Friday, July 16, 2021

Refuting and Correcting BYU’s False Doctrine on the Origin of Man #42 - An Apostolic Reading Committee Halts Elder B. H. Roberts’s Book Teaching Some False Doctrines

(by Dennis B. Horne

            The below are comments given by an internal reading committee made up of members of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1929, regarding questionable doctrinal assertions made in Elder B. H. Roberts’s book manuscript, The Truth, The Way, The Life. These comments, made by the committee in their official responses to their reading of Elder Roberts’s book, are an exceptional example of the work done by these internal Church reading (or early “correlation”-type) committees. Because Elder Roberts would not revise his book in conformity with their wishes, it was not published as originally planned by the Church and desired by Elder Roberts. Then, in the early 1990s, a group of scholars at Brigham Young University reviewed the recently declassified work and its history, and published it with their commentary and the reading committee’s comments as well. Two papers were prepared by the reading committee, one titled, “Doctrinal points questioned by the Committee which read the Manuscript of Elder B. H. Roberts, entitled—The Truth, The Way, The Life.” and the other “List of Points on Doctrine in Question by the Committee in Relation to B.H. Roberts’s Ms.” There were also notes included of a report made by the chairman of the committee, Elder George Albert Smith, to their Quorum President, Rudger Clawson. The committee was made up of George Albert Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, David O. McKay, Stephen L Richards, and Melvin J. Ballard. For a complete review of this committee’s work, see B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, John W. Welch, ed. (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994). The following selected items are taken from this publication, the reading committee’s comments on Roberts’s statements coming from the footnotes. Page numbers are given after each excerpt. (See also James B. Allen, “The Story of The Truth, The Way, The Life,” BYU Studies 33, no. 4 [1993], 691-741.)

            Other doctrines are considered and commented on besides evolution and the origin of man, but those were among the main issues that were objected to as Elder Roberts set them forth wrong in his book:


James B. Allen:

            On October 18, Elder Clawson reported to the Council of the First Presidency and

Quorum of the Twelve that Roberts had come to his office wanting to know if the book was being adopted as a priesthood course of study in 1929. Clawson explained to him that a committee had been appointed to “properly consider” the manuscript, but there had not been time to go over the book and if it were to be used at all it would not be before 1930. In that event, Roberts answered, he would have the work published privately and then, if it were found suitable, it could be adopted as a priesthood text. The First Presidency and the Twelve asked Elder Clawson to inform Roberts of their desire that he not publish it until it had been studied by a committee appointed by the Twelve and permission given for its publication. There was no hint that anyone, as yet, had serious objections. There was, however, a clear consensus that nothing of this nature should go out as an official Church text until it had been fully approved by the leading authorities….

            On October 25, Elder Clawson informed the Council of the First Presidency and the Twelve that he had notified Roberts of their desire that the manuscript not be published without approval by the committee….

            The committee appointed…took their time because they were extremely busy and they were determined to do a thorough job…. They had been reading it together twice a week, two hours at a time, for two months….

            Meanwhile, Roberts’s own patience was wearing thin. With hindsight, one can see that the Twelve were acting responsibly, and probably as rapidly as could be expected. (709-11)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            It seems that man was created “sufficient to stand,” yet “free to fall”—if he so willed it; and the opportunity was afforded in the economy of the Creator to test this man’s power of free moral agency. The commandment was given concerning a certain fruit, which seemed to have in it in some way the elements of life and death.


Reading Committee comment:

            The committee…questioned “that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil had in it the seeds of life and death.” (158)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            The view to be maintained in this writing, however, is that the mind, the spirit of man, has a preexistence to his earth life; and that there is a taking possession of the body by this preexistent spirit at birth.


Reading Committee comment:

            The committee questions the advisability of stating any given time when the spirit unites with the body. This question has never been definitely settled although it has been asked of the First Presidency from time to time. The record in the Book of Mormon where Nephi received the word that the Savior was to come into the world [3 Nephi 1:12-13] is not looked upon as a criterion by which we are to be governed.

            [George Albert Smith reported] The First Presidency have refused to give a definite answer to this question at any time. Therefore we feel that a definite statement should not be given. (246-47)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            First, Jesus who gives the revelation, is declared to be in the beginning with God, co-eternal with God; that part of him which matters most, intelligence; the intelligent entity; which was not created, and was not made, but which is eternal, as all intelligences are. The “Thing,” the “Entity which starts out on its career of progress, not each of the same quality or degree, but various; not all as the “Word,” who is the Christ, was, but whether of low or of high degree, nevertheless equal in this one thing, their eternity; and they are what they are in virtue of what their varied intelligence itself is. Not being of the same capacity, they will go forward swiftly, or slowly, or stand still, as they choose. Some intelligences as spirits will rebel against the order of things in the universe as did Lucifer and his following.…


Reading Committee comment:

            Intelligence and Spirit as used in this chapter are confusing terms. The thought may be gathered that “Intelligence”—that eternal entity which was not created, may, and sometimes does, rebel against truth and God. We do not so understand it. Those who rebelled in the world of spirits were begotten spirits, who, if they had remained faithful, were prepared to come into this mortal world. The revelation which speaks of intelligence says: “Man was in the beginning with God.” (When was this beginning?) Then this thought follows: “Intelligence, or the light of truth; was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” Again we are taught that “light and truth”—intelligence—“forsaketh that evil one.” This being true, and treating intelligence as an entity, then that entity cannot rebel against light and truth, for it would rebel against itself.

            [George Albert Smith reported] In the opinion of the committee the intention is that these intelligences after they become spirits may rebel, as Lucifer did. Can this be clarified to say this? We do not have any revelation stating that intelligences have power to rebel.” (261-62)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            Not in flesh and blood, then, did Moriancumer behold the Lord, but in the body of the Lord’s spirit, or the spirit body, the spirit body begotten of the Father, inhabited by the intelligent entity, the “Word” that was with God in the beginning, and from all eternity, and “that was God,” and “that was (finally) made flesh,” and “dwelt among men.”


Reading Committee comment:

            The use of the expression ‘Spirit-body of Christ.’ And ‘The Word’ is not made clear to us, and we are left to wonder if these terms apply to the ‘Intelligence’ or to the begotten spirit of Jesus Christ. (263)


R. H. Roberts statement:

            It appears from the second creation story that man is the first creation instead of the last; that he is not only the first man, but the “first flesh” upon the earth also….


Reading Committee comment:

            The place of man in the order of creation is questioned, as it is taught in this chapter. The expression, “The first flesh upon the earth also,” is not interpreted by members of the committee as you have expressed it here. We feel that the arguments as given contradict the accounts given in all our scriptures, and the more especially in the temple ceremonies. As we understand it the term, “first flesh also,” does not have reference to Adam as being the first living creature of the creation on the earth, but that he, through the “fall” became the first “flesh.” Or mortal soul. The term “flesh” in reference to mortal existence is of common usage. We find it so used in the scriptures. Adam having partaken of the fruit became mortal and subject to death, which was not the condition until that time. We are taught in the Temple as well as in the scriptures that man was the last creation placed upon the earth, before death was introduced. Adam was the first to partake of the change and to become subject to the flesh. This is the view expressed by President Joseph F. Smith and President Anthon H. Lund. Following are examples bearing out this thought.... [see 1 Nephi 19:14; 1 Nephi 19:6; Daniel 2:11; 1 Peter 4:2.].

            [George Albert Smith reported] This entire chapter is questioned by the brethren. It pertains to man’s place in the creation. It is not in harmony with the revelations, especially the ceremonies of the Temple, which were given by the Prophet by revelation. (292-93)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            We begin then with Adam, and the procession of events from his time; which, with reference to the whole period of the earth’s existence, may be set down as comparatively recent, and even very recent times, within historic time in fact, if we accept the Bible account of the commencement of things as historic. This would admit of a very long period of time beyond the advent of Adam, to the absolute beginning of the physical existences of the earth, during which time pre-Adamite races, less developed than he, may have existed.


Reading Committee comment::

            This entire chapter deals with the question of “pre-Adamites.” This doctrine is not taught by the Church; it is not sustained in the scriptures. It can only be treated as an hypotheses, and the result will be uncertain, confusing, for after all is said it is speculation leading to endless controversy. We are aware that one of the brethren (Orson Hyde) in an early day advocated this teaching, however we feel that the brethren of the general authorities cannot be too careful, and should not present as doctrine that which is not sustained in the standards of the Church. It appears to us that all which has been revealed is contrary to this teaching, especially that given in the Temple.

            [George Albert Smith reported] This entire chapter is out of harmony with the teachings of the authorities of the Church. The doctrine of pre-Adamites has never been accepted by the church and is viewed by the brethren as being in conflict with the revelations of the Lord. This is so with the Temple ceremonies. References in other chapters to these two thoughts—the place of man in creation and pre-Adamites, should be eliminated. (297)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            So there is nothing mysterious—only as all existence is mysterious—in the matter of Adam and Eve being created by act of generation, the process here suggested, and then, when they had attained suitable development to receive this mission appointment to open a dispensation with reference to the purposes of God on the earth, they came to plant their race in a desolate earth….


Reading Committee comment:

            This is questioned by the committee. According to the revelations bearing on the question, the earth was fully prepared for Adam and pronounced “good,” before he was placed upon it, and was full of life and beauty.

            [George Albert Smith reported] It does not harmonize with the Temple ceremonies. (325)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            To say that a person is “immortal,” and then claim that by eating forbidden fruit or anything else, he can become subject to death is a solecism, a rank misunderstanding of terms. If a person is immortal then he cannot die under any circumstances. If one supposed to be immortal should die, you have conclusive evidence that he was not immortal.


Reading Committee comment:

            The doctrine that Adam came here a “translated” being from some other world is not accepted as a doctrine of the Church. The theory that he came here from some other world a “translated” being does not take care of the element of “death” as that condition came into the world, for translated beings are subject to death according to the teaching in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 28:36-40). The scriptures teach us that Adam was not subject to death before the “fall,” and would have lived forever in that innocent state if he had not “transgressed” the law. His “fall” changed the condition and brought death into the world, which could not have happened if death was already here. It is true that Adam had not passed through the resurrection (2 Nephi 2:22, Alma 12:26 and other passages). (326)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            So too, are good, beauty, truth, righteousness, life, peace, joy. These latter, however, as we have seen, may be known only in duality—they are known only in contrast with their respective opposites; good by its opposite or antinomy of evil; joy by its opposite of sorrow; life by its opposite of death, and so following. To know any one of these you must experience its opposite….


Reading Committee comment:

            This thought raises some questions. While it is necessary that there be opposition in all things, yet a man does not have to sin, or come in contact with wickedness by partaking of it, to know it. We may have failed in grasping the meaning here.

            [George Albert Smith reported] Christ did not sin, yet he “experienced” evil. Can this be changed to avoid this ambiguity? (343)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            …Of this they [Adam and Eve] had stern evidence in the death of their second son, Abel, murdered by his brother Cain.


Reading Committee comment:

            We question this in the light of the writings of Moses. Adam may have had many sons and daughters before Cain was born, so it appears. (355)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            Could it be that Satan had suggested the offering [from Cain] of a sacrifice that God had not appointed, the offering of “first fruits of the ground,” rather than the “firstlings of his flock”? A fruit offering rather than a “blood offering”—such as would symbolize the offering to be made by the Son of God, who is called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)? Nothing could be more insulting to the majesty of God than this, and nothing could be more gratifying to Lucifer than through Cain to offer such an insult to God—it would be mockery to his liking!


Reading Committee comment:

            It was not because he offered fruits, but because he hearkened unto Satan rather than unto God (Moses 5:18-23). (364)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            Since Esaias lived in the days of Abraham and Abraham was blessed of him, is it not quite possible that this “Esaias” was Melchizedek….


Reading Committee comment:

            We question the statement that Esaias and Melchizedek are the same, based on what is written in D&C 84. (383)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            This passage [Moses 1:31-35, 38] implies constant movement in the universe. The statement, “As one earth shall pass away and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come” corresponds somewhat to the modern scientist’s notion of “evolution and devolution,” the operation of integrating and disintegrating forces.


Reading Committee comment:

            Evolution and devolution of worlds, as stated here, is questioned. Worlds pass away, just as this earth shall, but go on through the resurrection, or renewing, to continue their existence in permanent, or immortal form. (D&C 29 and 88). (406)


B. H. Roberts statement:

            So with the all-knowing attribute, omniscience: that must be understood somewhat in the same light as the other attributes just considered; not that God is omniscient up to the point that further progress in knowledge is impossible to him; but that all the knowledge that is, all that exists, God knows. All that shall be he will know. The universe is not so much “a being” as a “becoming,” or as it unfolds; for he is universal consciousness, and mind—he is the “All Knowing One” because he knows all that is known, and all that shall yet be to become known—he will know it.


Reading Committee comment:

            Progression of God in knowledge. This thought is not accepted by members of the committee. We do not feel that it is wise to express a thought limiting God in this manner, which will cause needless controversy. While we believe in eternal progression and that God is progressing, it is not in quest of hidden truth or laws yet undiscovered to Deity. We prefer to believe with Nephi: “O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Nephi 9:20). Moreover, we believe that his progress is because of his knowledge and that he is the author of law (D&C 88:42).

            [George Albert Smith reported] What is the need of stating that God is progressing in knowledge? In other words that there are laws and eternal truths which he does not know? This will only lead to controversy and needless discussion and argument, and no purpose accomplished. In the judgment of the committee the statement should not be made. There are scriptures which contradict this thought. (418)


George Albert Smith (Chairman of the Reading Committee of the Twelve, Oct. 10, 1929):

            President Rudger Clawson and

            Members of the Council of Apostles

            Dear Brethren:

            The subcommittee of the Council of the Apostles appointed to read the manuscript written by Elder B. H. Roberts entitled, The Truth, the Way, the Life, make the following report.

            The committee secured the manuscript and very carefully and systematically read it through, sitting two sessions each week, until the work was finished.

            In the main the manuscript is very worthy treating subjects dealing with the mission of Jesus Christ and gospel principles, which it would be well for all members of the Church to understand. These subjects are faith promoting and would prove to be helpful to the young people of the Church. However, the manuscript could be greatly reduced without injury to the thoughts expressed.

            The members of the committee regret to say that there are some objectionable doctrines advanced which are of a speculative nature and appear to be out of harmony with the revelations of the Lord and the fundamental teachings of the Church. Among the outstanding doctrines to which objection is made are: The doctrine that there were races on the earth before Adam; That Adam was a translated being who came to this earth subject to death, and therefore, did not bring death upon himself and his posterity through the fall; That Adam was placed on the earth when the earth was in a desolate condition and before any other life, belonging to the “dispensation of Adam” was on the earth; That all life preceding Adam was swept off, even to the fishes of the sea, by some great cataclysm so that a new start had to be made; That God the Father is still discovering hidden laws and truth which he does not know, but which are eternal….

            The committee, therefore, recommends to the Council of the Twelve that a report of its findings be laid before the First Presidency, with the recommendation that in its present form, the manuscript be not published.

            Very respectfully submitted,

            Geo. Albert Smith

            Chairman of subcommittee

(Correspondence, George Albert Smith to Rudger Clawson and Members of the Council of Apostles, Oct. 10, 1929; cited in B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, An Elementary Treatise on Theology: The Masterwork of B. H. Roberts, Stan Larson, ed., [San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994], 656-57.


Readers may also be interested in President Clawson’s general conference talk on evolution and the origin of man:


            A gentleman said to me some time ago: "Do you believe in evolution?"

            I said, "Yes sir, I do." And then I said, "You will remember that there are two views of this question of evolution, one bears upon true evolution and the other bears upon what I call false evolution." And I called his attention to the fact that the scriptures tell us—we find it in the first chapter of Genesis—that God created animals after their kind—that of man and that of animal—and it is set forth beautifully in these words:

            "And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

            "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

            "And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

            "And God said. Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;'' [and we might add: after our kind], "and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

            "So God created man in his own image," [and we might add: after his kind] "in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them."

            And so I remarked that following this test and this view set forth by the scriptures, one kind of animal never changes into another kind, that an elephant never changes into a man, because if he did there would be a tremendous reduction of avoirdupois, and as a matter of fact he does not. Neither is a mouse changed into a giraffe. But I did remark that animals might be improved after their kind and along their line, as we know to be the case. And then I added also, that man may be improved along his own line by education, by study and reflection and by worship of the God of heaven.

Conference Report, October 1923, 85-86.


No comments:

Post a Comment