The purpose of this post is to distribute a compilation of Latter-day Saint (Mormon) positions on organic evolution from the days it was introduced by Charles Darwin to the the present day. I can point to this topic as the one that began my faith transition. As I read more and compared what was said by leadership, whom I deemed as being led by Jesus himself, with what the world has come to understand about evolution, I became uncomfortable with the conflict to say the least. The cognitive dissonance was palpable. I began to think along the lines of, “if the church did not have a satisfactory answer to such a foundational doctrine, then what else did they not have a good answer to? It turns out quite a lot, but that is for another time.
This will not be a typical blog post, but more of a source for quotes from past leaders along with commentary. I will attempt to categorize the content, but you will have to forgive the seemingly disordered outline. I will be focusing on Mormon church’s position on evolution and not on the specifics of evolution as it was introduced by Charles Darwin or how much further we have come in our collective understanding.
Source materials will remain in black. Text will remain black with bolding added by me for emphasis and commentary by me will be in blue. I will separate the quotes and the comments using a dash. Starting now.
When I began my investigation on the Mormon church’s stance on evolution in May of 2017 I simply went to LDS.org and typed in “evolution”. Below were the top 3 results:
When your biology teacher says the facts point to evolution, what do you say? “Do you believe in God?” “Yes,” I stammered. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was sitting in front of four of my best friends and my high school biology teacher, and not one of them believed in God. “But what about evolution?” my friends asked.
My biology teacher, who had a reputation for being stubborn and persistent, turned his head momentarily from his papers and said: “Now, let’s be logical here. Look at the facts. Where does the evidence point?” I was tongue-tied. I have known the Church is true since I was very young. I felt it was true. However, at the same time, logic and reason were driving forces in my life.
As I sat there, trying to come up with an answer to their questions, the awkward silence gave them satisfaction. They thought I had hit a dead end in my reasoning, as they expected I would. Thinking of no arguments to counter their position, I silently said a quick prayer, pleading with God to direct my words toward these five people. Within seconds a thought crossed my mind: “It is not you who converts, but the Spirit.”
Upon hearing those simple words, I began to share my testimony with my friends. I said, “I know there is a God, and He has a Son who created the world and saved us all. Whether or not we have all the answers now doesn’t discredit the fact that there is a God. God works line upon line and precept upon precept. Until we prove our faith, God will not reveal more to us.” I finished by confirming my testimony of the Church and its leaders, forgetting to even address the original questions posed.
After I finished, they all sat in silence, staring at me. I could feel my face getting hot. Just then, the bell rang. I grabbed my bag, thankful for this escape route, and headed for the door. As I opened the door, my biology teacher swung his chair around and called my name. I turned, anticipating a rebuttal and, to my shock, found a sincere face staring back at me. “Thank you,” he said.
My simple testimony had conveyed more convincing truth than any logical debate could have. I know that I did not dissolve their accusations and criticisms that day, but the Holy Spirit did.
This is officially one of the top answers to evolution? What is this article teaching? From my point of view it is saying, “When you get in a situation you do not know the answer to pray and start testifying about what you do know, even if it has nothing to do with the question.” How does this address the question? It makes you think that the spirit will somehow cast a spell on those listening and both silence them and convince them of your testimony. It also relies heavily on the idea of “God hasn’t revealed everything” crutch. Then slides right into, “Until we prove our faith, God will not reveal more to us.” I was shocked to again read the title, “My answer to evolution”. Church please, come on, please do not look this bad, people have real questions about these things.
The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study. Nothing has been revealed concerning evolution. Though the details of what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created, have not been revealed, our teachings regarding man’s origin are clear and come from revelation.
Before we were born on earth, we were spirit children of heavenly parents, with bodies in their image. God directed the creation of Adam and Eve and placed their spirits in their bodies. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, our first parents, who were created in God’s image. There were no spirit children of Heavenly Father on the earth before Adam and Eve were created. In addition, “for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family.” They fell from that state, and this Fall was an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us to become like Him.
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Apr. 2015 general conference
This is the reference in Jeffry R Holland’s talk: “…there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it. I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before that, but I do know these two were created under the divine hand of God.”
How unsatisfying. What about all those people before Adam and Eve? What about them? It is a clear explanation on not having a position but it leaves such a gaping theological hole without hope of explanation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my displeasure with the non-answers, which I believe these 2 examples were, motivated me to dig deeper and deeper. This process spring-boarded into a full blown faith crises.
“I remember when I was a college student there were great discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it throw me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God. Since then I have become acquainted with what to me is a far more important and wonderful kind of evolution. It is the evolution of men and women as the sons and daughters of God, and of our marvelous potential for growth as children of our Creator.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley, “God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear,” Ensign, Oct. 1984.
This sounds like ancient religious priests that find all answers to life’s questions in scriptures. Including things like, the earth is the center of the universe and Adam and Eve lived 6000 years ago.‘The scriptures don’t talk about evolution, but they do talk about our growth potential as children of God, so there are my thoughts on evolution.’ That is such an unsatisfying answer.
Further study followed. This included scripture: Doctrine and Covenants Section 77
6 Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals? A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.
7 Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed? A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.
My personal understanding of temporal years is actually 7,000 years as we understand it. From my perspective this is hard to overcome from a believing perspective.
Much of the following came from a BYUI link that had compiled a lot of quotes on evolution. This link has moved to an unknown location.
The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund), “THE ORIGIN OF MAN,” Improvement Era, Vol. 13, (November 1909), 75-81
It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was “the first man of all men” Moses 1:34, and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race.
Marion G. Romney (in Keith H. Meservy, “Evolution & the Origin of Adam,” CES Religious Educators’ Symposium, BYU, Aug. 16-18, 1979, 225.) In view of the Church teaching the fact that each of us is a child of God both in the spirit and in the flesh, the following response of Marion G. Romney to a question on the beliefs of the General Authorities makes explicit what might readily be inferred. A student asked, “Are the General Authorities of the Church in one accord on the subject of evolution?” Elder Romney replied: “I don’t suppose that any two minds in the world understand exactly alike any statement on any subject. The General Authorities of the Church are, of course, like all other men, different in their personalities. However, on the fundamentals they are in accord, and one of those fundamentals upon which they are in accord is that Adam is a son of God, that neither his spirit nor his body is a product of biological evolution which went on for millions of years on this earth.”
The concept that man is a beast relieves him of a sense of accountability and encourages him to adopt the fatalistic attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”…
This sentiment comes from the idea that we are all sinners in our natural state, that man is an enemy to God. It also points to the ideology that without God and his religion we would lose baring on morality and devolve into hedonism. If we came from animals we will act like animals. Is this actually the case? I understand the concern of accountability. Without an ideology, without a master, how do we judge ourselves? However, the concern does not remove the reality of evolution by natural selection.
Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1953, 123-126.
I have an assignment from the First Presidency to serve on the Church publications committee. This committee is expected to read and pass upon the literature proposed for use in the study of our auxiliary organizations. It would please me immensely if, in the preparation of this literature, we could get away from using the language of those who do not believe in the mission of Adam. I have reference to words and phrases such as “primitive man,” “prehistoric man,” “before men learned to write,” and the like. We sometimes use these terms in a way that offends my feelings; in a way which indicates to me that we get mixed up in our understanding of the mission of Adam. The connotation of these terms, as used by unbelievers, is out of harmony with our understanding of the mission of Adam.
“Adam fell that man might be.” 2 Ne 2:25 There were no pre-Adamic men in the line of Adam. The Lord said that Adam was the first man. Moses 1:34; 3:7; D&C 84:16 It is hard for me to get the idea of a man ahead of Adam, before the first man. The Lord also said that Adam was the first flesh Moses 3:7 which, as I understand it, means the first mortal on the earth. I understand from a statement in the book of Moses, which was made by Enoch, that there was no death in the world before Adam. Moses 6:48; see also 2 Ne 2:22 I understand from this that Enoch could read about Adam in a book which had been written under the tutelage of Almighty God. Thus there were no prehistoric men who could not write because men living in the days of Adam, who was the first man, wrote.
Harold B. Lee, Ensign, December 1972, 2 (First Presidency Message). I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a church family, ask, “What about the pre-Adamic people?” Here was someone who I thought was fully grounded in the faith.
I asked, “What about the pre-Adamic people?”
She replied, “Well, aren’t there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?”
I said, “Have you forgotten the scriptures that says, ‘And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also….’ ” Moses 3:7 I asked, “Do you believe that?”
She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error…
This language and tone imply it is wrong to ask questions. It implies that if you have questions about church doctrine, you must not “be grounded in the faith”. It teaches blind obedience and subverts critical thinking. It directly removes a person’s agency to make up their own minds. He continues by belittling this ‘sister’ (potentially more subversive language, as in “a priesthood holder wouldn’t have a question like this…”) by inferring, “duh, it’s so simple, if only you read the scriptures.” I would not want this person to be my leader, let alone the prophet of God. The message seems to be: keep your head down, continuously pray, and don’t stop paying and obeying.
Harold B Lee in response to a question received from a member:
On an aside, the beginning of this talk by Harold B Lee rambles about how David O McKay endorsed no position on evolution. Lee insinuates that David O McKay might have mistakenly said that. Even to the point of saying ‘Hey, Marion G Romney told me he once spoke on the true origin of man and afterward David O Mckay said that he agreed with my talk, so that means he does not endorse no position he endorses mine.’ He continues below:
“Now if I were you, Brother ____, I would not be discouraged. This is a contention which has gone on and will continue to the end of time I suppose, and until the scientists get nearer and nearer to the doctrines of the Church, there will still be contention, but remember this, that truth can never be composed with the errors of men. Just know that the gospel is true and that these are the theories of men which you as a student must learn if you want to pass the courses you are taking.
With kindest personal regards and trusting this letter will be sufficient to set the matter right in your mind I am, Very sincerely yours, Harold B. Lee.
President Joseph F. Smith said (Gospel Doctrine, pg. 38): “Our young people are diligent students. They reach out for truth and knowledge with commendable zeal, and in so doing they must necessarily adopt for temporary use, the theories of men. As long, however, as they recognize them as scaffolding useful for research purposes, there can be no special harm in them. It is when these theories are settled upon as basic truth that trouble appears, and the searcher then stands in grave danger of being led hopelessly from the right way.”
George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth 2:1. Men may acquire extensive information and learning but unless accompanied by faith in and fear of God such acquirements are not so profitable unto them as they might be. A knowledge of the truth as revealed by the Lord furnishes men who obtain it a sure foundation on which to stand; it is also a standard by which all man-made systems, theories and opinions can be measured.
A most excellent illustration of its value for this purpose can be found in judging what is known as the Darwinian theory. According to this theory, man has gradually ascended, through a process of evolution covering ages of time, from some low form of animal life; he stands today as the product of a long period of development….
But to the Latter-day Saints who understand the principles of truth, it is the greatest absurdity and folly to state that man has been evolved from an inferior form of animal life, and has progressed step by step through the ages until he has reached his present stage of development. They do not need to spend any time to examine such a proposition for they know better.
God has revealed in these last days, as well as in former times, that He is the Father of mankind, that we are descended from Him, that He “created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him;male and female created he them.” Gen 1:27 The theories of all the philosophers in the world, however cunningly framed or speciously argued, cannot shake the faith of a man or woman of God in this immutable truth.… He who fears God and receives the truths He reveals can safely trust them; he can test men’s opinions and systems by them without a doubt as to the result. Building upon these truths, he can go on from knowledge to knowledge until he enters into possession of a fullness.… He [the fool] (psalms 14:1; 53:1) seeks no light from heaven. He gropes in search of it by his own wisdom. He builds theories and systems of philosophy which only exhibit his own folly. Calling himself wise, and proud of his acquirements, he fails to recognize the truths of heaven and measures Divinity by his miserable little yardstick.
Man by his own wisdom cannot know God. To know Him man must go to Him in the way he has appointed, or he cannot find him. (June 11, 1888, MS 50:371–72)
I must give context its place, this was in 1888. Cannon frames evolution as created by the cunning philosophers and is ‘speciously argued’. In the end he makes sure you know where to get truth, from the prophet and scriptures alone.
Boyd K. Packer, General Conference Address, Ensign, Nov. 1984, 66-69. I desire to share a few thoughts about a basic doctrine of the Church… What may be obscure in the scriptures can be made plain through the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can have as full an understanding of spiritual things as we are willing to earn.
If it doesn’t make sense, it’s our fault for not being willing or spiritual enough.
And I add one more conviction: there is an adversary who has his own channels of spiritual communication. He confuses the careless and prompts those who serve him to devise deceptive, counterfeit doctrine, carefully contrived to appear genuine. I mention this because now, as always, there are self-appointed spokesmen who scoff at what we believe and misrepresent what we teach… The doctrine I wish to discuss concerns the nature of man and of God.
We are the children of God. That doctrine is not hidden away in an obscure verse. It is taught over and over again in scripture. These clear examples are from the Bible. No lesson is more manifest in nature than that all living things do as the Lord commanded in the Creation. They reproduce “after their own kind.” Moses 2:12,24 They follow the pattern of their parentage. Everyone knows that; every four-year-old knows that! A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget reptiles, nor “do men gather figs of thistles.” Matt. 7:16 We are the children of God. That doctrine is not hidden away in an obscure verse. It is taught over and over again in scripture. These clear examples are from the Bible. Hey the sky is blue, everyone knows that?! He is training the audience to say ‘yes’ to what he is about to tell us. He is begging the question.
In the countless billions of opportunities in the reproduction of living things, one kind does not beget another. If a species ever does cross, the offspring generally cannot reproduce. Oh really Boyd? That’s not the point of evolution by natural selection, this is a red herring. The pattern for all life is the pattern of the parentage.
This is demonstrated in so many obvious ways, even an ordinary mind should understand it. Surely no one with reverence for God could believe that His children evolved from slime or from reptiles. “Do you guys think you came from slime? Lol, right?” (Although one can easily imagine that those who accept the theory of evolution don’t show much enthusiasm for genealogical research!) The theory of evolution, and it is a theory (Here again Boyd shows his ignorance on what a scientific theory means), will have an entirely different dimension when the workings of God in creation are fully revealed. Sometime in the future guys, just keep praying, paying and obeying, it will all work out.
Since every living thing follows the pattern of its parentage, are we to suppose that God had some other strange pattern in mind for His offspring? Surely we, His children, are not, in the language of science, a different species than He is?
Boyd K. Packer, “The Law and the Light,” Book of Mormon Symposium, BYU, 30 October 1988. Those who defend opposing views on the origin of man use the same words but sometimes attach very different meanings to them. I will define some words in the hope that you will understand what I mean….
The point of my presentation is this: There are moral and spiritual laws pertaining to values, good and evil, right and wrong; laws as constant, precise, and valid as those which govern the physical universe. If there is a crucial point of divergence between views on the origin of man, it is whether law governs both the physical or temporal and the moral or spiritual in the universe.
If you reject the premise that unchangeable law governs both, I shall have great difficulty communicating my view as to how man came to be. I’m counting on Latter-day Saints agreeing that laws governing spiritual things were irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundation of the earth. (D&C 130:20.)
More often it is students of the physical universe who fail to accept moral and spiritual law as valid and authoritative because such laws are not measured by methods they have been accustomed to use in their studies. Physical or natural laws are generally more visible and therefore much easier to demonstrate.
These students tend to gather endless examples of the effects of natural law to support their theory on the origin of man. But all of their examples put together–compelling or not, true or not, whether they prove natural laws or not–cannot disprove the existence of moral and spiritual laws. To study mankind and his beginnings by analyzing his physical body and environment only, is to study but half of him. Regardless of how much physical truth is discovered, it is but half the truth….
Attempting to not only conflate scientific truth with moral truth, but with spiritual truth is a herculean task that the greatest minds of all time have wrestled with for millennia. Boyd’s rational of this seems to be “you can’t disprove it.” This seems intellectually dishonest and flimsy. But if you start with the presuppositions that Packer rises, it definitely makes sense.
The many similarities between the human body and the physical bodies of animals do not, in my mind, confirm a common ancestor. Not at all! It confirms the sovereignty of physical laws. If a hip joint in a human body is of the same design as that in animals, it simply means that the ball and socket conforms to physical laws which govern space, stress, strength, motion, and articulation. If you want articulation, that design works in the flesh and bone of either man or animal, or for that matter in machines.
It is on the premise that law controls both the moral and spiritual, and the physical natures of man that I have established my conviction on his origin. All laws, even those devised by man, are established under the assumption that violation carries penalties. If man is no more than a highly specialized animal, there are substantial questions as to whether moral laws can apply to him. If there is no moral law, there is no sin. The New Testament makes that clear, (see Rom 5:13; Heb 10:26; 1 Jn 3:4) and Lehi said: [2 Ne 2:13 quoted]… Consequences of which spring from that single false premise account for much of what society now suffers. I do not speak in theoretical terms; it matters very much in practical ways. The word abortion should suffice as an example….
This is actually a really good point. I can see why people would think there is a need for some kind of intelligent design from a grand architect. What separates us from the animals? I do not have the answer, but I would start with the idea of consciousness. We have reason and critical thinking. That came from somewhere. This is the hard problem of consciousness, we don’t know where it came from. But that doesn’t mean that God created it, though the god of the gaps argument is a common response. Presenting the self-image in which we regard ourselves as children of God should sponsor a certain kind of behavior. A conclusion which equates man to animals fosters another kind of behavior entirely. I suppose this comes down to a question of intention and motivation. This ideology heavily relies on the motivation behind the behavior.
Many Church members are entirely unaware that fundamental doctrines cannot co-exist with a belief that man evolved from lower forms of life (thank you for saying this!). From the scriptures I will briefly review fundamental doctrines on the creation, the fall, and the atonement. Before doing so, let me tell you how I feel about you who study or teach or work in the fields of science. I envy your opportunity to work in fields of scientific discovery: anthropology, paleontology, geology, physics, biology, physiology, chemistry, medicine, engineering and many others. Just think of the opportunity to study the laws of the physical universe and harness the power inherent in obeying them for the good of mankind. It gives me feelings of wonder, of reverence. No Latter-day Saint should be hesitant to pursue any true science as a career, a hobby, an interest, or to accept any truth established through those means of discovery. Nor need one become a scientist at the expense of being a Latter-day Saint of faith and spiritual maturity.
Science is seeking; science is discovery. Man finds joy in discovery. If all things were known, man’s creativity would be stifled. There could be no further discovery, no growth, nothing to decide–no agency.
All things not only are not known but must not be so convincingly clear as to eliminate the need for faith. That would nullify agency and defeat the purpose of the plan of salvation. Tests of faith are growing experiences. We all have unanswered questions. Seeking and questioning, periods of doubt, in an effort to find answers, are part of the process of discovery. The kind of doubt which is spiritually dangerous does not relate to questions so much as to answers. For that and other reasons, it is my conviction that a full knowledge of the origin of man must await further discovery, further revelation….
This is a very interest paragraph. On the one hand he is saying it is a common human experience to seek and to question, to even doubt at times. But he removes the ability to cross the boundary of LDS doctrine when he says there is spiritual danger in some answers. This signals to believers the worst kind of danger, spiritual danger. If the answers you are finding do not conform with the doctrines of the church you are in spiritual danger. How is this any different than thought control? How is this not revoking one’s agency?
Know this: Knowledge of the physical universe and of the laws which govern it is cumulative. Thus each generation builds upon and expands the knowledge gained from discoveries of the past. Contributions to scientific and practical knowledge are gathered from one generation to the next. As greater light and knowledge are discovered, tentative theories of the past are replaced.
Unlike knowledge of the physical universe, the moral knowledge of each generation begins where the previous generation began rather than where they left off. For example, the remedy for an infection in the physical body has changed dramatically over the centuries; the remedy for infidelity, not at all. Morality is not so easily conveyed from one generation to the next. It is acquired more from example, ideally in the home.
This apparent imbalance in accumulating knowledge can easily contribute to a spirit of arrogance in students of the physical world, especially in so-called intellectuals. They may feel they have inherited the larger and more valuable legacy of knowledge. The Book of Mormon warns of [2 Ne 9:28-29 quoted; 2 Ne 9:42; 28:15; Alma 32:23; D&C 58:10 referred to.] Make sure to not become too smart, or else you’ll look arrogant. Just have faith all will work out.
For generations, the clergy of the Christian churches (including ours) have been labeled as bumbling and naive because they rejected the theory of evolution and believed in a separate creation of man. Those who have only the Bible, have just enough in the Old and New Testaments about men as the children of God, about law and sin, to enforce their belief that man is accountable for his conduct, that accountability requires a special status, a separate creation.
Confronted by the sophisticated arguments of articulate scientists with impressive visual evidence to support the theory of organic evolution, the clergy could but quote scriptures or testify of inner feelings. This meant little or nothing to the scientist.
Do not despise those who over the years defended these doctrines in spite of intellectual mocking. Do not belittle their efforts. However foolish they may have appeared to some, there is substance to the position they have defended. I say, God bless them!…
Do not mortgage your testimony for an unproved theory on how man was created. Have faith in the revelations; leave man in the place the revelations have put him!…
The scriptures gives us the words “organize” and “form” when discussing the creation. (Abr 4:1,12,15,25,30.) The earth was created or formed of imperishable substance for the revelations tell us that “the elements are eternal” D&C 93:33 Matter already existed, but it was “without form and void.” (See Gen 1:2 and Moses 2:2.) That word “beginning” applies only if “create” is defined as “form” or “organize.” There was no beginning and there shall be no end to matter. This is also said of intelligence, that spiritual part of man. “Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” D&C 93:29 We know from the revelations also that this earth is but one of an innumerable host of worlds. [Moses 1:37-38,35 quoted.] When man was created, there was no need for trial and error, for chance….
Many who perceive organic evolution to be law rather than theory do not realize they forsake the atonement in the process….
What is physical interconnects with the spiritual; what is spiritual, or eternal, or moral, resonates with the physical. We respond in our very soul to the order in the universe. How we respect those interconnections will have profound effect upon our happiness or sorrow. In support of this, I will quote from one who must be regarded as an expert witness of the subject. It was written in the later years of his life:
“I have said,” our writer proceeds, “that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music.–Music generally set me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did….”
Our witness continues speaking:
“This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, one which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organized or better constituted than mine, would not I suppose have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” I’m unsure how this maps onto the idea that evolution is false. Does Packard think that because Darwin laments the time he spent in scientific research at the expense of music, literature, and nature; and that this regret means that evolution is false? Evolution can still be true and you can feel regret for the time you spent in certain activities instead of others. This is a red herring, Darwin’s feelings on how he spent his time doesn’t impact the validity of the theory of evolution.
To repeat, “The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”
That remarkable confession is from the autobiography of Charles Darwin, who conceived the theory of organic evolution. (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, Colline, St. James Place, London, 1958, pg. 138f.)
There are too many interconnections uniting the physical and the spiritual in man to suppose that they came at random or by chance–not in a billion years or a billion times a billion years! It is against the law! What law? The law of common sense!
Now in conclusion: It is my conviction that to the degree the theory of evolution asserts that man is the product of an evolutionary process, the offspring of animals–it is false!
What application the evolutionary theory has to animals gives me no concern. That is another question entirely, one to be pursued by science. But remember, the scriptures speak of the spirit in animals and other living things, and of each multiplying after its own kind. (D&C 77:2; 2 Ne 2:22; Moses 3:9; Abr 4:11-12,24.)
And, I am sorry to say, the so-called theistic evolution, the theory that God used an evolutionary process to prepare a physical body for the spirit of man, is equally false. I say I am sorry because I know it is a view commonly held by good and thoughtful people who search for an acceptable resolution to an apparent conflict between the theory of evolution and the doctrines of the gospel… When the First Presidency speaks, we can safely accept their word. Pure hubris. What about other times they were wrong?
“And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place. But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest. D&C 124:45-46 [See also D&C 1:14,19,38.] If this isn’t spiritual manipulation I don’t know what is.
James E. Talmage, Church News, Nov. 21, 1931, 8 (in Meservy, p. 224). I do not regard Adam as related to–certainly not as descended from–the Neanderthal, the Cro-Magnon, the Peking or the Piltdown [!] man. Adam came as divinely created, created and empowered, and stands as the patriarchal head of his posterity–posterity, who, if true to the laws of God are heirs to the Priesthood and to the glories of eternal lives.
I wonder if I have some Neanderthal in me? Talmage was a trained geologist and certainly was familiar with evolutionary biology. He understood the conflict. There were various species of the Genus Homo. It appears, in his opinion, the Sapien species is from God and we must disregard all others.
B. H. Roberts in Keith H. Meservy, “Evolution & the Origin of Adam,” Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium, BYU, 1979, 224-225. [Emphasis added.] Elder B. H. Roberts, who is recognized by many as an erudite writer in the Church, explicitly expressed his disbelief in evolution. “The claims of evolution … are contrary to all experience so far as man’s knowledge extends. The great law of nature is that every plant, herb, fish, beast and man produces it kind.” (The Gospel, An Exposition of Its First Principles & Man’s Relationship to Deity, 8th ed. [SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1946], 282.) If scientists can show that the earliest strata of the earth have the simplest forms and the latest the most complex, “until it [the earth was] crowned with the presence of man–all that may be allowed. But that this gradation of animal and vegetable life owes its existence to the process of evolution is denied.” The Gospel, 282.) But what about the evidence for prehistoric man, or pre-Adamic races? Scientists “have hung the heaviest weights on the slenderest of threads; and I am inclined to the opinion that Adam was the progenitor of all the races of men whose remains have yet been found.” (Ibid., 283-84.) He concluded that Adam was “brought forth by the natural laws of procreation … in some other world” (Ibid., 280.) and was a “son of God” (Luke 3:38 [Moses 6:22]). He noted that “one other objection” could be “urged against the theory of evolution … it is contrary to the revelations of God…. the revelations which speak of the atonement of Jesus Christ…. if the hypothesis of evolution be true, if a man is only a product evolved from lower forms of life, better still producing better … then it is evident that there has been no ‘fall,’ such as the revelations of God speak of; and if there was no fall, there was no occasion for a Redeemer to make atonement for man … then the mission of Jesus Christ was a myth, the coinage of idle brains.” Love this (Ibid., 266.) He concluded that the Christian religion can be harmonized with evolution “on the same principle that the lion and the lamb harmonize, or lie down together–the lion eats the lamb” (Ibid., 267).
Roberts makes excellent points. If there is evidence of man before Adam then there would not be a fall. There would not be a need for the atonement. There wouldn’t be a need for Jesus and the mission he was commanded to perform.
Mark E. Petersen, Speeches of the Year, BYU, Sept. 2, 1973, 246-251. There has developed in recent years what almost amounts to a cult in certain fields. This is a cult which also points the finger of scorn at believers and would seek to make us ashamed of our faith. It is one which would have us reject the doctrine of a special creation and accept the unproven but time-worn theory that all life evolved from lower forms, that worms and microbes were our ancestors, and not God. Which would you have as your ancestor? It teaches that God is not our father, but that our first progenitors were microscopic forms which came into existence spontaneously, without cause, without reason, and without purpose. According to this theory of primordial life, man at one time developed from an ancestor which, as one writer described him, was “a hairy, four-legged beast which had a tail and pointed ears and lived in trees.” I ask you, which requires more faith, to believe that God is our father, or that some monkey-like ape gave us birth? And which would you rather have as your father, a creeping ape or Almighty God?
Our religion tells us that God is our Father. Some so-called intellectuals who point the finger at religion have become so domineering in their attitude toward those who do not believe their ghastly theories that they assume an attitude almost approaching tyranny. In some circles it has become persecution.
… Man, then, was always man, because he was made that way in the preexistence. Cows were always cows and horses were always horses, because they were made that way in the preexistence, when first they were made as spirits before they were tabernacled in flesh, since all things were made spiritually before they were temporally in the earth. Then trees were always trees, corn was always corn, cats were always cats, because they were made that way in the preexistence…
You believe in our Articles of Faith. One of them says, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Do you believe there was an Adam, described in the scripture as the first man? Do you believe there was such a thing as Adam’s transgression, sometimes called the Fall? Now I ask you, can you believe in Adam and in Darwinian evolution at the same time? Our religion teaches that there was no death in the world before the Fall. Do you believe that? And if you do, how can you accept Darwinism, which says there was death before Adam–or before the first human being, as some will accept it? This then becomes one of the great hurdles for LDS anthropologists, doesn’t it?
According to our doctrine, the fall of Adam and the process of death are inseparable. Death and Adam are inseparable; death and the resurrection are inseparable; the fall of Adam and the atonement of Christ are inseparable; Adam and Christ are inseparable. If there was no Adam, there was no fall. If there was no fall of Adam there was no atonement by Christ. If there was no atonement by Christ our religion is in vain, for if there was no Adam, there was no Christ either. If there is no Christ, where are we? Are you ready to reject your inspired religion, your faith in God and Christ, to accept a questionable philosophy that may be thrust upon you by some unbelieving, even atheistic, professor of an unproved hypothesis? This is certainly a case in point where we must do as Joshua of old said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Josh 24:15
Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! (SLC: Bookcraft, 1990) 188-189, 193-194. I believe that Adam’s physical body was the offspring of God, literally Moses 6:22; that he was begotten as a baby with a physical body not subject to death, in a world without sin or blood; and that he grew to manhood in that condition and then became mortal through his own actions. I believe that Adam’s physical body was begotten by our immortal celestial Father and an (not our) immortal celestial Mother, and thus not into a condition of mortality, a condition which would have precluded Jesus from being the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh D&C 93:11 –flesh meaning mortality. Jesus’ physical body was also begotten of the same celestial Father but through a mortal woman and hence into mortality.
Evolution would place Adam’s body as the offspring of animals, each generation having gradually evolved and improved in structure and in intelligence until a creature came into being that was more man-like than animal-like. This seems to me such a time-wasting process. We know that God can beget children: he is the Father of Jesus’ body and has also begotten innumerable spirit children in his own likeness and image. Why would the Father resort to animal evolution to bring his very own family into the new world that he had created, rather than he and the heavenly mother doing it in just one generation by begetting Adam themselves? Surely we would not deny the heavenly parents the privilege of begetting their own children. If our heavenly parents were but spirits only, there might be some cause for expecting they would need an alternate way to produce Adam’s body. But since they are tangible resurrected beings of flesh and bone, there seems to be no necessity to resort to the animals to produce bodies for Adam and Eve….
For the foregoing reasons, all of them taken from the teachings of the scriptures and the Brethren, I see the theory of organic evolution as contrary to the nature of God, insulting to the original status of man, and a subtle attack upon the mission of Jesus Christ. It may not seem so at first glance, but in terms of doctrine the theory of organic evolution is a concept that, if believed, would undercut the entire plan of salvation and our faith in the divinity and accomplishments of the Messiah. There must be a simple, straightforward way to make this situation evident to honest believers who espouse so-called theistic evolution, believers who may not realize they harbor a philosophy that is not only contradictory but also destructive. I do not think it is harmless. The end result is disaster, because the tenets of organic evolution are contrary to the plan of God.
In review then, what are the universal truths that are given to us in the scriptures that would have bearing on this subject? Do we really get universal truths from the scriptures? I can think of many a thing that is morally reprehensible in the scriptures. Are those universal truths? How do we prove somethings is true?
First, there is an eternal, perfect plan. Accepting this concept enables us to see the larger picture and prepares our minds against any false doctrine. This begging the question. You can’t start off by saying, “There is a perfect plan” we know this, and guess what, the plan we teach is that same one. This logic sets up the conditions by which the average member of the church is led to only believe what they are told. Again, free agency is subverted. This is especially so when one accepts the whole plan, with all of its parts extending from the premortal existence to the final judgment. To pick and choose, to alter and adapt, are not acceptable intellectual options when one is dealing with the plan of redemption. In other words, we should not “monkey” with the plan of salvation. The provisions of the plan are not negotiable.
Second, there is order in God’s plan; there are certain fixed principles that were in place before the world was formed. Therefore, the plan does not change. This concept can be another major stabilizing influence in our gospel studies. But these ‘fixed principles’ contradict sound science. There is not reconciliation.
Third, what sin is and how it got into the world are moral issues. If a person accepts organic evolution as the explanation for the origin of man on this earth, it seems he has to reject the explanation for the origin of sin that is given in every one of the standard works. Most people do not want to dip their toe into the origins of morality and the subjective/objective argument that ensues. For the believer, the idea that morality is subjective can be too much to entertain. This author understands the implications of the acceptance of evolution. However uncomfortable an idea may appear, if your master value is truth, then understanding both sides of the argument is essential.
We are able to turn to the scriptures for a statement of the principles related to man’s origin, but in some ways, with regard to this particular matter, we who live today are in a situation more critical than that of any other people. The high degree of scientific progress today, the sophisticated methods of gaining knowledge and formulating hypotheses, and the current advances in tests and measurements have all tended toward more complex hypotheses about man’s origin than those with which Lehi, Jacob, Abinadi, Alma, or even Joseph Smith had to deal. Matters are complicated also because the scientific method is regarded so highly in our society.
Therefore, we have to diligently search to understand the revelations well enough to find adequate explanations. The doctrinal framework has been given to us in the scriptures and by the prophets of this dispensation for our guidance and use. It takes considerable effort to comprehend it, but if we ignore it, we are left to our own limited understanding. We cannot be content with a mediocre acquaintance with the plan of God. What we are challenged to do is to find a way, a simple way, to put the doctrinal issues so clearly before our hearers that those with faith in the revelations and in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ will not unwittingly forsake the faith of our fathers–or of Elijah, Enoch, Nephi, and Joseph Smith–in order to try to be in harmony with what the world accepts.
There it is again, just believe. Look all these other guys believed. What about your heritage? I know it’s hard, and sometimes it does not make sense, but don’t forsake those that came before. This appeal to complexity in order to be simple is a real honey-doodle. Unless we take “considerable effort” to try and make sense of the scriptures and the contradictions it still might not make sense.
Probably never before have believers in the scriptures had as great a need as they do now to grasp the iron rod of Lehi’s dream to guide them through the subtle mists of darkness lest they wander in strange paths and become lost (see 1 Ne 8:19-21,24,30). On scientific grounds, I cannot effectively answer the evolutionist, whether he be in or out of the Church; but I can see what the theological and moral issues are, and I can see that the theory of evolution is deeply entrenched in almost every discipline and field of study in which modern man is engaged. It is a very popular philosophy, but it is capable of eroding men’s faith because it undercuts what God has revealed about the doctrine of Christ. The erosive effect of this theory are subtle, and it may not appear harmful to many at first. However, because of evolution’s inherent opposition to the mission of the Messiah, it may possibly be that in connection with this subject, more than with any other, everyone must eventually and individually answer Pilate’s question, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” Mt 27:22
This doctrine and it’s lack of answers broke me. It broke my faith. Looking back now, it awakened me to my state of unquestioning dogmatic belief and lack of rational thinking. Ironically, this talk underscores the preposterousness of Mormon salvation doctrine as it relates to science. He basically explains that this doctrine breaks many people unless you can overlook the scientific evidence.
Bruce R. McConkie, “Foolishness of Teaching,” BYU, (SLC: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981)] If we labor at it and if we struggle, the Spirit will be given by the prayer of faith. If we do our part we will improve and grow in the things of the Spirit until we get to a position where we can, being in tune, say what the Lord wants said. That is what is expected of us. And that is foolishness in the eyes of the world, in the disciplines of science, and sociology, and so on. But it is the foolishness of God, and the foolishness of God which is wiser than men is what brings salvation.
Let me say just a word about false doctrine. We are supposed to teach. Pitfalls we are supposed to avoid are the teaching of false doctrine; teaching ethics in preference to doctrine; compromising our doctrines with the philosophies of the world; entertaining rather than teaching, and using games and gimmicks rather than sound doctrine, coddling students, as President Clark expressed it.
We ought to judge everything by gospel standards, not the reverse. Do not take a scientific principle, so-called, and try to make the gospel conform to it. Take the gospel for what it is, and, insofar as you can, make other things conform to it, and if they do not conform to it, forget them. Forget them; do not worry. They will vanish away eventually. In the true sense of the word, the gospel embraces all truth. And everything that is true is going to conform to the principles that God has revealed.
“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” 2 Ne 28:15
I shall repeat the portion of that that deals with teaching. “Those who preach false doctrines,… wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” 2 Ne 28:15
I want to say something about this. That scripture is talking about people who have a form of godliness, as Paul expressed it, but who deny the power thereof (see 2 Tim 3:5). And the Lord quoted Paul in the First Vision using his very language. He is talking about those people of whom Paul said: They are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Tim 3:7
You talk about teaching false doctrine and being damned. Here is a list of false doctrines that if someone teaches he will be damned. And there is not one of these that I have ever known to be taught in the Church, but I am giving you the list for a perspective because of what will follow… Now here are some doctrines that weaken faith and may damn. It depends on how inured a person gets to them, and how much emphasis he puts on them, and how much the doctrine begins to govern the affairs of his life. Evolution is one of them. Somebody can get so wrapped up in so-called organic evolution that he ends up not believing in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Such a course leads to damnation.
Now I am not saying that those doctrines will damn in the sense that the first list that I read will, but they may. They certainly will lead people astray, and they will keep you from perfecting the kind of faith that will enable you to do good and work righteousness and perform miracles. I do not get very troubled about an honest and a sincere person who makes a mistake in doctrine, provided that it is a mistake of the intellect or a mistake of understanding, and provided it is not on a great basic and fundamental principle. If he makes a mistake on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, he will go down to destruction. But if he errs in a lesser way–in a nonmalignant way if you will–he can still straighten himself out without too much trouble.
Bruce R. McConkie, “The Bible: A Sealed Book” (CES Symposium publication, c. 1981), 1, 2, 6. As of now, the world is not ready to receive these truths [from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon]. For one thing, these added doctrines will completely destroy the whole theory of organic evolution as it is now almost universally taught in the halls of academia. For another, they will set forth an entirely different concept and time frame of the creation, both of this earth and all forms of life and of the sidereal heavens themselves, than is postulated in all the theories of men. And sadly, there are those who, if forced to make a choice at this time, would select Darwin over Deity….
In essence, McConkie is saying the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon that is in heaven explains the evolution of man, but the world is not ready. In what way would a loving god have me believe on this matter? Would he find fault in me if I used my reasoning faculties to believe the reality around me or in an unknown contradiction? I do not think so.
The official position of the Church in 1909
“The Origin of Man,” by the First Presidency of the Church. (See Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 4:200-206; see also 4:199.) This inspired writing sets forth the official position of the Church on the origin of man and therefore impinges on the evolutionary fantasies of biologists and their fellow travelers. As might be expected, it arouses great animosity among intellectuals whose testimonies are more ethereal than real…
The everlasting gospel; the eternal priesthood; the identical ordinances of salvation and exaltation; the never-varying doctrines of salvation; the same Church and kingdom; the keys of the kingdom, which alone can seal men up unto eternal life–all these have always been the same in all ages; and it shall be so everlastingly on this earth and all earths to all eternity. These things we know by latter-day revelation.
Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:95-96; Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., 681. Is there a conflict between science and religion? The answer to this basic query depends entirely upon what is meant by and accepted as science and as religion. It is common to say there is no such conflict, meaning between true science and true religion–for one truth never conflicts with another, no matter what fields or categories the truths are put in for purposes of study. But there most certainly is a conflict between science and religion, if by science is meant (for instance) the theoretical guesses and postulates of some organic evolutionists, or if by religion is meant the false creeds and dogmas of the sectarian and pagan worlds. “Oppositions of science falsely so called” were causing people to err “concerning the faith” even in the days of Paul. 1 Tim 6:20-21
There is, of course, no conflict between revealed religion as it has been restored in our day and those scientific realities which have been established as ultimate truth. The mental quagmires in which many students struggle result from the acceptance of unproven scientific theories as ultimate facts, which brings the student to the necessity of rejecting conflicting truths of revealed religion. If, for example, a student accepts the untrue theory that death has been present on the earth for scores of thousands or millions of years, he must reject the revealed truth that there was no death either for man or animals or plants or any form of life until some 6000 years ago when Adam fell.
As a matter of fact, from the eternal perspective, true science is part of the gospel itself; in its broadest signification the gospel embraces all truth. When the full blessings of the millennium are poured out upon the earth and its inhabitants, pseudo-science and pseudo-religion will be swept aside, and all supposed conflicts between science and religion will vanish away.
Just wait, keep believing, praying, paying, giving of your life, mental capacities, family relationships, finite time to the church. This will all get figured out when we die.
Bruce R. McConkie. BYU June 1, 1980
Heresy number two. There are those who say that revealed religion and organic evolution can be harmonized. This is both false and devilish. Yes, all truth is in agreement and true religion and true science bear the same witness. But there is no way to harmonize the false religions of the dark ages with the truths of science as they have now been discovered, and there is no way to harmonize the revealed religion which has come to us, with the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and the diverse speculations descending therefrom. Do not be deceived and be lead to believe that the famous document of the First Presidency, issued in the day of President Joseph F. Smith and entitled The Origin of Man, means anything except exactly what it says. The saving doctrine is that Adam stood next to Christ in power and might and intelligence before the foundations of the world were laid; that Adam was placed on this earth as an immortal being; that there was no death in the world for him or for any form of life until after the fall; that the fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world; that this temporal death passed upon all forms of life — upon man and animal and fish and fowl and plant life — that Christ came to ransom man and all forms of life from the effects of the temporal death brought into the world through the fall, and in the case of man, from a spiritual death also; and that this ransom includes a resurrection for man and for all forms of life.
Try as you may, you cannot harmonize these things with the evolutionary postulate that death has always existed and that the various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomically long periods of time. Try as you may, you cannot harmonize the theories of men with the inspired word that says:
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they [meaning Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. 2 Ne 2:22-26
The atonement of Christ is the great and eternal foundation upon which revealed religion rests. No man can be saved unless he believes that our Lord’s atoning sacrifice brings immortality to all and eternal life to those who believe and obey, and no man can believe in the atonement unless he accepts both the divine sonship of Christ and the fall of Adam.
If death has always prevailed in the world, there was no fall of Adam that brought death to all forms of life. If Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement. If there was no atonement there is no salvation, no resurrection, and no eternal life; nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us. If there is no salvation there is no God. The fall affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself.
Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 98ff. False Doctrines about the Fall. Heresies Concerning Adam and the Fall.
It is not generally recognized how far man may go astray if he does not understand the true doctrine about Adam and the fall. The fall of man is one of the great foundations upon which salvation rests. Unless and until it is placed in its proper relationship to all things, almost unbelievable heresies will rise to plague and curse mankind. From among the many that have so risen, and as a means of dramatizing the need to learn the truth about Adam and his fall, we shall now list several of the current heresies. It should be noted that these heresies, though often formally espoused by the same church or group of believers, disagree with and contradict each other, as one would expect the case to be in the realms of error.
Heresy 1: There is no Christian God, no Adam in the sense of his being created as the first man, and no Christ in the sense of Jesus being the Son of God.
Commentary: This is the atheistic, agnostic, worldly view held by hosts of people who assume the creation came chance and that life developed through evolutionary processes. It prevails among many who worship at the altars of science, and who espouse that godless communism which calls religion the opiate of the people. Such unbelievers pretend to find no need for divine guidance and intervention in the lives of men.
Heresy 2: There is no such thing as a fall of Adam and an atonement of Christ.
Commentary: This is the view of all pagan and heathen people who have no knowledge of the true God and the plan of salvation he ordained and established. It is, for instance, the false Islamic view. Their Koran teaches that there is no God but Allah and that he had no need for a son. Allah, it says, has but to speak and his will is done. It considers Jesus to be in the same class as Moses or one of the prophets, denies the doctrine of the divine Sonship, and claims to know nothing about the fall of man.
Heresy 3: Organic evolution is the process whereby all life on earth came into being, and man, as now constituted, is the end product of this process.
Commentary: This is the false view of many self-designated scientists. The tendency among them is to present Darwinian theories as established realities. These theories postulate the evolvement of all forms of life from lower orders over astronomically long periods of time. They assume death has always been present and that there never was a fall, and they make no provision for a plan of redemption and a resurrection of all forms of life. How is this a negative attribution toward science?
Heresy 4: Evolution is the process God used to create all forms of life except Adam, who came by special creation; or Adam was the end product of an evolutionary system used by the Lord for his own purposes.
Commentary: These false notions, together with whatever variations of them happen to be in vogue at any given time, are simply an attempt, on the part of those whose faith falls short of the divine standard, to harmonize the specious theories of men with the revelations of the Lord. They pledge a superficial allegiance to religious truth and allow for a form of divine worship without forsaking the theories of men. They, of necessity, assume that death has always existed on earth, that it did not have its beginning with the fall of Adam, and that there must be some other explanation for all the revelations which say that the atonement ransoms man from the effects of the fall. When those who espouse this view talk of a fall and an atonement, they falsely assume such applies only to man rather than to the earth and all forms of life, as the scriptures attest.
Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1970, 21-23. As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children; and if they have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others.
Today there are much worse things that can happen to a child than not getting a full college education. In fact, some of the worst things have happened to our children while attending colleges led by administrators who wink at subversion and amorality…
The tenth plank in Karl Marx’s Manifesto for destroying our kind of civilization advocated the establishment of “free education for all children in public schools.” There were several reasons why Marx wanted government to run the schools. Dr. A. A. Hodge pointed out one of them when he said, “It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or agnostics may be…”
Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, 26,27. More recently one of our Church educators published what he purports to be a history of the Church’s stand on the question of organic evolution. His thesis challenges the integrity of a prophet of God. He suggests that Joseph Fielding Smith published his work Man:His Origin and Destiny against the counsel of the First Presidency and his own brethren. This writer’s interpretation is not only inaccurate, but it runs counter to the testimony of Elder Mark E. Petersen, who wrote this foreword to President Smith’s book, a book I would encourage all of you to read:
“Some of us (members of the Council of the Twelve) urged (Elder Joseph Fielding Smith) to write a book on the creation of the world and the origin of man … The present volume is the result. It is a most remarkable presentation of material from both sources (science and religion) under discussion. It will fill a great need in the Church, and will be particularly invaluable to students who have become confused by the misapplication of information derived from scientific experimentation.” (Foreword, Man: His Origin and Destiny, Deseret Book, 1954.)
… When one understands that the author to whom I allude is an exponent for the theory of organic evolution, his motive in disparaging President Joseph Fielding Smith becomes apparent. To hold to a private opinion on such matters is one thing, but when one undertakes to publish his views to discredit the work of a prophet, it is a very serious matter. It is also apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings will stand the test of time. Please tell us more about things that will stand the test of time. For example, there is no way the earth will ever be deemed to be round, or spherical. It is flat in the scriptures. This knowledge will stand the test of time.
Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:101-103. This is from one of the discourses of Brigham Young: “We are all the children of Adam and Eve, and they are the offspring of Him who dwells in the heavens, the Highest Intelligence that dwells anywhere that we have any knowledge of…”
GOD: FIRST OF THE HUMAN FAMILY. Let me comment first upon the expression that God is the “first of the human family.” This same doctrine was taught by Joseph Smith. It is a fundamental doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the teachings of Joseph Smith, he beheld the Father and the Son in his glorious vision, and he taught that each had a body of flesh and bones. He has expressed it in these words: [D&C 130:22 quoted.]
He also taught that, literally, God is our Father; that men are of the same race–the race called humans; and that God, the Progenitor, or Creator, is the Father of the human race…
Ibid., Answers to Gospel Questions 5:7. From the revelations of the Lord we learn that there was no death in this world before the transgression of Adam and Eve.
Ibid., 112ff. A question from a reader: “Since reading your book, Man: His Origin and Destiny, I have been troubled by your difference in view of organic evolution and the age of man and the teachings of some of our most outstanding scientists who maintain that scientific evidence prove the earth and man to be much older than you claim. Your statements are contrary to what I have been taught and believe.”
If what I have written is in criticism of the present theories in relation to organic evolution and the age of man upon the earth, in which you believe, then I can readily see why you disagree with what I have taught.
I will state frankly and positively that I am opposed to the present biological theories and the doctrine that man has been of the earth for millions of years. I am opposed to the present teachings in relation to the age of the earth which declare that the earth is millions of years old. Naturally, since I believe in modern revelation, I cannot accept these so-called scientific teachings, for I believe them to be in conflict with the simple and direct word of the Lord that has come to us by divine revelation.
Cognitive dissonance. When there is a conflict in belief always believe the theological positions.
If you have the idea that all capable and intelligent professors and scientists hold to these evolutionary doctrines, let me tell you that there are many who do not do so, and they are just as renowned and capable in their fields. I hold membership in the Victoria Institute, or Philosophical Society of Great Britain. This society is largely composed of members who are opposed to the theories so prevalent in the educational world today. I have the official proceedings of this organization covering many years in which these theories are not approved. This, however, is not the matter for present consideration. I merely mention this in defense of the truth that not all the great thinkers and men of science are evolutionists and not all of them believe in these fantastic ages of the mortal earth.
Victoria Institute lol, as I read the first line of the page.
I regret that modern education in this country and largely in other countries, is dominated today by men holding these views. Having said this, permit me to say that I am not going to engage in a controversy over these so-called scientific views. I think it must be admitted, after all is said, that they are only theories. It is my purpose merely to call your attention to some of the revelations from the Lord and ask you to carefully consider them, to give me your explanation and show me how you can harmonize them with your evolutionary theories. I will quote a few passages that have been accepted as doctrine by the body of the Church.
- Moses 3:7 quoted to show Adam as first man.
- D&C 77:6 quoted to show that the earth has a temporal or temporary fallen existence wherein time is measured for only 7000 years including the millennium.
- Abraham 5:13 is referred to, showing that the earth was on Kolob’s time until the fall, therefore 1 “day” with God is 1000 of our years and the creation took 7 “days,” or 7000 years.
- 2 Ne 2:22-25 quoted, showing that things would have remained in their created state with no change, there was no death for any living thing until after the fall.
According to this [2 Ne 2:22-25]–and it must have been approved by the Lord or it would not be in the Book of Mormon–there was no death of any living creature before the fall of Adam! Adam’s mission was to bring to pass the fall and it came upon the earth and living things throughout all nature. Anything contrary to this doctrine is diametrically opposed to the doctrines revealed to the Church! If there was any creature increasing by propagation before the fall, then throw away the Book of Mormon, deny your faith, the Book of Abraham and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants! I took this statement very seriously.
Earl C. Tingey, “The Responsibility of the Teacher in a Religious Setting,” Annual Opening Banquet at Ricks College (BYU-Idaho), August 28, 1997, 10 ff. President Joseph F. Smith has given us the following wonderful counsel about how we can properly teach and be in tune with the Spirit. “Our young people are diligent students. They reach out after truth and knowledge with commendable zeal and in so doing they must necessarily adopt for temporary use many theories of men. As long, however, as they recognize them as scaffolding, useful for research purposes, there can be no special harm in them. It is when these theories are settled upon as basic truth that trouble appears and the searcher then stands in grave danger of being led hopelessly from the right way. Philosophical theories of life have their place and use, but they are out of their place in church schools or anywhere else when they seek to supplant the revelations of God. [Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places (SLC: Deseret Book Company, 1975), 143.
Several weeks ago, the local papers carried an article entitled, “Neanderthals were not us.” (Deseret News, July 11, 1997). New DNA testing of the bones of the original specimen of Neanderthals found in Germany in 1856 has led to the conclusion that human lineage did not originate from Neanderthal lineage. The new findings conclude that Neanderthals are a distinct species that contributed nothing to the modern human gene.
In Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, he said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
The act of participating in this extensive exercise helped me observe a variety of methods the LDS church uses in the service of combating ideas. These methods coalesced into the following methods used in an effort to not only combat the theory of evolution, but any oppositional stance:
- Insult the topic you are attempting to combat
- Attempt to establish doubt of the content based on fear of the alternative
- Interpreting as virtuous, faith in dogma over belief in observed reality
It was sad to read insult after insult. Some subtle (i.e. so-called scientist, just a theory, so-called intellectuals), and some not so subtle. Using fear tactics on the subject of “who would you like to be your ancestor, God almighty or some ape?” Many of the subversions of the theory of evolution were non-sequiturs. It doesn’t matter what you want to be true, what matters is what is true. Finally, one of the most frustrating tactics is the idea that it is more virtuous to have faith in something patently false with the hopes of a future scientific understanding that will completely upend our understanding of physics, biology, chemistry, geology, etc. I thought that God was the great scientist, the one that created it all. It appears that Mormon prophets consistently choose to be on the wrong side of knowledge of the universe and our place in it time after time. What would be an indicator that we should trust what prophets say about the nature of reality? I can’t come up with one.