Elder Joe J. Christensen, of the Presidency of the Seventy, shouldn’t talk about history

Meet this guy:

president of Ricks College, First Presidency of the Seventy and General Authority. Now, he gave a quote that is so mindbogglingly bad that I’ve saved it for Father’s Day.

“To illustrate how meaningful that prophecy was and how it relates to our day… we need to get some perspective of history.” He [Elder Christensen] pointed out that the quickest Adam and Eve could communicate or travel over long distances was by horse. Almost 6,000 years later, the fastest Joseph Smith could communicate or travel was by horse. No progress in travel in almost 6,000 years of history! But beginning with the Restoration, the Lord began to pour out his Spirit and unveil modern inventions that have enabled us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

(Quoted by Janet S. Scharman, reprinted in the Ensign, W. Jeffrey Marsh, “Training from the Old Testament: Moroni’s Lessons for a Prophet.” Ensign. Aug. 1998. 10)

At first glance it appears profound– truly insightful. But with about 5 seconds of thought it is, in fact, utter bullshit.

First of all, notice the “6,000 years later” bit. This implies that the president of Ricks College was a “Young Earth Creationist,” or that the Bible should be taken literally.

Second of all, if Adam lived 6,000 years ago, that’s about 1,000 years after the Sumerians invented glue, which makes things awkward.

But could Adam simply walk up to any horse and ride it as fast as Frank Hopkins (1865, 20 years after Joseph Smith, but I think it illustrates the point and working Viggo Mortensen into a post is always a worthwhile aspiration)?

I won’t let that bad GA say that all horses are equal, and that you’re fast because of some con-artist.

You see, he skipped all kinds of advancements in travel, such as the domestication of horses which occurred approximately 24,000 years before Adam. He also left out that Nephites shouldn’t have been able to ride horses as there were none on the American continent. Simply because horses exist doesn’t mean one can travel the same speed.

Also, let’s not forget the invention of the wheel (3500 B.C.), which would have made travel significantly faster, attaching teams of horses (1800 B.C.), or the invention of the stirrup (2nd century B.C.). The stirrup was really effective only when attached to a saddle (700 B.C.).

But there was also boat travel. Adam, like the Professor from Gilligan’s Island, wouldn’t have known how to put together a raft to save his life.

“Any idea how to build something to go over that wet stuff, Eve?” “No, maybe we should ask the talking snake.”

The invention of the sailboat (4000 BCE), the magic submersible craft (2200 BCE), square sails (900 BCE), two-masted ships (500 BCE), triangle sails that allow sailors to go forward even against the wind (A.D 900), flax fiber for sails (A.D. 1500), three-masted sails (A.D. 1680), more than three masts (1800)… these are all inventions that marked clear progress in travel and the dissemination of information.

We should also consider that the steam engine was really invented in a way that made it practical to use in 1781 and, by 1883, engines that could provide 10,000 HP had become feasible.

In fact, Joseph Smith, Jr. even knew that there were better modes of travel than by horse.  You see, in 1821, the Erie Canal reached Palmyra, New York, making it the highway between Palmyra, New York and Kirtland, Ohio. It just so happens that the two founding locations of the church were connected by the fastest mode of travel around the same year that Joseph claims to have had a vision that he was to start a new religion (okay, so technically that he was told to join no religion, but if you look up all the scriptures he says Christ said to him during the visit, he would to have had to have been a real dunce not to pick up that he was going to be part of this whole restoration thing).

Think about it. Sidney Rigdon with a ton of converts in Kirtland, waiting for the book, and Joseph Smith, Jr. with his converts in Palmyra… the mail went back and forth faster between those locations than any horse could travel.

Yes, Mr. Joe J. Christensen, you get an “F” in history. We could perform the same confirmation bias on the Wright brothers, pointing out that from Adam to the Wright brothers, all that man could do to travel was on the ground. Clearly they were inspired.

The truth is that small improvements over long periods of time have made all the difference in travel. The real reason for the post-1800s explosion of technology is the discovery of how to use oil, and the bits (that have been coming for thousands of years) needed to understand.

Want to know how inventions spur other inventions? I recommend the BBC series “Connections” by James Burke. Leave the heads of universities to go off and do religious duties and leave history alone.

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Last edited by EmmaHS on June 16, 2013 at 6:39 pm

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