Adam: The Grammar Strikes Back

Back in December 2015, the world was ecstatic about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Many of those who hadn’t yet seen the movie were trying their best not to hear or see any spoilers at work or on social media. And those who had seen the movie were positively bursting with crazy theories about what was to come next—and rightly so because after viewing the film, there were so many questions to answer!: 

Who are her parents? How did she get that lightsaber? Who is this guy? Was that Yoda’s voice?!

As fans grasped at any small detail for clues, some people even came up with a theory based off an apparent grammatical error found in the opening crawl. You know how every Star Wars movie has that iconic scrolling intro? Said the theorists: As it reads, according to proper English grammar, The Force Awakens’ pre-movie word crawl implies that Leia has another brother besides Luke.

Here’s what it says:

“With the support of the Republic, General Leia Organa leads a brave resistance. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy.”

It should read, “She is desperate to find her brother, Luke, and gain his help…” It should have more commas. But it doesn’t have those commas, and that’s why it could mean that Leia and Luke have another brother out there somewhere among the stars.

The typo in question.

As all Star Wars fans loyally know, if true, this would have so many interesting implications. Did Darth Vader sire another Skywalker?! Is there another force user out there? If so, is he on the dark side or the light?

Of course, we now have a few years and a handful of Star Wars movies in hindsight to know fairly securely that (SPOILER ALERT!!) Leia has only the one brother, Luke (ah, see what I did there??). So if the apparent typo was intended, it was to limit the number of commas, not to hint at the number of half-siblings in existence in the galaxy. I guess we have to conclude that the apparent typo is of no great significance. But for the same reasons, this very same principle of grammar is also relevant when discussing Adam. No, not Adam Driver (the guy who plays Kylo Ren), but Adam, the first man, or first father (see Abraham 1:3).

Was Adam the very first human on earth from which all humans descended? Or was he a descendant himself of earlier hominids? Armed with your new grammar skills, let’s see what the Pearl of Great Price says about him—

The scene is a few sweeping events in the life of an antediluvian prophet named Enoch. Enoch, the righteous 4th-great-grandson of Adam, has just had his people taken up to heaven. Then Moses 7:22 reads,

“And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain…”

Whoa! Did you notice it? It said “the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam”. There was no comma! Without that comma following the word people and preceding the word which, one could assume that the residue of the people were not all “sons of Adam”, but descendants of different people. And if they were descendants of other people, then Adam was not the only person on earth from whom all people descend.

If this passage were to follow proper grammar and indicate that the residue of the people were all the offspring of Adam, then it should read “the residue of the people, which were the sons of Adam,”. Only then would the grammar require that all those left after Enoch’s people were taken were bona fide descendants of Adam and Eve and no one else. But since it doesn’t have the comma, then it could be that Enoch saw the rest of the people out there, but only a fraction of them were the posterity of Adam. And that, of course, my friends, is evidence, however small, in the Pearl of Great Price that lends credence to the theory of evolution, and the theory that the species Homo sapiens has been around for much longer than the traditional 6,000 years.

I’m not an expert at English grammar (as you can tell from how good I write my blog). Neither am I an expert at scripture or history. I don’t know for sure which 19th-or-20th-century editor added the punctuation in the Book of Moses, and I don’t know if this lack of comma was intended by Joseph Smith or the editor or not. But it’s there. And it’s something. And dang it, I think we should be talking about it more!!

Now, I know a little nit picky grammar rule like this doesn’t prove beyond doubt that humans evolved over millions of years, and Adam was one of many cousins fathering children in his generation, but it’s definitely something to think about—not only as you ponder creation and human origins, but also as you write your next movie’s opening crawl.


Sources and Notes

3 thoughts on “Adam: The Grammar Strikes Back

  1. Interesting find, and thank you for sharing. I think this kind of interpretation of scripture is necessary but not sufficient to reconcile the science and LDS position on this topic. What do I mean? This is the crux of the problem, as I see it:

    1. Y chromosomal and mitochondrial data suggest that mitochondrial eve and Y chromosomal Adam existed upwards of 100,000 years ago (and likely not at the same time). Our understanding of speciation suggests that species are not viable without some minimum founding population, so even the idea of a single mating pair producing all of humans is difficult to conceive and runs contrary to the data that examines human bottlenecks. The human migration data suggests that Australians migrated there around 50,000 years ago, the first wave populating the Pacific Islands occurred around 20,000 years ago, and the Americas were first populated about 14,000 years ago.

    2. The Adam and Eve of scripture clearly lived at the dawn of or after the agricultural revolution (tilling the ground, sacrifices of domesticated animals, etc, etc.), but this only began around 10,000 years ago, well after many groups had split off.

    3. Finally, LDS scripture is clear that Adam is the “father of all” (D&C 138:38) and the 1909 FP statement declares Adam the “primal parent of our race”. Recent statements are also adamant about the literalness of Adam and Eve as the parents of all humans. For instance, the New Era, October 2016, discussed what the Church believes about evolution. It confirms, “… We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, our first parents, …” These statements seem intended to be interpreted literally.

    How do you reconcile these ideas without throwing either A) the science or B) LDS scripture, leaders, and doctrine, under the bus?

    For references and a restatement of the problem, see:

    * https://faenrandir.github.io/a_careful_examination/adam-and-eve-the-first-couple/
    * https://faenrandir.github.io/a_careful_examination/the-6000-year-problem/
    * https://faenrandir.github.io/a_careful_examination/questions-to-ask/#adam-and-eve (The “Adam and Eve” section)

    Thank you for considering this framing of the problem.

    Like

    1. bwv549, thanks for your comment. I like your website! Very straightforward and informative. I’ll have to keep exploring there.

      I appreciate your questions and will try to answer them according to my understanding (which I admit is very limited):

      1. I agree with everything you said here. I tend to believe that Adam—if at all a real person—lived closer to the 14,000 years ago mark rather than 4,000 BCE. I’ve seen studies claiming that the last common ancestor for all humans today could have lived between 5-15 thousand years ago. You used a JS quote on your site about Adam being the father of all living “in his day”—I always thought that was referring to Noah, but even still, I think that could be explained as a Priesthood title of adoptive Father in the same way that JS wanted to seal many people to him so they would go to heaven with him (see Stapley’s Power of Godliness). And once the Nauvoo temple was completed, sealings of adoption were performed. I actually published a blog post recently where I hypothesized that the Jaredites came to America around 10,000 years ago and their great tower was Gobekli Tepe. This theory also requires a much earlier Adam; if he is historical.

      3. When starting this blog, I decided that I would only base my arguments on science, scripture, and the words of Joseph Smith. I am believing LDS, but I echo Henry Eyring’s philosophy and don’t see the necessity of believing anything that isn’t true. To me, a leader or especially manual declaring something dissonant with science is dismissible. The 1909 FP statement falls in this category for me. However, I am always happy to discuss anything JS might have taught… And again, the “father of all” notion for Adam might be more of a Patriarchal Priesthood title, like all people were to be somehow sealed in a chain that connects to Father Adam in order to be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. I haven’t written blogs about this, but would like to.

      (Sorry—typing on phone and somehow these got out of order)—

      2. You make a good point that scripture makes it sound like Adam had agriculture. It makes most sense to sacrifice a domesticated animal—however I can see a hunter gatherer sacrificing some of the most prized parts of a hunted wild animal, such as the liver or fat. These scripture stories could be embellished legends passed down orally about the historical Adam? Perhaps the scripture, written much later, reflects the world of the author more than the world of a 12,000 BCE historical Adam?

      So I try to never throw out the science, but I do disregard the LDS leaders (except for JS) as I don’t believe their knowledge and teachings are infallible. Of course, I don’t consider JS infallible either, but so far I’ve found him to be pretty well in line with most things.

      I appreciate the discussion and hope you feel comfortable commenting on any other post or asking any other questions. Thanks!

      Like

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