long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The missionaries are defenseless - Part 3a - DNA and evolution

This is a continuation of my series about the practical problems missionaries face because of the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories. Instead of one long post, I'm breaking it up into smaller pieces to post each day this week.

My focus here is on the implications of this Gospel Topics essay for investigators and members of the Church who believe in a literal interpretation of the scriptures.

First, I re-emphasize what I wrote in Part 1: The missionaries are not "defenseless" in the broad sense of the term. They have the Lord with them (D&C 39:12). They are protected, as we all know, and the Spirit guides and directs them, touches the hearts of the people they meet, etc. But they are defenseless when it comes to answering and even discussing some of the most common questions they get from investigators and former Mormons.

And they are defenseless when it comes to common questions about Book of Mormon geography and DNA posed by investigators, and instead of being defenseless, they could be using these questions to bring people to Christ.

I stipulate that a spiritual testimony of the Book of Mormon is the most powerful and enduring witness of the truth we can have. But what are the steps of Moroni's promise in Moroni 10:3-5?

3 Behold, I would exhort you

(i) that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, 

(ii) that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, 

(iii) from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and 

(iv) ponder it in your hearts.

The first step, then, is that people have to "read these things" first.

The geography and DNA issues are obstacles for those considering whether or not to read the Book of Mormon in the first place. The Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories not only make those barriers higher, but they add the additional barrier of claiming that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah in New York.

How can people "remember how merciful the Lord hath been" unless they know what the Lord has done? That is, they have to remember what they've read in the Bible, or what they've learned about God's dealings in whatever faith tradition they have grown up in. Some commentators think Moroni is referring to what people read in the Book of Mormon, but the next step clarifies that.

The next step is the one I'm going to discuss in Part 3. "From the creation of Adam even down until" the modern day.

The Book of Mormon expressly omits God's dealings prior to Lehi leaving Jerusalem, except for some snippets of his dealing with the Jaredites (Ether 1:3), so readers must rely on information outside the text of the Book of Mormon to remember God's dealings. In most cases, this means they have to read and remember the Bible.

Here we have, in the verses that every missionary shares with every investigator, a reference to the creation of Adam as taught by the Bible. 

Yet the DNA Gospel Topics essay rejects the plain teaching of the Bible (and our other latter-day scriptures) about the creation of Adam in favor of a metaphorical Adam who was either (i) created tens of thousands of years before the Biblical chronology or (ii) created tens of thousands of years after humans occupied most of the planet.

To be sure, I understand there are many different ways to interpret the scriptures regarding the creation of Adam and Eve. However, the Gospel Topics essay adopts the Darwinian evolutionary approach to Adam and Eve and rejects the literal interpretation accepted by many members of the Church and many millions of potential investigators.

In lieu of rejecting alternatives to Darwinian evolution as this essay does, I propose acknowledgement, if not acceptance, of multiple working hypotheses. 

Otherwise, missionaries who refer investigators to the Gospel Topics essay on DNA find themselves trying to reconcile what Moroni said about the creation of Adam with the essay's adoption of a version of the Adam story that fits within Darwinian evolution.

What's a missionary to do?

What's an investigator to do?
end of Part 3a

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