Saturday, April 10, 2010

Clean Cut,

Like I said, you posted a long comment. In fact, there are ten items in your comment to which I'll respond. Your comments are in blue, my responses are in red. Even if you don't agree with me, it doesn't hurt for you to understand my point of view.

1. "Do you honestly believe that President Eyring disagrees with his own father's published views?... [Do] you seriously think you know President Henry B. Eyring's personal views and whether or not he thinks his father was wrong?"

Let's look at one specific example of President Eyring's reaction to ndbf in official LDS media. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff contains this statement:

"We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned." (p.81.)

The process of preparing the Wilford Woodruff manual for distribution was described in a letter from the Curriculum Planning committee and posted on the internet by Rebecca at Feminist Mormon Housewives (click here). The following excerpt from that letter is relevant this present discussion:

"Lastly, proof copies were sent to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for final review. Once their suggestions were incorporated, the book received a final proofreading and was then sent for translating and printing."

Thus we know that the FP/12, which included Henry B. Eyring, approved Wilford Woodruff ndbf teachings for distribution to all adult members of the Church. We also know an equivalent statement was approved in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee:

"Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death.... How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state." (p.20.)

Because of his position in the FP/12, President Eyring could easily have prevented the use of ndbf statements in the manuals. But he did not. I think that says a lot about where he stands with respect to his father's published views on ndbf.

2. "You say that there has been "no inside opposition" lately, but you simply cannot possibly know that. Especially when you yourself acknowledge that they share their disagreements privately.... I think it's pretty narrow minded to tell me that by 'agreeing with Talmage on ndbf, [I thus] disagree with every FP/12 since 1970.' [you can] not know that."

I will say it again: There is no inside opposition "in official LDS media." A thorough examination of official media for the period 1970 to the present, reveals numerous examples of ndbf being taught (individually) or approved (unitedly) by FP/12 members. During that same period, there is not a single example of FP/12 opposition to ndbf in official media.

There are no statements in official LDS media for the past 40 years from any FP/12 who agree with Talmage about ndbf. That's how I can know that.

Regarding their private disagreements: If there were disagreements in official media, those disagreements would no longer be private, now would they. Therefore private disagreements may or may not exist, but I have no need to know about them because they do not change my claim. If the FP/12 disagreed about ndbf in official LDS media, I would cease making the above claim.

3. "reiterating that the Church has 'no official position'."

Are you saying that those who established this unpublished rule have proceded to violate it over and over by teaching and approving ndbf in official LDS media? Maybe you haven't read my post about Bloggernacle Dodgeball (click here).

4. "If the Church has no official position on this, then how can I or anyone else disagree with the Church's position?"

Defining what is "official" is difficult. But the Church teaches ndbf quite matter-of-factly, as if it were official, in spite of the fact that there has been no official pronouncement declaring it to be such.

5. "suppose ... you are living in the time when Talmage is saying these things. Would you accept what the living apostle is saying, or would you have rejected his words?"

Talmage gave his famous speech about death before Adam in 1931. It is said to have been a parting shot on the evaluation and rejection by the Church of a priesthood manual submitted in 1928 by B. H. Roberts of the Seventy. Five members of the Quorum of the Twelve were assigned to evaluate the manuscript. Among them were three future Church Presidents. They reported to President Heber J. Grant in May 1930 as follows:

"We feel that the arguments as given contradict the accounts given in all our scriptures, and more especially in the temple ceremonies. As we understand it the term first flesh also, does not have reference to Adam as being the first living creature of the creation on the earth, but that he, through the fall became the first flesh, or mortal soul. The term flesh in reference to mortal existence is of common usage. We find it so used in the scriptures. Adam having partaken of the fruit became mortal and subject to death, which was not the condition until that time. We are taught in the Temple as well as in the scriptures that man was the last creation placed upon the earth, before death was introduced. Adam was the first to partake of the change and to become subject to the flesh."

So yes, there is a good chance that I would have gone with the five over the one.

6. "there is nothing to stop the FP from teaching Talmage's or Widstoes teachings again."

As I said above at the end of #2, I would follow the FP.

7. "why do you pull out this date of 1970?"

Joseph Fielding Smith became President of the Church in January 1970 and nothing happened with respect to ndbf prior to that in 1970.

President Smith's 1972 First Presidency approved the following ndbf teachings found in the MP manual, Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions:

"The animals were all created and placed on the earth preceding the coming of Adam and Eve. In fact the whole earth and the creatures on it were prepared for Adam and Eve before Adam's fall.… The earth and all upon it were not subject to death until Adam fell.… It was through the fall of Adam that death came into the world." (pp.53-54, 111.)

Since that First Presidency publication there has been no public opposition to ndbf by FP/12 members.

8. "President McKay, who died in 1970, personally--albeit very privately--believed in evolution."

Four years ago, I posted some of my research about David O. McKay and evolution (click here).

9. "Why paint me out as if I'm disagreeing with apostles when the real issue is that apostles are disagreeing with other apostles?"

You've named two apostles, James E. Talmage (1862–1933) and John A. Widtsoe (1872–1952), who disagreed publicly with ndbf. On the other side of the ledger, the most recent seven Prophets and the most recent thirty four apostles have demonstrated a remarkable unity regarding the teaching of ndbf in official LDS media. All public disagreement among FP/12 on ndbf disappeared more than 40 years ago.

10. "why don't you just admit that YOU are disagreeing with Elder Talmage, et al?"

Talmage believed in death before Adam and I am fully aware of that. But not once — not on this blog or anywhere else — have I said, "Talmage was wrong," and I'm not saying it now. Here's why:

Let James E. Talmage be A, and "death before the fall" be X.

If Wilford Woodruff is B, then A and B disagree on X.

If Harold B. Lee is C, then A and C disagree on X.

If Joseph Fielding Smith is D, then A and D disagree X.

If Bruce R. McConkie is E, then A and E disagree X.

If Boyd K. Packer is F, then A and F disagree X.

If Russell M. Nelson is G, then A and G disagree on X.

B, C, D, E, F, and G are all authorized to clarify or correct A about X, but I'm not so I don't.

Pointing out what subsequent apostles and prophets have said about ndbf is no different than reading Gen. 22:2 in its more complete and correct context which includes Gen. 22:12.

Sincerely, your friend and brother,