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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58 I Dialogue January 29, i860, Orson Pratt began the severing of that one tie. The closeness of the dates is almost certainly coincidental, since (among other reasons) news travelled slowly to Utah in those days—Orson's action is not to be viewed as a response to Darwinism. But, in retrospect, his action (and the First Presidency's response) was significant none-the-less; the incident may well have put a damper on further doctrinal development. Certain it is that, considering the duration and intensity of the debate in non-Mormon theological circles, nineteenth-century Mormonism produced relatively little in the way of relevant commentary. Let us shift now, in our inquiry, from the study of basic Mormon teachings applicable at the time of Darwin's book, to a documentation of subsequent pertinent commentary and response. In 1882, President John Taylor published his Mediation and Atonement, in which he makes probably the strongest statement by any president favoring the fixity of species,61 thus inching the Church toward the theologians' position. But during the following year his first counselor, George Q. Cannon, twice reaffirmed the sentiment of Brigham Young that the creation periods were "periods of time," and that Joseph Smith had anticipated science on the matter of the earth's age. Rejoicing that science was bolstering the prophet, Cannon summarizes: "Geologists have declared it, and religious people are adopting it; and so the world is progressing."62 But Cannon was eclectic in his beliefs; acceptance of an old earth was not to be taken as an acceptance of Darwinism—at least so far as it applied to man. In an editorial in 1883 he made it clear that he regarded belief in "Darwin's theories concerning the origin of man" as evidence of spiritual apostasy.63 This sentiment is not surprising, since Cannon had often expressed himself in similar vein before being called to the First Presidency,64 and was a firm believer in the Adamic doctrines taught by President Young.65 The general feeling of the Church in the latter 1800's, however, was that science would continue to demonstrate the validity of the Mormon positions; indeed a rather heady flirtation with science affixed itself on the Church. The Church hierarchy seems to have rejoiced at the goodwill generated by James E. Talmage's reception in scientific circles, his participation and membership in esteemed societies, and his trips to England and Russia. In 1896, Talmage became the holder of Mormonism's first real doctorate degree; he was joined in this doctorate distinction in 1899 by John A. Widtsoe and Joseph F. Merrill. All three of these physical scientists later became prominent apostles and articulate spokesmen in the Church. So closed the 1800's, and Mormonism, past the major hurdles in her long political feud over plural marriage, and newly-sequestered under the government of statehood, plunged with high anticipations into the twentieth-century. Davis Bitton66 has rightly pinpointed these years, the turn of the century, as a period critical in Mormonism, during which the prevailing optimism toward science and reason began to erode. But this cooling of ardor must not be over-rated; the antagonism which has seemed to pervade recent times is seen more correctly, for science at least, as a product of only the last couple of decades. The Improvement Era, in the early years of the century, regularly ran articles by Talmage, Widtsoe, Frederick Pack, and others, extolling areas of agreement between science and Mormon theology. These articles show a degree of caution