Genesis


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How accurate do you believe the Book of Genesis to be?  Do you think the great epochs are literal, symbolic, a combination or what.  Do you think important details are missing or that everything is adequately explained.  There is a great deal of controversy in the scientific evidence and the stories of the Old Testament.  

Was there a garden of Eden here of earth?  Is Eden still somewhere here but hidden?  Was there one continent on earth prior to the time of Peleg and after Peleg was the earth divided into the continents as we now know them?  Was the entire earth covered with water during the flood of Noah (including the Himalayas) or was there a difference in the earth's topography?

In your mind is it possible to believe in the revelations of the Bible (Genesis) without sufficient empirical evidence?  Do you think science and religion should agree?  What do you think is the more accurate - the consensus of science or the consensus of religious opinion?

 

The Traveler

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When non-members ask me "how can you believe in the Book of Mormon when we lack literal evidence of it being true from scientists?"

My response is to laugh and say "If I was a person whom required scripture to be super-literal-true-with-21st-century-scientific-take-on-things, then I would throw all Abrahamic faiths out the airlock based on Genesis alone.  There is so much of it that is blatantly shown to be false by modern science -- *if* your judgement of Truth is based on 21st century scientific interpretation.  For example: the world was not created in exactly 8,640 minutes (6 days).  Frankly, the people of ancient Israel were not counting minutes with this story-- counting minutes isn't the point!   Rather, the creation story is about God creating the Earth conveyed symbolically & His power.    I 100% believe the Creation story it is true, but in that symbolic interpretation that ancient people wrote/told it in, not 21st century minute-counting." 

And I could go on with other examples.  I don't believe people literally lived to 900+ years old.  Literally an entire global flood.  Etc.

Other parts of scripture I very strongly believe are literally true- such as Christ literally raising from the dead.

  Others I don't know the blend literal versus symbolism, such as the Garden of Eden.  Frankly, I don't really find that exact blend to matter on Eden or most other parts of scripture.  

 

 

Aside: speaking as somebody whom spent many years studying evolution and all-- science tells us how things occur.  Faith tells us why.  My job studying evolution and the natural workings of the world was me getting paid to be amazed at His craftsmanship.  Understanding just the tiniest fraction of it and marveling.  

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10 hours ago, Traveler said:

How accurate do you believe the Book of Genesis to be?  Do you think the great epochs are literal, symbolic, a combination or what.  Do you think important details are missing or that everything is adequately explained.  There is a great deal of controversy in the scientific evidence and the stories of the Old Testament.  

Was there a garden of Eden here of earth?  Is Eden still somewhere here but hidden?  Was there one continent on earth prior to the time of Peleg and after Peleg was the earth divided into the continents as we now know them?  Was the entire earth covered with water during the flood of Noah (including the Himalayas) or was there a difference in the earth's topography?

In your mind is it possible to believe in the revelations of the Bible (Genesis) without sufficient empirical evidence?  Do you think science and religion should agree?  What do you think is the more accurate - the consensus of science or the consensus of religious opinion?

 

The Traveler

Personally I believe that things described in the BOM and the bible actually happened, I just don't know the details.

I always look at the big picture. Would I lay my life down for a literal, six day creation? No. Would I lay my life down for Christ? Yup. 

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1st thought: I find it difficult to talk about all of Genesis as one monolith. Even if we leave out "documentary hypothesis" issues, Genesis covers a lot of ground, from creation through the flood then the patriarchs and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I think some of the answers to questions about Genesis depend on which part of Genesis I am reading.

When it comes to the cosmology/creation portion, I find myself leaning heavily towards accepting that the creation account is "myth" -- and here I'm using "myth" the way Ben Spackman uses it (I find a lot of my current views on this are influenced by Spackman): https://benspackman.com/2020/04/science-and-history-as-myth-and-fiction-exploring-some-common-labels/ Recognize that, understanding "myth" in this way, modern science is also "myth" -- the way we explain how the world works.

Concordism (the efforts to make modern science "myth" concord with ancient, Biblical "myth") also figures heavily in my thinking -- specifically, I feel no need to make ancient and modern explanations for the way the world works agree with each other. The ancients can have their "flat disc earth sandwiched between the waters of heaven and hell" and I can have my Big Bang inspired universe (full of billions of "island universes") without needing to make the two "agree".

As for some of the specifics. I don't know how I would know if Eden existed. Considering the superlatives used to describe Eden, I don't see any place on Earth today that could measure up to those superlatives, so I am inclined to believe Eden is gone. Super continents have existed at times throughout Earth's geologic history, but the most recent one (Pangaea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercontinent) broke up before hominids appear in the fossil record, so I doubt that the break up of the Earth in Peleg's day could be referring to the breakup of a supercontinent (more likely to be a description of political division rather than geologic). I like Spackman's idea of a "cosmologic" flood rather than some kind of real global or even local flood.

In conclusion: is it possible to believe in the revelations of the Bible without "empirical" evidence? Probably depends entirely on what it means to believe in the revelations, but I have no problem believing in the revelations because, rejecting concordism as I do, I need no empirical evidence that these revelations must somehow concord with my cosmology. Should science and religion agree? When all is said and done, I expect them to agree, but, until then, I have no need for them to agree.

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11 hours ago, Traveler said:

How accurate do you believe the Book of Genesis to be? 

I believe it to be the word of God given by revelation.

11 hours ago, Traveler said:

Was there one continent on earth prior to the time of Peleg and after Peleg was the earth divided into the continents as we now know them?

I can't see that the Bible suggests any such thing.

11 hours ago, Traveler said:

In your mind is it possible to believe in the revelations of the Bible (Genesis) without sufficient empirical evidence?

Of course. We largely choose what we believe.

11 hours ago, Traveler said:

Do you think science and religion should agree?

No. I think they rarely overlap. Science and religion ask different questions and seek different answers.

11 hours ago, Traveler said:

In your mind is it possible to believe in the revelations of the Bible (Genesis) without sufficient empirical evidence?  Do you think science and religion should agree?  What do you think is the more accurate - the consensus of science or the consensus of religious opinion?

Science, hands-down. Religious consensus is irrelevant to truth. Otherwise, we would all be Trinitarians.

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I've made it far in life not entrenching myself into any particular opinion on such things.  I'm trying to make it to heaven, and if I get there and hear "we'll only let you in if you believe in literal six 24-hr day creative periods and worldwide flood with literal ark holding 2 of every species", I want to say "ok, sure". 

Or, if I get there and hear "entrance is only for folks bright enough to understand the realities of stellar formation and evolution across millennia, with an inspired book of scripture containing an awful lot of stuff that didn't actually happen, allegories and cultural stories passed down orally, and whatnot", I want to say "ok, sure".

Edited by NeuroTypical
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In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.

I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before that, but I do know these two were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death. To add further sorrow and complexity to their circumstance, their transgression had spiritual consequences as well, cutting them off from the presence of God forever. Because we were then born into that fallen world and because we too would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced.

Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2015 GC

 

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14 hours ago, Traveler said:

How accurate do you believe the Book of Genesis to be?

I believe it to be completely accurate.  But I don't necessarily believe it to be literal.

I think there is a lot of figurative language in all scriptural accounts.  But I it is very difficult to extract the literal facts from such figurative language when you're dealing with documents/languages/cultures that are over 2000 years old.  So, we don't know.  The Bible's primary purpose (as is the Book of Mormon) is to persuade men to come to Christ.  And I believe the Bible does so because of an unacknowledged characteristic.

There is in history/sociology the usage of the term "Founding Myths".  This is defined as being a combination of fact and "urban legend" level oral history (fiction) that is combined into a narrative.  After all is said and done, no one truly knows where one ends and the other begins.  Nor does anyone really know the percentage of fact vs. fiction.  But they remain very important to a society/culture regardless of the facts.

Three characteristics of what constitutes a "Founding Myth".

  • They provide a common origin story.
  • They provide a common set of values for a society.
  • They provide a common vision of where the future of that society should be headed.

The Bible does provide those.  Genesis, Ten Commandments, Abraham's Bosom.   This is why Jordan Peterson recently said that even if it (the Bible) isn't "fact",  it is really even "more true than truth".  It is because it provides the basis of what we use to determine truth/error and right/wrong.

Latter-day myth:

We as Latter-day Saints, have some founding myths (which include the accepted revelatory facts).  But one that at least appears to be a tall tale is the seagull miracle.  As far as I could gather, there has not been one verified, contemporary, first-hand account of the miracle at all.  And given the wealth of personal journals we have from the time period, it makes one wonder why no one wrote about it at the time.  (If anyone can find a source, I'd certainly welcome it).

Even if it is not fact, it is an important item in our history because it speaks to the belief that even in the midst of tragedy, the Lord is with us.  And that is belief is always true.

American myth:

One myth I recently discovered was about "The Virginia Giant" (Peter Francisco).  It was said he carried an 1100 lb cannon off of a battlefield because he didn't want the Brits to take it from them when they (the Colonies) were in retreat.

But it was recently "modified" per the comments in the following video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwHWrRaVfQg (go to 26:00 for the bit about the cannon).

While he didn't actually do this, he was nonetheless a very important individual in the Revolutionary War.  And anyone who enjoys freedoms that were born of the American Revolution owe him a debt of gratitude.

I'm perfectly fine saying "I don't know".  But I will also say the Bible is 100% true (as far as it is translated correctly).

 

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I largely agree with @MrShorty, and like him have been heavily influenced by Ben Spackman—I see Genesis as a book of inspired ancient near eastern literature with an internal worldview and logic all its own that points to the sovereignty of Jehovah and explains His covenant to the patriarchs and to Israel as the heir of the patriarchs.  I don’t think it is “history” as twenty-first century Westerners would use the term; but I believe its stories primarily originate with figures who really lived.  For example, I believe there was an Adam, and an Eve, and a Noah—mostly because Joseph Smith affirmed that he saw them.  I don’t know if there was a literal garden of Eden, though I think at minimum Adam and Eve were the first humans of sufficient intelligence that God chose to endow them with spirits and make covenants with them that affected all their posterity.  I don’t know if there was a global flood, though I think at minimum God renewed his covenant with humankind through Noah after some sort of natural (maybe local) catastrophe.

Generally the parts of Genesis that Joseph Smith endorsed as historical, I’m willing to trust are historical; even if they are in some degree of tension with modern science.  But as for the rest:  I guess where I lean at the moment is, I see Genesis primarily as a work of literature that teaches about God’s relationship with us and human nature.  It is an incredibly complex and carefully-thought-out work of literature—every name, every geographical obscurity, every Hebraic pun that gets lost in translation, everything in that book has a reason for being there.  It interacts with, corrects, expands upon, and satirizes other ancient attitudes and practices and works of literature in ways we are only beginning to understand.  At the moment I’m more interested in trying to learn a lot of those details and wrestling with the bigger puzzles and questions that the author deliberately throws to his reader, than in trying to parse out questions about “but did this really happen this way?”

Edited by Just_A_Guy
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On 3/18/2022 at 11:54 PM, Traveler said:

How accurate do you believe the Book of Genesis to be?  Do you think the great epochs are literal, symbolic, a combination or what.  Do you think important details are missing or that everything is adequately explained.  There is a great deal of controversy in the scientific evidence and the stories of the Old Testament.  

Was there a garden of Eden here of earth?  Is Eden still somewhere here but hidden?  Was there one continent on earth prior to the time of Peleg and after Peleg was the earth divided into the continents as we now know them?  Was the entire earth covered with water during the flood of Noah (including the Himalayas) or was there a difference in the earth's topography?

In your mind is it possible to believe in the revelations of the Bible (Genesis) without sufficient empirical evidence?  Do you think science and religion should agree?  What do you think is the more accurate - the consensus of science or the consensus of religious opinion?

 

The Traveler

It is possible to believe in anything without empirical evidence, but impossible to believe without experience (Alma 32, "awake and arouse your faculties... in a manner that ye can give place" to exercise our faculties to hear the Word). Knowledge derived from secular science and revealed religion need not agree; they are different kinds of knowledge, but many find it helpful to use them in their own sphere (and someday they may well agree). The accuracy of either depends on context,. For example, religion does not demand we accept that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and science dos not invite us to partake of the teachings in Alma 32.

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I have many thought and impressions.  This subject seems to keep evolving for me - especially when I think I have resolution.   One of my greatest concerns in the religious community about the revelations given to us in Genesis is the wide spectrum of ideas thought to be sure and pure word of G-d concerning this one book of scripture.   Sometime it seems to me that the more devout the believer the more divergent is their understanding of Genesis.  I have never encountered a good excuse or reason for this divergence.  As for the problems between religion and science - it would seem that at least 90% of the inability to find common ground between science and religion has direct application to this book of scripture.

It is almost exclusively a believe of Medieval Christians that the earth is flat - based on interpretation of scripture rather than on observation of things.  But the real separation between science and religion began with Galileo who believed that the earth rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun and intern all the planets revolve around the earth - some of the planets with rather bazar orbits.  The problem was centered around a book written by Galileo on how to determine the future tides.  The problem was that his "scientific" ideas clashed with the religious doctrine that the earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it.  One may wonder how it was that the religious community interpreted such from Genesis but that was the problem.  But it was the main argument of the religious community that such understanding had more to do with faith in G-d rather than human observations.

One would think that resolving such doctrine issues could and should be resolved in the same manner that Elijah and the priests of Baal resolved their differences of opinions.  In essence, see who could predict the tides most accurately (empirical evidence).  For those that pay attention to history, time has consistently been on the side of science.  So strong has science proven to be - that the overwhelming trend has been for religion to slowly change and claim that the new found "truths" have always been part of religious thinking - a rewrite of history.

There are somethings I have not been able to resolve.  Was Adam and Eve the first intelligent human type species on earth?  I believe there is evidence that there were pre-humans but I do not know how to deal with such thinking according to what I understand of the "Fall of Adam".  In fact I do not know how to rectify the extinction of species and death that existed among living things prior to the time table of the Fall of Adam.

For me there are many problems with the book of Genesis.  I have thought to resolve my thinking through impressions that the creation (as recorded in Genesis) is about our solar system rather than our Galaxy, our super cluster or our universe.  In addition I wonder how much is poetic symbolism.  The earth is comprised of many elements and a great many of such elements can only be explained in science via a super nova.  But such suggestion indicates a long history of creation far beyond anything mentioned in Genesis. I am amazed how much ire among religious thinking such suggestions cause.  

The one question I am asking is: - - Has anyone resolved for themselves the paradox of understanding between Genesis and science.  If such has been resolved by empirical evidence - please share the evidence.  If such has been resolved by revelation - please explain (provide a spiritual witness) concerning such revelation .  The spiritual impression I have is that such will be revealed at some future time.

In the meantime - I have no problem exercising faith - especially that a G-d of truth and light will make the truth and light known.

 

The Traveler

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I have no problem accepting science in its attempt to explain things. But next to every scientific theory I make a mental asterisk which at the end says: "unless God decided otherwise." The known laws of science cannot explain everything and the things it thinks it can explain are still subject to divine intervention. Kind of like the practice of polygamy as commanded in Jacob 2, "here is the law, unless I say otherwise." To me that is how all of science is. For example, Darwin may have gotten it all correct, except for the part that Adam and Eve were literally created in the Garden of Eden. To me that is completely plausible. 

Concerning the book of Genesis, the more I learn the more I take a symbolic approach to its interpretation and the less I care about whether it is literal or not because the symbolism is what often conveys the true message. 

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2 hours ago, Traveler said:

I have many thought and impressions.  This subject seems to keep evolving for me - especially when I think I have resolution.   One of my greatest concerns in the religious community about the revelations given to us in Genesis is the wide spectrum of ideas thought to be sure and pure word of G-d concerning this one book of scripture.   Sometime it seems to me that the more devout the believer the more divergent is their understanding of Genesis.  I have never encountered a good excuse or reason for this divergence.  As for the problems between religion and science - it would seem that at least 90% of the inability to find common ground between science and religion has direct application to this book of scripture.

It is almost exclusively a believe of Medieval Christians that the earth is flat - based on interpretation of scripture rather than on observation of things.  But the real separation between science and religion began with Galileo who believed that the earth rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun and intern all the planets revolve around the earth - some of the planets with rather bazar orbits.  The problem was centered around a book written by Galileo on how to determine the future tides.  The problem was that his "scientific" ideas clashed with the religious doctrine that the earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it.  One may wonder how it was that the religious community interpreted such from Genesis but that was the problem.  But it was the main argument of the religious community that such understanding had more to do with faith in G-d rather than human observations.

One would think that resolving such doctrine issues could and should be resolved in the same manner that Elijah and the priests of Baal resolved their differences of opinions.  In essence, see who could predict the tides most accurately (empirical evidence).  For those that pay attention to history, time has consistently been on the side of science.  So strong has science proven to be - that the overwhelming trend has been for religion to slowly change and claim that the new found "truths" have always been part of religious thinking - a rewrite of history.

There are somethings I have not been able to resolve.  Was Adam and Eve the first intelligent human type species on earth?  I believe there is evidence that there were pre-humans but I do not know how to deal with such thinking according to what I understand of the "Fall of Adam".  In fact I do not know how to rectify the extinction of species and death that existed among living things prior to the time table of the Fall of Adam.

For me there are many problems with the book of Genesis.  I have thought to resolve my thinking through impressions that the creation (as recorded in Genesis) is about our solar system rather than our Galaxy, our super cluster or our universe.  In addition I wonder how much is poetic symbolism.  The earth is comprised of many elements and a great many of such elements can only be explained in science via a super nova.  But such suggestion indicates a long history of creation far beyond anything mentioned in Genesis. I am amazed how much ire among religious thinking such suggestions cause.  

The one question I am asking is: - - Has anyone resolved for themselves the paradox of understanding between Genesis and science.  If such has been resolved by empirical evidence - please share the evidence.  If such has been resolved by revelation - please explain (provide a spiritual witness) concerning such revelation .  The spiritual impression I have is that such will be revealed at some future time.

In the meantime - I have no problem exercising faith - especially that a G-d of truth and light will make the truth and light known.

 

The Traveler

The prediction contest would need to be concerning a matter that straddles both fields. But how do you measure such subjective predictions as Abraham’s happiness, peace and rest? Tithing might straddle both religion and science, and I’m sure studies have been done:

https://luke1428.com/how-science-proves-that-tithing-is-linked-to-success-and-happiness/

https://www.ldsliving.com/science-links-paying-tithing-with-happiness-success-more/s/77912

…but so what?

Religious people will apply the advanced secular knowledge of their time to their practice. Joseph Smith did it in receiving inspiration and revelation we call the Word of Wisdom. This is also how we have scriptures like Genesis in the first place (the technology of writing).

My "resolution" is that there is no paradox to be resolved since these are two kinds of knowledge, pursued through two kinds of systems. I handle a coexisting relationship between the two systems and their processes, and can integrate the knowledge gained thereby. My priority is to build the kingdom, so for example, I use the fruits of science for righteous purposes. President Nelson tells of his revelatory experience in finding, in teh midst of a delicate surgery,  a revolutionary new technique for repairing a heart valve in the nick of time to save a patient.

Given that Genesis was written down 1,000 years before Aristotle was born, it is not a science book. The knowledge we gain from it comes from years of spiritual or religious tradition, system and process (including a recent, ongoing restoration of spiritual power and authority enabling more advanced spiritual knowledge), not a secular or scientific one. Whatever Aristotle wrote down has also been vastly improved over the last 2400 years and will yet be improved. But no science purports to discover and test spiritual knowledge (other than perhaps neuroscience, which is a matter of semantics).

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