Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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56 I Dialogue Genesis text, dating from 1830 and also canonized in 1880, is the most explicit of the three: "And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; . . ." (3 :y). A literal reading of the passage lends itself to no other interpretation at all but that of the special creationists; it is clearly stated, and proscriptive of any other interpretation. The fascinating point, however, is that with the possible exception of Apostle Orson Pratt, no major Mormon spokesman seems to have taken the full passage literally.54 The intense scriptural literalism with which some current writers try to paint LDS presidents falls apart completely on this and related passages. No president or member of the First Presidency, so far as we have been able to discover, has ever accepted the idea of special creation of man's body, or of anything else, for that matter. An examination of Joseph Smith's teachings reveals an idea, never expressed in detail, that man came via an act of natural procreation. That sentiment runs generally through the teachings of his successors,55 but we shall find that it is not so clearly spelled out as some have assumed. If by a natural act of procreation, then from whom, and by what specific natural process? For "natural processes," as we shall see, encompass a wide variety of possibilities. To assist the focus of our inquiry, we shall refine the question to: from whence came man's body? Joseph's clearest statement on the matter seems to be: "Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way."56 Under Brigham Young's administration, however, more specific teachings were developed. Beginning in 18.52, the same year that plural marriage was openly acknowledged to the world, President Young himself served notice of a new doctrine in Mormonism: that Adam and Eve were resurrected beings, exalted to Godhood from a mortality on another and older sphere. They had produced the spirits of all men, and had then come to this earth, degraded their "celestial" bodies so that they could produce the bodies of Abel, Cain, Seth, etc.57 In short, Adam in President Young's views occupied essentially the same place that modern Church members reserve for Elohim; Elohim was regarded as the Grandfather in Heaven, rather than Father. We needn't concern ourselves here with the details of the doctrine, only that Adam was purported to have had a resurrected body, and to have begun the family of man by direct sexual union and procreation. The response of Church members to the doctrine, however, is of importance to us. With most, the concept does not seem to have been well-received. Indeed, President Young's public sermons on the matter quickly began to skirt the issue, referring to it continually but obliquely. In private, he and his colleagues taught it affirmatively.58 With rare exceptions, the writings and sermons of Mormons in general just avoided the entire issue, or couched it in the vague terms characteristic of the scriptures, and offered no commentary. The matter of Adam and Adam's body was left essentially undeveloped. There was one notable exception: Orson Pratt, the Apostle. On this matter, at least, Orson seems to have accepted the scriptures quite literally, and could not reconcile them with the doctrine from President Young. Beginning in 1853, he published a periodical entitled The Seer, and in its pages promulgated a doctrine