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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church/Chapter 10
Response to claims made in "Chapter 10: The Lord's University"
A FairMormon Analysis of: Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon ChurchA work by author: Simon G. Southerton
|Losing a Lost Tribe|
- Response to claim: 135 - Mormons believe that if there is a conflict between science and religion, that the science is incorrect
- Response to claim: 135-136 - Mormonism reserves the right to identify scientific truth
- Response to claim: 136 - Mormonism declares that it "corners the market" on religious truth
- Response to claim: 136 - Joseph Smith declared that all other religions were false
- Response to claim: 136 - The author states that Mormons think that all other religions are the "whore of the earth" and "church of the devil"
- Response to claim: 136 - The current generation of Mormons is taught a selective view of Church history
- Response to claim: 137 - Many church members are "blissfully unaware" of Brigham Young's practice of polygamy
- Response to claim: 137 - Senior church leaders prefer that members not question changes in temple ordinances
- Response to claim: 138 - LDS ecclesiastical leaders expect "unquestioning obedience" of church members
- Response to claim: 139 - The Church "unofficially" discourages prayer to "Mother in Heaven"
- Response to claim: 140 - Church leaders are "loath" to make unequivocal statements of doctrine
- Response to claim: 140 - BYU's emphasis is on conformity rather than personal freedom
- Response to claim: 141 - CES insists that gospel learning takes precedence over secular learning
- Response to claim: 142 - CES instructs students not to attempt to locate Book of Mormon geographical locations
- Response to claim: 142 - Limited geography theories advanced by FARMS are "much too controversial" for CES students
- Response to claim: 142 - Spencer W. Kimball believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography
- Response to claim: 142 - Church members are shocked at the "limited archaeological evidence" for the Book of Mormon
- Response to claim: 143 - LDS apologists continue to tell members how "scientists continue to get it wrong"
- Response to claim: 143 - Most members follow their leaders without question
- Response to claim: 143 - LDS theology supports a literal interpretation of the creation of man
- Response to claim: 143 - LDS theology supports a literal interpretation of the tower of Babel
- Response to claim: 143 - LDS theology supports a literal interpretation of the Flood
- Response to claim: 143-144 - The perception is that the Church has officially denounced evolution
- Response to claim: 144 - Henry Eyring (father of Henry B. Eyring) indicated that he could accept evolution
- Response to claim: 145 - Eyring "avoided singling out senior leaders of the church for the bad press that evolution has received in LDS circles"
- Response to claim: 146 - The Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri
- Response to claim: 146 - Mormons believe that the continents separated only after a global flood
- Response to claim: 146 - Mormons are "compelled" to believe in a global flood as symbolizing the "baptism of the earth"
- Response to claim: 148 - FARMS' goal is to deter members from reading any book that challenges their faith
Response to claim: 135 - Mormons believe that if there is a conflict between science and religion, that the science is incorrect
Question: Do Mormons believe that if there is a conflict between science and religion, that the science is incorrect?
Critics claim that the Church teaches that science is something "evil" to be discarded when it conflicts with religion
Secular critics charge that Mormonism and science are incompatible. In fact, Dr. Simon Southerton, in his book Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church devotes 66 pages to a section titled "The Troubled Interface between Mormonism and Science." Critics point out that elements found in the scriptures are incompatible with current scientific beliefs. Southerton's work argues the Church considers science something "evil" which ought to be arbitrarily discarded whenever Church leaders speak.
Latter-day Saints in many ways have a more liberal view of science than some of their traditional Christian brethren
In reality, Latter-day Saints in many ways have a more liberal view of science than some of their traditional Christian brethren. We believe God operates according to certain laws. If there are things that God can do which seem to contradict what we know through current science, we assume there are scientific laws at work which are beyond our current understanding. The state of science is constantly changing. What science declared to be "true" in the 19th century is not "true" in the 21st century. It is reasonable to expect that some things that we consider to be scientifically "true" now may be revised according to additional knowledge that is gained in the future. Brigham Young recognized this when he said,
We differ very much with Christendom in regard to the sciences of religion. Our religion embraces all truth and every fact in existence, no matter whether in heaven, earth, or hell. A fact is a fact, all truth issues forth from the Fountain of truth, and the sciences are facts as far as men have proved them. 
Latter-day Saints are content to accept that they do not understand everything God is capable of doing. The Lord has promised that these things will someday be revealed to us:
Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.(DC 101:32-34)
Issues of a perceived incompatibility between science and religion are hardly unique to Mormonism. These issues are shared by all faiths. Failure to resolve scientific and religious contradictions in one's mind can bring into doubt one's very belief that there is a God. Complicating the issue for Latter-day Saints is the fact that living prophets have sometimes expressed their own views on scientific matters, thus causing some to doubt whether or not they could truly be prophets.
Response to claim: 135-136 - Mormonism reserves the right to identify scientific truth
Question: Do Mormons believe that faith and science are mutually exclusive?
Science and religion are both dynamic, growing areas of human inquiry and knowledge
Science and religion are both dynamic, growing areas of human inquiry and knowledge. Neither knowledge set has yet arrived at a final form. This makes it impossible to judge whether science and religion are incompatible since we're not currently able to see the entirety of either of them. Instead of jumping to conclusions about incomplete data, the LDS approach is one of patience and confidence that, in the end after all truth has been revealed, whatever might now appear incompatible between science and religion will finally be resolved.
Latter-day Saints believe that God is, in essence, the greatest scientist of all
Latter-day Saints believe that God is, in essence, the greatest scientist of all. We also acknowledge that we are continually learning. To assume that we now have all the answers is simply naive.
Latter-day Saints are not required to discard science in favor of religion
Latter-day Saints are not required to discard science in favor of religion. Many Latter-day Saints are heavily involved in scientific research without suffering a loss of faith. Not only do we believe that science is continually being updated, but that Gospel knowledge will be updated as well. As the 9th Article of Faith states:
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Latter-day Saints acknowledge that they do not understand everything about how the earth was created
We acknowledge that we do not understand everything regarding the manner in which God created the earth, but we have been assured through revelation that at some future time we will be allowed to understand these things. Neither religion nor science knows everything, but revelation provides us with sufficient knowledge to obtain salvation. In religion, as in science, all should be constantly seeking for the "further light and knowledge" that comes from God.
Response to claim: 136 - Mormonism declares that it "corners the market" on religious truth
Question: Do Mormons believe that everyone else will be "damned"?
Mormons believe that almost all people will receive a greater salvation than they anticipate
Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be "the only true Church," does this mean that the LDS believe that everyone else will be damned? And, since the Church teaches that the dead will have the opportunity to hear the gospel preached to them, doesn't this imply that the witness given to those "after death" will be so compelling that virtually everyone will become "a Mormon"?
Almost all people will receive a greater salvation than they anticipate. The coming of the Lord, or the preaching to departed spirits after death, will not compel belief.
These teachings highlight the necessity of good-will and tolerance among peoples and religions—if the Lord in his glory will allow each religion and group to live peaceably, should we not do the same now?
Leaders of the Church have long taught that a kingdom of glory and salvation is granted to almost everyone
Leaders of the Church have long taught that a kingdom of glory and salvation is granted to almost everyone, save perhaps those who fully follow Satan as "sons of perdition."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:
For Latter-day Saints, being “saved” can also mean being saved or delivered from the second death (meaning the final spiritual death) by assurance of a kingdom of glory in the world to come (see [1 Corinthians 15:40-42). Just as the Resurrection is universal, we affirm that every person who ever lived upon the face of the earth—except for a very few—is assured of salvation in this sense...The prophet Brigham Young taught that doctrine when he declared that “every person who does not sin away the day of grace, and become an angel to the Devil, will be brought forth to inherit a kingdom of glory”. This meaning of saved ennobles the whole human race through the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this sense of the word, all should answer: “Yes, I have been saved. Glory to God for the gospel and gift and grace of His Son!”
President Brigham Young
Brigham Young taught much about the continuation of a variety of belief systems and religious practices in the hereafter:
15 August 1852
With your mind's eye look at the millions of them in all nations who are doing according to the best knowledge they possess. What! the Roman Catholics? Yes, and then every one of her daughters down to the latest Protestant Church that has been organized. They are all doing just as well as they can, and living according to the best light they have—a great many of them, though not all. What shall we do with them? They pass from the world, their spirits go into the spiritual world, and their bodies go back to their mother earth, and there sleep, while their spirits are before the Lord.
Are they happy? Every son and daughter of Adam who live according to the best light and knowledge they have, when the go into the spiritual world, are happy in proportion to their faithfulness. For instance, take a view of some of our late reformers; take the best specimen of reformers that we have, who are all the time full of glory and happiness and full of praise to the Lord—who meet together oft and sing and pray and preach and shout and give thanks to the Lord Almighty; and in a great many instances and in a great degree they enjoy much of a good spirit, which is the Spirit of the Lord, or the Light of Christ, which lighteth the world.
Now, this may be singular to some. What! they enjoy the Spirit of the Lord? Yes, every man and woman, according to their faith and the knowledge they have in their possession. They enjoy the goodness of their Father in heaven. Do they receive the Spirit of the Lord? They do, and enjoy the light of it, and walk in it, and rejoice in it.
What will be their state hereafter? Every faithful Methodist that has lived up to and faithfully fulfilled the requirements of his religion, according to the best light he had, doing good to all and evil to none, injuring no person upon the earth, honouring his God as far he knew, will have as great a heaven as he ever anticipated in the flesh, and far greater. Every Presbyterian, and every Quaker, and every Baptist, and every Roman Catholic member,—every reformer, of whatever class or grade, that lives according to the best light they have, and never have had an opportunity of receiving a greater light than the one in their possession, will have and enjoy all they live for.
I am telling you the truth as it is, and you may write it down if you please, and call it revelation if you will. But it has been revealed before I revealed it here to-day. This is the situation of Christendom after death.
You may go among the Pagans, or among all the nations there are, and they have their religion, their sacraments, and ceremonies, which are as sacred to them as ours are to us: they are just as precious and dear to them, though we call them heathen. They are idolatrous worshippers; yet their religion is as sacred to them as ours is to us. If they live according to the best light they have in their religion, God is God over all and the Father of us all; we are all the workmanship of his hands; and if they are ignorant, filled with superstition, and have the traditions of the fathers interwoven like a mantle around and over them, that they cannot see any light, so will they be judged; and if they have lived according to what they did possess, so they will receive hereafter.
15 August 1852
How many glories and kingdoms will there be in eternity? You will see the same variety in eternity as you see in the world. For instance, you see here one class of men who have lived according to the best light they had: you may go among the heathen, or among the Christians, it is no matter; I will call them all Christians, or all heathens, if it will accommodate any body's feelings, for they don't come much short of all being heathen. We will take the best men we can find among them,—when they pass through the veil they are in happiness, they are in glory, they go among the disembodied spirits; but they do not go where there are resurrected bodies, for they cannot live there: a Prophet or an Apostle cannot live there. They also go into the spiritual world to live with spirits. Do they commune with the Father and Son? The Father communes with them as he pleases, through the means of angels, or otherwise the Son and the Holy Ghost. This is the situation of the Prophet, the Apostle, and all Saints before they receive their resurrected bodies; but they are looking forward to the time when they shall receive their bodies from the dust; and those that have been faithful, probably, will now soon get their resurrected bodies. Abraham has had his body long ago, and dwells with the Father and the Son, among all the Prophets and faithful Saints who received their resurrected bodies immediately after the resurrection of the Saviour. They were then prepared to enter into the Father's rest and be crowned with glory and eternal lives; but they were not prepared before.
No spirit of Saint or sinner, of the Prophet or him that kills the Prophet, is prepared for their final state: all pass through the veil from this state and go into the world of spirits; and there they dwell, waiting for their final destiny. It no doubt appears a singular idea to you that both Saint and sinner go to the same place and dwell together in the same world. You can see the same variety in this world. You see the Latter-day Saints, who have come into these valleys,—they are by themselves as a community, yet they are in the same world with other communities. But I do not feel as though I am dwelling where there are six or eight kinds of religion or more, and, after all, no religion at all; I am not dwelling where there is cursing, and swearing, and horse-racing, and gambling, and everything else that is calculated to disturb a peaceable community. Though I am in the same world where all this exists, I am not dwelling where it is, nor am I disturbed by it; but I am peaceable and serving the Lord.
You can see the variety here. The Presbyterians can go away by themselves and build cities and towns, and try to prohibit all other persons who are not Presbyterians from dwelling with them: the Methodists can do the same; the Baptists can do the same. We have the privilege of organizing society in the world as we please, in one sense. This is what Mr. Owen calls Socialism. He says mankind are controlled by circumstances, and others say that mankind govern and control circumstances. Both are true. We govern and control circumstances; but when we come into circumstances which the Lord controls, we are then controlled by circumstances. I and my brethren can go and settle down in a certain part; and if you choose, we can go into merchandising or stock-raising; and if we choose, we can live without a family, like a Shaker. In this way we can control circumstances in a great degree, while there are circumstances over which we have no control. All this exhibits precisely the situation of the people hereafter: they control circumstances to a great degree, and sometimes circumstances control them. When they are in the world of spirits, there is the Prophet and the Patriarch; all righteous men are there, and all wicked men also are there.
7 October 1857
Many have thought that all will believe in the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ when the kingdom of God is fully established; but they will not; and if those characters were in heaven, they might believe, but would not obey the revelations of Jesus Christ. There are multitudes in this Church who have not yet learned these truths; and there are multitudes in the world who would not know Jesus, were he to pass before their eyes, and would not understand what he meant, if he were to speak to them. Such will be the case in the millennium.
22 May 1859
When all nations are so subdued to Jesus that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, there will still be millions on the earth who will not believe in him; but they will be obliged to acknowledge his kingly government. You may call that government ecclesiastical, or by whatever term you please; yet there is no true government on earth but the government of God, or the holy Priesthood. Shall I tell you what that is? In short, it is a perfect system of government—a kingdom of Gods and angels and all beings who will submit themselves to that government.
23 December 1866
If the Latter-day Saints think, when the kingdom of God is established on the earth, that all the inhabitants of the earth will join the church called Latter-day Saints, they are egregiously mistaken. I presume there will be as many sects and parties then as now. Still, when the kingdom of God triumphs, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, to the glory of the Father. Even the Jews will do it then; but will the Jews and Gentiles be obliged to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? No; not by any means. Jesus said to his disciples, "in my Father's house are many mansions; were it not so I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also," &c. There are mansions in sufficient numbers to suit the different classes of mankind, and a variety will always exist to all eternity, requiring a classification and an arrangement into societies and communities in the many mansions which are in the Lord's house, and this will be so for ever and ever. Then do not imagine that if the kingdom of God is established over the whole earth, that all the people will become Latter-day Saints. They will cease their persecutions against the Church of Jesus Christ, and they will be willing to acknowledge that the Lord is God, and that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
Response to claim: 136 - Joseph Smith declared that all other religions were false
Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that the scriptural terms "church of the devil," the "great and abominable church," and the "whore of all the earth" refer to a specific religion?
According to the Book of Mormon, the "great and abominable church" and "whore of all the earth" refers to any organization that opposes the true Church of Jesus Christ
The Church does not teach or endorse the idea that these terms refer to any specific religion or organization. It is clear that in cases where past church authorities have modified this definition through speculation, that the First Presidency has firmly declared those speculations to be in error.
The criticism is based upon references in the Book of Mormon to the "church of the devil," which is referred to as the "whore of all the earth." For example:
And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:10)
George Q. Cannon publicly associated the "whore of all the earth" with those that persecuted the Church
Although the scriptures do not associate this "church" with a specific organization or religion, several early 19th century church leaders stated their opinions regarding who they considered the "whore of all the earth." For example, George Q. Cannon publicly associated the "whore of all the earth" with those that persecuted the Church:
And to-day, those who are inciting mobs against this people; those who go to Congress, and incite persecutions against us; those who fulminate threats and frame petitions; those who meet together in conventions; those who gather together in conferences, are those who belong to this "mother of abominations," this "whore of all the earth," and it is through the influence of that accursed whore, that they gather together and marshal their forces in every land against the Latter-day Saints, the Church of the living God.
Heber C. Kimball associated the "whore of all the earth" with the national government
Heber C. Kimball associated the "whore of all the earth" with the national government that failed to help the Saints during their times of persecution:
It is very easy to be seen that the nation that has oppressed us is going down. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith something about the judgments that await the inhabitants of the earth, and he said in the revelations that the judgments should commence at the house of God. I will read to you parts of the revelations which speak of these things....and that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the Prophet....
Orson Pratt claimed that it was the founder of the Catholic Church in a publication that was later repudiated by the Church
Orson Pratt, in his 1853-1854 periodical The Seer, claimed that the founder of the Roman Catholic Church was “the Devil, through the medium of Apostates, who subverted the whole order of God” and that they derived their “authority from the Devil....” The Seer, however, never achieved sufficient circulation to propagate this idea through the general Church membership. In fact, The Seer was disowned by the First Presidency in 1865 for containing "doctrines which we cannot sanction."
Bruce R. McConkie's first edition of Mormon Doctrine associated it with the Catholic Church, before that edition was refuted by the First Presidency
Bruce R. McConkie is credited with promoting the idea within the modern church that the "great and abominable church" was in fact the Roman Catholic Church. The first edition of McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, a book which contained sufficient errors that the First Presidency declared that the book was "not approved as an authoritative book" and that it should not be re-published, contained this rather direct statement:
It is also to the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this ‘church which is the most abominable above all other churches’ in vision. He ‘saw the devil that he was the foundation of it’ and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organization.
The offending language was removed in the second edition of Mormon Doctrine and replaced with language more consistent with the Book of Mormon
When the first edition of Mormon Doctrine went into circulation, the idea that the "great and abominable church" was the Catholic Church became embedded in popular belief, despite the fact that this idea was never sanctioned or preached over the pulpit. A second edition of Mormon Doctrine was eventually released with the offending language regarding the Roman Catholic Church removed. In the second edition, McConkie states:
The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature — whether political, philosophical, educational, economic social, fraternal, civic, or religious — which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God.
This statement more closely aligns with what the scriptures themselves say, without any additional interpretation. Modern church leaders have stayed close to the definition in the Book of Mormon, by identifying the "great and abominable" church as any organization the leads people away from the Church of Jesus Christ.
Response to claim: 136 - The current generation of Mormons is taught a selective view of Church history
- Misrepresentation of source: Boyd K. Packer — Mantle and Intellect
- Church history/Censorship and revision
Response to claim: 137 - Many church members are "blissfully unaware" of Brigham Young's practice of polygamy
Question: What does The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young say about Brigham's wives?
The manual mentions his marriage to and the death of his first wife and his subsequent remarriage to Mary Ann Angel, but does not discuss his other marriage relationships or family life
A review of the manual itself reveals that it does not claim Brigham Young "only has one wife," nor does it "paint [him] as a monogamist." In fact, it primarily concentrates on Brigham's teachings, and only briefly touches on his personal life.
Brief biographical information on Brigham appears in a one-page "Historical Summary."  Chapter 1, "The Ministry of Brigham Young," also has some biographical data, although it almost exclusively focuses on his conversion, missionary experiences, calling to the Quorum of the Twelve, and colonization and leadership of Utah. The Historical Summary and Chapter 1 both mention his marriage to and the death of his first wife, Miriam Works,  and his subsequent remarriage to Mary Ann Angel.  Other than that, they do not discuss his marriage relationships or family life.
In Chapter 23, "Understanding the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage," two instances of the term "wives" were modified to "[wife]," with brackets included to notify the reader of the editorial change. Since the statements did not refer to Brigham's own wives, but were part of his counsel to men regarding their marriages, the edited reading is easier for today's Latter-day Saints, none of whom are married to more than one wife.
The next manual in the series, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, stated "This book is not a history, but rather a compilation of gospel principles"
The next manual in the instructional series—Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith—includes this clarifying statement in the "Historical Summary" of President Smith's life:
This book is not a history, but rather a compilation of gospel principles as taught by President Joseph F. Smith. However, in order to put the teachings in a historical framework, the following list is provided to summarize some of the milestones in his life that have most immediate relationship to his teachings. This summary omits some important events in his personal life, including his marriages (plural marriage was being practiced in the Church at that time) and the births and deaths of his children, to whom he was devoted. 
This explanation, which is almost certainly directed at detractors of the Brigham Young manual, clarifies that the purpose of the series is not biographical or historical, but didactical. Other Church publications that are historical discuss the subject of plural marriage and its practice among the Latter-day Saints in the nineteenth century. 
The quotations in the Brigham Young manual are not referring to Brigham's wives, but the wives of the men that he was addressing
Note also that a careful reading of the quotations as shown in the Brigham Young manual or in their original sources (which are clearly referenced in the manual) will show that Brigham is not actually referring to his own wives and family in these quotes but to the families of the people he was addressing, so the suggestion that this quote somehow recasts Brigham as a monogamist is somewhat puzzling. The fact that the author of the letter mentions changing "wives" to "wife" in the Brigham Young manual without sharing the actual quote, which provides this additional explanatory context, suggests that this criticism is borrowed from elsewhere, since many sectarian critics of the church picked up on this story when the manual first came out and characterized it in similar terms and without the proper context, as the author has done here. A FairMormon publication by Mike Parker, "The Church’s Portrayal of Brigham Young," explains further:
In Chapter 23, “Understanding the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage,” two instances of the term “wives” were modified to “[wife],” with brackets included to notify the reader of the editorial change. Since the statements did not refer to Brigham’s own wives, but were part of his counsel to men regarding their marriages, the edited reading is easier for today’s Latter-day Saints, none of whom are married to more than one wife.
The next manual in the instructional series–Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith–includes this clarifying statement in the “Historical Summary” of President Smith’s life:
This book is not a history, but rather a compilation of gospel principles as taught by President Joseph F. Smith. However, in order to put the teachings in a historical framework, the following list is provided to summarize some of the milestones in his life that have most immediate relationship to his teachings. This summary omits some important events in his personal life, including his marriages (plural marriage was being practiced in the Church at that time) and the births and deaths of his children, to whom he was devoted.10
This explanation, which is almost certainly directed at detractors of the Brigham Young manual, clarifies that the purpose of the series is not biographical or historical, but didactical. Other Church publications that are historical discuss the subject of plural marriage and its practice among the Latter-day Saints in the nineteenth century.11
The Brigham Young manual and the manuals that followed it include selected teachings on selected subjects that have application to subjects of concern to today's Latter-day Saints. They do not teach history, but how to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite the complaints of its detractors, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not engaged in a cover up, nor is it attempting to hide an "embarrassing past."
Response to claim: 137 - Senior church leaders prefer that members not question changes in temple ordinances
Question: Why would the Church remove or alter elements of the temple ceremony if these ceremonies were revealed by God?
There is a difference between the ordinance of the endowment and the mechanism used in the presentation of the ordinance
Latter-day Saints believe that the Temple endowment is an eternal ordinance that Joseph Smith received by revelation from God. Why, then, have changes been made to it several times since it was first revealed?
People sometimes confuse the ordinance of the endowment with the presentation of the endowment. The presentation has undergone many changes since the time of Joseph Smith as it is adjusted to meet the needs of a modern and ever changing membership.
Joseph Smith restored the endowment ordinance, but the method of presentation of the ordinance is adapted to fit the needs of the times. There would be no point in having continuing revelation, a founding idea of our faith, if we are not permitted to advance and meet new needs. God’s directives and how He deals with His people may vary according to His people’s understanding and needs. God doesn’t tell everyone to build an ark and wait for a flood. Changes sometimes occur as a result of God dealing with His children according to their changing circumstances.
Response to claim: 138 - LDS ecclesiastical leaders expect "unquestioning obedience" of church members
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Unselfish Service," Ensign (May 2009), 93–96. off-site
Maxwell: "The Church does not desire blind obedience; rather, that we see things with the eye of faith"
Neal A. Maxwell:
The Church does not desire blind obedience; rather, that we see things with the eye of faith. (Ether 12:19.) Elder John A. Widtsoe observed: "The doctrine of the Church cannot be fully understood unless it is tested by mind and feelings, by intellect and emotions, by every power of the investigator.... There is no place in the Church for blind adherence." Besides, real obedience is not blind. It reflects the reassurances of previous tutoring experiences from the Lord, inducing us to trust Him and His prophets, again and again. Our love of God is binding, not blinding, love. Being established connotes a continuum in our relationship with God and His prophets. President Brigham Young put it bluntly: "I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way." Those who are grounded, rooted, and established will not withhold their supportive influence from Church leaders. Neither will the faithful be deceived, as President Brigham Young promised: "I will say to my brethren and sisters, Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duties of his or her calling according to the Priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat." Elder Boyd K. Packer said in a sermon on self-reliance that as we solve our own problems, we must do it "in the Lord's own way"; "If we are not careful, we can lose the power of individual revelation.... Spiritual independence and self-reliance is a sustaining power in the Church. If we rob the members of that, how can they get revelation for themselves? How will they know there is a prophet of God? How can they get answers to prayers? How can they know for sure for themselves?" When we approach our problems in His way, we are guided by His Spirit. Being settled in our discipleship, therefore, requires the successful utilization of the Holy Spirit as our guide both in our decision and as our comforter. We will need guidance in using our agency, but also deep comfort in coping with the disappointments of the day and in the seasonal sorrows of life.
Response to claim: 139 - The Church "unofficially" discourages prayer to "Mother in Heaven"
Question: Are we allowed to pray to our "Heavenly Mother"?
It is not considered proper for members to pray to Mother in Heaven since there are no scriptural examples supporting such a practice
Despite these beliefs, Mother in Heaven plays virtually no role in LDS worship or teaching beyond that outlined above. It is not considered proper for members to pray to Mother in Heaven, since there are no prophetic or scriptural examples encouraging such a practice. Members of the Church pray as taught by the Savior, "Our Father, who art in heaven...." (Matthew 6:9, 3 Nephi 13:9, 3 Nephi 17:15, 3 Nephi 18:21, 3 Nephi 19:19-21, (italics added).)
As President Gordon B. Hinckley observed:
Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me. However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven...The fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her...none of us can add to or diminish the glory of her of whom we have no revealed knowledge.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes:
Latter-day Saints infer from authoritative sources of scripture and modern prophecy that there is a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects the idea found in some religions that the spirits or souls of individual human beings are created ex nihilo. Rather it accepts literally the vital scriptural teaching as worded by Paul: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." This and other scriptures underscore not only spiritual sibling relationships but heirship with God, and a destiny of joint heirship with Christ (Romans 8:16-18; cf. Malachi 2:10).
Latter-day Saints believe that all the people of earth who lived or will live are actual spiritual offspring of God the Eternal Father (Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9). In this perspective, parenthood requires both father and mother, whether for the creation of spirits in the premortal life or of physical tabernacles on earth. A Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Heavenly Father. This concept leads Latter-day Saints to believe that she is like him in glory, perfection, compassion, wisdom, and holiness.
Elohim, the name-title for God, suggests the plural of the Caananite El or the Hebrew Eloah. It is used in various Hebrew combinations to describe the highest God. It is the majestic title of the ultimate deity. Genesis 1:27 reads, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them" (emphasis added), which may be read to mean that "God" is plural.
For Latter-day Saints, the concept of eternal family is more than a firm belief; it governs their way of life. It is the eternal plan of life, stretching from life before through life beyond mortality.
As early as 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the concept of an eternal mother, as reported in several accounts from that period. Out of his teaching came a hymn that Latter-day Saints learn, sing, quote, and cherish, "O My Father," by Eliza R. Snow. President Wilford Woodruff called it a revelation (Woodruff, p. 62). In the heav'ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare! Truth is reason; truth eternal Tells me I've a mother there. When I leave this frail existence, When I lay this mortal by, Father, Mother, may I meet you In your royal courts on high? [Hymn no. 292]
In 1909 the First Presidency, under Joseph F. Smith, issued a statement on the origin of man that teaches that "man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father," as an "offspring of celestial parentage," and further teaches that "all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity" (Smith, pp. 199-205).
Belief that there is a Mother in Heaven who is a partner with God in creation and procreation is not the same as the heavy emphasis on Mariology in the Roman tradition.
Today the belief in a living Mother in Heaven is implicit in Latter-day Saint thought. Though the scriptures contain only hints, statements from presidents of the church over the years indicate that human beings have a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father.
Response to claim: 140 - Church leaders are "loath" to make unequivocal statements of doctrine
"Approaching Mormon Doctrine," LDS Newsroom (May 2007): "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine"
Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. —(Click here to continue) 
Question: Is "Mormon doctrine" constantly changing?
Each prophet who has lived was called to teach and guide the people of their specific time
Apostles and prophets are human, fallible and subject to their own opinions and emotions just like the rest of humanity. This does not, however, diminish their capacity to speak in the name of the Lord on issues which affect our eternal salvation. We pay heed to the words of the living prophet who has been called to guide the church in our time, while relying upon the standard works to help us understand and confirm these teachings.
It is claimed by some that the Church frequently changes its doctrine. They point to teachings of early church leaders such as Brigham Young (often quoting from the Journal of Discourses) and criticize modern church leaders for not accepting or implementing every pronouncement recorded by these early leaders.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a living prophet, who is authorized to speak on the Lord’s behalf to the Church to address the issues of our day. We value the words and teachings of prophets who have lived in the past. We are encouraged to study the scriptures in order to apply the lessons taught by these great individuals to our present lives. Each prophet who has lived was called to teach and guide the people of their specific time. The situations which we face in today’s society are unique to us, and dealing with them requires the ongoing guidance of a living prophet.
It is not reasonable to expect that everything taught by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young applies to us today
We are fortunate to have so many detailed teachings of the early prophets of the restoration. There is much wisdom to be gained by studying their counsel. It is not, however, reasonable to expect that everything taught by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young applies to us today. Many things that these men taught were relevant to the 19th century church. In order to help us determine how to apply the teachings of past prophets to our present lives, we have a living prophet.
In 1981, Ezra Taft Benson said:
The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.
Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.
Prophets are not scientists: Their views of science tend to reflect the prevailing views of the time
Prophets are not scientists: Their views of science tend to reflect the prevailing views of the time. For example, Brigham Young expressed a number of opinions regarding science that one would consider very humorous or even outlandish today, such as the suggestion that the moon and the sun were inhabited.
Modern day prophets are no more immune to the current thinking of their day. On May 14, 1961, Apostle (and future Church president) Joseph Fielding Smith declared that “We will never get a man into space. This earth is man's sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it.” As much as critics would like to declare this a “failed prophecy,” would it be reasonable to expect the Church to teach such a thing in light of current knowledge?
The Apostle (and future leader of Christ’s church) Peter denied Christ three times. Applying the same standard to Peter’s statement that the Church’s critics apply to 19th century prophets, one would have to interpret this to mean that future church leaders would be forced to teach that Christ was not actually the Son of God! After all, Peter went on to become the head of Christ’s church, and was therefore a prophet.
Church members need to compare what church leaders teach to the standard works
Joseph Fielding Smith clarifies how members need to compare what church leaders teach to the standard works:
It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
Response to claim: 140 - BYU's emphasis is on conformity rather than personal freedom
Response to claim: 141 - CES insists that gospel learning takes precedence over secular learning
Response to claim: 142 - CES instructs students not to attempt to locate Book of Mormon geographical locations
Response to claim: 142 - Limited geography theories advanced by FARMS are "much too controversial" for CES students
Response to claim: 142 - Spencer W. Kimball believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography
Response to claim: 142 - Church members are shocked at the "limited archaeological evidence" for the Book of Mormon
Response to claim: 143 - LDS apologists continue to tell members how "scientists continue to get it wrong"
Response to claim: 143 - Most members follow their leaders without question
- Authoritarianism and Church leaders
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Unselfish Service," Ensign (May 2009), 93–96. off-site
Response to claim: 143 - LDS theology supports a literal interpretation of the creation of man
Response to claim: 143 - LDS theology supports a literal interpretation of the tower of Babel
Response to claim: 143 - LDS theology supports a literal interpretation of the Flood
Question: How do Latter-day Saints reconcile scriptural accounts of the Flood of Noah with scientific evidence of continuous human habitation on the earth?
There is scientific evidence of diversity of species, language and of continuous human habitation
Modern scientific knowledge regarding the diversity of species, language and evidence of continuous human habitation does not support the Biblical story that a global flood wiped out most life as recently as 4,400 years ago.
The following criticisms are often applied to Latter-day Saint (or traditional Christian beliefs) regarding the Flood:
- It is claimed that LDS scriptures require Mormons to believe in a global flood, and that if LDS doctrine or leaders are fallible in their statements concerning the flood, then they must be wrong about other Church doctrines as well.
- If Noah's Flood was not global, how do we account for Joseph Smith's claim that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?
- Isn't it true that before the flood all the continents were all one land mass, since the Bible says that the earth was "divided in the days of Peleg."
Latter-day Saints believe that Noah existed, and that he built an ark to save his family from a flood, and that the flood occurred
There are a number of basic teachings which we all accept regardless of the global or local scope of the Flood:
- There existed a prophet named Noah.
- Noah was commanded by the Lord to construct an ark.
- Noah warned the people of the impending deluge.
- The Flood was a literal event which did indeed occur.
- Noah, his family and the animals he collected were saved from the deluge.
- The Lord made a covenant with Noah and his descendants.
Whether the Flood covered the entire earth, or whether it only covered Noah's world, makes no difference
Latter-day Saints believe that the prophet Noah existed, and that he was commanded to build an ark and save his family from a flood. A belief that this flood was global in nature is not a requirement for Latter-day Saints; traditionally, many earlier members and leaders endorsed the global flood views common in society and Christendom generally. The accumulation of additional scientific information have led some to conclude that a local flood — one limited to the area in which Noah lived — is the best explanation of the available data. People of either view can be members in good standing.
Response to claim: 143-144 - The perception is that the Church has officially denounced evolution
Gordon B. Hinckley (2002): "What the church requires is only belief that Adam was the first man of what we would call the human race"
Gordon B. Hinckley,
What the church requires is only belief that Adam was the first man of what we would call the human race. Scientists can speculate on the rest.
Question: What is the Church's stance on the theory of organic evolution?
The Church has no official position on evolution, and each member is entitled to his or her own personal views on the subject
In the evolution debate, difficulties have arisen when readers assume that statements by certain leaders represent an official position beyond that expressed by the First Presidency as a body. As expressed by David H. Bailey, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and author of numerous articles on the relationship between Mormonism and science,
The LDS Church has a great scientific tradition, including notable, respected researchers in virtually every field of modern science. Indeed, our motto is “The glory of God is intelligence.” Why not just acknowledge that science and religion address two very different sets of questions, and that the methodology in one arena cannot settle controversies in the other?
Harold B. Lee's plea may be the wisest stance:
Perhaps if we had the full story of the creation of the earth and man told to us in great detail, it would be more of a mystery than the simple few statements that we have contained in the Bible, because of our lack of ability to comprehend. Therefore, for reasons best known to the Lord, He has kept us in darkness. Wait until the Lord speaks, or wait until that day when He shall come, and when we shall be among the privileged either to come up out of our graves and be caught up into the clouds of heaven or shall be living upon the earth likewise to be so translated before Him. Then we shall know all things pertaining to this earth, how it was made, and all things that now as children we are groping for and trying to understand.
Let's reserve judgment as to the facts concerning the Creation until we know these things for sure.
The Church's response: Official statements regarding organic evolution
- First Presidency letter, "The Origin of Man" (November 1909) This was reprinted in 2002 (“The Origin of Man,” Ensign, Feb 2002, 26)
- First Presidency statement, "Words in Season" (December 1910)
- First Presidency letter, "'Mormon' View of Evolution" (September 1925)
Despite the fact that the Church has no official position on evolution beyond those expressed by the First Presidency (above), some general authorities and lay members have considered evolution to be at variance with scriptural teaching. This view is well summarized by Elder Bruce R. McConkie's statement, "There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution." Other authors, including Joseph Fielding Smith, held similar views.
Other Church authorities and members have seen much of value in evolutionary theory, even if they have not endorsed every aspect of it. Examples include James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, and LDS chemist Henry Eyring.
Gordon B. Hinckley:
What the church requires is only belief 'that Adam was the first man of what we would call the human race.' Scientists can speculate on the rest.
Response to claim: 144 - Henry Eyring (father of Henry B. Eyring) indicated that he could accept evolution
Response to claim: 145 - Eyring "avoided singling out senior leaders of the church for the bad press that evolution has received in LDS circles"
Response to claim: 146 - The Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri
Question: Is it true that Mormons believe the original Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?
There is substantial circumstantial evidence that Joseph Smith taught this
Although we have no contemporaneous record of Joseph Smith teaching explicitly that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that reading is consistent with LDS scripture, and there is substantial later testimony from Joseph's associates that he did teach such an idea.
Most Latter-day Saints are aware of this, though it is a relatively minor point that plays little role in LDS theology. (By contrast, the idea that the New Jerusalem—Zion—will be built in the Americas looms much larger in LDS consciousness.)
This idea perhaps strikes most non-members as odd, but not simply because the Saints have an opinion about the Garden's location—as we have seen, religions of all stripes have had a wide variety of views on the subject. What likely strikes outside American observers as strange is the idea that the Garden is local—the LDS view does not place the Garden in a never-never land, buried in distant time and far-away space. Rather, the LDS Garden is local and somewhat immediate.
Upon reflection, though, the thoughtful observer will realize that this is simply one more manifestation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' uniqueness: rather than believing only in dead prophets, from long ago, in distant lands, in old records, the Church also embraces modern revelation, living prophets, and an on-going divine involvement with God's people. The gospel restored by Joseph Smith does not merely sacralize the past, but the present and future as well—and, it sacralizes both lofty matters and more earthly concerns like farms, hills, and geography.
It is this intrusion of the sacred into the mundane that surprises most observers—the issue of the Garden is merely one more example of a broader phenomenon.
A common mistake is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center
As the official LDS church website points out, "The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them. ... Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. ... A common mistake is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice."
LDS concepts and perspectives
It is important to first distinguish the "Garden of Eden" (the paradisiacal location where Adam and Eve dwelt before the Fall) from Adam-ondi-Ahman. Adam-ondi-Ahman was a location in which Adam and Eve settled after their expulsion from the Garden.
Response to claim: 146 - Mormons believe that the continents separated only after a global flood
Question: Doesn't the Bible say that the continents were divided immediately after the Flood?
At least a few leaders of the Church have been of this view that the continents were divided during or after the Flood
Prominently, prior to becoming president of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that
in the beginning all of the land surface was in one place as it was in the days of Peleg, (Genesis 10:25.) that the earth was divided. Some Bible commentators have concluded that this division was one concerning the migrations of the inhabitants of the earth between them, but this is not the case. While this is but a very brief statement, yet it speaks of a most important event. The dividing of the earth was not an act of division by the inhabitants of the earth by tribes and peoples, but a breaking asunder of the continents, thus dividing the land surface and creating the Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere. 
John Taylor also expressed similar views, albeit more briefly.  It is perhaps important to note that then-Elder Smith wrote that "By looking at a wall map of the world, you will discover how the land surface along the northern and southern coast of the American Hemisphere and Europe and Africa has the appearance of having been together at one time."  Elder Smith was writing between 1953 and 1966; modern continental drift theory was only beginning to gain acceptance during this period (even by 1977, a geology textbook would note that "a poll of geologists now would probably show a substantial majority who favor the idea of drift," while also providing a substantial critique of the theory. 
It is difficult to know, then, if Elder Smith would have revised his view of the implication that continents "fit," jigsaw-puzzle-like, into each other had he been aware of some of the later evidence. He was certainly humble enough to renounce other views which he had expressed which contradicted later scientific advances.
Scriptures that refer to the earth being "divided" refer to groups of people being separated
A few scriptures, then, refer to the earth being divided:
- Genesis 10:25 and 1 Chronicles 1:19: And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg; because in his days the earth was divided: and his brother’s name was Joktan.
- D&C 133:24: And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.
There is no serious biblical scholarship that reads these verses as implying a rapid drift of the continents
The verses in Genesis and 1 Chronicles are describing the descendants of Shem. LDS scholar Hugh Nibley viewed Genesis 10:25 (which says that in the days of Peleg "the earth was divided") as meaning "the earth was divided among the children of Noah." There is no serious biblical scholarship that reads these verses as implying a rapid drift of the continents—partly because such an idea would have been utterly foreign to writers in that time period. Some members have preferred to take the reading of Elder Smith as described above.
Note that a belief that the continents were physically divided during the flood contradicts the belief that the Garden of Eden was on the Western continent, since there would have been no "Western hemisphere" prior to the Flood. At best one would have to say that the Garden of Eden was on the same continent that the modern Middle East is on, but that it was a little further west than believed by traditional fundamentalist Christians.
Response to claim: 146 - Mormons are "compelled" to believe in a global flood as symbolizing the "baptism of the earth"
Question: Why does the Church teach that the flood was a global event?
Without a doubt, the flood is always treated as a global event as it is taught by Church leaders
Without a doubt, the flood is always treated as a global event as it is taught by Church leaders. This is not likely to ever change, since it is based directly upon a straightforward reading of the scriptures. The challenge comes to those who examine scientific data showing the diversity of plant and animal life, and the millennia required to achieve such diversity. The story of a global deluge then appears to be at complete odds with scientific data, which may encourage some not only to doubt the scriptures, but to even question the existence of God. Therefore, can one believe that the Flood of Noah may have been of limited scope, yet still accept what is taught in Church? We examine the scriptures from the point of view of the prophets who wrote the story of the Flood in order to answer this question.
One must examine the scriptures from the point of view of the prophets who wrote the story of the Flood
Although this criticism is directed at the LDS church, it is really directed at anyone who believes in a literal reading of the Old Testament. LDS leaders have in the past taught the concept of a global flood based upon such a reading. Although the idea of the global flood has been used as an example, Church leaders have never stated that a belief in a global flood is necessary for salvation.
Genesis 7:19-23 reads:
- 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
- 20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
- 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
- 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
- 23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
A similar reference to the destruction of all flesh from off the earth is found in Latter-day scripture in Moses 8:25-30. These passages have long been interpreted to mean that the entire globe was covered by water (although some have pointed out that the reader is left to wonder how "the mountains were covered" by water "fifteen cubits" deep — approximately 23 feet.) The primary reason for this global interpretation is the use of the word "earth." When modern readers see the word "earth," they envision the entire planetary sphere. Dr. Duane E. Jeffery elaborates:
A critical issue in the Flood story in the King James Bible has to do with translations of the Hebrew words eretz and adamah as meaning the entire “earth.” What do these terms actually mean? It is widely recognized that Hebrew is a wonderful language for poets, since virtually every word has multiple meanings. But that same characteristic makes it a horrible language for precision. As it turns out, eretz and adamah can indeed be a geographical reference akin to what we usually mean by “the earth.” But it is not at all clear that the ancients had the concept of a spherical planet that you and I do. Many scholars argue that the Bible writers thought in terms of a flat earth that was covered by a bowl-shaped firmament into which the windows of heaven were literally cut..." 
The concept of a spherical earth did not appear in Jewish thought until the fourteenth or fifteenth century
In fact, the concept of a spherical earth "did not appear in Jewish thought until the fourteenth or fifteenth century."  The word "earth," as used in the Bible, simply refers to solid ground or land, as opposed to water (see Genesis 1:10 — "God called the dry land Earth; and...the waters called he Seas...."). It is, of course, possible that earlier prophets had a more advanced view of the nature of the earth—this perspective could, however, have been lost to later centuries and scribes.
The concept of a global flood has become further reinforced within the Church by the fact that Church leaders teach that the flood washed away the earth's wickedness (Baptism of the earth)
The concept of a global flood has become further reinforced within the Church by the fact that modern day prophets and apostles have taught that the flood washed away the earth's wickedness. For example, in 1880 Elder Orson Pratt stated that God "required our globe to be baptized by a flow of waters, and all of its sins were washed away, not one sin remaining."  Joseph Smith, Jr. taught that Noah was born to save seed of everything when the earth was washed of its wickedness by the flood.  Such wickedness could include man's wickedness, or it could imply a need for the earth itself to have a type of baptism.
Response to claim: 148 - FARMS' goal is to deter members from reading any book that challenges their faith
Question: Does the Church forbid the reading of "anti-Mormon" criticisms, or discourage its members from considering such matters?
There is no prohibition on reading material critical of the Church
The Church encourages its members not to purchase anti-Mormon propaganda, for this only contributes money to their cause.
However, there is no prohibition on reading material critical of the Church. In the Ensign, the Church's official magazine, the question was asked, "Some people say it is best to leave alone materials that claim to 'expose' the Church and its teachings. What counsel has been given on this? How do we respond when a friend comes to us with questions found in such materials?" The reply given included these recommendations:
[Cautions about those who sell material aiming to destroy the Church] must not be interpreted to mean that the Church is against honest scholarship or has anything to fear or hide. Nor does the Church ban literature, but Latter-day Saints should be wise in choosing what to read.
This cautionary counsel should not be misconstrued to justify laziness on our part in seeking answers, or giving glib, superficial replies when someone sincerely wants to know the truth after being exposed to anti-LDS material. Church critics and enemies should not be permitted to make what Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve has sometimes called "uncontested slam dunks."
Latter-day Saints should be sufficiently grounded in their testimonies and knowledge of Church doctrine and history that they can answer questions in a non-contentious and informative way. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve has instructed Church members not to retaliate against attacks. "We encourage all our members to refuse to become anti-anti-Mormon," he said (Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 63). Paul taught that coming to Christ requires "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). The First Presidency has encouraged Church members to convey their response to questions and criticism "in the form of a positive explanation of the doctrines and practices of the Church."
Members should invite those with questions about Church doctrine and practices to read latter-day scriptures and to study the restored gospel, thus tasting the gospel fruit for themselves. Only then will they know "whether it be of God" (John 7:17).
When members lack answers, they should learn what Church leaders and reputable scholars have said and written. There is probably no charge against the Church that has not been adequately refuted by someone. When members can’t find answers on their own, they can turn to home and visiting teachers, quorum leaders, bishops, and stake presidents...Those willing to take time to research anti-LDS claims can find answers.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:117.
- See D&C 76:28-38
- (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 288)
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55, (italics in original).
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 6:292-293.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 6:293-295.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:330-330.
- Brigham Young, "Necessity Of Trials — Glory Of The Saints' Religion — Government Of God, etc.," (22 May 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:142-?.
- Brigham Young, "Union—Persecution—The Nature of the Kingdom of God—Trading With Enemies—The Jews—On the Murder of Dr. Robinson," (23 December 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:275.
- History of the Church, 5:517. Volume 5 link
- George Q. Cannon, "PREDICTIONS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON, etc.," (April 6, 1884) Journal of Discourses 25:128.
- Heber C. Kimball, "OBSERVANCE OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD," (January 6, 1861) Journal of Discourses 9:131.
- Orson Pratt, The Seer (Washington D.C., April 1854).
- Deseret News (12 August 1865): 373.
- Dennis B. Horne, Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings (Eborn Books, 2000), .
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine [1st edition] (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1958).
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 760. GL direct link
- Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), vii.
- Ibid., vii, 2, 3.
- Ibid., vii, 4.
- Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000), viii. A similar statement appears in the coursebook for 2004, entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant: "This book is not a history, but rather a compilation of gospel principles as taught by President Heber J. Grant. The following chronology provides a brief historical framework for these teachings. It omits significant events in secular history, such as wars and worldwide economic crises. It also omits many important events in President Grant’s personal life, such as his marriages and the births and deaths of his children." (emphasis added) [Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002), viii.]
- See, for example: The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Religion 324-325), 1981, pp. 327, 333-34, 361-363; and Church History In the Fulness of Times (Religion 341-343), 1989, pp. 256, 424-425, 440-441. Scripturally, Doctrine & Covenants Section [DC 132: 132] and Official Declaration 1 remain as canonized statements regarding plural marriage.
- Neal A. Maxwell, We Will Prove Them Herewith, pp. 21–22.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Daughters of God," Ensign (November 1991), 97.
- Elaine Anderson Cannon, "Mother in Heaven," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:961.
- "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," LDS Newsroom (May 2007)
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet," Ensign (June 1981).
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 203.
- Gordon B. Hinckley in 2002; cited in Elaine Jarvik, "Beliefs on Darwin's evolution vary from religion to religion," Deseret Morning News (19 January 2006)
- David H. Bailey, Latter-day Creationism–A guest post by David H. Bailey!, Mormon Organon (Oct. 28, 2008)
- Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 29. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 256. GL direct link (read quote in context).
- Gordon B. Hinckley in 2002; cited in Elaine Jarvik, "Beliefs on Darwin's evolution vary from religion to religion," Deseret Morning News (19 January 2006).
- "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," from Newsroom: The Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public (4 May 2007) at lds.org. off site
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 5:73. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- John Taylor, Government of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1852), 110. off-site
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 5:73. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) For essentially the same argument, see also 4:22; Church History and Modern Revelation (1947), 2:35; and Man: His Origin and Destiny (1954), 385, 421–422. Note that these sources are all even earlier, and likewise predate modern continental drift data and theory. President David O. McKay was clear on multiple occasions that the latter volume represented only President Smith's personal opinions, and were not Church doctrine (see here and here).
- Richard A. Davis, Principles of Oceanography, 2nd edition, (Addison-Wesley, 1977), ISBN 0201014645. For more on continental drift theory's history and development, see wikipedia.org off-site.
- Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 31–32. off-site Jeffrey notes that ideas of a global flood may have resulted from a widespread local problem. A current hypothesis that has been gaining ground since 1998 is that a significant flooding event occurred in the area now occupied by the Black Sea. Evidence has been discovered which has led a number of researchers to believe that the Black Sea area was once occupied by a completely isolated freshwater lake at a much lower level than the ocean. The theory is that the sea level rose and eventually broke through the Bosporus shelf, resulting in a rapid flooding event which would have wiped out all life living along the shores of the lake (see p. 34). Whether this is the source for the Genesis flood remains conjecture.
- Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 30. off-site
- Orson Pratt, "The Earth's Baptism In Water," (1 Aug. 1880) Journal of Discourses 21:323.
- History of the Church 1:283; Evening and Morning Star, August 1832.
- Church News, 18 Dec. 1983, p. 2.
- Gilbert W. Scharffs, "Some people say it is best to leave alone materials that claim to 'expose' the Church and its teachings. What counsel has been given on this? How do we respond when a friend comes to us with questions found in such materials?," Ensign (January 1995), 60 (scroll half-way down). off-site