Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ezra Taft Benson in 2015: Stand up for the right, especially when it is unpopular

A short quote from the 2015 Priesthood and Relief Society manual will be of particular interest to those who are old enough to remember the early 1960s.

"It is good strategy to stand up for the right, even when it is unpopular. Perhaps I should say, especially when it is unpopular." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 23.)

This post will examine some of the background and context for the above statement.

The John Birch Society

Impeach Earl Warren and Get US Out of the United Nations are two campaigns that were launched by The John Birch Society in the early 1960s.

           Impeach Earl Warren        Get US Out

For those who don't remember him, Earl Warren was Chief Justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Warren presided over the Supreme Court "during a period of sweeping changes in U.S. constitutional law." The John Birch Society campaign to Impeach Earl Warren was a protest against the idea that the United States Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it means.

The campaign to Get US Out of the United Nations opposes the idea that the United States Constitution should be abandoned and United States sovereignty surrendered to the United Nations.

Especially when it is unpopular

"It is good strategy to stand up for the right, even when it is unpopular. Perhaps I should say, especially when it is unpopular." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 23.)

In order to find out where and when Ezra Taft Benson originally made this statement, we can look in the footnotes where the source is given as:

Ezra Taft Benson, in Sheri Dew, "President Ezra Taft Benson: Confidence in the Lord," New Era, Aug. 1989, 36.

But the New Era article doesn't list any of its sources. So we still don't know where and when Ezra Taft Benson originally made this statement.

Fortunately, in addition to being the author of the New Era article, Sheri L. Dew is also the author of Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, published by Deseret Book. And the statement we are looking for is quoted at the end of the following paragraph on page 373 in that book:

"During the early 1960s several books were published by Elder Benson, containing some of his hardest-hitting addresses on freedom and values essential to protecting the American way of life. These included, among others, So Shall Ye Reap, Title of Liberty, and A Nation Asleep. Further, he was delighted when Prophets, Principles and National Survival, a collection of Church leaders' warnings on freedom, was published. More than once he recommended it to the Saints during his general conference addresses. Though some apparently disagreed with his repeated attempts to speak on freedom, Elder Benson explained, 'I feel it is always good strategy to stand up for the right, even when it is unpopular. Perhaps I should say, especially when it is unpopular.'"

This time the footnote refers us to the book Prophets, Principles and National Survival, pages 291, 293, and 294. The short statement quoted in the new manual is found on the last of those three pages. The more complete quotation is as follows:

"Now, in the light of what I have just related, you will understand my feelings when people would ask how I felt about the John Birch Society. Because of the amazingly effective propaganda against them, it has been very unpopular to defend this group. I can remember when it was unpopular to defend my own church....

"When my son, Reed, was invited to be a state coordinator for The John Birch Society, he asked me if he should accept it. I had read the Blue Book and other basic materials of the Society. I had met Mr. Welch and other leaders and members. I had read Mr. Welch’s famous letter which has since been published in book form entitled The Politician. I knew Reed would be enrolling in an unpopular cause. I also knew he would receive a certain amount of vilification if he took this job. Nevertheless, I told him to go ahead if he thought this was a most effective way to defend the Constitution and fight the Socialist-Communist menace. I would have given him equal encouragement if he had been considering the FBI or any of our national patriotic organizations dedicated to the fight against the Godless Conspiracy which threatens all we hold dear.

"When he joined I expressed my opinion that I was convinced that The John Birch Society was the most effective non-Church organization in our fight against creeping socialism and Godless communism. I also stated that I admired Reed’s courage and applauded his decision.

"Some people have told me this was not good strategy, but I disagree. I feel it is always good strategy to stand up for the right, even when it is unpopular. Perhaps I should say, ESPECIALLY when it is unpopular."

(From an address given at Boise, Idaho, Dec. 19, 1963, as quoted in Prophets, Principles, and National Survival, 291, 293-4; emphasis in the original.)

Standing up for the right is always good strategy. It is good strategy for us today and it was good strategy for Ezra Taft Benson in 1963.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When Family History and Evolution Collide

A large part of family history work involves identifying our ancestors and giving them the opportunity to accept gospel ordinances. For years, however, my biologist friends have insisted that if I trace my genealogy back far enough, I will find chimpanzees and eventually even fish. So my question is this: If that is true, why do we not anticipate someday doing temple work for those chimps and fish who are our ancestors?

And the answer to that question is simply this: According to our faith, the beasts of the field and the fish of the sea are not our ancestors. The following teachings make that clear and they have never been contradicted in Church media by anyone holding apostolic keys:

1. Boyd K. Packer: "An understanding of the sealing authority with its binding of the generations into eternal families cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts." ("The Law and the Light," 1990.)

2. James E. Talmage: "Man is the child of God, he is born heir to boundless possibilities, the inheritor of the eternities to come. Among mortal beings, the law holds true that the posterity of each shall be after his kind. The child therefore may become like unto the parent; and man may yet attain the rank of godship. He is born in the lineage of Deity, not in the posterity of the brute creation." ("The Earth and Man," 1931.)

3. Boyd K. Packer: "In the countless billions of opportunities in the reproduction of living things, one kind does not beget another. If a species ever does cross, the offspring cannot reproduce. The pattern for all life is the pattern of the parentage.

"This is demonstrated in so many obvious ways, even an ordinary mind should understand it. Surely no one with reverence for God could believe that His children evolved from slime or from reptiles. (Although one can easily imagine that those who accept the theory of evolution don’t show much enthusiasm for genealogical research!) The theory of evolution, and it is a theory, will have an entirely different dimension when the workings of God in creation are fully revealed." (Ensign, Nov. 1984.)

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to mix LDS theology and human evolution

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that man is a dual being, with a body and a spirit, and that man is a child of God. None of this is based on science, in fact it contradicts science.

Boyd K. Packer: "Secular doctrine holds that man is not a child of God, but basically an animal, his behavior inescapably controlled by natural impulse, exempt from moral judgments and unaccountable for moral conduct." (Ensign Nov. 1986.)

Boyd K. Packer: "No idea has been more destructive of happiness, no philosophy has produced more sorrow, more heartbreak and mischief; no idea has done more to destroy the family than the idea that we are not the offspring of God, only advanced animals, compelled to yield to every carnal urge." (Ensign, May 1992; see also Ensign, Jan 2005.)

These ideas, that man is basically an animal and that humans are only advanced animals, are both scientifically correct. But these ideas deny that "there is a spirit in man" (Job 32:8) and that "we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

In order to harmonize evolutionary science with LDS theology, some people claim knowledge that is superior to science and superior to religion. In other words, their harmony is achieved by modifying both science and theology. Consider the reasoning of BYU Biologist Steven L. Peck:

"Since Homo sapiens appeared about 200,000 years ago, the first spirit child of God must have been placed in one of these human bodies long after the bodies appearance on the Earth. The first man was the first time a spirit child of God was placed in one of these bodies."

This is not science and it is definitely not LDS theology.

So how do you mix LDS theology and human evolution? Simply modify them both until they comfortably merge. Unfortunately, after that happens you no longer have either LDS theology or science.

Bruce R. McConkie said it this way: "There is no harmony between the [unmodified] truths of revealed religion and the [unmodified] theories of organic evolution."

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Adam, the first of all human beings

Science insists that the first humans appeared in an already mortal world some 200,000 years ago. Conversely, the Church teaches that the first humans were Adam and Eve, who brought mortality to a previously non-mortal world about 6,000 years ago. There is no harmony between these views.

A current missionary pamphlet about The Plan of Salvation teaches that Adam and Eve were "the first humans." Indeed, according to LDS scripture, Adam was "the first man of all men." (Moses 1:34.)

This scriptural view of man's origin was taught again in the April 2014 General Conference. Carlos H. Amado, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, declared: "[The Redeemer's] sacrifice blessed everyone, from Adam, the first, to the last of all human beings." (Ensign, May 2014.)

June 24, 2014. An anonymous comment this afternoon (see below) prompted the following addendum. It is from the 2013 edition of LDS Scripture.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

No Death Under the Dome

We will first consider a few of the Church's teachings about the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement, as explained by Elder Russell M. Nelson:

"A great council in heaven was once convened, in which it seems that all of us participated. There our Heavenly Father announced His plan.... The enabling essence of the plan is the atonement of Jesus Christ. As it is central to the plan, we should try to comprehend the meaning of the Atonement. Before we can comprehend it, though, we must understand the fall of Adam. And before we can fully appreciate the Fall, we must first comprehend the Creation. These three events—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are three preeminent pillars of God's plan, and they are doctrinally interrelated." (Ensign, Nov. 1993.)

"The plan required the Creation, and that in turn required both the Fall and the Atonement. These are the three fundamental components of the plan. The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God. Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam. Immortality and the possibility of eternal life were provided by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement were planned long before the actual work of the Creation began....

"Eventually, 'the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.' At the Second Coming of the Lord, the earth will be changed once again. It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth." (Ensign, May 2000.)

In these paragraphs, Elder Nelson teaches that the creation of earth was paradisiacal (without death) and that our understanding of the paradisiacal nature of the Creation is key to our understanding the Fall and the Atonement.

In its web article on Death before the Fall, FairMormon disagrees, referring to "overwhelming archaeological evidence of death having occurred on the earth for many millions of years" and concluding that the creation of earth was not paradisiacal.

FairMormon argues that only the Garden of Eden was paradisiacal, even though, as Elder Nelson points out, scripture says it is "the earth" that will be restored to paradisiacal glory. FairMormon acknowledges the Church's view but claims, since "there is no official doctrine on the matter," choosing between the two views is "simply an academic exercise."

Here's the problem: FairMormon's web article about Death before the Fall contradicts Elder Nelson and the following seven Church publications (click here):

    1. The LDS Bible Dictionary,

    2. The Guide to the Scriptures,

    3. The Gospel Principles manual,

    4. The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel,

    5. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff,

    6. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, and

    7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.

Here's the solution: FairMormon should stop making up its own doctrine and accept the teachings of living apostles and prophets. Then, when FairMormon is no longer contradicting God's authorized servants, it can appropriately claim to be defending the Mormon faith.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

FairMormon mistaken about death before the Fall

"Mormonism and science/Death before the Fall" is the title of a FairMormon Answers article that misrepresents the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In its article, FairMormon asks this (present tense) question:

"What does the Church teach on this subject?"

In its answer, FairMormon gives misleading information about: (1) The Gospel Principles manual, (2) Statements of Church leaders, (3) The LDS Bible Dictionary, and (4) Pre-Adamites and death before the Fall.


FairMormon claims the phrase, "no death before the Fall," doesn't refer to the whole world. As evidence, FairMormon points to a four word sentence found in the Gospel Principles manual:

"There was no death."

FairMormon explains that the above sentence refers only to the Garden of Eden, substantiating that claim with this assertion:

"There is no statement in the manual that there had been no death anywhere in the entire world."

The assertion is false. Death and mortality are inextricably linked, and the manual does in fact teach that the Fall brought mortality into the whole world, not just into the Garden:

"God prepared this earth as a home for His children. Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first people to live on the earth. Their part in our Father’s plan was to bring mortality into the world." (p.27.)

"When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden,... there was no death." (p.28; emphasis added.)

"Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world." (p.219.)

Gospel Principles has been the Church's basic manual for investigators and new members since 1978. The current edition was used for Priesthood and Relief Society instruction during 2010 and 2011. What this manual says about death before the Fall is what the Church teaches on that subject.


FairMormon claims:

"There has been a difference of opinion among Church leaders on the extent to which immortality affected God's creations before the Fall."

This FairMormon claim is misleading for the following reasons:

    2a. The 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have never unanimously approved publication of any document that teaches there was death on this earth before the Fall of Adam.

    2b. In 1972, the First Presidency published a Melchizedek Priesthood manual which states:

"The earth and all upon it were not subject to death until Adam fell.... It was through the fall of Adam that death came into the world." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions, pp.54 and 111.)

Since 1972, the First Presidency and Twelve have unanimously approved publication of several documents that teach no death on earth before the Fall. (Gospel Principles, for example, and see below.)

    2c. During the Church's entire 184 year history, only two of 97 apostles have openly suggested there was death on this earth before the Fall. James E. Talmage died in 1933 and John A. Widtsoe died in 1952.

We are not following God's servants when we summon dead prophets to contradict Living Prophets.

It is misleading to imply a public lack of unity among current members of the First Presidency and the Twelve regarding death before the Fall. Such a lack of unity simply does not exist.


A good place to look for what the Church teaches is between the covers of its standard works. A good example is the LDS Bible Dictionary. It may not be official doctrine, but members of the First Presidency and Twelve teach freely and often from the LDS Bible Dictionary in general conference talks and other Church magazine articles.

FairMormon, on the other hand, questions the validity of these words from the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for "Death":

Death: "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."

    3a. The Church's official missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are to study and teach, and it specifically endorses the LDS Bible Dictionary entry on "Death."

In Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation, Preach My Gospel instructs missionaries to study the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for "Death" alongside several other references from the standard works. (p.52.)

    3b. The Church's official Guide to the Scriptures is a study aid that is now included in all non-English print editions of LDS Scripture and in all electronic editions (such as the Scriptures at LDS.org). Regarding death before the Fall, the Guide to the Scriptures says:

Death, Physical: "The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."

    3c. In the April 2001 general conference (May 2001 Ensign), and again in the March 2002 Ensign, Russell M. Nelson recommended that members going to the temple for the first time read certain entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary, including these words from the entry for "Fall of Adam":

Fall of Adam and Eve: "Before the Fall, there were no sin, no death, and no children. With the eating of the 'forbidden fruit,' Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, and death became a part of life. Adam became the 'first flesh' upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal. Adam's Fall brought both physical and spiritual death into the world upon all mankind (Hel. 14:16-17)."

What the Church teaches about death before the fall can be found in the LDS Bible Dictionary and in the Guide to the Scriptures.


In its article, FairMormon recounts several events related to a private 1931 discussion among Church leaders about pre-Adamites and death before the Fall.

FairMormon quotes a 1931 unpublished memo, a 1931 private letter, and a 1931 personal journal to show a lack of unity among Church leaders regarding pre-Adamites and death before the Fall. FairMormon further points to a 1931 speech in which James E. Talmage spoke of plant and animal fossils and said:

"These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation."

FairMormon correctly notes that this 1931 Talmage talk was published as a Church pamphlet.

FairMormon carefully establishes that only one man, the President of the Church, may proclaim one teaching, among two or more, as the settled teaching of the Church. On this point, FairMormon quotes Harold B. Lee who said:

"There's only one man in this church that speaks for the Church.... If the President of the Church has not declared the position of the Church, then you shouldn't go shopping for the answer."

    4a. But FairMormon seems to have turned a blind eye to Harold B. Lee's own answer, while he himself was Church President, to the question of pre-Adamites:

"I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a church family, ask, 'What about the pre-Adamic people?' Here was someone who I thought was fully grounded in the faith.

"I asked. 'What about the pre-Adamic people?'

"She replied, 'Well, aren't there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?'

"I said, 'Have you forgotten the scripture that says, "And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also...."' (Moses 3:7.) I asked, 'Do you believe that?'

"She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error." (First Presidency Message, Ensign, Dec. 1972.)

    4b. FairMormon is careful to point out that it was "with the approval of the First Presidency," that the 1931 Talmage talk was published by the Church. But FairMormon doesn't even mention the Priesthood manual (see 2b above) that was written by a Church President and published by the First Presidency in 1972.

    4c. The 1931 First Presidency may have had questions about death before the Fall, but the 1972 First Presidency resolved those questions, and since then, everything members of the First Presidency and the Twelve have said about it in official LDS media has unanimously affirmed "no death on earth before the Fall."

    4d. The Teachings of Presidents of the Church series is a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. As stated in the Introduction to the last three volumes, one purpose of this series is to help members answer questions about Church doctrine.

Our Church leaders are teaching us by example how to use this series: Nine speakers in the October 2013 General Conference quoted from Teachings of Presidents of the Church in their talks.

FairMormon chooses to avoid what three Church Presidents teach about death before the Fall, as found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church:

WILFORD WOODRUFF: "We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned." (p.81.)

HAROLD B. LEE: "Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death.... How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state." (p.20.)

JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH: "Temporal and spiritual death [was] brought into the world by the fall of Adam." (p.51.)

"It was appointed ... that Adam our father should ... partake of the forbidden fruit and fall, thus bringing suffering and death into the world.... Had Adam and Eve not partaken, the great gift of mortality would not have come to them..... The fall of Adam brought to pass all of the vicissitudes of mortality. It brought pain, it brought sorrow, it brought death." (p.61.)

"Marriage [was] instituted on this earth before death came into it.... It naturally follows that the family organization was also intended to be eternal." (p.77.)


In its article about death before the Fall, FairMormon misrepresents or completely ignores the current Church publications quoted above and listed below:

    1. The LDS Bible Dictionary,

    2. The Guide to the Scriptures,

    3. The Gospel Principles manual,

    4. The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel,

    5. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff.

    6. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, and

    7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.

These books are not scripture, not even official doctrine. Yet each was approved and published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And in unison they teach "no death on earth before the Fall of Adam," which may not be what FairMormon wants you to believe, but it is what the LDS Church teaches.

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