I’m still working on my post about things Brigham Young said. I’ll probably finish it by next week.
Until then, read this: https://benspackman.com/2021/12/the-1980-old-testament-institute-manual-why-you-should-ignore-it-for-teaching-genesis/?fbclid=IwAR2s2nO9T5PqbATtRRk2PpGDQgNnhOYAh8sf81hKINU5kB36ZmRwJxS73pk
As Aaron Brown said:
If you’re LDS, read this post by Ben Spackman.
Well written and intelligent.
Anyway, read the whole thing.
I mean, I don’t think I would use any correlated LDS material to teach Genesis. Or any other materials that promote biblical literalism. But that’s some very interesting background from Spackman!
Based on reading and listening I’m doing right now (new to biblical scholarship but finding it fascinating), Genesis was not an attempt to explain the actual creation of the earth. Like, that is just plain not what the authors were even trying to do. They did not even have the same concept or image of the earth as part of the universe that we now do. There is literally no conflict between the creation story and science because they aren’t trying to address the same thing. Religion is creating that conflict by insisting that the bible is something that it’s not. We are all poorer for it in both our appreciation of what Genesis was really trying to tell us about God’s relationship to humanity (contrasted with the accounts of creation that Israel was conversing with from Egyptians and Assyrians and Babylonians) and in our denial of true miracles of science.
Anyway, Church is going to be *very* interesting next year …
My mother-in-law (the grandma to my kids) likes to send my kids quotes from past prophets including B Young via text. Do you know how hard it is for them not to respond with some other very interesting selected quotes from Brigham Young? You all know what I’m talking about. That’s what I thought of when I read the line “things Brigham Young said”. There’s nothing an anti-Mormon could say that is worse than some of the quotes I’m familiar with.
That was a really fascinating piece! We see so little of what actually goes on behind closed doors in the COB that it’s strangely satisfying to get a glimpse of all the politics and wheeling and dealing that goes on. I wonder how long it will be before we’re able to read about what today’s apostles actually thought of each other.
I truly believe that the general membership is missing out spiritually when it comes to evolution. The discovery that all animals including humans are descended from a common ancestor is huge. It should change everything about how we see ourselves and the world around us. I personally find it emotionally easier to be a human that evolved through messy processes with natural desires and problems rather than the sci-fi demigod that creationism told me I was (that’s always wondering why God made me this way if he expects me to be something else).
@Kirkstall, agree on evolution. Plus, as a woman, it’s so nice to know that God didn’t actually intentionally design reproduction to work the way that it does. Otherwise, I would be (and honestly was before) convinced that God totally hates women. Because no loving God would *intentionally* design reproduction to work the way it does and the very real impact it has on women’s health and lives. Like, if you’re trying to maximize the survival of a species it definitely makes sense for women to be able to reproduce from ages 12-55 and have a shot at it every single month but otherwise, that’s a TERRIBLE system! And how come seahorses pulled off males gestating babies but in humans women have to bear the full brunt? I’m sure people can think of other examples where they’ve thought “I can see from an evolutionary standpoint why things turned out this way, but from a design perspective this is not how I would have done things if I was perfect” – that’s just the example that hits home for me. And yet another reason why I definitely do not buy the Mormon version of heaven being an eternal reproductive cycle. No thanks, you can keep that heaven to yourselves. I’ll stick with my metaphors.
What Ben is doing here is of tremendous value. I have interacted with him on several occasions through the bloggernacle and we have had our share of disagreements. His views are certainly cut from believing apologist cloth. But were he too critical, he wouldn’t have nearly the impact on correlation that I sense he is trying to have and would be dismissed as a critic (although it is possible that he already is to some extent). He walks a fine line to say the least. Through his archival research and first-hand interviews he has uncovered “Gary” and exposed just the type of reactionary figure from the 1960s who has crafted the material in the Old Testament manual. What a frightening individual this “Gary” appears to be. I hope he is able to influence significant change to correlation and what is actually taught in the church manuals. It is high time that the church move away from this quasi-Young Earth Creationism that it has promoted for so long in its institution. If there is someone who can influence change to a more metaphorical view of Genesis, it is him.
I found the Yale online Old Testament course to be really helpful. As a scientist, I long ago let go of the notion that Genesis could be useful for understanding the process by which life came to be; but the Yale course helped me to see the ideas that the various authors of the Hebrew Bible were trying to wrestle with as they drew from other stories/mythologies to create their own stories and why some of these ideas were influential. So much of the Old Testament made much more sense after going through that course than after multiple passes between seminary, institute, and GD every four years. I have also been intrigued on the few occasions when the pastors in the United Methodist Church I attend virtually nowadays have done some exegesis on OT stories. A very different approach than the literalism employed by most Mormons. But I think the LDS church is likely stuck with thus literalism because this was a huge part of Joseph Smith approach to religion. For Joseph, there was not only an actual Adam and Noah, but his interacting with them was part of his pitch as a prophet. So I don’t know how the institutional LDS church could really acknowledge that bible stories aren’t history without seeming to reject Joseph. Its so freeing to not have to wear that strait-jacket any more and letting the OT be a book that provides lots of moral dilemmas for discussion and thought, rather than definitive answers.
I think a big reason that Ben Spackman’s more metaphorical approach to the Book of Genesis is going to face pushback (or, well, be ignored) is because of the temple ceremony. While the ceremony does not overtly tie the story to historicity claims about Genesis, it implies a strong historicity angle in a moment that the average believer considers to be very sacrosanct. Or at least, I think that is the impression that stalwart believers are left with, enough so that it is an area where church leaders don’t really want to go. Their stance is just to treat the Genesis account as having some historical value and not say much different than what they have been saying in the past, albeit with occasional house cleaning in the form of omissions of past material. The distant past doesn’t tend to be an area where members are staking strong opinions. The average member is mostly interested in how the stories apply in their own lives, and are often content to just say, “I don’t everything that happened and there is a lot we won’t know.”
Why am I thinking “Gary’s” last name is probably Skousen?
I thoroughly enjoyed the link and will be chasing through Ben’s blog for the coming weeks. While I agree with John W’s observations about the effects of the presumed creation literalism displayed in the temple ceremony, a more nuanced conversation about the creation would bring balance (and truth) to our more evangelically leaning congregants who accept young-earth creationism without further thought.
While this strays from the the discussion centering on the OT lesson manual and drifts more generally to the topic of evolution and the fundamentalist views on creationism that took over within the church, 1930s-1950s, Evenson and Jeffery’s booklet, “Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements” is an informative resource. Duane Jeffery’s article that appeared in dialogue in 1974 (I could be wrong) and republished (and updated) in 1992, I believe, is also informative and a worthwhile read. Doing a quick Google search, the article is titled, “Seers, Savants and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface.” (It’s been twenty years since I thought of this article but think I’ll read it again this weekend.)
…And I have to say I just can’t get past the fact Seventh-day Adventist doctrine made it into our lesson manual while James Talmage and John Widtsoe were shut out… It’s dumbfounding.
It wasn’t Cleon Skousen, though you’re not the first to guess him. I haven’t done a lot of work on Skousen, but I think “Gary” was to his right.
On the temple and its genre, I’ve made a number of arguments.