Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Orson Scott Card fabricates a First Presidency message

In his MormonTimes column this week, Orson Scott Card fabricates what he calls "the First Presidency message on the Creation." Be aware, if you read Card's article, that no First Presidency has ever issued a statement containing these words:

"The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again" (click here).

Not that there's a problem with those words, but it is very misleading to pass them off as being the words of an LDS First Presidency. And it is also misleading not to mention in this context that the First Presidency has in fact said how God did NOT create man.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Darwin and cola drinks

I drink Pepsi.  I've done so for more than fifty years.  Yes, I know the Church frowns on it.  In my mind, I can still hear Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone's voice in the April 1975 general conference reminding us about the February 1972 Priesthood Bulletin that addresses cola drinks:

Cola Drinks and the Word of Wisdom. "The Word of Wisdom, section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 89], remains as to terms and specifications as found in that section.  There has been no official interpretation of the Word of Wisdom except that which was given by the Brethren in the very early days of the Church when it was declared that hot drinks meant tea and coffee.

"With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit.  Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided."—Priesthood Bulletin [February 1972]

This same warning is also found in the "Policies and Procedures" section of the May 1972 New Era (p. 50) and in other official Church media as well (see, for example, Lesson 38 in the current Young Women Manual 3).

On a number of occasions, I've visited the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, where four of my children went to school.  I've also visited BYU's Idaho and Hawaii campuses.  To my knowledge there are no caffeinated cola drinks sold anywhere on any of these campuses.  The same is true of vending machines in the Church administration building and in temple cafeterias world wide.

It's clear to me that when you drink cola you are out of sync with the Church.

But wait.  There's one more thing.  A January 1981 Ensign article quotes the Priesthood Bulletin on cola drinks and adds:

"There is no current Church policy that would preclude a bishop issuing a temple recommend to a person who consumes cola beverages."

This tells me that drinking cola is NOT a major transgression.

Darwinian evolution

Whenever they have talked about it in official Church media, the latter-day apostles — members of the First Presidency and Twelve — have all vigorously affirmed a paradisiacal creation with no death on this earth before the fall of Adam (all, that is, except two in the early 1900s).

Of the 97 latter-day apostles who've talked about it in official Church media, all have spoken against the idea that Darwinian evolution explains the origin of man.

It's clear to me that believing Darwin is out of sync with the Church.

But just like with cola, there is no Church policy against issuing temple recommends to members who believes Darwin.  In my opinion, believing Darwin is no more serious than drinking cola.


Please believe me when I say that I have no quarrel with individuals who believe that man came by evolution, preceded by millions of years of death on this earth.

I think paradisiacal creationists and Darwinian evolutionists should gladly sit together in Church.  We should home teach each other, go on ward temple trips together, and in all other ways enjoy full fellowship with each other in the gospel, just like cola drinkers and cola purists do.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Over at MormonTimes, Orson Scott Card misrepresents Mormons on evolution

"We don't know the Lord's time" is Orson Scott Card's current MormonTimes contribution on the subject of Mormons and evolution (click here).  Unfortunately, some of what Card attributes to the LDS Church is inaccurate and the result is a distorted view of what the Church currently teaches about evolution.


Card cites a 1931 First Presidency statement on evolution:

"Here is the statement of the First Presidency from 1931, partly in response to years of controversy that had divided the brethren in sometimes-public debate:

" ' Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed.  Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world.  Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.'

"This statement was repeated in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on evolution."

This 1931 passage is not from any published First Presidency statement, past or present.  It has never been printed in any official Church magazine or lesson manual.  It comes from an internal memo that was not about evolution and not the result of any debate about evolution.

The memo was addressed to LDS general authorities.  It summarizes the lengthy evaluation of a priesthood manual submitted in 1928 by Elder B. H. Roberts, a Seventy.  After two and a half years, the 1931 memo announces the Church's decision to reject the manual.

William E. Evenson, who wrote the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on evolution, has since admitted publicly that the opinions of Roberts were "not those of an evolutionist" and the discussions "were not centered on the scientific theories of origins of life forms."  (William E. Evenson, "Science: The Universe, Creation, and Evolution," in B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life [2nd edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996], p.645.)

Evenson further acknowledges that the Roberts book "addresses three forms of evolutionary theory [and] finds all three ... to be inadequate."  (Ibid.)  Evenson concedes that Roberts "rejects all [1930s evolutionary] theories as he understands them [and] puts forward his own theory" to reconcile the scriptures with the fossil record.  (Ibid.)

In an effort to bolster his own theory about fossil evidence for death before Adam's fall, Roberts marshaled the latest conclusions of geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology.  The decision of the 1931 First Presidency was that neither the Roberts theory nor the theories of science belonged in a priesthood manual.

If the 1931 quotation has any meaning for our day, it is that we as Church members should not try to make the gospel fit scientific theories.  Either way, there simply was no 1931 First Presidency statement on evolution.


It is very misleading in terms of what the LDS Church currently teaches for Card to say that:

"There have been prophets, seers and revelators who accepted the notion of geological time."

Only for a few years during the first half of the last century did two (of 97) apostles openly question the long-standing LDS belief in a paradisiacal Creation with no death before Adam's fall.

Today, there is consensus among the First Presidency and Twelve regarding the Creation as evidenced by what they say in current official magazine and LDS.org articles and in what they have approved as Church teachings in seminary, institute, and ward lesson manuals, as well as in the Bible Dictionary and Guide to the Scriptures.


The most egregious error in the article is Card's claim that:

"There have been prophets, seers and revelators who accepted ... the use of natural processes in creating human beings."

That statement is utterly false.

Let me ask a simple question (open to all LDS evolutionists): Where and when has the LDS Church published a single apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man?

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Two blogs and a biography on Benson's Fourteen Fundamentals

1.  (pro, from a blog): "When something is quoted word for word by two or more speakers, then to me, it's a bit like the Lord getting on His heavenly [Public Announcement] system and saying  ' Hey everyone, listen up!  Did you get that?!  In case not, here it is again!  Take Notes! ' ”  (Fourteen Fundamentals Spotlighted at Conference, by MormonSoprano.)

2.  (con, from a blog): "Living prophets are more vital than the scriptures, living prophets are more important than dead prophets, the prophet will never lead the church astray. We must make our own decisions on this but for me, I cannot flush the scriptures because a ‘prophet’ has provided a new direction in a talk. If such is the case, why wouldn’t it be called revelation and added to the canon of scripture? I believe that the scripture provide an anchor with with to assess whether purported revelation is consistent with the current word of God. Giving man the ability to replace scripture is exactly what led to the apostasy in the meridian of time."  (Day One - October 2010 Conference, by Spektator.)

3.  (pro, from Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987, pp.468-469):

"On Tuesday, February 26, 1980, he delivered what President [Dallin H.] Oaks called a  ' landmark address '  and what others described as  ' a classic '  at a BYU devotional assembly.  In a message on  ' Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,'  he talked about the calling of a living prophet.  He prefaced his remarks by explaining,  ' To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead I am going to give you today several facets of a grand key which, if you will honor, will crown you with God's glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan's fury.  Soon we will be honoring our Prophet on his eighty-fifth birthday.  As a church we sing the song, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet."  Here then is the grand key — Follow the Prophet.'

"President Benson taught that the prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord, and that his words are more important than those of a deceased prophet.  Further, he asserted, while it might not always be popular, a prophet is qualified to speak out on civic affairs.   ' The world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business,'  he said.  ' Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to be still on politics ... [but] those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.'  He also encouraged the students to enroll in the BYU religion class  ' Teachings of the Living Prophets.'

"Some of the local media took President Benson to task for his remarks, speculating that he was setting the stage for the day when he might become president of the Church....

"In just two weeks, over six hundred requests for copies of his BYU address came to President Benson's office, as well as hundreds of letters from Saints hailing his message as an inspiring tribute to the role of a prophet.  While the talk generated a great deal of publicity, for his part President Benson had intended it to simply underscore President Kimball's prophetic call.

During the April 1980 monthly meeting of the General Authorities, President Benson explained that he had meant only to reaffirm the divine nature of the prophetic call.  It was a faith-building, emotional experience.  His family were aware of his concerns and had been praying for him.  When he returned to his office that day, he found a phone message from Reed and a brief letter from Mark:  ' All will be well—we're praying for you and know all will be well.  The Lord knows your heart.'  There was also a brief message from Elder Packer:  ' How I admire, respect and love you. How could anyone hesitate to follow a leader, an example such as you? What a privilege! '

Notice the words of President Boyd K. Packer and Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted by Sister Dew in connection with President Benson's talk.

One additional thought

On his blog, Spektator questioned specifically President Benson's second fundamental: "The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works."  In course language, Spektator states, "I cannot flush the scriptures."  The following is included for Spektator's benefit:

"That caused me to reflect on the absolute importance of a living oracle, and also on the words of Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve, who said:  ' The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book.  They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites.  Whatever is done by this Church is because God speaking from heaven in our day has commanded this Church to do it.  No book presides over this Church and no books lie at its foundation.  You cannot pile up books enough to take the place of God's priesthood inspired by the power of the Holy Ghost.'

"Elder Whitney was not taking away from the power and majesty of the scriptures — he was just putting them into perspective.  He also said,  ' No man ought to contend for what is in the books in the face of God's mouthpiece who speaks for him and interprets his word.  To so contend is to defer to the dead letter in preference to the living oracles, which is always a false position.'  (Loren C. Dunn, "A Living Prophet," Ensign, May 1976, pp.65–66.)

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