Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Science Concerns & Questions

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Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Science Concerns & Questions"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter science.png

Response to section "Science Concerns & Questions"

Summary: The author concludes that "The problem Mormonism encounters is that so many of its claims are well within the realm of scientific study, and as such, can be proven or disproven. To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication."

Science is embraced by Mormonism and understanding the past is something we believe helpful to being more perfectly instructed in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Our theology is not threatened by science (D&C 88: 78-79).

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to claim: "To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The problem Mormonism encounters is that so many of its claims are well within the realm of scientific study, and as such, can be proven or disproven. To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is pure arrogance on the part of the author: he knows that anybody who has faith is not doing so out of "spiritual dedication," but rather "willful ignorance." There is no acknowledgement that a believer might have a strong and unshakable faith, and the author therefore portrays believers as merely "clinging" to their faith in the face of what he considers to be overwhelming evidence.

Merriam-Webster's definition of the word "arrogance":

ar·ro·gance noun \ˈer-ə-gən(t)s, ˈa-rə-\

an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people

Logical Fallacy: Inconsistency—The author applies contradictory standards, depending upon which group he is addressing.

  • The author states earlier in his Letter, "it would likewise be arrogant of a Latter-day Saint to deny their spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion."
  • However, with regard to Latter-day Saints who believe in their own spiritual experiences, the author arrogantly states that they are "clinging to faith" because of "willful ignorance" rather than spiritual dedication

Response to claim: "no death of any kind (humans, all animals, birds, fish, dinosaurs, etc.) on this earth until the 'Fall of Adam'"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

2 Nephi 2:22 and Alma 12:23-24 state there was no death of any kind (humans, all animals, birds, fish, dinosaurs, etc.) on this earth until the “Fall of Adam”, which according to D&C 77:6-7 occurred 7,000 years ago. It is scientifically established there has been life and death on this planet for billions of years. How does the Church reconcile this?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Church leaves the interpretation of whether or not there was "no death of any kind" on the entire earth up to the member.

Jump to Detail:

Question: What does the Church teach on the subject of death before the Fall of Adam?

Lehi said that "all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created"

The LDS Bible Dictionary states that, "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)." 2 Nephi 2:22 describes how Adam and Eve became subject to physical death, when the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi taught that

if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. (2 Nephi 2:22)

Because this is the only scripture that indicates this, it is difficult to interpret the meaning of "all things." Does it mean "all things in the garden", or "all things on the entire earth", or something else?

The second scripture referenced, Moses 6:48, describes how "spiritual death" entered the world:

Behold Satan hath come among the children of men, and tempteth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God.

Current Church manuals take a cautionary approach to interpreting 2 Nephi 2:22

Current Church manuals take a cautionary approach to interpreting this verse by considering only how it affected Adam and Eve. For example, from 2010 Gospel Principles manual, page 28:

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). There was no death. They had physical life because their spirits were housed in physical bodies made from the dust of the earth (see Moses 6:59; Abraham 5:7). They had spiritual life because they were in the presence of God. They had not yet made a choice between good and evil.

Adam and Eve were not yet mortal. In this state, "they would have had no children" (2 Nephi 2:23). The statement "there was no death" applies to the Garden of Eden, which is what the paragraph is describing. There is no statement in the manual that there had been no death anywhere in the entire world. There has been a difference of opinion among Church leaders on the extent to which immortality affected God's creations before the Fall.

Some of the changes to the Gospel Principles manual reinforce this cautionary approach. The 1979 edition stated that Adam and Eve were "the parents of the human race," while the current version states that they are "our first parents." In addition, the statement about Adam and Eve learning to "control the earth" was completely removed.

More recently, the Church's official magazine for youth, the New Era said this in 2016:

There were no spirit children of Heavenly Father on the earth before Adam and Eve were created. In addition, “for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither **human death** nor future family. (emphasis added)” [1]


Question: Was there no death on the entire earth before the Fall?

There is overwhelming archaeological evidence of death having occurred on the earth for many millions of years

There is overwhelming archaeological evidence of death having occurred on the earth for many millions of years. For example, oil deposits are formed from the decomposed remains of ancient plants and animals. This is where Church teachings appear to contradict science, since many Latter-day Saint leaders and Church manuals have taught that there was no physical death on the entire earth prior to the fall of Adam. For example, this view is taught in the LDS Bible Dictionary:

Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Nephi 2:22; Moses 6:48). [2]

This interpretation has been shared by many Church authors, including President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie.[3] Consequently, the concept of no death before the Fall on the entire earth has made its way into many Church instructional manuals. For example, the LDS Bible Dictionary, which was included as an addition to the LDS edition of the King James Bible in 1979, includes the following statement that "death entered the world" as a result of the Fall:

The LDS Bible Dictionary states that, "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."


Question: What was the state of things on the Earth prior to the placement of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?

The "period of our planet's creation and preparation as a dwelling place for man" is excluded from the period of the Earth's "temporal existence"

The following is from the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 167–171, "Section 77 Questions and Answers on the Book of Revelation." off-site

D&C 77:6–7. Why Was the Book Sealed That John Saw?

“‘The book which John saw’ represented the real history of the world—what the eye of God has seen, what the recording angel has written; and the seven thousand years, corresponding to the seven seals of the Apocalyptic volume, are as seven great days during which Mother Earth will fulfill her mortal mission, laboring six days and resting upon the seventh, her period of sanctification. These seven days do not include the period of our planet’s creation and preparation as a dwelling place for man. They are limited to Earth’s ‘temporal existence,’ that is, to Time, considered as distinct from Eternity.” (Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts, p. 11.) (emphasis added)

The manual specifically excludes the "period of our planet's creation and preparation as a dwelling place for man" from the period defined as the Earth's "temporal existence." Nothing is implied or stated regarding "death before the Fall."


Question: What changes have been made to the Gospel Principles manual regarding the question of death on the earth before the Fall of Adam?

A comparison of the 1979 Gospel Principles manual with the current edition

It is interesting to note how the Church has modified the wording of the Gospel Principles manual.

1979 Gospel Principles 2014 Gospel Principles Comment
Adam and Eve were foreordained to become the parents of the human race. Adam and Eve were foreordained to become our first parents. Instead of being the "parents of the human race," Adam and Eve are now "our first parents." We are only concerned with Adam.
She was called Eve because she was the mother of all living (see Moses 4:26) Eve was “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26) The phrase "mother of all living" is now in quotes to indicate a direct quote from Moses 4:26.
She was given to Adam because God said "that is was not good that man should be alone." God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage because “it was not good that the man should be alone.”
When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. They were not able to have children. There was no death. When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). There was no death. Again, the text is changed to indicate that scripture is being quoted. The original statement that they "were not able to have children" is changed to the scriptural statement that they "would have had no children." The specific reason why they would not have had children is not indicated, whereas previously it was stated that they were incapable of having children in their "pre-Fall" state.
God commanded them to have children and learn to control the earth. God commanded them to have children. The assumption that Adam and Eve were in "control" of the entire earth has been completely removed.
Because Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Lord sent them out of the Garden of Eden into the world as we now know it. Because Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Lord sent them out of the Garden of Eden into the world. The assumption that the world outside the garden was "as we now know it" has been completely removed.


Question: Is the concept of no death before the fall on the entire earth Church doctrine?

Elder Jeffery R. Holland notes that there was no human death on the earth prior to the Fall of Adam

Elder Jeffery R. Holland, at the April 2015 General Conference, stated,

[T]here was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.

I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before that, but I do know these two were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death. [4]

The Church teaches that there was no death prior to the fall of Adam, and that after the Fall that Adam and Eve became mortal and subject to death

Some LDS leaders have interpreted LDS scripture to teach that there was no death prior to the Fall of Adam for all plants and animals. Others have seen pre-Fall death of plants and/or animals as compatible with LDS doctrine, with the doctrine of "no death" applying only to Adam and Eve within the garden, and not the wider physical creation.

There is no official doctrine on the matter, and members in good standing have held both positions.

The important point to remember is that the question of the scope of "death before the Fall" does not affect our salvation, and is simply an academic exercise. That being said, some LDS authors have not seen the scriptures cited by the Bible Dictionary as referring to all periods of time and all situations prior to the Fall, but merely describe the effect of the Fall upon humanity when Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden. Note that the current Gospel Doctrine manual does not explicitly mention the "entire earth," but simply states that there was "no death" prior to the Fall. The Bible Dictionary stance is not the only one which leaders of the Church have advanced.

Bible Dictionary editor Elder McConkie pointed out—the Bible Dictionary is neither infallible, nor an arbiter of Church doctrine:

[As for the] "Joseph Smith Translation items, the chapter headings, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, footnotes, the Gazeteer, and the maps. None of these are perfect; they do not of themselves determine doctrine; there have been and undoubtedly now are mistakes in them. Cross-references, for instance, do not establish and never were intended to prove that parallel passages so much as pertain to the same subject. They are aids and helps only." [5]

The Bible Dictionary itself also cautions against assuming that its contents reflect "an official or revealed endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal, historical, cultural, and other matters set forth." [6]

One must also not overlook an earlier debate on the issue of "pre-Adamites" between Elder Brigham H. Roberts of the Seventy and then-Elder Joseph Fielding Smith was brought to an end at the instruction of the First Presidency. Part of the debate centered around whether there was death prior to the Fall. At the request of the First Presidency, Elder James E. Talmage gave a talk in the tabernacle, entitled "The Earth and Man." In it, he spoke of fossilized animals and plants and said:

These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.

With the approval of the First Presidency, this address was published in the Deseret News, as a Church pamphlet, and later in The Instructor. [7] Clearly, then, a universal lack of death prior to the fall is not a necessary belief within the Church, since leaders and members have held both positions.

Elder Talmage's position was made quite clear in a letter he wrote in response to a question about these matters:

I cannot agree with your conception that there was no death of plants and animals anywhere upon this earth prior to the transgression of Adam, unless we assume that the history of Adam and Eve dates back many hundreds of thousands of years. The trouble with some theologians—even including many of our own good people—is that they undertake to fix the date of Adam's transgression as being approximately 4000 years before Christ and therefore about 5932 years ago. If Adam was placed upon the earth only that comparatively short time ago the rocks clearly demonstrated that life and death have been in existence and operative in this earth for ages prior to that time. [8]

The First Presidency eventually instructed the general authorities:

Both parties [i.e., Elders Smith and Roberts] make the scripture and the statements of men who have been prominent in the affairs of the Church the basis of their contention; neither has produced definite proof in support of his views…

Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored Gospel to the people of the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.

We can see no advantage to be gained by a continuation of the discussion to which reference is here made, but on the contrary are certain that it would lead to confusion, division and misunderstanding if carried further. Upon one thing we should all be able to agree namely, that presidents Joseph F. Smith, John Winder and Anthon Lund were right when they said: "Adam is the primal parent of our race. [9]

Reflecting on this episode, Elder Talmage wrote in his diary:

...Involved in this question is that of the beginning of life upon the earth, and as to whether there was death either of animal or plant before the fall of Adam, on which proposition Elder Smith was very pronounced in denial and Elder Roberts equally forceful in the affirmative. As to whether Preadamite races existed upon the earth there has been much discussion among some of our people of late. The decision reached by the First Presidency, and announced to this morning's assembly, was in answer to a specific question that obviously the doctrine of the existence of races of human beings upon the earth prior to the fall of Adam was not a doctrine of the Church; and, further, that the conception embodied in the belief of many to the effect that there were no such Preadamite races, and that there was no death upon the earth prior to Adam's fall is likewise declared to be no doctrine of the Church. I think the decision of the First Presidency is a wise one in the premises. This is one of the many things upon which we cannot preach with assurance and dogmatic assertions on either side are likely to do harm rather than good. [10]


Response to claim: "If Adam and Eve are the first humans, how do we explain the 14 other Hominin species who lived and died 35,000 – 250,000 years before Adam?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

If Adam and Eve are the first humans, how do we explain the 14 other Hominin species who lived and died 35,000 – 250,000 years before Adam? When did those guys stop being human?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Even Brigham Young acknowledged that this will "remain a matter of speculation."

Jump to Detail:

Question: What is the Church's position on Adam and Eve?

The Church consistently insists that there is a historical Adam

What does this mean? Some members take this to mean that the narrative in Genesis should be understood in some way as a literal history. For others, it means that there is little more than the assertion that in all of God's creation over a very long period of time (early members at the time of Joseph Smith speculated that it could be billions of years) there is a certain point when we have the first man (as a child of God). Whether that man was created directly by God (one view in Mormon speculation), or whether there was some other divine or natural mechanism (there are several different views in Mormon speculation here), all of them come to the conclusion that there is this person Adam who represents the first of God's children on the earth, and that he and his wife Eve existed at some point in time and gave birth to all of humanity.

Beyond the existence of a historical Adam, the rest of it can be understood literally or metaphorically, or more commonly as a mixture of these extreme positions

Most members of the Church employ some combination of all of that. Consider, for example, this comment in the Ensign in 1994:

This concept is further solidified by the description of the creation of woman as being formed from the rib of Adam—a rib being a metaphor for a person corresponding to Adam. Modern prophets have taught that the creation of woman from the rib of the man is to be taken figuratively. (See Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 71.) [11]

Most of the leaders of the Church have understood the use of Adam's rib as a metaphor and not some literal history

Most of the leaders of the Church have understood the use of Adam's rib as a metaphor and not some literal history - even while the same leaders would assert that other parts of the narrative of Adam and Eve should be understood literally. For those who take different approaches, it is simply an issue of assigning more parts of the narrative as being mythical or metaphorical and fewer as being understood literally or the other way around. For us as individuals, as we find the approach that resonates with our own understanding and our own spiritual witness, I think that as long as we try to answer the question of what the scriptures are trying to teach us, we will do reasonably well. It is only when we try to assert something through the text that was never intended that we run into trouble.


Question: Can Latter-day Saints have a non-literal view of the creation story, or have a somewhat more mythic view of the first five books of Moses given the Church's teaching of a historical Adam?

This is an issue that has been a challenge for the Church since the beginning

This is an issue that has been a challenge for the Church since the beginning. It is also an issue that isn't unique to Mormonism (so we can find lots of interesting insights elsewhere). The problems that we have are caused by several distinct issues. So let's outline the three main issues, since every attempt to answer these questions (every explanation of how to understand Genesis) works to deal with these issues in different ways.

1: The philosophy of history

This one is a really important. This idea means that when we approach the "historical Adam" we have to be aware that there are many different ways to understand the material as history. And that our notion of history is very different today from the sense that history had when the Old Testament was written. Even more to the point, what we try to achieve with history, and in fact our sense of "telling the truth" is very different from what the author of Genesis was trying to achieve and what that author believed constituted "telling the truth". This isn't bad except when we try to assert that we should understand the history of the Old Testament in exactly the same way that we understand history now. Or that the notion of truth as we understand it corresponds exactly to the meaning of truth as they understood it. When we do confuse our own understanding for the intentions of the authors of that history, we inevitably also make mistakes in understanding what should be seen as literal or non-literal in a text.

2: The issue of the first man

We all recognize that there has to be a beginning point. We call the first man and woman Adam and Eve. But, there is necessarily something that is entirely different in their beginning than in ours (by definition as the 'first'). In some ways, this creates for a flexible understanding. We want to understand how they are like us, and at the same time try to understand how they are different from us. This goes back to that issue of what the text is trying to tell us. We have a great many interpretations of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve which treat different parts of the story as metaphorical and other parts as literal - and in many cases, two interpretations can choose completely opposite understandings of any specific detail in this way and come up with two very different outcomes. When we come to this as individuals, often we have to make decisions as to how we understand certain elements (more on this a little later), but you can see that inevitably, very, very few people have a completely literal understanding of the Genesis account of Adam, just as very, very few have an entirely metaphorical understanding of the Genesis account of Adam. Most of us sit comfortably in between. Part of the LDS view of Adam comes from this historical figure as a historical figure. But part of the LDS view comes from the ways in which Adam is just like ourselves - and often this comparison, intended by the text, is presented as metaphor.

3: There is always a host of doctrinal concerns

These inevitably occur because of the previous two issues. As a text, Genesis has to be read and interpreted in some way - and there are lots of ways it can be. Some of those interpretations conflict with knowledge obtained from other sources - like scientific knowledge. One of the great debates of the past (and to some extent even the present) is how we place authority in these sources of information (a process we call epistemology). In one view, we try to understand the time period of Genesis literally, and the age of the earth then as being finite (a mere few thousand years) leading to a position known as Young Earth Creationism. This is a popular view among many Christians (and within the Church). On the other hand there are those who recognize that the earth seems to be very old, complete with a long fossil record of life. If this information is weighted accordingly, then the age of the earth is very great, and likewise, the Genesis account needs to be interpreted as being less literal in the sense that it does not intend to provide the age of the earth in a strictly literal sense. These doctrinal issues are often much larger debates that engage the text of Genesis to their own ends - issues like evolution, the age of the earth, the fall of man, the question of death before the fall, and so on.

An Off-the-Cuff Reconciliation of Evolution with Doctrine

It should be noted that it has been revealed that we don't know all things pertaining to creation and that those things will be revealed at the second coming (D&C 101: 32-33). We are also commanded to learn of all things so that we can be more perfectly instructed in things pertaining to the Gospel. Our theology is not threatened by science, it embraces it so that we can better understand what has already been revealed and what might be revealed in the future (D&C 88: 78-79). Thus we should study every scientific theory without fear.

More Core or Non-Negotiable Propositions

There are a few things that might be more essential than others and non-negotiable when working out evolution.

  • Adam and Eve being literal historical people (D&C 137:5; 138: 38-39). Here it should be noted that there is virtually no way to locate them in any scientific way. With such a (likely) small population of people among 10-14 other species of humanoid creatures living on the earth at that time, DNA would be virtually impossible to detect. That is, if we can actually locate their remains.
  • Adam being the first in a line of priesthood-holding patriarchs (D&C 84:16; Abraham 1:3; Alma 13:7-9; )
  • Adam's "fall" being what started the around 7000 years of the earth's temporal existence[12] (Doctrine and Covenants 77:6). We don't know who out of all the human-like creatures on the earth God would have preferred to have chosen. The Church has no official position on the issue of Pre-Adamites or human-like looking creatures before the fall of Adam and Eve. The 7000 years of temporal existence does not include the creative periods or the time that Adam and Eve “remained in the garden”.
  • Adam and Eve being the first of God's spirit children (or at the very least the first of the new salvific dispensation) that lived on the earth (D&C 84:16).

Less Core or More Negotiable Things

  • The Order of the Events of the Creation - The creation accounts don't agree fully in their division of creation events and the periods of time needed to complete each event. This is okay, since the ancient writers never meant to give a scientific explanation of the cosmos. Yes, this is even the case with the Book of Moses and Abraham. If the writers of Genesis didn't intend to provide a scientific explanation for the history of the earth, shouldn't we expect the same for the author(s) of Moses and Abraham? The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is most instructive on this point:
The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33)[13]

This assumption that the order of creation events must align with science is called "concordism" and is not necessitated by scripture.

  • Death Before the Fall and Procreation Before the Fall - on both issues the Church is neutral. As a suggestion, it may be easier to accept the scientific evidence of death before the fall.
  • How/When Adam and Eve received their Spirits - The First Presidency gave three possibilities in a statement on the subject back in 1910:
Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.[14]
  • The Literality of the Garden Narratives - How the events in the garden are to be understood is quite flexible since the accounts differ between Genesis, Moses, Abraham, and the Temple. For why, see the statement above from the EOM. We have no evidence from the Lord that he intended all of the creation accounts to line up, in fact, we have evidence to the contrary in D&C 101:32-33. Biblical scholars have long posited that the creation account in Genesis is the combination of two accounts, both with a different interpretative/rhertorical intention. See article for more details.
  • The Physical State of the Earth at Creation. Some have had questions about statements about "Peleg" in the scriptures. That is answered elsewhere on the wiki.
  • Adam's age/ How long he lived for. The flexibility comes because it is in debate as to how to best interpret the ages of antediluvian patriarchs.
  • The Adamic Language - we've mentioned on this article that Biblical scholars believe that the early chapters of Genesis concatenate two separate creation accounts into one--one that speaks to the origin of human life and the other for the Adam who covenanted with God. Where to place the "pure language" may be placed anywhere among this timeline. It is certain, however, that Latter-day Saints believe in a pure language[15]. Where to place the Adamic Language may be difficult depending on which theory one subscribes to for the origin of Adam's and Eve's body. The three options for it are described above. For any option one must deal with what God was doing with the Pre-Adamites. One must accept death before Adam entered the Garden of Eden. Thus, one must ask where the Pre-Adamites (over the millennia that they lived and died) fit in the plan. In each case, it would tie into the discussion about Hierarchy of Gods v Infinite Regress of Gods in Latter-day Saint theology and would favor the Hierarchy of Gods interpretation and an experience for God as a Savior on this earth prior to Jesus Christ. However, one’s conception about origin of Adam’s tabernacle does influence how they view the origin of the Adamic language. If they were transported from another sphere, then believing how God gave the Adamic language is fairly simple. If the body developed through natural processes over time without experiencing death— controlled and preserved by God’s power, then this is also fairly easy to understand how the Mosaic language would be preserved. If the body was born here in mortality, as other mortals, one would simply need to ask how they were given such an Adamic language and how that language was not corrupted by the mortals the people were born to. Perhaps once the bodies reached adulthood, the spirit that previously possessed the body of Adam and Eve (along with the knowledge and light that that spirit possessed) was removed and replaced with Adam and Eve’s spirits. We have theological evidence that such an occurrence is possible. Once Adam has been formed, received the priesthood, "left the Garden", and started a family, couldn't his family have simply intermixed with other populations, thus explaining the extant presence of Neanderthal DNA today?

Some may object to the areas of flexibility and more rigidity claimed by the author, basing their assumption of the Book of Moses and Abraham needing to be restorations of scientific fact. In neither case do we have historical evidence from either Joseph or the Lord that the Book of Abraham and/or Moses represent pristine, scientifically accurate, word for word restorations of lost urtexts from the prophets.[16]. If they were written by the original prophets, we would expect God to speak to them as he did to other ancient authors such as those that wrote Genesis (2 Nephi 31:3).

Thus, the scenario might play out that God created the world (2 Nephi 2:13) and that he did it over any period of time. The creation may have included death, disease, and procreation of different species prior to a time when he chose to elect or send the first of his Spirit children to the earth, Adam and Eve. They lived for a time (exactly where we're not sure). They perhaps lived in an Edenic setting where death may or may not have been limited to the Garden (there was likely death outside of it). They may have been tempted by the Devil (D&C 29:36,40), partook of fruit (29:40), and they fell sometime around 7000 years ago. They may have been taught repentance and redemption (29:42), they may or may not have been baptized (again we don't know who the author of Moses 1:1 is--a pseudepigraphical writer or Joseph Smith and we don't know if they are attributing the words to Moses pseudepigraphically or literally; Moses 6:64-66) and were given the priesthood that they passed onto their children--the record of which passing of authority we likely do not have a complete, detailed account of. They mixed with other extant populations and with each relationship began to bring God's children into the world, thus being "the father of us all".

This reconciliation comes from the best interpretation of the author of the article and is only meant as to help put interested readers in a helpful direction but does not represent the official view of the Church. The author has attempted only to summarize those things made explicitly clear in scripture and provide direction for those passages may cause some trouble for members of the Church dealing with the question. Readers are free to disagree and offer what they might feel would be better interpretations or reconciliations of the matter with official, properly interpreted revelation. If improvements can be suggested, please send them to FairMormon volunteers.


Brigham Young (1871): "whether the Lord...made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject"

Brigham Young:

In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular...whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant.[17]


Response to claim: "Science has proven that there was no worldwide flood 4,500 years ago"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Science has proven that there was no worldwide flood 4,500 years ago....There are a bunch of other problems with the global flood and Noah’s ark story but I find it incredible that this is supposed to be taken literally considering the abundance of evidence against it.

Other events/claims that science has discredited: Humans and animals having their origins from Noah’s family and the animals contained in the ark 4,500 years ago.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Church does not require a belief in a global flood, despite BYU professor Donald W. Parry's article in the Ensign. What the Church teaches is that Noah was a real prophet, and that he was commanded to save his family along with a number of animals in an ark from a flood which covered his world.

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Question: How do Latter-day Saints reconcile scriptural accounts of the Flood of Noah with scientific evidence of continuous human habitation on the earth?

There is scientific evidence of diversity of species, language and of continuous human habitation

Modern scientific knowledge regarding the diversity of species, language and evidence of continuous human habitation does not support the Biblical story that a global flood wiped out most life as recently as 4,400 years ago.

The following criticisms are often applied and questions raised to Latter-day Saint (or traditional Christian beliefs) regarding the Flood:

  • It is claimed that LDS scriptures require Mormons to believe in a global flood, and that if LDS doctrine or leaders are fallible in their statements concerning the flood, then they must be wrong about other Church doctrines as well.
  • If Noah's Flood was not global, how do we account for Joseph Smith's claim that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?
  • Isn't it true that before the flood all the continents were all one land mass, since the Bible says that the earth was "divided in the days of Peleg."?

Many things about the Flood can be accepted regardless of belief concerning its nature

There are a number of basic teachings which many can accept regardless of the exact nature of the Flood :

  • There existed a prophet named Noah.
  • Noah was commanded by the Lord to construct an ark.
  • Noah warned the people of the impending deluge.
  • Noah, his family and the animals he collected were saved from the deluge.
  • The Lord made a covenant with Noah and his descendants.

Whether the Flood covered the entire earth at once, multiple smaller floods happened over a period of time, a localized flood happened, or no flood at all occured makes no difference

As demonstrated by D&C, a belief that this flood was global in nature is not a requirement for Latter-day Saints, we are encouraged to study and teach each other science. Traditionally, many earlier members and leaders endorsed the global flood views common in society and Christendom generally. The accumulation of additional scientific information have led some to rethink their views as to the nature of the flood. Some still believe in a global flood, some believe in multiple floods happening over time, some believe in a local flood — one localized to the immediate surroundings of Noah — is the best explanation of the evidence. Some believe there was no flood at all. People of different views can be members in good standing.

Latter-day Saint theology is not harmed by science

Doctrine and Covenants 88: 78-79

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven (cosmology, astrology, etc.) and in the earth (biology, geology), and under the earth (archaeology); things which have been (history), things which are (sociology, politics), things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms--

When determining what God is trying to reveal, we shouldn’t be afraid of what science tells us about certain events recorded in the scriptures.

Eventually all will be revealed about the earth:

Doctrine and Covenants 101: 32-34

32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things-- 33 Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof--

34 Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven

This seems to be a topic that we will learn more about and are learning more about “line upon line” (2nd Nephi 28:30; Isaiah 28:10) This shouldn’t pose a great threat to any part of our belief about science, scripture, prophethood, or the nature of revelation.


John A. Widtsoe (1943): "The Old Testament records a flood that was just over fifteen cubits (sometimes assumed to be about twenty-six feet) deep and covered the entire landscape"

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism (a resource for which two apostles, Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder Dallin H. Oaks served as advisors, edited, and approved) includes a quote from John A. Widtsoe regarding the reported depth of the flood. It should be noted, however, that Widtsoe himself actually believed in a global flood. From the article "Earth," Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

THE GREAT FLOOD. The Old Testament records a flood that was just over fifteen cubits (sometimes assumed to be about twenty-six feet) deep and covered the entire landscape: "And all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered" (Gen. 7:19). Scientifically this account leaves many questions unanswered, especially how a measurable depth could cover mountains. Elder John A. Widtsoe, writing in 1943, offered this perspective: The fact remains that the exact nature of the flood is not known. We set up assumptions, based upon our best knowledge, but can go no further. We should remember that when inspired writers deal with historical incidents they relate that which they have seen or that which may have been told them, unless indeed the past is opened to them by revelation. The details in the story of the flood are undoubtedly drawn from the experiences of the writer. Under a downpour of rain, likened to the opening of the heavens, a destructive torrent twenty-six feet deep or deeper would easily be formed. The writer of Genesis made a faithful report of the facts known to him concerning the flood. In other localities the depth of the water might have been more or less. In fact, the details of the flood are not known to us [Widtsoe, p. 127].[18]


Question: Why does the Church teach that the flood was a global event?

Without a doubt, the flood is always treated as a global event as it is taught by Church leaders

Without a doubt, the flood is always treated as a global event as it is taught by Church leaders. The challenge comes to those who examine scientific data showing the diversity of plant and animal life, and the millennia required to achieve such diversity. The story of a global deluge then appears to be at complete odds with scientific data, which may encourage some not only to doubt the scriptures, but to even question the existence of God. Therefore, can one create better assumptions about the nature of the Flood of Noah and yet still accept what is taught in Church? We examine several scriptures including those specifically referencing the flood from the point of view of the prophets who wrote the story of the Flood in order to answer this question.

One must examine the scriptures from the point of view of the prophets who wrote the story of the Flood and be open to scientific understanding of this issue

Although this criticism can be directed at the LDS church, it is really directed at anyone who believes in a literal reading of the Old and New Testament. LDS leaders have in the past taught the concept of a global flood based upon such a reading. We will continue to learn more "line upon line as we create more effective ways to understand this issue.

Genesis 7:19-23 reads:

19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Similar references to the destruction of all flesh from off the earth are found in the New Testament in Matthew 24:39, Luke 17:26, 1 Pet 3:20, 2 Pet 2:5, and 2 Pet 3:6 and in Latter-day scripture in Moses 8:25-30, and Alma 10:22. These passages have long been interpreted to mean that the entire globe was covered by water (although some including John Widtsoe have pointed out that the reader is left to wonder how "the mountains were covered" by water "fifteen cubits" deep — approximately 23 feet.) The primary reason for this global interpretation is the use of the word "earth." When modern readers see the word "earth," they envision the entire planetary sphere. Dr. Duane E. Jeffery elaborates:

A critical issue in the Flood story in the King James Bible has to do with translations of the Hebrew words eretz and adamah as meaning the entire “earth.” What do these terms actually mean? It is widely recognized that Hebrew is a wonderful language for poets, since virtually every word has multiple meanings. But that same characteristic makes it a horrible language for precision. As it turns out, eretz and adamah can indeed be a geographical reference akin to what we usually mean by “the earth.” But it is not at all clear that the ancients had the concept of a spherical planet that you and I do. Many scholars argue that the Bible writers thought in terms of a flat earth that was covered by a bowl-shaped firmament into which the windows of heaven were literally cut..." [19]

The concept of a spherical earth did not appear in Jewish thought until the fourteenth or fifteenth century

In fact, the concept of a spherical earth "did not appear in Jewish thought until the fourteenth or fifteenth century." [20] The word "earth," as used in the Bible, simply refers to solid ground or land, as opposed to water (see Genesis 1:10 — "God called the dry land Earth; and...the waters called he Seas...."). It is, of course, possible that earlier prophets had a more advanced view of the nature of the earth—this perspective could, however, have been lost to later centuries and scribes.

The concept of a global flood has become further reinforced within the Church by the fact that Church leaders teach that the flood washed away the earth's wickedness (Baptism of the earth)

The concept of a global flood has become further reinforced within the Church by the fact that modern day prophets and apostles have taught that the flood washed away the earth's wickedness and at times with passages such as 1 Pet 3:20-21. For example, in 1880 Elder Orson Pratt stated that God "required our globe to be baptized by a flow of waters, and all of its sins were washed away, not one sin remaining." [21] Joseph Smith, Jr. taught that Noah was born to save seed of everything when the earth was washed of its wickedness by the flood. [22] Such wickedness could include man's wickedness, or it could imply a need for the earth itself to have a type of baptism.

Further reading



Question: How could the Garden of Eden have been in Missouri if the Flood was local?

This question requires a lot of assumptions, and cannot be answered

A question related to the scope of the Flood that arises is how the Garden of Eden could possibly have been located in Missouri if Noah's flood was not global, since his posterity appeared in the Old World. If one were making assumptions about a localized flood in Noah's day, one would have to assume that the flood originated wherever Noah was, and that for as long as the ark drifted, extended at least as far as Noah could see. It would be difficult to know where Noah was before the flood, but the length of Noah's journey could be quite far based upon storm conditions and the time afloat.

One "limited flood" explanation that has been proposed for this is that Noah built his ark and either went down the Mississippi River valley, or that he built the ark on the East Coast of the North American continent. Another line of thought is that the placement of the Garden on the North American continent was more of a symbolic act intended to "sacralize" the land—thus providing it with its own "sacred history" similar to that of the Old World. The truth is, however, that the Biblical description of the location of the Garden of Eden does not match up with existing Old World geography, any more than it does with New World geography. [23] (For a more in-depth treatment of this subject, see Kevin Barney, Was the Garden of Eden Really in Missouri? and the wiki article Garden of Eden in Missouri?).


Question: Doesn't the Bible say that the continents were divided immediately after the Flood?

At least a few leaders of the Church have been of this view that the continents were divided during or after the Flood

Prominently, prior to becoming president of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that

in the beginning all of the land surface was in one place as it was in the days of Peleg, (Genesis 10:25.) that the earth was divided. Some Bible commentators have concluded that this division was one concerning the migrations of the inhabitants of the earth between them, but this is not the case. While this is but a very brief statement, yet it speaks of a most important event. The dividing of the earth was not an act of division by the inhabitants of the earth by tribes and peoples, but a breaking asunder of the continents, thus dividing the land surface and creating the Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere. [24]

John Taylor also expressed similar views, albeit more briefly. [25] It is perhaps important to note that then-Elder Smith wrote that "By looking at a wall map of the world, you will discover how the land surface along the northern and southern coast of the American Hemisphere and Europe and Africa has the appearance of having been together at one time." [26] Elder Smith was writing between 1953 and 1966; modern continental drift theory was only beginning to gain acceptance during this period (even by 1977, a geology textbook would note that "a poll of geologists now would probably show a substantial majority who favor the idea of drift," while also providing a substantial critique of the theory. [27]

It is difficult to know, then, if Elder Smith would have revised his view of the implication that continents "fit," jigsaw-puzzle-like, into each other had he been aware of some of the later evidence. He was certainly humble enough to renounce other views which he had expressed which contradicted later scientific advances.

Scriptures that refer to the earth being "divided" refer to groups of people being separated

A few scriptures, then, refer to the earth being divided:

Genesis 10:25 and 1 Chronicles 1:19: And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg; because in his days the earth was divided: and his brother’s name was Joktan.
D&C 133:24: And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.

There is no serious biblical scholarship that reads these verses as implying a rapid drift of the continents

The verses in Genesis and 1 Chronicles are describing the descendants of Shem. LDS scholar Hugh Nibley viewed Genesis 10:25 (which says that in the days of Peleg "the earth was divided") as meaning "the earth was divided among the children of Noah." There is no serious biblical scholarship that reads these verses as implying a rapid drift of the continents—partly because such an idea would have been utterly foreign to writers in that time period. Some members have preferred to take the reading of Elder Smith as described above.

Note that a belief that the continents were physically divided during the flood contradicts the belief that the Garden of Eden was on the Western continent, since there would have been no "Western hemisphere" prior to the Flood. At best one would have to say that the Garden of Eden was on the same continent that the modern Middle East is on, but that it was a little further west than believed by traditional fundamentalist Christians.

See also: Peleg


Response to claim: "This doesn’t stop FAIR from acknowledging and admitting to the impossibility of Noah’s Ark and the global flood"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

This doesn’t stop FAIR from acknowledging and admitting to the impossibility of Noah’s Ark and the global flood.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This is a misrepresentation. FairMormon has never claimed "the impossibility of Noah's ark." We believe that the prophet Noah existed, that he was commanded to build an ark, that he was commended to gather animals, and that he and his family were saved from a flood which covered his world. It is only the scope of that flood that produces differences of opinion.

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

Question: Are Church members required to believe in a global flood?

Members should study the scriptures from the perspective of the prophets who wrote details regarding the flood and compare them to scientific understanding.

More information on this is presented in this article.

Typically, references to the Flood are presented in the context of teaching some Gospel principle

The early prophets and apostles frequently taught their beliefs regarding a global flood using the scriptures. In modern times a belief in a universal, global flood event continues to be widely-held within the Church. A search for the full term "global flood" on the official Church website (www.lds.org) produces only a single reference in the January 1998 Ensign, although there are a number of references in other articles to the Flood being of a global nature even up to the present time. (see: Statements by General Authorities related to the Flood) Typically, references to the Flood are presented in the context of teaching some Gospel principle. One recent article in the Ensign, written by BYU professor Donald W. Parry, clearly and directly indicates his opinion that the flood was global in nature.

Still other people accept parts of the Flood story, acknowledging that there may have been a local, charismatic preacher, such as Noah, and a localized flood that covered only a specific area of the world, such as the region of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers or perhaps even the whole of Mesopotamia. Yet these people do not believe in a worldwide or global flood. Both of these groups—those who totally deny the historicity of Noah and the Flood and those who accept parts of the story—are persuaded in their disbelief by the way they interpret modern science. They rely upon geological considerations and theories that postulate it would be impossible for a flood to cover earth’s highest mountains, that the geologic evidence (primarily in the fields of stratigraphy and sedimentation) does not indicate a worldwide flood occurred any time during the earth’s existence.

There is a third group of people—those who accept the literal message of the Bible regarding Noah, the ark, and the Deluge. Latter-day Saints belong to this group. In spite of the world’s arguments against the historicity of the Flood, and despite the supposed lack of geologic evidence, we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God’s prophets. [28]

Knowing the exact nature of the flood does not constitute a critical part of Latter-day Saint theology

Knowing the exact nature of the flood does not constitute a critical part of Latter-day Saint theology.[29] Duane E. Jeffrey notes that ideas of a global flood may have resulted from a widespread local problem. A current hypothesis that has been gaining ground since 1998 with regards to the biblical account specifically is that a significant local (to Noah) flooding event occurred in the area now occupied by the Black Sea. Evidence has been discovered which has led a number of researchers to believe that the Black Sea area was once occupied by a completely isolated freshwater lake at a much lower level than the ocean. The theory is that the sea level rose and eventually broke through the Bosporus shelf, resulting in a rapid flooding event which would have wiped out all life living along the shores of the lake [30]


Response to claim: "Other events/claims that science has discredited"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

other events/claims that science has discredited.

 *Tower of Babel

 *People living to be 600+ years old

[. . .]

 *Jonah and the whale

* People turning into salt in Sodom & Gomorrah

[. . .]

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Latter-day Saints believe that the study of all things including science can help them to be better instructed in doctrine (D&C 88:77-79).

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Question: Do Mormons believe that faith and science are mutually exclusive?

Science and religion are both dynamic, growing areas of human inquiry and knowledge

Science and religion are both dynamic, growing areas of human inquiry and knowledge. Neither knowledge set has yet arrived at a final form. This makes it impossible to judge whether science and religion are incompatible since we're not currently able to see the entirety of either of them. Instead of jumping to conclusions about incomplete data, the LDS approach is one of patience and confidence that, in the end after all truth has been revealed, whatever might now appear incompatible between science and religion will finally be resolved.

Latter-day Saints believe that God is, in essence, the greatest scientist of all

Latter-day Saints believe that God is, in essence, the greatest scientist of all. We also acknowledge that we are continually learning. To assume that we now have all the answers is simply naive.

Latter-day Saints are not required to discard science in favor of religion

Latter-day Saints are not required to discard science in favor of religion. Many Latter-day Saints are heavily involved in scientific research without suffering a loss of faith. Not only do we believe that science is continually being updated, but that Gospel knowledge will be updated as well. As the 9th Article of Faith states:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

Latter-day Saints acknowledge that they do not understand everything about how the earth was created

We acknowledge that we do not understand everything regarding the manner in which God created the earth, but we have been assured through revelation that at some future time we will be allowed to understand these things. Neither religion nor science knows everything, but revelation provides us with sufficient knowledge to obtain salvation. In religion, as in science, all should be constantly seeking for the "further light and knowledge" that comes from God.

Doctrine and Covenants

Doctrine and Covenants 88: 78-79

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven (cosmology, astrology, etc.) and in the earth (biology, geology), and under the earth (archaeology); things which have been (history), things which are (sociology, politics), things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms--

When determining what God is trying to reveal, we shouldn’t be afraid of what science tells us about certain events recorded in the scriptures.

Eventually all will be revealed about the earth:

Doctrine and Covenants 101: 32-34

32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things-- 33 Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof--

34 Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven


Henry Eyring: "Is there any conflict between science and religion? There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men"

Henry Eyring (father of Henry B. Eyring), developer of the Absolute Rate Theory of chemical reactions: One of the most important developments of 20th-century chemistry:

Is there any conflict between science and religion? There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men.[31]


Question: Do Mormons believe that if there is a conflict between science and religion, that the science is incorrect?

Critics claim that the Church teaches that science is something "evil" to be discarded when it conflicts with religion

Secular critics charge that Mormonism and science are incompatible. In fact, Dr. Simon Southerton, in his book Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church devotes 66 pages to a section titled "The Troubled Interface between Mormonism and Science." Critics point out that elements found in the scriptures are incompatible with current scientific beliefs. Southerton's work argues the Church considers science something "evil" which ought to be arbitrarily discarded whenever Church leaders speak.

Latter-day Saints in many ways have a more liberal view of science than some of their traditional Christian brethren

In reality, Latter-day Saints in many ways have a more liberal view of science than some of their traditional Christian brethren. We believe God operates according to certain laws. If there are things that God can do which seem to contradict what we know through current science, we assume there are scientific laws at work which are beyond our current understanding. The state of science is constantly changing. What science declared to be "true" in the 19th century is not "true" in the 21st century. It is reasonable to expect that some things that we consider to be scientifically "true" now may be revised according to additional knowledge that is gained in the future. Brigham Young recognized this when he said,

We differ very much with Christendom in regard to the sciences of religion. Our religion embraces all truth and every fact in existence, no matter whether in heaven, earth, or hell. A fact is a fact, all truth issues forth from the Fountain of truth, and the sciences are facts as far as men have proved them. [32]

Latter-day Saints are content to accept that they do not understand everything God is capable of doing. The Lord has promised that these things will someday be revealed to us:

Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.(DC 101:32-34)

Doctrine and Covenants 88: 78-79

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven (cosmology, astrology, etc.) and in the earth (biology, geology), and under the earth (archaeology); things which have been (history), things which are (sociology, politics), things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms--

When determining what God is trying to reveal, we shouldn’t be afraid of what science tells us about certain events recorded in the scriptures.

Issues of a perceived incompatibility between science and religion are hardly unique to Mormonism. These issues are shared by all faiths. Failure to resolve scientific and religious contradictions in one's mind can bring into doubt one's very belief that there is a God. Complicating the issue for Latter-day Saints is the fact that living prophets have sometimes expressed their own views on scientific matters, thus causing some to doubt whether or not they could truly be prophets.


Oaks: "We are supposed to learn by both reason and revelation, and that does not happen when we compartmentalize science and religion"

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

Religious persons who pursue scientific disciplines sometimes encounter what seem to be conflicts between the respective teachings of science and religion and must work through how to handle these apparent conflicts. Others, such as I in my pursuit of business and law, can be less troubled. For me, that detachment ended when I was appointed president of Brigham Young University. This new position required me to search out, learn, and articulate answers to questions I had previously been privileged to ignore....

Colleges and universities must of course teach science--facts and theories--but Church educators, like the BYU faculty, refrain from substituting science for God and continue to rely on the truths of religion. In the study of science, teachers and students with religious faith have the challenge to define the relationship of science and religion in their thinking. They have the special advantage of seeing countless scientific evidences of the Divine Creator. In those exceptional circumstances where science and religion seem to conflict, they have the wisdom to wait patiently in the assurance that truth will eventually prevail. In doing so, most conclude that religion does not have the answers to all questions and that some of what science "knows" is tentative and theoretical and will be replaced in time by new discoveries and new theories.

Some try to deal with apparent conflicts by compartmentalizing science and religion--one in one category, such as Monday through Saturday, and the other in another category, such as Sunday. That was my initial approach, but I came to learn its inadequacy. We are supposed to learn by both reason and revelation, and that does not happen when we compartmentalize science and religion. Our searchings should be disciplined by human reason and also enlightened by divine revelation. IN the end, truth has only one content and one source, and it encompasses both science and religion....

Latter-day Saints should strive to use both science and religion to extend knowledge and to build faith. But those who do so must guard against the significant risk that efforts to end the separation between scientific scholarship and religious faith will only promote a substandard level of performance, where religion and science dilute one another instead of strengthening both.

For some, an attempt to mingle reason and faith can result in irrational scholarship or phony religion, either condition demonstrably worse than the described separation. This danger is illustrated by the case of an international scholar who was known as an expert in English law when he was in America and as an expert in American law when he was in England. Not fully distinguished in either field, he nevertheless managed to slip back and forth between the two so that his expertise was never properly subjected to qualified review in either. As a result, he provided a poor imitation in both. A genuine mingling of the insights of reason and revelation is infinitely more difficult....

Each of us should pursue...truth by reason and by faith. And each of us should increase our ability to communicate that truth by an inspired combination of the language of scholarship and the language of faith.

I am confident that when we progress to the point where we know all things, we will find a harmony of all truth. Until that time, it is wise for us to admit that our understanding--in religion and in science--is incomplete and that the resolution of most seeming conflicts is best postponed. In the meantime, we do the best we can to act upon our scientific knowledge, where that is required, and always upon our religious faith, placing our ultimate reliance for the big questions and expectations of life on the eternal truths revealed by our Creator, which transcend human reason, "for with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). [33]


Question: What’s the best way to understand the Tower of Babel scientifically?

By all indications, we can believe that something happened. Though we should probably be aware that exaggerations very likely exist in the account

The science behind the Tower of Babel can be separated into two questions 1) Was there a tower that could reach the heavens? 2) Were tongues actually confused? Both of those questions are addressed in this excellent article by Michael Ash who cites Hugh Nibley:

Michael R. Ash - Is the Tower of Babel historical or mythological?

Last week I began discussing the Jaredites and the Tower of Babel, and how the story might be reconciled for those who believe that science and religion do not necessarily conflict. Some people, for instance, believe that the story of the Tower of Babel falls into the realm of fantasy rather than history. There are historical indicators, however, that suggest that the story is a myth in the scholarly sense.

While most people think of myths as fables (which is what the word actually means), scholars loosely define myths as culturally-shared narratives that bind, inspire or help delineate a particular culture. In the academic world, the word myth “is detached from popular associations with falsehood.” They equate to “legends,” which may or may not be based on actual truths. Myths are often pre-scientific stories used to explain why things are as they are. They may represent “types” or models, or they might exaggerate a real event. They may conflate multiple events into a single story, and they typically make erroneous assumptions based on an incomplete understanding of actual facts.

Anciently, oral and written traditions were not “histories” in the modern sense. While such accounts were often based on actual events, historical accuracy was not a high priority. The main purpose was to share cultural events, heroes and villains intentionally selected to relate specific points. Tales of real events could be molded to help convey the moral of the story. As detailed in a past issue, while I believe in actual Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites, I also believe we can better appreciate the scriptures when we realize that ancient societies — including prophets — recorded their narratives according to their own understanding of the world around them.

When we shine the light of science and scholarship on the Tower of Babel, we find some interesting things. First, the word “Babel” comes from an Assyro-Babylonian word that means “Gate of God” and is related to a Hebrew word that means “confusion.” It appears that the author(s) of the Babel account are engaging in some word-play to make a particular point about the story. It’s also interesting to note that the book of Ether never mentions “Babel” but simply the “great tower.”

In the Bible, we learn that some time after the days of Noah the land of Shinar (modern Mesopotamia) was ruled by the wicked Nimrod. In Genesis 10:9 he’s referred to as a “mighty hunter before the Lord.” Early Judaic traditions, however, interpret this as a mighty hunter “in opposition to the Lord.” Nimrod’s name, in fact, comes from the Hebrew word verb “let us revolt.” Once again, we see Hebrew word-play utilized as a teaching tool. Nimrod was not a hunter of animals but of the souls of men. And according to ancient traditions, Nimrod was responsible for building the Tower of Babel.

In ancient Mesopotamia, from at least 3,000 B.C., we find the construction of ziggurats — stepped temple monuments. Ancient cultures believed that gods resided on the tops of mountains, and this belief was even incorporated into Greek mythology, which taught that Zeus lived atop Mount Olympus. Early prophets, including Abraham and Nephi, went up into the mountains to pray or commune with God. Likewise Moses met God on Mount Sinai. Temples were considered to be man-made cosmic mountains. As Dr. Nibley notes, they are the “‘binding-place of heaven and earth,’ where alone one could establish contact with the upper and lower worlds.” The ziggurats of Mesopotamia were temples or towers built to reach the heavens or intended “gates” to God. While Nimrod’s connection to the Tower of Babel can only be inferred from the Bible, other ancient traditions support this inference. According to some of these ancient traditions, Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, acquired (stole — in many legends) the skin garment that God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. The garment supposedly gave Nimrod great power — God-like power. Nibley wrote:

“Now I am not insisting for a minute that the legendary Nimrod ever existed. … I am only interested in the type of thing that happened, and after having examined hundreds of legends from all parts of the ancient world, all telling substantially the same story, I think that anyone would find it difficult, in view of the evidence, to deny that there was some common event behind them. It seems to have been a single event, moreover.”

In ancient Judaic thought, Babylon (the ancient city-state of Mesopotamia) represented the wicked while Zion represented the righteous. Since the “priesthood” is God’s power bestowed upon mankind, an imitation God-like power would be a false priesthood and a tower associated with this power would be a false temple. The Tower of Babel, therefore would represent — either historically or mythically — the false temples and priesthoods of wicked men who opposed the true priesthood and the living God.[34]

Further Reading

As further reading, the following is an even more detailed treatment of the issue:

The Ur Ziggurat. Many Biblical scholars have argued that these types of ziggurats could have been the Tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible. This is one proposed location.


Question: What’s the best way to understand the ages of antediluvian patriarchs scientifically?

There is no consensus among biblical scholars as to how to interpret these ages.

Scholars have generally separated the interpretation of the ages into three camps: the literal view, the symbolic view, and the blended view. The literal view seeks to understand every age as literal historical, the symbolic view seeks to understand why the biblical authors might have used these ages to represent perhaps power or prestige, and the blended view seeks to find somewhere in the middle for their interpretation. All views are laid out in this article by Andrew P. Kvasnica from the Dallas Theological Seminary published in 2005.

Andrew P. Kvasnica: The Ages of the Antedeluvian Patriarchs in Genesis 5

Introduction

Numbers command attention. Whether it's on a recipe, on a price tag, on a head count, or on a paycheck, numbers make us search for their meaning, and we trust that meaning to be dependable. We hope that number one means first place, and that having twins means there are two new babies rather than five. Numbers have inherent reliability.

Sometimes, though, when sweat is pouring down your face, you might venture a guess and say, "Man, it must be 500 degrees!" Also, why does the 13th floor contain more underlying meaning than just the floor on level 13? Some numbers have inherent meaning that varies from their stated value”numbers given for effect.

The numbers in Gen 5 appear to be actual long ages of the antediluvian patriarchs. However, many have taken note of their atypically extensive size. Living over 900 years?! This has caused many scholars and other curious people to plunge into finding out what these numbers actually mean.

This paper is designed to present the various major issues regarding the interpretation of the numbers in Gen 5. Realistically, the issue must essentially include numerical, literary, rhetorical, cultural, historical, chronological, grammatical, geographical, and authorial issues (besides many more, probably). To interpret Gen 5 without considering all of the factors listed above is simply an incomplete interpretation. So, this paper is meant to reach a conclusion on a small part of the vast whole. It covers the numerical aspect of Gen 5 followed by a brief evaluation of some noted literary factors.

On the Meaning of the Numbers

Contemporary and historical solutions to the numbers in Gen 5 show three categories of general interpretation: literal, symbolic, and fictional/symbolic. Among these solutions, there is also an interpretation that combines the literal and symbolic view. This view, as literal/symbolic, is discussed following the symbolic view.

THE LITERAL VIEW

Historically, the most prevalent way to take these numbers is as literal ages.[35]These numbers are called "conventional" by John J. Davis, Biblical Numerology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968). Philo seems to accept their accuracy in his Questions and Answers on Genesis, 1:91, The Works of Philo: New Updated Edition, trans. C. D. Yonge (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 811. Josephus, in his Antiquities, even advises against speculation of these numbers because they are unlike ours, The New Complete Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 1.3.9§105.</ref> The numbers mean what they appear at first sight to mean. This is reason enough for many. Some add reasons to this and hold that the patriarchs needed to personally pass on to future generations the wisdom and art that they learned”such a duty, it is said, could not have happened during a "normal" life span of 70 or 80 years.[36] Some also propose longevity based on the idea of a water vapor canopy that protected the earth from physically and genetically harmful solar radiation.[37]

Against this, though, factors are brought up opposing a literal reading of the numbers. First, the numbers don't appear to be random. Each number in Gen 5 (except Methuselah's 969 years) ends in either a 0, 5, 2, or 7, which can be thought of as a factor of 5 (0 or 5) and at times adding 7 (e.g. 5 + 7 = 12). Etz implies that the chance of this happening without deliberate alteration is essentially impossible.[38]Some feel that the definition of "year" was different in this context and should rather mean "month" or "day." For example, Methuselah at the age of 969 years would instead be only 969 months, or now, 81 years by the new figuring”a more reasonable age in today's standards. Using this definition, though, places the numbers into even more severe problems than at the outset.[39]This issue loses weight, too, just by the context of Gen 6. Wenham agrees that a year at that time was still about 360 days.[40] Westermann, though, asserts that the basic issue of "greater human vitality" is not reason enough to explain the ages.[41]

Taking these numbers literally would also require reconciling differences between them in the MT, LXX, and SP. The totals of the ages in these are 1,556 (MT), 2,142 (LXX), and 1,207 (SP) years. To solve this dilemma, some suggest that there was an artificial scheme that was developed for these texts.[42] Dealing with this difficulty, Larsson contends that those who redacted Genesis "did not look upon the ages of the patriarchs as historical data but used them to develop systems with different purposes."[43]What then is this system? Larsson proposes a varied use of chronology and different calendars by the scribes of the different text traditions.[44] This, however, doesn't solve any difficulty with the size of the numbers.

Although taking the numbers at face value seems most appropriate (as in our present culture), the general size of the ages leads many to reconsider their validity as actual ages. The solving of the MT/LXX/SP number differences seems to contribute to the difficulty of seeing these numbers as actual ages. However, there are still many proponents of the literal interpretation of these numbers.

THE SYMBOLIC VIEW

Many also propose a symbolic use of the numbers. To lay the foundation, Waltke states that there is enough evidence for this in the Scripture that it couldn't have been coincidence,[45] and Plaut states that there is a "biblical predilection for number symbolism."[46] Some of these matters are in relation to the prevalence of the numbers seven and ten, known respectively in diverse ancient Near Eastern texts for their perfection and completeness. The list of ten names in Gen 5 has caused many to see an "undoubtedly" deliberate construction of the names to fit the scheme of an "optimal ten-generation pattern" which would then "lend an authentic ring" to this genealogy.[47]

Larsson supports the symbolic use of numbers stating that playing with numbers, the magic of certain figures, and the symbolism of certain dates was "nothing new in the chronology of the Bible."[48]However, Hasel contends that some of the foundations of this system are weak. He cites the missing connection between the strength of the historical content of the OT and the use of this system that seems to take that history lightly.[49]

Barnouin suggests a different symbolic use of the numbers. He proposes the scribal use of synodic periods of the planets for some of the numbers in Gen 5. For example, 777 (the years of Lamech) would be related to the cumulative synodic periods of Jupiter and Saturn; 962 (of Jared) would be related in the same way to Venus and Saturn.</ref> He suggests that, according to the Babylonians, there was a connection between age and astrologic periods. Wenham doubts this however, except that it might show the orderliness of life.[50]

There is plenty of literature that proposes number symbolism in the Bible, but the prospect of it being used for all numbers in Gen 5 still isn't convincing to some. The trouble with the symbolism is that among all of the conjectures, no one knows for certain what the numbers symbolize.[51]

THE LITERAL/SYMBOLIC VIEW

Some suggest a system of figuring the numbers based on knowledge of ancient Near Eastern king lists and the use of a sexagesimal number system (i.e., base 60, rather than the decimal base 10). The figuring for this is essentially based on the Sumerian King List, which is a list of kings who reigned before and after the flood. In general, the numbers of some of the Sumerian texts show a predilection to the number 60.[52] Because of the age longevity comparisons between the SKL and the genealogy of Gen 5, scholars searched to find a way to link the Sumerian method of reckoning numbers to the biblical text. Using the number 60 as a starting point, proposals have been made on how the large numbers of Gen 5 were actually to be seen against the backdrop of the Sumerian number system.

Despite the interesting appearance of correlating the numbers between the two texts, heated disagreement exists as to whether or not this system of figuring can be adequately used to explain the numbers in Gen 5. The debate hinges not only on the validity of the math and possible Mesopotamian connection between the SKL and Gen 5, but also on the validity of comparing these two texts. Wenham finds the math interesting, but doubts its appropriate use in understanding Gen 5,[53] and Hasel contends that the whole comparison seems forced to fit together.[54] Bailey, though, has kept the connection alive,[55] also along with Walton.[56]

Because of the continuing debate on the alleged connection between the SKL and Gen 5, here is a basic look at some pros and cons to each position. Bailey sets forth five reasons why the parallel should be maintained,[57] but these are fairly simplistic and have little weight in many of the foundational matters concerning the SKL and Gen 5.[58] Cassuto states that there is "a similarity here than cannot be considered fortuitous." He also claims that there was "undoubted" Israelite knowledge of the Babylonian tradition of genealogies as well as a shared appreciation of the sexagesimal system, the number seven, and the span of five years (which is to be noted, 60 months).[59] Because of this, he feels that the writer of the Torah used the Babylonian tradition, but desired to "purify and refine" the generations and ages and "to harmonize them with its own spirit."[60] Walton states that, since the totals of the numbers in the two texts can be found in the same mathematical way, that there was a "common tradition;" and therefore, possibly there was a time when they were the same text”"coincidence [that these texts were never related] is out of the question."[61]

Against the SKL/Gen 5 correlation, Hasel counters with a diverse array of observations. Gen 5 is a history of mankind, whereas the SKL is a history of a people; Gen 5 is the creation of mankind, whereas the SKL is the establishment of a kingship; Gen 5 is a genealogy, whereas the SKL is a king list; Gen 5 has no hint of a "political ideology or ideal," whereas the SKL is political;[62] Gen 5 is the tracing of ancestors, whereas the SKL is the unification of the land; and, Gen 5 has ten listings, whereas the SKL (in different copies) has from seven to ten.[63] Hess continues the assault by observing that Gen 5 involves kinship relations, whereas the SKL deals with succession of rulership and office holders; Gen 5 numbers are to record lifespan, whereas the SKL's are for length of reign; Gen 5 moves the reader to look to the future, whereas the SKL looks to the past.[64]

Based on the arguments, it seems that to completely connect and interpret one of these texts by using the other appears to be incorrect. This is based on what seems to be the more foundational reasons behind each text. Still, though, as supported by Cassuto, Bailey, and Walton, the solution to understanding the numbers of Gen 5 by using the SKL method seems to amaze most who study the possible correlation.

THE FICTIONAL/SYMBOLIC VIEW

Lastly, some suggest a completely fictional interpretation of the numbers of Gen 5. Although claiming that there is a good level of historicity with the names and people, Kitchen sees the numbers as "pure myth."[65]Jacobs concurs that these are only legendary numbers resulting from the "fictitious reduction of the enormous numbers" found in other cultures.[66] Others contend that these numbers were only meant to point the reader to a time in an "unimaginably distant past,"[67] or that they were meant to show the "progressive deterioration of everything,"[68] or that the numbers only are meant to signify that the patriarchs were "larger than life" and thus superior to their descendants.[69]

However, the numbers still refer to something. So, some propose solutions by using decimal mathematics. Etz states that the writer of Genesis began with "a set of [invented] plausible numbers." From there, "each lifespan (except Enoch's) was increased by 300 years," and Enoch's by only 100 years. Then all numbers were multiplied by 10, then divided by 4, and "rounded down to whole numbers if necessary."[70] He suggests that the patriarchs had life spans similar to today”these normal life spans make up his originating "plausible numbers."

Another computation is proposed by Young. His figuring is based on Babylonian sexagesimal algebra with which he states you can account for all but three figures in both genealogies of Gen 5 and 11: those figures being 777, 365, and 110, which, he states, have already been solved by other methods.[71]For example, Adam's lifespan could be found by using the formula x² + ax = b where (for Adam) x = 30 and, in this case, a = 1. After computing, the result is 930 years. Young states that this "basic type" of algebra is a "fitting manner" with which to begin a series of numbers regarding the patriarchs.[72] To calculate the ages of other patriarchs, one would use any of a number of different algebraic formulas. He states that his calculations were apparently "the classic examples taught in the classrooms over the centuries" and that, based on persisting cultural mathematical methods, "a Sumerian writer of the late third millennium and a Jewish priest of the sixth century would have been exposed to essentially the same mathematical education in a Mesopotamian school."[73]

Besides the general thought in the scholarly community that these methods are a little too involved, there is additional information shed regarding some views of the ancient Hebrews and math. It is mentioned that the rabbis had a lack of interest in theoretical math unless it applied to "practical applications that would help them to construct the Hebrew calendar."[74]In agreement with this is that there was also a general lack of interest in math within the community unless it helped the people to live better quality lives.[75] In light of this, it would seem difficult to imagine that the math problems above would be used in the chronologies or genealogies of the MT. However, the math does seem to amaze the observer.

A kaleidoscope of scholarly proposals have settled on the meaning of the numbers in Gen 5. Each proposal is met with an antagonistic view. The full meaning of these numbers, in the end, appears uncertain. Josephus (although supporting a literal view) comments on the number and longevity issue by stating, "let everyone look upon [these matters] as he thinks fit."[76]Sarna comments that what these numbers represent individually or collectively, symbolically or schematically, are "presently unknown...If any such exists, it has not yet yielded its secret."[77]

On the Purpose of Gen 5, and other Literary Factors

Aside from trying to figure out the numbers directly, many scholars look simply at the overarching purpose of the genealogy in Gen 5. Out of the majority views, there are two different purposes given. The first is that the numbers, and everything included, are a literary means of communicating the divine blessing directly from God through Adam to Noah. This is termed the theological purpose of Gen 5.[78] Others see the purpose of this genealogy as simply moving the narrative quickly from the story of Cain to the event of the flood.[79] However people think about this second purpose, it is difficult to miss the extensive length of time that passes relatively quickly through this genealogy. Aside from what the numbers mean directly, many propose these purposes as the themes that drive the entire genealogy.

In regard to the purpose of the Gen 5 genealogy, I would briefly like to note what I feel are some significant literary aspects in the text. Many major things happen in the first five chapters of Genesis. Upon reaching the record of the descendents of Cain in 4:16, rhetorically the story speeds through the family line of Cain. Although the details of this family are major, they come across as less-so because of a less structured literary presentation and the author's method of keeping the reader/listener moving. The details seem to have no felt depth, and the roles of the descendents of Cain come across almost as if the author felt obligated to put them in the text.

At Gen 4:25, the scene takes a dramatic shift, which is even heightened by some positive discourse from Adam's wife (directly contrasting the more negative feeling in discourse from Cain's family). The post-script in 4:26 about people beginning to worship the Lord draws the readers attention even more. In 5:1-2 there is a harkening back to the first creation of mankind in the Lord's image and likeness (which is lacking in 4:17), as if the Lord was doing something new again. Again, rhetorically, these things seem to slow down the reader/listener. Lastly, 5:3-31 seems long and deliberate (contrasted with the hurriedness and chaotic structure of 4:17-24) as if this was the place to sit and ponder. Enhancing this feeling, the multiple ages slow the pace of the text, and through its methodical rhythm, we learn about each descendant. The pace continues in a consistent way except when even more positive shifts in the pattern come (as with Enoch in 5:22-24). Then, after a while, the text lands at Noah, and it's on to another story.

Considering these literary factors, the overriding point of the Gen 5 genealogy seems to be a captivation for the reader/listener to see what God is doing. The rhetorical development before and during the genealogy lend to this purpose. In the genealogy, the size of the numbers (whatever they mean) add punch and cause the reader to take more notice of what's happening. To me, the purpose of the parts of the Gen 4 and 5 genealogies seem to contribute to this stark notice of what the Lord is recreating anew. Gen 5 tells of a line of mankind who will have the image and likeness of the Lord present in them to do a good work through the Lord's blessing. This overriding point must not be missed.

AN ASSESSMENT

In regard to this foregoing glance at the purpose, it would seem that, as the numbers stand, they don't appear to be the point of the genealogy. In regard to their meaning, the field seems quite open. Each view of literal, symbolic, literal/symbolic, or fictional/symbolic interpretation of these numbers appears to carry enough strong evidence for and against each category. By looking at the evidence, it would appear that an assessment would yield inconclusive evidence to convincingly prefer one interpretation over another. However, a lack of determinative interpretation in this area does not cause the reader/listener to miss the point of the genealogy. Literary clues and the sheer presence of the numbers seem deliberately designed to lead us to sense the blessed work of the Lord through Adam and Seth. Levin notes a common view in regard to the structure of a genealogy: "form [of the genealogy] must always follow function" so that if the literary need is different, its presented form is different.[80] The literary and structural factors in the Gen 5 genealogy and surrounding context seem to strongly support a primary point: the Lord's work in blessing this lineage. In light of this, all factors of this genealogy would be subservient to that main point, i.e., all details, including the meaning of the numbers, serve the overriding primary purpose of the genealogy. The form of this genealogy, with all of its details, follows its ultimate function.

Conclusion

A look at the technical information regarding the numbers of Gen 5 yielded various main camps regarding interpretation. Assessment of the technical evidence leads to a lack of convincing conclusiveness on the exact meaning of the numbers, i.e., an interpretation that can explain all of the issues and that rings true with all aspects of the text. The purpose of the genealogy (whether it be a theological purpose or a literary way to speed through time) helps the reader/listener to get a more primary point and not to get hopelessly lost on the details of the presentation.

In light of all this, I don't feel that our lack of conclusiveness of the exact meaning of the text should cause anyone to despair about the truthfulness of Scripture. I think it's fair to state that what the Lord intended to mean by these numbers and this genealogy is still what he intends, whether or not we understand it fully. I hold that the text, even apart from full human understanding, remains completely reliable to give its intended meaning.[81]


Question: What is the best way to understand the story of Jonah and the Whale scientifically?

The story of Jonah and the big fish is best seen as a beautiful Hebrew poem—the main point of the story coming in the last four verses in the last chapter

From the Latter-day Saint Bible Dictionary:

The present book of Jonah does not claim to be from the hand of the prophet; it describes an episode in his life and is due to some later writer. The key to the book is to be found in Jonah 3:10–4:11 in the reasons the prophet gives for his flight and unwillingness to preach at Nineveh. The writer is opposing a narrowmindedness that would confine the love of God to a single nation. He shows that Jehovah reigns everywhere, over sea and land; even in the gentile world the minds of men are conscious of sin and prepared to acknowledge that Jehovah is God. The book is a beautiful poem, whether it paints the humanity of the gentile sailors; the mourning of the prophet over the decay of the grass of the field; or the divine tenderness in ministering to the prophet with his imperfect conceptions or in pitying the little children of Nineveh. The story of Jonah was referred to by our Lord on two occasions when He was asked for a sign from heaven. In each case He gave “the sign of the prophet Jonah,” the event in that prophet’s life being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death and resurrection (Matt. 12:39–41; 16:4; Luke 11:29–30).[82]

Latter-day Saint biblical scholar Ben Spackman elaborates:

Jonah is four short chapters. I’ve done a lot with Jonah in the past, addressing the short book several times, from several angles, including the history question. In brief, if you’re focused on the “whale” instead of the last four verses of chapter 4, you’re entirely missing the point.

[. . .]

Jonah strikes me as very much as a satirical parable, and I explain this in the podcast. But what is ultimately important is the last few verses of the last chapter.[83]


Question: What’s the best way to understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot turning into a pillar of salt scientifically?

There is no consensus as to how to understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife scientifically.

There are a number of rock deposits located close to claimed locations of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, since we do not know the actual location of Sodom and Gomorrah, we cannot be sure about the rock/salt deposits that are formed in the shape of pillars at these claimed spots. Wikipedia offers valuable commentary on the historicity of the locations and of the story of Lot’s wife. [84]


Response to claim: "the sun getting its light from Kolob"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

the sun getting its light from Kolob (April 2013)
the sun receives its 'light from the revolutions of Kolob' (October 2014)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This refers to an explanation given for an item in Book of Abraham Facsimile 2. The description is symbolic, and is not referring to "photons."

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Ignorance—The author has difficulty understanding the topic, so he or she assumes that it simply must not have any validity.

Question: What is the light which comes from the presence of God?

The Book of Abraham speaks of "light" which is "borrowed" from Kolob, which is a "governing power" over other planets

Joseph Smith provided this explanation in Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 5:

one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions.

Kolob is said to be the planet nearest to the throne of God, "which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." Abraham 3:9. The light and power of God extend from his throne to govern all things in the universe.

The light of Christ is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the light of the stars

DC 88:7-10:

7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

The light of Christ proceeds from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space, and governs all things

DC 88:11-13:

11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.


Question: Does the Book of Abraham state that the sun gets its photons from Kolob?

The Book of Abraham's reference to "light" is not referring to photons leaving the surface of the sun

The explanation for Facsimile 2, Figure 5 states that the Sun is said to "borrow it light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash":

Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob.

These verses from Abraham admit a variety of interpretations. The suggestion that Abraham must have taught that the photons leaving the surface of the sun originally came from Kolob is completely unjustified.

A figurative and abstract description such as this cannot be forced into conformance with science

There are many scriptures or statements by the prophets that seem to have scientific implications. Unfortunately, they are never couched in modern scientific terms and their meanings are often very obscure. So it is hard to decide who is more foolish — the faithful saint, who interprets them in a way that forces them into agreement with some current view of science, or the faithless critic, who purposely interprets them in a way that is most at odds with current scientific thought. The Book of Abraham quote cited in the criticism above has inspired both kinds of nonsense, including the interpretation found on the web site where this criticism appeared. The wording of Joseph Smith’s explanation of Figure 5 in Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham is, in fact, very difficult to interpret.

To “borrow” means to receive with the intention of returning

First, to “borrow” means to receive with the intention of returning, especially said of a material object or substance. It may also mean to take and adopt as one’s own, especially said of abstractions or ideas, as in “the composer borrowed his harmonic structure from Bach’s Fugue in D Major.” So what does it mean for the sun to “borrow” its light from Kolob? Is light a material or an abstraction? Does the Sun intend to repay the light it borrowed?

"This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made"

What, in fact, is meant by 'light' in this context? Doctrine & Covenants 88:7–13, in wording strongly reminiscent of our Book of Abraham quote, states “7 ...this is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. 8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; 9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; 10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. 11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; 12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space — 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things (emphasis added).” These verses are clearly NOT talking about electromagnetic radiation. Does anyone have a convincing explanation of what they ARE talking about?

A “medium” can mean a material through which some signal propagates or a means or channel through which something is achieved

A “medium” can mean a material through which some signal propagates or a means or channel through which something is achieved. What does it mean here? Does it refer to a material or a means?

What is the "grand Key" called "Kae-e-vanrash"?

What is Kae-e-vanrash? The Book of Abraham says that it is a “grand Key,” or “governing power.” What does that mean? Is Kae-e-vanrash a term for nuclear reactions, gravitation, cosmic rays? Or is it a more spiritual medium such as priesthood or faith, or an organizational structure, or a means used for administrative communications?

This may have been a way to teach the Egyptians that Elohim, who dwells near Kolob, rules over than the sun-god, Amen-Re

And, finally, what are we to understand about the nature of Book of Abraham astronomy? Is it a revelation from God to Abraham explaining the structure of the universe as it would be seen by the astronomers of our day? Or should we remember that “The Lord said unto me: Abraham, I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.” Abraham 3:15, so that, as John Gee has suggested [85], this is simply the teaching that would be easiest for the Egyptians to understand — one that would teach them that Elohim, who dwells near Kolob, rules over than the sun-god, Amen-Re?

Abraham did not teach the Egyptians that photons leaving the Sun came from Kolob

Until someone can make a convincing case that their interpretation of these things is the only reasonable one, any faith-promoting proof from Abraham’s astronomy is a flimsy house of cards and any faith-destroying attack on some straw-man interpretation is misguided. Among the misguided interpretations is the unjustified suggestion that Abraham taught that the photons leaving the surface of the sun originally came from Kolob.


Response to claim: "They carried honey bees across the ocean? Swarms of them?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

They carried honey bees across the ocean? Swarms of them?
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "Does the lack of an explicit statement that they took their prized bees onboard their submarines to the Promised Land necessarily mean they didn't?"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon does not state that the Jaredites brought honeybees across the ocean. It says that they brought them to the coast of the Old World.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Did the Jaredites bring swarms of bees across the ocean in their barges?

The Book of Mormon states that the Jaredites carried swarms of bees with them to the seashore in the Old World

The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Jaredites carried honey bees to the New World. It does state that they carried swarms of honeybees with them to their encampment on the sea shore, where they spent the next four years as they built barges. This is entirely feasible.

There is only one reference to honeybees in the Book of Ether (Ether 2:3-4), and it talks of them being among the provisions that the people of Jared took with them as they traveled to the land of Moriancumer, where they spent the next four years. (Ether 2:13)

3 And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind.

4 And it came to pass that when they had come down into the valley of Nimrod the Lord came down and talked with the brother of Jared; and he was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not.

5 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should ago forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.

6 And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.

13 And now I proceed with my record; for behold, it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.

The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Jaredites carried honey bees to the New World

So, the Jaredites definitely carried swarms of bees with them to the place of the "great sea which divideth the lands," where they "dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years." Does this mean that the Jaredites carried the swarms of honey bees to the New World with them? The Book of Mormon does not state this. This does not preclude the possibility that they did.

Michael Ash notes,

Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World, therefore the argument could simply end here. Did the Jaredites bring bees to the New World? We may never know. Some studies suggest, however, that bees were known in the ancient New World. Bruce Warren, for instance, notes that there “are many references in the Maya region to honey bees in ancient times, and these references occur in ritual contexts, i.e., are of native or pre-Spanish origin." Other New World scholars have observed that “not only was the domesticated bee in ancient America but that there were gods of bees and beekeepers . . . Honey was considered a real treat for the Indians. Equally important was black wax taken from the hives which was often traded for other commodities." [86]


Padilla et al.: "The maya codex Tro-Cortesianus shows drawings of bees and parts of honey combs"

Padilla et al:

In America some stingless bees were kept by the native population. The maya codex Tro-Cortesianus shows drawings of bees and parts of honey combs. Maya beekeepers worked in Yucatan and adjacent regions with the specie Mellipona beecheii, using horizontal logs with end enclosures of clay or stone. With the arrival of spanish colonizers the indians of Yucatan were obliged to pay tributes which consisted mainly of clothing (mostly blankets) and food, although they also allowed payment in wax and honey. [87]


Head: "The indigenous American bee is the melipona (a stingless bee). It produces only about one kilogram of honey per year"

Ronan James Head: [88]

The apis mellifera species was not found in the New World until it was imported from about the seventeenth century AD onward.[89] The indigenous American bee is the melipona (a stingless bee). It produces only about one kilogram of honey per year (compared with apis mellifera, which can produce fifty kilograms). Nevertheless, pre-Columbian Americans did indeed have knowledge of beekeeping and made the most of the melipona.[90] Cortés wrote to the king of Spain in 1519 about the extent of beekeeping among the Indians of Cozumel (Mexico):

The only trade which the Indians have is in bee hives, and our Procurators will bear to Your Highness specimens of the honey and the bee hives that you may commend them to be examined.[91]

The earliest archaeological evidence for American apiculture comes from the Late Preclassic Maya period (ca. 300 BC–AD 300).[92] Modern peasant apiculture in the Yucatán is reminiscent of Egyptian beekeeping: hives (often hollowed-out logs) are stacked vertically on a rack. The lost-wax technique was known in the New World,[89]. and the ancient Maya pantheon included a bee god called Ah Mucan Cab.[90].


Response to claim: "Does the lack of an explicit statement that they took their prized bees onboard their submarines to the Promised Land necessarily mean they didn't?"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

However, the Jaredites regarded their bees very highly, giving them a special name (Deseret), which Moroni considered important and relevant enough to include in his very short history. Does the lack of an explicit statement that they took their prized bees onboard their submarines to the Promised Land necessarily mean they didn't? I'm of the interpretation that they took their prized bees with them. They had already carried their bees for many years in their travels in the wilderness. They carried their swarms of bees to the seashore. When they arrived at the seashore, they were there with their prized bees for four additional years. Why would the Jaredites jettison their cherished bees, which were obviously very special and important to them, when they left to the Promised land?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author is now setting up a strawman so that he can knock it down. He attempts to salvage his previous conclusion that the Book of Mormon asserts that the Jaredites took their bees with them on the barges, even though it doesn't, so that he can knock the idea down by asserting that it is an impossibility. The possibility that the Book of Mormon does not assert that they took bees on the barges destroys the critic's argument. In order to preserve his argument, the author must assert that they aren't simply honey bees: he must now assert that they are regarded "very highly" as "prized bees" (mentioned three times), "cherished bees" and "special and important" bees. His evidence of this? The fact that Moroni said they were called "deseret." He infers all of this from a single Book of Mormon verse:

Ether 2:3: And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind.

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Silence—The author has formed a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements in historical documents, rather than on their actual presence.

The scripture simply says that they carried honey bees with them to the coast, and that they were called "deseret." It says nothing about the Jaredites regarding their bees "very highly" or being "prized," "cherished" or "special." It says nothing about them carrying bees in the Jaredite barges. The author simply infers all of these conclusions.

Response to claim: "In addition to the above Jaredite problems, other Jaredite problems and absurdities include"

The author(s) of Deubking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon (July 2014) make(s) the following claim:

In addition to the above Jaredite problems, other Jaredite problems and absurdities include:

1. There was no literal tower or linguistic scattering. Multiple written languages existed before 2200 B.C. This alone would disprove their existence. However, let's delve deeper. Assuming there was also a global flood as claimed by the LDS church, the world would have had only 200 years to repopulate itself, build a great tower, have the tower destroyed, and start this migration. It seems unreasonable for 3 families (all of Noah's children) to create such a large civilization in the time allowed.


2. Anachronisms, anachronisms everywhere. While bee keeping was not new, movable hives wouldn’t be created for another 3000 years. Transporting colonies was another 2000 years away (not to mention dangerous, and still destructive to the hive upon harvesting). Aquariums were another 2000 years off. Drying would have been an option, but you wouldn’t need a specialized, water tight bowl for this as claimed. Sheep were not introduced to America until the late 1400s. Likewise for european plants and other animals, especially the staples of the day such as European wheat and barley. So, bringing every kind of seed and herds of animals across the water in a barge likely never happened.


3. These ships didn’t exist. It would be about 1500 years until sea faring barges showed up in history. It was also 3500 years earlier than the first known submarine. It’s also the only wooden boat in history that is made with several water tight and usable doors, water tight corks in the top and bottom, and doubles as a submarine. That’s not even mentioning how it can be propelled by a wind that never stops; seeing as it has no sails, but would have significant drag from the weight and shape.


4. The timing doesn’t work. Coriantumr was found and lived with the People of Zarahemla, who came over at 587 BC. The average generation length is in the upper 20 years, with some nations reaching 30. Let’s go with 30 as it’s more favorable to the LDS side. That gives us a maximum timeline of (28 * 30 + 100) = 940 years. The Tower of Babel was said to have fallen in 2200 BC. This puts the final battle where Coriantumr kills Shiz at 1260 BC, and it bumps Coriantumr’s life span to an unrealistic ~800+ years. The other option is to say that the generation gap was far higher than normal (~58 years); however, such a late start for children would severely decrease birth rates and put the 4 million+ population into question.


5. The population number doesn't make sense. The book of mormon claims at least 2 million individuals, and an implication of at least 4 million. The 6 days of warfare imply a much larger number they do not state. That means in a span of 840 to 1613 years, this population (starting with at most 11 couples) was able to produce more humans than the entire world of 1 million people between 10,000 and 5,000 BC. Here’s another estimation to consider. So again, not impossible, but improbable with our current knowledge.


6. Lacking basic necessities. How much water would you need for 24+ people to survive 344 days on the ocean? According to the MayoClinic, each person needs 2.2-3.0 liters of water per day. Minimum. That's 756.8 liters per person per year, or 16649.6 liters for the entire trip for 24+. That's just for the sedentary adult. Now add the flocks and herds that they're also bringing. There's at least three sheep per flock. Multiple flocks, so even if we only add 6 sheep to the mix, that's another 12-24 liters per day or an additional 4128 liters of water per 3 sheep. If the herds are made of cattle, then you're now adding 40-70 liters per head per day. That comes to 13,760 - 24,080 liters per head. Now also ask how you're going to store these 40,729.6+ liters of water (40.7 meters, 1445 ft)? You're in a ship that can flip over any moment. You can't use pottery, barrels, or bowls. Any leaks would mean death. Animal skins would introduce bacteria. It's just not going to happen. And that's just water. Livestock, sanitation, scurvy/health, and food for everyone is another matter entirely. It's also worth mentioning that the WHO confirms these numbers will go up by 3-10x with even moderate activity or pregnancy/lactation. Higher salt intake (as it's the only means of preserving food at this time) would also increase water needs.


8. Warfare is wrong. Native Americans around this time did not have steel swords. Millions of dead natives would have left a trace. And according to historians, hand to hand engagements did not last that long. We’re talking about a maximum of hours, not several days. Routing, sieges, and hunting down enemies would extend it, but that is not the story being told here...

Author's sources: Reddit user curious_mormon

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author first starts out with a hyperliteralistic assumption and interpretation of literally every verse in the Jaredite story. The scientific "problems" aren't nearly the "problems" the author appears to assume they are.

Jump to Detail:

Question: How can one properly view events in Ether scientifically?

Many critics[93] have claimed that there are scientific problems with the stories recorded in Ether. This article examines each one of them and gives a logical way to reconcile them scientifically. Most of the supposed “problems” are only based off of hyperliteralistic readings of the scriptures and are thus easily addressed as we look at how the ancient writers intended to write the scriptures (2 Nephi 31:3; D&C 1:24) and use science as an additional backdrop to identify how that influences the stories we read (D&C 88: 77-79).

Tower of Babel (Ether 1:3-5, 33-37)

One of the first mentioned by critics usually is the Tower of Babel—mentioning how there were obviously more than one language present on the earth in 2200 B.C. This has been addressed elsewhere on the wiki.

Coriantumr’s Age

One critic writes:

"The timing doesn’t work. Coriantumr was found and lived with the People of Zarahemla, who came over at 587 BC. The average generation length is in the upper 20 years, with some nations reaching 30. Let’s go with 30 as it’s more favorable to the LDS side. That gives us a maximum timeline of (28 * 30 + 100) = 940 years. The Tower of Babel was said to have fallen in 2200 BC. This puts the final battle where Coriantumr kills Shiz at 1260 BC, and it bumps Coriantumr’s life span to an unrealistic ~800+ years. The other option is to say that the generation gap was far higher than normal (~58 years); however, such a late start for children would severely decrease birth rates and put the 4 million+ population into question.

Jerry Grover’s assessment of Jaredite chronology is much more instructive and the assumptions are much more grounded in archaeology and history

Jerry Grover: A More Exact Jaredite Chronology

Having established a basic chronology above, we can further refine it by estimating the lengths of the reigns of the various Jaredite kings, based on the information given about them in the Book of Ether. The resulting chronology can then be confirmed and further developed by comparing it with major developments in Olmec settlement, as detailed by the archaeological record.

In the Book of Ether, the passing of kingship from father to son appears to follow the pattern of the last-born son receiving the kingship. This pattern began with the first generation, when Jared1 and his brother approached old age; none of the sons of the brother of Jared would accept the role, which was also rejected by all of Jared’s sons, except the youngest, Orihah (Ether 6:14, 21–27). Further in the record of Ether, there were six older sons who rebelled against their predecessors (Ether 7:4, 14–16; 8:2–3; 10:3, 13–14; 11:4) and 10 sons, who were born in the king’s “old age,” who replaced their fathers (Ether 7:3, 7, 10, 26; 8:1; 9:14, 23–25; 10:4, 13-16; 11:4).

Another factor affecting the ages of the youngest sons in relation to the father is polygyny (one man with multiple wives). Jared1 had 12 children, and his brother had 22 children (Ether 6:20). Orihah had 31 children, 23 of whom were sons (Ether 7:2). Many kings are said to have had “many sons and daughters” (Ether 7:12, 14; 9:21; 10:17). King Riplakish had “many wives and concubines” (Ether 10:5), and Jaredite men in general had “wives and children” (Ether 14:2).

Given this information, it is possible to at least estimate the chronology of the two separate Jaredite time periods, with a few assumptions. In order to attempt an estimate, the following assumptions will be made:

1.A descendant king takes the throne at an average age of 15 (if he were much younger than that, he may not have been capable of retaining the throne, given the Jaredite propensity for violent usurpation by older brothers).
2.The death ages of the kings are assumed as follows unless otherwise indicated in the text:

a) Unless otherwise indicated, the age of death is 70.

b) When the terms “good old age” or “old age” are used, the age of death is 80.

c) When the term “exceedingly old” is used, the age of death is 90.

d) If an individual was held entirely in captivity (which could cause a shortened lifespan based on poor treatment) or there was reference to a shorter life, then a “reign” of 35 years is assumed. An exception was made for Coriantor, since a variety of events occurred while he was in captivity.
3. On average there are no time elapses between the death of the old king and the ascendancy of the new king.
4. Where any age or reign is listed in the text, the years are adjusted to the 260-day calendar.
5. For Seth, since the text indicates his days were short, it is assumed he died at 55.
6. Jared1 and the brother of Jared were assumed to be 45 years old when they departed; the actual departure date is approximately 2650 BC
These initial date assumptions are not out of line with known ages of Maya kings:

Elites tended to have longer life spans because they had access to better quality food and they didn't wear their lives out with physically taxing work the way non-elites did. We only have data for both the birth dates and death dates of 17 Classic period Maya rulers, and their average age at death is 64.7 years. Some of the longest lived Maya kings were Itzamnaaj B'alam II of Yaxchilan was between 94.8 and 98.5 years old when he died, Calakmul's king Yukno'om the Great lived to be 85, Chan Imix K'awiil of Copan was about 83 when he died, a ruler of El Cayo named Chak Lakamtuun lived to 82, K'inich Janaab' Pakal from Palenque was 80, Aj Wosal of Naranjo was at least 78, and K'an Joy Chitam (also from Palenque) lived until he was 74. (Wright 2016)


One permutation of these assumptions is that, often, the “kings” listed were in captivity, so it would not be necessary for their offspring to be of sufficient age to defend the throne. This would provide for a longer term for that particular king. That may be offset by the death of a king earlier than the estimate.With the parameters establishing that the Jaredites departed prior to 2500 BC, and the radiometric dating of the Heth and Shiblom volcanic events and other corollary evidence and events discussed elsewhere, it is possible to establish a reasonable Jaredite chronology. Given these parameters, table 3 identifies the Jaredite calendar timeline, showing the years passed to the end of a particular king’s reign.

Gardner (2015) has argued for a shorter timeframe for the Jaredites—a total of 900 years, with an average reign of 30 years—based on the length of reigns of some known Maya kings, with no gap years between Riplakish and Morionton. Sorenson has indicated a span of 2,000 to 2,300 years (Sorenson 2013). Sorenson did not provide the methodology behind his most recent estimation, so comparisons of his method in that work is not possible. In a previous work, he did identify a Jaredite chronology starting in 3100 BC and extending to 570 BC (Sorenson 1969). In that 1969 work, he included a gap period of 100 years and, of necessity, gave many kings lifespans well beyond 100 years. Palmer (1982) also proposes a Jaredite chronology, extending from 2700 BC to 600 BC, assuming reigns of 70 years and a gap period of 130 years. It is important to note that the chronology in table 3 is a calculated framework based on known volcanic events as well as a known departure date range.

Discussion of Mesoamerican Archaeological Correlation with the Calculated Jaredite Chronology

The First Jaredite Chronological Period

The first Jaredite chronological period in the New World is 2600–2023 BC. Based on the description given for the founding Jaredite group, consisting of 24 individuals (Ether 6:16), it is not likely that there would be any archaeological evidence found for this initial group. If one assumes a standard annual population growth rate for ancient peoples of 1.25 percent per year, within 200 years, a population of 287 people would be expected. After 200 years (2400 BC), there is mention of a couple of “lands,” one city, and an “army” raised by an individual dissident exile (Ether 8:6). The word “army” is not mentioned again in the Book of Ether until the time of Morionton(Ether 10:9), which was in 1420 BC.

While one should not read too much into this terminology in relation to size (an early city may just be an agricultural village or hamlet, and an army could be only 100 people or so), it does seem very probable that the Jaredite group at this point was involving other native populations, since an “army” was raised by an exiled dissident.

According to our timeline, in 2401–2336 BC, the Jaredite population was reduced through warfare to 30 persons,plus Omer and his family with whom he escaped, so perhaps 50 to 60 people were left. Shortly thereafter, from 2336–2281 BC, the “house of Emer” prospered agriculturally and utilized some domesticated or semi-domesticated animals. From 2281–2195 BC, “many mighty cities” were built as the people began to spread over “all the face of the land.” Again, using average population growth rates, over roughly 120 years, a population that started with 60 people would be expected to grow to 266 people. As indicated previously, the reference made to population growth and population centers indicates there was an increase in the local indigenous population, over which the Jaredites maybe exerted some political influence. Again, these areas were likely agriculturally based hamlets or villages.

In 2160–2130 BC, there was a severe famine in which the “inhabitants were destroyed exceedingly fast” (Ether 9:30). No mention is made of the surviving population after the famine, however, and from 2130–2055 BC, many cities were built up “on the face of the land,” and people “began to spread all over the face of the land.” The fairly short period of recovery time in which cities were built indicates again that the size of a city from the perspective of the Jaredite record-keeper was quite different from modern perceptions or even later Jaredite perspectives. The text itself is indicative of limited population centers.

From 2055–2023 BC, during Riplakish’s reign, he built an “exceedingly beautiful throne,” levied taxes, and built many tax prisons (Ether 10). The people rebelled and waged war, and Riplakish was killed and his descendants driven “out of the land.” Though there was some higher level of cultural sophistication in the beginning, it appears that the ensuing war was still a tribal family affair. To this point in the Book of Ether, the only lands mentioned were Nehor and Moron, so it can be assumed that the geographic area was still quite limited, probably encompassing or in close proximity to the area of the Tuxtla Mountains.

In Mesoamerican archaeology this period falls into the Archaic Period (ca. 3500–2000 BC). During the Archaic Period agriculture was developed in the region and permanent villages were established. Late in this era, use of pottery and loom weaving became common and class divisions began to appear. Many of the basic technologies of Mesoamerica such as stone-grinding, drilling, pottery making, etc., were established during this period.

In the area of the Olmec, excavations at San Andres (near later La Venta) indicate domestication of manioc in 4600 BC, and in 2500 BC, people were practicing a mixed economy of foraging and farming, with the domestication of maize, sunflowers, and cotton; they presumably used canoes, weapons, digging sticks, net baskets, and ritual objects fashioned from wood or other objects (Diehl 2004, 24). Although this archaeological period is largely ignored, in the Tuxtlas, pollen of plants indicative of agriculture has been dated to 2880 BC. The Mesoamerican archaeological record is generally consistent with the limited description found in the Book of Ether.

Gap Period

The gap in the Jaredite record occurs in the time period encompassing 2023–1420 BC. All that is known about this period is that no primary king was in power (at least none is mentioned) and that at the end of the period there existed “many cities.” The Olmec archaeological record indicates, depending on the archaeologist consulted, that the Olmec culture started between 1450 BC and no later than 1250 BC.

In the Coatzacoalcos River basin, 105 sites have been identified with Ojochi and Bajío ceramic phases (ca. 1750-1450 BC). The earliest occupation identified at San Lorenzo was 1800 BC (Cyphers et al. 2014, 73). More than threequarters of these sites are clustered within 90 kilometers of San Lorenzo (Pool 2007, 125).

The Second Chronological Period

1420–1065 BC

In the Jaredite chronology, the period of 1420–1065 BC starts with Morionton and an army of outcasts giving battle “unto the people.” Morionton gained power over many cities, and then, over the space of many years, gained power over all the land and made himself king (Ether 10:9). During this period many cities were built, and the people became rich in buildings and other worldly goods, and the people “did prosper in the land” (Ether 10:16). During this period there continued familial vying for political control by force.

The archaeological evidence in the Olmec heartland for this period mirrors the Book of Mormon description. San Lorenzo grew from 1400 BC until its demise in 1000 BC (Cheetham and Blomster 2017, 16), as did the regional settlements, with the total area of permanent settlement increasing 10 fold (Pool 2007, 126). At Laguna de los Cerros and the Upper San Juan Basin, prior to 1400 BC, settlement was sparse. Laguna de los Cerros was founded sometime between 1400 BC and 1200 BC. Settlement densities increased drastically after 1400 BC, reaching 35 settlements by 1200 BC and 153 settlements by 1000 BC (Pool 2007, 128). Some local settlements also existed in the La Venta area as well.

1065–750 BC

In the Jaredite chronology, the period of 1065–750 BC starts with Lib1 building a “great city” near the narrow neck where the sea divides the land. By some mechanism, poisonous serpents that had infested the area for a thousand years were killed, opening up a hunting area in the adjacent land southward. Initially the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants. There were a variety of products manufactured including “all manner of fine work,” “all manner of cloth,” agricultural tools, and “all manner of work of exceedingly curious workmanship.” During the latter part of this period there was conflict, war, robbers, and changes in kingship.

The archaeological evidence in the Olmec heartland for this period mirrors the Book of Mormon description. The fluorescence of the city of La Venta is dated from 1000 BC to 400 BC (Pool 2007, 158). The city of Tres Zapotes was founded sometime in the centuries before 1000 BC and emerged as a regional center early in the Middle Formative Period, perhaps 900–800 BC, roughly coinciding with the decline of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan. San Lorenzo experienced its serious demise around 1000 BC, as did the San Juan River Basin, where Laguna de los Cerros was located, which continued through the end of the Middle Formative Period (1000–400 BC). All that remained of San Lorenzo was a medium-sized village, and the regional population fell by nearly 92%. In the adjacent San Juan River Basin, the number of identified inhabited sites fell by 63% (Pool 2007, 152). Military conflict is one of the suspected causes of the decline of San Lorenzo (Diehl 2004).

750–400 BC

In the Jaredite chronology, for the period of 750-400 BC, the first decades included an “exceedingly great war,” followed by pestilence, famine, and a “great destruction.” The next three centuries included ongoing political and military conflict within and between kingdoms, which resulted in the final great civil war, which led to the destruction of the Jaredite nation. A king named Moron arose during the middle of this period, whose name perhaps makes reference to the early land of Moron.

The archaeological evidence in the Olmec heartland for this period mirrors the Book of Mormon description. San Lorenzo continued its demise, as did the San Juan River Basin. During the middle of the period, the population migrated to the outskirts of Tres Zapotes and La Venta. At the end of the period, La Venta (along with San Lorenzo and the rest of the Olmec heartland area) was also essentially abandoned. Tres Zapotes is not abandoned in 400 BC, but over the next few centuries, cultural changes result in the Olmec remnant Epi-Olmec culture.

The calculated Jaredite chronology outlined in table 3 corresponds well with the Olmec archaeological chronology[94]

Food and Water for Those on Board including Animals

One author wrote:

"Lacking basic necessities. How much water would you need for 24+ people to survive 344 days on the ocean? According to the MayoClinic, each person needs 2.2-3.0 liters of water per day. Minimum. That's 756.8 liters per person per year, or 16649.6 liters for the entire trip for 24+. That's just for the sedentary adult. Now add the flocks and herds that they're also bringing. There's at least three sheep per flock. Multiple flocks, so even if we only add 6 sheep to the mix, that's another 12-24 liters per day or an additional 4128 liters of water per 3 sheep. If the herds are made of cattle, then you're now adding 40-70 liters per head per day. That comes to 13,760 - 24,080 liters per head. Now also ask how you're going to store these 40,729.6+ liters of water (40.7 meters, 1445 ft)? You're in a ship that can flip over any moment. You can't use pottery, barrels, or bowls. Any leaks would mean death. Animal skins would introduce bacteria. It's just not going to happen. And that's just water. Livestock, sanitation, scurvy/health, and food for everyone is another matter entirely. It's also worth mentioning that the WHO confirms these numbers will go up by 3-10x with even moderate activity or pregnancy/lactation. Higher salt intake (as it's the only means of preserving food at this time) would also increase water needs.

Propadeutically we should establish that the ocean crossing took the Jaredites 344 days and the text gives us good indication that they stopped along the way. In Ether 6:8 it states that “The wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters”. That phrase can be interpreted to mean that they were continuously upon the water, but the interpretation with more explanatory power would be that they stopped occasionally since they made the journey in 344 days and the average is no more than two-four months for a crossing (more information below). The next question we would need to answer is which ocean the Jaredites used to arrive in the New World---the pacific or Atlantic. There are good arguments for both sides.

Atlantic Ocean

If the Jaredites used the Atlantic Ocean, there are a few (though admittedly not many) places to stop for provision. If leaving from Northwest Africa or Southwest Europe (depending on which side of the Mediterrenean the Jaredites chose to come from or which direction they sailed through if going through the Med after leaving the Old World), the Jaredites would stop anywhere among the scattered Islands off the coast and then have to make on big push to the promised land. They could have plausibly stopped to reprovision, jettison animals and other unnecessary supplies. If we take the statements that the Lord blew towards to promised land directly, then they could have perhaps made stops in Cuba before making it to Mesoamerica (all assuming that Mesoamerica consists of the lands of the Book of Mormon).

The journey would have been much shorter if they didn’t stop for provisions. The journey from China to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec would have been 120 days if made continuously[95]

Pacific Crossing

While crossing the Pacific, it is possible that the Jaredites used “coasting” as a way of staying near land fall so that they could make any restock needed. It is now[96] known that ancient transoceanic crossers made just such a journey[97]. There are also several islands in the Pacific Ocean that could have been made for such a journey. The journey, if made continuously, would only be about 2-4 months. Thor Heyerdahl made the trip on raft from Morocco to the Caribbean in two months[98]

Either way, we have ability to resupply and make adjustments to travels as necessary, we have plausible indications in the text that this was so, and we have plausible routes for them to follow. We have at least a good chance that they did not bring livestock with them all the way to the new world as there is no mention of them upon arrival. We have no indication that women and men conceived while aboard so points about lactation are moot. The only activity reported among the Jaredites is "[singing] praises unto the Lord" and "not [ceasing to praise the Lord". This is light activity. Along with potable water brought from home and collected from stops a long the way, fresh water rain collection is available through vents built into the structures. See here under "Joseph Smith and Jaredite Ships" for more information regarding likely structure of vents.

Sheep, Bees, and Barges

Sheep

is often claimed that sheep were anachronistic to the Americas prior to the 1400s. We have addressed this here. Regarding the flocks carried on board, the text does not mention that the flocks arrived to the New World with them. In fact, it only claims that the Jaredites arrived and began to till the earth (Ether 6:13). Reference to Grover's chronology and the specific mentions of flocks in Ether may also be enlightening here.

Bees

It is claimed that bees are anachronistic to the Americas. This is addressed here. It has been further claimed that bees could not be transported to the Americas since moveable hives were not around. It is possible to take a hive and move it with a woven basket. Bees can also be temporarily disabled using smoke. But the text gives us no indication that they took their bees across the ocean. It also doesn’t tell us if they jettisoned the bees in their journey and/or if they gleaned whatever resources they could from the bees and then jettisoned them.

Barges

One critic claims:

These ships didn’t exist. It would be about 1500 years until sea faring barges showed up in history. It was also 3500 years earlier than the first known submarine. It’s also the only wooden boat in history that is made with several water tight and usable doors, water tight corks in the top and bottom, and doubles as a submarine. That’s not even mentioning how it can be propelled by a wind that never stops; seeing as it has no sails, but would have significant drag from the weight and shape.
  1. The comparison to a "submarine" is a straw man. The claim is not that the boats travel underwater. Instead, they are sufficiently water tight that they are buoyant--if they have a wave crash over them, they bob back up to the surface ("like a fowl upon the waters" as it puts it--we can think of a duck or the like floating along. You can submerge them, but they pop right back up.)
  2. The wind doesn't need sails to push the boat--if the wind is blowing, that creates waves, which moves the ship. If one has ever seen a floating piece of wood in a lake, and thrown stones near it to drive it in a give direction, the idea is the same--waves transfer energy. (Note that the text has this as something of a miracle--they "commending themselves unto the Lord their God" (Ether 6:5)). They seem well aware that this is a risky undertaking. The next verse describes exactly how the travel works—yet the critic doesn't mention it, or is unaware of it: "And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind" (6:6). We also have a travel time of 344 days which gives us a lot of time to travel to the New World. Remember, one can travel to the New World in 2-4 months. This took nearly 12.
  3. The earliest sea-faring boats date to about 65,000 years ago permitting the colonization of Australia, for example. Whether one chooses to label these as "barges" or not, they are sea-faring ships. So that part isn't anachronistic at all.

Once you have ships that are seaworthy in some sense, is it really that much of a stretch to enclose the boat? They're not building the things out of metal or anything that will sink if the design isn't just right. They're made out of wood. Once you have even a very primitive sea-going craft, enclosing it overhead is a relatively trivial exercise, and adding more wood to a wooden boat is not going to make it more likely to sink.

How about making it "water-tight"? By 3100 BC Egyptians were making "sewn boats"[99]. The use of pitch as an adhesive is attested to by 40,000 years ago[100] "Since the Neolithic, bitumen served to waterproof containers (baskets, earthenware jars, storage pits), wooden posts, palace grounds (e.g. in Mari and Haradum), reserves of lustral waters, bathrooms, palm roofs, etc. Mats, sarcophagi, coffins and jars, used for funeral practices, were often covered and sealed with bitumen. Reed and wood boats were also caulked with bitumen." Pitch can be extracted from wood by dry distillation[101] or from natural seepage. By the 5th millennium BC, bitumen was used to waterproof a crop storage basket.[102] So at least by 5000 BC, people had figured out that coating boats with bitumen (pitch) made them more waterproof. Let's give ancient people some credit--they weren't idiots, and if you're using this kind of tech for a basket, then it's hardly unlikely that someone is going to think to apply it to boats. And in fact, this is what happened: "The earliest reed boat discovered to date was coated with bitumen, at the site of H3 at As-Sabiyah in Kuwait, dated about 5000 BC; its bitumen was found to have come from the Ubaid site of Mesopotamia."[103] "Known as the Ubaids, the settlers of the marshy lands lived in houses made of marsh reeds, which they would bundle together with bulrush fiber. Before bitumen, the Ubaids only coated their walls with mud, leaving them vulnerable to frequent flooding and other elements. Once they discovered bitumen deposits and observed the substance’s behavior as an adhesive and sealant, however, they ditched mud and began coating their homes with bitumen.... The Ubaids didn’t stop with their homes. They also used bitumen to seal their paddle boats, also made of marsh reeds. The Ubaids became the first seafarers to be documented in history, thanks to waterproofed boats allowing them to venture further out to sea. "[104]

By the 3rd millennium BC, it was used to line a great bath. The Sumerians also used it for ship caulking. There are words for it in Sumerian, Sanskrit, and Assyrian. Note that Noah's ark is said to use "pitch" to seal it (Genesis 6:14).

It’s unlikely that we would be able to locate such barges. Most boats, by nature, are going to be in the water. That increases the risk of breakdown over time. (And arguably if they have sunk, it may be that their waterproofing qualities have degenerated over time.)

It’s also uncertain why a "waterproof door" is a major problem. If you can make the bottom of a boat waterproof (after all, the bottom is not one solid piece of wood--it is wood joined together and made waterproof) why can't you do the same thing in the wall or roof of a ship?

Preserving Food

It is claimed that preserving food would not have been available since “water tight dishes would not be needed as claimed”. It is never claimed that such things were “needed” — only that they were used. Such claims are meaningless without any indication from the Book of Mormon.

Transporting fish is not as anachronistic as once thought.We now have evidence from around 2000 years ago that it was possible.[105] The cited article provides evidence that is later than the Jaredites, but the evidence depends upon discovery, and we have one example--from which an industry may be extrapolated.

The Final Battle

One critic writes:

Warfare is wrong. Native Americans around this time did not have steel swords. Millions of dead natives would have left a trace. And according to historians, hand to hand engagements did not last that long. We’re talking about a maximum of hours, not several days. Routing, sieges, and hunting down enemies would extend it, but that is not the story being told here.

The population sizes that fought in the battle

Some have claimed that the population sizes for the final battle in the Book of Mormon are too large from what we know from archaeology and other science. We shouldn’t consider the number of “two millions” (Ether 15:2) to be literal. This should be taken as a metaphorical accounting of the dead. There would simply be no way to count all of the dead.[106]

What about the critic's assertion that such massive numbers would leave a trace?

John Sorenson:

Problems for Archaeology: Evidence for Warfare

How does one go about locating and excavating a battlefield? This rhetorical question points to many of the reasons why military conflict among the Maya went so long undetected by archaeologists. For example, David Webster, the leader in Mesoamerican war studies, observed, “If we had to rely only on archaeological materials, we would dismiss as inconsequential one of the most important components [i.e., warfare] in the structure and evolution of . . . society.”[107] One reason is that “weaponry is seldom recovered from archaeological contexts [although it] is frequently depicted in art.”[108] Yet artistic representations can be hard to turn into history. Rands’s dissertation in 1952 showed substantial artistic evidence of armed conflict during the Mesoamerican Classic period,[109] but hardly anyone picked up on it for another 25 years, when the excavation of the fortification at Becán was reported. Chase and Chase agree that “warfare is extremely difficult to see in the archaeological record.”[110] This is true not just for Mesoamerica but for anyplace in the world.[111]

A fundamental problem in interpreting the historical significance of warfare from the few remains revealed by archaeology was underlined by Stocker on the basis of Aztec history:

Were it not for the written record, conquest as the major variable in the expansion of the Aztec state would never have been known. Aztec history spanned some 200 years, and [we know from their documents] they conquered 250 major centers. These centers had their own tributaries; therefore, they in essence conquered approximately 1000 to 2500 centers.[They] placed governors and some of their own population at only eight of these conquered centers. There is no evidence of an Aztec conquest at centers without governors, nor is there any evidence of Aztec presence at . . . tributaries of the sites at which governors were placed.[112]

If the same situation was the case in earlier centuries, then we must suppose that the archaeological evidence that has come forward in recent years in Mesoamerica must be seen as merely preliminary. Webster must be right in emphasizing the scale of the intellectual shift that has been required in coming to see a major role for warfare in Mesoamerican culture history. Fortifications are the most obvious material evidence for armed conflict. The first serious study of Mesoamerican fortifications was published in 1948 (in English in 1951) by archaeologist Pedro Armillas (a mentor of mine),[113] but his work depended strictly on documentary sources on the Aztecs.[114] The study was largely ignored by Mesoamericanist colleagues, just as Rands’s work was ignored by Mayanists. The conventional wisdom blinded experts to the significance of conflict in the cultures of the area. Decades later its importance became obvious as Webster and others “documented warfare over much of the [Maya geographical] range” by locating “destruction levels, mass burials, and fortifications from Middle and Late Preclassic times.”[115]However, Webster warned, “no conclusions about war can be drawn on the basis of the lack of fortifications. . . . [Their] absence may be more apparent than real. Very flimsy defenses were highly effective given [limited] Maya military capabilities, and few traces of such constructions might survive or be initially recognized.”[116]

The failure of once-impressive walls to survive visibly is easy to document. An extreme example is a case recorded by the Spanish conquistadors. They reported the presence of a six-mile-long wall across a valley on the main route between the Valley of Mexico and neighboring Tlaxcala; the wall was 20 feet thick and nine feet high, with a wooden breastwork atop it.[117] Yet no trace of it has been reported by archaeologists. Furthermore, in colonial days the Spaniards forced the Indians of the Valley of Mexico to erect a great stone wall enclosing a huge area to contain the Europeans’ cattle. More than two million natives labored for four months on the vast project, yet today no trace of it has been identified.[118] In Yucatan shortly before the Europeans arrived, “the temples and houses of the lords [of Mayapan] were said [in tradition] to have been surrounded by a wall, of which no trace could be found” by excavators.[119] Much less could we expect to find more ancient defensive structures that had been deteriorating for longer periods. At Kaminaljuyu, after generations of archaeological research by many parties, only in the early 1990s did Japanese archaeologists find a 164-foot (50 m) segment of what they termed the “great wall”[120]that dates back perhaps to the first civilized period there (ca. the sixth century bc, making it the earliest discovered fortification wall in Mesoamerica). It had been built of piled-up soil 25 feet (7.6 m) high. Finding a short section of that 2,500-year-old construction within the Guatemala City urban area was strictly a matter of luck; most of the original must have been destroyed long ago. Obviously the feature would have been functionally meaningless unless it had been completed around at least the heart of the city (as was the case later at Cholula and other Mesoamerican cities).[121] Since the site of Kaminaljuyu is here considered to be the city of Nephi, and Nephi had a wall around it (Jacob 7:25; Mosiah 7:10; 9:8) at about that time, discovery of the Guatemalan wall by these researchers provides a striking correspondence. (Presumably, the wall around the city of Nephi would have been modeled in concept on the one that surrounded Jerusalem; compare 1 Nephi 4 and 2 Nephi 5:16.)

A supplementary correspondence involving the wall is that it needed consistent repair in order to retain its protective power. The wall found by the Japanese archaeologists was simply of piled-up earth, probably coated with a layer of clay. It would have been subject to erosion by the regular rains and thus required systematic maintenance. When the Zeniffites returned to the city of Nephi and reoccupied it, only a few years after Mosiah1’s people had abandoned the site, they immediately began to “repair the walls of the city” (Mosiah 9:8) to restore their previous function.

Archaeologists have been dealt a bad hand by history and the erosive forces of nature; nevertheless, through a combination of documentary history, art, and archaeology it has become possible to draw a partial picture of war in the Mesoamerican past. But so much depends on the mindset of the archaeologists who interpret the evidence that the picture may long remain incomplete and confusing. (Cowgill contrasts his conservative interpretation of the effects of war among the Maya with the views of military-minded Webster, even though they both dealt with the same set of facts.)[122][123]

The criticism conflates Ether 7 with the mention of millions in Ether 14-15. There are numerous differences and a rather great time span between those chapters, so its lazy reading at best, and deliberately misreading at worst to assume there were millions of steel swords. Even one of the most studied battles at Hastings yields little direct evidence, and historians still debate its exact location. Scholars recently[124] "found" a lost army and so forth.

Steel in this story isn't very problematic. We need to remember that this is Joseph's translation of Moroni's abridgment of Mosiah's translation of the Jaredite record. Mosiah may have translated the metal as steel since "in Mosiah's society a king was expected to have a steel sword as his royal weapon"[125] Mosiah had inherited a sword, Laban's, "a steel weapon that was passed down as one of the insignia of royalty" [126]. Nevertheless the Jaredites may have had magnetite, hematite, or other iron that they hardened into steel. More information here.

This article examines other ancient texts and proposes a few scenarios that may apply to Jaredite battle as well.

Shiz Raising Up on His Hands

Fighting for Many Days

This criticism conflates the skirmish warfare of most Northern American tribes with far less social and political organization with the far more advanced cultures from central America that had rather sophisticated cultures. San Lorenzo and La Venta (assuming a Mesoamerican geography for the Book of Mormon) both had large populations and decent territorial control at a time when Rome was a still a collection of huts on a few hills, and this was centuries before the final battles of the Jaredites.

The criticism seems to lack a good grasp of battle, including how they are defined and their length measured. The criticism assumes that battles just can't last very long, but a very short amount of research found many multi day battles. There are various reasons for this including partial sieges, stand offs between armies vying for position, pre and during battle maneuver, and chasing down defeated armies.

The criticism is aimed at the Jaredite account for having battles that lasted all day for multiple days, but there are plenty of ancient accounts that record similar or multi-day battles. The Battle of Fei River and Hulao Pass both had significant stand offs. This is where the armies skirmished a bit, but they both held defensive positions and were trying to see how they could break the opponents’ position. In the case of Fei River Fu Rong moved his soldiers which precipitated confusion, panic and retreat. The opposing soldiers read the signs in the ground and then pursued them and killed 70-80% of the army (which goes to large numbers of casualties as well.)

The Battle of Red Cliffs also featured a long pursuit through marshes and difficult terrain which might be considered a multi-day battle.

The Battle of Hulao pass Li Shimin (ruling name Tang Taizong), made the opposing army hold their position for hours which made them avoid lunch and get stiff, both literally and in their tactical responses. He sent a cavalry force to see how the enemy reacted. When they were slow in responding and reacted fearfully Li Shimin sent a full attack. The pre battle maneuver, stand-off, then resulting attack and chasing down the fleeing army and regrouping remnants took more than one day.

In the Sicilian Expedition the Athenian army tried to besiege Syracuse. But the Spartans landed an army in reinforcements and they fought a series of engagements and built counter reinforcements. This shows how classifying battles and determining their length can get confusing (especially when people deliberately apply a narrow definition to prove something doesn't fit with "science"). But they fought a bunch of mini battles, including one at night where one side painted themselves white to better facilitate command and control, and the cumulative total was a spring and summer of near constant fighting. One could almost say that they would "fight all day and conquer not." (Ether 15:15)

In the Battle of Gergovia Caesar fought Vercingetorix. The latter had a commanding defensive position so the former had to rely on a combination of maneuver, siege, fighting, and desperate battle to finally break the Gallic army. Again, its tough to time the individual actions as each element of the campaign (active battle, siege, maneuver, marching), blended into each other.

The more complex the battles are, the more they can raise armies and sustain them in the field, which means they can fight multiple campaigns and many battles. There were some tribes such as the Cree who for much of their history were hunter gatherers that fought very few of what we would call battles, most were skirmishes with a few soldiers. But others like the Aztecs raised large armies, sent them on long campaigns, and had battle after battle on those campaigns.

The Jaredites had a sophisticated society (as may be seen by places like La Venta and San Lorenzo in Mesoamerica but that is only authorial bias) with large populations that could raise and support large armies. Those armies could then fight a series of engagements: some combinations of pre-battle maneuver (Ether 15:8), stand offs (even exchanging messages Ether 15:18), chasing down fleeing armies (Ether 15:10), and then finally it seems they were two punch drunk fighters with nothing left in their armies to maneuver or negotiate and they just came to a place, likely with ritual importance (15:11) and strategic value. In fact, their four year standoff while they gathered strength reminds one of the build up to the Battle of Hulao. They didn't have the logistical strength to go any further, so they fought the pivotal battle (that with the army marching, then standoff, and then battle, then mopping up it all likely took longer than one day) all happened at one place.

Conclusion

In all, we should not forget that the accounts are covering hundreds of years of history and aren’t necessarily meant for super accurate history. We also don’t know every detail of how the Lord provided for the Jaredites in their initial journey to the New World and their extended history leading up to the Nephite arrival.


Response to claim: "Apparently Joseph forgot that he claimed Adam saw God face to face (God of the OT being Jesus). It’s also implied that Seth, Cain, and Enoch did as well. All of this contradicts the claim that the Brother of Jared is the first person to see the spirit body of Christ.'"

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

"Apparently Joseph forgot that he claimed Adam saw God face to face (God of the OT being Jesus). It’s also implied that Seth, Cain, and Enoch did as well. All of this contradicts the claim that the Brother of Jared is the first person to see the spirit body of Christ.'"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This passage has been addressed by Jeffrey R. Holland and there are a number of ways to look at it faithfully.

Logical Fallacy: Special Pleading—The author creates a one-sided argument by including favorable data and excluding unfavorable data through improper means. In this case, the author "moved the goalpost" by changing his argument when his original claim was shown to be false.

The author uses a list from the ex-mormon subreddit that only considers one reading of this passage and then subsequently uses it to claim that Joseph was inconsistent in his theology.


Question: Why did Jesus say “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created” to the Brother of Jared, when Enoch and others had already seen Jehovah face to face?

We know that at least Adam and Enoch had already seen or walked with God or Jehovah by the time that He showed himself to the Brother of Jared

In Ether 3:15, the premortal Jesus Christ is speaking to the Brother of Jared:

15 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.

However we know that at least Adam and Enoch had already seen or walked with God or Jehovah by this time. Adam’s experience is described in D&C 107:53-54

53 Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

54 And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

Enoch’s experience is described in Moses 7:4

4 And I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face; and he said unto me: Look, and I will show unto thee the world for the space of many generations.

The key words here that provide multiple interpretations are: “myself”, “showed” and “man”

So what was unique about the Brother of Jared’s experience which would explain the phrase “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created”. The key words here that provide multiple interpretations are: “myself”, “showed” and “man”.

Interpretation 1: “Myself” refers to the true identity of Jesus Christ

Kent P Jackson said:

The uniqueness of this situation lies in the fact that Jehovah appeared to Mahonri Moriancumer in his role as Jesus Christ--rather than as the Father. Never before, as far as we can tell from the scriptures, had Jesus Christ shown himself unto man. (And, interestingly, nowhere else in the scriptures do we have a clear example of Jehovah appearing as Jesus until his coming in the flesh.) As Moroni reported, "Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus" (Ether 3:20). To the brother of Jared, Christ revealed his complete nature: God who would become Man--Jehovah, the Father, who would become Jesus, the Son.

Perhaps the unprecedented nature of this appearance is a reason why the Lord commanded that the account not be made known in the world until after his mortal ministry (Ether 3:21). [127]

This is supported by verse 14 in Ether 3:

Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

Interpretation 2: “Showed” means fully showing his spirit body

President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

I have always considered Ether 3:15 to mean that the Savior stood before the Brother of Jared plainly, distinctly, and showed him his whole body and explained to him that he was a spirit. In his appearance to Adam and Enoch, he had not made himself manifest in such a familiar way. His appearances to earlier prophets had not been with that same fulness.

The scriptural accounts of talking face to face and of walking with God should not be interpreted in the sense that the Savior stood before those prophets and revealed his whole person. That he may have done so at later periods in the cases of Abraham and Moses is possible, but he had not done so in that fulness in the antediluvian days. For the Brother of Jared he removed the veil completely. He had never showed himself to man before in the manner and way he did to that prophet. [128]

Interpretation 3: “Man” refers to the unbelieving man

Jeffrey R. Holland said:

"One possibility is...that the reference to 'man' is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege. "Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same 'fulness,' that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ's nature and being…

"A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared's faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, 'Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.' As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, 'Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.' (v. 9,15) Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God's bidding.

"That appears to be Moroni's understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, 'Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.' (v. 19)" [129]


Response to claim: "A beheaded man doing a pushup and trying to breathe? Not likely"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

A beheaded man doing a pushup and trying to breathe? Not likely.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Actually, it is not only possible, but an accurate description.

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Ignorance—The author has difficulty understanding the topic, so he or she assumes that it simply must not have any validity.

Question: How is it possible for Shiz, after he had been beheaded, to raise up on his hands and struggle for breath?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #248: How Could Shiz Move And Breathe After Being Beheaded? (Video)

Shiz's death throes are a realistic touch, and represent a phenomenon that went unrecognized in the medical literature of the modern era until 1898

The human brain. The midbrain is located at the level marked 'cerebral peduncle'. From: Henry Gray, Anatomy of the Human Body, 1918, Fig 677. off-site.

In Ether 15:30-31, a final showdown occurs between two warriors, Shiz and Coriantumr. Coriantumr "smote off the head of Shiz...[and] after he had smitten off the head...Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died."

Critics insist that this would not, or could not, happen.

Close-up of mid- and hind-brain; the mid-brain is the area above the pons. From: Henry Gray, Anatomy of the Human Body, 1918, Fig 681. off-site.

With the death scene of Shiz, Joseph Smith provides the reader with a vivid example of a catastrophic mid-brain injury which is consistent with a weary, sloppy cut made by the exhausted Coriantumr. Being a seasoned warrior, Moroni likely knew that such behavior would be relatively rare on the battlefield, even if he did not understand the rather precise neuroanatomy needed to cause it.

Shiz's death throes are a realistic touch, and represent a phenomenon that went unrecognized in the medical literature of the modern era until 1898. It is one more mark of the Book of Mormon's status as genuine history.

The earliest reference to this criticism that FairMormon has located occurred in the Reverend Benjamin Willmore's attack on the "absurd" beliefs of "Mormonism" in 1858

There are some statements in your Book of Mormon which no reasonable man can believe. At page 614, I read of a man who rejoiced in the name of Coriantumr, a man who would somewhat surprise our men of war in the present day; they lay siege to cities and garrisons; but ‘It came to pass that Coriantumr did lay siege to the wilderness.’ Still even this worthy is outdone by his antagonist Shiz; for ‘It came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with loss of blood. And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz. And it came to pass that after he had smote off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised upon his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.’ Reader, this is in the Book of Mormon, and Latter-day Saints believe it to be the Word of God!”[130]

The Millennial Star of 1858 noted that lower animals were capable of movement after decapitation, and argued that the behavior of decapitated prisoners suggested that such an occurrence was not implausible.[131]

This criticism has long been answered

In 1900, the Millennial Star described a case in which similar behavior was observed:

It is claimed that the rising on the hands after decapitation is an impossibility.

The following from a dispatch to the Liverpool Daily Post of February 1, 1900, on the occasion of the seizure of Spion Kop, in Natal, should effectually silence all criticism on that passage:

‘There was an extraordinary incident in Wednesday’s battle. One of the Lancaster men, while in the act of firing in a prone position, had his head taken clean off by a large shell. To the astonishment of his comrades, the headless body quietly rose, stood upright for a few seconds, and then fell.’”[132]

Modern knowledge shows the Book of Mormon to be accurate on this point

Decerebrate posturing - Notice how the arms and legs are rigidly extended. This information was provided by Clinical Tools, Inc., and is copyrighted by Clinical Tools, Inc. Non-commercial use is permitted. off-site.

Modern knowledge shows the Book of Mormon to be accurate on this point. Contrary to the critics' assumptions,

Shiz's death struggle illustrates the classic reflex posture that occurs in both humans and animals when the upper brain stem (midbrain/mesencephalon) is disconnected from the brain. The extensor muscles of the arms and legs contract, and this reflex action could cause Shiz to raise up on his hands.[133]

Cutting the brainstem in this location causes the muscles which extend (straighten) the arms and legs to contract

This makes the arms and legs rigid, which would raise a corpse up until lack of oxygen and blood loss caused eventual muscle failure.

People in this "decerebrate" reflex posture can also display "opisthotonos," a position "characterized by rigidity and severe arching of the back, with the head thrown backwards. This is such that if a person were laid on his or her back, only the back of the head and the heels would touch the supporting surface."[134] If the person — as in Shiz's case — were face down, the body would appear to rise up, with the neck bent backward and the face upraised. This dramatic positioning would make it appear as if the person was 'struggling for breath,' even though such behavior is a mere reflex, and not intentional.

LDS Truth Claims: Criticisms from Science

Notes

  1. "What does the Church believe about evolution?," New Era (October 2016).
  2. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Death,", 655. off-site direct off-site
  3. For a representative sample of the non-official statements made by Elder McConkie and others from a variety of perspectives, see here.
  4. Jeffery R. Holland, "Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet," April 2015 General Conference.
  5. Bruce R. McConkie, cited in Mark McConkie (editor), Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1989), 289–290 (emphasis added). ISBN 0884946444. ISBN 978-0884946441.
  6. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Introduction,", 599. off-site
  7. James E. Talmage, "The Earth and Man," Address in the Tabernacle, (9 August 1931); originally published in the Deseret News, 21 Nov 1931; subsequently published as a pamphlet by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931; later published in The Instructor, 100:12 (December 1965) :474–477; continued in The Instructor 101:1 (January 1966): 9–15. FAIRWiki link
  8. Talmage to Heber Timothy, 28 Jan. 1932, Talmage Papers; cited in Richard Sherlock, "A Turbulent Spectrum: Mormon Responses to the Darwinist Legacy," Journal of Mormon History 4:? (1975): 45–69.
  9. First Presidency, Memorandum to General Authorities, April 1931, 6–7.
  10. James Edward Talmage, Personal Journal (7 April 1931) 29:42, Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (emphasis added).
  11. "I Have a Question: What does it mean when the Lord said he would create for Adam “an help meet for him”? (Gen. 2:18.)" Ensign (January 1994) off-site
  12. Some may object to this by saying that that date should be exact to the reception of the revelation by Joseph. But such an interpretation isn't entirely warranted. The revelation does not seem to intend to give specifics.
  13. William E. Evenson "Evolution" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (ed.) Daniel Ludlow, (New York, NY: MacMillian Publishing, 1992)
  14. Editorial (unsigned) [Joseph F. Smith as president of the Church and Edward H. Anderson were editors], "Priesthood Quorums’ Table," Improvement Era 13 no. 4? (April 1910), 570.
  15. See "Sample of Pure Language, between circa 4 and circa 20 March 1832" <https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/sample-of-pure-language-between-circa-4-and-circa-20-march-1832/1#facts> (accessed 3 April 2019)
  16. Matthew Roper has gathered a lot of evidence supporting the Book of Moses that is pseudepigraphical. The difficulty in deciding what the Book of Moses truly is comes from the first verse where we don't know A) If the author of the verse is Joseph or another ancient writer and B) whether they meant to attribute words to Moses pseudepigrahically or record the literal words of Moses. With such ambiguity, we are free to choose our position on the matter. The Book of Abraham does not have to be a pristine urtext from him to be authentic either.
  17. Brigham Young, (14 May 1871) Journal of Discourses 14:116.
  18. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Earth" off-site
  19. Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 31–32. off-site Jeffrey notes that ideas of a global flood may have resulted from a widespread local problem. A current hypothesis that has been gaining ground since 1998 is that a significant flooding event occurred in the area now occupied by the Black Sea. Evidence has been discovered which has led a number of researchers to believe that the Black Sea area was once occupied by a completely isolated freshwater lake at a much lower level than the ocean. The theory is that the sea level rose and eventually broke through the Bosporus shelf, resulting in a rapid flooding event which would have wiped out all life living along the shores of the lake (see p. 34). Whether this is the source for the Genesis flood remains conjecture.
  20. Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 30. off-site
  21. Orson Pratt, "The Earth's Baptism In Water," (1 Aug. 1880) Journal of Discourses 21:323.
  22. History of the Church 1:283; Evening and Morning Star, August 1832.
  23. Kevin Barney, Was the Garden of Eden Really in Missouri?, By Common Consent, July 4, 2007.
  24. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 5:73. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  25. John Taylor, Government of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1852), 110. off-site
  26. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 5:73. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) For essentially the same argument, see also 4:22; Church History and Modern Revelation (1947), 2:35; and Man: His Origin and Destiny (1954), 385, 421–422. Note that these sources are all even earlier, and likewise predate modern continental drift data and theory. President David O. McKay was clear on multiple occasions that the latter volume represented only President Smith's personal opinions, and were not Church doctrine (see here and here).
  27. Richard A. Davis, Principles of Oceanography, 2nd edition, (Addison-Wesley, 1977), ISBN 0201014645. For more on continental drift theory's history and development, see wikipedia.org off-site.
  28. Donald W. Parry, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel,” Ensign, Jan 1998, 35. off-site
  29. Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 31–32. off-site
  30. (see p. 34). Whether this is the source for the Genesis flood remains conjecture.
  31. Henry Eyring, developer of the Absolute Rate Theory of chemical reactions: One of the most important developments of 20th-century chemistry. Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 2.
  32. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:117.
  33. Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 55–60.
  34. Michael R. Ash, "Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Michael R. Ash: Is the Tower of Babel historical or mythological?" Deseret News, 27 September 2010. Accessed 29 March 2019. <https://www.deseretnews.com/article/700068940/Michael-R-Ash-Is-the-Tower-of-Babel-historical-or-mythological.html?pg=all>
  35. Quoted from the midrash by Radak in Meir Zlotowitz, Bereishis, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 1986), 168.
  36. Luther states that these patriarchs also had a better diet, more sound bodies, and experienced a less developed impact of sin on the physical creation. Martin Luther, The Creation: A Commentary on the First Five Chapters of the Book of Genesis, trans. Henry Cole (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1858), 449.
  37. John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), 399-404. The vapor canopy idea has met strong scientific resistance in recent years.
  38. Donald V. Etz, “The Numbers of Genesis V:3-31: A Suggested Conversion and Its Implications,” Vetus Testamentum 43 (1993): 178.
  39. Lloyd R. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” in A Gift of God in Due Season, ed. Richard D. Weis and David M. Carr (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press Ltd, 1996). By the new figuring, a Hebrew year would equal a lunar month. However, applying this idea to all of the numbers in Gen 5, Enoch would have been only 5 years old when his son Methuselah was born!
  40. Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987). cf. Gen 8:3-4.
  41. Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, trans. John J. Scullion S.J. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1974), 353.
  42. Cf. J. B. Payne, “Antediluvian Patriarchs,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979).
  43. Gerhard Larsson, The Secret System: A Study in the Chronology of the Old Testament (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973), 59. Hasel concludes that the LXX and SP show schematization, but only the MT has a "non-schematic presentation of figures," Gerhard F. Hasel, “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings,” Origins 7 (1980).
  44. Larsson, The Secret System: A Study in the Chronology of the Old Testament, 8. This includes a lunar year of 354 days, an Egyptian solar year of 365 days and a "standard" year of 365.25 years.
  45. Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 114.
  46. W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary: Genesis (New York: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1974), 55. An example he includes is from Gen 6:3: 120 yrs = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5. Bullinger attributes this symbolic use to divine interest as seen in Dan 8:13 with the transliterated "Palmoni," Bullinger's stated angel whose divine function was numbers, Ethelbert W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1894), 20. Christensen also follows such methods as Plaut. See Duane L. Christensen, “Did People Live to Be Hundreds of Years Old before the Flood? No,” in The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions About Creation and the Flood, ed. Ronald Youngblood, ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986).
  47. Abraham Malamat, “King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 165. See also the discussion of "ten" in the Gen genealogies in M. Abot section 5, Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 685. Garrett also thinks this is deliberate, thus indicating redaction, Duane A. Garrett, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Bible (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000), 99. Hasel, though, disagrees depending on Noah's role in the Gen 11 genealogy. Therefore, he states that these two lists (Gen 5 and 11) don't show a 10-10 pattern but rather a 10-9 or 11-10 pattern, Gerhard F. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” Origins 7 (1980): 60. Against his view would be a literary argument: Gen 11 is the line of Shem, as stated (Gen 11:10), therefore Noah does not need to be placed in the genealogy of Gen 11. What stands is ten genealogical names in both Gen 5 and 11.
  48. Larsson, The Secret System: A Study in the Chronology of the Old Testament, 16. He holds that there is support for this secret writing in the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, which contain astrological and chronological contents (17).
  49. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” 64.
  50. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 134. He states this while agreeing that Barnouin shows impressive math and striking coincidences.
  51. This is the summary of Wenham, Ibid. See also Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 301-02.
  52. For example, some of the lengths of reign in the SKL are listed to be 28,800 yrs, 36,000 yrs, or 18,600 yrs. Basing these numbers off of 60, the solutions are as follows: 28,800 = 60² x 8; 36,000 = 60² x 10; and finally, 18,600 = (60² x 5) + (60 x 10). Bailey has a chart working out all of the calculations of three different texts of the SKL where he uses calculations based off of 60 and the symbolic number 7, in Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” 90-91.
  53. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 133. See also Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 301 ft13.
  54. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” 65. This writer agrees that the figuring does appear very forced with both authors' figuring.
  55. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” 94. He includes a chart calculating all of the numbers contained in Gen 5 (except the final ages of the patriarchs”the calculations shown could just be added together) by using combinations centered on the use of 60 and 7. All of the calculations yield their answers in months. He suggests that this is valid because 5 years (5 being another significant number) equals 60 months.
  56. John Walton, “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5,” Biblical Archeologist 44 (1981): 207-08.
  57. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” 92-93. These include the divine activity at the outset, the same number of generations, the use of 60, the special 7th characters, and the similar age decrease and increase.
  58. This will be shown later in the presentation of those who don't see a parallel between these texts.
  59. U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: From Adam to Noah (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961), 254-59. He sees "very frequent" sexagesimal system use in Talmudic, midrashic, and biblical literature.
  60. Ibid., 263. Also seeing Gen 5 as being influenced by the Mesopotamian tradition in the ten generations, the ages, and the last hero figure, is Robert R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (London: Yale University Press, 1977), 166.
  61. Walton, “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5,” 207-08. He details a potential scenario on how the texts were originally related and subsequently came to look rather different. Using unearthed tablets from Ebla, he sets forth a case that the number system at Ebla was "decimal in its operations but sexagesimal in its symbolic notation (208)." Through all further implications of this, the basic end of the scenario is that there was scribal confusion resulting in a misinterpreting of one system of numbers for another. At that point, the numbers appeared radically different though started the same.
  62. For comments on the political nature of the SKL, see William W. Hallo, “Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 17 (1963).
  63. Gerhard F. Hasel, “The Genealogies of Gen 5 and 11 and Their Alleged Babylonian Background,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 16 (1978): 365-70.
  64. Richard S. Hess, “The Genealogies of Genesis 1-11 and Comparative Literature,” Biblica 70 (1989): 247-53. See also Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 348.
  65. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966), 40.
  66. Joseph Jacobs, “Chronology,” in Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isidore Singer (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1903), 66-67.
  67. Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 354.
  68. K. Luke, “The Genealogies in Genesis 5,” Indian Theological Studies 18 (1981): 228.
  69. Etz, “The Numbers of Genesis V:3-31: A Suggested Conversion and Its Implications,” 176.
  70. Ibid.: 181. For example, Adam's figures would look like this if his "plausible" begetting age was 52 and there were 20 years left until his death: 52 + 20 + 300 = 372, then 372 x 2.5 = 930 years, as is found in Gen 5.
  71. Dwight Wayne Young, “On the Application of Numbers from Babylonian Mathematics to Biblical Life Spans and Epochs,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 100 (1988): 331, 60.
  72. Ibid.: 343.
  73. Ibid.: 322. (Note the late dating”he assumes the priestly writing of Gen 5.) He works through the problem of the number 800 in another article, Dwight Wayne Young, “The Influence of Babylonian Algebra on Longevity among the Antediluvians,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 102 (1990): 326-28. This pivotal number in figuring the ages of Gen 5 can be resolved by understanding the importance of the numbers 30 and 20, which were taught at the elementary level in Mesopotamia. This resolution, then is 800 = (30 + (30 “ 20)) x 20.
  74. Hyman Gabai, Judaism, Mathematics, and the Hebrew Calendar (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 2002), 67.
  75. Ronald H. Isaacs, The Jewish Book of Numbers (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996), 1.
  76. The New Complete Works of Josephus. From Antiquities 1.3.9§108.
  77. Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 41.
  78. Cf. Ibid. Cf. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 35.; Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: From Adam to Noah, 253.; Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World, 164.; Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” 69.; Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 354.; Luther, The Creation: A Commentary on the First Five Chapters of the Book of Genesis, 437.; Donald L. Fowler, “History and Chronology of the Old Testament,” in Foundations for Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 237.
  79. Cf. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 295.; John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989), 295.; Yigal Levin, “Understanding Biblical Genealogies,” Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 9 (2001): 33.
  80. Levin, “Understanding Biblical Genealogies,” 40. He also proposes that this idea was familiar to the intended readers so that there was no question about the use of a form of genealogy. See also Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World,166.
  81. Andrew P. Kvasnica, "The Ages of the Antediluvian Patriarchs" 2005 Student Academic Conference, Dallas Seminary <https://bible.org/article/ages-antediluvian-patriarchs-genesis-5. (accessed 19 July 2019)
  82. See "Jonah" [1]
  83. See "Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: Jonah and Micah" [2]
  84. See Wikipedia “Sodom and Gomorrah” [3] and “Lot’s wife” [4]
  85. John Gee, "The Larger Issue", 2009 FAIR Conference. off-site
  86. Mike Ash, mormonfortress.com
  87. Padilla, F., F. Puerta, J.M. Flores and M. Bustos, "Abejas, Apicultura y el Nuevo Mundo" (Bees, Apiculture and the New World)," Archivos de zootecnia, vol. 41, núm. 154 (extra), p. 565 (Departamento de Ciencias Morfológicas. Facultad de Veterinaria. Universidad de Córdoba. 14005 Córdoba. España.)
  88. Roman James Head, "A Brief Survey of Ancient Near Eastern Beekeeping," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 57–66. off-site wiki
  89. 89.0 89.1 Eva Crane, The Archaeology of Beekeeping (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 33.
  90. 90.0 90.1 Eva Crane, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (London: Duckworth, 1999)
  91. Charles F. Calkins, "Beekeeping in Yucatán: A Study in Historical-Cultural Zoogeography (PhD diss., University of Nebraska, 1974), as quoted in Crane, World History of Beekeeping, 292. Calkins cites the original translated source as Hernán Cortés, Letters of Cortés: The Five Letters of Relation from Fernando Cortes to the Emperor Charles V, trans. and ed. Francis A. MacNutt (New York: Putnam, 1908), 1:145.
  92. Head note that "The Inca and Aztec civilizations settled at altitudes too high for apiculture."
  93. This article is written in response to a list of supposed problems created by reddit user u/curious_mormon. The list has been used by other critics in order to bring up problems in the narrative of the Jaredites
  94. Jerry Grover, "The Swords of Shule" (Provo, UT: Challex Scientific Publishing, 2018) 61-6
  95. Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007) 6:229. Gardner cites Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon (Orem, UT: SA Publishers, 1989), 260.
  96. This line written 29 March 2019
  97. See Jason Daley, “First Humans Entered the Americas Along the Coast, Not Through the Ice” <https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/humans-colonized-americas-along-coast-not-through-ice-180960103/#b4swDByY8eP6m68e.99> (accessed 29 March 2019); Cecily Hilleary, “Native Americans Call for Rethink of Bering Strait Theory” <https://www.voanews.com/a/native-americans-call-for-rethink-of-bering-strait-theory/3901792.html> (accessed 29 March 2019)
  98. Gardner , Second Witness 229 citing Allen, Lands of the Book of Mormon
  99. Wikipedia, “Shipbuilding – Pre-history <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipbuilding#Pre-history> (accessed 3 April 2019)
  100. Connan, J., “Use and Trade of Bitumen in Antiquity and Prehistory: Molecular Archaeology Reveals Secrets of Past Civilizations.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, vol. 354, no. 1379, 1999, pp. 33–50., doi:10.1098/rstb.1999.0358.
  101. Wikipedia, “Dry distillation” <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_distillation> (accessed 3 April 2019)
  102. Wikipedia, “Shipbuilding – Pre-history”
  103. K. Kris Hirst, “The Archaeology and History [of] Bitumen” <https://www.thoughtco.com/bitumen-history-of-black-goo-170085> (accessed 3 April 2019)
  104. All Mesopotamia, “Mesopotamia’s gooey symbol of progress” <https://allmesopotamia.wordpress.com/tag/bitumen/> (accessed 3 April 2019)
  105. Charles Q. Quoi, "Ancient Roman Shipwreck May Have Held Giant Fish Tank" <https://www.livescience.com/14406-fish-tank-ancient-roman-shipwreck.html.> (accessed 3 April 2019)
  106. Gardner, Second Witness, 6:320
  107. David Webster, “Warfare and Status Rivalry: Lowland Maya and Polynesian Comparisons,” in Archaic States, ed. Gary M. Feinman and Joyce Marcus (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1998), 350–51.
  108. David Webster, “The Not So Peaceful Civilization: A Review of Maya War,” Journal of World Prehistory 14/1 (2000): 101-2
  109. Robert L. Rands, “Some Evidences of Warfare in Classic Maya Art” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1952).
  110. Diane Z. Chase and Arlen F. Chase, “Texts and Contexts in Maya Warfare: A Brief Consideration of Epigraphy and Archaeology at Caracol, Belize,” in Brown and Stanton, Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare, 171–88.
  111. William Rathje, “Dr. Garbage” to archaeologists, has an authoritative word to say about the difficulties of battlefield archaeology: “At any battle site, archaeologists are enthralled by the specter of finding spear points and pieces of chain mail at the positions predicted by history or legend. Perhaps the most disappointed were the British archaeologists who excavated the reputed site of the Battle of Hastings, where William the Conqueror’s Normans decimated King Harold’s Anglo-Saxons, on the battle’s 900th anniversary in 1966. [All] the historical treasure trove they recovered consisted of a few human and horse teeth that survived the scavengers and the forces of nature. . . . After the deciding clash [at the Battle of Culloden] between the Scottish Clans and British troops on April 16, 1746, virtually all the dead were picked clean of weapons, armor, valuables, and clothing, down to the last memento, by the ubiquitous camp followers, both professional scavengers and ladies of the night. Then the bodies were neatly stacked in large piles and set ablaze.” William L. Rathje, “The World’s Oldest Profession,” MSW Management (The Journal for Municipal Solid Waste Professionals) (2002); at http://www.mswmanagement.com/MSW/Articles/The_Worlds_Oldest_Profession_3982.aspx.
  112. Terry Stocker, “Conquest, Tribute and the Rise of the State,” in Studies in the Neolithic and Urban Revolutions: The V. Gordon Childe Colloquium, Mexico, 1986, ed. Linda Manzanilla, BAR International Series 349 (Oxford: BAR, 1987), 367.
  113. Pedro Armillas, “Fortalezas mexicanas,” Cuadernos americanos 41/5 (1948): 143–63. For an English version, see Armillas, “Mesoamerican Fortifications,” Antiquity 25 (1951): 77–86.
  114. Angel Palerm, “Notas sobre las construcciones militares y la guerra en Mesoamerica,” Anales del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia 8 (1954): 123–34.
  115. David Webster, “The Not So Peaceful Civilization: A Review of Maya War,” Journal of World Prehistory 14/1 (2000): 69
  116. Webster, “Not So Peaceful Civilization,” 74; emphasis added.
  117. Hubert H. Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States (1875; repr., San Francisco: Bancroft, 1883), 2:416–17.
  118. Henry F. Dobyns, “Estimating Aboriginal American Population: An Appraisal of Techniques with a New Hemispheric Estimate,” Current Anthropology 7 (1966): 406.
  119. Harry E. D. Pollock et al., Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico, Publication 619 (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1962), 264.
  120. Kuniaki Ohi et al., “Los resultados de las investigaciones arqueológicas en Kaminaljuyu,” in X Simposio de investigaciones arqueológicas en Guatemala, 1996, ed. Juan P. Laporte and Héctor L. Escobedo (Guatemala: Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, 1997), 93–94.
  121. Joseph B. Mountjoy and David Peterson, Man and Land at Prehispanic Cholula, Anthropology Publication 4 (Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 1973), 3.
  122. George L. Cowgill, “Teotihuacan, Internal Militaristic Competition, and the Fall of the Classic Maya,” in Maya Archaeology and Ethnohistory, ed. Norman Hammond and Gordon R. Willey (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), 62.
  123. John Sorenson, "Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book" (Provo and Salt Lake City: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and Deseret Book, 2013) Ch 18, "Warfare" under Problems for Archaeology: Evidence for Warfare
  124. written 3 April 2019
  125. William J. Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill, "Swords in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1990), 347
  126. Ibid.
  127. Kent P. Jackson. 1990. "Never Have I Showed Myself unto Man": A Suggestion for Understanding Ether 3:15a. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mormonismi.net/kirjoitukset/byu_jumala.shtml. [Accessed 6 December 2016].
  128. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56), 1:37
  129. Christ And The New Covenant, p. 21-23
  130. Benjamin Willmore, "Mormonism Absurd," West Bromwich, [1858?].
  131. Henry Whittall, "Anti-Mormon Objections Answered," Millennial Star 20 no. 10 (6 March 1858), 148–149.
  132. Unsigned editorial {A.W. [Elder A. Wootton] wrote other editorial, Platte D. Lyman was editor and publisher}, "Untitled editorial," Millennial Star 62 no. 2 (1900), 89.
  133. M. Gary Hadfield, "Neuropathology and the Scriptures," Brigham Young University Studies 33 no. 2 (1993), 324.
  134. See off-site