A cheap promotion of my podcast with Terryl Givens

The handsome Terryl L. Givens

It seems to me the crowd here at FPR is a little more vocal, so I thought it would be nice to promote the podcast I did with Terryl Givens this summer to get some feedback. While volunteering for FAIR I suggested the need for a podcast, and as it works with most volunteer organizations, that meant I’d be the one to do it.

So during the 2010 Joseph Smith seminar at BYU, Professor Givens graciously spent some time listening to my babbling questions, doing his best to make them useful. We talk about nineteenth-century anti-Mormon literature, the Book of Mormon, prisca theologia, the paradox of searching and certainty, recent developments in Mormon studies, Parley P. Pratt, the preexistence, Mormonism and globalization, thoughtful faith, and dealing with difficult historical and theological puzzles as a believer. Continue reading “A cheap promotion of my podcast with Terryl Givens”

Roberts v. Smith: Death Before the Fall (p2of2)

See part 1 here. This post is super quote-heavy and light on analysis. I simply want to convey a sense of Roberts’s presentation and get his argument on the table for discussion (as well as point out that his argument was virtually ignored at the time it was first explained and seems to have been largely forgotten since).

Roberts rejected Smith’s scriptural exegesis regarding the condition of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden on logical grounds, and in accordance with the way he understood immortality as described in the revelations of Joseph Smith: “I mention [this argument on immortality] now merely to bring it into the record of this case that it may receive consideration and not be lost sight of,” Roberts explained in his presentation to the Twelve, “for it is very important, and should receive more attention than I am attempting to give it here.” It seems it didn’t receive much more attention at all, nor has it since. Roberts was responding to one of Smith’s main scriptural proof-texts:

Continue reading “Roberts v. Smith: Death Before the Fall (p2of2)”

Roberts v. Smith: Death Before the Fall (p1of2)

Word. I’m BHodges. I blog at lifeongoldplates.com and currently host the FAIR podcast. I was invited to do a few guest posts over here at faithpromotingrumor this month. I’m starting with a bit about B.H. Roberts’s “The Truth, The Way, The Life.”


B.H. Roberts considered his manuscript The Truth, The Way, The Life (TWL) to be “the most important work that I have yet contributed to the Church, the six-volumed Comprehensive History of the Church not omitted.”1 TWL aimed to be “the most comprehensive treatise of the Gospel that has yet been published,” as Elder George Albert Smith described it in 1929.2 A committee of members of the Quorum of the Twelve was assigned to review the lengthy manuscript in order to approve it for use as a church manual. The committee attempted to convince Roberts to change some of his fundamental arguments in order to conform more closely to established church doctrine. “Some learned men don’t see some of its chapters so I am letting it ride until I have more time,” Roberts wrote to a friend, “Will not change it if it has to sleep.”3

It had to sleep.

Until 1994 when it was woken up in two separate publications by Smith Research Associates and BYU Studies, respectively. In the next few posts I want to highlight some passages I found most interesting.

Much has been written regarding the doctrinal/scientific debates between Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith regarding TWL.4 This post highlights an interesting argument Roberts employed in his scriptural exegesis regarding whether there was death on the earth prior to the fall of Adam in response to Joseph Fielding Smith. In part one I give a little historical background on the exchange between Roberts and Smith. In part two I discuss the exegetical argument Roberts used to diffuse Smith’s objections, an argument I haven’t seen confronted in any of the subsequent literature.

Historical Background:

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith was a member of the committee of Apostles reviewing Roberts’s manuscript, and was its most vocal opponent. On April 5, 1930 Smith delivered an address to Genealogical Society of Utah to “denounce” the ideas that the earth was peopled before Adam or that there was death on the earth prior to the fall—ideas found in the unpublished TWL. Smith didn’t refer to TWL directly, but his preemptive strike was published in the October issue of the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine.5

Roberts must have been angry to see Smith’s views published so easily while his own were undergoing intense scrutiny. On December 15 Roberts wrote to the First Presidency to ask if Smith’s address had been approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve. Was it the official position of the Church? If not, why wasn’t it labeled as Smith’s own opinion? Roberts objected to its “finality” and “dogmatic” style, questioning the “competence” of the author and citing Orson Hyde and Brigham Young as greater authorities than Smith who allowed for similar views to Roberts’s.6

On January 7, 1931 Roberts met with the Twelve with a draft of TWL amplified by additional scientific evidence and quotes from Hyde and Young for ecclesiastical leverage. An “Addendum” to chapter 31 directly responded to Smith’s main points about death on earth before the fall.7 In the next part I’ll highlight an interesting argument Roberts used therein to deflate Smith’s assertion that Adam was “immortal” in the Garden of Eden: “There is no such thing as conditional immortality.” Continue reading “Roberts v. Smith: Death Before the Fall (p1of2)”