04) RECENT: Have Church authorities made comments on the theory of organic evolution in recent years? Has the Church changed its position? Are we embarrassed by the statements made by early leaders and the scriptures?

Commentary

Please see Gary Shapiro’s excellent blog for additional information on this topic.

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First, it must be emphasized that the scriptures and writings of the Prophets are all in harmony on the doctrines that are presented in this FAQ compilation. In some ways less has been said in recent years on this subject. It is not uncommon for Prophets to speak and when their message is generally rejected, to discontinue or speak less frequently, thus allowing the people to see the consequences for rejecting the word of God. Still, as this subject is paramount to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there have been many statements made recently, some in subtle ways, to allow those desiring the truth to not be left without guidance. Possibly the strongest of these statements was made by President Boyd K. Packer.

“No greater ideal has been revealed than the supernal truth that we are the children of God, and that by virtue of our creation we differ from all other living things (Moses 6:8–10, 22, 59). “All flesh,” the scriptures teach, “is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts.” (1 Corinthians 15:39)…

…The knowledge that we are the children of God is a refining, even an exalting truth. On the other hand, no idea has been more destructive of happiness, no philosophy has produced more sorrow, more heartbreak, more suffering and mischief, no idea has contributed more to the erosion of the family than the idea that we are not the offspring of God, but only advanced animals. There flows from that idea the not too subtle perception that we are compelled to yield to every carnal urge, are subject to physical but not to moral law.

The man-from-animal theory…is widely taught and generally accepted as the solution to the mystery of life. I know there are two views on the subject. But it is one thing to measure this theory solely against intellectual or academic standards, quite another to measure it against moral or spiritual or doctrinal standards.” 1

Other comments were made by President Packer and Elder Nelson in the March Ensign 2008. Note President Packer’s words:

Created in His Image

We are taught in Genesis, in Moses, in Abraham, in the Book of Mormon, and in the endowment that man’s mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation. Had the Creation come in a different way, there could have been no Fall. If men were merely animals, then logic favors freedom without accountability. How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do not look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and by millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance. And this they are free to do, for agency is theirs. But agency is ours as well. We look up, and in the universe we see the handiwork of God and measure things by epochs, by aeons, by dispensations, by eternities. The many things we do not know, we take on faith. But this we know! It was all planned “before the world was” (D&C 38:1 ; see also D&C 49:17; D&C 76:13, 39; D&C 93:7 ; Abraham 3:22–25). Events from the Creation to the final, winding-up scene are not based on chance; they are based on choice! It was planned that way. This we know! This simple truth! Had there been no Creation and no Fall, there should have been no need for any Atonement, neither a Redeemer to mediate for us. Then Christ need not have been.

Who is Jesus Christ? Boyd K. Packer

Also note Elder Nelson’s words:

Faith in Jesus Christ Russel M. Nelson

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Elder Nelson does not appear to be embarrassed when teaching the truth of the origins of human life. Note his uncompromising stand in a recent interview discussing the position of the Church on this subject:

QUESTION

Interviewer: Different denominations deal differently with questions about life’s origins and development. Conservative denominations tend to have more trouble with Darwinian evolution. Does the church have an official position on this topic?

Nelson: We believe that God is our creator and that he has created other forms of life. It’s interesting to me, drawing on my 40 years experience as a medical doctor, how similar those species are. We developed open-heart surgery, for example, experimenting on lower animals simply because the same creator made the human being. We owe a lot to those lower species. But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Nelson: Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It’s just the way genetics works. 2

It should also be noted that the Church manuals for priesthood and relief society in recent years contain references to the scriptural truths of the literal Fall of man. Note this statement by Wilford Woodruff:

“We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned. It is a law that is unchangeable and irrevocable . . .” 3

And this one by Harold B. Lee in the 2000 manual:

“Adam and Eve … exercised their agency and of their own volition had partaken of the fruit, of which they were commanded not to eat; thus they had become subject to the law of Satan. In that disobedience, God was now free to visit upon them a judgment. They were to learn that besides God being a merciful Father, he is also a just Father, and when they broke the law they were subject to the receiving of a penalty and so they were cast out of that beautiful garden. They were visited by all the vicissitudes to which mortals from that time since have been heir. They were to learn that by their disobedience they received the penalty of a just judgment. They were forced to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, for now they had become mortals…Pain, misery, death, all now came in their wake, but with that pain, quite like our own experiences from that time to this, there came knowledge and understanding that could never have been gained except by pain… Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death. … How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state.” 4

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There is harmony between the writings of the prophets in scripture, in the early part of this dispensation and in recent years. President Boyd K. Packer noted this important element of eternal truth:

“Twice the First Presidency has declared the position of the Church on organic evolution. The first, a statement published in 1909 entitled The Origin of Man was signed by Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund. The other, entitled Mormon View of Evolution, signed by Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, was published in 1925. It follows very closely the first statement, indeed quotes directly from it. The doctrines in both of them are consistent and have not changed . . . Statements have been made by other presidents of the Church and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles which corroborate these official declarations by the First Presidency.”  5

The doctrines of the gospel do not change with the whims of society or with the opinions of men. Revelation is from God and does not change. President Spencer W. Kimball had this to say of the opinions of the world changing the word of God:

“The Gods organized the earth of materials at hand, over which they had control and power. This truth is absolute. A million educated folk might speculate and determine in their minds that the earth came into being by chance. The truth remains. The earth was made by the Gods…opinions do not change that. The Gods organized and gave life to man and placed him on the earth. This is absolute. It cannot be disproved. A million brilliant minds might conjecture otherwise, but it is still true.”  6

In addition to the recent writings of the Latter-day Prophets there still remains the witness of the most recent additions to the LDS scriptures. The scripture committee which gave us our most recent edition of the scriptures consisted of President Thomas S. Monson, President Boyd K. Packer and Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Of note are the additions to the Bible Dictionary under Fall, Adam, Eve and Genesis. These references refute the primary tenets of Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian evolution.

The Fall of Adam

Adam

Eve

Genesis

Flesh

Noah

The scriptures are the standard for doctrine in the Church. They do not change and can not change with the wind as do the philosophies of men. All faithful members and leaders of the Church will support the Lord’s words as contained in the scriptures, now and in the future.

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

In talking to a gentleman not long ago, I said, “The Lord is one of the most scientific men that ever lived; you have no idea of the knowledge that he has with regard to the sciences. If you did but know it, every truth that you and all men have acquired a knowledge of through study and research, has come from him—he is the fountain whence all truth and wisdom flow; he is the fountain of all knowledge, and of every true principle that exists in heaven or on earth.” The gentleman said that such ideas conflicted with his traditions; but said he, “I like to hear such talk and such principles taught, for we do know, from scientific research and investigation, that certain facts exist in nature which those called Christians discard or throw away; they do not want anything to do with them; they say this has nothing to do with religion; but you talk very different to this.” 7

Ezra Taft Benson

#1:

“But it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. ‘Even in the Church,’ . . . . Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. . . . Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. . . . How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.”  8

#2:

“We have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, and so forth.”  9

#3:

“Today, students are subjected in their textbooks and classroom lectures to a subtle propaganda that there is a ‘natural’ or rational explanation to all causes and events. Such a position removes the need for faith in God.”  10

#4:

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. 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 become alerted and informed, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, John Keynes, and others. Today there are much worse things that can happen to a child than not getting a full 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.”  11

#5:

“Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to His Prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. . . . We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember, if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet, and you’ll be blessed and time will vindicate you.” 12

Gordon B. Hinckley

Note: In the February 2002 issue of the Ensign the 1909 First Presidency Message was reprinted with the following explanation

#1:

“In the early 1900s, questions concerning the Creation of the earth and the theories of evolution became the subject of much public discussion. In the midst of these controversies, the First Presidency issued the following in 1909, which expresses the Church’s doctrinal position on these matters. A reprinting of this important First Presidency statement will be helpful as members of the Church study the Old Testament this year.”

None of us . . . knows enough. The learning process is an endless process. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds. I believe in evolution, not organic evolution, as it is called, but in the evolution of the mind, the heart, and the soul of man. I believe in improvement. I believe in growth.”  13

#2:

“When I was a college student there were many 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 sway me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God.”  14

Thomas S. Monson

Quoting Clarence Darrow, the foremost pro-evolution lawyer working for the ACLU during the Scopes trial: “No life is of much value, and . . . every death is [but a] little loss.” 15

Supporting Statements

A. Theodore Tuttle

These false ideas have run counter to the truth of the Prophet’s teachings.  Unfortunately, they have been far more popular   judging from the numbers of people who have believed them.  Mistakenly, these theories have been widely accepted as fact and have blinded many people because they seem to have an aura of some kind of science about them.

The theory of organic evolution, popularized by Darwin, has deceived even the members of this Church.  Unfortunately, in spite of a multitude of irrefutable facts to the contrary, it still continues today with weakened, though widespread, influence. 16

Boyd K. Packer

“The comprehension of man as no more than a specialized animal cannot help but affect how one behaves. A conviction that man did evolve from animals fosters the mentality that man is not responsible for moral conduct. Animals are controlled to a very large extent by physical urges. Promiscuity is a common pattern in the reproduction of animals. In many subtle ways, the perception that man is an animal and likewise controlled by urges invites that kind of behavior so apparent in society today. A self-image in which we regard ourselves as children of God sponsors one kind of behavior. A conclusion which equates man to animals fosters another kind of behavior entirely. Consequences 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.”  17

Created in His Image

We are taught in Genesis, in Moses, in Abraham, in the Book of Mormon, and in the endowment that man’s mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation. Had the Creation come in a different way, there could have been no Fall. If men were merely animals, then logic favors freedom without accountability. How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do not look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and by millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance. And this they are free to do, for agency is theirs. But agency is ours as well. We look up, and in the universe we see the handiwork of God and measure things by epochs, by aeons, by dispensations, by eternities. The many things we do not know, we take on faith. But this we know! It was all planned “before the world was” (D&C 38:1 ; see also D&C 49:17; D&C 76:13, 39; D&C 93:7 ; Abraham 3:22–25 ). Events from the Creation to the final, winding-up scene are not based on chance; they are based on choice! It was planned that way. This we know! This simple truth! Had there been no Creation and no Fall, there should have been no need for any Atonement, neither a Redeemer to mediate for us. Then Christ need not have been.

Who is Jesus Christ? Boyd K. Packer

D. Todd Christofferson

“A consecrated life respects the incomparable gift of one’s physical body, a divine creation in the very image of God. A central purpose of the mortal experience is that each spirit should receive such a body and learn to exercise moral agency in a tabernacle of flesh. A physical body is also essential for exaltation, which comes only in the perfect combination of the physical and the spiritual, as we see in our beloved, resurrected Lord. In this fallen world, some lives will be painfully brief; some bodies will be malformed, broken, or barely adequate to maintain life; yet life will be long enough for each spirit, and each body will qualify for resurrection.

Those who believe that our bodies are nothing more than the result of evolutionary chance will feel no accountability to God or anyone else for what they do with or to their body. We who have a witness of the broader reality of premortal, mortal, and postmortal eternity, however, must acknowledge that we have a duty to God with respect to this crowning achievement of His physical creation.” 18

Russel M. Nelson

April 2012 General Conference

#1:

Each organ of your body is a wondrous gift from God. Each eye has an autofocusing lens. Nerves and muscles control two eyes to make a single three-dimensional image. The eyes are connected to the brain, which records the sights seen.

Your heart is an incredible pump. It has four delicate valves that control the direction of blood flow. These valves open and close more than 100,000 times a day—36 million times a year. Yet, unless altered by disease, they are able to withstand such stress almost indefinitely.

Think of the body’s defense system. To protect it from harm, it perceives pain. In response to infection, it generates antibodies. The skin provides protection. It warns against injury that excessive heat or cold might cause.

The body renews its own outdated cells and regulates the levels of its own vital ingredients. The body heals its cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Its capacity for reproduction is another sacred gift from God. . . . Anyone who studies the workings of the human body has surely “seen God moving in his majesty and power.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:47.)   Because the body is governed by divine law, any healing comes by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated. (See Doctrine and Covenants 130:21.)

Yet some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere. Ask yourself, “Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?” The likelihood is most remote. But if so, it could never heal its own torn pages or reproduce its own newer editions! . . . . For these physical gifts, thanks be to God! (Russell M. Nelson, Thanks Be to God!, April 2012 General Conference, Sunday Morning Session)

“Adam and Eve were first created with bodies of flesh and spirit, without blood, and were unable to die or beget children. Thus, we might describe this as a paradisiacal creation.” 19

#2:

“How were we made? By whom? And why? Through the ages, some without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been an organic evolution from one form to another. Many of these have concluded that the universe began as a “big bang” that eventually resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.

To me, such theories are unbelievable! Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary? It is unthinkable! Even if it could be argued to be within a remote realm of possibility, such a dictionary could certainly not heal its own torn pages or renew its own worn corners or reproduce its own subsequent editions!

We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. At least 55 verses of scripture attest to our divine creation. I have selected one to represent all the verses that convey the same conclusion:

“The Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness. …

“So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them” (Abraham 4:26, 27).

#3:

I believe all of those scriptures that pertain to the creation of man. The decision to believe is a spiritual one, not made solely by an understanding of things physical, for we read that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). 20

#4:

It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of men who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved. By the Spirit, we perceive the truer and more believable wisdom of God.” 21

#5:

QUESTION

Interviewer: Different denominations deal differently with questions about life’s origins and development. Conservative denominations tend to have more trouble with Darwinian evolution. Does the church have an official position on this topic?

Nelson: We believe that God is our creator and that he has created other forms of life. It’s interesting to me, drawing on my 40 years experience as a medical doctor, how similar those species are. We developed open-heart surgery, for example, experimenting on lower animals simply because the same creator made the human being. We owe a lot to those lower species. But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Nelson: Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It’s just the way genetics works.


References:

  1. Boyd K. Packer, Our Moral Environment, April 1992, also quoted in Eternal Marriage Student Manual, (2003) and Things of the Soul, pp. 109-111
  2. Elder Russell M.Nelson in an interview with the Pew Forum, May 16, 2007. Interview conducted by Robert Ruby, Senior Editor, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, http://www.pewforum.org/PublicationPage.aspx?id=3838
  3. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 2000, p. 20
  4. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 2000, p. 20.
  5. Boyd K. Packer, The Law and the Light, Book of Mormon Symposium, BYU, 30 October 1988
  6. Spencer W. Kimball, “Absolute Truth,” Ensign, September 1978, p. 3
  7. Brigham Young, May 14, 1871, JD 14:117.
  8. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 140
  9. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 60-61.
  10. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 320
  11. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 307.
  12. Ezra Taft Benson, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, BYU devotional, February 26, 1980
  13. Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 298.
  14. Gordon B. Hinckley, Faith: The Essence of True Religion, p. 18
  15. Clarence Darrow, The Story of My Life (1932), chapter 47, paragraph 34, as quoted by President Thomas S. Monson, April 2007 General Conference, see “I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” Ensign, May 2007, 22–25
  16. A. Theodore Tuttle, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1971
  17. Boyd K. Packer, The Law and the Light, Book of Mormon Symposium, BYU, October 30, 1988
  18. D. Todd Christofferson, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Ensign, Nov. 2010
  19. Russell M. Nelson, “Standards of the Lord’s Standard-Bearers,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 5
  20. Russell M. Nelson, “The Magnificence of Man,” New Era, Oct 1987, from an address delivered at Brigham Young University on March 29, 1987
  21. Russell M. Nelson, “The Magnificence of Man,” New Era, Oct 1987, 44, From an address delivered at Brigham Young University on March 29, 1987

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