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."

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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 and/or spin - 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: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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.



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.


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). [1]

This interpretation has been shared by many Church authors, including President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie.[2] 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?

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. [3]

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." [4]

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." [5]

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. [6] 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. [7]

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. [8]

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. [9]


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: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

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



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.) [10]

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.


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.[11]


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: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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.



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 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."

Latter-day Saints believe that Noah existed, and that he built an ark to save his family from a flood, and that the flood occurred

There are a number of basic teachings which we all accept regardless of the global or local scope 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.
  • The Flood was a literal event which did indeed occur.
  • 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, or whether it only covered Noah's world, makes no difference

Latter-day Saints believe that the prophet Noah existed, and that he was commanded to build an ark and save his family from a flood. A belief that this flood was global in nature is not a requirement for Latter-day Saints; 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 conclude that a local flood — one limited to the area in which Noah lived — is the best explanation of the available data. People of either view can be members in good standing.


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 includes a quote from John A. Widtsoe regarding the reported depth of the flood. It should be noted, however, the 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].[12]


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. This is not likely to ever change, since it is based directly upon a straightforward reading of the scriptures. 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 believe that the Flood of Noah may have been of limited scope, yet still accept what is taught in Church? We examine the scriptures 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

Although this criticism is directed at the LDS church, it is really directed at anyone who believes in a literal reading of the Old Testament. LDS leaders have in the past taught the concept of a global flood based upon such a reading. Although the idea of the global flood has been used as an example, Church leaders have never stated that a belief in a global flood is necessary for salvation.

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.

A similar reference to the destruction of all flesh from off the earth is found in Latter-day scripture in Moses 8:25-30. These passages have long been interpreted to mean that the entire globe was covered by water (although some 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..." [13]

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." [14] 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. 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." [15] Joseph Smith, Jr. taught that Noah was born to save seed of everything when the earth was washed of its wickedness by the flood. [16] Such wickedness could include man's wickedness, or it could imply a need for the earth itself to have a type of baptism.


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. [17] (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. [18]

John Taylor also expressed similar views, albeit more briefly. [19] 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." [20] 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. [21]

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 a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

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.



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?

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 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. [22]

The belief that the flood was either global or local does not constitute a critical part of Latter-day Saint theology

The belief that the flood was either global or local does not constitute a critical part of Latter-day Saint theology.[23] 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.</ref> Whether the flood was global or local, we believe that the prophet Noah existed, that he built an ark, and that he and his family survived the deluge.


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.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 welcome and integrate new scientific discoveries into their world view. They view God as the greatest "scientist" of all. We do not claim to know how everything was accomplished in the creation of this world.



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.


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.[24]


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. [25]

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)

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.


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"

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.[26]


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). [27]


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: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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."



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 [28], 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?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect 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.



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." [29]


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. [30]


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

Ronan James Head: [31]

The apis mellifera species was not found in the New World until it was imported from about the seventeenth century AD onward.[32] 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.[33] 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.[34]

The earliest archaeological evidence for American apiculture comes from the Late Preclassic Maya period (ca. 300 BC–AD 300).[35] 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,[32]. and the ancient Maya pantheon included a bee god called Ah Mucan Cab.[33].


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 and/or spin - 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: "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: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

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



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!”[36]

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.[37]

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.’”[38]

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.[39]

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."[40] 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.


Notes

  1. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Death,", 655. off-site direct off-site
  2. For a representative sample of the non-official statements made by Elder McConkie and others from a variety of perspectives, see here.
  3. Jeffery R. Holland, "Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet," April 2015 General Conference.
  4. 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.
  5. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Introduction,", 599. off-site
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. First Presidency, Memorandum to General Authorities, April 1931, 6–7.
  9. James Edward Talmage, Personal Journal (7 April 1931) 29:42, Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (emphasis added).
  10. "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
  11. Brigham Young, (14 May 1871) Journal of Discourses 14:116.
  12. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Earth" off-site
  13. 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.
  14. Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 30. off-site
  15. Orson Pratt, "The Earth's Baptism In Water," (1 Aug. 1880) Journal of Discourses 21:323.
  16. History of the Church 1:283; Evening and Morning Star, August 1832.
  17. Kevin Barney, Was the Garden of Eden Really in Missouri?, By Common Consent, July 4, 2007.
  18. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 5:73. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  19. John Taylor, Government of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1852), 110. off-site
  20. 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).
  21. 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.
  22. Donald W. Parry, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel,” Ensign, Jan 1998, 35. off-site
  23. Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 31–32. off-site
  24. 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.
  25. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:117.
  26. Brigham Young, (May 14, 1871) Journal of Discourses 14:116.
  27. Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 55–60.
  28. John Gee, "The Larger Issue", 2009 FAIR Conference. off-site
  29. Mike Ash, mormonfortress.com
  30. 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.)
  31. Roman James Head, "A Brief Survey of Ancient Near Eastern Beekeeping," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 57–66. off-site wiki
  32. 32.0 32.1 Eva Crane, The Archaeology of Beekeeping (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 33.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Eva Crane, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (London: Duckworth, 1999)
  34. 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.
  35. Head note that "The Inca and Aztec civilizations settled at altitudes too high for apiculture."
  36. Benjamin Willmore, "Mormonism Absurd," West Bromwich, [1858?].
  37. Henry Whittall, "Anti-Mormon Objections Answered," Millennial Star 20 no. 10 (6 March 1858), 148–149.
  38. 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.
  39. M. Gary Hadfield, "Neuropathology and the Scriptures," Brigham Young University Studies 33 no. 2 (1993), 324.
  40. See off-site


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Letter to a CES Director
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells