3/26/2005

Mother Earth’s Plan of Salvation

Mc Conkie continues his third objection:

Bearing on this general theme that the earth was created in its glory and perfection, in a higher type of existence than it now enjoys, is the revealed fact that, as is the case with man, the earth itself is passing through a plan of salvation. It was created (the equivalent of birth); it fell to its present mortal or telestial state; it was baptized by immersion, when the universal flood swept over its entire surface; it will be baptized by fire (the equivalent of baptism of the Spirit) in the day when it is renewed and receives its paradisiacal glory; it will die; and finally it will be quickened (or resurrected) and become a celestial sphere. Evolutionary theories take no account of any of this.
Has he over-anthropomorphizes the earth? Or is there some vital doctrine at the core of this idea that we as Mormons cherish too much to throw away?

First of all, we must admit that this “plan” is very different from the plan we people are currently in. While we are born innocent, we also were born underdeveloped. It makes no sense to insist that the earth was born as a fully developed paradise because that is how we were born.

The fall, an issue that will be dealt with later, does not matter too much either. We are punished for our own sins, not Adam’s transgression. Why should the earth be different? How did the earth sin, so that it needed to be baptized?

As Prof. Jeffery pointed out, if we are to maintain that the earth had to be baptized, are we going to hold out for all animals as well? They are certainly more alive than the planet is. What about all plants and so on? What about infants while we are at it, for I can see no reason why the earth would need baptism, but not infants?

Regarding the baptism of fire, we are not literally subjected to fire when we receive such. Why must we insist that the earth be? How will the earth die? It doesn’t seem to be alive in order to do so. And how could it then be resurrected? What about other planets? Are they alive? Must they be baptized? If not, what law are they breaking that the earth is not? These questions don’t seem to make much sense. Why does Mc Conkie insist on bringing them up in the evolution discussion?

  1. Reading the scriptures too literally. There are some verses, which refer to the earth moaning and weeping and the like. The fact is, the earth, while it might have a spirit of sorts, has no brain with which to contemplate anything, let alone tear ducts to cry with. These verses are better interpreted metaphorically.
  2. Defending 19th century speculations. Brigham really did believe that the earth was alive. He thought that the “ebbing and flowing of the tides” was caused by the earth’s inhaling and exhaling “and not the moon as some have vainly supposed. The moon has nothing to do with this natural phenomenon. The motion is natural to the Earth and independent of the moon’s influence.” It goes without saying that the earth has no lungs, and astronomers are quite confident in thief theories of what causes tides. Clearly this influenced the view, which began with Brigham that the earth had to be baptized. Unfortunately, the ideas, which the doctrine is based on, are all wrong.

This leads us to consider the flood. If geologists are sure about anything it is that the earth was never a sphere of water within the last 10,000 years. Such an event would have left massive amounts of evidence, none of which can be found. We can hold out for a limited area which was effected, but a totally global flood, as imagined by children’s books is completely out of the question. For a very good treatment of the subject see Duane Jeffery's article here.

When people insist that we cannot accept evolution because it does not allow for Mother Earth's personal plan of salvation, I simply cannot agree. They are either claiming inerrancy for the scriptures (something Mormons don't believe in) or even worse, inerrancy for their interpretation of the scriptures. They are also over-anthropomorphizing the planet, beyond what is necessary or supportable by reason and evidence. Might the earth have some sort of plan of salvation? This actually goes rather well with the doctrine of "lower" self-existent intelligences and evolution. But to say that its plan is the same as ours raises too many red flags.

Summary:
Related to the notion that the earth was created as a paradise, is the idea that the earth is itself passing through a mortal probation right now. Such a concept comes from taking the scriptures too literally and over-anthropomorphizing the earth and should not be defended.

2 Comments:

I agree. You've said it very well and I'm not sure that I can add anything. We all like plans, models, paradigms, etc that have a sense of symmetry and order. Sometimes I think we get a little carried away in trying to build supporting structures around the central points of the gospel, so that it fits our sense of order and beauty.

3/26/2005 08:28:00 PM  

I would also add that almost any analogy, if taken too far, starts to break down. It is best to use an analogy for a specific and limited purpose, all the while being aware of its limitations. This is what I think Brother Joseph meant when he said, "In proving contraries truth is made manifest." Any proposition, taken sufficiently to an extreme, seems to any sane observer to be obviously false. We therefore must explore the ramifications of certain notions and see where they ultimately lead, baking away from any visible precipices, circumscribing their limitations, so to speak. Sort of reminds me of what one of my political science teachers said about the extreme left and the extreme right: while their ideologies may be radically different, the means they use (brutality and force) to achieve their ends become increasingly similar as one approaches either end of the political spectrum.

3/27/2005 05:37:00 PM  

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