Mormon Scientists Need to Emulate the Historians of Mormonism

Historians of Mormonism have done a lot to bring more “truth” to LDS history.  Their efforts, coupled with the global impact of the Internet, have had a lasting impact on our understanding of our past.  Mormon history has evolved from “faith-promoting stories” to actual, factual history.  And the work of these historians has caused important changes in the Church.

The work of historians, over the last half century, has also resulted in a major reevaluation of how LDS Church leaders view history.  In a recent speech at a history conference at Brigham Young University, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf made the following comment:

Truth and transparency complement each other.  We always need to remember that transparency and openness keep us clear of the negative effects of secrecy or the cliche of faith-promoting rumors.

Something similar to the Mormon history “rebellion” needs to happen with Mormon scientists.  For example, there are still many members of the Church who believe in a literal Genesis (OT).  To do this, one has to reject a lot of science (and history as well).  Many Mormons believe that to be a good member of the LDS Church you have to believe in real-life Adam, Eve, Noah, Lot, etc.  That the earth was created in 7 or 7,000 days.  That there was no death before the Fall.  And that people lived to be 900+ years old.

Mormon scientists need to explain to Church members that there was no Universal Flood, Tower of Babel, curse of Cain (or Ham), pillar of salt, or big fish (whale); that there was death before the Fall (if there was a literal Fall); and that organic evolution is more than a theory.  There are no discrepancies between true science and true religion.  The two are very compatible.

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When individuals see a marked dichotomy between science and religion, and they perceive themselves to be religious, they frequently reject scientific observations and discoveries.  And conversely when studying science, individuals can lose their faith in conservative Christianity.  Both of these scenarios are bad for the LDS Church.  For example, rejecting scientific discoveries can (and has) lead to:

  • racism;
  • a disbelief in global warming;
  • a lack of environmental sensitivity;
  • distrust for vaccinations and immunizations; and
  • neo-Luddism

Rejecting conservative Christianity–OT literalism–is leading to a loss of important members.  The type of members that the LDS Church needs to be a vibrant, viable organization.

LDS scientists have started to speak out, but not in the numbers that are required to move the LDS Church into the 21st century.  Mormon scientists need to look at the example of late Apostle John A. Widtsoe (who died in 1954).  He was willing to speak out on important issues related to science and religion.  And he himself saw no conflict between the two.

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The Book of Genesis is fiction, myth, allegory, parable, fairy tale, whatever.  The Mormon Church needs to deal with this fact in an overt and open fashion.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t important lessons in Genesis, it just means it’s not history and not science.

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This entry was posted in Creation, Environment, Internet, mormonism, Religion, Science, Technology, transhumanism, widtsoe. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mormon Scientists Need to Emulate the Historians of Mormonism

  1. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: New words edition! » Main Street Plaza

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    The SL Tribune has two articles in its March 30, 2014 Sunday edition. The first by Omar L. Gallaga (Cox Newspapers) that discusses South by Southwest Interactive: “Science can be entertaining. Ratings are not exactly stellar for the new Fox science show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” but they’re pretty great for the kind of show you would normally associate with public television or basic cable. The show’s host, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, delivered a SXSW keynote that was funny, informative and inspiring. We need more ambassadors like him to make science education less intimidating and more accessible not only to children but to adults who grew up with a distaste for hard science.” And Mormonism needs science ambassadors.

    The second by George Pyle discusses the problem with Christian conservatives. Talking again about Tyson, Pyle writes: “Instead of picking on Christian deniers of, say, evolution, he picks on a Muslim. A long-dead Muslim. A Muslim who fouled everything up for, mostly, other Muslims by quickly and tragically turning what had been the culture that for centuries sat at the peak of scientific inquiry–inventing algebra and naming stars–into the poster boy for religious dogma and denial of independent thoughts.

    Dude’s name was Al-Ghazali, and Tyson argues that it was him, not Muhammad or previous leaders of Islam, who somehow managed to turn a huge portion of humanity away from a history of reason and inquiry toward the belief that all knowledge came through prayer and revelation and that to think otherwise was to do the work of the Devil.”

  3. Brad Carmack says:

    I don’t have a rabble-rousing comment at the moment, but I do want to say I’m glad you saw the Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson keynote! I heard it was really good.

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