In our next conversation with Dr. Jonathan Stapley, we’ll talk about the Mormon idea of a priestess. Of course, that inevitably leads to a discussion of the Ordain Women movement. Would it be acceptable to Ordain Women if women could heal by laying on of hands, or do they want ecclesiastical authority?
GT: The scriptures talk a little bit about a priestess. Could you see an office of a priestess or if women became ordained, or would they still just be a priest?
Jonathan: Let me take a step back and frame that within the context of my book, what I would argue. The term priestess is a function of what I call the cosmological priesthood of the temple. Look, I don’t follow the theological assertions of, for example, the Ordain Women movement. So, I don’t feel like I can fairly characterize what they’re asserting. But my sense is that they are asserting for an ecclesiastical parity.
GT: That would be my hunch as well.
Jonathan: And so I would argue that even though they might be referencing or they might point to evidence of the cosmological priesthood in the past, they would be pointing to that and making assertions about ecclesiastical priesthood bureaucracy at the present. And so, I think that it’s important to carry, anytime that we’re talking about the past and in the LDS tradition and the relation between women and the priesthood, we have to make those important distinctions between ecclesiastical and kind of temple cosmological priesthood dynamics. And so, that being the case, I think there are lots of ways within the Mormon tradition that is faithful to the revelations and our historical development that can involve women more prominently in our ecclesiology and our liturgy than is currently present. I think that’s a non-controversial statement to make.
GT: If, say in October General Conference, President Nelson got up and said, you know, we’ve studied a Jonathan Stapley’s work. We looked back at these ritual healings that women used to do. We’re bringing that back. Do you think that would be good enough for people like were the Ordain Women movement?
What do you think? Check out Jonathan’s answer, as well as the rest of our conversation on the best source for Mormon history, science, and theology…. (And don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2!)
DNA & Book of Mormon can be a very controversial topic. Last year we talked with Dr. Ugo Perego on this topic, and today we’ll get a contrasting point of view. Dr. Simon Southerton served as a bishop of the LDS Church until he found he could no longer reconcile the science with the story of the Lamanites.
Simon: My name is Simon Southerton. I’m from Canberra, Australia. I am retired now from science really. I was a molecular geneticist with CSIRO for almost 20 years.
I work up in the morning. I finally knew. I knew without a doubt that the Book of Mormon wasn’t history. It’s a great book filled with scripture and all of these stories. It never happened. There was never a migration of Jews to the Americas in 2000 B.C. or 600 B.C.
All of my research over the last fifteen years has convinced me that conclusion is 100% correct. There is no evidence of Jewish DNA or Middle Eastern DNA coming into the Americas.
Simon: It’s pretty compelling stuff for me, and this is my work. That’s my research area. I work with DNA. I’ve worked with it a long time and led research groups that work in population genetics. That’s another thing you’ll hear from apologists. Oh, he doesn’t know population genetics. It’s such a complex science.
It is a complex science, but I work in population genetics. I’ve published in population genetics in leading international journals. When you work in the field and you understand the power, you know the full power of the research, it’s very compelling when you see that evidence. You just can’t ignore it.
We’ll also talk in detail about his excommunication. I wasn’t very familiar with that, and I found Simon very candid.
GT: Ok, well one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you at Gospel Tangents, I like to get a lot of different opinions. I interviewed Dr. Ugo Perego a few month ago, and you have a little different perspective on DNA and the Book of Mormon, so I wanted to talk to you a little bit about that. I know you’ve written a book. Can you tell us about the book?
Simon: Yes, the book is called Losing a Lost Tribe, and I wrote that and published that in 2004. The impetus to write the book, I was not happy with the way the DNA science was being interpreted by church apologists. I thought that was a way of putting them right and correcting them.
Simon: Everyone that knew me locally liked me, because they knew me. We had shaken hands. They had looked me in the eye and knew that I was a good bloke. But then area leaders wrote to me: Vaughn J. Featherstone wrote to me, and the whole letter was just designed to scare me back into the church. He hadn’t even spoken to my stake president. All he heard was rumors around the grapevine. The bishop in Brisbane had left the church evidently.
GT: But you hadn’t left the church. You were still going to church.
Simon: No, I hadn’t left the church. I was aware of the fact that I probably would. I received it [the letter] while I was still a primary teacher. I mean, what do you do when you’re the bishop and you don’t believe the Book of Mormon is true? How can you function as a bishop when you’ve got the keystone of the Mormon religion and you don’t believe it ever happened? It wasn’t appropriate for me to be a bishop, so I did the right thing.
Anyway, he wrote this three-page letter, and so I wrote him back and I told him off. I didn’t rebuke him. I just said it was inappropriate for him to write without talking to my stake president and finding out really what was going on. He wrote back a letter and apologized, and then gave me more warnings about how life would turn out.
So yes, it has been a tough ride leaving the church, and this is what many members of the church don’t realize. It’s a very painful process to leave the church. In fact, during that process, about five years after we left, I was separated from my wife, and then we got back together and we’re still together and are very happy. It’s just been getting better and better.
What are your thoughts? Check out our conversation…..
 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – is an independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research.
It’s been a fun interview with George Potter, and it’s been fun learning more about the Frankincense trail that Lehi likely followed in the Middle East. In our next conversation, I’ll ask George where he thinks Lehi and Nephi landed after they left the Frankincense Trail? George thinks it was probably the Andes Mountains in South America.
George: My theory is that the Book of Mormon took place in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, parts of Chile. Why? I was a missionary in Bolivia and Peru, so naturally that’s where it took place.
When the Spanish got to Peru, they looked at alpaca, they said these sheep are beautiful. The wool is better than our sheep, they taste better than our sheep. They had no idea that the alpaca is actually a cameloid. What did the Incas think of the horses? They are big alpacas. What would Nephi have called an alpaca? He probably would have called an alpaca or a llama a horse.
Anything with a tooth was described as an elephant by the Greeks. That was the language by Nephi’s time. Nephi never saw an elephant. But there are boars in America that had tusks, and anything with a tusk was an elephant.
The Book of Mormon describes the fact that they went into the wilderness and found gold, and silver, and copper in abundance. For heavens’ sake, in Potosi, Bolivia they have taken enough silver to make a rod all the way from Potosi to Spain and back. I mean when the Spanish got there, they went to the homes of the poor people and there is just gold sitting there.
What does George think of the Mesoamerican model?
But actually, if you look at the archaeology that’s been discovered in the last 15 years, there were civilizations that took place in the Andes Mountains that had most of the attributes of the Book of Mormon in them in the Book of Mormon times. If you go north of Panama in Book of Mormon times, there is nothing that resembled the Jaredites.
The Maya ruins, most of those classic ruins took place well after the Book of Mormon. They Book of Mormon was written on golden plates. There is no gold north of Panama in the Americas before 700-800 A.D. There were no sheep, no horses, no animals you could refer to as the animal in the Book of Mormon described by Nephi.