What do you think about Evolution?

Mormon HereticBYU, Mormon 121 Comments

I know the LDS church has no official views on evolution. I had someone ask me what I thought about it, and frankly, I haven’t given much thought about it. As I understand, there are people at BYU who believe in evolution, but I think they believe that evolution has limits, and don’t rule out that God created the world.

DPC commented on my blog,

I think that the problem with the evolution versus creationism argument is that a lot of people have no clue what they are talking about. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have seen mistakes made on the issue.

First of all, I think you have to differentiate between natural selection and evolution. They are not the same thing. Natural selection accounts for differences *within* species. For that discovery alone, Darwin becomes one of the greatest biologists of all time. No one can dispute that natural selection works. It explains the variations that we see in, say, dogs (think Chihuahua versus Great Dane; same species, huge variation).

Evolution on the other hand refers to the creation of *new* species. Darwin thought that natural selection may have been the mechanism whereby new species were created, but he never had any proof.

NeoDarwinism (which combines genetics with natural selection) postulates that genetic mutation combined with natural selection is the mechanism of evolution. But even that theory is not without problems, and many NeoDarwinists are loath to admit it, but the facts do not fit the theory particularly well. Every time someone says they have found a *missing link*, all it does it show another fully-formed species that is most definitely not a hybrid between and earlier species and a later species.

That being said, however, intelligent design is unscientific to my mind because it attempts to fill in the gaps in present theory of evolution without empirical justification. I think that you can’t reconcile the two. I think that scientists (e.g. Richard Dawkins-an advocate of evolution) should lose the overconfident swagger, admit that the current evolutionary theories are flawed and look to developing better theories that explain the apparent history of life on Earth, rather than try to paint their opponents as uneducated, superstitious buffoons.

So how do people reconcile evolution with creationism? What do you think about “intelligent design”?

Comments 121

  1. It seems to me that most of my fellow Latter-day Saints care little about the subject. To them it doesn’t seem relevant to their daily lives.

    Unless they are involved in scientific pursuits (specifically biology), or are confronted with some ardent atheists who try use the idea of Evolution as a wedge to pry people away from Christianity, then it is not something they feel the need to worry about.

    Why should they care? Science seems to have failed most people at providing the answers to the questions they most care about – How can I be happy? Where can I find love? & (sadly) Who will win American Idol?

    But maybe we have just evolved to think this way.

  2. I accept evolution; I think new earth creationism is ridiculous; intelligent design is a back door way for people to try to teach creationism – a pseudo-scientific idea designed for a political purpose.

    The early Church leaders used to clarify their opposition to “godless evolution”. That distinction is important, imo, but it has been lost since around the 1950’s. That’s too bad.

  3. I also accept evolution as an explanation of how it was all done. Although I’m still open to any better explanations. Plus a ‘God involved’ evolution would be fine by me.

    But intelligent design must surely be avoided. It is a back door way to teach creationism as Ray points out here.

    If anything the Church should stay clear of intelligent design and stick to BYU’s way of teaching evolution. The baptists and evangelicals will no doubt be pleased.

  4. I can’t add anything to 2, 3, or 4: evolution happened (and happens); it is not in conflict with theism; and (it turns out) ID isn’t theistic evolution–it’s an organized excuse to try to teach creationism.

    And I’ve run into very few members of the Church who have a problem with evolution, to the extent they care enough to think about it.

  5. Meh. Put me firmly in the camp of ‘don’t know, don’t care anymore’. I can get all worked up about the topic, but my CHIEF complaint lies not with natural selection NOR with evolution NOR with intelligent design NOR with creationism, but the lack of scientific rigor on the part of all camps involved in the debate and the sheer stupidity that is postulated and we are expected to believe by ALL parties involved. If you want me to care about this, then someone needs to start formulating intelligent positions and not approaching the topic with an agenda.

    You know the biggest reason I don’t listen to most of the pro-Evolutionist arguments? Because they are built around the agenda of atheism. Plain and simple. Dawkins may be brilliant, but as long as he is promulgating an agenda using pseudo-science, I’m not listening to his blathering. THE SAME APPLIES TO EVERY CREATIONIST AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN promoter. If you want my attention, approach the topic with rigor and care.

    Until the church decides to come out with an authoritative statement of ‘this is exactly what we believe about evolution, natural selection and exactly how the world was created’, my choice is to believe that natural selection occurs and the rest isn’t important enough to worry about most days.

  6. It seems to me that for most people to accept evolution at all they will need to confront to some degree whether or not they are biblical literalists. I’ve seen someone try to dance around literal acceptance of the version of events in the Old Testament AND acceptance of evolution. Tied himself up in a knot that was both perplexing and humourous.

    Another issue at the core of these kinds of discussions is that of certainty. Those who have to have certainty tend to place themselves at the extreme ends of whatever discussion is happening. Those who can live without it do so and remain open to “new light and knowledge”, from whatever source it comes.

  7. “I’ve seen someone try to dance around literal acceptance of the version of events in the Old Testament AND acceptance of evolution. Tied himself up in a knot that was both perplexing and humourous.”

    What exactly do you mean by “literal” when talking about this person? I consider myself an OT literalist and believe in Evolution. If you mean “believe exactly what the Bible text says,” then I probably am not. If you mean “believe in the Biblical history” then I probably am. Most of the views on the subject are about interpretation with a wide range between traditional literalism and strict symbolism.

  8. What would be the distinction between “intelligent design” and “”God-involved evolution”? I guess I’m not quite up to speed on the definition of “intelligent design”

  9. MH-

    I look forward to your many of your posts because I typically learn something new. I have to admit this one is a sleeper for me though. I am one of those members that doesn’t care and probably never will. For a moment I searched within me to see if I could possibly care…..and I found nothing. Until next time…..

  10. Richard Dawkins points out a seldom considered hole in ID: accepting a designer leads to more questions than answers, the biggest of which is ‘who designed the designer?’

    This is where Mormonism brings to the table a unique perspective, because of the theological tenant that God himself was once a man who had a God of his own. That may shift our view from thinking of evolution within the scope of our earth, and consider it from a more universal and eternal perspective.

    Even if we accept a McConkie-esque traditional creationist view, is it not possible that as we follow the generations of Gods backwards in time, we might find that a very godless evolutionary process is responsible for their existence? I.e. even if humans are indeed ‘traditional’ creations of God (in the sense that your kids are creations of you) is it not possible that God himself (and his ancestry) is a product of evolution, and ultimately abiogenesis?

    Unfortunately, attempts to answer that question take us far outside the boundaries of science, but it worthwhile to consider the Mormon understanding of God in this context.

  11. I believe that God is the creator of all things, including aspects of reality even the angels may be only dimly aware of. I believe that evolution is His Standard Operating Procedure, again including scales of creation we don’t yet recognize. Sorry if the first statement bothers the left. Sorry if the second statement bothers the right. But that is what I believe.

  12. I used to accept evolution because the evidence in its favor is overwhelming.

    Then I joined the Church and I thought that evolution must be wrong despite the overwhelming evidence, because I thought that’s what the Church teaches and I believed that everything the Church teaches must be correct.

    Then I found out that that’s not exactly what the Church teaches (and I stopped believing that the Church is always right anyway) so I accepted evolution again.

    Now that I no longer believe that there is a god, I fully accept the overwhelming evidence for evolution.

  13. I.e. even if humans are indeed ‘traditional’ creations of God (in the sense that your kids are creations of you) is it not possible that God himself (and his ancestry) is a product of evolution, and ultimately abiogenesis?

    I used to believe (speculatively, of course) something very like that.

  14. I think the “middle-path” expressed here (that God uses evolution to create/organize worlds) is interesting, given that I’m in Kentucky and Evangelicals go to great lengths to disprove Evolution. I even heard a radio-preacher rant about it yesterday as I was driving to work. Not too far from here in Cincinnati is the Creation Science Museum, dedicated to exploring the evidence for literal Bible Creationism.

    It’s funny to me only because, to us, an attack on the Bible isn’t an attack on the fundamental claims of our Church. If the Bible goes down, we don’t necessarily go down with it, since we believe it’s only true as translated correctly (and thus we pick it apart and de-literalize it).

    But when somebody attacks the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I’ve seen members of the Church have fits. That’s a scientific endeavor worthy of our study, because we have to protect our foundational claims!

    It’s just interesting. For me, I know that parables are Christ’s modus operandi so to speak… he said the Kingdom of Heaven is a pearl, that faith is a seed, that we’re candlesticks, and that man was created from dust. To me, they’re all parables… not to be interpreted any way you want, but to be interpreted by the Spirit to help us learn and grow… they’re tools in the hands of the faithful.

    I don’t have a time machine. Evolution and Intelligent Design are both just storybook tales to me (“How Post-Modern of you,” Russ told me). I don’t have direct evidence of both. I’m not a scientist, nor do I understand Carbon dating or DNA or anything like that. I believe God with judge me on how I used those stories of course.

  15. Post

    Thanks for comments all. I’d love to hear from somebody who knows exactly what they teach in biology class at BYU. Like many of you, this isn’t really a topic that is usually on my radar, so I do not have strong opinions either way. While the Bible seems to indicate the earth is only 10,000 years old (plus or minus a few thousand years), it seems that archaeologists have unearthed remains of men which are much older than the Bible would indicate. For example, I believe Stonehenge is much older than Adam would be. For those who believe God uses evolution, how do Mormon experts rationalize this paradox?

    I have a friend who is trying to debunk evolution as unsound. He asked me what I would say if I bore my testimony on the subject. My reaction was to say that I’d never walk up in a Fast and Testimony meeting and introduce the topic. I am aware of some leaders in the 1920’s talking about the follies of evolution in General Conference, but I really am too uninformed to promote any sort of rational conclusions. So for those of you who want to promote your cause for evolution or creationism, present your case–I am fertile ground, and would love to be influenced to the “correct” way to think about this topic.

    Thank you Steve for the Nibley link. I did a quick browse through the article (it is long), and found it interesting. I’ll have to read it more slowly to really digest it. It appears he, like many here, are pretty middle of the road when it comes to creationism vs evolution, and he does mention that Mormonism has much to offer on the subject.

  16. It is sad to see such apathy towards a branch of science that is so central to our understanding of what it means to be human. It is also central to our health and well-being and our understanding of where we fit in this world.

    And what does it say if we believe God uses evolution has his means of creation? It means God is a scientist who works through physical laws that can be understood by men. Which men/women? Why, scientists of course.

    Could it be that the true Prophets in our midst are those who reject ancient human myth and instead look for truth in God’s creations? Kepler? Galileo? Einstein? Darwin?

    Can you begin to see why so many in the ‘god-less’ scientific community view religion as the dark cloud seeking to snuff out the light of truth?

    By the way, I learned evolution at BYU where I had a professor spend several hours castigating creationism/ID in all its forms.

  17. I think that evolution is a no-brainer. Contrary to the quotation MH had on his blog, microevolution (what the person refers to as merely natural selection) and macroevolution (what the person refers to as evolution) aren’t these two drastically different things. So, saying that we witness microevolution but macroevolution is something farfetched, unseen, is kinda silly. Macroevolution is just microevolution on a long-scale (geological) time basis. And in fact, we *do* observe speciation. The issue now (which we see creationists/intelligent designers retreat to in their arguments) is now they want to reclassify the evidence that we do have and then make all kinds of explanations favorable to their cause for it (such as microevolution being intrinsically different than macro…that way, they say things like, “OK, so we were here to see one fly speciate into a different fly [which is actually proof of macroevolution], but this doesn’t show how particles became people. And scientists could not have been there to see that so that’s speculation mwahaha.” or “OK, so this plant speciated into a different species, but that’s because there were different “kinds” created…one “kind” doesn’t change into another though mwahahah.”

    anyway, not the place for that debate.

    The thing is that evolution doesn’t really necessitate atheism. I guess the reason it might seem that a lot of vocal people hitch atheism along with evolution is because they do not want to assume the theistic creator without distinct evidence.

  18. The best concise statement of the subject is that science explains the hows and religion explains the whys of existence. Science and religion are two different ways of knowing. There’s no conflict because the domains don’t overlap.

    Evolution certainly happened and is still happening. God does seem to use natural laws to accomplish his ends. Even the miracles, I believe, are a result of God knowing more physics than us. The more deeply I study physics, in fact, the more inclined I am to consider every microevent that occurs in every instant of being all over the universe as a miracle.

  19. Mormon Heretic: I’d love to hear from somebody who knows exactly what they teach in biology class at BYU.

    See Steve P’s blog here. He is in the biology department at BYU. I should add that evolution and Mormonism has been discussed at great length over the last 5 year in the bloggernacle. Lots of people are theistic evolutionists. (And as others have noted, intelligent design is a loaded phrase that carries a lot more baggage than the more innocuous “theistic evolution”).

    Mormons and Evolution was a good blog that ran for a while but ran out of steam as well for those interested.

  20. “I’d love to hear from somebody who knows exactly what they teach in biology class at BYU.”

    My knowledge is dated–I was a teaching assistant for the general-ed level of Biology at BYU some 25 years ago. My recollection is that the scientific principles of natural selection are taught (and over in the geology department, dinosaur bones are studied), and that evolution is most definitely not ruled out as a possible mechanism by which God created the earth. IIRC, the point in the teaching cycle where we get to evolution is prefaced with a reminder that we don’t know how the earth was created, only the purpose for which it was created. Back then, the lecture was perennially good for a complaining letter or two to the Editor of the Daily Universe from some poor soul shocked out of their wits that evolution was taught at BYU.

    Anyway, that’s the mode of thinking that I’ve adopted personally about science and religion: God commanded us to study science (among other things); knowing the principles and theories of science helps us understand and grow; the mechanism of how the earth is created doesn’t matter, only why; and religion gives us the answer on why.

  21. #16 – Just to correct a minor point, since I live in Cincinnati, the Creation Museum is in Kentucky, not Cincinnati. It is a few miles from the Cincinnati airport, which also is in Kentucky. (See, it’s understandable here for Kentuckians to have such a museum, but we Ohioans . . .)

  22. I’m waiting for R. Gary to show up and start arguing for no death before the fall.

    My basic stance is similar to what’s been expressed – that we don’t know the exact mechanism yet. However, even the Church has left open (explicitly) the possibility that evolution was the origin of Adam’s body. The last “official statement”, I believe, was “The Origin of Man” written by the First Presidency in 1909 – which was reprinted in the February 2002 Ensign. After emphasizing that there actually was a literal “first man”, and stressing that this first man was not MERELY a smart ape but a combination of mortal body and immortal spirit created as a living soul by God, it includes this fascinating statement:

    “True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.”

    Again, this was reprinted in 2002, so I take it as the current “official” statement on the subject – which means “The Church” does NOT reject evolution.

  23. I believe it took the earth 4.5 billion years to form into what we see it today. And I believe God created it to take that long. I have no clue as to when exactly man first appeared on the earth. The Biblical record is highly sparse, and the archaeological record is inconclusive also. Generally speaking, recorded history shows that humanity was around 6000 years ago. I’ll stick with that until further evidence shows up.

    Intelligent design does a disservice to those wishing to learn about science without a fear of their belief in God threatened. You gotta be able to take a step in the dark, into the unknown and still realize that God is still there. Religions have tended, over the millennia, to limit the scope and breath of both this world and the God who created it. We should be able to move forward in life realizing that what we perceive to be reality can actually be completely different. God will still be there. But how we perceive him will change, and probably get clearer.

  24. Ray – okay, not in Cincinnati. I’m in Lexington, and basically everything north of Paris is just considered Cincinnati.

    So what I meant was, it’s in the LAND of Cincinnati, not Cincinnati itself.

  25. In spite of the above post which claims otherwise, the Church does have official views on evolution. And in spite of Ray’s claim to the contrary, the apostles and prophets who have discussed it in Church publications have NOT “left open” the possibility that evolution was the origin of Adam’s body. Mormon Heretic is entitled to view the Church’s official position as unofficial. And Ray is certainly entitled to interpret any or all words in the First Presidency statement according to his own understanding and contrary to the apostles and prophets. But while the Church has published multiple apostolic statements refuting the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man, at the same time, the Church has never published an apostolic statement endorsing that idea.

  26. Well, the prophets have taught us to learn everything there is to know about every subject, including science, and they’ve told us to read the best books, which certainly include “Origin of Species”, so I take my cue from that. This is not a church that’s antipathetic toward learning. Denying evolution, the central idea that makes sense of all the life sciences, is a stance that’s against study, knowledge, learning, and science. Thank goodness our church isn’t one of those who take such a stance.

  27. R. Gary and I have gone the rounds on this more than once, and I refuse to do so any more. There are apostles and prophets who accept evolution (as long as God is the creator), and there are apostles and prophets who don’t. Given their lack of agreement on the subject, I’ll go with the signed statement of the First Presidency, published originally at the beginning of the 20th Century and reprinted at the beginning of the 21st Century, over the opinions of competing apostles and prophets.

    As R. Gary knows, my stance is pretty simple when it comes to evolution. We don’t know the specifics of creation, but we insist God was involved. My thoughts on the general issue of relying on prophets to teach non-prophetic topics are quite simple. They aren’t called to be scientists; they are called to be special witnesses of Christ. To me, that’s an important distinction, and I wish we would stop expecting them to be experts in areas that really are irrelevant to their callings.

  28. Ray makes a lot of noise but he still hasn’t bothered to tell us where and when the LDS Church has published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man.

  29. R. Gary, I have never claimed that such a statement exists – and you’ve admitted that in the past. You know that’s not what I’m saying – and you’ve admitted that in the past. NOTHING I’ve said in ANY comment here comes close to implying what your #33 requests. Such a comment is beneath your intelligence, frankly.

    Let’s drop this once again, ok?

  30. You can’t do it without hurling insults, but you do admit that the LDS Church has never published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man. And, since Church published apostolic statements refuting evolution are (according to you) “irrelevant to their callings,” your view of the Church position on evolution stands. So be it.

  31. Where have I hurled any insults here? Quote one, please. The only thing close is that I said your request for something I never said existed is beneath your intelligence. That’s not an insult – not even close. I actually said you are too intelligent to dismiss my words with a charge based on a claim I never made.

    We have gone over and over and over this topic, R. Gary – and it always ends in you accusing me of something I’ve never said. However, now that you insist, let me make this CRYSTAL clear:

    “The Church” has published LOTS of “apostolic statements” on LOTS of topics – and quite a few of them no longer are accepted in the Church. You know that as well as I do – at least I assume so. Are you really saying that EVERYTHING that has been published of Parley P. Pratt and Brigham Young and Mark E. Peterson and Bruce R. McConkie and Ezra Taft Benson and EVERY OTHER apostle – that ALL of their “apostolic statements” – are correct and serve as the foundation of official Church doctrine? Seriously, are you really saying that?

    If not, I stand by my comment:

    I will take the signed statement of the FP over individual statements of apostles – and that means my view of “the Church position on evolution” is that it is false IF God is removed from the process, but that we simply don’t know exactly how God created life on this planet.

    I’m not saying the Church “endorses the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man” – AND I NEVER HAVE. That’s a straw man of your own making, since I’ve NEVER made that claim.

    All I’m saying is that evolution as part of the creative process of God has not been denied by the united voice of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and/or the First Presidency. A statement leaving open the possibility that Adam MIGHT have begun his life as an embryo has been signed by the First Presidency. Again, you know that’s all I’ve said. It’s all I’ve ever said about the Church’s position on evolution.

    So, if I am wrong, you simply need to submit a signed statement from the united apostles and prophets saying God did not use an evolutionary process in the creation of the world and man. Simple.

    Your turn. Please submit such a unanimous statement.

  32. Everyone,

    In searching lds.org to look for the statement I requested of R. Gary, I found the following statement – published in the same February 2002 Ensign where the 1909 FP statement was reprinted – in the section entitled, “Making the Most of This Issue”. The statement says (emphasis mine):

    Ever wondered about the Church’s OFFICIAL TEACHINGS on the creation of mankind and evolution? Find assistance for your study of Genesis 1–3 [Gen. 1–3] on p. 26″

    – and p.26 is the beginning of the 1909 FP statement I referenced in my previous comments.

    So, according to the Ensign, the “Church’s official teachings on the creation of mankind and evolution” is the statement I have quoted as the Church’s official statement about evolution.

    The link is:

    Making the Most of This Issue: February 2002

  33. In September 1964 I was in the old mission home in Salt Lake and heard Joseph Fielding Smith state “the church’s position on evolution is that it is a great fake”. I didn’t believe it then as a 19 year old and I don’t believe it now. It didn’t change how I felt about his other teachings and I’ve since decided that on this subject he didn’t know what he was talking about. What it did for me over the years is to take what the GAs say with a grain of salt and not treat their words as scripture. Just good men with interesting opinions a forum in which to express them.

  34. The part that bothers me the most is that ID is often seen as a way to teach religion in schools. Are schools or learning organizations afraid to really admit there really is a God and that perhaps he had something to do with life happening on our planet?

    Another part that bothers me is how there are a lot of people who side with evolution arguments and yet also believe in special creation through Gods command. The part that these people seem to miss is that the main proponents of evolution are in favor, in heavily favor, that there is no God and especially that no “Human-type” super being had anything to do with how life came about on this planet. The argument for evolution is that there was no God intellect in the design of the earth and placement of life on the earth, for to admit that means that they would be co-mingling evolution with Intelligent Design! Evolution must stay as far away from God in order for their theories to work. Evolutionary theories cannot even hint at their being any type of “intelligent” hand in the process they propose.

    Think how funny that sounds? If evolutionists could erase one word from the vocabulary it would be the word “intelligence”. ID has brought more to the table to support special creation than evolution has brought to the table to refute it! It is so true and evolutionists are pissed!

  35. In D&C didn’t Joseph F. Smith have a vision of the afterlife? Didn’t he see Father Adam? Hello, folks!! The proof is in the pudding!!!

  36. You will have a difficult time finding an evolutionary biologist who will tell you that evolution *proves* there is no god. What they say is that evolution *requires* no god. That is an important distinction.

    We all understand that man has created many concepts of god in order to fill in the gaps in his understanding of the world. As we learn more about our nature these concepts of god must be removed. That is a painful process for those who have social/economic interests in these concepts of god and they will, and always have, fought back against the progress of science in illuminating the dark areas of our nature.

    The erroneous human concepts of god must be swept away from our understanding of nature. Certainly God has nothing to fear from that processes.

  37. Well, I guess I have to retype my response, since it didn’t get rescued.

    Since R Gary implies that the church holds an official position, I decided to look into it. One can look for official church positions at http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues

    Listed are positions on Political Neutrality, Child Abuse, Abortion, Same-Gender Attraction, Embryonic Stem-cell Research, Euthanasia and Prolonging Life, Capital Punishment. There is nothing on Intelligent Design, evolution, or anything else.

  38. Does a link to the Pew Research Group trip the spam filter? This is the second time my comment has been deleted. Do a search for evolution on the website above, and you can read a transcript of Russell M Nelson talking about evolution. It seems his comments can be interpreted either way. Nelson certainly believes God created man, but he doesn’t get into any details of how it was done.

  39. MH

    I don’t really want this to turn into a General Authority comment fest. While I greatly respect the GA’s for their views on faith, tithing, Missionary work, etc, they are spiritual leaders, not scientists. I’d prefer people like R Gary focused on why creationism/evolution is correct–not go through a quote fest of general authority comments.

    I appreciate Rob Osborn’s comments–I’ve only heard intelligent design in the news. Do they actually want to talk about the Genesis creation in schools?

  40. Of course you don’t want a Church leader quote fest. If they’re muzzled you can step up and speak for the Church yourself.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but the Church is represented by its leaders.

  41. R. Gary,

    Please add something constructive instead of being combative. Please find an “official church statement”. You are welcome to add scriptures, but your tone is entirely confrontational, and unappreciated.

  42. I found an interesting quote from Richard Bushman at http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=148

    There is a clue given in a statement recently posted on the church’s newsroom Web page defining the bounds of church doctrine. It says, “Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of church doctrine.”

    The fact is that in Mormondom, the revelation doesn’t come solely to the president of the church, but rather infuses the whole church. Everyone is to receive revelation for their own positions, whether as a father or a bishop or a Sunday school teacher, or whatever it is. And that extends from church doctrine to political statements.

    So, Mormons believe that all of those strong injunctions to follow the prophet are one end of a paradox. The other end, they say, is that they have to decide for themselves whether they believe what the prophet says. So there is legitimacy within the church for taking an independent position, contrary to what the president of the church may say.

  43. Unappreciated by whom? I appreciate his comments. He provided a useful link, which I followed and found informative. The final comment was simply a statement: the church is represented by its leaders. Surely that’s not a point in controversy, is it?

  44. Also, I don’t know about the deleted comments. Theoretically, since this is a post you wrote, you should be able to go through the comments in the site admin panel dealie and look through comments. But I did that, and I didn’t see anything that was spamm’d.

  45. One of the glories of our church is that we need not be limited by anyone’s narrow interpretation of things, scientific or otherwise. As someone said above, God gave us science for a reason. It is our duty to search, to explore, to inquire, to attempt to prove or disprove — everything.

  46. “the Church does have official views on evolution” which is why they financed Talmadge to do a series in support of the theory of evolution. Interesting, the only time the Church put money behind a speaker on the subject was the pro-evolution camp.

  47. MH (and everyone else),

    I went through the comments restricted by the spam filter page after page and found four that were not spam (out of the multiple thousands of actual spam comments). They were buried among much of the actual spam, so they weren’t readily apparent. I have released them, including the one from MH that included the Pew Forum link (#48) – and deleted the duplicate comment from MH that did not include the Pew Forum link. I have no idea why they got caught by the spam filter, but I will fix any other issues like this if they happen again.

    Back to the discussion thread.

  48. Ray,

    Thanks for finding my comments. I knew something strange was going on.

    I want to thank Catania (51) for the link to S Faux. I often read his essays (but missed this one), and they are excellent! It is just the sort of information I was looking for, and I’d like to emphasize a few of his points, because I found them quite persuasive. For anyone looking to reconcile evolution with the Genesis story, I think this post is a *must read*. A few points are listed below.

    Can one be a scientist and still respect the creation story given in the book of Genesis? To me, the answer is yes. This is not to imply that Genesis gives an acceptable scientific account of the origins of life. It does not. However, the book gives a remarkable poetic account that strongly correlates with the scientific sequence of evolutionary history.

    About 14 billion years ago (in round numbers) there was an immense explosion of light and heat (called the “big bang”) from a singularity that scattered matter and gases into an expanding universe…. Our earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago in a fiery and molten state taking millions upon millions of years to cool down.

    Below is the Biblical sequence of events, along with some scientific correspondence.

    DAY ONE:

    The first two verses of Genesis seem to be a prologue pronouncing what God did.

    ESV: Genesis 1:1-2
    1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

    In the FIRST DAY of God’s creation, there is this declaration:

    ESV: Genesis 1:3
    3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

    Ancient peoples knew nothing of a “big bang,” but the suddenness of the “light” is meaningful. Genesis and science agree on the sudden beginning of the universe involving light and matter without form.

    DAY TWO:

    On the SECOND DAY of God’s creation there was a separation of gaseous water in the sky and liquid water on earth.

    ESV: Genesis 1:6
    6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse [sky] in the midst of the waters… .
    7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.

    These verses seems to declare that liquid water on earth was a significant event, as if a watery atmosphere and ground water would promote the existence of life. If so, then science would agree.

    This is the sort of thing I have been looking for–a way to reconcile the biblical and scientific realms.

  49. What is remarkable is that people comment with such certainty about what happened so many years ago without any human witness or any reliably consistent record. We have such a poverty of data, with little revelatory insight. Even as faithful a proponent of Darwinism as Daniel Dennett finally has to conclude that Darwinism is a story about what could have happened. The same could be said about every story that has been proposed to account for evolution.

    So we are left to construct our little narratives on the basis of the data we have, and there are always multiple possible narratives. The less data we have about enormous time spans full of daily events, the more possible accounts we will be able to construct.

    We won’t really know about how the world came to be until we get a complete picture. And the only way to get a complete and certified picture is if God, or some sort of direct witness, tells us in more detail than He has so far done how the earth (and the universe) really came to be.

    In the meantime, it seems to me the most interesting question regarding evolution isn’t about the science (since the scientific narratives will change as the datasets and the political requirements change). Rather it is about the cultural meaning of the conflict itself: Why is the conflict taking place? What is at stake? What does each side have to win or lose? What will happen to us politically and culturally if we commit ourselves to one unsubstantiated narrative rather than another? What do scientists gain by feigning certainty regarding what they cannot possibly be certain about?

    In answering those questions, we can have interesting discussions. We can gather a dataset that isn’t so limited by time and distance. We will still be stuck with some speculating, but not so much speculating as we have to do in determining on the basis of a ten-inch-by-four-feet-by-twelve-feet data sample what happened 500 million years ago.

  50. RGary,

    It is interesting that your stance on Evolution is right in line with Rod Meldrum’s stance, and you are as McConkie-Joseph-Fielding-Smith-esque as he is. People need to learn about the controversy between the various general authorities in the early 20th century to understand the facts of the matter. It didn’t help that Joseph Fielding Smith tried to use his muscle to promote his own personal beliefs into the mainstream of the Church. This is as unfortunate an occurrence as what happened with Blacks and the Priesthood. You do nothing but try to make it seem that the Church is against evolution because of your own set of favorite GA quotes. Open your eyes to what was taught by B H Roberts and Elder Talmage, and what was believed by President McKay, yes, the prophet and seer and Revelator, President McKay, when he was the prophet, stated that it was “UNFORTUNATE THAT NOW ITS IN PRINT” referring to Joseph Fielding Smith’s book. THERE IS NO REVELATION ON EVOLUTION AND ONE IS FREE TO TAKE A STANCE ON IT ONE WAY OR THE OTHER IN ONES OWN PERSONAL OPINIONS.

    What I haven’t been able to reconcile in my own mind is the 7000 year time period for man, and how the bible and D&C 77 says that there has only been 7000 years since Adam. It is easy enough for an evolutionist to make that all figurative. I for one am looking for a better way to harmonize it. It is one thing to have the ability to believe what one wants on evolution. it is another entirely to actually harmonize it well with the scriptures.

  51. Regardless of which apostle has said what about evolution, evolution certainly can explain “the body of man.” That is a scientific fact. In fact, that is the only plausible explanation in science for human origins. I don’t hold with the idea that there are “heresies” in Mormonism. That is a catholic idea. And yes, there are people at BYU that believe this about evolution. I guess these “heretics” need to be rooted out.

  52. Post

    Aboz brings up an interesting point. Is there anyone here who believes that Adam really live just 6000 years ago? Follow up question, do proponents of Intelligent Design propose Adam lived 6000 years ago?

  53. There are people who believe we are all children of Adam the way we are children of Abraham.

    I’ve always wondered how you get change in the number of chromosones between species. I need a good link on that topic.

  54. Aboz and Mormon Heretic,

    Abraham’s account of the creation is where much of the pro-evolutionist debate comes from (see Abraham 4 where the Gods “prepared” or “organized” the matierals so that they may “bring forth” the final product). His account is also helpful to your timing question.

    Abr. 5:13 – “Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord’s time, which was after the time of Kolob; for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning.”

    After detailing the creationary periods, Abraham makes it clear that the creation was done in God’s time, not man’s. What is Kolob’s time? Some may point to 1000yrs of man to 1 day for God (2Pet interpretation). But we know that God lives in eternity; i.e., time is non-existent.

    As for the timing after Adam’s fall, not much has been revealed, but we may surmise an approximate 6,000 year span in light of modern revelation. To me, there really isn’t any reason to doubt otherwise.

  55. Post


    Thanks for the info. I did a google search for “earliest man” and came up with a USA Today article.


    The last paragraph says, “Man is, maybe, as old as 7 million years and, surely, as old as 2.4 million years.” So how does Adam fit into this? It seems if Adam is only 6000 years old, then there were plenty of other men on the earth who are much older. As such, if Adam is really 2.4 million years old, then the Genesis account clearly can’t be taken literally.

  56. I read the earlier comment about Nibley’s article entitled “Before Adam” and agree that you should read it over carefully. He is clear that obvious remains of pre-historic hominids are found in our earth’s crust, possibly dating as far back as 7 million years ago as stated in the article you read. However, none of them fit the special description of Adam’s people. In particular, Nibley asserts that Adam was the first hominid (now homo sapien) to have a story, wherein he writes his history and God interacts with him. This was something never before seen on this earht and the differentiating factor between Adam and other hominids.

    Nibley also vehemently denies the organic evolution of man from primates. He gives an example of going to Hogle Zoo in SLC and failing to see our ancestor in the primate section. Moreover, he gives a detailed analysis of Abraham 4 (consequently, this is where I get most of my understanding of evolution). To my recollection, Nibley does not try and place any time limits on Adam, but there is also no indication in his article that he believes Adam could have walked this earth as a mortal earlier than 6000 years ago.

    One thing I had to keep in mind, however, is that Nibley was not a scientist (or at least one specifically qualified to discuss these matters). Rather, he was arguably an inspired apologist with a very bright intellect.

    These questions ultimately lead to deeper inquiries related to the Adam-God theory, whether Adam/Eve were brought to this earth or born here, or whether there was general death among plants/animals before Adam. To answer these, we would likely have to take a page from the Book of Speculation.

  57. Fwiw, MH, Genesis 6:1-4 is fascinating when it comes to this discussion.

    If nothing else, I think it’s pretty hard to take everything before those verses as literal (even if those verses are taken literally) when it’s pretty obvious that the compilers of the record had little or no concern about anything outside the lineage they were tracing for Noah and “the sons of God”.

    Frankly, there’s not enough there to make conclusions with any degree of certainty – but the possible implications are fascinating to me.

    Accepting the Garden narrative as figurative eliminates ALL issues for me of when Adam, as the first “man” (spirit child of God embodied on earth), entered mortality. I’m fine with the conclusion, “I don’t know.”

  58. Nibley also vehemently denies the organic evolution of man from primates. He gives an example of going to Hogle Zoo in SLC and failing to see our ancestor in the primate section.

    If Nibley said that, he didn’t understand evolution very well at all.

  59. One thing to keep in mind here:

    “Man” is defined VERY differently by people who use that word. When LDS use that term, we generally are referring to the combination of an immortal, pre-mortality-existent, spirit child of God and a mortal body. If we are positing that God created “mankind” by such an insertion, that event could have happened at ANY time in the overall creative process.

    One more thing to consider:

    It is crystal clear that Mormonism rejects creation ex nihilo. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, therefore, to posit a kind of ex nihilo creation of Adam and Eve – or even a total physical creation outside of the overall creative process that governs everything else. Again, I’m not arguing that evolution can explain everything without God being involved, but it’s interesting to think through the implications of ALL our beliefs with regard to matter and creation – and having God develop our bodies through an evolutionary process is reasonable, imo. I believe it fits better into our overall cosmology than any other alternative.

  60. Kuri, there is a difference between organic evolution of mankind, and general evolution as a theory. Nibley was a proponent of general evolution, but he adhered to a belief that Adam’s literal (organic) father was God the Father.

    In that same vein, Ray, Adam’s existence does not insinuate creation ex nihilo. If, as Paul declares, things heavenly have an earthly semblance, then Adam likely was “created” just like you and I were. (DISCLAIMER: Although postulated by many LDS scholars, this theory is no more than a theory, and fails to constitute official LDS doctrine in any way.)

  61. Jeremy, I need to make this clear. I believe in a first man named Adam. I think the Garden narrative was figurative, but I accept that there was a first “man” – and that he was created much like you and I were, but as the first mortal being who possessed an immortal child-of-God spirit. We aren’t in disagreement on that point.

    By mentioning ex nihilo creation, I was referring to the idea that God placed a fully formed, adult Adam onto earth with a physical body crafted in isolation from the rest of the earthly creative process – which means Adam’s body was created outside of “natural biology”. I tried to say that it didn’t have to be strictly ex nihilo, but that even positioning it outside of the rest of the creative process is problematic.

  62. Post
  63. Jeremy,

    Kuri, there is a difference between organic evolution of mankind, and general evolution as a theory. Nibley was a proponent of general evolution, but he adhered to a belief that Adam’s literal (organic) father was God the Father.

    Sure, I get that, and I can’t object very much to people believing whatever they want to believe. I’m just saying that no one who understands the basics of evolution would use something like “failing to see our ancestor in the primate section” as an argument against human evolution. No one with even a rudimentary understanding of evolution believes that modern primates are ancestors of human beings.

  64. Aboz (#58) wants me to “Open [my] eyes to what was taught by B H Roberts and Elder Talmage.” Okay, but I’m not sure what you’ve been reading Aboz.

    B. H. Roberts

    Elder Roberts plainly taught that “The theory of evolution as advocated by many modern scientists lies stranded upon the shore of idle speculation … it is destructive of the grand, central truth of all revelation.” (The Gospel and Man’s Relationship to Deity, 7th edition, 1928, pp.265-267.)

    Elder Roberts further taught that each “subdivision of life … produces after its kind, whereas evolution in all its forms destroys that thought.” (The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2nd edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996, p.239.)

    James E. Talmage

    “Though [Elder Talmage] was sympathetic to science, his religious convictions prevented him from becoming an unqualified supporter of evolution. Ultimately he retreated into the world view of Bishop Ussher and the coming of Adam at 4004 B.C.E.” (USU Professor Richard Sherlock in The Search for Harmony, 1993, p.71.)

    In his later life, Elder Talmage said “Man is the child of God…. He is born in the lineage of Deity, not in the posterity of the brute creation.” (“The Earth and Man,” 1931, pp.13-14; emphasis added.)

  65. #73 – and we come full circle to the fact that it was “godless evolution” that many of the apostles like Roberts and Talmage rejected.

    “as advocated by many modern scientists” – implies that some modern scientists who advocated evolution were NOT destructive of the grand revelation (that we are children of God)

    “an unqualified supporter” – implies that he was a qualified supporter, which is obvious from the totality of his statements

    If someone ignores the disclaimers and qualifiers (and context) in statements of any kind, from anyone, it is easy to reach conclusions that are not consistent with the original statements.

    Lots of apostles rejected evolution completely. Roberts and Talmage weren’t among them. ALL apostles and prophets rejected (and reject) any evolutionary construct that removes God from the creation and posits Adam as MERELY a smart animal and NOT a child of God.

  66. There is an excellent summary of the official church statements, GA statements, Mormon scientist statements, etc. regarding evolution at the following site:


    From that site:

    The position of the Church on the origin of man was published by the First Presidency in 1909 and stated again by a different First Presidency in 1925:

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. . . . Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes .”

    The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33).

    An excerpt from the 1931 First Presidency message on evolution, in which the Church says exactly what I said to R.Gary in comment #32 (for which he castigated me in comment #35 for saying), is (emphasis mine):

    Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.

    As I’ve said over and over, I accept the repeated word of the First Presidency as the official statement of the Church over beliefs of individual apostles and prophets – and I prefer that we not ask them to be experts outside the focus of their callings.

  67. Ray: Why would the vast majority of Mormons mistakenly think the Church is against evolution? Do they possibly think the Authorities are against evolution?

  68. The same reason the vast majority of Mormons believe the Church is strictly Pro-Life… because we align so heavily with the Evangelical Right, politically.

  69. R. Gary – What’s your point? The Church’s own official statements ALL say that the official stance is, “We don’t know.” Who cares what “most members” think, especially when the questions tend to be phrased in a way that excludes God from the process? (Always a variation on, “Does evolution explain how humans were created?”) Even I would be counted among the 90% with the wording of most of the surveys – and I’ve said so multiple times here and elsewhere.

    That’s my ONLY problem with everything you’ve said. You keep arguing against something I’ve never said. It gets old, dude.

  70. R Gary,

    According to you, is Adam 6000 years old, 2.4 millions years older, or something else? If something else, please guestimate an approximate age.

  71. I would expect someone as opinionated as you are on this subject to have an opinion as to how old Adam is. To throw your hands up and say “I don’t know” is pretty weak, IMO. Certainly you have some opinion. You’re certainly not shy about expressing it to Ray.

  72. R.Gary, I really think much of this “conflict” has occurred due to a fundamental assumption on our part about our respective beliefs. I have been under the impression that you deny ANY speck of possibility of an evolutionary influence when it comes to the creation of our mortal bodies (and that you believe “The Church” officially denies that, as well), and it appears that you have been under the impression that I believe in organic evolution as the genesis of mankind – that I think God lit the initial spark and sat back as Adam eventually evolved.

    Due to this discussion, and especially his last post on his NDBF blog, I think we are more similar in our overall views than either of us believed previously. Therefore, I am offering you an olive branch and requesting a truce. I’d like to start over, based on what you just posted – and I figured a public apology for misunderstanding your view should be the first step.

    So, I really am sorry, R.Gary. Let’s start over, ok?

  73. MH, #81 answers #79, not #80.

    “It is not known how long Adam remained in the Garden of Eden. I think we may safely conclude that he was there some time, and all the while he was in the presence of the Father, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, pp.66-67.)

    It has been six thousand years since Adam fell. That is all we know.

  74. R Gary,

    The purpose of this post is for you to try to persuade me (and others) to accept your position. I’m not trying to be rude, but you are not very persuasive. If I had to choose as to who I’d rather believe of all the comments here, I’ll go with S Faux–he is by far the most persuasive person in this list of 90 comments, IMO.

    As such, if your answer is that Adam is more likely 2.4 million years old than 6000 year old, then yes we agree. I’m not sure what your link had anything to do with how old Adam was–there wasn’t a single reference to age, except that Adam was 930 years old when he died, which isn’t really relevant to my question to you.

    Now, please defend why Adam is merely 6000 years old, despite the fact that science seems to indicate otherwise. I’d love to believe in a literal reading of Genesis, but at this point, a poetic reading seems more persuasive to me. But if you can convince me of your position, then I’ll happily admit my errors.

  75. MH,

    First, the purpose of my commenting on this post is NOT for me to try to persuade you or others to accept my position. My comments are intended merely to make you guys aware of what I believe the Church is saying in its publications. That’s all. I don’t care whether you believe it or not. I truly do not care what you believe about Adam, evolution, or anything else for that matter. Not, as you say, to be rude, but that is the way I feel.

    Now, as to Adam’s age. Modern scripture and modern Prophets clearly teach that the fall of Adam was only six thousand years ago. (See D&C 77:12.) The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand Himself.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.252; see also Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp.8, 65, 95-96, 241, 252; Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.445; Faith Preceeds the Miracle, p.326; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp.104, 403, 555; Messages of the First Presidency, 2:221, 3:93.)

    The Guide to the Scriptures link establishes that the Church believes Adam was “the first man created on earth,” as opposed to Austrolopithecus africanus. Now, in order to calculate the age of man, we simply calculate the age of Adam. First, we know it’s been 6000 years since Adam’s Fall. Second, we need to add the number of Garden years. But the number of Garden years is unknown. So I guess you could come up with 2.4 or 7 million years (or any other number of years) by simply saying Adam was in the Garden that number of years minus the 6000 years that have elapsed since the Fall. Mathematically, that would work.

    Finally (and again), it is not my purpose to convince you of anything, only to lay out what I believe the Church is saying. And that, I believe, I have done.


  76. Wow, R Gary. You really are more flexible with your theory than you appeared at first. After this last explanation, I’m beginning to wonder why we (you, me, and Ray) were arguing in the first place. Your theory seems to fit in very well with S Faux.

    You probably don’t care what I think, but I prefer persuasion to confrontation in these discussions. I’m really baffled why you came on so strong at the beginning, since it seems like you agree with the general consensus of opinion here. Arguing over the official church position really seems to be straining at gnats.

  77. MH, based on our mistaken perceptions of each other’s view, R. Gary and I have gone the rounds on this topic previously. I really do think that’s the gist of the issue – that we both were arguing against a position we thought the other was advancing, not what we each were trying to say.

    He and I do disagree on some things, but not about nearly as many things as we thought in the past.

  78. Just thought I’d throw a little something else into the age of Adam debate. Arguing that Adam could be either 6,000 years old or 2.4 million years old because it is unknown how long he was in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall really doesn’t make any sense and certainly doesn’t satisfy the question of how the scriptural account of the creation fits into scientific evidence of earliest man being 2.4 to 7 million years old. Let’s look at what the scriptures have to say about this. According to 2 Nephi 2:22-23 (which is one of my and R. Gary’s favorites):

    “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 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.”

    I understand this to mean that prior to the Fall (while Adam and Eve were hanging out in the Garden), all things that had been created were in an immortal static state. There was no growth or decay, no death or birth, no change at all. In this state, age is meaningless. Whether this period lasted 2.4 million years or 2.4 days, Adam would have been exactly the same at the beginning as he was at the end. Let’s say this period did last for 2.4 million years. If you were to use some method of determining the age of any living organism at the beginning of this period and used the same method on the same organism at the end of this period, the results would be identical. No matter how long Adam was in the Garden of Eden, it would have no effect on his physical age (and the age of everything else on the earth) at the beginning of the Fall because nothing aged until the Fall.

    So how does Adam’s length of stay in the Garden of Eden relate to the age of fossils and early human remains? It doesn’t. I also read what S. Faux recently wrote on melding scripture with science and cannot agree with him on that either. The way he explains it (and I know that he is one of many LDS faithful who believe the same way) completely undoes everything that is in the three accounts of the creation. I can accept interpreting some scripture as figurative but this takes it way too far. There are several places in the scripture that explain that death did not enter the world until the Fall and it is abundantly clear that the scriptures are referring to physical death and not spiritual death as some would have us believe. That’s very similar to the argument that Adam being the first man means that he was the first man with a spirit or something like that. It’s easy to argue that scripture is not literal but I think people only do that because they have no other way to explain science and scripture. It’s an easy cop out if you ask me. And in case anyone is wondering, no, I’m not anti-evolution.

  79. The topic of evolution aside, just so I’m clear about this, are you, R Gary and possibly Ray, saying that Adam was a real person, that he was the first man/homo sapiens, Adam and Eve are the literal parents of the human race, and that the Garden of Eden was an actual physical place?

  80. GB – My opinion:

    “Was Adam a real person?” “Was he the first man?”

    I think there was a first man, and that “Adam” was the generic name for “man”. So, I do think there was a “first man, Adam” to be the combination of a mortal body and an immortal, child-of-God spirit.

    “Was Adam the first homo sapien?”

    I don’t know, and I really don’t care much about that distinction, given my answer to the final question below.

    “Are Adam and Eve the literal parents of the human race?”

    Yes, given the answer to the first question, but I am open to all kinds of heterodox (even probably heretical) possibilities when it comes to the implications of that question. Since they only are possibilities in my mind and not things “I believe”, I don’t discuss them much. They are things I simply allow my mind to consider, as long as they don’t impact the core answer above.

    “Was the Garden of Eden an actual, physical place?”

    This is where I think R. Gary and I diverge – I think. I’ve learned my lesson, however, so he can answer that himself.

    I believe it is a figurative, allegorical account – probably a description of the “Fall” from the presence of God in the pre-mortal existence (a wonderful paradise of peace but no children, where the choice was “life” unchallenged [Lucifer’s plan] or a “knowledge”-infused battle of good and evil [Jehovah’s acceptance of the Father’s plan] – no death in that realm before that change brought death to the children of God in the new realm) to this earthly state (the lone and dreary world where children became possible and where birth and death were a natural part of the on-going creative process that had been occurring for millions of years) – combined with a justification for the gender roles within the ancient society that wrote it. I believe that approach reconciles nearly all (if not all) apparent discrepancies and issues between revelation and science without destroying any of the spiritual claims in the account itself.

  81. Jeremy Harrison,

    You invoke the fact that modern revelation establishes the 7000 year time period. I would agree. As does the biblical timeline, establishing adam as round about 4000 BC. That isn’t the point really, that I’m getting at. The point is, how does one harmonize the fact that intelligent humans were constructing things around 10000 BC, such as the new megalithic site in Turkey that is carbon dated to that date, with this revelatory information? How do we harmonize the cave paintings from France with this. I don’t want to play games with this. Are we going to suppose that non-Adamic humans constructed these things? I’m not bashing you. I want a good answer, since I dont have one, and I’ve been looking for one for a long time. And invoking the idea that carbon dating is inaccurate is not the answer I’m looking for. If we say Adam was the first of our species, does this or does this not force use to admit that these pre-Adamic humans had real minds that were actually technologically capable? Furthermore, do our genealogies intermingle with these “people”, even if Adam was the first “man” from 4000 BC, whatever that means? I guess what I’m saying is that I’m looking for revelation from God on this one, not man, and I’m searching for some bit of feedback from people before I take these things to the Lord, because I’m not really bothered by these things, but I do want to know the truth.

  82. Aboz, your questions are examples of the heterodox stuff that I am willing to leave open as possibilities. I do NOT advocate that stuff, since I am totally fine with “I don’t know” as my ultimate answer (and since some of the ideas that have been advocated in relation to these questions are truly abhorrent to me), but there are all kinds of interesting questions for science to tackle in this arena.

  83. Ray, thanks for your response and thoughts. My personal opinion is pretty simple. I think the biblical account was the best people could do with explaining the origin of man but it’s only allegorical. As for me to have to believe in Adam as a real person and Eden as a real place is asking too much. It’s like Aboz above pre-adamite humans. If something has to be stretched to fit, it probably doesn’t fit in the firs place.

  84. Ray, I wouldn’t call these things heterodox. I would call them Talmage-BHRobers-esque, not McConkie-JFSmith-esque. There has always been those two strains of “orthodoxy”. Since I cannot rationally side with the McConkie-JFSmith-ites, on this one, I’m seeking rational harmonization with the scriptures that I can personally feel good about. God would not tease us with science. He would expect us to pay attention to what is revealed through it. He would expect us to pay attention to Darwin and archaeology just as much as we do to Newton and gravity.

  85. #99 – GB, the reason I qualify “first man, Adam” is because I really don’t feel comfortable taking it further than that. I just don’t have any idea when that first “man” (defined narrowly as a RELIGIOUS term, meaning a child-of-God spirit in a mortal body) lived. Remember, the temple used to be explicit about the creation of “the man and the woman” as depicted being figurative.

    #100 – Aboz, you said:

    “God would not tease us with science. He would expect us to pay attention to what is revealed through it. He would expect us to pay attention to Darwin and archaeology just as much as we do to Newton and gravity.”

    I agree totally. Science can’t tell us the “why” – and science can’t tell us with absolute certainty the “how” of lots of details, but I believe God gave us (or clothed us in pre-existent) intelligence in order to learn exactly those details eventually.

  86. GBSmith, this is my point. You say that Adam is stretched to fit. I see a 6000 year time period so far of our species fitting +within+ something far bigger. It isn’t a stretch to say that that 6000 year time period fits +within+ a grander scheme. I think your point of stretched to fit is a good one. I don’t have to stretch either set of evidence to fit. I just have to see how they fit together. If +both+ are true, which I believe, the question then really is, do the genealogies between sets of humans intersect. That is the real question.

  87. Aboz,

    I would just like to add some encouragement to you as you seek the answers to your questions. I encourage you to ask the Lord for guidance but look for your answers in the scriptures. Remember that the scriptures are true and science is also true and changing one truth to seemingly fit another will only create a truth and a fallacy. The answers are there and I wish you luck in finding them.

  88. Fwiw, Aboz, I believe strongly that one of the problems with this issue (and many others that are less obvious) is that we tend to interpret scripture based on how others have interpreted scripture before us. I accept the need for that, but I also understand the limitations with that.

    I don’t see prophets as infallible in any way, but that is true especially outside the scope of their callings – as the Church’s own statement I referenced at the end of comment #75 says. Scriptures give us the understanding of the ages about the “why”, and they give us a very sketchy overview of the “how” outline, but those “how outlines” are very rough sketches, imo – painted in very broad brush strokes based on the scientific understanding of those times. I think, with few exceptions, God speaks to His children in words and images they can understand – and I accept the limitations inherent in that construct.

    If this is true for me with regard to some of our collective, mistaken views of what the Book of Mormon says, it is true even more fundamentally for me with regard to the OT and the creation narratives – especially when I view the Garden narrative as figurative anyway.

  89. I definitely don’t think they are infallible, because I liken it to myself. what if I were called to be prophet, God forbid. That wouldn’t change my beliefs, only my keys and responsibility. I would be just as fallible as I am now, and I would still be a Talmage-ite.

    I view the creation narratives as representations of something literal, but not being literal. But I take Michael the archangel as a literal pre-existent being that had dealings with Jehovah, and Adam is his mortal identity. And I cannot invoke “gap” theology in the timelines of the bible, or in modern revelation. I must assume since I’m a literalist in this sense, that Michael the archangel came 6000 years ago to start this “probationary” time period. therefore, the probationary time period did not exist before Adam, theologically. Therefore, I must conclude that the people before Adam were not here for a probationary state, but were in a state much like people with handicaps are in our day, who cannot sin or comprehend things to know good from evil.

  90. I have the same question as Aboz. I’ll direct this to R Gary, but anyone else is free to answer. If there was no death before the fall of Adam 6000 years ago, how do you explain the dinosaurs, and the settlement of 10000 BC in Turkey?

  91. Regarding #106 – isn’t this the great riddle that we are all trying to solve? To be able to understand science and scripture without having to change one to fit the other. Despite our many differing opinions we are all essentially the same because we’re all trying to answer the same question. Where is the answer? Is it in science? Is it in scripture? I say that the answer is in scripture. The source of the riddle is in scripture, therefore the solution must also be there.

    Science claims that the earth has been around for billions of years and organisms have lived and died for millions of years. Is this true? I think the physical evidence is overwhelmingly yes.

    Scripture claims that all organisms on the earth (including man) were created by God in an immortal state and that death did not enter the world until the Fall of Adam which occurred around 6,000 years ago. Is this true? The Holy Spirit witnesses to me that it is.

    Now, the great paradox is not that they contradict each other but that they don’t. The answer to this great riddle is not how to change one to fit the other but how to change neither. Neither side should ridicule the other because neither side has yet to solve the riddle. Once it is solved, there will be no more sides. Look to the scriptures, for there is the answer.

  92. Post

    Yes DB, There is a great quote from a book called “DNA and Tradition” by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman.

    “Although writing more than 700 years ago, [Rabbi Moses] Nachmanides’ message is even more clear and relevant today. His writings directed the person of faith to realize that there is much more hidden than revealed, both in the traditional Biblical writings and also in the natural world. Our challenge is to continually study and investigate both realms, with the realization that apparent conflicts are merely artifacts of temporary incomplete understanding in one or both realms. This avoidance of intellectual pride, allows the person of traditional religious faith to work comfortably within the framework of rigorous scientific hypothesis and empiricism. This is also in keeping with the rationalist approach in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed.”

  93. MH – thank you for that quote. I especially like the line “there is much more hidden than revealed, both in the traditional Biblical writings and also in the natural world.” We should all realize that the answers are there, we may not have them, but they are there. We should also be smart enough to realize we’re not going to find these answers by contridicting science or scripture in order to make them fit our own limited view of the truth. Once we’ve done that, we’ve done nothing more than put on blinders that prevent us from ever seeing the truth. Then we start coming up with really crazy ideas like dinosaurs came from other planets and Adam wasn’t a real person (honestly, if you’re not going to believe that Adam was a real person then why believe that anything in the scriptures is real). Do science and scripture fit together without changing either of them? Of course they do. Those who say that science is correct and scripture can’t be literal just isn’t smart enough to figure out how they work together. Those who say that scripture is currect and science is hogwash just doesn’t have a strong enough testimony to accept scientific truth.

  94. I always arrive late to the party. Evolution at BYU is taught straight up as it would be taught at any university. In fact we just finished Darwin Days with a slew of talks on evolution for the general public. All of the faculty (and I’m on the faculty by the way) believe fully in evolution. Those that are LDS are temple recommend holding, testimony baring, believers in the restoration. As am I. As #21 Geoff J pointed out I have a blog specifically devoted to exploring evolution (and science in general) and LDS faith.


  95. Great question. I don’t know if I really have much to say about evolution vs. creationism and instead wish to point out that the theory of evolution appears to have been crafted into a social theory. For example, see Brigham Young on Darwin, Huxley, and Miall and Charles Darwin. This was applied by humanists “without blinking, the strictly biological scheme of the evolution of organisms to the cultural history of the single species Homo sapiens.”

    According to Giorgio de Santillans, “In later centuries historians may declare all of us insane, because this incredible blunder was not detected at once and was not refuted with adequate determination. Mistaking cultural history for a process of gradual evolution, we have deprived ourselves of every reasonable insight into the nature of culture. It goes without saying that the still more modern habit of replacing ‘culture’ by ‘society’ has blocked the last narrow path to understanding history. Our ignorance not only remained vast, but became pretentious as well.”

  96. I’m late to the party, but I have something to contribute. You wanted to know what BYU teaches in its biology classes. I am glad for the link to Dr. Peck’s blog, which I plan to devour.

    I took the “everybody” Biology class at BYU in 2003 or 2004 (along with several hundred other BYU students, and that was just one section in one semester). I also took a Geology class a year or two before that. At the time I was staunchly opposed to evolution. To my recollection, they didn’t mince words about it. They (my professors) were unapologetically believers and teachers of evolution. I got the vague impression that there were other professors who held different views, but that the majority had no problem with reconciling evolution and Mormonism.

    They didn’t ram it down our throats, I recall that although I held a different opinion I was not offended. And by the end of the semester I had begun to come around. Now I, too, take the scientific evidence at face value without feeling that it threatens my religious and spiritual beliefs (though it has helped to mold them).

    Required reading in one of those courses (I don’t remember which) was the book “Finding Darwin’s God” which I recommend reading. I need to go back and read it again, too, now that I find myself on the other side of the fence. http://tinyurl.com/nsfflb

  97. So,am I getting this right when I look at it as currently irreconcilable because our knowledge is limited? I think I’m OK with that,but what bugs me is all the people who seem to know how it all works,who feel that what they have learnt in the temple and Book of Abraham has explained everything to their satisfaction.Makes me feel like the dunce in the back of the math class,at church.And-how do I teach the lesson on the creation in gospel doctrine? Man,I studied that lesson till my head hurt,and still couldn’t make sense of what I was supposed to teach.Someone,tell me how I’m supposed to tell what is literal and what is figurative. Throw me a line.Preferably in words of two syllables.

  98. “God did it. How do we enjoy crea—? (sorry creation is 3 syllables) How do we act as stewards for it?”

    That’s my attempt.

  99. Wayfarer, the purposes of Sunday School are spiritual in nature. Therefore, it is important to focus on the spiritual aspects of the creation and fall. I don’t think it is necessarily productive to get into all the nitty gritty details of how evolution is involved at Church. However, it is certainly fair game here. I’m certainly no expert on evolution, so I’m sorry I can’t help. Hopefully some BYU biologists will explain it to you.

  100. I agree with MH. Furthermore, the Genesis creation story, if it indeed is just some sort of metaphor, is still a parable in the same sense that “the foolish man built his house on the sand” is a parable. Nobody worries about whether there really was an idiot who tried to build his house on sandy soil, or whether there’s historical proof of said idiot or if we can find the house, and how convenient that the house was built on sand, the evidence disappeared so we’ll never have empirical evidence of the house, so how are we supposed to prove whether this guy really did try to build his house on the sand?

    I guess that’s just sort of missing the point perhaps. But that’s just my opinion. Other parts of the scriptures aren’t meant to be taken metaphorically, I realize that. Anyway.

  101. Pingback: Mormon Heretic » Science and Religion: Compatible or Not?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *