12) DESTROY FAITH: Does teaching the words of Latter-Day prophets on the subject of organic evolution destroy faith? Does teaching the doctrines contained in the scriptures concerning the age of the earth destroy faith?

Commentary

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Recently, many in LDS academic circles have promoted the notion that if the doctrines of a physical Creation of this earth by God, a literal physical Fall of Adam and Eve, a literal universal Flood, a literal temporal existence of the earth of a few thousand years and other fundamental doctrines of the Gospel are continued to be taught, faith will be destroyed. They feel, as they declare, that the scientific community has proven these doctrines to be impossible and therefore incorrect. The prophets both anciently and in modern times, they claim, were non-credentialed and lacked the scientific qualifications to speak on matters pertaining to anything apart from faith and spirituality. They feel that the scriptures and words of the prophets of God on these points are in error and that when they as scientists teach the “truth” it shatters the faith of the youth attending our universities. They believe that the theory that teaches that man descended from lower forms of life has been proven to be true and is an established fact. That the “fact” that the fall was not a literal occurrence is established by science. Because of this, they feel that if the words of Prophets are taught to youth, those same youth will have a test of faith when they reach the university. They will have a test of faith when it is explained by those who know the “real truth,” (these same learned professors), that evolution is true and that the Prophets have been wrong. Because of this they feel that the words of Prophets should be kept hushed; they are a dark skeleton in the closet of the Church.We, the compilers of this FAQ compilation, cannot understand how quoting Prophets of God that have been in complete unity for many years can damage testimonies. We have found it a powerful testimony to the inspiration of Prophets of God that men from different walks of life, different backgrounds, and covering many decades of time have all spoken with complete unity on this subject. There are literally hundreds of statements made by those who have advanced to the leadership of the Church on this subject, and we have not found one that contradicts the scriptures or any other President. Some have known more than others on the subject, and some have spoken more clearly, but none of the statements contradict the others.Additionally, for any that are looking for evidence of Creation as taught in the scriptures, the signs are innumerable. The debate over Darwinian evolution among scientists is heated. There is no consensus. Please see FAQ topics discussing Intelligent Design, Creationism, and Darwinism as a proven fact. More importantly, look around. The Creation of God witnesses of its Creator and the events found in scripture, including the world-wide Flood, the destructions that occurred at the time of the Savior’s death in America and other literal events in scripture. Note these passages of scripture:

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. [1]

The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. [2]

Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! . . . And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together . . . And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! (Doctrine and Covenants 128:23

True science will bear witness of God and His Prophets, not fight His work and defame their testimony. If science classes among the Latter-day Saints are opposing the word of scripture and the statements of Prophets, is it not those teaching false scientific theories who are weakening faith rather than those proclaiming the testimony of prophets? Those who have faith in God can see His handiwork and can understand the truth of scripture and the writings of the prophets.
President John Taylor could see these signs. He testified powerfully that the destructions that occurred at the time of the Savior’s death here in America could be seen in the Rocky Mountain region.
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And when I cast mine eyes over our own land, and see . . . rocks having been rent, and torn asunder, from centre to circumference; I exclaim, Whence all this?

“When I read the Book of Mormon, it informs me, that while Christ was crucified among the Jews, this whole American continent was shaken to its foundation, that many cities were sunk, and waters came up in their places; that the rocks were all rent in twain; that mountains were thrown up to an exceeding height; and other mountain became vallies: the level roads spoiled; and the whole face of the land changed.—I then exclaim, These things are no longer a mystery; I have now learned to account for the many wonders, which I everywhere behold, throughout our whole country; when I am passing a ledge of rocks, and see they have all been rent and torn asunder, while some huge fragments are found deeply imbedded in the earth, some rods from whence they were torn, I exclaim, with astonishment, These were the groans! the convulsive throes of agonizing nature! while the Son of God suffered upon the cross! [3]

How interesting that one man sees the evidence for the scriptures in the rocks and the other sees the evidence that the scriptures are in error. One man sees the evidence for Christ’s suffering in the Americas, another sees the evidence that the earth is many millions of years old contrary to the teachings of scripture. How powerful the study of geology could be if the geologist used the physical evidence to promote the scriptures rather than to ridicule them. How powerful true science could be, unfettered by the false theories of men.

Prophetic Statements

Joseph Smith

“O ye Twelve! and all saints! profit by this important Key—that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it, that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray Jesus Christ; that you do not betray the brethren; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world or that which is to come. Yea, in all your kicking and flounderings, see to it that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell.” [4]

Joseph F. Smith

Some . . . limit the power of God to the power of men, and we have some of these among us and they have been among our school teachers. They would have you disbelieve the inspired accounts of the Scriptures . . . but we know better . . . . And I say, beware of men who come to you with heresies that things come by laws of nature of themselves, and that God is without power. —Logan Journal, April 7, 1914. [5]

Joseph Fielding Smith

We now come to this vital point. My fellow believers in the mission of Jesus Christ, in Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Gospel, as I have said, you are entitled through faithfully keeping the commandments of the Lord, to individual guidance. It is your right under these conditions to know the truth which makes us free. You cannot be a true member of the Church and reject Jesus Christ. You cannot be a faithful member and reject the scriptures—Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price—for these are the standards of our faith. If you accept them you cannot accept organic evolution, for they are diametrically opposed. [6]

“Question asked of Joseph Fielding Smith: “Since reading your book, Man: His Origin, and Destiny, I have been troubled by your difference in view of organic evolution and the age of man and the teachings of some of our most outstanding scientists who maintain that scientific evidence prove the earth and man to be much older than you claim. Your statements are contrary to what I have been taught and believe.”

President Smith’s Answer: If what I have written is in criticism of the present theories in relation to organic evolution and the age of man upon the earth, in which you believe, then I can readily see why you disagree with what I have taught. I will state frankly and positively that I am opposed to the present biological theories and the doctrine that man has been on the earth for millions of years. I am opposed to the present teachings in relation to the age of the earth which declare that the earth is millions of years old. Some modern scientists even claim that it is a billion years old. Naturally, since I believe in modern revelation, I cannot accept these so-called scientific teachings, for I believe them to be in conflict with the simple and direct word of the Lord that has come to us by divine revelation.” [7]

Ezra Taft Benson

“Recently one of our Church educators published what he purports to be a history of the Church’s stand on the question of organic evolution. His thesis challenges the integrity of a prophet of God. He suggests that Joseph Fielding Smith published his work Man: His Origin and Destiny against the counsel of the First Presidency and his own brethren. This writer’s interpretation is not only inaccurate, but it runs counter to the testimony of Elder Mark E. Petersen, who wrote this foreword to President Smith’s book, a book I would encourage all of you to read:

“Some of us [members of the Council of the Twelve] urged [Elder Joseph Fielding Smith] to write a book on the creation of the world and the origin of man…the present volume is the result. It is a most remarkable presentation of material from both sources [science and religion] under discussion. It will fill a great need in the Church, and will be particularly invaluable to students who have become confused by the misapplication of information derived from scientific experimentation.” [8]

“When one understands that the author to whom I allude is an exponent for the theory of organic evolution, his motive in disparaging President Joseph Fielding Smith becomes apparent. To hold to a private opinion on such matters is one thing, but when one undertakes to publish his views to discredit the work of a prophet, it is a very serious matter. It is also apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings will stand the test of time.” [9]

“I know one noble father who reviews with his children regularly what they have been taught, and if they have been taught any falsehoods; then the children and the father together research out the truth…If your children are taught untruths on evolution in the public schools or even in our Church schools, provide them with a copy of President Joseph Fielding Smith’s excellent rebuttal in his book Man, His Origin and Destiny.” [10]

“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.” [11]

“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.” [12]

“But it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. “Even in the Church,” said President Spencer W. Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones” [13]. 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 so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.Prophet,

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.” [14]

Howard W. Hunter

“The Old Testament unfolds the story of the creation of the earth and mankind by God. Should we now disregard this account and modernize the creation according to the theories of the modernists? Can we say there was no Garden of Eden or an Adam and Eve? Because modernists now declare the story of the flood is unreasonable and impossible, should we disbelieve the account of Noah and the flood as related in the Old Testament? Let us examine what the Master said when the disciples came to him as he sat on the Mount of Olives. They asked him to tell them of the time of his coming and of the end of the world. Jesus answered: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” [15] In this statement the Master confirmed the story of the flood without modernizing it. Can we accept some of the statements of the Lord as being true and at the same time reject others as being false? When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, and they discussed the matter of the death of her brother and the resurrection. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” [16] Both of these statements, the one regarding Noah and the fact of the flood and the one in which he declared himself to be the resurrection and the life, were made by the Lord. How can we believe one and not the other? How can we modernize the story of the flood, or refer to it as a myth, and yet cling to the truth of the other? How can we modernize the Bible and still have it be a guiding light to us and a vital influence in our beliefs? There are those who declare it is old-fashioned to believe in the Bible. Is it old-fashioned to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God? Is it old-fashioned to believe in his atoning sacrifice and the resurrection? If it is, I declare myself to be old-fashioned and the Church to be old-fashioned. In great simplicity, the Master taught the principles of life eternal and lessons that bring happiness to those with the faith to believe.” [17]

Gordon B. Hinckley

“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.” [18]

Darwinist and Neo-Darwinist

Charles Lyell

Charles Lyell desired to destroy belief in the scriptural record: “If we don’t irritate, which I fear that we may . . . we shall carry all with us. If you don’t triumph over them, but compliment the liberality and candor of the present age, the bishops and enlightened saints will join us in despising both the ancient and modern physico-theologians . . . I conceived the idea five or six years ago, that if ever the Mosaic geology could be set down without giving offence, it would be in an historical sketch . . . Let them feel it, and point the moral.” [19]

Scripture

D&C 77:12
“. . . as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man . . .”

D&C 77:6
“. . . the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or it temporal existence.”

Moroni 7:19
“Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?”

Psalm 19:1–2
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.”

Alma 30:44
The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Doctrine and Covenants 128:23
“Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! . . . And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together . . . And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!”

Supporting Statements

Louis Agassiz

“. . . facts are the words of God, and we may heap them together endlessly, but they will teach us little or nothing till we place them in their true relations, and recognize the thought that binds them together.” [20]

“In our study of natural objects we are approaching the thoughts of the Creator, reading his conceptions, interpreting a system that is His and not ours.” [21]

Henry Morris

I think it is highly important to emphasize…that all of the anti‑Christian systems of modern times have found their quasi‑scientific basis in the supposed scientific fact of evolution.  This has been true of communism and for various varieties of socialism, for modern militarism, and even for the anti‑Christian aspects of modern capitalism and colonialism.  In fact, it seems that the advocates of any doctrine or system overtly or covertly espousing covetousness or selfishness, in any form have appealed to evolutionary science as warrant for their opinions… The racism and militarism of Hitler and Mussolini were in large measure built upon the philosophical base established in the 19th Century by Friedrich Nietzsche and Ernest Haechel, both of whom were rabid promulgators of Darwinism among human societies.   1


  1. Psalm 19:1–2
  2. Alma 30:44
  3. John Taylor, The Government of God [Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1852], 105
  4. History of the Church 3: 385
  5. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 372
  6. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 276
  7. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5: 112
  8. Mark E. Petersen, Quoted in Joseph Fielding Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny, Foreword
  9. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, 26
  10. Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, p. 227
  11. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 60-61
  12. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 307
  13. Instructor, 95:257
  14. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 140
  15. Matthew 24:36–39
  16. John 11:25
  17. Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, p. 23
  18. Gordon B. Hinckley, Faith: The Essence of True Religion, p. 18
  19. Letter written to George Poulette Scrope in 1830, then published in Life, Letters and Journal of Charles Lyell, Mrs. Charles Lyell, ed. (London: John Murray, 1881), pp. 270-271
  20. Louis Agassiz
  21. Louis Agassiz

References:

  1. Henry M. Morris, “The Twilight of Evolution”

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