Thursday, February 28, 2013


"99% of everything done in this world--good or bad--is done to pay a mortgage. So, perhaps the world would be a better place if everyone rented."
--excerpt from "Thank You For Smoking"

One of the primary aspects of the Mormon temple ceremony revolves around a dramatic (or cinematic) telling of the creation story according to both the account in Genesis and in the Book of Moses (a "revelation" from Joseph Smith and now part of Mormon scripture). By and large the Mormon view of creation is similar to mainstream Christianity with some added revelations (read: assertions), such as Adam and Eve were given some form of Mormonism around the time of their eating of the forbidden fruit.

The apparent fuzziness of this proposed historical timeline is matched by many current Mormon teachings surrounding creation. Mormon Think has a great article which explores many of these teachings which seem to conflict with what science shows us. More specifically, I want to touch on two points made in the Mormon version of creationism: no death before the Fall of Adam, and the age of the earth.

The first topic, no death before the Fall of Adam, is taught very subtly in the church, to the point where many people who have spent years attending services are not quite sure if it is official Church doctrine. I wasn't even sure, so I looked it up. Here is what the Bible Dictionary (a study guide included with Mormon scriptures) has to say about death and the Fall of Adam:

"Fall of Adam. The process by which mankind became mortal on this earth. The event is recorded in Gen. 2, 3, 4; and Moses 3, 4. The fall of Adam is one of the most important occurrences in the history of man. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There were no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the “forbidden fruit,” Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life. Adam became the “first flesh” upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal. Adam’s fall brought both physical and spiritual death into the world upon all mankind (Hel. 14:16–17).
"The fall was no surprise to the Lord. It was a necessary step in the progress of man, and provisions for a Savior had been made even before the fall had occurred. Jesus Christ came to atone for the fall of Adam and also for man’s individual sins.
"Latter-day revelation supports the biblical account of the fall, showing that it was a historical event that literally occurred in the history of man. Many points in latter-day revelation are also clarified that are not discernible from the Bible. Among other things it makes clear that the fall is a blessing, and that Adam and Eve should be honored in their station as the first parents of the earth. Significant references are 2 Ne. 2:15–26; 9:6–21; Mosiah 3:11–16; Alma 22:12–14; 42:2–15; D&C 29:34–44; Moses 5:9–13. See also Flesh."

Did you catch the part about "no death" in the first paragraph. Ya, that's pretty incontrovertible proof that the Church still teaches that there was no death before Adam and Eve (whose very existence is equally tenuous and unsupported).

Now, I could pull out lots of evidence of fossils of dinosaurs and various extinct plants, etc., but instead I will point to a lesser known bit evidence against this religious claim which you likely use every day: oil. You see, scientists know how oil is made. It is takes millions of years for DEAD organic materials to turn into oil. This stands in direct conflict with the Mormon claim that there was no death before Adam and Eve. If this were true, then there should be no oil.

Mormons have addressed this issue in various ways. Some outright dismiss science. Some concoct a half-baked reconciliation that the plants and animals in fossils and petroleum and coal were from another incarnation of this world. I have actually heard people teach over the pulpit and during religion classes that the earth was constructed with parts from other earths containing dinosaur fossils or that dinosaur fossils came from asteroids... Really? This is on par with the now outdated (but still believed by some) notion that the Lost Tribes of Israel live in the center of the Earth (or the North Pole). No kidding.

For over 100 years the Mormon Church taught very plainly that the Earth is only about 6000 years old. With the rise of geology, cosmology, anthropology, and evolution, we now know that the Earth is much much older than that (about 4.5 billion years old). Now the Church has changed its tune:

"While it is interesting to note these various theories, officially the Church has not taken a stand on the age of the earth. For reasons best known to Himself, the Lord has not yet seen fit to formally reveal the details of the Creation. Therefore, while Latter-day Saints are commanded to learn truth from many different fields of study (see D&C 88:77–79 ), an attempt to establish any theory as the official position of the Church is not justifiable."

That's quite the dodge there. They don't officially accept or reject either position. The most interesting thing about this statement that "the Church has not taken a stand on the age of the earth" is that its own scriptures reveal that, in fact, it has. In Doctrine and Covenants 77:6-7 Joseph Smith clearly states that the earth is only about 6000 years old:

"Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?
"A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

"Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?
"A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh." [emphasis added]

Not only do these verses indicate that the earth is only 6000 years old, but that the final judgement and end of the world will occur in about 1000 years from now. This is similar to the mainstream Christian notion of dispensationalism. But, of course, this final count down to extinction will not start until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, after which Christ will rule as King of Earth for the last 1000 years.

And what is their evidence of all this? An unsubstantiated belief that Joseph Smith wasn't lying about a book with no supportable historical, archaeological or genetic evidence. So is it any wonder, then, that the claim that the earth is only 6000 years old is just as contradictory to scientific evidence? Again, Mormon Think offers a great rebuttal and resource concerning this Mormon claim:

Summary of [Sequence] Age Dating Correlations Covered:

".there are a number of different ways that annual sequences can be counted, ones that do not rely on radioactivity or rocket science to understand:
  • Bristlecone Pines: The minimum age of the earth is 8,000 years by annual tree rings in California.
  • European Oaks: The minimum age of the earth is 10,434 years by annual tree rings in Europe (different environment, different genus, not just different species and from two different locations).
  • German Pine: The minimum age of the earth is 12,405 years by adding more annual tree rings in Europe (different environment and species), confirmed by carbon-14 levels in the samples (different information from the same sources).
  • Lake Suigetsu: The minimum age of the earth is 35,987 years by annual varve layers of diatoms in Japan (different process, biology and location).
  • Dunde Ice Core: The minimum age of the earth is 40,000 years by annual layers of ice in China (different process altogether).
  • Greenland Ice Cores: The minimum age of the earth is 37,957 years by visually counting layers, 60,000 years by counting dust layers, 110,000 years by measuring electrical conductivity of layers, and up to 250,000 years by counting of layers below a discontinuity, all counting annual layers of ice in Greenland (different location).
  • Antarctica Ice Cores: The minimum age of the earth is 422,776 years by annual layers of ice in the Vostok Ice Core, extended to 740,000 years with the EPICA Ice Core with an estimated final depth age of 900,000 years. (different location again).
  • Devil's Hole: The radiometric age of the earth is validated to 567,700 years by annual deposition of calcite in Nevada and correlation to the annual ice core climate data.
  • Coral Heads: The minimum radiometric age of the earth is of coral is >400,000,000 years by radiometric age correlated with the astrono-physics predicted length of the day correlated with the daily growth rings in ancient coral heads. (different location, different environment, different methods).
  • Radiometric Correlations: the radiometric dates for a number of specific events show a consistent accuracy to the methods used, and an age for the earth of ~4,500,000,000 years old.
  • Final Summary: the bottom line is that the valid scientific age for the earth is ~4,500,000,000 years old."

In the end, Mormons fight science more than they like to admit. Many Mormons have college degrees (at least in the U.S.), and those in the scientific fields try desperately to find reconciliation between their deeply held beliefs and what actual evidence and science point to. According to the chart on the left from the Pew Forum, Mormons are less likely to accept evolution than even Evangelical Christians who are notoriously anti-evolution.

I will end with the following quote from former Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith (grandson of Joseph Smith's brother, Hyrum Smith) concerning the obvious conflict between Mormon creationism and science:

"Of course, I think those people who hold to the view that man has come up through all these ages from the scum of the sea through billions of years do not believe in Adam. Honestly I do not know how they can, and I am going to show you that they do not. There are some who attempt to do it but they are inconsistent - absolutely inconsistent, because that doctrine is so incompatible, so utterly out of harmony, with the revelations of the Lord that a man just cannot believe in both.

"... I say most emphatically, you cannot believe in this theory [of evolution] of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other, for they are in direct conflict and there is a gulf separating them which is so great that it cannot be bridged, no matter how much one may try to do so....

"... Then Adam, and by that I mean the first man, was not capable of sin. He could not transgress, and by doing so bring death into the world; for, according to this theory [of evolution], death had always been in the world. If, therefore, there was no fall, there was no need of an atonement, hence the coming into the world of the Son of God as the Savior of the world is a contradiction, a thing impossible. Are you prepared to believe such a thing as that?" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, section "Evolution and Religion Cannot be Harmonized", 1:141-142}

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