27 Comments

  1. Either the earth is a lot older than 6000 years, or God went to a lot of trouble to trick us. I don’t think God is in the business of trying to trick us.

  2. Christian

    “I recently came across an issue that has troubled some members of the Church. It is simply that some scriptures and the words of some Church leaders indicate that the Earth is only about 6000-7000 years old, and that there was no death before the Fall of Adam and Eve.” No, they don’t. That’s just lazy interpretation on the part of people going off of very little information.

  3. Christian

    I’m not arguing your thoughts. I’m agreeing with your stance that “6000-7000 years” doesn’t explain it all and that people who think that “that’s what LDS theology says” are really going off of an LDS folk theology that consists of hearsay, rumors and hand-me-downs rather than actual gospel study. There are many popularly held other tenets in LDS folk theology.

    But if I just answered your question directly I would answer with a quote straight from this blog entry:

    “As the Encyclopedia of Mormonism states, ‘the scriptures do not say.'”

  4. Joseph Smith learned from his Hebrew teacher, Joseph Seixas of the Jewish tradition that the earth and its system are 2.555 billion years old. This is noted by what you note above, Bryce. The thing is, this does not establish a real age of things, per se, but a numerological age. The main concept is that this system is extremely old, whether you think the earth is 2.555 or 4.5 billion years old.

    That the earth may have gone through many creation/destruction cycles that changed continents, destroyed species and allowed new species to emerge, is very consistent in the scientific/geological record. Creatures formed and were destroyed 250M years ago, giving rise to dinosaurs. Dinosaurs flourish for 200M years, until 65M years ago, when another cataclysm wipes them out, giving rise to mammals and birds. The Great Ice Age, now believed to have been caused/enhanced by a meteor strike, destroys many species and opens the door for modern man.

    We can also view it in another way: Adam and Eve were the only ones in the Garden. Death had not occurred yet in the Garden – which for them would seem to be the whole world. Adam was the first man to have the fulness of the gospel, and a covenant with God.

  5. Binary Search Tree

    I think you arrive at the correct conclusion, but I’m suspicious of some of the steps you take to get there.

    For example, you’re talking about the Book of Revelation as examples of numerical symbolism, and that the seals being opened on the book are representative of “1000 years”, and that the Hebrew word for “1000” can also mean “a very large amount”. That’s great, except that the Book of Revelation wasn’t written in Hebrew; it was written in Greek. I’m not disagreeing with the connection, I’m just disagreeing with that particular association.

    The other thing that’s interesting to think about in all of this is that just because things are *recorded* sequentially doesn’t mean that they actually *happened* (or will happen) sequentially. Given what science shows us about the formation of galaxies and stars and planetary systems, it seems like it would be a bit naïve to think that the seven “days” of creation all happened in sequence. What is more likely is that they’re all mixed together, and that some aspects were given the “first time” designation, other things the “third time” designation, etc.

    I think the result of all of this is that God obviously measures time totally differently from us (and there’s a bunch in Alma 32 [of all places] that backs this up). His time is probably what we would describe as “wibbley-wobbly timey-wimey”, and wouldn’t make much sense to us time-can-only-flow-in-one-direction mortal humans.

  6. Thanks Binary. Yes, you are right, the book of Revelation was written in Greek. Thank you for pointing that out. The book also never mentions a “thousand” in connection with the seals. But I think the same ideas carried over from Hebrew culture into Greek culture. Large numbers like this in the ancient world were not meant to signify precise numbers, but generalizations, symbols of very large amounts. That is the association, perhaps a loose one. See, for example, Revelation 5:11,

    And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

    I’d be interested to learn how the Greek words myrias (μυριάς), chilias (χιλιάς) and chilioi (χίλιοι) were considered in the ancient world, but if the scripture above is any indication, they meant the same thing as their counterparts in Hebrew. One commentary notes that myrias also means “an innumerable multitude, an unlimited number,” not simply “ten thousand.” In fact, myrias is also used in Luke 12:1 and Hebrews 12:22 translated as “innumerable.” I only looked into the Hebrew, which have more available and accessible commentaries, which perhaps was an oversight.

  7. Melissa Davis

    I had a key insight into the creation when I was once reading in Abraham whose creation version is much earlier than that of Moses and has additional details. The verse that jumped out at me was Abraham 4:18, “And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.”

    The Gods waited until the elements they were dealing with obeyed… That wording suggests unspecified time while they waited.

    It also suggests that objects such as dry land, water, grass, etc. had the ability to make the decision to obey or not, just as we children of God have agency. Enoch once heard the earth speak (Moses 7:48) “I [the earth] am pained…because of the wickedness of my children.” The earth also asked to be able to rest. And we are also familiar with the parallel with humans that the earth will go through: Baptism by water (flood) and later, sanctification by fire—the Holy Ghost for us and the cleansing final fire for the earth during the burning of the wicked. Do I believe that the earth also has a “soul?” I think I do.

    I own a book, “The Kolob Theorem,” by Lynn M. Hilton, published in 2006. I quote a passage here, “Our planet earth was first formed in an orbit of Kolob in the celestial core of the galaxy. It migrated out through the terrestrial ring (the Garden of Eden Period), and took up its present position, in an orbit of the sun for its mortal, telestial probation. The earth will return by being pulled away from the sun, passing again through the terrestrial ring (the millennial period), and finally regaining its original orbit about Kolob in the celestial kingdom.”

    He provides a colored photo of a galaxy with rings of planets/stars with differing colors the further out they are from a “celestial” center. I quote, “It clearly shows in colors: white from the hub (celestial kingdom), a ring of red (terrestrial kingdom) and an outer ring of blue (telestial kingdom). ”

    He has some other really cool stuff in that book. I’ll look it over the next couple days and see if anything else he has can contribute to this discussion.

  8. Christian

    We act like this is an ancient thing but we still do it nowadays: “Wow, there’s a million people here!” when maybe there was actually ~25,000.

  9. Jon Sargent

    Age of the earth, is not revealed in exactness. An interesting read of an article by Hugh Nibley, entitled, “Before Adam,” is available on bhporter.com. Br. Bruce Porter is an LDS writer and CES teacher, formerly at BYU.
    Do the google search, before Adam, and the articles will come up.

  10. paolo

    I think that the problem that people wrestle with is not so much that members might be having difficulty with what they may have been taught about the age of the earth so much as the confliction of the idea that death only came into the world through the fall and the definitive statements directly from the church and apostles who have taught this concept.

    So looking at the official webste of the church – http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/death?lang=eng&letter=d
    “DEATH – Two kinds of death are spoken of in the scriptures. One is the death of the body, which is caused by the separation of the body from the spirit; i.e., “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). The other is spiritual death, which is to die as pertaining to, or to be separated from, righteousness—to be alienated from the things of God (Alma 12:16, 32; 40:26). Both of these deaths were introduced into the world by the fall of Adam…..Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48).”

    The current institute manual (http://institute.lds.org/manuals/doctrines-of-the-gospel-student-manual/doc-gosp-21-30-30.asp) confirms this teaching where it states that “There was no death in the earth before the fall of Adam …The gospel teaches us that if Adam and Eve had not partaken of that fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would have remained in the Garden of Eden in that same condition prevailing before the fall. . . .

    And finally, Bruce R. McConkie said (http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=658) “My reasoning causes me to conclude that if death has always prevailed in the world, then there was no fall of Adam that brought death to all forms of life; that if Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement; that if there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no resurrection, and no eternal life; and that if there was no atonement, there is nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us.”

    So you can see where many would find confliction about the age of the earth and the need for a savior. As it stands, it appears that the church is definitely coming down on the side of creation being a fairly short event, with death coming only after the fall. Therefore there are those who looking at the scientific evidence of death before the fall, can only reasonably conclude that the church’s teachings are in error.

    I don’t know how you might resolve this issue, but it has certainly given me pause.

  11. Melissa Davis

    I agree with Paolo. He has rightly pointed out the main problem for the confusion of church members.

    What if we divide man from other creatures and consider them separately. Creatures which died before Eden and left fossils millions of years did so for the purpose of creating the elements we needed in the earth’s crust so we could live. These beings had no need for a Savior, no need for a Fall, only man did.

    Would past quotes from church authorities fit that scenario?

  12. Melissa Davis

    Another thought to follow what I just wrote— Let’s say that the earth was not totally “born” until all 6 phases were completed and whatever had to happen to make the earth “full” for our use was allowed to happen— creatures died and enriched the soil. Then, when the birthing process was complete, it was ready for Eden and Man and the no-death bubble surrounded the newly born earth at that point. Man now had to Fall to launch the new planet.

    Does this sound plausible? Or shall I look for work as a fiction novelist?????

  13. Bryce – just an observation. Is it possible and consistent with the temple experience to believe that revelation on this and other subjects is available to all those who seek answers with “real intent” (e.g. in the spirit of Brigham Young’s comments above)? Perhaps “there has been no definitive revelation yet” not because revelation is not available to individuals, but because it may not be necessary for a revelation be given to the president of the church that is subsequently announced as revelation that is binding upon all church members and canonized? Just a thought…

  14. I believe many things can be revealed to us personally that have not been announced church-wide or canonized. But we are taught that we should usually keep those things to ourselves until the prophet does reveal it.

  15. Christian

    Believe All Things,

    Yes, a lot of things are like that. Generally they should not be shared far and wide or perhaps in limited settings, and sometimes not at all. When they are appropriately shared they should not be shared as something that the listener is bound to believe. All of which goes right along with what you said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *