The LDS magazine, the Ensign (Feb 2014), is at it again. This time with a pseudo-autobiography of the prophet Noah (complete with a “fact box”). Does anyone really believe that:
- Noah lived to the age of 950,
- that it took him 120 years to construct the ark,
- that there was an ark,
- that there was a universal flood,
- that everyone on the earth was wicked except Noah, and
- that God wanted to punish all the inhabitants of the earth with a death penalty?
Not only is the history of Noah problematic, so is its morality. Do we really believe in a God who decided to eliminate everyone on earth? Did He have to kill all of the animals too? How had they sinned?
One event that the Ensign ghostwriter failed to report was this episode from Genesis 9:20-21:
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
So, if he did exist, I guess he wasn’t perfect.
Several professors at Brigham Young University have demonstrated the impossibility of a universal flood and the difficulty of getting all the animals on the ark. Despite their efforts, LDS Church publications continue to pretend that Noah and the Noachian Flood were real events. Science, archaeology, history, etc. have demonstrated that there are more holes is the Noah story than you can count. Yet, . . . .
So why should we care if LDS publications want to promote myths, folklore, etc.? First and foremost, it blurs the line between fact and fiction. Which means that members have two options:
- believe the tall tales, and question the realities of science, history, archeaology, etc., or
- chuck the tall tales, of which, the OT is full of them, and continue to swim upstream.
It is my belief that the members in the first group can develop a strong anti-intellectual bias which is dangerous, and leads to skepticism about important world issues like global warming and important scientific truths like organic evolution. Those in the second group are in serious jeopardy of leaving the Church altogether. And latter members are frequently those that the institutional church needs to keep in the fold.
It’s time for the LDS Church to make a clean sweep of the OT. The book doesn’t work as history, and many of the events described in it are clearly unbelievable (and don’t warrant belief). Some of the books in the OT work as literature, but that is topic for another post.
Instead of dribbling out the process of reviewing and commenting on every OT issue or story that comes up (for example, the recent disavowal of the Curse of Cain/Ham), it would be cleaner to shelve the book NOW. For example, in a recent discussion on DNA and the Book of Mormon, a LDS white paper inadvertently castes doubt on the whole issue of OT timing:
[It] discusses events believed to have happened 10,000 years ago, a tacit repudiation of the Fall and the Flood and other events that supposedly occurred less than 10,000 years ago.
By continuing to look at the OT piecemeal, the LDS Church is going to just dig itself in deeper and deeper. Christ came to bring the higher order, let’s concentrate on his teachings, and leave the folklore to the folklorists.