17) CONTENTION: Should the discussion of evolution be let alone to avoid contention? Should we defend the Prophets and Scripture?

Commentary

Some agree that Darwinian evolution cannot be harmonized

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with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they also feel that the issue is not worth the contention that it generally provokes. They feel that controversial subjects should be avoided as they generally accompany ill feeling. What should our position be? The Savior gave us at least two perfect statements for dealing with these issues.

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. [1]

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. [2]

Some may feel that the above statements by the Master are contradictory, but of course, they are not. The first makes it very clear that we must not have a spirit of contention while we are doing the Lord’s work, or any time for that matter. We must do our work with a spirit of love and service. We must love those we work with even if they are contentious. The second statement given by the Son of God reminds us that we must stand for truth regardless of the consequence and regardless of who opposes it. Those who stand for true principles of the Gospel will be commended to the Father by the Son. Even our own families must not come before standing for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson, a man filled with the love of God, stood for truth and was a man for all seasons. His family honored him not only for the friends that he gained, but for the enemies that he earned. To those who feel that they should shirk from contentious situations he replied:

Some might even call the war in heaven . . . controversial. Yet the valiant entered it with Michael. Those who support only the popular principles of the gospel have their reward. And those who want to lead the quiet, retiring life but still expect to do their full duty can’t have it both ways. [3]

Standing for truth does not mean that we are contentious even though the act may cause contention. The greatest individuals who have ever lived have caused the most contention by standing for the truths of the Gospel. The Savior was persecuted more than any other and considered the least in the Kingdom of God. Joseph Smith spent his life wading through persecution because he corrected the false traditions of the time. The Prophet often wondered at the anger that was pointed at him. In the 75 verses of his history the word persecution occurs 18 times!

It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? [4]

This life is not pleasant for the faithful, but we are promised everlasting blessings. Those who take up their crosses and follow Christ will be those given white robes and eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. [5]

The issues that are the most important always cause the most contention in this world where wickedness reigns. Evolution may very well be the most controversial subject of the Gospel, but prophets of God have declared it to be the most important issue that we face.

“Organic evolution is Satan’s chief weapon in this dispensation in his attempt to destroy the divine mission of Jesus Christ. [6]

. . . 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. [7]

President Joseph Fielding Smith has been relentlessly attacked,

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both from within and from without, through the years because of his faithful stand against Darwinism. Many have not understood that this humble follower of Christ was also a loving and gentle man. Note these words from his wife:

You ask me to tell you of the man I know, I have often thought when he is gone people will say, ‘He is a very good man, sincere, orthodox, etc.’ They will speak of him as the public knows him; but the man they have in mind is a very different from the man I know. The man I know is a kind, loving husband and father whose greatest ambition in life is to make his family happy, entirely forgetful of self in his efforts to do this. He is the man that lulls to sleep the fretful child, who tells bedtime stories to the little ones, who is never too tired or too busy to sit up late at night or to get up early in the morning to help the older children solve perplexing school problems. When illness comes, the man I know watches tenderly over the afflicted one and waits upon him. It is their father for whom they cry, feeling his presence a panacea for all ills. It is his hands that bind up the wounds, his arms that give courage to the sufferer, his voice that remonstrates with them gently when they err, until it becomes their happiness to do the thing that will make him happy.

The man I know is most gentle, and if he feels that he has been unjust to anyone the distance is never too far for him to go and, with loving words or kinds deeds, erase the hurt. He welcomes gladly the young people to his home and is never happier than when discussing with the topics of the day– sports or whatever interests them most. He enjoys a good story and is quick to see the humor of a situation, to laugh, and to be laughed at, always willing to join in any wholesome activity.

The man I know is unselfish, uncomplaining, considerate, thoughtful, sympathetic, doing everything within his power to make life a supreme joy for his loved ones. That is the man I know. [8]

Could the same be said of each of us? Standing for truth does not mean that we are contentious.

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 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.” [9]

Joseph Fielding Smith

“Our children are taught in their homes, in our Auxiliary organizations and in our Priesthood quorums, to believe in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . The have been taught that man is the offspring of God and that through the fall of Adam death came into the world and passed upon every creature through Adam’s transgression. . . . In this manner they are instructed in the home. Then they go to school and find these glorious principles ridiculed and denied by the doctrines of men founded on foolish theories . . . that man is the offspring of some worm or amoeba that in some unknown way multiplied to fill the earth with all its plants and animal life. . . . these theories do dominate the secular educations of our youth. They are constantly published in our newspapers, in magazines and other periodicals, and those who believe in God and his divine revelations frequently sit supinely by without raising any voice of protest. Under these adverse conditions is there any wonder that the student becomes confused? . . . Bishops and other presiding officers should see to it that only men and women whor are converted and full of faith are appointed to teach. Too frequently, I regret to say, unwittingly presiding officers in ward and quorums choose teachers that have scholastic trainings without discovering whether or not they are converted and in full faith in the doctrines of the Church. . . . Under such conditions, with enemies in our ranks, the influence of both Church and home is further weakened and our youth more seriously impressed with the false theories.” [10]

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. [11]

Now, I could continue to read—I shall not take the time—and show you that the creation that was made spiritually was in the same likeness of the creation that was later made temporally, when man, beast and plant were placed upon the earth. All were created before the foundation of this world was prepare—created spiritually—and existed in the kingdom of God. When the earth was formed and ready to receive them they were clothed with bodies that were physical and thus not only man, but the animals and the plants upon the face of the earth, became living souls, because they were composed of the spirit and the body combined. I like to believe this. I know it is true. It appeals to my reason, it appeals to my spirit, I accept it as the truth which God has revealed, and I rejoice in the knowledge that I have received regarding it. There is no theory in the world that can compare with it. These ideas of men, their foolish doctrines regarding the origin of life which are taught in many of the schools and against our protest very largely—and I am sorry to say, in too many cases without our protest, for I believe we ought to protest against these things—constitute the wisdom of uninspired men and must perish. I do not believe that the falsely called scientific theory Of man’s origin has any more right to a place in the public schools than the principles of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ have—and not half as much! [12]

“Organic evolution is Satan’s chief weapon in this dispensation in his attempt to destroy the divine mission of Jesus Christ. [13]

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.” [14]

“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.” [15]

“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.” [16]

“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.” [17]

“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.” [18]

“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” [19].

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.

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.” [20]

“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.” [21]

Some might even call the war in heaven . . . controversial. Yet the valiant entered it with Michael. Those who support only the popular principles of the gospel have their reward. And those who want to lead the quiet, retiring life but still expect to do their full duty can’t have it both ways. [22]

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.” [23]. 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.” [24]. 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.” [25].

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.” [26]

Scripture

3 Nephi 11:29
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”

Matthew 10:32-34
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

Supporting Statements

Boyd K. Packer

. . . 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. [27]


  1. 3 Nephi 11:29
  2. Matthew 10:32-34
  3. Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, p. 386; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 659
  4. Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith History 1:20
  5. Revelation 7:13-14
  6. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 184-185
  7. Boyd K. Packer, Things of the Soul, pp. 109-111
  8. Improvement Era, June 1932, p. 459
  9. History of the Church 3: 385
  10. Smith, Joseph Fielding. Man, His Origin and Destiny. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News Press, 1954. pg. 1-3
  11. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 276
  12. Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Conference Report, October 1917, Third Day—Morning Session 71
  13. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 184-185
  14. Mark E. Petersen, Quoted in Joseph Fielding Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny, Foreword
  15. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, 26.
  16. Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, p. 227.
  17. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 60-61
  18. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 307
  19. Instructor, 95:257
  20. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 140.
  21. Ezra Taft Benson, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, BYU devotional, February 26, 1980
  22. Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, p. 386; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 659
  23. Matthew 24:36-39
  24. John 11:25
  25. Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, p. 23
  26. 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
  27. Boyd K. Packer, Things of the Soul, pp. 109-111

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