22) JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH: Should President Joseph Fielding Smith’s position on organic evolution be taken seriously?

Questions Answered: Was Joseph Fielding Smith out of harmony with the First Presidency and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve when he published his work Man: His Origin and Destiny? Is President Smith the only witness against evolution? Should the writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, prior to his becoming President of the Church, be taken seriously?

Commentary

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President Joseph Fielding Smith stood as an uncompromising advocate of truth his entire life. The Prophet Joseph Smith was told that his name would be known for good and evil throughout the world. This could also be said to be true of his namesake Joseph Fielding Smith. Those that are firmly rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ deeply love and admire this powerful prophet of God. Those that build on a sandy foundation, find his words upsetting and even angering. One of the subjects President Smith stood firmly on was the danger of organic evolution to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Note this statement:

It has been truthfully said that organic evolution is Satan’s chief weapon in this dispensation in his attempt to destroy the divine mission of Jesus Christ.” [1]

Many have tried to explain away this and other statements, but note President Ezra Taft Benson’s feelings expressed in regard to President Smith’s writings.

It is . . . apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings will stand the test of time.” [2]

President Joseph Fielding Smith has been condemned and criticized for the publishing of his book Man, His Origin and Destiny and for his other writings and sermons in which he denounces the false theory of organic evolution. Some critics insinuate that President Smith went against the First Presidency in publishing his views and that he became silent when he became the president of the Church. This is demonstrably false given that he himself became the Lord’s mouthpiece. The Lord does not call men who have a habit of disregarding counsel to preside over His Church. This also runs counter to the testimony of President David O. McKay, who was the President of the Church at this time.

His [Joseph Fielding Smith’s] loyalty to the leadership of the Church has been uncompromising. He has supported his brethren in every endeavor. No man has ever been more loyal to the President of the Church. [3]

Note that Man, His Origin and Destiny was published in 1954. President Heber J. Grant also added his feelings about Joseph Fielding Smith’s qualifications to speak on doctrinal matters. In a letter to Elder Smith he noted.

I don’t want to flatter you, Joseph, but I want you to know that I consider you the best posted man on the scriptures of the General Authorities of the Church that we have. I want you to prolong your life, I want you to make a business of trying to take care of yourself.

Your affectionate relative,

HEBER J. GRANT [4]

These insinuations made by President Smith’s detractors are also proven to be false by the inspired testimony of President Smith himself in the October 1970 general conference of the Church. At that time, when he spoke as the Lord’s mouthpiece and as president of the Church, he said:

For more than sixty years I have preached the gospel in the stakes and missions of the Church—pleading with the Saints to keep the commandments, inviting our Father’s other children to accept the truth of salvation which has come to us by revelation in this present dispensation. All my days I have studied the scriptures and have sought the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord in coming to an understanding of their true meaning. The Lord has been good to me, and I rejoice in the knowledge he has given me and in the privilege that has been and is mine to teach his saving principles. As I ponder the principles of the gospel, I am struck forcibly by the uniform manner in which I…have taught them over the years. The truths of the gospel are everlastingly the same. Like God himself, they are the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I have taught and written in the past I would teach and write again under the same circumstances.” [5]

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One of President Smith’s most outspoken critics has been the author of Seers, Savants and Evolution: the Uncomfortable Interface and coauthor of the book Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements. For definitive debunking of these unfortunate materials please see Gary Shapiro’s excellent remarks on Seers, Savants . . . and Authoritative Statements . . . . There seems to be many more detractors of President Smith today than there has been in the past. There are numerous blogs set up to promote Darwinism and belittle the previous statements made by Presidents of the Church. One final point we would like to bring out in response to those who enjoy demeaning President Smith and other Prophets of God was summed up by President 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. . . . 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.” [6]

Note: President Joseph Fielding Smith was opposed to organic evolution and vocalized such opposition more than any other prophet of this dispensation. In fact, President Smith wrote an entire book that teaches against the theory, and he was asked to do so by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Obviously, the entire book is too long to include here. This book, entitled Man, His Origin and Destiny, was highly recommended by President Ezra Taft Benson.

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

We have enough and to spare, at present in these mountains, of schools where young infidels are made because the teachers are so tender-footed that they dare not mention the principles of the gospel to their pupils, but have no hesitancy in introducing into the classroom the theories of Huxley, of Darwin, or of Mill…this course I am resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to, and I hope to see the day when the doctrines of the gospel will be taught in all our schools, when the revelation of the Lord will be our texts, and our books will be written and manufactured by ourselves and in our own midst.” [7]

Heber J. Grant

I don’t want to flatter you, Joseph, but I want you to know that I consider you the best posted man on the scriptures of the General Authorities of the Church that we have. I want you to prolong your life, I want you to make a business of trying to take care of yourself.

Your affectionate relative,

HEBER J. GRANT [8]

George Albert Smith

No matter if scientists and great men of the world shall proclaim that we have evolved from the lower order of animals, the witness of the Spirit to you, my brethren and sisters, is that you are the offspring of the Lord . . . [9]

David O. McKay

His [Joseph Fielding Smith’s] loyalty to the leadership of the Church has been uncompromising. He has supported his brethren in every endeavor. No man has ever been more loyal to the President of the Church. [10]

Joseph Fielding Smith

Again, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Joseph Fielding Smith said: What I have taught and written in the past I would teach and write again under the same circumstances.” [11]

For more than sixty years I have preached the gospel in the stakes and missions of the Church—pleading with the Saints to keep the commandments, inviting our Father’s other children to accept the truth of salvation which has come to us by revelation in this present dispensation. All my days I have studied the scriptures and have sought the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord in coming to an understanding of their true meaning. The Lord has been good to me, and I rejoice in the knowledge he has given me and in the privilege that has been and is mine to teach his saving principles. As I ponder the principles of the gospel, I am struck forcibly by the uniform manner in which I…have taught them over the years. The truths of the gospel are everlastingly the same. Like God himself, they are the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I have taught and written in the past I would teach and write again under the same circumstances.” [12]

It has been truthfully said that 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

It is . . . apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings will stand the test of time.” [14]

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.” [15]

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.” [16]

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.” [17]

Darwinist and Neo-Darwinist Statements

Scriptures

Bible Dictionary: Fall of Adam

The process by which mankind became mortal on this earth. The event is recorded in Genesis 2, 3, 4 ; and Moses 3, 4 . The fall of Adam is one of the most important occurrences in the history of man. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There was no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the forbidden fruit,” Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life. Adam became the first flesh” upon the earth [18], meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal. Adam’s fall brought both physical and spiritual death into the world upon all mankind [19].

Latter-day revelation supports the biblical account of the fall, showing that it was a historical event that literally occurred in the history of man. Many points in latter-day revelation are also clarified that are not discernible from the Bible. Among other things it makes clear that the fall is a blessing, and that Adam and Eve should be honored in their station as the first parents of the earth. Significant references are 2 Nephi 2:15–16 ; 2 Nephi 9:6–21 ; Mosiah 3:11–16 ; Alma 22:12–14 ; Alma 42:2–15 ; D&C 29:34–44 ; Moses 5:9–13 .

Supporting Statements

N. Eldon Tanner

There is no more faithful person in all the world than Joseph Fielding Smith, … no one is more in tune, no one is better prepared to receive those directions from the Lord.” [20]


  1. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 184 – 185
  2. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 27
  3. Improvement Era, July 1966, p.613
  4. Advice from a Prophet: Take Time Out, BYU Studies copyright 1976, Richard O. Cowan
  5. President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1970, 5
  6. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, p. 26
  7. Brigham Young, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, p. 200
  8. Advice from a Prophet: Take Time Out, BYU Studies copyright 1976, Richard O. Cowan
  9. George Albert Smith, Conference Reports, April 1905, p. 61
  10. David O. McKay, Improvement Era, July 1966, p.613
  11. President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1970, 5
  12. President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1970, 5
  13. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 184 – 185
  14. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 27
  15. Mark E. Petersen, Quoted in Joseph Fielding Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny, Foreword
  16. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, 26.
  17. Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, p. 227
  18. Moses 3: 7
  19. Helaman 14: 16–17
  20. President Nathan Eldon Tanner, speech given at Church Historian’s Office, June 29, 1970. Taken from Joseph Fielding Smith,” Ensign, Oct 1976, 96

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