The LDS Church has long wrestled with two tough questions:  (1) how to handle DNA & the Book of Mormon, (2) whether to ordain women.  I sat down with Jim Vun Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency and asked how the Remnant Church handles these issues.

DNA & Book of Mormon

Before we tackle DNA, is the Book of Mormon historical?

Jim:  We believe that it is an absolute literal history.  We believe that there were Lamanites and Nephites and Jacobites and Josephites and all the different –ites that were here upon the land.  Obviously there’s a good debate on where they really were exactly for North and South America and so forth, and where maybe in North America and so forth.  But yes we do believe that it was a literal people that were here.

What does Jim think about Simon Southerton’s work saying Native Americans are descendants of Asians, rather than from the Middle East?

Jim:  Well you know, first of all, I think that whole study—I feel there was a motive to putting together that research, first of all.  I don’t feel that was fair and scientific in the way that it was done.  Considering if you really want to look at the groups of people, you could argue that Ishmael, is that really the name of a good practicing Jew?  I don’t know, but I have a lot of questions.  Oh by the way, how many peoples actually came to the Americas?  I’ll just put it that way.  We’ll summarize.  How many different people came?

Well there were a lot of people, and they’re finding a lot of archaeological evidence of a lot of people, so to say that we know that all the Indians were Lamanites I think is really a fallacy.  I don’t think you can really say that.  They may or may not be.  We really don’t know which ones really are or aren’t.  For them to go forward and try to put together DNA evidence based on that, plus the other thing is you’re talking about many, many generations back.  Trying to argue that you’ve got somebody you can match DNA with from that time period to this time period, I don’t think that science is quite there yet for that.

I really think that it’s a, “ah, we got them!  We’re going to disprove the Book of Mormon in one fell swoop.” It’s just kind of like, ”no guys, I don’t think so.”  I just don’t think that from my background, being in engineering, I don’t really feel like all the boxes were checked.  I don’t really feel like it was an exhaustive study.  I felt like there was more of a motive for putting together the research instead of actually looking at it objectively.”

Check out the full interview here.

Women and Priesthood

First, I asked Jim to recount his experiences from 1984.

Jim:  Well, wow.  1984 was very much a pivotal year, and it came to its climax in a revelation that was brought by Wallace Bunnell Smith.  It was allowing women to be ordained into the priesthood.  That was kind of the tip of the iceberg of all the different changes and things that were going on.

The church was doctrinally changing from probably the mid to late [19]60s.  It was going through a transformation.  There were a number of priesthood members who had entered into the church who had different ideas about the doctrine of the church.  To be fair, I believe they’re trying to seek Jesus Christ in the best way they understand.  I’m speaking apologetically. I hope everyone understands that.  I still love a lot of lovely people over there, just like in the LDS Church. We find many, many lovely people there too.

The thing was, they went about changing the structure and the order underneath, and then at ’84, that became the pivotal point where no one could go any further.  It was like, look.  This isn’t right.  We don’t agree with this.  We can’t find any doctrinal support for women and the priesthood basically.

Without asking, Jim referenced something LDS people are familiar with.

It’s like women ordained to have children, bear children.  Thankfully we’re not as men.  {chuckles}  I think the Lord calls each of us to a work to that we are to do.  It’s not we’re trying to hold somebody out one way or the other, because just as you all have sister missionaries, we believe that witnessing to Jesus Christ is everyone’s job to go out there and to promulgate the gospel.  It’s just the ordinances that they can’t perform.  I really miss what the big deal is when it really comes down to that.  I think it’s much more of an ideological than theological point of view that people tend to move to when they go down the road of women and the priesthood, and I don’t know how far you’ve gone into looking at that.  I think it also gets into relative truth versus absolute truth.  It goes a number of different branches but anyway, I’ll stop.

I pressed him a little on the issue, and here’s what he said.

Jim:  It’s like, if I use this analogy, I don’t want anybody on this podcast to think that I’m being demeaning in any way towards women. I’m not going to say anything derogatory.  I’m just going to use an analogy.  I feel that there’s kind of a logic error if you will.  Because I believe that God’s word in it is inherently logical.  I mean it makes complete sense and it has a balance to it and it is perfect.  It’s just like in the past, I could use the logic that God used Balaam’s ass, did he not?  He did.

GT:  I believe Brigham Young said that was not literal.  {both chuckle}

Jim:  Well ok, that’s alright.  We consider that it was, but ok.  But considering that that was, He did that.  I can stitch from that and I could also come over here and say I’ve got a dog and this dog is a lovely dog.  He knows unconditional love.  He’s never barked at anybody.  He just loves anybody he meets.  He doesn’t care who you are, and oh by the way he happens to be male so I should just ordain him to the priesthood.  Does it really make sense?  That’s the question I really want to ask.  Does it really make sense?

Hear his full comments on female ordination here.  What do you think of Jim’s explanations?