EFM.jpgThe second installment in a continuing series in which the author probes the hidden treasures of wisdom in that bastion of seminary education, Especially for Mormons. The first issue can be found here. Today’s text: “Men of Determination.”

Abstract – A recent study involving DNA analysis has cast a shadow over the traditional Mormon perspective on genetics as propagated by this influential text. Mormon apologists question both the study’s methodology and its interpretation of the word “determination.”

Men of Determination

1. What happens to men who refuse to be stopped once they decide where they are going?

2. Cripple him, and you have Sir Walter Scott.

3. Put him in prison, and you have John Bunyan.

4. Bury him in the snow at Valley Forge, and you have George Washington.

5. Have him born in poverty, and you have Abraham Lincoln.

6. Give him a speech impediment, lock him in jail, and put him out of office almost in disgrace, and you have Winston Churchill.

7. Persecute him from town to town, state to state, and finally murder him, and you have Joseph Smith.

- Stan Miller et al, The Best of Especially for Mormons, p. 40

In March of this year, a group of scientists from MIT led by Dr. Will Schreiber published an article in Nature presenting the results of a study that replicates the conditions delineated in the seven verses of this text.

120 male test subjects between the ages of 18 and 35, all in good health with no known pre-existing medical issues, were selected and divided into twelve groups of ten. All were psychologically conditioned to believe that consequences of a catastrophic nature would ensue should they not arrive in Fort Lauderdale, FL, by 10:30 AM the following Tuesday. They were then dropped off alongside I-35 outside of Duluth, MN, on a Wednesday evening at 7:23 PM.

  • Along the way, members of the first group were clipped by passing vehicles and rendered unable to walk.
  • The second group was arrested by Minnesota state troopers and detained at the state correctional facility in Willow River/Moose Lake for six months.
  • The third group was apprehended by bounty hunters, transported to Valley Forge, PA, and buried under twelve feet of snow.
  • The fourth group was run down on the freeway. Their DNA was used to produce clones that were implanted in the wombs of surrogate mothers – all living in developing nations – with a verified annual income below the international poverty threshold.
  • The fifth group was elected mayor of Otter Creek, MN. Soon thereafter, their hypoglossal nerve was partially severed during a routine dental exam. They were subsequently forced to endure the indignity of impeachment and removal from office by the town council as well as temporary incarceration in the county jail in Carlton, all under the spotlight of heavy media scrutiny.
  • The sixth group was persecuted in twenty-one specific cities. They were abused verbally in seven cities in Minnesota, smitten with rods in seven locations in Michigan, and made to watch footage of their homes being pillaged and burned in seven different sites in Indiana. Finally, they were murdered in Beaver Dam, KY.
  • Groups seven through twelve were given a placebo.

It should be noted that all subjects “refused to stop” when first confronted.

DNA testing was subsequently performed on all subjects. No matches were found for Sir Walter Scott, John Bunyan, George Washington, Winston Churchill, or Joseph Smith.

A few points of interest:

  • Three of the first group were found to be third cousins, twice-removed, of Lionel Barrymore. One later received an OBE.
  • Seven of the second group later legally changed their names to “Mr. Worldly Wiseman.”
  • Nine members of the third group reported suffering “hibernation sickness” and developed a narrow spectrum of precognitive abilities related to their interpretation of so-called “bad feelings” in certain situations.
  • All members of the fourth group now work in tech support.
  • Eight of the fifth group were institutionalized due to irrational manifestations of anxiety and fear.
  • All ten members of the tenth group signed affidavits proclaiming their continued commitment to atheism shortly before their deaths.
  • Just under 50% of subjects in the six control groups have since claimed to be the reincarnation of either Edgar Cayce, Pat Sajak, Lauren Bacall, or the Teeny Little Super Guy. It has been verified that three now share the DNA of Aaron Burr.
  • 2% of all subjects reported experiencing lightheadedness, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction.

Mormon apologists are quick to discredit the study, questioning the degree of the subjects’ “determination” as well as to what extent they “decided” where they were going of their own accord. “You can’t manipulate someone into being determined enough to become Abraham Lincoln any more than you could have brainwashed the Brother of Jared into having enough faith to move Mount Zerin,” noted FARMS scholar Nephi Allred.

Furthermore, Allred and his colleagues point out that the text, while simplified, is historically accurate in its essence and allege that the scientists directing the study relied on an outdated, traditional reading. “Today,” Allred explains, “most Mormon scholars view ‘Men of Determination‘ as a mistranslation. ‘Men of Determinism‘ more accurately conveys the text’s purpose as illustrative: a simple account of ‘noble and great ones’ fulfilling their foreordination. The study in question is therefore not germane to this context.”

Dr. Schreiber counters that his team’s interpretation of the causal relationship between the premises and resulting DNA mutation is the simplest and most logical given the wording of the passage.

A recent survey of Mormons that consider themselves “active” indicates that over 90% remain untroubled by the study’s findings, while 62.7% expressed the belief that the ten members of the sixth group have since accepted the gospel on the other side of the veil.