March 15, 2010 25 Comments
So, on a recent Sunday morning in our high priest group we took up the lesson on “creation” from the “Gospel Principles” manual published by the LDS Church.
Our group is an eclectic bunch in terms of training. Ex-car salesmen, olympic coaches, astronomers, mathematicians, physicians, dentists, farmers, classicists, historians, inventory specialists, elevator technicians, programmers, business executives, mailmen, music teachers, linguists and that’s only the ones I can think of right now. (I used the plural, but actually in a number of cases, there’s only one example.)
The instructor’s comments were interesting but for the most part outside the lesson’s intent (I think). The instructor started off by debunking the “big bang theory” as a devilish fiction. There’s a guy trained in astrophysics who was sitting in front of me. But he kept his cool throughout, mostly. And of course the exhaustive foreknowledge of God came up again, this time from a new commenter in the group. My home teaching companion, who is usually one to get nervous about speculation (or obscure fact-he’s very correlated ;-)), kept his mouth shut for most of the time. No one dared to utter the awful word “evolution” on either side of the “divide.” I think I may have heard the scientists and intellects in the church compared to Nehor/Korihor by our instructor. He clearly had an axe to grind, but no one seemed willing to really offer up a wheel.
Since the lesson had capsized for me, I settled for reading it from my iphone. Our instructor brought along some helpful literature, Eric Skousen’s 1996 tome, “Earth, In The Beginning.” This book is, well, how can I say it? Interesting. But lesson material? And 19th century speculations about rocks having thoughts. In case you didn’t know, that’s how creation was accomplished. Tell the rocks what to do, and wait until they do it! They’re intelligent! If only I could make the molecules in my car listen.
You should not take away that I’m making fun of this, for two reasons.
(1) This kind of thinking may fuel an anti-science suspicion that still lurks in Mormonism. I think that’s bad, even hurtful for kids. You can cultivate faith in kids without advocating some whacky form of creationism. Trust the Holy Spirit on this one. Of course Mormonism is not exceptional here.
(2) Much of scripture gives us lessons for life. If you want geology, planetary science, astrophysics, quantum field theory, paleontology, biology, medicine, M-theory, you won’t find it in the holy books. That’s not what they’re for. To understand those other things, you’re going to have to put in the time. And you won’t find the texts you need at Deseret Book.
I have no trouble with the idea that God is the “why” of the universe. But I don’t see the point of warring with the “how” that science struggles with. I can see some people feel that their faith is threatened: by having the truth claims of science impact their expectations gathered from theological opinion. Transplanted life, intelligent rocks, whatever. I’m not even saying that such speculations are absolutely incorrect. But even that last bastion of occasional nuttiness, the seminary classroom, is better than this. Isn’t it?
Can faith and science coexist? For some, maybe not. But they do for me. I’m willing to sit back and wait for the dust to settle. How ever long it takes. Joseph Smith says, I’ve got forever. How about considering what the creation stories mean in our present lives? Isn’t that the “brand” of correlation?
 Orson Pratt. I love him.
 I don’t paint all seminary teachers with this broad brush. It’s only the few weirdnessess that get circulated. I’m sure that’s true. Sure.
 Personally, I like context. It’s what I’ve been trained to discover, in science, history and religion. But I’ll go for the correlated version in this case, any day. Please.