What are the scriptures? The word of God? I personally would hesitate to define them so. They certainly contain many of the words of God spoken to many of His servants, but the Words of Mormon are the words of Mormon. The book of Isaiah contains the words of Isaiah. The same can be said for the book of Moses and so on.
But isn't "all scripture ... given by inspiration of God?" No, it isn't. Joseph Smith changed that verse to "all scripture given by inspiration of God..." implying that some is, some isn't. Even when it is, I still would hesitate to call it absolutely perfect. The Book of Mormon, "the most correct of any book," has numerous warnings about the errors of men contained therein. Combine this with Brigham Young's statement that if the BoM were retranslated today it would be very different than we now have it.
Are the scriptures perfect? No, but the authors did the best they could with the knowledge and inspiration given them at the time. They were a particular message to a particular audience in a particular context. True, we can generalize the message a bit so as to apply the scriptures to ourselves, but caution must be taken.
In other words, now that we know a lot more, both about science and about eternal truth than they did back then we don't have to limit ourselves to their understanding of the world. The world is very old. The universe is very big. The earth is not the center. Species are not fixed. They didn't know these things, so what? This is the point of continual revelation, that our knowledge is always incomplete, that's why we always need more. Brigham Young said:
How long it [Earth] had been organized is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from them picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty or void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he gives revelation on the subject. JD 14:115-17Here is John Taylor's views:
When we come to religious matters, we discover that, though men are naturally intelligent, they act like fools. They do not use their common judgment, reason, or intelligence. "Well," say they, "you know we are governed by the Bible." Now that is exactly what we do not know, and therefore I doubt it. "But our divines tell us we are." Oh, do they? Well, suppose somebody was to tell you the result of some scientific analysis; you would be very likely to say—"I believe you in part, but I would like to test it for myself. When I have done that I shall know it. Yet strange as it is, you are willing to take anybody's ipse dixit in relation to things of the most vital importance. In things pertaining to the immortal part of man, we act like the veriest babies or consummate fools, while in regard to the affairs of this life we act intelligently. Gospel Kingdom, 75
I believe that sometimes the scriptures are just plain wrong. They were written by men, we shouldn't be surprised by this. But care must be taken on a number of accounts.
- We do not have a free liscense to simply reject any part of scripture which we take to be wrong. Care must be taken. With regards to our current topic, evolution, we cannot simply throw out the idea that God created the world, this idea is too far ingrained both in scripture and in our doctrine. But to simply reject as wrong the idea that all animals were created in a couple of days of one another I don't think would be out of line. There simply isn't very much baggage that comes with such a move.
- I also feel it unwise to defend something that the author obviously did not intend to say. For example, there are a wide variety of books now sold in Christian book stores which attempt to reconcile Eisteinian astronomy as well as the big bang model with various Biblical statements. This is a lost cause. The majority of people in the Bible believed in a geocentric model of the universe. They really did believe that the Sun was going around the earth. So what? Why can't we simply say they were wrong? The same goes for recent attempts to show that the sea monsters described in Genesis ch. 1 were the dinosaurs. They weren't. As near as we can tell, the ancient knew nothing about dinosaurs.
- Even with these rules in place discrepencies will still arise. There will be passages where it is perfectly clear what the author meant, it being totally in conflict with what science has demonstrated. It may be a teaching which will be very difficult for most Mormons to simply reject as wrong. What should we do then? I don't think we can give a universal rule for how to deal with such cases. How each instance is handled will depend on the soundness of the scientific evidence and how essential the teaching is in Mormon doctrine. Remember, we should try to defend Mormon doctrine, not necessarily Mormon scripture.
- I must confess here and now that if evolution is true, and I strongly believe it to be, many doctrines which are held be most Mormons will need to be revised. Some may even need to be thrown out. Such was the idea of the universal flood, or the idea of the entire hemisphere teaming with Nephites and Lamanites. These "doctrines" simply cannot stand up to scrutiny and must be revised. Many other long held traditions may have to go by the board. This will bother some people a great deal, but is something we must learn to accept.
In this blog we will do our best to explain why certain ideas (not necessarily just religious ones) are irreconcilable in their current condition and must be modified. We ask that before people raise the cry of "Heretic!" they return the favor by explaining as best as they can why any particular revision we might be suggesting is simply too much to bear. Our object is to explore various attempts at reconciliation and try to find the most harmonious one out there, not to show that we are always right. It is not our goal make ourselves out to be lights unto the world or to revolutionize Mormonism. We wish to preserve it as much as possibly can be done, but an open and prayerful mind is essential in approaching this topic. These things should be kept in mind as we venture into such vaguely charted territory.
When beliefs based on scriptural statements are at odds which should win out? This is a difficult question which has no suitable answer for all circumstances for both science and scripture fall short of absolute perfection. Though it makes many Mormons uncomfortable, some scriptural passage may have to be rejected to account for the truths of evolution.