A New Creation from the Old

A debate about the relationship between the Genesis Creation story and Science has been going for more than a century. It isn’t often a polite debate, with both sides accusing the other of ignorance and blasphemy. The end result is the two sides rejecting the methodology and presumptions of the other (usually the scientists wholehearted and the religious perfunctory). When the religious do take the side of the scientist it is often by mythologizing the Creation and by extension neutering its textual power. The scriptural narrative becomes a shadow of its formerly perceived importance.

To be fair, the original writers didn’t have the scientific understanding of the modern era. That is the approach of a new set of religious exegesis Genesis researchers. They postulate the theory that in order to truly understand the Creation account, and end the debates, it is necessary to study what the pre-science writers intended. And what they were doing in Genesis, according to the new paradigm that is considered the old, was “naming” and “ordering” the already existent material to form functional stability from chaos. This sounds perfectly Mormon, but there is a catch. Functional in this case means making what already has existed and formed of the material and making making it consecrated. still a very Mormon concept to be sure, but it throws out the whole of the material creation as a God involved process. A religious person must before the Genesis account assume God already created the material, was not involved with the material creation, or that what He did create was evil. The Genesis Creation account becomes a post-Creation account.

This leaves a big gap for the scientific modern understanding. Although there are strengths to the chaotic-order Creation paradigm, many of them Mormon supportable like the already existent matter, it still puts into question the “Truth” and “Historicity” of the Creation. For a modern people who associate mythologizing and allegory as lies for at best a better truth, the profound spiritual viewpoints are not enough. The material world is far more real and important than it ever was in the ancient past. There still must be some “concordance” (matching historical knowledge with scriptural events) to make it valuable beyond the original writer’s intent.

The key to having a modern interpretation of an ancient viewpoint is Nephi’s use of Isaiah. After having quoted Isaiah, he says in 2 Nephi 25:1, “For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.” As a Jew from Jerusalem he states in 2 Nephi 25:5, “for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews” Knowing the way people think and their history helps in understanding what they write. For those who want to interpret Genesis according to the ancients, this is a powerful endorsement. Yet, it is only half the equation of Scriptural usage. Despite or even because of all that Nephi knew about the Jews, he says in 1 Nephi 19:23, ” I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” He related the past writings to his contemporary situation. Not only did he expound on the difficult words of Isaiah, but he made them relatable and significant to the readers. He saw a material manifestation of the spiritual teachings in his life. Continue reading

The Flat Earth Phenomenon

The Earth is round. All the evidence going back thousands of years is undeniable. Despite the myth that it wasn’t until Columbus sailed the ocean blue when it was proven, scientists and philosophers had known this fact since ancient times. In fact, Columbus’ belief in the size of the Earth and not its shape was found to be incorrect when he discovered the New World. It turned out to be much bigger than he had anticipated. And yet in modern times there is a small, but growing, number of people who believe that the Earth is flat. The reasons behind this are much more than simple ignorance or mental disorder.

How much they actually believe their own theories is up for debate. It is hard for the majority of “civilized” people to get their head around why someone would ignore all evidence to the contrary. These are the very questions that drive the movement. They represent more than an uneducated few, but a new vision of the future returning to the simplicity of the past. One that never actually existed, but still a past that was mythologized by the educated that now mock them. They are almost a metaphor for how the world has progressed in science and technology, but regressed in social cohesion to fractured tribalism.

Flat Earth believers are characterized as the stereotypical Christian Evangelical Young Earth Creationist Fundamentalist. A starting point for the belief in a “pancake planet” is the Biblical description of the Earth with a domed sky. However, quick Internet research of those who are part of the group quickly dispels such a narrow categorization. They may use the Bible as evidence, but not always for the same reasons. It can be anywhere from religious devotion to a recognition that it is one of many ancient sources untouched by a modernity that has lost its way. It doesn’t matter if the individual’s politics is left or right. What they all seem to have in common is conspiracy theories about population manipulation by government elites. The flat Earth theory is secondary. Continue reading

Looking Beyond Apologetics Toward Faith

Much has been said about the possibility that a large number of people are leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That might be true, although it hasn’t been proven with certainty. A lot of what is happening now occurred in the 90s with high profile excommunications. The membership survived and actually for a time thrived. Even if the numbers are falling, there are areas of the world where it is growing. Culture and politics are as influential in determining the destinies of communities as truth claims and criticisms. Much of the apologetic work is not helping the situation, reacting rather than getting at the root of the problems.

There are two apologetic approaches that represent a majority of the attempts at recovering those who are losing faith. One of them is a more literal (for the most part) group that tries to explain history and doctrine with evidence that traditional narratives are generally true. Many orthodox members, if they know of them at all, appreciates these efforts with some reservations. Another group tries to embrace the skepticism of those who have left, coming up with reasons for them to stay despite questions and doubts. It would come as no surprise that orthodox members are mostly not impressed. Of course, there are degrees of apologetics that fall anywhere between the two. To put it bluntly, they are minimal effective tools used to help keep people from losing faith. Continue reading

The Morality of Age

An announcement was released by the LDS Church that young Priests can officiate baptisms and girls assist in ways adult women do in the temple. Most discussion about this predictably is about the different roles girls and boys have related to the Priesthood. Another issue pretty much ignored is how age determined what could be done or not in the first place. The reasoning for the change is that Priests have the right and responsibility for baptism, and that should extend to the temple ordinance. What that doesn’t answer is why these were not in effect long ago. More than likely it was because of age and maturity perception.

Choices about age permissible actions are common in both religion and secular society. Like many things the two are at odds in some circumstances. A few vocal critics insist anyone under a perceived adult age should not be taken to a particular church, much less initiated. For some religions the age of marriages should be up to the parents and ecclesiastic leaders, and not a soulless government. Difference in opinion can go both ways with one side believing a person must be older and another a younger age is acceptable. How the ages are decided may seem at times logical, but the laws and edicts when given a closer look seem arbitrary.

The argument for ages is often dependent on a belief that the young are not capable of deciding for themselves. Cognitive abilities for understanding the consequences have not developed enough to make intelligent choices. Although there is some science to back this up, the exact age when a person can be considered mature enough is wildly inconclusive. Studies indicate anywhere from about 10 to the unbelievable 25 before the brain is fully matured. Much of this difference is based on what the study is trying to discover. It could be language acquirement, ease of learning new material, ability to make logical inferences, and more. What they don’t do is ask when a person gains a moral center for independence. That is what most laws and codes of conduct rely on for determining age permissions. Yet, it is the most vague evaluation. Continue reading

Beards are Back . . . in Church!

Those who wear beards must be rebelling against something, because a clean cut look represents conservative and productive lives. They are not following the LDS leadership’s example. About 15 years ago that would have been the argument, and not without some truth from the past. Like all fads of fashion the times have changed. Beards are no longer grown to make a clear statement. For most of those who grow one today it is about physical comfort and convenience, if not the look. Beards may not be widespread, but a lot of faithful Mormons are growing them when they wouldn’t have not too long ago. And that is just fine.

Despite Joseph Smith as the founding prophet never having a beard, prophets for generations who followed him had one. In fact, there are prophets that could be recognized by their beards alone. Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff had chin beards without mustaches. Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith had long flowing beards. Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith had relatively short facial hair. There were even times and places where having a beard was required by missionaries because it represented maturity.

It wasn’t until the clean shaven President David O. Mckay that beards started going out of fashion for LDS leaders. His lack of a beard was a conscious choice. He wanted to make a statement about leaving the pioneer past and go forward into the future. That future in the 1950s was the neat, professional, and respectable businessman look. The “unkempt” look of a hairy face was out, even if only one generation ago they were signs of maturity. For the post-WWII years a suit and a tie with a shaved face meant achieving the American dream. After more than 100 years of persecution and living in the wilderness, the LDS Church had come out to join respectable society. Continue reading