From my good friend Mike Parker, who has analyzed D&C 77 supposedly teaching a mere 7,000 year old earth. As usual and always, Mike has some excellent insights into things that are worth understanding. I post this with his kind permission. Thanks Mike, this deserves to be understood better.
© 2009, Mike Parker For personal use only. Not a Church publication.Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class Doctrine and Covenants Sections 71, 73–75, 77, 86, 91, 113 Week 15, Page 9
D&C 77 a) This section is a prophetic explanation some of symbolism in the Revelation of John in the New Testament.
i) This book is an example of a type of Biblical literature known as an apocalypse. This word is borrowed almost directly from Greek (apocalupsis), where it means “revelation” in the sense of uncovering or unveiling something that is hidden.
(1) Other apocalypses in the scriptures include portions of Ezekiel and Daniel, as well as the visions of Lehi and Nephi.
(2) Apocalypses use symbolism and imagery, rather than literal description, to convey their message. D&C 77 is a question-and-answer session about some of the symbols used in the book of Revelation.
b) For example,in reference to the description of beasts in front of the throne of God in Revelation 4:6–9, this revelation explains that their multitude of eyes represent their knowledge (via the ability to see everything in front and behind), and their wings represent power to move and act.
i) Ultimately these point to the truth that God and his angels have all knowledge and all power.
c) One of the most interesting—and for some, difficult—passages is D&C77:6–7. i) This is the only passage in all of scripture that directly identifies the age of the earth:
[The sealed book which John saw contains] the hidden things of [God’s] economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.
ii) Let’s start by defining some of the words as they were used when this revelation was given:
(1) From Daniel Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language: (a) Economy—Primarily, the management, regulation and government of a family or the concerns of a household.22
(b) Continuance—A holding on or remaining in a particular state, or in a course or series. Applied to time, duration; a state of lasting; as the continuance of rain or fair weather for a day or week.23
(c) Temporal—Pertaining to this life or this world or the body only; secular; as temporal concerns; temporal affairs. In this sense, it is opposed to spiritual.24
(2) So the sealed book contained the hidden things of God’s management, regulation, and government of his kingdom on earth during the seven thousand years of its being in this particular state, or pertaining to this period of time only.
(3) There are several ways to interpret this:
(a) The literal interpretation would be that mankind began only 6,000 years ago, meaning that Adam and Eve walked out of the Garden of Eden about 4000 B.C.
(i) This follows the chronology created by Anglican Archbishop James Ussher in the 17th century.25
1. Bishop Ussher calculated that the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 B.C.
2. His calculations were based on the prevalent Christian belief that God created the earth in six days, therefore the earth must have a 6,000- year existence from that point, with each day being 1,000 years (2 Peter 3:8).
(ii) This has been widely accepted among traditional Christians and Latter- day Saints, but it’s not the only way to interpret the scriptures.
(b) A figurative or symbolic interpretation of D&C 77:6–7 could include the following:
(i) That the time periods of the seven seals are not strict 1,000-year periods, but are dispensations of great length, some longer than 1,000 years, some shorter.
1. For example, the dispensation of the gospel by Jesus Christ in the flesh lasted nearly 1,800 years, from his birth and death, through the apostasy of the early Church, until the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.
22 Daniel Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 ed., s.v. “Economy,” def. 1; http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,economy
23 Webster, Dictionary, s.v. “Continuance,” def. 1; http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,continuance 24 Webster, Dictionary, s.v. “Temporal,” def. 1; http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,temporal 25 For more information on Ussher’s chronology, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher_chronology
2. This is strengthened by the understanding that the number 1,000,as used anciently in the Bible, didn’t represent a strict, exact amount, but simply a very large number.26
a. Similarly, many Latter-day Saints accept that the six days of creation were not six 24-hour days, or even six 1,000-year “days,” but could be long periods of time, perhaps even millions of years each.27
3. Finally,there is also this passage in the Book of Mormon:
Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.” (Helaman 8:18; italics added.)
a. Question: Would four thousand years (as in 4000 B.C.) constitute “a great many thousand years” before his coming? Or does this imply something longer?
(ii) That the information in the sealed book only contained information about the world in this particular state or period of time, and that there was a time before the first dispensation of the gospel to Adam, during which the earth and the Lord’s creations upon it existed.
(c) The point here is not to force a specific interpretation upon anyone in this room, but to open up different possibilities that are acceptable to those who believe the earth is relative young and to those who believe it is very old.
© 2009, Mike Parker For personal use only. Not a Church publication.