Being a bishop here in Los Alamos has its challenges. As you may know, Los Alamos National Laboratory is located here, so our ward has probably more scientists within it’s boundaries than just about any other ward in the church. I don’t know if that’s a fact, but it feels like it some days. Los Alamos is one of two laboratories in the United States where classified work towards the design of Nuclear Weapons is undertaken. It’s also one of the largest science and technology research facilities in the world, researching space exploration, renewable energy, supercomputing, nanotechnology, and such. Heck yeah, it’s super fun.
I’m doing a lot of personal research and gearing up to answer a lot of questions around science and Mormonism, because even though I have only been bishop a week, I have a had a lot of these scientist brethren and sisters in my office having faith issues they need help with. I also knew going into this, there are a lot of conflicts between science and Mormonism. Let me tell you about sister Mary Sommerville.
Sister Sommerville made an appointment with me this past week to discuss some doubts she was having. Have you ever looked up in the sky and wondered how the sun actually works? How it can be so hot and bright all the time? Sister Sommerville claims to have the answer, but I am skeptical. She works as a nuclear research engineer at the laboratory and knows a lot about how the sun works and produces energy. She claims, get this, that the sun produces light and heat through a process called nuclear fusion, where atomic nuclei are traveling at a very high speed and are going so fast that when they collide, they actually fuse to form a new type of atom. When this happens, some of the mass of the nuclei that are fusing together gets converted to energy in the form of photons (light).
Sister Sommerville claimed this is why the sun is so hot and bright. Now, I can see why she and other scientists may think this is true, but let me explain what I told her as to why I think us Mormons have further light and knowledge. She was telling me this in my office to set me up for some sort of big doctrinal question, and already I’m sitting there skeptical and ready to instruct her on the beautiful truths of the gospel that contradict this and demonstrate a much more elegant and simple explanation to the sun’s brilliance.
Sister Sommerville brought up a conflict she saw with an explanation Joseph Smith was given as revelation on Facsimile 2,
Now, see that upside down cow talking to some mummies and what looks like a naked woman holding a piece of wheat over it’s butt? Confusing right?
No worries, here is a simple explanation the Lord gave through Joseph Smith:
Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob. – Joseph Smith, Explanation note 5, A Facsimilie from the Book of Abraham No. 2
So right there, we have an obvious explanation that this is nothing to do with a bovine’s behind. The Lord, through Joseph Smith tells us this simply means the sun borrows its light through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash from Kolob through it’s revolutions (Kolob revolves and by spinning, creates light and sends it to our sun through Kae-e-vanrash), which governs fifteen other stars and planets and as it revolves, the light goes to our sun and gives it light, which in turn, through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es or Hah-ko-kau-beam gives light to the earth. So that naked woman holding a piece of wheat over that cow’s butt demonstrates that. We don’t know how, or why, but from the perspective of the way God communicates to us, it’s clear. “See?” I told her, “The Gospel is so pure and simple.”
She asked me how this could be explained in such a different way that what Egyptologist, people who spend their lives studying Egyptian, could come to a different conclusion than a 19th century farm boy. She said the sun produces light through nuclear fusion and not through the process explained in the notes on the papyrus. I told sister Sommerville she does not have faith, she has doubt. Those two things cannot exist in her mind at the same time. She looked really confused at that statement, but I said it was true. I gave a quote from President Thomas S. Monson, which shows us clearly that you can’t have both faith and doubt, and we should never ever permit any scientific findings get in the way of our beliefs:
Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: “I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.” May you ever frame your life with faith. – President Thomas S. Monson, “The Lighthouse of the Lord: A Message to the Youth of the Church,” New Era, Feb. 2001.
I told sister Sommerville that Egyptologists have got the translation of the papyrus all wrong. In their attempt to explain this part of the facsimile, they tried to explain it this way,
The mystic cow, the great cow, symbolizing the inferior hemisphere of the heavens. It is called the virgin cow at ch. 162 of the funerary ritual, which particularly enjoins that its image be painted on the hypocephalus, and another image of it in gold on the throat of the defunct. It is the form of Hathor, who figures on several monuments under the name of noub, gold. Behind the cow is a goddess, whose head, represented by a mystic eye in a disk, is incorrectly copied. – Explanation by non-Mormon and Mormon Egyptologists, Wikipedia The Book of Abraham
Pretty lame huh? They even try and say a goddess represented by a mystic eye in a disk is incorrectly copied, even though a prophet of God did the translation! Egyptologists must be embarrassed when they read what the prophet Joseph said. I told her to not let science destroy her faith. I mean, well, I don’t have to have faith that the sun shines on my face, I can see it and feel it, but faith is still important. Sometimes you just have to have faith in something that’s given to you as an idea and you can’t prove, just so that it will be true in your mind. I also don’t mean to diss science because I know science is based on factual findings and changes and evolves based on new findings. However, we also know God has the Draw Four card when it comes to conflicts between science and faith. Every freaking time.
I left her with this quote from Sam Harris, and warned her that this quote demonstrates that some people think that Mormon scientists like herself can be labeled as non-scientists, people who don’t actually follow science but follow their faith to convince others their religion has it right and scientific findings are wrong (substitute the word Bible for Book of Abraham and Christians for Mormons here),
It is also worth noting that one can obtain a Ph.D. in any branch of science for no other purpose than to make cynical use of scientific language in an effort to rationalize the glaring inadequacies of the Bible. A handful of Christians appear to have done this; some have even obtained their degrees from reputable universities. No doubt, others will follow in their footsteps. While such people are technically “scientists,” they are not behaving like scientists. They simply are not engaged in an honest inquiry into the nature of the universe. And their proclamations about God and the failures of Darwinism do not in the least signify that there is a legitimate scientific controversy about evolution. – Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
Now please, I understand Sam Harris is a brilliant thinker, writer, and philosopher, but he is no scientist and he is no theologian. Mormons can reconcile problems between scientific findings and Mormon doctrine, for example, how the earthy clearly is only 6,000 years old. I got teary-eyed, and felt inspired to tell her something personal. I told her that whenever I see the rear end of a cow, think of the glorious scripture we have in the Book of Abraham and the accompanying papyrus, and how that is a representation of God’s love, giving us just a tidbit of the true and pure astronomical view of the universe.
No butts about it, I jokingly said, let us not let science destroy our faith. I told her it’s a balmy 73 degrees as the sun is setting in Los Alamos, and she should go outside and enjoy those last bits of warmth and beauty, knowing without a shadow of doubt, it’s the glory of God through Kae-e-vanrash. She smiled in a smallish almost condescending way, thanked me, and left quietly after declining my offer to close with a prayer. I don’t think I helped resolve her issue and increase her faith, but I’ll pray for her tonight after the sun goes down, for tomorrow is a brighter day.