Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Testimony of Early Brethren

[What follows is excerpted from "Testimony of Early Brethren," chapter nineteen in Joseph Fielding Smith's book Man: His Origin and Destiny.  All italics are in the original.]

The Tenth Article of Faith reads as follows:

"We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory."

We are also taught that we are living in the "Dispensation of the Fulness of Times."  This is the dispensation into which all other dispensations flow.  It is spoken of in the scriptures as "the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."  (Acts 3:21.)  If the earth is to be renewed, to what is it to be renewed?  It must be to some condition which prevailed in the beginning when the Lord pronounced it "good."  Isaiah, in the 65th chapter of his book gives us the story of what this restoration will be.  Likewise in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 101, verses 23 to 30, we are given a similar account, and in the same book, Section 133, the Lord reveals in some detail other things pertaining to this restoration.  This work of restoration commenced many years ago, when the Lord prepared for the restoration of the Church in this dispensation, and received its impetus when the Lord commenced his "marvelous work and a wonder."  (D&C Sec. 4.)

We learn in Section 133, that the Ten Tribes are to come to the children of Ephraim to receive their blessings and be restored; the Lamb shall come and stand on Mt. Zion, and on the Mt. of Olives and "utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people."  His voice shall break down the mountains, the "great deep" shall be driven back into the North countries, and the islands shall become one land and Jerusalem and Zion shall be turned back to their own place, "and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.  And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh."

Some of our brethren who lived in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith have written interesting accounts of this condition which was in the beginning and what it will be like in the restoration.  First we will present parts of the story as related by Elder Parley p. Pratt, in his Voice of Warning and as it is re-published by John Taylor, in his The Government of God.  President Taylor introduces the quotation from Elder Parley p. Pratt's writings with the following sentence:

Now, restoration signifies a bringing back, and must refer to something which existed before; for if it did not exist before, it could not be restored.  I cannot describe this better than Parley p. Pratt has done in his Voice of Warning, and shall therefore make the following extract:—...

Now, we can never understand precisely what is meant by restoration, unless we understand what is lost or taken away; for instance, when we offer to restore any thing to a man, it is as much as to say he once possessed it, but had lost it, and we propose to replace or put him in possession of that which he once had; therefore, when a prophet speaks of the restoration of all things, he means all things have undergone a change, and are to be again restored to their primitive order even as they first existed.

First, then, it becomes necessary for us to take a view of creation as it rolled in purity from the hand of its Creator; and if we can discover the true state in which it then existed, and understand the changes that have taken place since, then we shall be able to understand what is to be restored; and thus our minds being prepared, we shall be looking for the very things which will come, and shall be in no danger of lifting our puny arm, in ignorance, to oppose the things of God.

First, then, we will take a view of the earth, as to its surface, local situation, and productions.

When God had created the heavens and the earth, and separated the light from the darkness, his next command was to the waters, Gen. 1:9—And God said, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so!"  From this we learn a marvelous fact, which very few ever realized or believed in this benighted age; we learn that the waters, which are now divided into oceans, seas, and lakes, were then all gathered together, into one vast ocean; and, consequently, that the land, which is now torn asunder, and divided into continents and islands, almost innumerable, was then one vast continent or body, not separated as it is now.

Second, we hear the Lord God pronounce the earth, as well as every thing else, very good.  From this we learn that there were neither deserts, barren places, stagnant swamps, rough, broken, ragged hills, nor vast mountains covered with eternal snows; and no part of it was located in the frigid zones, so as to render its climate dreary and unproductive, subject to eternal frost, or everlasting chains of ice,—

Where no sweet flowers the dreary landscape cheer, Nor plenteous harvests crown the passing year;

but the whole earth was probably one vast plain, or interspersed with gently rising hills, and sloping vales, well calculated for cultivation; while its climate was delightfully varied with the moderate changes of heat and cold, of wet and dry, which only tended to crown the varied year, with the greater variety of productions, all for the good of man, animal, fowl, or creeping thing; while from the flowery plain, or spicy grove, sweet odors were wafted on every breeze; and all the vast creation of animated beings breathed naught but health, peace, and joy.

Next, we learn from Genesis 1:29-30, "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree, yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so."  From these verses we learn that the earth yielded neither noxious weeds nor poisonous plants, nor useless thorns and thistles; indeed, everything that grew was just calculated for the food of man, beast, fowl, and creeping thing; and their food was all vegetable; flesh and blood were never sacrificed to glut their souls, or gratify their appetites; the beasts of the earth were all in perfect harmony with each other; the lion ate straw like the ox—the wolf dwelt with the lamb—the leopard lay down with the kid—the cow and bear fed together, in the same pasture ... in perfect security, under the shade of the same trees; all was peace and harmony, and nothing to hurt nor disturb, in all the holy mountain.

And to crown the whole, we behold man created in the image of God, and exalted in dignity and power, having dominion over all the vast creation of animated beings, which swarmed through the earth, while at the same time, he inhabits a beautiful and well-watered garden, in the midst of which stood the tree of life, to which he had free access; while he stood in the presence of his Maker, conversed with him face to face, and gazed upon his glory, without a dimming veil between.  O reader, contemplate, for a moment, this beautiful creation, clothed with peace and plenty; the earth teeming with harmless animals, rejoicing over all the plain, the air swarming with delightful birds, whose never ceasing notes filled the air with varied melody; and all in subjection to their rightful sovereign who rejoiced over them; while, in a delightful garden—the capital of creation,—man was seated on the throne of his vast empire, swaying his scepter over all the earth, with undisputed right; while legions of angels encamped round about him, and joined their glad voices in grateful songs of praise, and shouts of joy; neither a sign nor a groan was heard, throughout the vast expanse; neither was there sorrow, tears, pain, weeping, sickness, nor death; neither contention, wars, nor bloodshed; but peace crowned the seasons as they rolled, and life, joy, and love reigned over all his works.  But, O! how changed the scene.

It now becomes my painful duty, to trace some of the important changes, which have taken place, and the causes which have conspired to reduce the earth and its inhabitants to their present state.

First, man fell from his standing before God, by giving heed to temptation; and this fall affected the whole creation, as well as man, and caused various changes to take place; he was banished from the presence of his Creator, and a veil was drawn between them, and he was driven from the garden of Eden, to till the earth, which was cursed for man's sake, and should bring forth thorns and thistles; and in the sweat of his face should earn his bread, and in sorrow eat of it, all the days of his life, and finally return to dust.  But as to Eve, her curse was a great multiplicity of sorrow and conception; and between her and the seed of the serpent, there was to be a constant enmity; it should bruise the serpent's head, and the serpent should bruise his heel.

Now, reader, contemplate the change.  This scene, which was so beautiful a little while before, had now become the abode of sorrow and toil, of death and mourning; the earth groaned with its production of accursed thorns and thistles; man and beast at enmity; the serpent slily creeping away, fearing lest his head should get the deadly bruise; and man starting amid the thorny path, in fear, lest the serpent's fangs should pierce his heel; while the lamb yields his blood upon the smoking altar.  Soon man begins to persecute, hate, and murder his fellow; until at length the earth is filled with violence; all flesh becomes corrupt, the powers of darkness prevail; and it repented Noah that God had made man, and it grieved him at his heart, because the Lord should come out in vengeance, and cleanse the earth by water.

How far the flood may have contributed, to produce the various changes, as to the division of the earth into broken fragments, islands and continents, mountains and valleys, we have not been informed; the change must have been considerable.  But after the flood, in the days of Peleg, the earth was divided.—See Gen. 10:25,—a short history, to be sure, of so great an event; but still it will account for the mighty revolution, which rolled the sea from its own place in the north, and brought it to interpose between different portions of the earth, which were thus parted asunder, and moved into something near their present form; this, together with the earthquakes, revolutions, and commotions which have since taken place, have all contributed to reduce the face of the earth to its present state; while the great curses which have fallen upon different portions, because of the wickedness of men, will account for the the stagnant swamps, the sunken lakes, the dead seas, and great deserts.

Then speaking of the restoration we have a continuation as follows:

Thus you see, every mountain being laid low, and every valley exalted, and the rough places being made plain, and the crooked straight, that these mighty revolutions will begin to restore the face of the earth to its former beauty.  But all this done, we have not yet gone through our restoration; there are many more great things to be done, in order to restore all things....

Thus, having cleansed the earth, and glorified it with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea, and having poured out his Spirit upon all flesh, both men and beast becoming perfectly harmless, as they were in the beginning, and feeding on vegetable food only, while nothing is left to hurt or destroy in all the vast creation, the prophets then proceed to give us many glorious descriptions of the enjoyment of its inhabitants.  "They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine of them; they shall plant gardens and eat the fruit of them; they shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall enjoy the work of their hands.  They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth in trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them; and it shall come to pass, that before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear."  In this happy state of existence it seems that all people will live to the full age of a tree, and this too without pain or sorrow, and whatsoever they ask will be immediately answered, and even all their wants will be anticipated.  Of course, then, none of them will sleep in the dust, for they will prefer to be translated; that is, changed in the twinkling of an eye, from mortal to immortal; after which they will continue to reign with Jesus on the earth.

A great council will then be held to adjust the affairs of the world, from the commencement, over which Father Adam will preside as head and representative of the human family.  There have been, in different ages of the world, communications opened between the heavens and the earth.  (Voice of Warning and Government of God, pages 106-115.)


August 29, 1852, the First Presidency asked Orson Pratt to give a discourse on marriage.  In this discourse Elder Pratt said:

The Lord himself solemnized the first marriage pertaining to this globe, and pertaining to flesh and bones here upon this earth.  I do not say pertaining to mortality; for when the first marriage was celebrated, no mortality was here.  The first marriage that we have any account of, was between two immortal beings—old father Adam and old mother Eve; they were immortal beings: death had no dominion nor power over them; and they were capable of enduring forever and ever in their organization....

What would you consider, my hearers, if a marriage was to be celebrated between beings not subject to death?  Would you consider them joined together for a certain number of years, and that then all their covenants were to cease for ever, and the marriage contract to be dissolved?  Would it look reasonable and consistent?  Every heart would say that the work of God is perfect in and of itself, and inasmuch as sin had not brought imperfection upon the globe, what God joined together could not be dissolved, and destroyed and torn asunder by any power beneath the celestial world, consequently it was eternal; the sealing of the great Jehovah upon Adam and Eve was eternal in its nature.  (Journal of Discourses Vol. 1, p. 58.)

Again, July 25, 1852, Elder Orson Pratt preached a wonderful discourse, designated as "A funeral sermon of all Saints and Sinners; also of the heavens and the Earth."  This entire discourse which is printed in the Millennial Star and other publications, should be read by every member of the Church.  It cannot be produced here in its fulness, but the following taken from it has to do with the subject of Adam and the fall.

I will take a text, which you will find recorded in the 51st chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah, and the sixth verse: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished!"

All things with which we are acquainted, pertaining to this earth of ours, are subject to change; not only man, so far as his temporal body is concerned, but the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, and every living thing with which we are acquainted—all are subject to pain and distress, and finally die and pass away; death seems to have universal dominion in our creation.  It certainly is a curious world; it certainly does not look like a world constructed in such manner as to produce eternal happiness; and it would be very far from the truth, I think, for any being at the present time to pronounce it very good; everything seems to show us that goodness, in a great degree, has fled from this creation.  If we partake of the elements, death is there in all its forms and varieties; and when we desire to rejoice, sorrow is there, mingling itself in every cup; and woe, and wretchedness, and misery, seem to be our present doom.

There is something, however, in man, that is constantly reaching forward after happiness, after pleasure, after something to satisfy the longing desire that dwells within his bosom.  Why is it that we have such a desire?  And why is it that it is not satisfied?  Why is it that this creation is so constructed?  And why is it that death reigns universally over all living earthly beings?  Did the great Author of creation construct this little globe of ours subject to all these changes, which are calculated to produce sorrow and death among the beings that inhabit it?  Was this the original condition of our creation?  I answer, no; it was not so constructed.  But how was it made in the beginning?  All things that were made pertaining to this earth were pronounced "very good."  Where there is pain, where there is sickness, where there is sorrow, and where there is death, this saying can not be understood in its literal sense; things cannot be very good where something very evil reigns and has universal dominion.

We are, therefore, constrained to believe, that in the first formation of our globe, as far as the Mosaic history gives us the information, everything was perfect in its formation; that there was nothing in the air, or in the waters or in the solid elements that was calculated to produce misery, wretchedness, unhappiness, or death, in the way that it was then organized; not but what the same elements, organized a little differently, would produce all these effects; but as it was then constructed, we must admit that every particle of air, of water, and earth, was so organized as to be capable of diffusing life and immortality through all the varied species of animated existence—immortality reigned in every department of creation; hence it was pronounced "very good."

When the Lord made the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, to people the atmospheric heavens, or the watery elements, these fowls and fishes were so constructed in their nature as to be capable of eternal existence.  To imagine anything different from this, would be to suppose the Almighty to form that which was calculated to produce wretchedness and misery.  What says the Psalmist David upon the subject?  He says that all the works of the Lord shall endure forever.  Did not the Lord make the fish?  Did he not make the fowls of the heavens?  Yes.  Did he not make the beasts of the field, and the creeping things, and the insects?  Yes.  Do they endure forever?  They apparently do not; and yet David says all his works are constructed upon that principle.  Is this a contradiction?  No.  God has given some other particulars in relation to these works.  He has permitted the destroyer to visit them, who has usurped a certain dominion and authority, carrying desolation and ruin on every hand; the perfections of the original organizations have ceased.  But will the Lord for ever permit these destructions to reign?  No.  His power exists, and the power of the destroyer exists.  His power exists, and the power of death exists; but his power exceeds all other powers; and consequently wherever a usurper comes in and lays waste any of his works, he will repair these wastes, build up the old ruins, and make all things new: Even the fish of the sea, and the fowls of the heavens, and the beasts of the earth, must yet, in order to carry out the designs of the Almighty, be so constructed as to be capable of eternal existence.

It would be interesting to know something about the situation of things when they were first formed, and how this destroyer happened to make inroads upon this fair creation; what the causes were, and why it was permitted.

Man, when he was first placed upon this earth, was an immortal being, capable of eternal endurance; his flesh and bones, as well as his spirit, were immortal and eternal in their nature; and it was just so with all the inferior creation—the lion, the leopard, the kid, and the cow; it was so with the feathered tribes of creation, as well as those that swim in the vast ocean of waters; all were immortal and eternal in their nature; and the earth itself, as a living being, was immortal and eternal in its nature.  What! is the earth alive too?  If it were not, how could the words of our text be fulfilled, where it speaks of the earth's dying?  How can that die that has no life?  "Lift up your eyes to the heavens above, say the Lord, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner."  What! the earth and the heavens to die?  Yes, the material heavens and the earth must all undergo this change which we call death; and if so, the earth must be alive as well as we.  The earth was so constructed that it was capable of existing as a living being to all eternity, with all the swarms of animals, fowls, and fishes that were first placed upon the face thereof.  But how can it be proved that man was an immortal being?  We will refer you to what the Apostle Paul has written upon this subject: he says that by one man came death; and he tells us how it came: It was by the transgression of one individual that death was introduced here.  But did transgression bring in all these diseases and this sorrow, this misery and wretchedness, over the whole face of this creation?  Is it by the transgression of one person that the very heavens are to vanish away as smoke, and the earth is to wax old like a garment?  Yes, it is by the transgression of one; and if it had not been for his transgression, the earth never would have been subject to death.  Why?  Because the works of the Lord are so constructed as to exist for ever; and if death had come in without a cause, and destroyed the earth, and laid waste the material heavens, and produced a general and utter overthrow and ruin in this fair creation, then the works of the Lord would have ceased to endure according to the promise, being imperfect in their construction, and consequently not very good.

But what was the sin, and what was the nature of it?  I will tell you what it was; it was merely the partaking of a certain kind of fruit.  But, says one, "I should think there is no harm in eating fruit."  There would not be unless God gave a command upon the subject.  There are things in nature that would be evil without a commandment: If there were no commandment, it would be evil for you to murder an innocent being, and your own conscience would tell you it was an evil thing.  It is an evil for any individual to injure another, or to infringe upon the rights of another, independent of any revealed law; for the savage, or that being who has never heard of the written laws of heaven—who has never heard of the revealed laws of God—with regard to these principles—as well as the Saint, knows that it is an evil to infringe upon the rights of another; the very nature of the thing shows that it is an evil; but not so in regard to many other things that are evil; which are only made evil by commandment.

For instance, here is the Sabbath day; a person who never heard the revealed law of God upon the subject, never could conceive that it was an evil to work on the Sabbath day; he would consider it just as right to work on the first day of the week, as on the seventh; he would perceive nothing in the nature of the thing by which he could distinguish it to be an evil.  So with regard to eating certain fruit, it was the commandment of the Great God that made it an evil.  He said to Adam and Eve, "Here are all the fruits of the garden; you may eat of them freely except this one tree that stands in the midst of the garden; now beware for in the day you eat thereof you shall surely die."  Don't we perceive that the commandment made this an evil?  Had it not been for this commandment, Adam would have walked forth and freely partaken of every tree, without any remorse of conscience; just as the savage, who never had heard the revealed will of God, would work on the Sabbath, the same as on any other day, and have no conscience about the matter.  But when a man murders, he knows it to be an injury, and he has a conscience about it, though he never heard of God; and so with thousands of evils.  But why did the Lord place man under these peculiar circumstances?  Why did he not withhold the commandment, if the partaking of the fruit, after the commandment was given, was sin?  Why should there have been a commandment upon the subject at all, inasmuch as there was no evil in the nature of the thing to be perceived or understood?  The Lord had a purpose in view; though he constructed this fair creation, as we have told you, subject to immortality, and capable of eternal endurance, and though he had constructed men capable of living forever, yet he had an object in view in regard to that man, and the creation he inhabited.  What was the object?  And when shall this object be accomplished?

Why, the Lord wanted this intelligent being called man, to prove himself; inasmuch as he was an agent.  He desired that he should show himself approved before his Creator.

How could this be done without a commandment?  Can you devise any possible means?  Is there any person in this congregation having wisdom sufficient to devise any means by which an intelligent being can show himself approved before a superior intelligence, unless it be by administering to that man certain laws to be kept?  No.  Without law, without commandment or rule, there could be no possible way of showing his integrity; it could not be said that he would keep all the laws that govern superior orders of beings, unless he had been placed in a position to be tried, and thus proved whether he would keep them or not.  Then it was wisdom to try the man and the woman, so the Lord gave them this commandment; if he had not intended the man should be tried by this commandment, he never would have planted that tree.  He never would have placed it in the midst of the garden.  Now the very fact that he planted it where the man could have easy access to it, shows that he intended man should be tried by it, and thus prove whether he would keep his commandments or not.  The penalty of disobedience to this law was death.

But could he not give a commandment, without affixing a penalty?  He could not; it would be folly, even worse than folly, for God to give a law to an intelligent being, without affixing a penalty to it if it were broken.  Why?  Because all intelligent beings would discard the very idea of a law being given, which might be broken at pleasure, without the individuals breaking it being punished for their transgression.  They would say—"Where is the principle of justice in the giver of the law?  It is not here: we do not reverence him nor his law; justice does not have an existence in his bosom.  He does not regard his own laws, for he suffers them to be broken with impunity, and trampled under foot by those whom he has made; therefore we care not for him or his laws; nor his pretended justice.  We will rebel against it.  Where would have been the use of it if there had been no penalty affixed?

But what is the nature of this penalty?  It was wisely ordained to be of such a nature as to instruct man.  Penalties inflicted upon human beings here, by governors, kings, or rulers, are generally of such a nature as to benefit them.

Adam was appointed lord of this creation; a great governor, swaying the scepter of power over the whole earth.  When the governor, the person who was placed to reign over this fair creation, had transgressed, all in his dominion had to feel the effects of it, the same as a father or a mother, who transgress certain laws, frequently transmit the effects thereof to the latest generations.

How often do we see certain diseases becoming hereditary, being handed down from father to son for generations?  Why?  Because in the first instance there was a transgression, and the children partook of the effects of it.  And what was the fullest extent of the penalty of Adam's transgression?  I will tell you—it was death.  The death of the immortal tabernacle—of the tabernacle where the seeds of death had not been, that was wisely framed, and pronounced very good; the seeds of death were introduced into it.  How and in what manner?  Some say there was something in the nature of the fruit that introduced mortality.  Be this as it may, one thing is certain, death entered into the system; it came there by some means, and sin was the main spring by which this monster was introduced.  If there had been no sin, our father Adam would at this day have been in the garden of Eden, as bright and as blooming, as fresh and as fair, as ever, together with his lovely consort Eve, dwelling in all the beauty of youth.

By one man came death—the death of the body.  What becomes of the spirit when the body dies?  Will it be perfectly happy?  Would old father Adam's spirit have gone back into the presence of God, and dwelt there eternally, enjoying all the felicities and glories of heaven, after his body had died?  No; for the penalty of that transgression was not limited to the body alone.  When he sinned, it was with both the body and the spirit that he sinned.  It was not only the body that ate of the fruit, but the spirit gave the will to eat; the spirit sinned therefore as well as the body; they were agreed in partaking of that fruit.  Was not the spirit to suffer then as well as the body?  Yes.  How long?  To all ages of eternity, without any end, while the body was to return back to its mother earth, and there slumber to all eternity.  That was the effect of the fall, leaving out the plan of redemption; so that, if there had been no plan of redemption prepared from before the foundation of the world, man would have been subject to an eternal dissolution of the body and spirit—the one to lie mingling with its mother earth, to all ages of eternity, and the other to be subject, throughout all future duration, to the power that deceived him, and led them astray; to be completely miserable, or as the Book of Mormon says, "dead as to things pertaining to righteousness."  (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pp. 280-284.)

[The above is excerpted from "Testimony of Early Brethren," chapter nineteen in Joseph Fielding Smith's book Man: His Origin and Destiny.  All italics are in the original.]


Blogger Jared* said...

That's a long section, so I haven't taken it all in yet. But I have two initial comments:

1. It seems to me that the interpretation of God declaring the earth good lies largely in the taste of the interpreter.

2. Parley Pratt's description of the pre-fall earth (no mountains, one vast plain) doesn't always match, according to my memory, the creation account in the temple where variety is given to the earth (I remember mountains for sure.)

5/17/2005 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared: First, the value of an interpretation of God declaring the earth good depends upon who is doing the interpreting. According to my memory, in the Church we have prophets and apostles to interpret scripture.

Second, the issue about mountains isn't directly related to the question of death before the fall. But President Smith makes these comments about it in a subsequent chapter:

"There is definite evidence that at one time, and I am convinced it was in antediluvian days since the time of Adam, the climate of the earth was just as Elder Parley P. Pratt and President John Taylor have described it. Evidence is found in the Arctic that tropical, or semi-tropical plants, grew there in abundance. The frozen animals spoken of by Sir Henry H. Howorth were frozen at the time of the flood when the climatic conditions of the earth were changed. The time is drawing near when this primitive condition will be restored again. In the restitution of all things it has to be.

"In this dispensation we are promised by revelation coming from the prophets 'since the world began,' that there is to be a restoration of the earth to its primitive condition, when the promised millennium shall come. We are led to believe, then, that in the beginning the mountains were not as high as they are now, for the prophecies declare that in that day 'Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.' (Isa. 40:4.) When the valleys are exalted it will be the natural result of the mountains being debased or made low. In this way the earth will be restored to its primitive condition." (Man: His Origin and Destiny, 422-423; emphasis added).

I also found the following verses in the standard works that seem to support President Smith's view:

At the time of the Second Coming of Christ, the mountains shall "flow down" at His presence (see Isa. 64:1; D&C 133:40, 44.)

"And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found" (Rev. 16:20).

He "shall break down the mountains and the valleys shall not be found" (D&C 133:22).

When I read Elder Parley P. Pratt's description of pre-Fall, telestial, and millennial earth, I am convinced that Elder Pratt's command of the English language was superior to my own as was his vision. The fact that his words have been republished by two Presidents of the Church gives them a pretty good endorsement in my book.

5/17/2005 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up outside the Church and was a strong believer in Darwinian evolution as the origin of man. I was first exposed to the idea that man may have been transplanted here before the Fall after becoming a member of the Church. It was the testimony which I received of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce
R. McConkie that eventually overturned my childhood paradigm which in turn led to my renouncing of the idea that Darwinian evolution was the origin of man. The most convincing argument to me was the argument that there was no death before the Fall. How could there possibly have been evolution without death? Obviously, something was going on that I did not understand.

I haven't had a chance to read all the posts to this website, but I am very happy that you are posting this material. I am in complete agreement with its foundational premise, something that I cannot say about most other sources of Mormon information on the web.

You are providing a valuable service.

5/17/2005 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

The Prophets and Apostles are not the official interpreter of the scriptures in the church. In fact we have none, for JS would have nothing of it. This was one of Nibley's favorite points to make.

5/18/2005 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger rameumptom said...

Do we think that the early Brethren knew everything? Or did they comment according to the light and truth they had in their day? Do we accept the Adam-God theory as fact? Or do we accept modern prophets who have corrected it?
The ONLY official statement by the First Presidency on evolution stated that the Church has no position on it. Scientific matters are for scientists, and religion matters are for religion.
I personally do believe that death started with Adam. However, I also believe, as did Hugh Nibley, BH Roberts, James Talmage and others, that evolution does occur. I just don't believe we came from monkeys.
Next, I believe that this physical earth has gone through several creation/destruction cycles, which are shown in scripture AND in science (the Flood, the destruction at the end of the world, etc / destruction of dinosaurs in 250M BC and 65M BC and the Ice Age).
Why can't we have had a major destruction during the Ice Age, then have the Lord recreate the earth anew with Adam as an immortal spiritual/physical being?

I think that we need to establish ourselves separate from the Protestant Creationists, who try to force all things into an ex-nihilo Creation ideal. If God created everything from scratch at the Creation, then there were no previous creations this world could have experienced (making oil and coal fields out of deceased animals and plants, for instance).

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

Most of the doctrinal renovation which JS brought about basically amounted to a rejection of absolutes. There are degrees of heaven. Hell doesn't really last forever-ever. In some sense God is progressing. It isn't absolutely the case the those who die without baptism are doomed. It's with this in mind that I get nervous when people insist that there could have been absolutely no death whatsoever anywhere before the fall. Clearly worlds have come and gone before, meaning death has come and gone before. If we try to restrict the comment by saying "there was no death.... in this system" we are already qualifying the statement.

Now I don't buy into Skousen's book Earth in the Beginning. A person with a Ph. D. should know his science better than what he seems to know judging by his book. Nevertheless, to reject it because he allows death before the fall is fanaticism if I've ever seen it. True, he does allow for death before the fall, but he also suggests that there was destruction followed by a recreation of life and sanctification whereby death was eliminated from the earth. Thus, by the time Adam came to the earth, there was no death. Like I said, I don't believe it personally, but to reject it because he allows death on this earth in a prior creation of sorts just seems like taking things way too far.

5/18/2005 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Your comment catches me a little by surprise—"The Prophets and Apostles are not the official interpreter of the scriptures in the church. In fact we have none." Wow!

President James E. Faust said: "I strongly counsel all who have membership in this church to follow the teachings and counsel of those who now have the keys as prophets, seers, and revelators [the apostles and prophets]. They are the ones who will inspire us to deal with the vicissitudes of our time. I plead with all not to try to selectively invoke gospel principles or scripture to wrongly justify spiritual disobedience, or to separate themselves from the responsibilities of covenants and ordinances contrary to the counsel of those who have the prophetic voice in the Church. The scriptures and doctrines of the Church are not, as Peter warned, 'of any private interpretation.' (2 Pet. 1:20.)" (James E. Faust, "The Keys That Never Rust," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 74; the bracketed words are mine.)

In addition, President Faust could have cited at least the following seven passages from the standard works:

  1. "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets" (1 Cor. 12:28).

  2. The Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20).

  3. A major reason why God placed apostles and prophets in the Church was to protect members from being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14).

  4. Apostles and prophets are called "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," and they will be with us until "we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph. 4:12-13).

  5. "And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith" (D&C 52:9).

  6. "Let them labor with their families, declaring none other things than the prophets and apostles, that which they have seen and heard and most assuredly believe, that the prophecies may be fulfilled" (D&C 52:36).

  7. "And the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people" (D&C 1:14).

5/18/2005 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

rameumptom: Download the BYU Evolution Packet and after you study it, read my comments about it here. Then we'll talk.

5/18/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

John: Thanks for your interest. The positive response is appreciated.

5/18/2005 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: You say you "get nervous when people insist that there could have been absolutely no death whatsoever anywhere before the fall." I think that statement would make me a little nervous.

Would this statement sound a little better? It comes from the LDS Bible Dictionary: "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" (BD Death, p. 655).

5/18/2005 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Montgomery said...

Gary, I recently became aware of your site. I think you are performing a valuable service. Kudos.

5/19/2005 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

I agree with Nibley's assessment of things:

"But who's to interpret it? Do I have a right to interpret the scriptures as much as anyone else?" Of course. You may remember that the wars of the Reformation were fought on that issue: "Does the ordinary person have the right to read the scriptures?" We regard that as a definite step forward in the Lord's work on the earth, and in the Church every individual is commanded to read the scriptures for himself. Of course, the story of the last dispensation begins with the Prophet Joseph, as a young boy, reading the scriptures very much for himself, putting the most literal interpretation on them, belonging to no church at the time, without asking for anybody's permission. So we do that also. As far as official interpretation of the scriptures is concerned, the Latter-day Saints scoff at the idea that one must study special courses and get a special degree—"training for the ministry"—and thus interpret the Bible for others. Joseph Smith noted many times that interpreters of the scriptures like William W. Phelps and Frederick G. Williams read the scriptures quite differently than he, but he didn't order them to stop or to change. He said we should try to use reason and testimony, but that's all we can do."

I can see that I will have a very difficult time communicating anything at this site due to the vast difference which exists between our views of priesthood authority. For some reason you seem to believe that upon ordination to the 12 or as Pres. all not-entirely-true beliefs are magically whisked away and whatever is said from then on is not only the words of the man, but the words of God Himself. This is the Catholic position which is wisely rejected in most Mormons.

The Church authorities do not believe these things about themselves or each other. Shouldn't we follow their example in this?

5/19/2005 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: My answer about who interprets scripture in the Church remains as I stated it here. And my response to Nibley remains as I stated it here.

5/20/2005 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...

...all for the good of man, animal, fowl, or creeping thing; while from the flowery plain, or spicy grove, sweet odors were wafted on every breeze; and all the vast creation of animated beings breathed naught but health, peace, and joy.

Parley's description of the earth is really human-centered. It describes conditions that we would want to live in, but penguins, polar bears, and a host of other creatues would prefer alternative conditions. One organism's stagnant swamp is another's paradise.

5/27/2005 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared said: "Parley's description of the earth is really human-centered. It describes conditions that we would want to live in, but penguins, polar bears, and a host of other creatues would prefer alternative conditions. One organism's stagnant swamp is another's paradise."

The entire universe, not just the earth, really is human-centered. James E. Talmage agrees:

"What is man in this boundless setting of sublime splendor? I answer you: Potentially now, actually to be, he is greater and grander, more precious according to the arithmetic of God, than all the planets and suns of space. For him were they created; they are the handiwork of God; man is His son! In this world man is given dominion over a few things; it is his privilege to achieve supremacy over many things.

" 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.' (Psa. 19:1). Incomprehensibly grand as are the physical creations of the earth and space, they have been brought into existence as means to an end, necessary to the realization of the supreme purpose, which in the words of the Creator is thus declared:

" 'For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.' (Pearl of Great Price, page 4)." (The Earth and Man, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931, 14.)

There is little doubt in my mind that terrestrial penguins, polar bears, and "all the vast creation of animated beings breathed naught but health, peace, and joy," just as Parley said.

5/27/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

I think there are definitely limits to how "human centered" we should consider the world. One of my friends tried to convince me that the entire universe, including the vast majority of which we have no clue about and never will, was created for the sole purpose of dazzling us human here on earth. This sounds more like a magician or a half-time show than a God with a passion for art.

It is thinking that all animals are only here for man to enjoy that allows some Mormons to show an utter disregard for them in their hunting them, even to extinction.

While I can see why some would consider the world to be human-centered, (I personally don't) we can probably all admit that there are different levels of such a belief. Let's not go overboard.

5/28/2005 08:51:00 AM  

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