A Veil Runs Through It: A Mormon Cosmogony

John Hamer Mormon, Mormons, theology 82 Comments

The Earth we perceive with our physical eyes is billions of years in age. Life began to inhabit this sphere eons ago and evolved to fill the world through a process of natural selection. Several millions of years ago the ancestors of humankind diverged from our nearest surviving cousins and our basic physical form was achieved perhaps 200,000 years ago.

Unlike some of their religious contemporaries, early Mormons did not reject or fear science; they embraced it. Their cosmology (view of the universe) expanded the Biblical scope of creation to include souls on worlds without number. Their cosmogony (explanation for the universe’s origin) embraced contemporary science which held that matter could not be created ex nihilo. (The contemporary scientific “law of conservation of mass” contradicted the Genesis account but was perfectly attuned to the creation described in the Book of Abraham.)

Let me propose that Mormons today needn’t be locked into a world-view that embraces science up through 1844, and rejects subsequent advances in our understanding of geology, astronomy and biology. The understanding of the universe can be elastic, because a veil runs through it.

cosmogony

And there were many whose faith was so exceeding strong even before Christ came, which could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things that they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.

— Book of Mormon (1830) p. 564, (LDS) Ether 12:19, (CoC) Ether 5:19.

Gaze through the veil and picture in your mind’s eye a vision of Eden: the Pre-Mortal Earth perfected in its Celestial Sphere. All of the animals and plants are accounted for, but their condition is utterly different from the familiar mortal plane, for there is no death and no birth in the world. Mortal time itself has no place in the Garden. Placed in the world by the Gods are Michael and Sidri’el of the great ones, valiant leaders both in the Psuchemachy, the Pre-Mortal battle between Lucifer and Jehovah. As Adam and Eve, they exist on Earth and possess physical bodies in the image of their Heavenly Parents’ bodies. But Earth remains in the Celestial Sphere. No progress is possible in this timeless, perfect condition.

— Behold the Fall — a moment of cataclysm — of discontinuity —

Where once the world was whole and wholly a part of Eden, now three Spheres overlap: Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial. They exist simultaneously together and apart — for they are separated by a veil. The world itself has experienced the Fall and its material forms have become Terrestrial and mortal. Adam and Eve too have been cast out of Eden and become mortal. They now experience time and can progress according to Salvation’s plan. They now have a future and in time their physical bodies will die. But time is linear, and following the line back, their physical existence also has a mortal past.

They are primitives and they are part of a group of humans, the first two to possess human spirits. They are not animals, but in the Terrestrial sphere their forms were now born of animals, whose roots trace back lineally through time to the beginning of mortal life.  Their vantage is now grounded in Terrestrial existence. And, like their physical children (down to us), they will live out their lives with mortal eyes, glimpsing the heavenly Sphere they have lost (and will return to) only in fleeting memories and occasional visions — when God sees fit to throw back the veil.

Comments

comments

Comments 82

  1. Thanks. I hope we don’t give up on the idea that we can keep learning from science. What a sad state that would be, and I think both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young would be very disappointed if we did.

  2. Your post has some very lovely imagery. I feel like I have already had my Sunday School lesson today.

    Some thoughts: I had en epiphany a few years ago where I could finally see the possibility of Darwinian evolution and still be in harmony with the gospel. There are a few things that I still doubt, one of them is the basic assumption of all biology–uniformity of time. Some of the things we look back on in the fossil record we have to make certain assumptions about, and one is that the way things behave today they have always behaved, and 2, that geologic change was always gradual. However, it is very difficult to argue the fossil record, which has met a faily substantial threshold for proof.

    I imagine a creation process now–still in harmony with Genesis–where God creates the world through Darwinian evolution–notice that the relative time frame of Genesis is exactly the same as Darwainism. The difference is in actual time. That’s where we get all tripped up. Imagine now a creation process where the world is accelerating at a different speed than it is today, and therefore creates circumstances where time is now relative and not universal to where we stand today. Now there isn’t much difference.

    Now John’s imagery comes into play, where different glories are separated by veils. I tend to think of veils through quantum physics as dimensions. The Terran telestial, terrestial, and celstial spheres are organized simultaneously but operate in different dimensions. Those that are sent to the telestial sphere fulfill the measure of their creation–to evolve the earth for the eventual population of the proto-God–humans. Man is then sent to the terrestrial sphere and eventually enters the telestial sphere through the fall.

    It’s a fun way to look at Darwainism through the light of the gospel. I am skeptical of science, as much as I am of religion, philosophy, and politics. Science doesn’t get a pass. If you wonder why I think that way, go study the peer review and granting systems which are chuck full or politics and ideology. Thus, I don’t necessarily believe in Darwainism. It is the current way in which science conceptualizes the foundation of biology. Fine and good, but it may change in the future as all science has for hundreds of years. Thus, I haven’t let it get in the way of my spiritual conception of creation, I’ve used its current scientific flavorings to enhance it.

  3. Good point — and great title. I’ve been writing some critiques of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”, and touch on many ways in which Mormon cosmology may, if we let it, continue to resonate with the most contemporary of scientific and technological understandings. Here are links to the first four critiques:

    http://transfigurism.org/community/blogs/lincoln_cannon/archive/2007/10/30/3670.aspx

    http://transfigurism.org/community/blogs/lincoln_cannon/archive/2007/11/03/3693.aspx

    http://transfigurism.org/community/blogs/lincoln_cannon/archive/2007/11/08/3728.aspx

    http://transfigurism.org/community/blogs/lincoln_cannon/archive/2008/02/11/4120.aspx

  4. I imagine a creation process now–still in harmony with Genesis–where God creates the world through Darwinian evolution . . .

    Natural selection doesn’t require a deity in order to operate. Likewise, a deity supposedly wouldn’t need natural selection in order to operate. Linking the two ideas really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  5. There’s a (probably apocryphal) story about Joseph Fielding Smith and John A. Widtsoe, who were traveling together in Missouri and visited the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. On this visit they went to the hill where Joseph Smith had reportedly identified an ancient stone altar made by Adam. (Now, you’ll recall that Joseph Fielding Smith had written and later published that enduring work of science Man: His Origin and Destiny and helped solidify in the minds of many Latter-day Saints the idea of “no death before the Fall.”) While they were enjoying the scene, the mischievous Elder Widtsoe supposedly said to Joseph Fielding Smith, “I see fossils in these stones.”

    Anyway, my dad always told us that his personal opinion was that the earth had been brought into a special state when Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden and that the earth’s state had been different before that time, so that some sort of death was possible before the Fall. I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that we shouldn’t take a step backwards in our relationship to science after Joseph Smith’s teachings freed us from much of the Bible literalism that still plagues many of our fellow Christians. Your cosmogony is another lucid attempt at moving our understanding forward. Thank you for this post.

  6. RE: John Hamer’s original post…

    John, I’m having a very hard time following exactly what you are trying to say in this post. If you are saying that a Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial existence occur simultaneously in different dimensions or something, I think you are off in some lala land. If we say that God can see all things in an Eternal NOW, it doesn’t mean that somehow these things actually exist simultaneously and they are just separated by some veil that we perceive as time. It just means that God can see it all simultaneously. All things cannot exist in separate states at the same time. Time isn’t just a veil. Furthermore, evolution and Adam and Eve being transported from another sphere cannot be true at the same time. Please explain yourself better and bring this discussion out of the clouds and make it understandable.

    RE: #5

    Your mistaken a little but not a lot. It wasn’t Widtsoe. It was James Talmage who went to Adam Ondi Ahman and saw the fossils in the stones of Adam’s Altar. I have been there and the stones are easily seen on the top of Tower Hill. This experience is well documented, and is far from being apocryphal.

    “Armed with this response Elder Talmage brought up the subject of Smith’s paper in the April 1931 meeting called to bring the issue to a final solution. In this heated meeting, as he later wrote to his son, Talmage used Sterling’s evidence to “show up James McCready Price in all his unenviable colors.” Moreover, he “was bold enough to point out that according to a tradition in the Church based on good authority as having risen from a declaration made by the Prophet Joseph Smith, a certain pile of stones at Adam-ondi-Ahman, Spring Hill, Mo., is really part of the altar on which Adam offered sacrifices, and that I had personally examined those stones and found them to be fossiliferous, so that if those stones be part of the first altar, Adam built it of stones containing corpses, and therefore death must have prevailed in the earth before Adam’s times.”23 ” (The Search for Harmony:Essays on Science and Mormonism http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/harmony/chapter6.htm)

  7. “Sidri’el”—Please provide some documentation or something that shows where Eve is called by this name in pre-existence.
    “Psuchemachy”–please provide a reference for this as well, about who calls the war in heaven by this name.

    “Adam and Eve too have been cast out of Eden and become mortal. They now experience time and can progress according to Salvation’s plan. They now have a future and in time their physical bodies will die. But time is linear, and following the line back, their physical existence also has a past.”

    This statement is in direct contradiction to this following statement:

    “They are primitives and they are part of a group of humans, the first two to possess spirits. They are not animals, but in the Terrestrial sphere their forms were now born of animals…”

    Explain your reasoning. Either the world is in a telestial state before Adam and Eve or it is not. It is in a telestial state because death reigns according to geologic and paleontologic and archaeolgical evidence.

    It’s absolutely absurd to say that pre-Adamite humans have no spirits. Everything has to have spirits. It is absolutely clear from the scriptures that all animals have spirits to match their bodies. The only explanation that I can see is that there are “animal” spirits that have the form of man that are not sons of God. And then there are spirits who have the same form that are sons of God. That is the only logical explanation that I can find, but it is still absurd to me. This is an unresolved issue for me. The whole idea is very goofy, and I have never been able to figure this out. I simply can’t see a good explanation for it that accounts for all the evidence, both scientific and scriptural. I have to put this one on the shelf because I just have never been able to figure it out.

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    Stephen (#1) — Thanks. 🙂 Sometimes when you’re turning a phrase or two you come up with something you like. I also was enamored with the title Northeast of Eden for my booklet on Far West and Caldwell County, Missouri. (Other people have suggested to me that a more technically descriptive title might have been more helpful in that case, and they may well be right, but I couldn’t resist.)

    Benjamin (#2) — I think few Mormons have ever been flat-Earthers when it comes to science. But I do think that as the geologic and fossil record becomes more and more complete, some of the traditional models (conceived in the 19th century) for reconciling scripture and observation have become a little strained.

    Peter (#3) — Thanks, I was thinking that Sunday morning would be an appropriate moment for a Sunday-School-lesson-like blogpost. I don’t get to teach Sunday School that often — only 3 times in the last year: (once for a Strangite class, once for a Community of Christ class and once for a New Order Mormon virtual class). I’m very glad that the imagery of this model was thought-provoking for you. 🙂

    Nick (#5) — I think that natural selection does not require a deity, but I don’t know that deity should not require natural selection. I think that depends on your concept of deity.

    Mormonmagmeister (#6) — Great story about Adam-ondi-Ahman! That made me chuckle at poor ol’ Joseph Fielding Smith’s expense. Concerning time during the creation, my mom told me the same idea about time operating differently, and that sounds related to Peter’s model. I feel like that model has deep roots in Mormon lore.

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    John Michael (#7) — I deliberately couched this model in lofty language, because everyday language makes “worlds without number” into science fiction. All discussion of heaven is conducted in “some lala land.” People talk about luminous beings physically standing on the pulpits of the Kirtland Temple. That description conjures in my mind Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda appearing to Luke on Degobah and Endor.

    In this model, I’m not suggesting that time is a veil. I’m suggesting we could imagine that “the veil” spoken of in Mormon scripture and tradition (and that is said to separate heaven and hell from earth) could be seen to have a temporal component: something dividing a dimension with time from a dimension without time. In other words, we observe how time exists here in the Terrestrial frame. We’ve been told that something is different about time in the Celestial frame. We can imagine that prophets who lived in the past when time was less well understood may have had trouble articulating that difference, falling back on phrases like “a thousand years is like a day unto the Lord.” Instead of a relationship that is that mathematically straightforward like that, this model suggests that we might imagine time functions absolutely differently (or not at all) in heaven.

    George Jackson (#8) — I wasn’t clear, I meant the first to have human spirits.

    The idea is that “before” the fall, the Terrestrial frame did not exist. I put before in quotes here because I’m a terrestrial creature and I can’t conceive of a world without time. How does a temporal being picture a world where everything is immortal, unchanging, unprogressing, perfect and timeless? In this model, the moment of the Fall causes the other frames to come into being and causes time to come into being. That moment on Earth is an actual meridion of time, in that it is only from that moment forward that life is experience by human spirits from the Celestial frame. All the time that exists going backward is essentially backdated, it’s something that has technically existed out of necessity, but is not experienced going forward.

    Re: Sidri’el. According to the Third Hebrew Apocalypse of Enoch, the Archangel Sidri’el is one of the seven princes of the host — Michael, Gabriel, Shatqi’el, Shahaqi’el, Baradi’el, Baraqi’el, and Sidri’el. There’s nothing in Mormonism that says what everyone’s angelic names are other than Michael=Adam and Gabriel=Noah. However, I think that it wouldn’t hurt to add to Mormon angelology, and especially to add stories about valiant spirits among the host who became women.

    Re: Psuchemachy. I coined that term today. The reference is to term “gigantomachy” from Greek mythology, the fabled foundational war between the Gods and the Giants. If I did my coining right, Psuchemachy should mean war among the Spirits in the pre-existence. However, although I’ve had 10 years of Latin: graecum est, non legitur (i.e., Greek is all Greek to me).

  10. (#4) “Natural selection doesn’t require a deity in order to operate. Likewise, a deity supposedly wouldn’t need natural selection in order to operate. Linking the two ideas really doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

    Natural selection needs the God spark. Haven’t you read Angels and Demons? 😉 Life doesn’t just spontaneously erupt, and neither do universes, if I have my physics correct. Likewise, I believe God uses natural laws of the universe to operate it. Even resurrection has natural law capabilities, we just don’t understand it yet. I think it makes perfect sense.

  11. RE: “The idea is that “before” the fall, the Terrestrial frame did not exist. I put before in quotes here because I’m a terrestrial creature and I can’t conceive of a world without time. Everything is immortal, unchanging, unprogressing, perfect and timeless.”

    That makes no sense because the evidence is that all life forms on this world prior to Adam are in a telestial state where death reigns. It is without time because there were no men on the earth to reckon it. Geologic time was present with one layer of sediment being laid on top of another with corpses of animals and plants being fossilized. And now we can reckon geologic time. There is nothing to suggest that time did not pass at the same rate. There is nothing to suggest that anything was immortal at all from the beginnning of prehistory.

    Adam’s fall has nothing to do with plants and animals. It only affects man. For all intents and purposes, animals and plants were already telestial and needed no fall. That was the condition they were created in. Adam’s fall was one from a sinless eternal state, whatever that means, to a sinful state. Whether that means he was immortal or not when he was sinless, I don’t know how to reconcile that with how some claim that he was part of a pre-existing pre-Adamite human race. Other than to say that children exist in a sinless state until they are accountable, and therefore they “fall”, and Adam was as a child, we are told.

  12. “All things cannot exist in separate states at the same time. Time isn’t just a veil.”

    Actually, I don’t see any reason why the different levels of reality can’t have different temporal histories that merge at the fall.

    Just as we are all children of Abraham, yet not all his blood descendants.

  13. Several millions of years ago the ancestors of humankind diverged from our nearest surviving cousins and our basic physical form was achieved perhaps 200,000 years ago.

    Do Mormons really believe this?

  14. Stephen,

    #13,

    Just as we are all children of Abraham, yet not all his blood descendants.

    Really? Adam is a child of Abraham? Noah is a child of Abraham? Shem (Melchezidek) is a child of Abraham? I can understand the Lord being our “Father” and the Father of all men and women born on this earth, even before his mortal reign, but Abraham?

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    George (#13): I’m not doing a good job of explaining. First off, I’m calling the Terrestrial sphere Earthlife and reserving the Telestial sphere for wherever the outcast spirits are.

    The Terrestrial sphere is temporal. It’s billions of years old. According to the model I’m outling, the Fall would have no discernable, measurable effect on animals, humankind, geology or anything else. The Fall is a spiritual or other-worldly phenomenon that would not leave a physical trace. All of the evidence in the physical world shows the world for what it is: a planet billions of years old where life evolved over time with normal life cycles long “before” Fall.

    (I’m going to switch into using science fiction language to try to explain it by analogy; sorry for breaking the mood. Let’s say I have a temporal bomb from the future. Here are its properties: If I detonate it, it wipes out an entire country, not just now, but throughout history. So, let’s say I blow up Britain. In an instant, Britain is gone and simultaneously it is wiped out of history: no one was there to build Stonehenge, it was never conquered by Rome, the Anglo-Saxons or the Normans, and it never existed to colonize North America.

    From my standpoint, I’m still on the same plot of land in Michigan in 2008, but everything around me is different. Let’s say the country around me is now a Great Lakes-based confederacy where a kind of Neo-Frankish is spoken. The land is the same, but “Michigan” and the “United States” are gone and never existed. From my perspective, all of history has changed around me, but it’s not like I had to experience that history. If I go and look for the evidence archaeologically, I won’t find evidence of British forts or of US highways; I’ll find evidence of the different history that now existed before me.)

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    Dan (#14): Not all Mormons, certainly, although I’m sure some do. Different Mormons believe lots of different things. I’m not suggesting that anyone currently holds this model as their world-view. I’m suggesting that scientific observation teaches certain things and I’m proposing that this model is a conceivable way to reconcile those observations with Mormon scripture and tradition, without requiring too radical an overhaul.

  17. John,

    Personally, I do believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old (or whatever the scientific dating is), and that there was life and death before the introduction of Adam and Eve to the earth.

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  19. (12) “It is without time because there were no men on the earth to reckon it. Geologic time was present with one layer of sediment being laid on top of another with corpses of animals and plants being fossilized. And now we can reckon geologic time. There is nothing to suggest that time did not pass at the same rate.”

    You’re wrong. There’s much to suggest it. What if the earth, in spinning in its infancy millions of miles an hour faster than it is now, was actually in a sped up version of time? As Earth slowed, it would appear that things aged slower than they actually did. This is very Einsteinian and we now know speed affects time.

  20. RE: #20 “You’re wrong. There’s much to suggest it. What if the earth, in spinning in its infancy millions of miles an hour faster than it is now, was actually in a sped up version of time? As Earth slowed, it would appear that things aged slower than they actually did. This is very Einsteinian and we now know speed affects time.”

    No, actually you’re wrong, at least from the standpoint of evidence, because your suggestion is an argument from silence with no evidence behind it. Show evidence, and you can make a claim. You cannot. Therefore it’s absurd to suggest something beyond what the evidence supports. In Mr. Rogers land of make-believe you can be as right as you want to dream up.

    RE: #16 “The Terrestrial sphere is temporal. It’s billions of years old.”

    Check out http://mormonmysticism.blogspot.com/ —David Littlefield’s Book “Mormon Mysticism” wherein he suggests that the telestial condition pre-dated Adam from the “beginning” whatever that is. Nothing in the scriptures shows that the time that pre-dated Adam was “terrestrial” but all the evidence suggests a time of telestiality where animals ate other animals, where violence reigned, where catastrophism reigned, asteroids destroying 99% of all life on the planet. The “snowball earth”, when all life was wiped out just about. This is anything but a “paradisiacal” state. The garden of Eden was a temple essentially, where there was a terrestrial state temporarily on a telestial orb. That’s the only bit of paradisiacality the earth ever had. And when the earth moves on to a terrestrial sphere in the millenium, then men will live without death, because they will be changed in a twinkling. Only then will men live in a terrestrial state. Only then will the lion live in harmony with the lamb. The evidence is that throughout history the lion never lived in harmony with the lamb outside of the garden of eden. There was only one small exception for an extremely short time in a very small place, in this garden that the Lord created to place Adam in. Outside of the garden was where death reigned. Outside of the garden, the rest of the earth was the “lone and dreary world” (telestial). When Adam was cast out of the garden, the earth didn’t fall or anything. Outside of the garden, things were already lone and dreary, the whole time Adam was in the garden. Even after Adam was kicked out of the garden, the garden was still there, and the state in the garden didn’t change fundamentally. It was obviously there in Jackson County Missouri until the flood.

    “Therefore I, the Lord God, will send him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken; For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled. So I drove out the man, and I placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Moses 4:29-31)

    “And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking to them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.” (Moses 5:4)

    From all indications, the garden was still there, unchanged. And the rest of the earth was unchanged as it was before the fall as well. There were no physical differences in the earth after Adam’s fall.

    This myth that the earth was terrestrial before Adam is a myth that Joseph Fielding Smith started, but its utterly unscientific and utterly unscriptural.

    “I’m going to switch into using science fiction language to try to explain it by analogy”

    That whole analogy sent my head spinning. I didn’t follow it at all. Try again.

  21. Really? Adam is a child of Abraham? Noah is a child of Abraham? Shem (Melchezidek) is a child of Abraham? I can understand the Lord being our “Father” and the Father of all men and women born on this earth, even before his mortal reign, but Abraham?

    Interesting thought, isn’t it, that the scriptures are either wrong when they state that everyone is a child of Abraham, and of one of the lineages of the twelve tribes (so, is Abraham of the tribe of Ephraim?), a child of Christ, etc.; or, that the term child has a different meaning than bodily descendant, or that there is more to the story.

    Interesting where flat logic takes you.

  22. (21) “No, actually you’re wrong, at least from the standpoint of evidence, because your suggestion is an argument from silence with no evidence behind it. Show evidence, and you can make a claim. You cannot. Therefore it’s absurd to suggest something beyond what the evidence supports. In Mr. Rogers land of make-believe you can be as right as you want to dream up.”

    George, What is the Big Bang Theory? I’ll let you google it. I’m not going to waste my time researching it for you since you are being pejorative and dismissive.

    One of the basic assumptions of biology is uniformitarinism of time. It’s an assumption. You can’t prove it or disprove it. I’m not saying it is TRUE, I’m only leaving open the possibility that uniformitariasm of time may not be correct. God could spin the globe around the sun faster than it is today–or he could change the weather, the climate, anything to accelerate the creation of the planet and the process of natural selection.

    I’m only putting forth a scientific hypothesis. I have no proof, correct, but tell me how I could get funding from our eminent Ivy League school awash in grant money in order to test my hypothesis. I won’t because those decisions are often ideologically based and I will be seen as having a Creationist agenda. This is the failure of modern science. It’s too based on the university peer review and granting system.

  23. What if the earth, in spinning in its infancy millions of miles an hour faster than it is now, was actually in a sped up version of time? As Earth slowed, it would appear that things aged slower than they actually did. This is very Einsteinian and we now know speed affects time.

    If Einstein is even relevant in this scenario (which I doubt), he is trumped by Newton. The centrifugal force of an earth spinning millions of miles an hour faster would throw off everything not nailed down and most everything else as well. Maybe the core survives. A real physicist could tell you.

  24. (24) The centrifugal force of an earth spinning millions of miles an hour faster would throw off everything not nailed down

    I’m not talking about the Earth spinning, I’m talking about its acceleration in space, revolutions around the sun, etc. Look, I’m no physicist, I’m only hypothesizing. I’m probably in over my head here as far as quantum physics is concerned. I’ll have to defer to my brother and ask him and get back to you all. I’m only questioning the uniformity of time, which any scientist will tell you is unprovable anyways.

  25. “Let me propose that Mormons today needn’t be locked into a world-view that embraces science up through 1844, and rejects subsequent advances in our understanding of geology, astronomy and biology.”

    My blog is called “Convergence of Science and Religion”, and it is tracking parallels between modern science and Mormonism. Part of my discussion of evolution is an essay that presents a reconciliation between the Fall of Adam and evolution. Those interested in this topic can download the essay. The basic problem that I see is that most theologians try to put evolution at the wrong point in the time-line of the earth’s history.

    http://www.mormonsite.org/sciencereligion/evolutionadam.html

  26. Here are some suggestions for those who visit my blog.

    Search on the label mormon for my posts of basic Mormon doctrine.

    Search on the label parallels for my comments about the parallels between science and religion.

    The remaining labels pertain to the scientific articles I’ve posted.

  27. Natural selection doesn’t require a deity in order to operate. Likewise, a deity supposedly wouldn’t need natural selection in order to operate. Linking the two ideas really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Actually, Nick, I strongly disagree. My degree is in computer science, and much of my professional work is in how large, complex information technology systems projects succeed or fail. There is a fundamental maxim in IT systems theory: the best way to construct a large, complex system that works is to evolve it from a small, simple system that works. And global biological/ecological systems are as complex as they come. It makes far more sense to me that God would prepare and seed the proper environment and then nurture it along towards a desired end in order to create a genetically, chemically, and ecologically compatible world in which we could eat, breed, and survive, then that He would simply create it ex nihilo.

    Interestingly enough, one of the hottest areas of computer science for the last decade or so has been in evolutionary/genetic programming, where natural selection techniques are used to develop both software and hardware that is more efficient and more compact than can be created by, ah, intelligent design. ..bruce..

  28. RE: “One of the basic assumptions of biology is uniformitarinism of time. It’s an assumption . . . I’m only putting forth a scientific hypothesis. I have no proof, correct, but tell me how I could get funding from our eminent Ivy League school awash in grant money in order to test my hypothesis.”

    Just as easy as global warming theorists like Gore can win the nobel prize from preaching absurdities.

  29. Peter,

    The reason your theory would not be accepted by the current scientific establishment is because it has no real basis in reality as we know it. It provides nothing applicable to the workings of the universe nor would it seem to provide any predictions as the current physic and evolutionary theories provide.

    You continue to suggest that science has its own ideologies, biases, and just doesn’t take into account other theories that may challenge the establish thinking. You are correct to a degree, and this is because they don’t accept anything that is without merit because science is a meritocracy. Unless those presenting new theories can provide substantial evidence for their claims, they will not be taken seriously. Unless the experiments can be replicated and studied, it will not be taken seriously. You assume or seem to assume that because science changes that that is bad; yet in actuality that is the greatest strength of science. If science had remained with leeches and astrology then we wouldn’t be having this exchange. Science even in all its arrogance still has the humility to admit when it is wrong and will change accordingly with the evidence.

    RE: #28

    Why would it have to be God to have seeded the planet? It could be any substantially advanced being/alien. So, who seeded the seeder? Where does it all begin? Ultimately what happens is the debate becomes inconsequential for the simple fact that no real answers are available when traversing that line of thinking. Therefore, it must be assumed that life on Earth occurred here until it is proven otherwise. There are already many plausible hypotheses concerning the origins of life without having to take into account supernatural means.

    So many on this board want to provide addition explanations for what already has decent and plausible explanations attached, which are grounded in reality. There are so many attempts to sculpt current fact and theory to fit a continuously shirking supernatural view. Do we know how life actually got started? No, but we are closer than we were a century ago. But we do have proof of evolution. Do we understand exactly how the Big Bang happened? No, but are fairly certain that it occurred. The continuous expansion of the universe provides evidence as does numerous mathematical equations (that I don’t understand) has shown this expansion. The scientific evidence continues to support the current theories. Can that change? Absolutely, if new evidence emerges that shows that all other evidence is wrong or misinterpreted. Any scientific argument that has God as the catalyst can simply be replaced with pink unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters, or floating teacups and it would hold about as much substance…none.

  30. By the way, John Hamer, I’m a little lost on your post as well. I understand your science fiction analogy, but it seems that you are in some ways referring to the multiverse theory with regards to your celestial, terrestial, telestial divisions. I suppose one could say that in a multiverse reality some universe some where the Adam and Eve myth could be reality and where your cosmogony is also real. I don’t know.

  31. #32 NM Tony: You misconstrued my post. Nick asked why a Creator might use natural selection; I provided a potential reason why. My post was not attempting to establish how or why life evolved on earth, but instead indicated that there is (IMHO) nothing inconsistent between there being a Creator and the use of natural selection to create an inhabitable planet. In fact, as per my post, it actually (from my limited perspective as someone who deals with large, complex systems) makes a lot of sense. Not sure where your spin-off comes from. ..bruce..

  32. (32) “The reason your theory would not be accepted by the current scientific establishment is because it has no real basis in reality as we know it.”

    Nothing about quantum physics has any basis in reality as we know it. I just had an hour conversation with my brother who is getting a PhD in quantum physics. He expalained about 6 different reasons why uniformity of time cannot be relied upon as FACT and can only be an assumption. One is the curvature of the universe, another, the inability to test nucleic radioactivity dating outside of the contraints that’s its only been tested in the last 70 some odd years. You can make basic assumptions about the uniformity of time. This is okay to do, since its the best we have to work with. But it doesn’t prove the uniformity of time. I challenge anyone to find one person that has proved the uniformity or nonuniformity of time.

    The problem is that the assumptions that undergird basic biology are different than those than undergird physics. They are different disciplines so that’s understandable. Biologists and those concerned with evolutionary science don’t get caught up in quantum physics, either special or general relativity. The fact that the Earth could have moved at a different speed or acceleration rate not just around the sun, but realtive to the solar system or even galaxy does not concern them. The idea that a powerful God could use quantum physics to speed up the organization of the planet is a theological idea that has hypothetical possibilities in the realms of quantum physics. My own brother backed me up and made me dizzy with all of the possibilities my Economics-trained mind had never even considered.

    (32) “You continue to suggest that science has its own ideologies, biases, and just doesn’t take into account other theories that may challenge the establish thinking. You are correct to a degree, and this is because they don’t accept anything that is without merit because science is a meritocracy. Unless those presenting new theories can provide substantial evidence for their claims, they will not be taken seriously.”

    That is the ideal, yes. One hopes that scientists do this from a completely neutral ground, devoid of all emotions. But scientists aren’t Vulcans. They have human emotions, belief systems, and ideologies the same as we all do. Are they more rational and fact-based than other types of ideologies?–sure. I’ll give you that. Merit has a place, but it is not the be all end all. The scientific community has to believe in the directional system of thought in order to fund experiments which prove those merits. Scientists suffer as we all do from a sense of intertia. Textbooks, research, and ego are invested as much as truth. We have to take that into consideration. I’m only asking for a degree of critical doubt that we dish religionists and politicians because of the fundamental aspect that sciencists, religionists, philosophers, historians, etc. all share–our human failings.

  33. RE: #34

    I see what you are saying. It is not inconceivable for a creator to use natural selection. If this were the case, than by definition it wouldn’t really be natural would it? It would be design. I think what Nick was saying (but I can’t presume to speak for him) is that why would an omnipotent god need natural selection when it could just create everything out of whole cloth as it is, just as the creationists say happened. I agree that the seeding of life could be plausible, but no evidence has been discovered for such postulation. I suppose what I saw in your post was that it necessarily had to be a divine being, I just threw out the question of why does it have to deity. Perhaps I jumped the gun regarding your post.

  34. “Nothing about quantum physics has any basis in reality as we know it.”

    Ironically enough, it is a basis of reality because it can be studied and falsified (Sorry, just a nitpick).

    Peter,

    I do not deny the nonuniformity of time concept. The Theory of Relativity shows this. My question is why would a god go through all the trouble to speed up and slow down the earth, galaxy, universe, or whatever to give the illusion of age or whatever? Furthermore, maybe in our time frame it would take 10,000 years, but in the time frame of the speeding Earth wouldn’t it still be 4.54 billion years? So again, what is the point of deity using the nonuniformity of time? How does this impact anything that has already been discovered regarding the origins of the universe? Based on the concepts of time that we have and the basis of radioactive decay, I don’t really see your theory working; just one amateur’s opinion.

    In order for radioactive decay to become falsified, some extremely compelling evidence will have to surface to show that the decay in the universe suddenly accelerated. Remember, scientists have carbon-dated meteorites, and have found that it is consistent with what we have found on our planet as far as age is concerned. Again, quantum mechanics is an extremely complicated field, but it often gets abused in order explain all sorts of wacky ideas. Nevertheless, who knows, maybe some incredible discovery may be made and your theory will be proven. But, I am skeptical. I prefer to go with the current scientific thought that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old and the Universe about 12 billion.

    One final thought, based on the Theory of Relativity, wouldn’t the increase speed slow down the Earth’s time frame? Honestly, I am wondering.

    As far as scientists being human, of course. They are going to make mistakes. But the process is the best we have, to echo Carl Sagan. It isn’t perfect, but it works pretty well. But will they listen to theories that involve a supernatural being? No, because it doesn’t fall in the realm of science. If it does, then it no longer becomes the realm of the supernatural. If God suddenly falls out of the realm of the supernatural then he is no different than us, just sufficiently further advanced in his technology to create life, manipulate the laws of physics, and traverse the cosmos. Furthermore, scientists don’t have time to consider every fringe hypothesis that comes around until a lot of work has already been done. This is usually done in the universities, but it is often done on the basis of other strongly founded theories. In the past, many great “fringe” discoveries have been made on accident and while working on something quite different yet valid.

  35. Sorry, one more thing about the measurment of time. The speed of light, the expansion of the universe, the ability to look into the past with a telescope also supports the current time frame. Could that change? Sure. But, I’m not holding my breath.

  36. “I’m not suggesting that time is a veil. I’m suggesting we could imagine that “the veil” spoken of in Mormon scripture and tradition (and that is said to separate heaven and hell from earth) could be seen to have a temporal component”

    Reading Alma 40:8 “all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” it seems that a temporal component is intended. I had an institute teacher who believed that when the brother of Jared was no longer kept from within the veil, the temporal component of the veil was also removed and he beheld the wounds in the hands of the glorified Savior. Ether 3 does describe a visitation to the brother of Jared like unto the visitation beheld by the Nephites. The Nephite visitation was one where the multitude was instructed to thrust their hands into His side and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and in His feet, “that ye man know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” The brother of Jared had “faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.” Is there any other way that one could KNOW this (a perfect knowledge of God)without FAITH? The brother of Jared was also commanded to not allow these things to go forth unto the world until “after” Jesus glorified His name in the flesh. I’ve rarely explored this time-transcendent scenario with my mind, because I haven’t been able to put any working models of a temporal veil in my mind. Your post helps, so maybe I will try exercising that brain power once again.

  37. John H., this is definitely one of my favorite of your posts. Beautifully written and insightful. I’m a bit disappointed by the couple of naysayers in the comment thread; it’s a bit discouraging when people can’t accept and admire all the beauty and goodness in something and instead just try to nitpick it to death. But, oh well, such is the telestial world we live in. 🙂

    This post also reveals a more spiritual side of John Hamer than I’m used to. And let me just say, I heart the spiritual John Hamer as well.

  38. Let me chime in again, and say this a bit more clearly: while I think many members of the church are quite intelligent, and are very scientifically minded (for instance, among the LDS there is an unusual positive correlation between education and religiosity–something very few other religious communities enjoy), this is not uniformly the case, and many members maintain a separation between their religious beliefs and their professional activities.

    That said, I have some very good friends that are very much anti-science. People who are very much opposed to the concept of the scientific method in general. Why? Because they don’t understand it and because they see and hear about so many supposed ‘scientists’ (who are really activists who also happen to do scientific research) who are atheists and use their position to denigrate religion. So many people have looked at science and said, ‘This is our new God. In this I will trust, and in This will I place all my hope for the future. The God of Israel is Dead.’ And Nietzche would have added, ‘And we have killed him’.

    But I think Joseph Smith had a broader vision of the world, and a more practical bent in many ways. At times he seemed to be willing to accept any truth regardless of the apparent source, and I think that’s the way we should be–willing to examine every principle presented to us by the scientific method and ruthlessly critique it in the light of the gospel and of other scientific knowledge. This is what every member of the church should do with every bit of knowledge, but once it has passed inspection, it should be put to use, then regularly reexamined if new information calls it into question.

    The same is true with our understanding of theology. Unlike EVERY other church, we claim the right to update our understanding by receiving fresh revelation that places new and modern understanding on old information. I think, however, that most of the time, that much of the understanding of the heavens and the workings of the universe that would have at one time been revealed only to the prophet or other church leaders, is now being revealed to the world at large–in part because the world now cares, but also in part because the world is more prepared than before. Thus it behooves us to take advantage of this information.

    The things that then become a matter of revelation are left to the following areas: guidance on how to live, pre-mortal existence (for now, although I suspect that at some point this could even change), eschatological prophecy, and warnings of other events that we need to prepare for. Currently, most revelations seem to be centered on the running of the church and moral needs. I think this will remain the case until very shortly before the end times that have been foretold as that is what I suspect will best prepare us for those end times rather than any other specific knowledge.

    In the mean time, understanding about cosmogeny is left to those who are dedicating their lives to understanding the universe. I’m certain that if they will spend as much time on their knees as they do in the labs they can make some truly marvelous discoveries, but how many will really do that?

  39. (37) “My question is why would a god go through all the trouble to speed up and slow down the earth, galaxy, universe, or whatever to give the illusion of age or whatever?”

    I don’t think it’s going through the trouble. If God uses natural law, it may be the way it just works. Who knows.

    Look, I’m not a quantum physicist. I’ll defer this discussion to those that are. It would be more accurate and conclusive. I don’t have a problem with the Earth being 4.5 billion years old. That time frame keeps changing so I wouldn’t hang my hat on it. As far as science is concerned, this is the consensus and so use it in scientific discussions. If we get hung up on our testimonies because of it, I think it’s premature.

  40. Bruce (bfwebster) and Peter,

    Here is an interesting link that deals with all three of our topics. It doesn’t really solidfy anything, but it is interesting nonetheless.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/dec/20/comment.science

    Peter, I’m not a quantum physicist either, so it has been interesting and challenging to look at your theory. Like I said, who knows what the future may hold. Everything may indeed come down to the quantum level. Thank you for the exchange.

  41. RE: #35

    “Nothing about quantum physics has any basis in reality as we know it. I just had an hour conversation with my brother who is getting a PhD in quantum physics. He expalained about 6 different reasons why uniformity of time cannot be relied upon as FACT and can only be an assumption.”

    The reason why uniformity of time is irrelevent here is a very simple one. Because, it doesn’t matter how one time frame is relative to another, because in a time frame, time still passes at the rate of the observer in that time frame, even if somehow it sped up or slowed down, it still takes time according to the rate of the observer:
    (1) Quantum Mechanics doesn’t have any bearing on non-quantum mechanics in the grand scheme of geology and biology. Anything that is of substantial enough gravity and mass doesn’t exhibit quantum effects. Quantum effects only have any kind of relevance to particle physics on particles that have no sigificant mass. So your brother is out of his league.
    (2) Regardless of the uniformity or non uniformity of time, the perception of time on earth would be the same to the observer, and time still took time to pass in that timeframe. A guy in a spaceship that comes back years later that is a different age than his twin doesn’t take away the fact that to the observer on earth, time still passed at the same rate, and it still took that long for that twin on earth to age. So whether or not that time passed in an instant to the guy in the spaceship or whatever doesn’t take away the fact that the dude on earth experienced the amount of years he experienced in his time frame. The fact remains, that time flowed on earth according to the rate experienced by the observer. Just because a dude in the spaceship was flying in space didn’t speed up the passage of time on the earth. Therefore the time experienced by whatever organisms lived on earth, and the time it took for the geologic processes to happen on the earth still took as long as it took according to the time frame that the earth was in. Nothing sped it up, regardless of the time frames outside of it. Just because someone might be in some other timeframe elsewhere has no effect on earths time frame, it still takes an extremely long time in earths timeframe, whatever it be, for a mountain to be ground down by erosion, for a continent to be subducted, and for any manner of other processes! Therefore I say your whole thing is simply irrelevent. I may not be any kind of scientist, but I’m a thinker, as Glenn Beck likes to say, and I say your whole thing is simply garbage.

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    Remember, the atonement of Christ reached forward and backwards through time.

    Stephen (#31) Nice connection, thanks. If we think in Mormon cosmology of the Atonement and the Fall both as dispensational events that resonate across the veil, it is interesting to note that while the Atonement occured at a discrete moment in the timeline of the Terrestrial sphere, its effects can be said to have been felt both before and after that moment in our time.

  43. I am really enjoying this thread, and most of what I think has already been said, so I will only add a few of my thoughts.

    I don’t know who said it, but I love the quote “If you think you understand quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory.” Dawkins described our existence as being in the “Middle world” meaning that we cannot conceptualize the very small, or the very large. We understand the world that we live in and deal with, the other “worlds” are not only stranger than we understand, but stranger than we can understand.

    The biblical timeline for the fall of Adam, happens 4000 years after the agricultural revolution. The Garden of Eden and the fall of Adam really have no place in the current understanding of natural human history, neither does Noah’s’ flood. If these stories are mere myths, then much of the gospel needs to be re-thought. That does not mean that God is not real or that the church is utterly false. It means that our perspective needs to change to better understand reality, or we will be forever lost with an incorrect concept of our existence.

    Evolution follows natural laws, as does everything else (which is why the earth could not follow its proper orbit if its speed were increased). The fundamental 4 forces of nature each have constants whose values must be precisely what they are in order for the universe, and us to exist. What this means is that the universe was created in such a way that it is self sustaining. It does not need a supernatural intervention all the time in order to work. God did it right the first time. Ken Millers book describes this beautifully.

    This is a very fun topic and I wish that we talked more about this type of thing in the church.

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    Reading Alma 40:8 “all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” it seems that a temporal component is intended….I’ve rarely explored this time-transcendent scenario with my mind, because I haven’t been able to put any working models of a temporal veil in my mind. Your post helps, so maybe I will try exercising that brain power once again.

    Rigel (#39) Thank you for pointing that out and I’m glad if I’ve gotten you thinking on this topic.

    Although the vision I’m suggesting here is new in some ways, the model would be a failure if it were revolutionary. My goal has been to make it fit the Mormon mindset, especially from the early period. The prophet Joseph Smith spoke to his own time and was a product of his own time, as are we all. Many of his insights answer questions that his contemporaries asked, which are not questions we ask today at all. And we have information that begs questions that people in past generations never asked and never answered. I’ve tried to conceive of the mindset of early Mormons, ask it new questions, and imagine the answers. As such, I hope with this vision I am truer to the spirit of their beliefs than perhaps the letter. Often the letter of beliefs, over time, is not true to the original spirit at all.

  45. RE: #46

    “Regardless of the uniformity or non uniformity of time, the perception of time on earth would be the same to the observer, and time still took time to pass in that timeframe.”

    Yes, excellent point. I meant to mention something like this in my ealier posts, but I couldn’t get the wording right. Thank your for the clarification, George.

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    Your take on this is similar to Jeff Meldrum’s in his book “Evolution and Mormonism.” Very interesting.

    John Nilsson (#43) — Interestingly, a couple months ago I designed the cover for Jeff Meldrum’s new book, Who Are the Children of Lehi? However, I have to admit that I haven’t read either that book or the one you mention. (I still haven’t even been sent my copy of Who Are the Children of Lehi? I did not design the cover of Evolution and Mormonism.)

    DNA book dustjacket
    Complete dust jacket design with spine, front and back covers and flaps.

    If you ever wondered whether you should judge a book by its cover, I can tell you that as someone who designed covers for about 30 different Mormon related books at 3 different presses last year alone, the cover designer usually does not have the book prior to doing the design.

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    I’m sorry that I’ve fallen behind all the great responses.

    Andrew and John F (#41-42) and other well-wishers, thanks for buoying my spirits. Some of us who are blogging at this site have observed the inevitable phenomenon that controversy and criticism generate both hits and comments. I’m glad that I was able to spark a lot of thought and dialogue on a more esoteric, theological thread.

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    Peter Brown (#21 and passim): I think your take on time and the creation is very much in keeping with a major strain of Mormon thought and I’m not arguing that this tradition needs to be abandoned. However, the pushback you’ve experienced shows that today it often takes more than a spoonful of sugar to make that traditional medicine go down.

    My goal with this model is to articulate a vision consonant with Mormon scripture and the spirit of the Mormon world-view that simultaneously could be more palatable to more believers grounded in today’s general scientific understanding.

  49. RE:#53

    “My goal with this model is to articulate a vision consonant with Mormon scripture and the spirit of the Mormon world-view that simultaneously could be more palatable to more believers grounded in today’s general scientific understanding.”

    Now I get your context and what you’re doing with this post. I may have been lost, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think it was an interesting post. I’ve enjoyed seeing the differing reactions. Thanks, John H.

  50. It is a good read, although i disagree. Too often nowdays learned scholars are becoming learned in the tradition of theories, theories that stretch the bible storiesinto a fantasy or cosmologic dream. I often wonder about the greats like Abraham and Moses who saw firsthand the events that transpired on the earth and how the universe is organized and works. They were so advanced in their writings and knowledge that even today we scoff at their work only to realize as time passes that they were truly prophets of God who truly knew the great scientific mysteries regarding time and the age of the earth and the events that transpired through history.

    Now they are just labled as a cosmological dream- a symbol of mans unintelligence- mans vain imagination run wild! Even Joseph Smith knew that the earth is only 6000 years old since time started ticking and things started dying on the face of this earth. The ancient BoM prophets knew that there was no death on the earth for all of God’s creations until the fall of Adam and Eve which brought the world into a state of repid decay. Even Moses knew that after God had created all things and all the various forms of life that he said it was good and perfect and didn’t need some evolutionary process to neither start or continue his creative works.

    Trying to make scientific theories like evolution fit into the bible creation story is like trying to fit a live elephant into a shoe box, it just doesn’t fit. I would rather stand by Moses and his beliefs rather than the vain ambitions of learned latter day men and their foolish philosophies regarding life and the age of things in the universe. They do so without any thought for God and his holy record of history regarding his closest held secrets regarding this earth and universe.

    Men will search in vain for the truth when they do not look to Abraham and Moses who are the true fathers of science and record keepers regarding the true nature of creation and the age of the earth and universe along with its holy purposes.

  51. RE: 55

    “Trying to make scientific theories like evolution fit into the bible creation story is like trying to fit a live elephant into a shoe box, it just doesn’t fit.”

    These kind of statements are very naive in the sense that they don’t attempt to explain science. They simply discount it entirely in favor of the Joseph Fielding Smith Mormon tradition. The tradition you hold to is not the one that James Talmage and other Apostles held. And to think that Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, following in his footsteps knew all there is to know about creation is very short sighted. I uphold Joseph Fielding Smith as a great prophet of God, and reverence him as the Lord’s anointed. One thing I will not do is to ascribe to him infallibility in his fundamentalist reading of scripture and interpretation when it comes to the creation, any more than I would give creedence to Joseph Smith’s belief in Moon Men. Joseph Fielding Smith also prophesied in the name of the Lord that we would never get to the moon because its a higher kingdom that this earth, according to to the scriptures. This is why I know that it is utterly foolish to not recognize that Mormonism is a piece of clay that is constantly being molded by the Lord. It has never been finished. Rough edges are taken off constantly. And eventually, it will be painfully obvious that Joseph Fielding Smith’s conception of the creation and history of the earth will be as quaint as Joseph Smith’s Moonmen doctrine, or the idea that the ten tribes are in some hollowed out portion of the earth near the pole. We need to recognize truth when it is obviously true, and that we are not bound to accept things coming from authorities that are simply not true, when the spirit whispers they are simply not true.

  52. Re: #22 “Even after Adam was kicked out of the garden, the garden was still there, and the state in the garden didn’t change fundamentally. It was obviously there in Jackson County Missouri until the flood.”

    Joseph Smith taught that Adam inhabited the area of Adam-Ondi-Ahman, but did he ever tie the location of the Garden of Eden to the same area? One could assume that when they were cast out that Adam and Eve traipsed a few miles away to the lone and dreary world. But one could also assume that the casting out could have involved a “transport” to a more remote location from the Garden. JSH 43 describes Moroni ascending into a “conduit” that opened into heaven following his discourse with Joseph. Is it not possible that Adam and Eve could have been “cast out” through a similar conduit and that the Cherubim and Flaming sword protect the conduit from re-entry. I throw this theory out with nothing to back it up and understand that it may be a crazy thought. I hear, however, people throw out the notion of the Garden of Eden being in Missouri like it is common sense, and maybe I am missing a quote by Joseph that gives credence to this. I just like to keep the teachings of Joseph to what he specifically taught and not spin them to further assumptions.

  53. Rob wrote: “Trying to make scientific theories like evolution fit into the bible creation story is like trying to fit a live elephant into a shoe box, it just doesn’t fit.”

    I agree with this, but I go the other way. Rather than being anti-science in favor of the Biblical account, I choose to view the current scientific understanding as the best way to understand natural history and reality. The Earth is not 6000 years old and to suggest that it is requires an huge degree of ignorance of the evidence.

    The Genesis story is a myth, possibly loosely based on real events. There is no evidence that people lived to be 900 +years old, or in a global flood 4400 years ago. The sciences of Anthropology, Palentology, Geology, Biology, Chemistry, and Atomic Theory all contradict a literal Genesis. As for the Book of Abraham, it has a horrible astronomy in it. That the sun and moon get their light from Kolob, for instance, is as absurd as you can get.

    On a personal note, I would hope that you would not stand by Moses and his beliefs, since they were terribly barbaric. They lead to the genicide of unbelievers, and murder of those who would not strictly follow the law with blind obedience. There is very little difference IMO between Moses, if he even existed, and radical islamic leaders.

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    Rob, George, Rigel and Bob H (#55-58): There are a couple of competing ways to articulate a faithful Mormon world-view, all of which have pluses and minuses. I would categorize them this way:

    (1) Scriptural Literalist. The scriptures say that it happened in such-and-such a way. That’s how it happened. Any competing so-called scientific “evidence” that seems to contradict the scriptures should be discarded because the scriptures are a more reliable authority. Rob Osborn (#55) seems to be making the case for this view.

    (2) Traditionalist. Joseph Smith and the apostles taught that certain things happened certain ways; we’ve passed that knowledge down and it’s as true today as it was in 1844.

    (3) Neoconservative. Science as we understand it is in total harmony with both the scriptures as well as with all the important statements of early leaders. And I can prove it using an incredible intellectual apparatus that will dazzle the eyes, cf. FAIR.

    (4) Average. I know the gospel is true, as are the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, and (in a general sense) science. Although I haven’t thought through the implications and whether or not I’m simultaneously holding contradictory opinions, I’m not really worried about it.

    (5) Neotraditionalist. Traditions should be honored, but the spirit of the movement included a gospel that was up-to-date in 1844. To honor that spirit, the gospel must be up-to-date now. (I don’t have a good name for the vision I’m articulating on this thread because it’s probably the most rarely held category on this spectrum.)

    (6) Liberal. It’s clear that the scriptures contain inspired myths that did not happen, but are still the word of God and can still inform our lives. For the actual functioning of the universe and history, we find more useful information through the sciences and scholarship.

    (7) Rejectionist. The contradictions between the scriptural and traditional positions and reality, the inconsistancies of the neoconservative and average positions, and the silliness of neotraditionalist and liberal positions, have left us with nothing worth salvaging. I’m going to move on, but in the meantime I feel the need to explain to you why I’m leaving.

    I’m not saying that any one of these ways is the best, although I must admit that I’m somewhat biased against the argumentative style that often accompanies category (3).

  55. RE # 57.

    Nowhere in scripture is it stated that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County Missouri. However, there are plenty of early quotations from leaders saying Joseph Smith placed it there. And furthermore, a careful reading of the Book of Moses leads to the conclusion that it could not have been far from Adam ondi Ahman. Discounting any of these statements, you could say that Adam and Eve could have even been transported on the star ship Enterprise and beamed down by scotty to adam ondi ahman. So you can theoretically put the garden of eden anywhere you want I guess. But again, thats Mr. Rogers land of make believe and you might as well go with the historical evidence.

    “Latter-day Saints know, through modern revelation, that the Garden of Eden was on the North American continent and that Adam and Eve began their conquest of the earth in the upper part of what is now the state of Missouri. It seems very probable that the children of our first earthly parents moved down along the fertile, pleasant lands of the Mississippi valley.” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 127)

    Wilford Woodruff: “Again Presdet Young said Joseph the Prophet told me that the garden of Eden was in Jackson Co Missouri, & when Adam was driven out of the garden of Eden He went about 40 miles to the Place which we Named Adam Ondi Ahman, & there built an Altar of Stone & offered Sacrifize. That Altar remains to this day. I saw it as Adam left it as did many others, & through all the revolutions of the world that Altar had not been disturbed. Joseph also said that when the City of Enoch fled & was translated it was whare the gulf of Mexico now is. It left that gulf a body of water.” (Waiting for World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, p. 305)

    “I will say more, the spot chosen for the garden of Eden was Jackson County, in the State of Missouri, where Independence now stands; it was occupied in the morn of creation by Adam and his associates who came with him for the express purpose of peopling this earth.” (Heber C. Kimball, June 27, 1863, Journal of Discourses 10: 235).

  56. Wow! That is the very first time I have been catagorized a liberal. It feels pretty good!

    I do like, and agree with the catagories on your list John. I personally have a hard time talking to people that are <= 3, not because I do not like them, but they do not know/accept enough of the science to have a rational conversation with. Too bad I am married to a 2. 🙂

  57. RE# 60. George.

    JS did say that the garden of eden was in Missouri, but do we know if it was a true revelation, or just speculation? It seems that many take everything that JS taught or thought as the gospel truth. I think that this is unfair to him because his knowledge was not complete, and he was not perfect. He was wrong sometimes, and inspired others. Personally I find it very hard to know what is doctrine when I read the quotes and teachings of the early leaders. I try to give them the room to speculate and be wrong about some of the apocryphal stuff.

  58. Which reference are you thinking of? The only explicit comments regarding Eden (as opposed to Adam ondi Ahman) I’m familiar with are latre memories. (i.e. Wilford Woodruff in 1873, Orson Hyde and brigham Young in 1857, etc.) Even these references may be confusing the place where Adam was driven out and made an alter with Eden. I’m dubious that Eden was on this world at all since Eden was a terrestiral realm not a Telestial one. (I recognize a very popular theory is that the whole earth fell – but that simply isn’t reconcilable with the facts)

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    Bob H (#61), Well, you’re in a pretty conservative little pond, so you don’t have to be all that liberal to make Mormon Type 6. Re: (#48) I’m glad you’re enjoying this thread. I am too. Thanks for all your comments.

    I have a lot of sympathy for the liberal interpretation of scripture. I’ve never gotten more out of the scriptures as when I read the edition The Bible with Sources Revealed. Fantastic book, especially when accompanied by its companion, Who Wrote the Bible.

    Given the traditional Mormon emphasis on Ephraim and Ephraimite lineage, I think there’s some real potential for Category-5/Neotraditional insights, when the Bible is separated into its Ephramite and Judahite component texts, and when the actual history of the northern Kingdom of Israel — with its Ephraimite Kings — is separated from the myth of the unified Kingdom of David and Solomon. I also loved the Book of J.

    I think you’re in a minority among practicing LDS Mormons, but not as small a minority as conservative LDS Mormons may think. In the Community of Christ, by contrast, liberals are in the majority. I was able to consult last year with some Community of Christ leaders writing a history of the early church, including talking about the Book of Mormon as inspired scripture in the liberal sense above and I’ll be on a panel at the CoC Seminary next month too. I think it’s a very exciting direction to explore.

  60. Thanks for the quotes George, and for the perspective Bob. I did like the beamed down by scotty thing. Scotty’s face does have a cherubic look to it.

  61. RE: “JS did say that the garden of eden was in Missouri, but do we know if it was a true revelation, or just speculation? It seems that many take everything that JS taught or thought as the gospel truth.”

    Thats whats so awesome about the Gift of the Holy Ghost, because its truly your own Liahona. You should never ever take what anybody says as truth without testing it. Like I said, Joseph Smith believed in Moonmen and that is manifestly false. Joseph Smith also prophesied of the Republican party decades before it was formed by name. Joseph Smith predicted that the problems leading up to the civil war would start in South Carolina. Joseph Smith did lots of things that were weird too. So use the spirit and you can’t go wrong.

    RE: “I’m dubious that Eden was on this world at all since Eden was a terrestiral realm not a Telestial one. (I recognize a very popular theory is that the whole earth fell – but that simply isn’t reconcilable with the facts)”

    Like I said, go with historical record, or come up with your own belief. Use the spirit.

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    Lincoln Cannon (#4), FooboyX (#10), George Jackson (#22), and Allen (#27-28): Thanks for all the links. I’m certainly not the only person whose ever thought about this topic and I see that some of the alternate models are quite elaborated.

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    Now I get your context and what you’re doing with this post. I may have been lost, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think it was an interesting post. I’ve enjoyed seeing the differing reactions.

    NM Tony (#33 and #54): I’m glad you see method in my madness.

    That whole analogy sent my head spinning. I didn’t follow it at all. Try again.

    George (#22): I haven’t forgotten you, George. 🙂 To use the old Nephite expression, let me gird up my loins and try one more time.

    architect

    As a precursor, ancient and Medieval people pictured heaven was in the clouds above their head and hell was under the ground beneath their feet. The Gods lived nearby, atop the mountains, under the sea, and inside volcanos. If you built a tower all enough (e.g., Babel) you could reach heaven and if you climbed a mountain (e.g., Sinai) you could talk to God.

    I think there’s every reason to believe that Joseph Smith’s view of the heavens was still spatial, but more distant. A compelling argument can be made that “Kolob” is based on the semitic root qlb “dog” and refers to the brightest star in Earth’s sky, the “dog star” Sirius (alpha Canis Majoris).

    Since Yuri Gagarin, I don’t think most people have been looking for Heaven in or near Earth’s atmosphere. Nor do I think people are speculating about the nearby stars or even the center of our Galaxy — at least since Captain Kirk failed to find God there.

    Instead, I think people are envisioning heaven in some kind of alternate dimension, outside of normal space. Thus, even though this model I’ve outined may smell a little like science fiction, I don’t know that it’s functionally that different from what people are imagining.

    Let me try to paint a movie scene. There are two perspective and so as not to get caught up with the way other people have defined Telestial/Terrestrial/Celestial, I will call the perspectives Mortal and Immortal.

    Mortal Perspective: The year is 131,837 BC. A tribe of humans on the hot plains of Africa take shade from the noonday sun beneath a copse of trees. Two of them, whom later prophets will remember as “Adam” and “Eve” have become partners. In a year they will have a son. It is the moment of the Fall. A universal cataclysm. And yet the Mortal world takes no notice. Nothing appears different as the sun begins its descent this afternoon, the first since the Fall, than it appeared yesterday, the last before the Fall. Just as the historians of the Mortal World will take no notice millennia hence, when the Atonement causes another universal spiritual change, the Mortal World is no different today. The difference is spiritual.

    Immortal Perspective: There is no year; time has no place in the immortal frame. We are at the expression of the Fall. This is not a time, it is an event. A universal cataclysm, but one that is necessary for the Plan. It is a component of eternity. For most the Immortal Frame, there is no “change” of perspective, since this component is a part of eternity. However, for two immortals, Adam and Eve, the pespective does change. A veil is thrown across their eyes, and they go from seeing with an Immortal Perspective to seeing with a Mortal Perspective (see the description of the afternoon of April 6, 131,837 BC above). Where “before” they were a part of the Heavenly Garden, now spiritually they are a part of the Mortal world.

  64. RE: ““Kolob” is based on the semitic root qlb “dog” and refers to the brightest star in Earth’s sky, the “dog star” Sirius (alpha Canis Majoris).”

    How does that work when Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar says that the governing planets, including Kolob are encircled about by a cloud so they keep all the celestial portion of light from frying the planets? Sirius isn’t Kolob. It doesn’t fit the “celestographic” (my own coinage, removing geo from geographic, and putting celest in its place) details. That’s like trying to put Zarahemla in Utah when there is no Narrow Neck of land north of it. The sirius theory isn’t compelling at all, not even from the point of view of a geocentric cosmology where all the governing planets are visible from the earth by the naked eye as they guys in “Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant” are trying to sell people on. Because there is a gaping hole in their theory. And that is, that even with a geocentric cosmology, the north star was the seat of God in all ancient cultures, where all the rest of the heavens revolve around. If Kolob is truly “nearest” to God’s throne geocentrically, then it should be near the North Star which it is not. BIG GAPING HOLE!

    “I don’t think most people have been looking for Heaven in or near Earth’s atmosphere. Nor do I think people are speculating about the nearby stars or even the center of our Galaxy”

    Actually I am a Kolob/Galactic Center theorist myself, and it is the only thing that fits the celestographic details. I don’t buy the arguments in the Kolob Theorum book because I have my own ideas on the subject.

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  66. RE #68:

    By the way, your explanation for your theory made more sense this time. Still dont agree, but at least it made sense this time.

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  68. (46) George, let me clarify. I’m arguing that the change in accerleration anywhere in the galaxy could affect the decay rate of isotopes, which bombard the earth from outside of the timeframe. Sorry I didn’t make that distinction. He’s doing research on this which is why I brought it up. For that fact, because the oject and the observer are in the same timeframe, it won’t make a difference. Both my brother and you clafiied that to me–thank you! Yes, it does indeed take a very long time for things to erode. I didn’t say it didn’t. You mistake me if you (and others) think I’m trying to fit everything into a 6,000-12,000 year old peg. My argument was simply to argue the uniformitarianism of time. Anything beyond that I was not arguing.

    (53) “I think your take on time and the creation is very much in keeping with a major strain of Mormon thought and I’m not arguing that this tradition needs to be abandoned. However, the pushback you’ve experienced shows that today it often takes more than a spoonful of sugar to make that traditional medicine go down.”

    I think I got roped into an argument that I wasn’t trying to make by discussing the non-uniformity of time. What I was trying to do was to add a little bit of esoteric thought to your insightful veil vision, nothing more.

  69. #70 “George (#69), For the great Kolob debate, I’ll have to refer you to Kevin Barney over at BCC. ”

    Are you saying that Mr. Barney is having a debate about it on his blog or something, or are you saying that I should email him to have a debate on his blog or something? Don’t quite understand.

  70. RE: #73: “accerleration anywhere in the galaxy could affect the decay rate of isotopes”

    Well, if the decay rate of isotopes is affected, then again, it only affects the decay rate of isotopes and would therefore affect how precise we are able to measure things using isotopic chronowhatever-you-call-it dating methods. But the sheer magnitude of half lives things have gone through over four billion years, or at least, what we percieve to be four billion years would still be an incredibly long period of time, unfathomable still, and still would be a ton of time, not in realm of mere thousands of years, but rather in the thousands of millions.

  71. RE: #59 “There are a couple of competing ways to articulate a faithful Mormon world-view, all of which have pluses and minuses.”

    John, its kind of bizarre, but I find that on any given issue I can fall into any one of these categories with the exception of rejectionist. I’m utterly liberal on some issues, utterly traditionalist on others, utterly scriptural literalist in others, and so on. I am totally eclectic I guess, but very believing. I’m somewhere in the spectrum between liahona and iron rod depending on what we are talking about.

    I find that I’m very compelled by many things put out by FARMS and FAIR, but also very compelled by many things from Sunstone, etc. The only thing is, I could never join, support or attend Sunstone, because I cannot support an organization that supports people like Michael Quinn and Signature books and other apostates. On the other hand, try as I might, I end up owning a few books here and there put out by Signature, and simply cannot find some quotes anywhere else other than in Quinn’s books.

    On the other hand, FARMS and FAIR put out all kinds of junk apologetics all the time, so nothing is perfect.

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    John, its kind of bizarre, but I find that on any given issue I can fall into any one of these categories with the exception of rejectionist. I’m utterly liberal on some issues, utterly traditionalist on others, utterly scriptural literalist in others, and so on. I am totally eclectic I guess, but very believing. I’m somewhere in the spectrum between liahona and iron rod depending on what we are talking about.

    George (#76), I don’t think that’s strange at all. I’m sure it’s like politics. Lots of people can be “conservative” on one issue, “moderate” on another, and “liberal” on something else. I think that’s probably a reason to consider the idea for its own merits, instead of worrying which category the messenger falls under.

    Concerning (#74), Kevin Barney had a thread about the Sirius theory here: http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2006/11/kolob-as-sirius/
    However, I see now that the thread is over a year old.

  73. #77: “However, I see now that the thread is over a year old.”

    Well, maybe if you post another thread on the “where/what is Kolob” on this site, it could be debated here on another thread, but I get the feeling that its probably not one of your core pet theories like it is mine.

  74. Fascinating to find this in your archives.

    As a CofChrist member rather than LDS, I share belief in some of the Scriptures that form the basis of LDS cosmology, but not others. I am also a physicist by training and can’t help evaluating my theology in light of what I know about modern cosmology. Indeed, I find my personal theology growing increasingly hard to relate to either my denomination (which is moving rapidly toward becoming a sliver of progressive protestantism) or others.

    Yet I do find some aspects of the teachings of Joseph Smith that relate to cosmology (as well as some other scientific disciplines) match modern understandings BETTER than that held by 19th Century science. (Obviously, there are some things I think are contaminated by human sins in the church in the 1830-1844 period, or I wouldn’t have been CofChrist in the first place.)

    I find it particularly interesting, for example, that in recording the vision ascribed to Moses, Joseph does not confine his terminology to describing other planets, but specifically calls them other “earths” which have existed in the past and will exist in the future. The recognition that copies and variants of earth (and the entire physical, observable universe for that matter) exist alsewhere in spacetime has become widespread among scientists — although most scientists wouldn’t dwell on the resulting theological implications.

    These “parallel universes” aren’t just a science fiction staple, but are actually pretty robust predictions of general relativity and one of the two most widely held interpretations of quantum mechanics. Ultimately, their existence seems to require nothing more than the infinity of space and the fact that the number of ways to organize things in any region of space is finite, even if astronomical.

    So, what are we to make of that? Those copies and variants are just like us. How do our spirits relate to theirs? They are obviously part of the plan of salvation, too, even if God hasn’t bothered to explain those things to us.

    The Scriptures talk about this earth, but we hold or reject doctrines based on ideas about how the spiritual relates to the physical in a cosmic sense (which we’d be wise to do, in my opinion). Mormonism has always done this in saying that the “mainstream” Judeo-Christian tradition has lost parts of the gospel which have been restored in the Latter Days. LDS theology explicitly incorporates relationship assumptions between the physical-spiritual realms in doctrines such as exaltation and celestial marriage. CofChrist wants to focus more and more on the historical Jesus as perceived by modern progressive Christianity, and downplay questions larger than the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    I think modern cosmology will challenge Christian theological understanding as radically as evolutionary theory did. For example, I think we are all putting together the relationship between our bodies and spirits incorrectly; I suspect that the relationship between our spirit and an individual body may be analogous to the relationship between our mind and an individual neuron in our brain — a collective property of all the copies and not exclusive to any of them.

    I’m not sure I can say more without drawing light cones, and droning on about non-linear mappings of spacetime into a dual description, but I’m really glad to see someone is thinking about Mormon cosmology.

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