Still Small."

5/24/2005 11:53:00 PM  

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