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:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end (2 Nephi 2:22).

Roberts quoted directly from Smith’s critical paper which Smith had earlier presented to the Twelve:1

By revelation we are well informed that Adam was not subject to death when he was placed in the garden of Eden… He <Adam>2 did not come here as a resurrected being to die again for we are taught most clearly that those who pass through the resurrection receive eternal life, and can die no more. It is sufficient for us to know, until the Lord reveals more about it, that Adam was not subject to death, but had power through transgressing the law, to become subject to death…3

Roberts responded that such an explanation was self-contradictory:

I am very glad to observe…that Elder Smith makes this declaration that “Adam was not a resurrected being,” for it makes it possible for me to add, then he was not an immortal being, for the only way to the status of immortality sometimes referred to as “eternal life,” is through mortality and the resurrection from death to immortality. The resurrected Christ is the true type and ensample of an immortal man, deathless; he can die no more!4

Roberts didn’t leave it at that; he reiterated the same argument for seven more paragraphs, arguing that the very possibility of a fall indicated that—however long the “royal planters” as he called them (324) could have remained in the Garden—they were not truly “immortal”:

Well, if Adam could die, as he did, then he was after all subject to death. No matter what means, I repeat, if he could die, by any means whatsoever, then he was subject to death; he was not immortal; and the proof that he was subject to death is in the fact that he did die. It does not help matters to say “but <he, Adam> had the power through transgressing the law, to become subject to death”; for if he had that power, he was subject to death, and he did die. In the face of that stern fact it is useless and illogical to say Adam “was not subject to death.”

“Let it be remembered,” he emphasized, “that there is no such thing as conditional immortality.” 5

Roberts used D&C 93 and Alma 11 to support his definition of immortality, which is not achieved before an individual undergoes mortality, death, and resurrection, combining body and spirit in an inseparable union. He punctuated the argument by including a hint of his own unique proposal that Eve and Adam were not immortal, but were mortals in a translated state who were brought to earth to begin a new dispensation.

Roberts left a puzzling question mark, however, in his description of translated beings:

Men are either mortal or translated, or immortal, if for if they die for any cause] no matter from what cause; they are mortal; for they are subject to death. Translated men are those in whom death is (?) [sic] but are subject to death. If they are immortal then they are not subject to death, They cannot; they are like the Christ in that respect, spirit and element are inseparably connected in them…6

For whatever reason, Roberts’s line of argument seems to have been  unconvincing to the review committee who requested changes be made, Roberts refusing, leaving the manuscript unpublished for decades.7

Roberts was soon gone, as were John A. Widtsoe and James E. Talmage, two apostles more sympathetic to Roberts’s scientific approach. Then-elder Smith, on the other hand, had plenty of time to help his perspective become better known through publication. Interestingly, Smith made no mention of Roberts’s argument in his subsequently-published book Man, His Origin and Destiny (1954), a book which argues for a young earth and against evolution. There Smith repeats the same proof-texts he’d related to the review committee regarding Adam’s immortal state.

However, Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine (relying partly on Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation) seems to indirectly respond to Roberts. Perhaps this overall discussion helps explain McConkie’s bifurcated entry for “Immortality,” the first part of which refers entirely to embodied prelapsarians, the second to post-mortal resurrected folk:

1. Adam and all forms of life were first created in immortality. There was no death in the world until after the fall. (2 Ne. 2:22-24.) When Adam fell, becoming the first mortal flesh on earth (Moses 3:7), mortality and the consequent death that flows from such a status of existence passed upon all forms of life. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 72-127.) This original immortality was designed to continue only until the fall; it was not to be of unending duration; it ceased when mortality began.

2. Immortality is to live forever in the resurrected state with body and spirit inseparably connected….8

Perhaps less relevantly, McConkie did not include the verse from D&C 93 Roberts referred to (regarding spirit and matter being connected for a fullness of joy being required for immortality) in his scriptural references for immortality. It is referenced in the entry for “Resurrection,” however.

Was Roberts splitting hairs with his argument on the definition of immortality and whether prelapsarian Eve and Adam could rightfully be called immortal? Was Joseph Fielding Smith fair in ignoring the objection in subsequent publications?

Roberts incorporated quotes directly from Smith’s presentation into an “Addendum” added to chapter 31 of the second draft of TWL. I agree with the assessment of the editors who note: “One can safely conclude that when Roberts presented his ideas to the Quorum of the Twelve on January 7, 1931, he read the draft of chapter 31 together with the preceding sections and this conclusion” (The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, ed. John W. Welch [Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994], 318). Mad props to BYU Studies for including this Addendum, from which the quotes in this post are taken. It is absent from the Signature volume, I presume because it was not made available to them, they only had access to the so-called “Draft 3,” which was a copy donated to the Marriott Library at the U of U by Edwin B. Firmage, which spurred the publication of Signature’s volume, which spurred the publication by BYU Studies.

In the BYU Studies edition, Roberts’s own explanatory insertions into quotes are noted in angle brackets < >.

The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994), 320.

Ibid., 321.


Ibid. The review committee disagreed with Roberts’s hypothesis in their response to Roberts (their objections are included in the footnotes of the BYU Studies edition of TWL): “The doctrine that Adam came here a ‘translated’ being from some other world is not accepted as a doctrine of the Church…” (326).

A similar argument on immortality was already included in the main text of TWL, see pp. 324-330.

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966), 376-377.

43 Replies to “Roberts v. Smith: Death Before the Fall (p2of2)”

  1. The overarching problem with Smith is that he didn’t see himself as an interpreter, or recognize the role his own worldview was playing in how he read the scriptures. Scripture meant exactly what it said (taken at face value and filtered through a modern, Western literalistic worldview), so rejecting Smith’s interpretation was tantamount to rejecting the scriptures.

    I’m becoming quite fond of what J. Reuben Clark wrote to him in one of their warm (heated?) exchanges-

    “You seem to think I reject the scriptures, or some of them. I do not intend to do so, but obviously I am no more bound by your interpretation of them than you are by mine….Now, as to what the earlier brethren have said–where they have declared themselves as speaking under inspiration and by the authority of the Lord, I bow to what they say. But where they express views based on their own understanding and interpretation, then none of us are foreclosed from exercising our own reasoning powers, inadequate though they may be; but the earlier views do not foreclose us from thinking. This is particularly true, where we come to interpreting their interpretations.”

  2. Do we really have to take Smith’s, McConkie’s, or even Robert’s stab-in-the dark scriptural exegesis seriously anymore? There is fossil evidence of death millions of years ago. 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct (a process which involves a lot of death). Man has been around in our present form for rougly 100,000 years – well before Adam took the stage – and they were dying all along. And are we forgetting that all these people believed that Adam lived in Missouri?

  3. Dr. P, in regards to your comment about the evidence that creatures have been dying on the earth for quite a long time, Roberts was attempting in his book to reconcile such information with what he understood the claims of LDS scripture to be. I don’t know that it’s entirely fair to call his effort a “stab in the dark,” it seems to me he spent considerable time researching the issues and trying to understand the situation from a responsible scientific perspective. As for Smith, he was more content to rely on the young earth creation 7th Day Adventist theorists who were viewed at the time as somewhat nutty by the majority of the scientific community. I think that was an unfortunate development in the history of the Church.

    You asked about taking their scriptural exegesis seriously. As for me, taking them seriously serves as a reminder that our church authorities aren’t perfect (including those who we may think are on the side of well-grounded science). It reminds me that science and religion are continually developing. It gives me a snapshot of how previous authorities handled contemporary scientific issues in regards to their religious perspective. It reminds me to be humble about current theories and to approach scripture carefully (and to approach it with different questions, perhaps, than those asked by JFeS or BHR). It has encouraged me to be less dogmatic in the way I read, I hope.

    So I can think of a lot of reasons why I should take their attempts seriously even if I disagree with any of their conclusions. If you’re not interested in their efforts then I’m not entirely sure why you wasted your time reading my little post! 🙂

  4. Thank you, Ben. I know it can be ticklish to ask a scholar to share sources, and I appreciate your willingness to do that. There’s a particular reason why having it be JRC who said this will be a protection to me, and I needed this so much. Thanks.

    BHodges, I don’t mean to ignore commenting on your post (or your fair-minded and reasonable tone in your comment 4, which I greatly appreciate). I’ll get back to this after thinking about it for a while.

  5. BHodges: Was Roberts splitting hairs with his argument on the definition of immortality and whether prelapsarian Eve and Adam could rightfully be called immortal?

    I wouldn’t say so. He was trying to establish the definition of immortal from other passages, and use it consistently. Using scripture to interpret scripture is a fine practice. It’s also fair, though, to propose that a word can have two slightly different meanings in different passages. Look up the definition of “hell” in True to the Faith. Likewise, the term “Spirit of God” sometimes refers to the Light of Christ and sometimes to the Holy Ghost.

    Elder Roberts makes an interesting argument, and I can see why Elder McConkie decided to address it by explicitly spelling out the two different uses of the word immortal, similar to the two different uses of hell or Spirit of God.

    Was Joseph Fielding Smith fair in ignoring the objection in subsequent publications?

    I’m curious why he didn’t address it. Maybe the topic had to percolate for a long time before he was able to articulate it. My guess is he would have resolved it in the way Elder McConkie did.

  6. Great stuff, Blair. This discussion, and reviewing what 2 Ne. 2 actually says, only reaffirms that we need to stop thinking of the Fall as physical altogether and something along the lines of a pyschological/spiritual/existential “awakening” to a world of morality, justice, mercy, sin, etc. How we might square that with science, I don’t know.

  7. Nathan, I get the impression that BRM was highly influenced by JFeS’s exegesis, and in the entry from Mormon Doctrine quoted above he was citing JFeS directly on certain points.

    I’m not sure Roberts’s immortality argument ever really got through to JFeS. McConkie’s Immortality entry is the nearest evidence I can find that JFeS may have thought about it and discussed it with others after Roberts’s death. Of course, I haven’t researched deeper than the published record on this topic, JFeS’s subsequent books and BRM’s. I still wonder if JFeS discussed it in correspondence with anyone else.

    DL: Thanks bro.

  8. I’m curious why you’ve referred to the use of 2 Ne. 2:22 by JFeS as prooftexting. Certainly there could be a misinterpretation here, but I don’t see how the verse has been divorced from its context. Am I missing something?

    Along the lines of this post (and many others recently), I’d really like to see the bloggernacle take some stabs at reconciling modern science and Adam, the fall, etc. (or point to others who have). Most everyone here seems to agree that the Adam story isn’t to be taken literally, but I haven’t seen any syntheses. Do most have in mind something in the vein of BHR’s theory (doubtful) or are they viewing things from a much higher level of abstraction? I suppose that in some respects this is really a question of what is essential to the gospel.

  9. Craig, I refer to the reference as “proof-texting” because it seems more geared to close down discussion. Rather than citing it in an effort to contextualize it within the BoM as well as with other LDS scriptures, it is cited as definitive proof that there was absolutely no death on earth prior to a particular moment in time when Eve and Adam fell.

    Roberts is pulling in other scriptures to argue that Smith’s exegesis of the 2 Ne. verse doesn’t adequately account for claims of the broader LDS canon.

    Strictly speaking, I suppose we could label many citations of scripture as “proof-texting” depending on how wide we want to draw our exegetical net. I use it here to emphasize my opinion that JFeS was trying to establish his opinion by scriptural fiat, whereas Roberts was attempting to show why he felt the scriptures allowed for different views, even if it meant simply agreeing to disagree in the end allowing for multiple interpretations.

  10. Thanks for the post Blair. I’d say that Robert’s argument is sound, and pushes for a consistent use of the word “immortal”. The problem is, as someone else has already pointed out, the scriptures and the prophets are far from consistent in the use of many terms. JFS may have not felt any need to address Robert’s argument if he thought it silly. I know I ignore lots of arguments on the internet I think are self-evidently silly.

    But I align with Roberts on the issue of the fall. There was death before the fall. But I also lean towards a literal Adam and Eve, though they may have not been the first parents of all mankind, and other humans may have lived before them. The effects of the Fall may operate retroactively, just as the Atonement can operate retroactively.

  11. “I’d really like to see the bloggernacle take some stabs at reconciling modern science and Adam, the fall, etc. (or point to others who have). Most everyone here seems to agree that the Adam story isn’t to be taken literally, but I haven’t seen any syntheses.:

    So, Craig, are you volunteering to take a shot at it?

  12. Blair: the reason I enjoy reading about this is that whether it is Roberts or Smith, they are engaging is public theological debate of a philosophical nature. Much of what the General Authorities publish today is little more than self-help level stuff (over-simplification on my part).

  13. BHodges: I actually enjoyed your post. It definitely wasn’t a waste of time. It’s an interesting issue that gets little air-time in the Church these days. The reason why may be because it brings up an uncomfortable issue: how our religious authorities can really go out on the wrong limb sometimes. Clearly JFeS was wrong in his scriptural exegesis. And BHR was a lion in this instance in trying to steer leadership away from science-fiction lunacy (he also tried mightily with regard to BOM historicity).

    Thanks for pointing out how JFeS was adopting 7th day Adventist positions as his own. I think our leadership continue to be influenced by contemporary Christian ideas with regard to science and politics.

    So the question is: how much contemporary influence (that turns out to be wrong) can prophets be susceptible to and still be considered prophets? Where are their ideas/revelations coming from anyway?

  14. James: The problem is, as someone else has already pointed out, the scriptures and the prophets are far from consistent in the use of many terms.

    Some other examples that occur to me are sin/transgression, soul, salvation/exaltation, and faith.

    Craig M. Most everyone here seems to agree that the Adam story isn’t to be taken literally.

    I take it pretty literally, generally speaking (with exceptions like the rib, etc.). That doesn’t mean I’ve worked through all the implications, so don’t ask me. 🙂 But I do tend to default to that interpretation (always, of course, asking what the figurative teaching of each literal event is).

    I’d really like to see the bloggernacle take some stabs at reconciling modern science and Adam, the fall, etc. (or point to others who have).

    Larry Dahl explained one way of reconciling them that I found interesting. He meets every year (or used to; he might have retired) with the BYU biology faculty and students to talk about it. He asks them, “Do you believe that at the Second Coming, the earth will be transformed from a telestial/mortal/fallen state to a terrestrial/deathless/Millennial state?” The students answer yes. He proposes that the earth had a long past of living and dying organisms (making fossils, etc.), and then that the Lord transformed the earth’s state to a deathless one (like the Millennium) and placed Adam and Eve on it. In some length of time (but not so long that it interrupted the geological record), Adam and Eve ate the fruit and the earth was again converted to a mortal sphere.

    Brother Dahl doesn’t claim this is the end-all solution, but it’s at least one attempt at reconciling the ideas. To his knowledge, it doesn’t contradict any prophetic teachings.

  15. Josh, you said:

    And BHR was a lion in this instance in trying to steer leadership away from science-fiction lunacy (he also tried mightily with regard to BOM historicity).

    I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate either, I mean, BHR was positing translated beings, Eve and Adam, taken from a different planetary system and transplanted onto the earth, which had recently undergone some sort of violent and cleansing cataclysm of sorts in order to prepare it for the head of a new race of mammals called human!

    So the question is: how much contemporary influence (that turns out to be wrong) can prophets be susceptible to and still be considered prophets? Where are their ideas/revelations coming from anyway?

    I give a pretty good amount of latitude to leadership on issues like this, trying to recognize my own limitations and trying to remember that simply doing and believing only what fulfills all my personal qualifications would be little more than self-congratulation for my own beliefs.

    I believe there are much weightier matters to be dealt with than the precise geological age of the earth, for example. Prophets primarily are responsible before God to preach the gospel, that is, Christ’s gospel, and invite us to believe, and to obey certain commandments. In Mormonism, prophets are also key-holders, the ones who sort of act as ecclesiastical anchors for ordinances, etc. So they are much more than simply old men who need to be scientifically up-to-date. To give a little perspective to it, I doubt the mortal Christ understood (at least at first) that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa, and I believe he helped create or organize them both!

  16. If prophets are mainly “responsible before God to preach the gospel” then why do they routinely try to (mis)teach science as well? Maybe they could they learn to respect something like Gould’s NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) between science and religion.

    It seems like prophets speak in the same authoritative voice whether they are teaching something about the gospel or science. With strictly gospel topics, it’s impossible to test them for accuracy. This is not the case when prophets roam into realm of science. For example, with a gospel topic like the Fall or Creation, it seems difficult to reconcile religion and science. For example, how can the Fall, Adam, the Garden of Eden in Missouri be, in any sense of the word, real when compared to what we know about human origins? And if the Adam & Eve narrative only figurative, then why isn’t it taught as such? Why has it never been taught as such?

  17. Nathan R,

    Do you have any more information on Larry Dahl? His theory sounds identical to my own which I’ve had for several years but I have never known of anyone else to have a similar understanding of the scriptures. I just would like to know if he’s written anything that’s on the web. It doesn’t look like he’s at BYU anymore.

  18. If prophets are mainly “responsible before God to preach the gospel” then why do they routinely try to (mis)teach science as well?

    Routinely? It seems to me the majority of LDS prophets have spent comparatively little time talking specifically about scientific theories in comparison with their broader discourse. Even JFeS himself, who is probably the most outspoken president of the Church ever on matters of science, didn’t touch on it much after becoming president. It seems to me LDS prophets spent considerably more time talking about gospel living as opposed to talking about scientific thought.

    We also should be careful to distinguish between prophets broadly speaking and the president of the Church. Most of JFeS’s stuff was written before he became president. Members of the Church have been reminded that no single opinion of a given church leader constituted official doctrine of the Church. More importantly, though, Mormons are more typically expected to live a certain way as opposed to assent to a set number of philosophically argued systematic beliefs. There’s wisdom in that approach, imo.

    It seems like prophets speak in the same authoritative voice whether they are teaching something about the gospel or science.

    Undoubtedly some of the prophets speak that way, and sometimes it can be annoying. This seems to be less of a problem more recently, however, based on my own subjective perspective. But many of the GA’s don’t speak dogmatically about scientific matters at all. On the whole, taking all the words of GA’s over the years I think science would not be one of the most frequently discussed topics. Given that there are disagreements even among church authorities I think it’s nice that members can feel free to choose for ourselves what to believe, regardless of what any given Church authority says on a given topic, especially in the realm of science. But scientific pursuits can’t be so neatly cordoned off from all other discussions, it isn’t so simple. For a fellow who is intent on privileging the scientific, I hope you will take that zeal to help improve the questions you’re asking (I’m thinking specifically of encouraging you to quantify your surface assumptions in some sort of rigorous way to discover how large of a problem this wrong-on-science thing is for LDS leadership. Of course, there are some recognized difficulties with quantifying aspects of social entities, but I think you may be able to come up with some sort of model to analyze the published teachings of LDS leaders and see how often they invoke critical or uncritical scientific perspectives.)

    But as you can tell, we’re getting quite afield of the original intent of this post, which was to discuss Roberts’s argument about immortality, and peripherally, whether JFeS was fair in ignoring BHR’s argument in subsequent discussions, not whether prophets can ever be wrong about stuff or be unfair (which I undoubtedly believe they can). Let’s bring it back to the original intent of my post.

  19. DB: Do you have any more information on Larry Dahl? … I just would like to know if he’s written anything that’s on the web. It doesn’t look like he’s at BYU anymore.

    Correct—I looked him up and he’s not listed as BYU faculty anymore. I emailed him; if he answers, I’ll ask him if he has written up this idea anywhere. I was wondering the same thing.

    He also told me about the “40-acre theory” (that’s not his term; I think it was Robert J. Mathews’s). I call it the Island of Immortality—the idea that the garden of Eden was a pocket of immortality in a world-wide sea of birth and death.

  20. In TWL Roberts puts forward the idea of ‘replenishing’ the earth. As far as I can tell he thought that there were things going on before Adam, some big disaster happened, then the creation – or something like that.

    Roberts also mentioned that this time of debate was very difficult on him.

    Thanks for the post.

  21. I’m sorry to be late to the discussion.

    Blair, congratulations on digging up an interesting angle on this story.

    Was Roberts splitting hairs…?

    I think there is plenty of hair splitting to go around on all sides. I think Roberts was on weak ground on this one. I found Orson Pratt in the JofD using the immortal (his word) Adam and Eve as evidence of eternal marriage. Although I am not fond of that argument, it is somewhat popular. So if you accept the reasoning of Roberts, then you undercut a popular argument in support of eternal marriage.

    I find it somewhat ironic that Roberts’ argument based on “replenish” was rejected, but the other side uses the word “renewed” from the AofF #10. Both sides emphasized the “re-” but to opposite effect.

  22. #15 Chris H., I suppose that I am an overly-demanding permalurker for asking others to contribute things I do not, but I think that sparing everyone my speculations is a favor considering my lack of knowledge.

    #19 Nathan R., this idea of Larry Dahl is useful. I’ll be interested to see if he wrote anything on it.

    SteveP and Matt W., thanks for pointing out your contributions – I’ll have them read shortly.

  23. The Roberts v. Smith thing happened nearly a century ago. The fact that one element of that discussion was virtually ignored at the time and has been largely forgotten since speaks volumes about its value to the Church. There is precious little that I would say differently up to this point. Congratulations, BHodges, on a great post.

  24. Craig M – my ideas on the Fall and Adam and Eve are essentially a synthesis of a few different ideas floating around the bloggernacle.

    1. Life and death have been occuring on this earth for billions of years as predicted by the best science has to offer.
    2. Adam/Eve were the first man/woman to whom the gospel was revealed in it’s fulness (including temple ordinances). But they lived in the midst of an existing humanity.
    3. Adam/Eve planted Eden themselves and it essentially functioned as a temple for them. It was a place where God could reveal the ordinances that made them and there posterity sons and daughters of God and where they received the ordinance of eternal marriage. (This may or may not have been in Missouri!)
    4. As heads of the first gospel dispensation Adam and Eve became our first parents in a spiritual sense in the way we claim Abraham is our father, in a way that transcends biology.
    5. Talk of a fall relates to the fall of all mankind from our premortal existence in the presence of God to this lone a dreary temporal existence where we are separated from God, but where we can reproduce. In the complex drama of the temple Adam/Eve, Eden, the serpent, the fall, etc are symbolic and represent such things as mankind, pre-earth life, mortality, sentience, death, agency, etc.

    I believe in evolution, death before the fall, and a literal and a non-literal Adam/Eve. Where we should see Adam/Eve as literal and where we should see them as symbolizing all mankind is the trick, IMO.

    BHodges, sorry for the threadjack. Really interesting post for the reasons you outline in #4.

  25. Nathan R: I’ve also heard of those “40-acre” type theories but the idea that Adam and Eve lived in a pocket of immortality while the rest of the world existed in mortality is inconsistent with 2 Nephi 2:22. I can’t really rationalize that theory with the Genesis, Moses, and Abraham accounts very well either. In my opinion, a creation theory should accommodate both the scriptural accounts of the creation as well as scientific evidence of natural history in order to be credible. Most people have not been able to reconcile both science and scripture so they pick one or the other and justify their belief by proclaiming either science to be wrong or scripture to be figurative. I hope you’re able to contact Larry Dahl. I’d love to share notes with him.

  26. i saw the joseph fielding smith approach twice removed at byu and was totally captivated. i took several religion classes from his grandson, who would often answer nay-sayers like this:

    “look, if you want to argue with what the scriptures say, go ahead. all i can do is tell you what god has revealed.”

    pretty brilliant tactic. apparently it does not only work on college freshmen.

  27. gomez – I certainly don’t have all the answers and could not definitively distinguish all the literal and figurative passages of scripture. However, some folks will conclude that a certain passage of scripture must be figurative simply because they cannot reconcile it with natural evidence. To me, that’s no more credible than someone concluding that some scientific teaching must be wrong just because they can’t reconcile it with the scriptures. I don’t like to make such hasty conclusions just because I can’t figure something out. I’d rather spend my entire life working on unanswered questions than dismiss either science or scripture just because I can’t get them to work together. Personally, I accept the scriptures as mostly literal and I accept scientific evidence as factual. To me, they’re much more harmonious than most people believe them to be.

  28. Steve, you beat me to the punch. I was going to link to your recent Dialogue piece. Thanks for popping in.

    Jared*, yeah, the “replenish” argument was one of Roberts’s weakest, although he seems to have borrowed it from Orson Hyde. He should have looked further into the word as translated imo.

    R. Gary: The fact that one element of that discussion was virtually ignored at the time and has been largely forgotten since speaks volumes about its value to the Church.

    To me it speaks volumes about Roberts’s willingness to go through the proper channels when it came to publishing through the Church, whereas some others felt it was appropriate to publish their own opinions without designating them as such, nor going through the review channels Roberts was subjected to. Roberts likely would have published the work on his own, but he would have been sure to note the views were not official doctrine. (Even if it was published by the Church TWL included reminders that Roberts was stating opinion in various places.) I can’t tell, but it seems like you may be hinting that the fact that this matter was forgotten is an indicator of truth or falsehood of the position. Is that your position? Either way, I see its being forgotten as an indicator that it was a relatively private affair at the time and that after Roberts died no one immediately bothered to take his arguments further, and those who published on the topic later chose to overlook his arguments.

  29. I think that gomez’s theories about Adam and Eve in #35 are reasonable. I have mixed feelings about #3 and #5, but I don’t want to quibble to much about the details. My best guess is that we just do not have enough information revealed yet about the nature of the Fall to harmonize it with natural history. I believe in a literal Adam and Eve whom the Lord made the full covenants of salvation with and designated as the parents of all, but I am now doubtful that they were alone or first on the earth. The evidence seems overwhelming that other people lived on the earth before them and that evolution has some part to play in Heavenly Father’s plan, but full information on how the gospel meshes with everything else is just not available in mortality yet. Fortunately, my testimony is real and continues to grows.

  30. Brother Dahl told me, “I purposely have not put the idea in print of on the web, and will not do so until I hear one of the brethren suggest the possibility, which I don’t expect soon. I will just keep it on my ‘ponder shelf,’ take it down and kick it around occasionally, then put it back for future reference.”

    I can understand his reservations. Still, it’s a fun topic to bandy about. 🙂

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