Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

October 23, 2013 | 29 comments
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201px-James_Ussher_by_Sir_Peter_Lely

According to Bishop Ussher and his famous calendrical calculations, on Oct.23 4004BC, God said “let there be light” and created the Earth. That makes today the Earth’s 4004+2013=6017th birthday, and a new year.  While I suspect most YECs today don’t strictly follow Ussher’s chronology due to its flaws, the impulse is certainly present among certain LDS to engage in speculative  (and poorly titled) calculations based on certain assumptions about scripture, which I find untenable. Hanging heavy weights on slender threads, as B.H. Roberts might have said.

While I have personally met very few YECs in the LDS Church, they have certainly been present. The most influential YEC was certainly Joseph Fielding Smith, whom we study next year in PH/RS. He expressed his views thusly (my emphasis).

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I will state frankly and positively that I am opposed to the present biological theories and the doctrine that man has been on the earth for millions of years. I am opposed to the present teachings in relation to the age of the earth which declare that the earth is millions of years old. Some modern scientists even claim that it is a billion years old. Naturally, since I believe in modern revelation, I cannot accept these so-called scientific teachings, for I believe them to be in conflict with the simple and direct word of the Lord that has come to us by divine revelation.- Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:112 (This appears to date to 1959.)

Notably, it appears that none of his very strongly held views on the subject of “science vs religion” appear in the manual to be studied next year, a testament to both the incredibly flattening and sometimes positive powers of correlation. You realize, of course, that we are studying the  Old Testament the same year we study Joseph Fielding Smith, with few of his strong views on the subject included? We live in interesting times.

Happy Birthday, world!

29 Responses to Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

  1. Paul J Elliott on October 23, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I would like to know that my distant cousin was thinking when he said “simple and direct word of the Lord that has come to us by divine revelation.” It’s a total misinterpretation of the idea of “thousand years as a day” in God’s time, which simply means that God transcends time as we live out our temporal lives. Mormons continue to follow false prophets like Joseph Fielding Smith to their condemnation and utter ignorance of eternal saving truths, preferring to follow fables and children’s tales.

  2. Mark B. on October 23, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Oh, thanks, Bro. Elliott for coming and saving us from our foolish following of fables and children’s tales. And for your clear elucidation of exactly what the scriptures mean. Someday the rest of us will no longer see through a glass darkly, but will be as enlightened as you are. Until then, I’m afraid we’ll just have to muddle through on what little light we have.

    (Oh, and by the way, Ben, nice post. And I’m glad I clicked on that link. Good for a laugh this morning.)

  3. J. Stapley on October 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Ben, I’m mightly disappointed that you didn’t convert the proleptic Julian date to the proleptic Gregorian date. The real birthday of the world is September 21, 4003 BCE. You are leading the people astray.

  4. Akash on October 23, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Well if Primary teaches that you should be grateful for your hands, your eyes, and your ears, then gratitude for Uranus logically follows.

    “Sometimes positive powers of correlation” indeed. Correlation doesn’t always impose a painful cost.

  5. Cordeiro on October 23, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Of course the Earth was created in October. Obviously the Lord needed a place for the guys to go play football. As it didn’t work very well in the dark, light was called for, created, and found to be “good”.

  6. Ben S. on October 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    There is no salvation in the Julian calendar, worlds without end!

    Akash- I’m indeed grateful to Correlation in this case.

  7. Mark B. on October 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I just discovered, thanks to a post at the Volokh Conspiracy, that today is 2 Brumaire CCXXII under the French Republican Calendar. Or, 2/2/222. And that too (and all those 2′s) should be reason to celebrate.

  8. Casey on October 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Interestingly, both Joseph Field Smith and comment #1 seem agree on one thing: whatever the scriptures mean, the interpretation is definitely simple.

  9. Kent Larsen on October 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    I’m waiting for all the YEC’s among our readers to comment.

    But, in the spirit of trying to find common ground, I am happy to celebrate the Earth’s birthday today. I suppose today is as good as any.

  10. Jax on October 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I had some missionaries over doing some service work with me. During a lunch break I checked in here and read this post. They asked what it was and so I told them it is the “young-earth creationist new year.” They both looked at me blankly until one said, “I don’t know what that means but it sounds deep and soul-touching”.

  11. Cameron N on October 24, 2013 at 9:14 am

    One thing I found recently is a scientific movement called the ‘Electric Universe’ that appears to be the next big breakthrough in science. Interestingly the theory is much simpler and more understandable than all the creative additions to the standard model over the past century. This new perspective does refute the idea that stellar or planetary formation of necessity must take eons (but of course not the idea that matter has been around forever). Interestingly, it says we can’t know the age of the universe, and it has no discernable beginning. Ironically, the Big Bang is just another form of YEC invented by Catholic Priest Georges LeMaitre that has already been disproven, but it make take decades for that to trickle into the mainstream.

    One thing it shares with previous scientific revolutions of the past few centuries is slow adoption/rejection so far among the intellectual establishment. Interestingly, it has roots in observational experiments dating back 100 years, and the relatively recent understanding we have developed of plasma via engineering and technology. Because physicists don’t really understand electricity, aren’t familiar with plasma instabilities, and rely on abstract math, this has gone right over their heads.

    http://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c-OdpleMzI
    http://www.plasmauniverse.info

  12. Allison in Atlanta on October 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I am disappointed no one brought up John Pratt yet! :)
    http://www.johnpratt.com

    Bishop Ussher’s date is close to Pratt’s dating of the Fall, but that would not include the creation or the time in the Garden of Eden (Pratt gives out about 70 years for the Garden sojourn.)

  13. Ben S on October 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Allison, I linked to Pratt’s infamous “Uranus Testifies of Christ” article in the OP.

  14. Tim on October 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    John Pratt-wow.

    I didn’t think it was possible, but my opinion of Meridian Magazine (who carry his cuckoo-crazy article) has dropped even more.

  15. Tim on October 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I also love the fact that all eight links in his footnotes in that article direct you to stuff written by…John Pratt. Must have been a truly lonely life of scholarship.

  16. R. Gary on October 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Re: “it appears that none of his very strongly held views on the subject of science vs religion appear in the manual.”

    Check again.

  17. Ben S. on October 24, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    I’d seen your post, Gary. I don’t think anything you cite rises to the level of the quote in the post.

  18. Cameron N on October 25, 2013 at 2:00 am

    I guess we’d rather make fun of YECs instead of checking out my links(11), then?

  19. don on October 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

    In the J.F. Smith quote above I notice he refers to scientific teachings regarding the age of the earth as “so-called.” Putting down the best current thinking by scientists by use of that term has been an all-too-common practice in our church, although it seems to have diminished in recent years. But why do we have to put down science at all? If our god is eternal, he is huge, bigger than any scientific finding or theory or law. He is not threatened by such thinking and does not need to be defended by us. If we want our children to pursue science in any way shape or form, we cannot keep telling them that every scientific thought we disagree with is “so called.”

  20. Steve on October 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

    “the Big Bang is just another form of YEC invented by Catholic Priest Georges LeMaitre”

    No it isn’t. In an interview recorded by Victor Weisskopf (cited in Sander Bais, In Praise of Science (2010)), Georges LeMaitre allegedly said that “God created the earth 6000 years ago, with all the radiactive substances, the fossils, and other indications of an older age.” LeMaitre says that God “did this to tempt humankind and to test it’s belief in the Bible.” So while it appears that LeMaitre attempted to reconcile the Bible with the Big Bang Theory, he didn’t intend BBT to be another form of YEC.

    But LeMaitre was also a skeptic of Biblical literalism. He said:

    “The writers of the Bible were illuminated more or less — some more than others — on the question of salvation. On other questions they were as wise or as ignorant as their generation. Hence it is utterly unimportant that errors of historic or scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if errors relate to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them.

    The idea that because they were right in their doctrine of immortality and salvation they must also be right on all other subjects is simply the fallacy of people who have an incomplete understanding of why the Bible was given to us at all.” (http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2006/06/the-creation-myth.html)

  21. Steve on October 25, 2013 at 9:56 am

    John Pratt is crazy. I recall reading an article of his (featured in Mormon Insane Asyl…uh…I mean Meridian Magazine) in which he asserted that you could take the Hebrew characters of the Old Testament and rearrange them and do little cross-word-puzzles and word-searches to predict future events. However, my impression is that he is open to the idea that the earth is somewhat older than 6,000 years (pretty open-minded guy), but that human history cannot possibly be older than 6,000 years (apparently hasn’t heard of Gobekli Tepe).

    Why respectable Mormon scholars such as Terryl Givens and Grant Hardy have their reputations potentially tarnis…uh…I mean have their thoughts featured in Meridian Magazine is beyond me.

  22. lstoddard on October 29, 2013 at 7:45 am

    I think it sad (and a bit shocking) that many hold the words of the Presidents of the Church as having little to no value in this debate. President Joseph Fielding Smith is easy to pick on, but frankly the other Presidents all support his statements and more!

    If you are interested in discovering what the Presidents of the Church have said on the age of the earth (and death before the fall, creationism, pre-adamites, etc.) you should refer to the extensive research done by the Joseph Smith Foundation http://www.josephsmithforum.org/research/faqs/science/. They have compiled all statements made by Presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson. They all stand in harmony. None have ever spoken as a proponent for an old earth and the majority have made strong. (http://www.josephsmithforum.org/research/faqs/08-conflicting-presidents-are-there-many-conflicting-opinions-with-diversity-of-viewpoint-among-the-previous-presidents-of-the-church-on-the-theory-of-organic-evolution-have-some-spoken-for-some-a/)

    Does the stand taken by the prophets oppose science? No! There is good science that supports what the prophets have said all along. It is not a matter of choosing between your prophet or professor. It is a matter of choosing the professors, research and data that supports the prophets.

    I stand with President Benson who said, specifically in reference to President Smith’s book Man: His Origin and Destiny, “It is also apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings will stand the test of time.”

  23. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    The official First Presidency statements on questions about the creation of the earth and the development of life are pretty limited in their assertions about the issues that the YEC supporters claim to understand better than the First Presidency. The quotations from various presidents of the Church that appear at the web page Istoddard links to are actually very similar to the offiical First Presidency statements. They insist on the reality of Adam and Eve as our ancestors, and that we are the children of God. They don;t say how long it took to create the earth, and Brigham Young has some pretty explicit statements in Discourses of Brigham Young that allow for the earth to be millions of years old. The assertion at the web page that Jospeh Fielding Smith’s book was endorsed by the Quorum of the Twelve is inaccurate. He did not ask for their approval before publishing it. Elder James E. Talmage, a scientist serving on the Quorum at that tiem, gave a talk in the Tabernacle with a distinctly different viewpoint on the age of the earth that was published in an official Church pamphlet. When Henry Eyring met with Joseph Fielding to express his own belief in the long age of the earth, Elder Smith did not criticize Eyring for disagreeing with him.

    If the First Presidency and Twelve were actually united in their support of Joseph Fielding Smith’s YEC views, one would expect them to have told the science faculty at BYU, but they have not done anything of the sort. Istoddard’s web site is placing a gloss on the words of past prophets in order to persuade readers they agree with Joseph Fielding’s YEC views.

    The fact is that Mormon doctrines about the innumerable inhabited worlds in the universe, which are at earlier or later stages of their progress in the Plan of Salvation, seriously conflict with the YEC theory. The Book of Moses makes clear that Genesis is only talking about an overview of the creation of our earth, not of the entire universe. And Joseph Smith was absolutely clear that we do not believe in Creation Ex Nihilo, and are thus opposed to the YEC advocates, but that the universe is really an eternal environment without beginning or end. Even if Joseph Fielding Smith liked formulations of the YEC theories, he could not adopt them entirely without abandoninig core LDS doctrines about the nature of God and our pre-mortal existence.

  24. Ben on October 30, 2013 at 9:50 am

    At the time of his writing, Elder Smith was opposed by President David O. McKay, who did not agree with him, as well as Elder James E. Talmage, Elder John A. Widtsoe, and others. Ours is not a YEC Church, nor is this a “secret” or “deep” doctrine that just isn’t widely disseminated.

    Let’s not create an artificial and historically inaccurate “harmony” where there was not such unity of opinion. To then take that, and claim science supports it? I cannot follow you there at all, and I hope you are not teaching youth.

    Genesis does not require a young earth. http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2013/03/genesis-vs-science-background-readings-and-discussion/

  25. Tar?k Günersel on January 2, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Myths. Apparently some people enjoy being committed to unquestionable beliefs. I prefer the assumption that nature is rich and creative enough, and that this-universe is simply a product of nature. Why bother with assumptions such as god/s that do not solve anything but pose more problems? God is simply a non-answer. Any form of theism is a labyrinth that causes loss of time and energy and misplacement of hope. A naturalist approach with concern for the needy in a spirit of solidarity can be more fruitful. Babies are raped and killed or starve to death and we are expected to believe in a just and omnipotent God? No, thanks.

  26. Raymond Takashi Swenson on January 2, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    To Gunersel: Any Christian who knows anything about Christian doctrine would respond that the evil that men do on earth is evidence that mankind has fallen away from the presence of God. That God allows us to hurt or help each other is essential to making this life a test of our character.

    Frankly, I am not impressed by the argument that evil and suffering in the world means there is no God. The atheist’s “solution” does nothing about the evil or the suffering, other than to say that it has no meaning, and that no justice will ever be exercised to bless the sufferers or punish the guilty. That philosophy is only attractive to killers like Stalin and Hitler and Mao.

  27. Cameron N on January 3, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Steve (20) nice to learn more about LeMaitre, some good quotes there. That still doesn’t change the fact that the Big Bang Theory is just another form of Ex Nihilo Creationism and it is becoming increasingly apparent that it is untrue every day.

  28. Tar?k Günersel on June 4, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    To Raymond Takashi Swenson: You do not wish to (or cannot) understand. What choice do children have when they are raped and killed? Ku Klux Klan and the Inquisition are and were also Christians, so it is not enough to think of decent people like Martin Luther King. You are simply used to your illusion and mythology. Bon voyage :)

  29. Tar?k Günersel on June 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Why are most of the Judaists are Judaist (a Jew can be an atheist), most of the Christians Christian and most of the Muslims Muslim? Simply because they were born in such societies. They are used to it. Few people have the courage to question hegemonic beliefs and prefer to have an approach beyond all religions.