Question: Does the biblical story of Peleg describe the separation of the continents?

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Question: Does the biblical story of Peleg describe the separation of the continents?

Some Latter-day Saint thinkers have understood the matter as referring to the sudden separation of the continents in a catastrophic event. Others have regarded this as a misunderstanding of the text

Does the biblical story of Peleg describe the separation of the continents? There is a reference to this event in DC 133:.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


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.

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.

—LDS Newsroom, "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," lds.org (4 May 2007) off-site]


Some Latter-day Saint thinkers have understood the matter as referring to the sudden separation of the continents in a catastrophic event. Others have regarded this as a misunderstanding of the text. The Church has no official position on the matter, and it does not play much of a role in LDS thought or discourse.

Genesis 10:25 contains a passing reference to man called Peleg, who received his name because "in his days was the earth divided". The Hebrew verb פלג (palag) means "separate" or "divide."

Some Latter-day Saints have interpreted this passage with extreme literalness

Some Latter-day Saints have interpreted this passage with extreme literalness, believing that the earth's tectonic plates, which were once a single land mass, all separated into the continents we know today during the life of a single mortal, instead of over hundreds of millions of years as scientists have theorized. Two of these were Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.

It is more likely that Peleg's name anticipates the division of languages at Babel in the following chapter

But the scripture doesn't require such an extraordinary conclusion: It is more likely that Peleg's name anticipates the division of languages at Babel in the following chapter. (Note that palag appears in Psalms 55:9 to refer to a division of languages.)

In the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, 1,000 miles of fault line slipped 50 feet, resulting in a 9.3-magnitude earthquake that created seismic sea waves up to 100 feet high. These tsunamis caused the deaths of nearly 230,000 people. The amount of force required to move the major continents thousands of miles apart in the lifetime of a single individual would cause much worse devastation, a global catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. Thus, to accomplish this without a divine miracle which hid all trace of such an event would be extraordinarily unlikely. But, such a miracle cannot be proven or identified by science or observation. Those who choose to believe that this is what happen can only rely on faith.

If the division is one of language, then DC 133:22–23 would refer to the return to a time when languages no longer divide humankind. This will take place during the 1,000 years of peace when the Savior reigns. Such a return to unity might also symbolize the passing of all the temporary, petty, and earthly matters which alienate humans from each other.


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