The Ensign magazine has a disturbing habit of mixing doctrine and history with allegory. For most non-fundamentalist Christians, much of the Old Testament, particularly the Book of Genesis, is considered to be myths. The Torah doesn’t work on any level, be it archaeological, historical, geological, biological, etc. Yet the Ensign staff continues to pretend that it is actual history.
For example, in the Jan 2013 edition, there is a “biography” of Adam. More and more Christians are coming to the realization that Garden of Eden story is allegorical in nature. With Darwin’s theory of evolution, if there was a literal Adam (which seems highly unlikely), we are not exactly sure where he would fit in. If there was an Adam, he was probably black. And what is the point of alleging that Adam lived to the age of 930. Few today believe that, but the Ensign “fact box” treats it like fact.
In another Jan article, Richard M. Romney, writes:
Noah was told to make an ark and was given specific instructions about the size, shape, and construction materials. Though others mocked him, Noah was obedient, and when the great flood came he was able to save his own family as well as the animals of the earth. (Genesis 6-8)
Now there are all kinds of problems with Noah (he too is alleged to have lived into his 900s) and the Great Flood story. Educated Mormon leaders like Apostle John A. Widtsoe have long questioned the reality of a universal flood, yet the Ensign continues to pretend that is an historical fact. There was no universal flood, Mormons need to deal with it. And was there really a Noah?
When Widtsoe died in 1954, conservative LDS leaders were left in charge of the Church. Scriptorian Joseph Fielding Smith, ironically a friend of Widtsoe, was then free to move the Church toward literalism as it relates to the OT. In his bizarre book, Man, His Origin and Destiny, Smith makes a silly attempt to discredit the theory of evolution. His conservative beliefs were further disseminated by his son-in-law Bruce R. McConkie in the book Mormon Doctrine. Smith’s book had a fairly short shelf life, but McConkie’s continues in wide circulation (although the LDS Church has quit printing it). Today this questionable literalism is carried on in websites like “No Death Before the Fall.”
Science and religion are not enemies. And Smith’s attempt to make them so was ill advised. Luckily, there appears to be an attempt by 21st-century LDS leaders to separate the Church from excessive OT literalism. But we need to quit pretending that the early books of the OT are anymore than allegories or myths. When we mix fiction with fact, we are only asking for trouble.