Sunday, February 23, 2014

Our LDS blogs are all "Alternate Voices"

At the age of 29, Dallin H. Oaks was hired as professor of law at the University of Chicago, a position he held for 10 years. At age 36, he joined the editorial board of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, a position he held for two years.

Later, he was president of BYU for nine years before being appointed to the Utah Supreme Court. At the age of 51, he was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In his April 1989 general conference address, he noted some of the differences between (a) those who "have been called and given divine authority" to teach about the Church and its doctrine, and (b) those who "speak on these subjects without calling or authority." I believe his own previous experience at Dialogue provided a valuable backdrop for this talk about "Alternate Voices."

This talk is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago, perhaps more so. Therefore, I invite you to read it again. Click this link or simply scroll through the talk inside the window below:


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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mormons believe global Flood story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

New Gospel Topic on Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

There is a new Gospel Topic at LDS.org titled, "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies." It deals primarily with DNA science and population genetics as these relate to the Book of Mormon.

Over at LDS Science Review, Jared* sees this new article as something of a breakthrough for evolutionists because it discusses some of the same principles and processes that are used to explain evolution. In fact, according the title of Jared's post, the new article means the Church is now teaching evolution.

Meanwhile, at Mormanity, Jeff Lindsay notes that "for some of us who love science and our faith, the new statement ... comes as a pleasant surprise." He believes the new Topic article is significant because it is scientifically oriented.

I think both of these bloggers are reading more into the article than it contains: It neither promotes science nor teaches evolution. Perhaps the following excerpt from the article has been overlooked:

"The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples, and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected. For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon." (Topic article, paragraph 3.)

The article says to me that DNA questions about the Book of Mormon cannot be answered conclusively by science. And while some research appears to challenge the Book of Mormon, other research draws more favorable conclusions. The article appears to be an effort to balance the public record on this issue.

In a larger sense, the article says to me that the conclusions of science are tentative and whether one supports or opposes a particular theory, scientific arguments on both sides are speculative.

I like how Hugh Nibley said it: "The last word is a testimony of the gospel that comes only by direct revelation. Our Father in heaven speaks it, and if it were in perfect agreement with the science of today, it would surely be out of line with the science of tomorrow." (Maxwell Institute.)

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