Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tim said: You are correct; the Church does not use alternative sources to publish its positions. But if I go through my file leaders and ask a question as to the perspective of the church on a topic, they can relay a message from the first presidency. If that message is the one purposed by the submitter of the other website (which of course should be verified), then the quote and meaning of the statement take on a new and authoritative context.

R. Gary responds: First, I agree with you that the First Presidency's office bestows clout on the 1931 excerpt by including it with private letters sent to individuals. But I do NOT agree that such letters magically change the excerpt into an official First Presidency message. First Presidency messages for the general membership of the Church are found in official Church published magazines, manuals, and so forth. And the 1931 excerpt has so far NOT been published in any official Church media.

Second, I've never seen the slightest evidence to suggest that the 1931 excerpt has any meaning other than its historical meaning:

Don't use science to interpret the gospel.

Tim said: On another note one of the main question behind the original presidency minutes was on the Death Before the Fall question.

R. Gary responds: I have never denied that NDBF was discussed in 1931 or that B. H. Roberts of the Seventy and Joseph Fielding Smith of the Twelve disagreed on that point.

Tim said: So while you are correct that the statement/discussion are not about evolution per se, as you have so repeatedly argued,...

R. Gary responds: Yes. Even the author of the Encyclopedia Evolution article has since clarified in a book about those 1931 discussions that evolution was not then an issue.

Tim said: ... the question of death before the fall is intimately associated with a theistic evolutionary perspective and thus relevant to a discussion of the church’s position.

R. Gary responds: The Church's position on NDBF is very clear.

In the entire history of the Church, I can find only a few years in the early 1900s when two (Talmage and Widtsoe) of the 97 latter-day apostles questioned whether the Creation was paradisiacal with no death before the fall.

The most recent seven Church Presidents and the most recent thirty four Apostles have demonstrated a remarkable unity regarding the Creation: All comments from them in Church media agree there was no death before the fall. No dissenting opinions have been expressed by any of them in any Church magazine or manual.

Let's look at a sampling of what the Church has said about NDBF since 1970.

In 1979, the Scriptures Publication Committee (Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer, and Bruce R. McConkie), under the direction of the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney), placed NDBF teachings in the LDS Bible Dictionary (see death, p.655; Fall of Adam, p.670; flesh, p.676; paradise, p.742; and restitution; restoration, p.761).

Every copy of the LDS Bible has bound in with it the LDS Bible Dictionary (English) or Guide to the Scriptures (Spanish); and all electronic editions of the LDS Scriptures have them both. Guide to the Scriptures says: "The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48).” (“Death, Physical.”)

Teachings of Presidents of the Church is a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who approved NDBF teachings in the Harold B. Lee (p.20) and Wilford Woodruff (p.81) manuals.

In 1988, Boyd K. Packer taught NDBF in both general conferences (see Ensign, May 1988, p.70 and Nov. 1988, p.18). Again in 2008, President Packer emphasized that the Fall was “essential if the condition of mortality was to exist.” (Ensign, Mar 2008, pp.16-17.) If the condition of mortality could not exist without the Fall, then it clearly did not exist before the Fall.

In his April 2000 general conference talk, Russell M. Nelson taught NDBF (see Ensign, May 2000, p.84). In the April 2001 general conference, Elder Nelson recommended the Bible Dictionary entry for “Fall of Adam (page 670, paragraphs 1–2)” (Ensign, May 2001, p.32). The following year, Elder Nelson recommended the same Bible Dictionary paragraphs again (Ensign, Mar. 2002, p.17). Part of the first paragraph in the Bible Dictionary entry for Fall of Adam states:

“Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There was no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the ‘forbidden fruit,’ Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life. Adam became the ‘first flesh’ upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal.” (Bible Dictionary, Fall of Adam.)

Current Sunday School and Primary manuals ask teachers to understand the Bible Dictionary entry for “Fall of Adam” before teaching certain lessons.

The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are expected to study and teach. Twenty eight times, missionaries are directed by Preach My Gospel to read and become familiar with ideas found in the LDS Bible Dictionary. The Scripture Study section on page 52 asks missionaries to study the Bible Dictionary entry for “Death” which states explicitly:

“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).”

The First Presidency's doctrinal guidebook True to the Faith, under “Death, Physical,” teaches that “the Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world (see Moses 6:48).”

I believe the above sample is large enough to demonstrate that NDBF is pervasive, persistent, and without opposition among the apostles in today's official LDS media.

I very much appreciate your participation in this discussion.

Your blogging friend and brother,