Genesis 6:9: “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”

I had never noticed the part that says “of his time” in the NIV Bible. Some of the other translations have the following

KJV: “perfect in his generations”

MEV” “blameless among his contemporaries”

I wonder if this is the first time that God had to put a disclaimer about his prophet, saying that he was “righteous/prefect” in his time, but maybe not so much today? God, the first apologist! Noah got drunk, and fell asleep naked on his bed. He then cursed his youngest son’s posterity for seeing him naked. This curse was used by Christians to justify slavery[1] .Probably not a good example for our current prophet to follow, but in Noah’s time, it was OK! [2]

Where else can we apply this? Could we say that Brigham Young was a ” righteous man, blameless among the people of his time”, yet in our time he would be a racist dictator? Even the Church essay on Race and the Priesthood seems to imply that BY was a product of his time.

Apologists use this all the time in justifying past Prophets perceived shortcomings by saying that we can’t judge them by our modern standards. Joseph Smith marring 14 year old girls? Perfect in His generation?

Is this a legitimate argument? Can we not judge people/prophets/leaders by modern standards? While there could be some justification of removing Christopher Columbus from our public view, it becomes more problematic when prophets that talk with God need to be excused, especially when that make mistakes in doctrine (blood atonement anyone?) And we seem to only excuse dead prophets, never living ones. Brigham Young? Throw him under the bus. Pres Monson and his I’m a Mormon campaign? Victory for Satan.

What do you think history will say about our current Prophet, Pres Nelson? Will he be perfect for his generations? When we go back to using Mormon in 40 years, will they say Nelson was influenced by his current times?

[1] See Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[2] For an excellent essay on why it was such a bid deal for Ham to have seen his father naked, and what that means in the larger context, see this web page.