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Mormonism and science/Global or local Flood
Mormonism and the reconciliation of the Flood of Noah with scripture and Church teachings
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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?
- 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"
- Joseph Fielding Smith (1942): "Oh, no, it will not be literal fire any more than it was literal water that covered the earth in the flood"
- Question: Why does the Church teach that the flood was a global event?
- Question: Are Church members required to believe in a global flood?
- Question: How could the Garden of Eden have been in Missouri if the Flood was local?
- Question: Doesn't the Bible say that the continents were divided immediately after the Flood?
- Question: How did ancient people of the Old and New Worlds view the "the world"?
This is a doctrinal or theological topic about which there is no official Church doctrine of which FairMormon is aware and/or for which may learn more about "line upon line; precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30; Isaiah 28:10). Leaders and members may have expressed a variety of opinions or positions. Like all material in FairMormon Answers, it reflects the best efforts of FairMormon volunteers, not an official Church position.
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].
Joseph Fielding Smith (1942): "Oh, no, it will not be literal fire any more than it was literal water that covered the earth in the flood"
Joseph Fielding Smith, The Signs of the Times, 41.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Somebody said, ‘Brother Smith, do you mean to say that it is going to be literal fire?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, it will not be literal fire any more than it was literal water that covered the earth in the flood.’”
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..." 
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."  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."  Joseph Smith, Jr. taught that Noah was born to save seed of everything when the earth was washed of its wickedness by the flood.  Such wickedness could include man's wickedness, or it could imply a need for the earth itself to have a type of baptism.
- List of Flood Myths from Wikipedia (Flood myths from cultures on the different continents--dating origins to different times in history)
- Flood myth from Australia
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. 
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. 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 
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.  (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. 
John Taylor also expressed similar views, albeit more briefly.  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."  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. 
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.
Question: How did ancient people of the Old and New Worlds view the "the world"?
Ancient people conceived of the world on a much smaller scale than we do today. For them, "the world" consisted of the lands and nations they were aware of in their immediate area
The way that ancient people viewed "the world" has critical implications for how we read ancient scripture.
Ancient people conceived of the world on a much smaller scale than we do today. For them, "the world" consisted of the lands and nations they were aware of in their immediate area. They didn't understand "the earth" to be an enormous sphere; rather, they visualized it as a comparatively small, flat disk. (When you look to the horizon, that's an obvious conclusion to make.)
In Exodus 10:15 we read that the Lord sent a swarm of locusts that "covered the face of the whole earth"
This view of the world appears throughout the Bible:
In Exodus 10:15 we read that the Lord sent a swarm of locusts that "covered the face of the whole earth." Obviously, this couldn't mean that locusts covered all the land on the entire planet earth! To the author of Exodus, "the whole earth" meant "all the land we can see." Similarly, according to Genesis 41:56, in the days of Joseph there was a famine that "was over all the face of the earth." This passage is not suggesting there was a global famine, but a famine that affected Egypt, Palestine, and all the other lands in the Near East. Neal has already mentioned Luke 2:1's description of "a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." Naturally, "all the world" refers to the limits of the Roman Empire, and wasn't meant to include Scandinavia, southern Africa, east Asia, or the American continent. Acts 2:5 tells us that devout Jews "out of every nation under heaven" had come to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost. Are we assume this means that "every nation under heaven" included the western hemisphere, where the descendants of Lehi still kept the Law of Moses? Of course not.
Regarding the Flood of Noah, the Genesis account tells us that "the waters were on the face of the whole earth"
Regarding the Flood of Noah, the Genesis account tells us that "the waters were on the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 8:9) and "all flesh died that moved upon the earth" (7:21).
Alma in the Book of Mormon: "his voice was as thunder, and it shook the whole earth"
As an ancient document, the Book of Mormon employs the same usage of the phrases "the whole earth" and "the whole world":
Alma₂ testified that the angel who appeared to him and the sons of Mosiah₂ "spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet" (Alma 36:7), and "his voice was as thunder, and it shook the whole earth" (Alma 38:7). Surely the entire planet wasn't trembling at the sound of the angel's voice; rather, all the ground in the area around the five men shook.
After the great Nephite-Lamanite War, the Book of Mormon peoples "did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east" (Helaman 3:8). Notice how "the face of the whole earth" meant, for Mormon₂ (the editor), the entire lands the Nephites and Lamanites possessed (which were small enough to be traversed in a period of a few weeks). Nephi₂ called down a great famine, and we are told that "the whole earth was smitten, even among the Lamanites as well as among the Nephites" (Helaman 11:6). Clearly the planet earth was not struck with a famine, only the Nephite and Lamanite lands. When the sign of Christ's birth appeared in the heavens, "all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth" (3 Nephi 1:17). Notice again that Mormon₂ was describing the extent of Nephite/Lamanite lands, and calling them "the face of the whole earth." At the end of the Jaredite civilization, Moroni₂ lamented that "there were none of the fair sons and daughters [of the Jardites] upon the face of the whole earth who repented of their sins" (Ether 13:17). Clearly Moroni₂ wasn't insinuating that there were Jaredites on every continent of the planet earth.
For Samuel the Lamanite, "this earth" and "the whole earth" were synonymous
Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that, when Jesus died, "the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath…shall be broken up; yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath" (Helaman 14:21–22). Notice that, for Samuel, "this earth" and "the whole earth" were synonymous: They were, from his perspective and the perspective of those who heard him, the same thing. Likewise, he prophesied that "darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days" (Helaman 14:27), i.e. the lands where the Nephites and Lamanites dwelt.
And so it was fulfilled that "the whole earth [did shake] as if it was about to divide asunder" (3 Nephi 8:6; cf. 8:12), "the face of the whole earth became deformed" (3 Nephi 8:17), the rocks "were broken up upon the face of the whole earth" (3 Nephi 8:18). Again, this didn't mean the planet earth, but rather the Book of Mormon lands.
When the darkness fell upon the Lehite people, the text tells us that it was "upon the face of the land" (3 Nephi 8:19; 10:9), which, from the perspective of the ancient authors, was synonymous with "the face of the whole earth."
One of the greatest challenges we have today is reading the scriptures in the mindset of the people who wrote them, who had different scientific and cultural understandings than we do.
The Church does not take an official position on this issue
This is one of many issues about which the Church has no official position. As President J. Reuben Clark taught under assignment from the First Presidency:
- Here we must have in mind—must know—that only the President of the Church, the Presiding High Priest, is sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church, and he alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church....
- When any man, except the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not "moved upon by the Holy Ghost," unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.
- Of these things we may have a confident assurance without chance for doubt or quibbling.
Harold B. Lee was emphatic that only one person can speak for the Church:
- All over the Church you're being asked this: "What does the Church think about this or that?" Have you ever heard anybody ask that question? "What does the Church think about the civil rights legislation?" "What do they think about the war?" "What do they think about drinking Coca-Cola or Sanka coffee?" Did you ever hear that? "What do they think about the Democratic Party or ticket or the Republican ticket?" Did you ever hear that? "How should we vote in this forthcoming election?" Now, with most all of those questions, if you answer them, you're going to be in trouble. Most all of them. Now, it's the smart man that will say, "There's only one man in this church that speaks for the Church, and I'm not that one man."
- I think nothing could get you into deep water quicker than to answer people on these things, when they say, "What does the Church think?" and you want to be smart, so you try to answer what the Church's policy is. Well, you're not the one to make the policies for the Church. You just remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). Well now, as teachers of our youth, you're not supposed to know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. On that subject you're expected to be an expert. You're expected to know your subject. You're expected to have a testimony. And in that you'll have great strength. If the President of the Church has not declared the position of the Church, then you shouldn't go shopping for the answer.
This was recently reiterated by the First Presidency (who now approves all statements published on the Church's official website):
- Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency...and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.
In response to a letter "received at the office of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in 1912, Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency wrote:
- Question 14: Do you believe that the President of the Church, when speaking to the Church in his official capacity is infallible?
- Answer: We do not believe in the infallibility of man. When God reveals anything it is truth, and truth is infallible. No President of the Church has claimed infallibility.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Earth" off-site
- Joseph Fielding Smith, The Signs of the Times, 41.
- 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.
- Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 30. off-site
- Orson Pratt, "The Earth's Baptism In Water," (1 Aug. 1880) Journal of Discourses 21:323.
- History of the Church 1:283; Evening and Morning Star, August 1832.
- Donald W. Parry, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel,” Ensign, Jan 1998, 35. off-site
- Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 31–32. off-site
- (see p. 34). Whether this is the source for the Genesis flood remains conjecture.
- Kevin Barney, Was the Garden of Eden Really in Missouri?, By Common Consent, July 4, 2007.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 5:73. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- John Taylor, Government of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1852), 110. off-site
- 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).
- 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.
- J. Reuben Clark, Jr., "Church Leaders and the Scriptures," [original title "When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?"] Immortality and Eternal Life: Reflections from the Writings and Messages of President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Vol, 2, (1969-70): 221; address to Seminary and Institute Teachers, BYU (7 July 1954); reproduced in Church News (31 July 1954); also reprinted in Dialogue 12/2 (Summer 1979): 68–81.
- Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 445.
- LDS Newsroom, "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," lds.org (4 May 2007)
- Charles W. Penrose, "Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered," Improvement Era 15 no. 11 (September 1912).