Friday, September 6, 2019

Another Mistaken BYU Harmonize-Evolution-with-Doctrine Movement

“There is no need to attempt to harmonize conflicting views when some of the
views are out of harmony with the Standard Works. This is what life is all about.
The Lord is finding out what we will believe in spite of the allurements of the
world or the philosophies of men or the seemingly rational and logical
explanations that astute people make.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie[1]

“Informed members of the Church know that when they come across statements or
 doctrinal explanations which are contrary to what is in the revealed word, they are duty
bound to reject such.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie[2]

“I see others, [BYU Students] sharp, cynical, skeptical, in the know-it-all arrogance of blossoming young manhood and womanhood. They have inquisitive minds. They are easily taught—and easily led astray. Teach these with extra care.” Elder Boyd K. Packer[3]

            I may be behind the news, but I recently learned, to my dismay, that some professors in the Brigham Young University Biology Department are actively promoting another attempt to harmonize evolution with the gospel. Such a misguided and possibly even spiritually dangerous effort must not go unchallenged and uncorrected.
            I recognize and fully appreciate that BYU biologists must study and teach evolution for the school to be acceptable to the world as an accredited institution of higher learning. I also enthusiastically appreciate the almost inestimable value of the great majority of science for the betterment of the world.
            What is not appreciated, and what is unacceptable, is when the theories of the historical life sciences are forced to mix with the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in ancient and modern revelation—specifically, the theory (or theories) of organic evolution. Round pegs just don’t fit in square holes without causing damage; in this case spiritual harm. Where this latest BYU movement loses its way, as with its predecessors, is in supposing it can harmonize evolution of any brand with revealed gospel doctrine.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Modern Science and the Light of Christ in the Biblical Creation Story

The scientific properties of Light are key to reconciling science and the biblical creation story. The article thus begins with a brief primer on Light, thereby establishing a sound basis for a scientific analysis of Moses’s masterpiece of subtlety and symbolism.
The dual, wave/particle personality of Light – the “complementarity principle” – defines the “heaven and the earth” of Genesis 1. The creation of Light, followed by the firmament, then the appearance of land and so on is not an account of the creation of Planet Earth, but a metaphor for the creation of the universe.  Understanding this, the major anachronisms plaguing the usual understanding of Genesis 1 disappear and the timeline tracks well with scientists’ “Big Bang” cosmological model.
Re-examining the “fall” in terms of complementarity reveals that the “forbidden fruit” was physical sensory experience, and the fall was a quantum event in which the focus of Adam’s consciousness shifted from God to the physical world in accordance with this principle of quantum physics. Details of the physical creation as distinct from the spiritual then come into sharp focus, the meaning of the six “days” of creation and other symbolic elements becomes apparent, and the old earth/new earth conflict is resolved.

History of the Universe (Detail, cropped from original).
Genesis 1: 1 – 2:
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Without a basic understanding of modern cosmology and the scientific properties of light, any attempt to reconcile science and the biblical creation story is doomed from the start. The first chapter of Genesis is a metaphor for the creation of the universe, not an account of the creation of Planet Earth. That begins in Chapter 2. When we understand this the apparent anachronisms disappear and the creation story then agrees quite well with scientists’ “big bang” model.
We’ll return to Genesis in a bit, but since the Light of Christ underpins the entire universe, let’s start by discussing some of the properties of light. I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible without losing important detail.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Revelation and Relativity: Modern Science in Abraham 3

Abraham 3, Verses 2 through 12 reflect several features of General Relativity, including black holes and time dilation. The 4.1 million solar mass black hole at the center of our galaxy, closely surrounded by thousands of more ordinary (typically 25 – 40 solar mass) black holes, is “the great star,” Kolob, with “many great ones near unto it.” Every galaxy, as far as is currently known, contains one and only one of these “supermassive black holes” (SMBHs), that controls or “governs” the galaxy.
Many well respected physicists, including Nobel Laureates, now also believe black holes likely involve higher-dimensional portals leading out of our universe and into an alternate reality. This is almost certainly the sense in which Kolob is “nearest to the throne of God.”
Another feature of Relativity is the warping of time in the presence of mass, called “time dilation.” Understanding Verses 4 through 10 in terms of time dilation, obscure terms and phrases such as “set time” and relative “reckoning of time” become clear.
Verses 10 and 11 then answer a common question regarding Kolob and our galaxy relative to other galaxies, and neatly wrap up Abraham’s lesson on galactic astrophysics.
Kolob is the Supermassive Black Hole “Sagittarius A*.” Source: Author
Abraham 3:2-10 is scientifically correct in terms of modern galactic astrophysics and General Relativity. Yet Einstein did not publish his seminal paper on General Relativity until 1915, 73 years after first publication of Abraham’s revelation. No one alive in Joseph Smith’s day could have known anything about Relativity’s predictions of black holes, Einstein-Rosen bridges (AKA wormholes), and the warping of time and space (time dilation), except by revelation. Yet there it is, in the first few verses of the chapter!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Terryl Givens Seeks to Weaken Church Doctrine re: “Becoming Like God”

            A couple of years ago (Nov. 2017), Terry Givens (now with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute) was interviewed for an LDS Perspectives podcast, giving his views on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ gospel topic essay “Becoming Like God.” As he answered questions, he made a concerted effort to diminish or weaken or dilute the long-standing settled doctrine of the Church that man (men and women) can become like God; can become gods themselves.

            Some of Mr. Givens’ disturbing comments are these:

There is a good deal of folk theology that has developed around this notion, especially during the Brigham Young years. Because of the theologizing of people like Orson Pratt and others, the emphasis was often on world creation. Joseph Smith, of course, in section 132 referred to the possibility that men and women sealed in the everlasting covenant of marriage would produce seed eternally. That was extrapolated to mean that men and women who were exalted would create their own worlds and people them with their own spirits, then preside over those planets as God does over His. There isn’t, as far as I can find, any authoritative scriptural or prophetic pronouncements with that degree of specificity. I think it’s an unfortunate misdirection that serves the church poorly, both because of the delusions of grandeur which it can lead to and because the last thing we want to be known for to an outside community is the aspiration to have planets of our own.

            Setting aside the troubling issue of discounting the teachings of such inspired apostolic timber as Elder Orson Pratt and President Brigham Young, not to mention their contemporaries; and forgetting for a moment the temerity of labeling of their teachings as “theologizing” and “folk theology”; and setting aside for a moment that the Book of Abraham and modern apostles have taught that in the pre-existence the “noble and great ones” already helped create this earth as practice; the most startling comment found in this narration is that Mr. Givens has been unable to find “any authoritative scriptural or prophetic pronouncements” that directly speak of or teach that exalted men and women would one day become gods and preside over worlds/planets, “as God does over His.” And further that Mr. Givens states as a reason that Latter-day Saints don’t want to be known to “outsiders” (also known as non-members) as aspiring to have planets of their own.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Revisiting Book of Mormon Historicity Out of Necessity

I was unpleasantly surprised by this quotation from a website that purports to know what it is talking about: “Many BYU professors, even on the religion faculty, do not believe the Book of Mormon is historical and are not convinced that historicity matters.” No proof was provided for this statement, and so we cannot say that it is true. I am sure many if not most BYU professors would be offended by it and would declare their testimony of the historical authenticity the Book of Mormon. However, if there is some truth to it, and if there are some few that it speaks correctly of, let us review, point by point, what these professors, and others of like mind on the fringes of the Church, are rejecting—to view this book as (perhaps inspired) fiction; a 19th Century production.

They are rejecting the revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith as found in the Doctrine and Covenants wherein the Lord references the Nephites and Lamanites as an ancient people. See section 3 and also 38:39; 1:29; 10:48.

They are rejecting the revelations to Joseph Smith that speak of modern peoples as descendants of the ancient Lamanites. See Doctrine and Covenants sections 32:2; 28:8-9, 14; 49:24; 30:6; 19:27; 54:8. It seems that if the Book of Mormon isn’t speaking of real ancient peoples, we may as well toss out the Doctrine and Covenants as well.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Glaring Problem with Book of Mormon Geography Theories

and some other issues also

            Book of Mormon geography location theorizing has become enough of an issue among scholars and laymen alike, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a formal Gospel Topic essay stating a neutral position. The pertinent sentences read: “the Church’s only position is that the events the Book of Mormon describes took place in the ancient Americas.” And, “The Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.” When I first read the entire statement, and the quoted sentences in particular, I thought it very wise, to the point of inspired.

            In me this statement accomplishes some valuable and necessary objectives. 1) It should hopefully reduce argument among well-meaning members who often heatedly debate the subject into the realm of contention. 2) It avoids sticking a pin in a map. 3) It relieves the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of the burden of taking a position on something that may well not have been revealed to present or past prophets, beyond that stated in JS—H 1:34 (quoted below).

Saturday, March 30, 2019

By Common Consent Blog Baloney (or Can We Become Like God)

            On the liberal/progressive/dissident blog “By Common Consent,” a feminist author wrote the following comment, which I provide here in context. The main subject of the piece is an attempt to set forth a warped “straw-man” definition of the Latter-day Saint concept of heaven (that all women are tired/exhausted there—she doesn’t know what a resurrected body is), and then shoot it down. Further trouble is found in the parenthetical aside that she throws in: “Sometimes Mormons joke about the reality of what heaven looks like, especially for women. I suspect this is doctrine that the institutional church may be turning away from (like the doctrine of ruling planets that makes us just look really weird to other Christians), . . .” Incidentally, this woman also admits that she is glad she is “moving away from traditional Mormon beliefs.”

            So we have a feminist making the doctrinal determination that she thinks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is turning away from “the doctrine of ruling planets that makes us just look really weird to other Christians.”

            This is actually a “really weird” thing for a supposed Latter-day Saint to say. Many of our doctrines make us look really weird to other Christians. After all, they are in a state of apostasy. This feminist author is allegedly a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, a “peculiar [even weird] people.” If we didn’t have doctrines that made us look weird to other Christians, we would therefore be (or be joining) the other Christians—Protestants/Evangelicals/Catholics. Does she not understand this fundamental concept that the Church is founded upon?—restored doctrine and authority that other Christians don’t have. We better be weird to them or we won’t be Restored and right with God.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Highlights from Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone as found in BYU Speeches talks

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne

“Whenever we find problems in the Church, we usually find them under one of two umbrellas or canopies, either transgression or lack of faith in Christ. If members have faith in Christ, then they are active in the Church and they are absolutely committed.”

“I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I would rather lay down my life this instant than deny that Nephi, King Benjamin, Alma, Ammon, Moroni, Mormon, and the Brother of Jared were prophets of God. I know they were. As I stated to the missionaries, the enemies of the Church could line up four abreast from San Francisco to Salt Lake City and come to me to try to convince me that the Church was not true, and when the last one had passed by I would still know that this church is the only true church on the face of the earth.”

“Long before I was a General Authority I would sit out in the congregation and look at the faces of the General Authorities. Do you know what I always saw? Besides integrity, devotion, love, and commitment—and I love them more now than I did in those days—I saw almost a translucence, that is, a whiteness, a countenance change. I don’t know if any of you saw LeGrand Richards in his later life, but it is true his skin was smooth and almost translucent. I believe you could have almost looked into the soul of LeGrand Richards through this crystal clear, translucent flesh of his and seen “the foulest deed his heart doth hold.” I believe in President Kimball’s case his face is almost translucent. In the upper room of the temple quite often in our first Thursday meetings—and we’ll have one again this Thursday—I have seen on occasion some of the Brethren stand there with an aura of light around them as they spoke. One of the men around whom I saw an aura when he spoke was the president of this great institution [BYU], Jeff Holland. It was about four inches wide. He reported to the Brethren, and I could see it. I knew that Jeff Holland was speaking in an inspired way to the Brethren at that time.”

[An explanation of D&C 132:46: “and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven”]
“Let me digress here just to say this: Do you know that the President of the Church is the only man on the face of the earth who can actually forgive on behalf of the Lord? The rest of us who are common judges forgive on behalf of the Church, as the Lord’s agents. President Kimball has said that he never uses this authority unless he really knows.”

“President Kimball, our beloved prophet, not too long ago, did something that is very tender to me. We were at an area conference. He heard about a man that had been burned in an explosion. . . . He left the area conference and flew down to this particular place, spent a few moments administering to this good brother and then flew back to the area conference. We arrived back at the hotel at about 10 o’clock and President Kimball was just coming in. We are just a little over half as old as President Kimball. We had been out to dinner and had a lovely evening together and he had been doing the Lord’s work. When he came he looked tired. We found out that the man that he had administered to, about two weeks later or so, when he finally gained his consciousness, he said he could only remember two things: one, that he had talked with the Savior and his time was up. And the other, that President Kimball came. He couldn’t remember anything else that happened during that period of time. As he started to heal, his wife said, Of course you’re going to make it; you’re going to live. He said, no I am not, I already know.” [He died within two weeks.]

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone’s Experience with the Scriptures and the Savior

Cobbled together by Dennis B. Horne

            Note: In his earlier years, in some talks given in the 1970s, as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone referenced a marvelous spiritual experience he received. The below contains both published text and newly transcribed wording that was withheld for whatever reason (perhaps felt to be too sacred then), from the published version, that gives further insight into the experience. Links are provided so readers can listen to both of the talks at their convenience:

Let me tell you the greatest experience I believe I have had in all my readings of the scriptures—and I am sharing something that is very tender with me. I remember the night that I read 3 Nephi the 17th chapter [3 Ne. 17]. That is when I discovered the Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, my Savior, my personal Savior; and I believe that is where I finally found the description of the Savior as I thought him to be.

He had been with the Nephite people all the day long, you will recall, and finally said:

“I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.

“Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and … I come unto you again [on the morrow].

Monday, January 28, 2019

“Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach” (D&C 43:15)

            Questions have arisen, and various thoughts expressed by some, regarding the role that non-Latter-day Saint scholars, meaning academics of the world (friendly or not), have to play within scholarship of the Restoration. Simply put, should we be studying their works to inform our own understanding of scriptural texts? Let us review this issue.
            Twenty-five years ago I attended a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls by Emanuel Tov, given at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Sitting on the stand was then-Elder Russel M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Elder Holland conducted the meeting. Tov gave an excellent presentation and Elder Holland indicated afterward that he considered it outstanding himself and even said that if the building wasn’t dedicated that we would all have applauded.
            I feel safe in suggesting that neither of these apostles were there to learn new doctrine or to obtain an improved interpretation of any scriptural text from this fine Jewish scholar, who did not believe that Jesus was/is the Christ. Neither of them could be taught doctrine about God and the plan of salvation by Tov. But they both wanted to know more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were a trending subject of scholarly study at that time, and Tov was an expert. So they enjoyed learning from him, as did I.
            This illustrates a wise way to approach the scholarship of the world. Where they know more than Latter-day Saint scholars, in matters related to historical, linguistic, geographical, or specialty subjects, their studies may make a helpful contribution. Yet when it comes to doctrinal explanations or interpreting any of the standard works (usually the Bible), we should be very wary of accepting their conclusions.
            Elder Mark E. Petersen gave the following counsel to Church Education System instructors. While it is true that teachers employed at church universities have greater (academic) freedom in their teaching than do those in the Seminaries and Institutes, Elder Petersen’s general cautions still apply:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Why Some People Leave the Church

            As President Gordon B. Hinckley acknowledged, “It is a fact that we lose some—far too many. Every organization of which I am aware does so.  But I am satisfied that we retain and keep active a higher percentage of our members than does any other major church of which I know.” (“The Church Grows Stronger,” Ensign, May 2004, 4.)
            An unfortunate trend is to leave the Church over the so-called social issues. It is on these grounds that I see need for further and deeper thought. We will look closely at this question: Where do most people today, including some Latter-day Saints, get their values/conscience/feelings/attitudes/ideologies from? Where do they get their ideas on how to behave, to live, to conduct their lives? Is there such a thing as wrong or foolish values? And if we learn the source of that information, meaning the answers to these questions, can it be trusted or is it false? These are questions that may decide whether certain people will remain in the Church or leave it. So, where is “society” or the “world” and now, and how did we get there?

A Decrease in Morality and Increase in Sin and Disbelief

            Elder Boyd K. Packer believed that the United States of America, has from its beginning been a mostly moral and decent nation, deserving of the title “good, moral Christian people,” but that around the time of the Vietnam War, that majority shifted and became a minority; also that the United States has been in rapid moral decline ever since. He wrote: “Perhaps for the first time . . . that balance of decency and morality is shifting past the center. The balance . . . is slowly tipping in the wrong fatal direction.” Further, “It happened first in and to the universities of America. It happened when agnostics and atheists were protected in teaching their philosophy of religion in public institutions of higher learning. Because they claim affiliation with no church, the principle of separation of church and state is supposed not to apply to them. They are free to teach their faithless philosophy at public expense, to shake, even destroy, the faith of their students. Meanwhile teachers of faith are restrained and churches are kept off campus. What happened, happened in and to the schools and the churches, to the towns and cities, it happened in the homes and in the hearts of the American people.”
            Elder Packer then stated: “Something is weakening the moral fiber of the American people. We have always had couples live together without marriage, but we have not honored it as an acceptable life style. We have always had children born out of wedlock, but we have never made it to be respectable. And, we have never before regarded babies, conceived in wedlock or out, to be an inconvenience and destroyed them by the thousands through abortion. And this while barren couples yearn for a child to raise. We have always had some who followed a life of perversion [homosexuality], but we have never before pushed through legislation to protect that way of life lest we offend the rights of an individual. . . .”  This address, given thirty years ago, presaged well what has become of the United States and the rest of the world as well.