September 7, 2010

Roberts vs. Smith: Death Before the Fall (part 2 of 2)

See part 1 here.
I'm continuing my guest posting at faithpromotingrumor. Take the comments over there, friends. This post is super quote-heavy and light on analysis. I simply want to convey a sense of Roberts’s presentation and get his argument on the table for discussion (as well as point out that his argument was virtually ignored at the time it was first explained and seems to have been largely forgotten since).

Roberts rejected Smith's scriptural exegesis regarding the condition of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden on logical grounds, and in accordance with the way he understood immortality as described in the revelations of Joseph Smith: “I mention [this argument on immortality] now merely to bring it into the record of this case that it may receive consideration and not be lost sight of,” Roberts explained in his presentation to the Twelve, “for it is very important, and should receive more attention than I am attempting to give it here.” It seems it didn’t receive much more attention at all, nor has it since. Roberts was responding to one of Smith’s main scriptural proof-texts:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end (2 Nephi 2:22).
Roberts quoted directly from Smith’s critical paper which Smith had earlier presented to the Twelve:1
By revelation we are well informed that Adam was not subject to death when he was placed in the garden of Eden… He <Adam>2 did not come here as a resurrected being to die again for we are taught most clearly that those who pass through the resurrection receive eternal life, and can die no more. It is sufficient for us to know, until the Lord reveals more about it, that Adam was not subject to death, but had power through transgressing the law, to become subject to death…3
Roberts responded that such an explanation was self-contradictory:
I am very glad to observe…that Elder Smith makes this declaration that "Adam was not a resurrected being," for it makes it possible for me to add, then he was not an immortal being, for the only way to the status of immortality sometimes referred to as "eternal life," is through mortality and the resurrection from death to immortality. The resurrected Christ is the true type and ensample of an immortal man, deathless; he can die no more!4
Roberts didn’t leave it at that; he reiterated the same argument for seven more paragraphs, arguing that the very possibility of a fall indicated that—however long the “royal planters" as he called them (324) could have remained in the Garden—they were not truly “immortal”:
Well, if Adam could die, as he did, then he was after all subject to death. No matter what means, I repeat, if he could die, by any means whatsoever, then he was subject to death; he was not immortal; and the proof that he was subject to death is in the fact that he did die. It does not help matters to say "but <he, Adam> had the power through transgressing the law, to become subject to death"; for if he had that power, he was subject to death, and he did die. In the face of that stern fact it is useless and illogical to say Adam "was not subject to death."
“Let it be remembered,” he emphasized, “that there is no such thing as conditional immortality.” 5
Roberts used D&C 93 and Alma 11 to support his definition of immortality, which is not achieved before an individual undergoes mortality, death, and resurrection, combining body and spirit in an inseparable union. He punctuated the argument by including a hint of his own unique proposal that Eve and Adam were not immortal, but were mortals in a translated state who were brought to earth to begin a new dispensation.

Roberts left a puzzling question mark, however, in his description of translated beings:
Men are either mortal or translated, or immortal, if for if they die for any cause] no matter from what cause; they are mortal; for they are subject to death. Translated men are those in whom death is (?)[sic] but are subject to death. If they are immortal then they are not subject to death, They cannot; they are like the Christ in that respect, spirit and element are inseparably connected in them…6
For whatever reason, Roberts’s line of argument seems to have been  unconvincing to the review committee who requested changes be made, Roberts refusing, leaving the manuscript unpublished for decades.7

Roberts was soon gone, as were John A. Widtsoe and James E. Talmage, two apostles more sympathetic to Roberts’s scientific approach. Then-elder Smith, on the other hand, had plenty of time to help his perspective become better known through publication. Interestingly, Smith made no mention of Roberts’s argument in his subsequently-published book Man, His Origin and Destiny (1954), a book which argues for a young earth and against evolution. There Smith repeats the same proof-texts he’d related to the review committee regarding Adam’s immortal state.

However, Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine (relying partly on Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation) seems to indirectly respond to Roberts. Perhaps this overall discussion helps explain McConkie’s bifurcated entry for “Immortality,” the first part of which refers entirely to embodied prelapsarians, the second to post-mortal resurrected folk:
1. Adam and all forms of life were first created in immortality. There was no death in the world until after the fall. (2 Ne. 2:22-24.) When Adam fell, becoming the first mortal flesh on earth (Moses 3:7), mortality and the consequent death that flows from such a status of existence passed upon all forms of life. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 72-127.) This original immortality was designed to continue only until the fall; it was not to be of unending duration; it ceased when mortality began.
2. Immortality is to live forever in the resurrected state with body and spirit inseparably connected….8
Perhaps less relevantly, McConkie did not include the verse from D&C 93 Roberts referred to (regarding spirit and matter being connected for a fullness of joy being required for immortality) in his scriptural references for immortality. It is referenced in the entry for “Resurrection,” however.

Was Roberts splitting hairs with his argument on the definition of immortality and whether prelapsarian Eve and Adam could rightfully be called immortal? Was Joseph Fielding Smith fair in ignoring the objection in subsequent publications?

[1] Roberts incorporated quotes directly from Smith's presentation into an “Addendum” added to chapter 31 of the second draft of TWL. I agree with the assessment of the editors who note: "One can safely conclude that when Roberts presented his ideas to the Quorum of the Twelve on January 7, 1931, he read the draft of chapter 31 together with the preceding sections and this conclusion" (The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, ed. John W. Welch [Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994], 318). Mad props to BYU Studies for including this Addendum, from which the quotes in this post are taken. It is absent from the Signature volume, I presume because it was not made available to them, they only had access to the so-called "Draft 3," which was a copy donated to the Marriott Library at the U of U by Edwin B. Firmage, which spurred the publication of Signature's volume, which spurred the publication by BYU Studies.

[2] In the BYU Studies edition, Roberts’s own explanatory insertions into quotes are noted in angle brackets < >.

[3] The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994), 320.

[4] Ibid., 321.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. The review committee disagreed with Roberts's hypothesis in their response to Roberts (their objections are included in the footnotes of the BYU Studies edition of TWL): "The doctrine that Adam came here a 'translated' being from some other world is not accepted as a doctrine of the Church..." (326).

[7] A similar argument on immortality was already included in the main text of TWL, see pp. 324-330.

[8] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966), 376-377.


Tyler Andersen said...

While Bruce R. McConkie generally disregarded any notion that there was death before the fall, I found a few of his comments interesting in my own research:

There are those who believe that the theory of organic evolution runs counter to the plain and explicit principles set forth in the holy scriptures as these have been interpreted and taught by Joseph Smith and his associates. There are others who think that evolution is the system used by the Lord to form plant and animal life and to place man on earth.

May I say that all truth is in agreement, that true religion and true science bear the same witness, and that in the true and full sense, true science is part of true religion. But may I also raise some questions of a serious nature. Is there any way to harmonize the false religions of the Dark Ages with the truths of science as they have now been discovered? Is there any way to harmonize the revealed religion that has come to us with the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and the diverse speculations descending therefrom?

Should we accept the famous document of the First Presidency issued in the days of President Joseph F. Smith and entitled "The Origin of Man" as meaning exactly what it says? Is it the doctrine of the gospel that Adam stood next to Christ in power and might and intelligence before the foundations of the world were laid; that Adam was placed on this earth as an immortal being; that there was no death in the world for him or for any form of life until after the Fall; that the fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world; that this temporal death passed upon all forms of life, upon man and animal and fish and fowl and plant life; that Christ came to ransom man and all forms of life from the effects of the temporal death brought into the world through the Fall, and in the case of man from a spiritual death also; and that this ransom includes a resurrection for man and for all forms of life? Can you harmonize these things with the evolutionary postulate that death has always existed and that the various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomically long periods of time?...

These are questions to which all of us should find answers. Every person must choose for himself what he will believe. I recommend that all of you study and ponder and pray and seek light and knowledge in these and in all fields.

I believe that the atonement of Christ is the great and eternal foundation upon which revealed religion rests. I believe that no man can be saved unless he believes that our Lord's atoning sacrifice brings immortality to all and eternal life to those who believe and obey, and no man can believe in the atonement unless he accepts both the divine sonship of Christ and the fall of Adam.

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. I believe that the Fall affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself, and that the Atonement affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself.

BHodges said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tyler. I wasn't sure where your quote started or ended or where it was from, but luckily we have Google. You are quoting BRM from his "Seven Deadly Heresies" opinion piece. :) That talk is here:

Interestingly, BRM tries to sneak an idea into the FP statement that isn't actually there. He asked if we should "accept" the FP statement "Origin of Man," and ties in the question, as though it is part of that statement, whether we should believe "that Adam was placed on this earth as an immortal being." This claim is not part of that FP statement and begs the question entirely, that Adam was placed here an "immortal being." Interestingly enough, this was the very quibble Roberts was making about how JFeS was presenting his position, as I showed in this post.

The FP statement is here:

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