Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden-This Week.

Alrighty then! In my last blurb on how a priesthood lesson went from the “Gospel Principles” manual, I mentioned the rather free-wheeling bashing of science (and scientists) that occurred. This week, it was all about Eve, er, Eden. Right off the bat, I found it a bit startling to see how much the speculations of the 19th century have been preserved in the lore of creation in Mormonism. At least in my little corner of Mormonism.

Our teacher was a sub this time, a former institute type who was bascially pretty careful in his examination of the relevant scripture passages regarding Adam, Eve and the garden of Eden. But a number of class members did not share his reticence and boldly went where men (and women) had gone before. I had to chuckle, very softly indeed of course, when someone asked, and answered the question: did Adam (or Eve) have a belly button?? (Not precisely in those words.) The answer offered from the questioner himself was: Yes.

It was the reason that made me chuckle. God and his wife came into the garden and procreated Adam and Eve. No, I don’t know if they’re 9 months apart! The reason for the chuckle then was a quotation from the Young-Kimball world of “Adam-God.” The commenter had of course, divorced it from the context, which is what “correlation” is presently partly about anyway. Of course you can find similar post-manifesto statements from church leaders, naturally stripped of their 19th century context.

No, I didn’t say a word. I was sure at that point that the instructor was going to breakout with Talmage.[1] But we were nearly out of time. But not quite “enough” out of time. Because the previous week’s instructor regaled us with another 19th century bit, on how the earth “fell from celestial realms” down to this cruddy old solar system and went into its present orbit. Oh well. He even had an Isaiah quote to back it up.

The ship was righted by a class visitor. A temple missionary visiting from another region, offered this: “my temple president instructed us that the creation accounts are not literal accounts of sequential happenings. They are figures and symbols meant to be interpreted for our time.” He gave several examples, but he was sort of rushing through it, and I didn’t get the details. [2]

So our lesson was interesting and mostly free of labeling scientists as infidels. Still, it contained an interesting variety of curious material. But these settings are hardly the place to conduct a critical examination of source materials and context. Besides, it’s often the case that criticism of an idea is mistaken for criticism of the person who claimed or offered it. And that can yield the wrong fruit, if I may use the metaphor.[3]

[1] Ironically, Talmage is no longer exactly correlated material. Joseph Fielding Smith did not care for the Talmage approach, and it was gradually marginalized, in spite of the fact that the then First Presidency (HJG, JRC, DOM) enthusiastically endorsed the material in the link.

[2] One other interesting thing, which shows the age of the clientele in the class I suppose, was the number of (vague) references from different members to now removed material from temple liturgy.

[3] The seemingly arcane stuff has a kind of attraction for many personalities. The real truth behind the familiar. The whole batch of sayings that people keep logged in their memories that explain the world (to themselves) is related to a long-term trend in how we treat the language of church leaders.

9 Responses to Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden-This Week.

  1. Michael Towns says:

    Sorry, but I can’t help but ask. Do you view all 19th century apostolic LDS speculations with antipathy? Or just the ones that don’t originate with Joseph Smith?

  2. W. V. Smith says:

    I don’t have antipathy for any of them. Moreover, the modern “decontextualizing” of those speculations makes our history all the richer. That interests me, it doesn’t repel me. I find observing the use of “Gospel Principles” fascinating. But I’m not sure it can ever accomplish what some people have suggested as it’s purpose: to renormalize the foundational views of church members.

  3. Michael Towns says:

    Well on that note, I must say that the Sunday School and Priesthood classes have become more dull the older I get. They seemed to be more lively and interesting when I was a teen and young adult.

    I struggle with this because there appears to be no room for anything but staid conformity in all aspects of modern LDS church life. I don’t mean conformity to a moral or doctrinal standard per se but a conformity to narrow topics, a one-size-fits-all concept.

    We are light-years removed from the 1957 Melchizedek Priesthood manual.

  4. W. V. Smith says:

    I don’t think you’ll find much relief ahead on that score, unless of course you get called as the Sunday School president. Then you’ll be worrying so much about pedagogy in the youth classes (and teaching them for the absent teachers) that interesting content will be the least of your worries. (grin)

  5. Anonymous, since ward members are discovering the blogs says:

    We didn’t get any speculation, nutty or otherwise, probably because it was 98% lecture without any opening for class contribution until after the first bell had rung. She managed to make it a lecture basically by re-reading the Creation scriptures from last week, and then repeatedly breaking down in tears over how much she lurves Eve.

  6. W. V. Smith says:

    Hehe. One of our ward members, when he was attending BYU as a kid, had Hugh Nibley as elders quorum instructor. This would have been late 50s I’m guessing. Anyway, I think it inoculated him against the kind of lesson you mention. He was fun to have in class. Not threatened by anything. Wide open to new ideas.

  7. Tod Robbins says:

    WVS, We talked about Lucifer recently (I think it was the lesson on agency) and I mentioned the statements (I’ll cite them if anybody wants) by Joseph Smith and George Q. Cannon among others than Lucifer was 3rd in authority in the premortal existence, had reached a godlike status, etc., and therefore carried quite the clout with his opposition to the plan. I felt the room shudder a bit and the instructor made a statement like, “Well I don’t know about that but…” and continued to pursue another thread of the issue.

    I wasn’t trying to “stir the pot” or anything like that and I wasn’t offended by any means but thought it strange that discussing the context of a 1/3 of the host of heaven’s fall seemed so irrelevant or sketchy. Weird.

    Anyhow, I often wish I could be a fly on the wall of many high priest group meetings these days!

  8. W. V. Smith says:

    Well, Tod, Lucifer is going to get you if you don’t hurry along with the presidents file. 😉

  9. Tod Robbins says:

    The buffetings of WVS rather. 😉

    Working on it! This semester has been a writing semester from hell. I’ll send you an update soon though!

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