Interpreting Science and Scripture: Joseph Fielding Smith, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Hermeneutics in LDS History

I was set to present a paper at the Mormon History Association this year (now pushed to next year), “Seventh-day Adventist Influence on LDS Creationism, from Joseph Fielding Smith to Ezra Taft Benson.”

Here’s an expanded teaser with some analysis of philosophical underpinnings.

Continue reading “Interpreting Science and Scripture: Joseph Fielding Smith, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Hermeneutics in LDS History”

Science, religion, and evolution… in the 12th century

Many deeply religious people have concerns about subordinating religion to science, the tail wagging the dog as it were. I see it a LOT in LDS history. There’s certainly some legitimacy to that fear, but also a lot of misunderstandings. Ideas of progressive or developmental creation are not necessarily a response to Darwin.

I’ve written before about how “science” and “religion” as commonly understood today are not well-defined categories, and can’t simply be retrojected into the past; Galileo wasn’t a “scientist” because such a thing didn’t exist yet, nor did he think he was doing “science.” Continue reading “Science, religion, and evolution… in the 12th century”

“We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden”: Genre and the Temple, Part 3

See here and here for parts 1 and 2

Some Latter-day Saints, including some General Authorities like Joseph Fielding Smith, have tried to resolve apparent discrepancies between scripture and science on the age of the earth by asserting that “we don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden.” The implication is that the while the earth went on existing, potentially for millions or billions of years, Adam and Eve remained effectively in stasis in the garden planted eastward in Eden.

I see three arguments against this view.

Continue reading ““We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden”: Genre and the Temple, Part 3″

Snippets from my Dissertation Proposal on the Roots of LDS Creation/Evolution Conflict in the 20th Century

I’ve gone through multiple refining drafts of my dissertation proposal. My main problem, said my advisor, is atypical; most people at this point have the bulk of their research ahead of them, but I already have enough for two books and half a dozen papers. The trick is filtering, narrowing, and tightening. A good amount of material will be saved for the future book(s) based thereon. So here are some snippets of thought, brain-storming, and writing from along the way. Continue reading “Snippets from my Dissertation Proposal on the Roots of LDS Creation/Evolution Conflict in the 20th Century”

Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!

Red brick store in Nauvoo, where the first endowments were done on May 4, 1842.

Edit: I’ve added this syllabus to the main menu at left, and simplified the url for easy access, to http://BenSpackman.com/syllabus

May 4th holds significance in LDS history: it’s the day Joseph Smith introduced temple ordinances in the upper room of the red brick store in 1842. The temple ties together a number of questions, like: Continue reading “Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!”

Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE

Melvin Cook, famous chemist and ardent LDS young-earth creationist, thought scripture should be interpreted literally.

My analysis is intended to be strictly literalistic; in my view, intellectual honesty requires literalism in the interpretation of the scriptures.

President Joseph Fielding Smith also made repeated statements about the necessity of reading scripture literally.

I agree with them. But I’ll go one better and do something they never did: I’m going to define the term “literal.” Continue reading “Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE”

Translation and Context: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, Isaiah and Job at Ugarit

Communication involves not just words, but the context, culture, and worldview in which they are embedded. Simple translation of words alone, reading words alone, however “clear,” will fail to communicate the entire message, because this kind of information is tacit and unstated. Sometimes we can tell we’re missing an intangible something, but most often we can’t even tell that, illustrated extensively in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes.

Here are some modern examples. Continue reading “Translation and Context: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, Isaiah and Job at Ugarit”