Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ardi and the Rise of Mormon Symbology

This post was cross-posted at Mormon Matters.

With the advance of science and the study of more and more artifacts such as Ardipithecus ramidus, believing Mormons are faced with a challenge which becomes stronger with each discovery.
Although the Church has never taken a firm doctrinal stance on the mechanics of evolution, there has been an authoritative definition on the nature and origin of man. In 1909 a First Presidency statement was issued entitled "The Origin of Man." This statement defines the Church's position that

  1. God created Adam, the origin of the human family and the primal parent of our race, in his express image.
  2. Creation was first spiritual and then physical.
  3. Humans do not result from a development of lower orders of the animal creation.
  4. The whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, but they were not made in God's image, nor endowed with godlike reason and intelligence.

Faced with the difficulty of reconciling human origins based on an evolutionary model and a very real Adam who was created from the dust of the earth, Latter-day Saints have responded in a number of ways. Recent generations of Mormons have become increasingly willing to embrace symbology as a viable alternative of interpreting the scriptural record. Instead of viewing Adam or Noah as literal human beings, their stories are seen to embody spiritual truths from which we can learn helpful principles. The scriptural record is seen as archetypal and may be based on events which are more limited than they aver. Writings about Noah and the flood which accept this approach can be seen here and here. Adam is more problematic, because of the role he plays in LDS eschatology as a literal priesthood leader who will return in his physical body to preside at Adam-Ondi-Ahman.

There are at least three options that believing Latter-day Saints have in considering the Adam and Eve scriptures. First, we can accept them as historical persons. This necessitates either rejecting the scientific evidence as incomplete or incorrect; or compartmentalizing our beliefs so that they don't need to be reconciled. If you find yourself within this category of belief, how do you deal with discoveries such as "Ardi?" Are you more likely to "put it on the shelf," or do you turn to creationist apologetics?

Another choice is to see our First Parents as purely symbolic figures -- fictional characters in a fictional story that intends to teach theological truths about God and humanity. This can be a deeply satisfying endeavor, and is even supported by instructions in the Temple that we are to see our First Parents as "simply figurative." If we subscribe to this option, however, we must revise our eschatology and relegate the Adam of the Last Days to symbolic status as well. If you are in this camp, are you ready to give up the Adam who will physically return to the American Zion holding the keys to his dispensation? And what do you do with the many authoritative statements describing this event?

Lastly, we may view Adam and Eve as representative figures -- a pair of hominids who God miraculously modified into the first homo sapiens about 150 thousand years ago. This theory has promise because it works with modern science, the scriptural account, and last days theology. It certainly has a great appeal to the modern Mormon armchair theologian. However, it does not jibe with the First Presidency statements on the origin of man, which pointedly specify that human beings did not evolve from lower orders of the animal creation. There is no precedent for this train of thought, and adherents must weave a new hypothesis ex nihilo.


Gus O Kahan said...

Mormon Symbology,
In Recognition of Wilted Mormon Dogmatology

Darwin mutters when speaking of mormon matters.

Hellmut, I want to recognize you as one who thinks, an upright knuckle-walking thinker.
I am personally grateful for your comment on Robert Millet; a "Dickensian Character" we both fear.
As a gentile, I'm not suppose to have a horse in this race but; As a native of the Northwest (Idaho), I know there have been influences on "our country" that Mormons insist upon at our peril.
Mormon Symbology: It's a myth that is symbolized by insisting on being the "most correct."
If science did business like Mormons, BYU could dig up the missing link, on campus, and there would be a collective shrug and it would be back to business as usual -- in "the Religion Making Business."

I am disturbed that Mormons are slow to the gate, lathered and wild eyed, claiming to be mistreated by the other horses in the race.
Mormon Evolution would be to learn to let go of Joe. Learning to let go of Joe would move the Latter Day Saint into many other camps. If that were to be done, there wouldn't be problems with Symbols or Mormons.
You see it's about interpreting symbols but mostly it's about knowing which symbols have meaning worth interpreting and which ones are fluff.

Gods are created and destroyed every day, look into the eyes of a dying child in Gaza or Iraq or Afghanistan. Their light goes out, snuffed by the vagaries of chance much like Darwin divined (he was a contemporary of Joseph Smith you know) the workings of his earth are nasty brutish and short for most. His, Darwin's thinking, has seemed to hold some water after all these years -- with no revisions to his visions.
Sniping: If Mormons feel persecuted they could look to Charles Darwin and wonder what stuff he was made of to endure and endure for the sake of all man kind, no heaven, a hellish existence to pass on to the next generation to repeat again and again until we arrive at this juncture.
The personal responsibility for the species, Homo Sapian Sapian, the individual and the planet is daunting but Joe Smith spoke nothing of this? For Joe it seemed to be a foggy marsh filled with revisions to visions. And now the dividend has compounded to the point where Robert Millet is suing for peace with the Evangelicals. "Bridging the Divide," is perhaps a bridge too far, or, there are just too few bridges to divide.
The Question: Is Rapture Readiness practiced properly to pierce the veil before the Evangelicals, if so Who Wins?
When it comes to revisions to visions, I bare my guilt looking for authentic symbology too, it seems to be a human failing.
Now: Mormons Unite to relearn the knuckle walk. Hitchens and Dawkins would find your discussion dodgy and would likely not suffer fools well but John Hagee of CUFI would love to find many more vessels half full -- Half Scrubbed and nearly Rapture Ready for the End-Time. Christians United For Israel may be the answer.
Israel means, Struggles with God. What country is named -- STRUGGLES WITH GOD? What do they do for a living in the land of Struggles with God?
Mormon Deconstruction
Seems like this Struggle With God has been going on for a long time and Mormons insist," it will require several hundred more years to get it right –– sorted out, for all time that is."
Gus O Kahan

Anonymous said...

With respect to the theory of evolution, a quote from Mark Twain seems applicable:

"The principle difference between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only nine lives."