26) PATRIARCH AGES: Are the long life-spans of the patriarchs true doctrine? What does this mean for the theory of Darwinian evolution?

Commentary

An excellent timeline of the ages of the patriarchs can be viewed at this link. It compiles the references in the standard works in a quick and easy format. It can be easily noted that the long ages of the patriarchs, some extending nearly a thousand years, are supported by the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Joseph Smith Translation and the Lectures on Faith. The Book of Mormon also contains supplemental information. These canonized references are also supported by the writings of the Presidents of the Church and other inspired writings.

The fact is, if one accepts the word of God as found in the scriptures, individuals lived for nearly a thousand years prior to the Flood. After the Flood the ages shortened to a few hundred years. By the time of the Lord’s life on earth ages were more similar in length to today. This record shows evidence that life on this earth, rather than evolving, has been becoming more weak and frail. Adam’s original genetic makeup was nearly perfect, as he received it from his Father.

These scriptural facts are in complete contradiction with Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism. Both cannot be true. Either life has been evolving on this earth, or the scriptures are true and life has been degenerating since the fall. President John Taylor taught clearly that since the beginning life has been weakening.

The bottom line in this discussion is whether we take the scriptures as the word of God, revealed by His Spirit, or we place them in a category of half truths. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught clearly where we should be on this point.

When I speak as a man it is Joseph only that speaks. But when the Lord speaks through me, it is no longer Joseph Smith who speaks; but it is God, and let all Israel hear.” [1]

I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” [2]

Either the Prophet Joseph Smith and other prophets gave revelations from God, or they gave their best guesses on matters. Many argue that Prophets are inspired when they speak about moral matters, but when they speak on temporal or physical matters they are often in error. Some believe that the scriptures should only be read for their moral implications, and all dates and events should be viewed with skepticism. Perhaps this was the view of many to whom Noah testified. They could not believe in a physical Flood. If only the moralisms are of value, the vast majority of scripture is of little value. If Joseph Smith deceived the Church by declaring individuals to have lived nearly a millenium or to have received the priesthood, etc. after hundreds of years, how do we know that he was not in error when teaching moral patterns of life? If the scriptures cannot be trusted in one area, how do we know that they can be trusted at all? It is not difficult to see that Darwinism and other similar teachings are a direct attack upon the veracity of the scriptures. Darwin himself lost his faith in this very manner:

I had gradually come . . . to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc. . . . was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.” [3]

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

Adam was as conversant with his Father who placed him upon this earth as we are conversant with our earthly parents. The Father frequently came to visit his son Adam, and talked and walked with him; and the children of Adam were more or less acquainted with their Grandfather, and their children were more or less acquainted with their Great-Grandfather; and the things that pertain to God and to heaven were as familiar among mankind, in the first ages of their existence on the earth, as these mountains are to our mountain boys, as our gardens are to our wives and children, or as the road to the Western Ocean is to the experienced traveller. [4]

John Taylor

If we go back to the time when Adam first made his appearance on the earth, the Lord God we are told communicated with him, gave him certain commandments, told him what he should do and what he should not do; and when he transgressed the law, we are told that he heard the footsteps of the Lord in the garden, and he heard his voice speaking unto him, and when, at the dictum of the Almighty, he was expelled from the paradise in which he lived, an angel was placed there as a guardian to prevent his return. . . . We find that after the re-peopling of the earth after the flood men set to work to build a tower, and the Lord confused their languages and scattered them from hence, throughout all the earth. About this time a singular kind of personage appeared on the stage of action, named Abraham. He had been taught by his father to worship idols; but the Lord had manifested himself to him on certain occasions and instructed him in the true religion. He did not teach him as he taught Enoch, or as he had taught Noah; the circumstances of Abraham were different from those of Enoch and Noah, and if Abraham had the history of their times, as he unquestionably had, for Abraham was contemporary with Noah and Noah with Adam, and must have been acquainted with the events which had transpired, from the days of Adam at least from information given by Adam to Noah and by Noah to himself, he would know that the revelations they received were not applicable to his case, but he needed revelation from God for his own guidance and direction, that he might be led aright, and that he might be able to instruct his children after him in the path they should tread, in the principles, doctrines and ordinances that should be according to the mind and will of God. [5]

There have been different agencies at work throughout this world’s history. Lucifer has been and is one of these agencies. There was a garden planted, and Adam and Eve were placed in it, and there they had communion with God. . . . After Adam there were Seth, Enos, Mahalaleel, Methusaleh, Lamech, and a great many others until we arrive at Enoch and Noah, who operated especially in behalf of the interest of the human family. They preached the Gospel as we preach it, and taught the same principles that we teach. They gathered the people to a Zion as we gather them, and when they had been gathered together, they had enemies as we have, who arrayed themselves against them. But Enoch was clothed upon with the power of God. He walked with God for 365 years, and, we are told, he was not, for God took him.” That is about all that is said about him in the Bible; but we have other information. Many others walked with God, and there was a city that the people were gathered to—a Zion. They walked with God and they were instructed of the Lord; but it took at any rate, 365 years to accomplish this object. [6]

We can none of us do anything only as we are assisted, guided and directed by the Lord. No man ever lived that could. Adam could not. Noah could not. Even Jesus could not. Nor could the Apostles. They were all of them dependent upon the God of Israel to sustain them in all of their acts. And in regard to Adam himself, as we are, so was he very ignorant of many principles until they were revealed to him. And if they were revealed to him they did not originate with him; and so it was with others. We find that Adam was directed of the Lord to do a certain thing—that is, to offer up sacrifices—and when the angel of the Lord came to him and said: “Adam why do you offer up sacrifices?” Adam replied, “I do not know; but the Lord commanded me to do it, and therefore I do it.” He did not know what those sacrifices were for until the Lord revealed unto him the doctrine of the atonement and the necessity of the fall of man, and pointed out to him the way and manner to obtain an exaltation. Then he and Eve his wife rejoiced exceedingly at the mercy and kindness of the Almighty, and realized that even in their fall they were placed in a position to obtain a higher glory, and a greater exaltation than they could have done without it. Now, who revealed this to them? The Lord, through the ministering of an holy angel; and in relation to the dealings of God with all of the human family it has been precisely the same. We are told, for instance, that when Adam had lived to a great age—that three years before his death he called together his family—that is, some of the leading branches thereof who held the Holy Priesthood, mentioning the names of many of the more prominent that had received certain peculiar blessings from the hand of God—and there was manifested to him all things that should transpire to his posterity throughout all the future generations of time, and he prophesied of these things; and also upon those who were with him, rested the spirit of prophecy, and he blessed them, and they turned around and blessed him and called him Michael the Archangel, the Prince of Peace, etc. By what spirit then did Adam prophesy, and under what influence was he operating at that time? We are told in Scripture that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, and he in common with his sons who were then associated with him were in possession of that spirit which enlightened their minds, unfolded unto them the principles of truth, and revealed unto them the things that would transpire throughout every subsequent period of time. [7]

Now, in former times, in the days of the flood, for instance, the people became very corrupt, so much so we are told, that the imaginations of the hearts of men were only evil and that continually, and the Scriptures say it repented the Lord that He had made man because of his corruptions and wickedness; but some tell us that it repented Noah that man had been made because of the abominations and evils that he witnessed in his day. God destroyed the wicked of that generation with a flood. Why did He destroy them? He destroyed them for their benefit, if you can comprehend it, but I very much question whether all of you can or not. Let me explain a little. We are told, as I have already said, that God is the God and Father of the spirits of all flesh. We are further told that Jesus the Son of God, existed before the worlds were. It is also stated that He is our elder brother, and that we pre-existed also—that is, our spirits did. When Satan had gained an ascendency over the inhabitants of the earth so far that they had departed from God, and violated His laws, what would be the feelings of those spirits in the eternal worlds? Let me ask all intelligent people, would they not be apt to turn to their Heavenly Father and say: “Father, look down upon those corrupt inhabitants. Do you see them?” “Yes, I see them and I know them.” “Is it just that we, thy children, should be doomed to inhabit those filthy, corrupt bodies, and thus be subjected to Thy wrath and indignation, and it may be thousands of years before we can come back again into thy presence?” “No, it is not just,” and on this principle the Father destroyed them with a flood, and recommenced peopling the earth with the seed of a righteous man.

But, let me ask, what did the Lord do before He sent the flood? He sent Noah among them as a preacher of righteousness; He sent Enoch; He sent many Elders among the people, and they prophesied to them that unless they repented, judgment would overtake them; that God would overwhelm the earth with a flood and destroy the inhabitants thereof—that is, those who would not listen to the Gospel of the Son of God; for the Son of God was in existence then, not personally on earth, but existed in the spirit, and the promise to them was that He should come and atone for the sins of the world. They were taught these things, but they rejected them, that is the great majority of them did so. We are also told that Enoch walked with God, and that he had a city which they called Zion, and people gathered to Zion then, as we gather the people to Zion in this day. Enoch walked with God, and was instructed by Him, and he instructed the people of Zion. There is a very short account of it in the Bible. There we are simply told that “Enoch walked with God and was not; for God took him.” It was not thought necessary to say more upon this subject; but the facts were that Enoch and the people of his city, having been taught for upwards of 300 years in the principles of the Gospel before the judgment overtook the world, were translated. Thus the people in that day, had had fair warning, but only a very few paid any attention to it. We are told concerning the Book of Enoch that it is to be testified of in due time, and then we shall know more about these things than we do now. But what of those who were disobedient? They were thrown into prison. How long did they continue there? Until Jesus came. What then did He do? He went and preached to the spirits in prison. He was “put to death in the flesh,” we are told in the Bible, “but quickened by the spirit: by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” Is that in the Bible? inquire the Christians. Yes, that is in your Bible. [8]

And it would seem, according to the testimonies we have both in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, that the Lord has taken great pains in different ages of the world to send forth His servants to preach the Gospel to the people. We find this especially so in Noah’s day, and in the days of Enoch. There was a remarkable work performed then according to the revelations which have been given to us, which will be more fully developed when the Lord shall see fit to reveal other things associated therewith. But we learn that there was a Church organized about as ours may be; we learn that they went forth and preached the Gospel; we learn that they were gathered together to a place called Zion; we learn that the people of Zion were under the guidance, direction and teaching of the Almighty; in order that they might be prepared for another Zion in the grand drama associated with the dealings of God and his purposes pertaining to this earth and the heavens. We read that they walked with God for 365 years. We are told in the Bible a little short story about it, because it was one of those things that it was not necessary that everybody should know. We are told that “Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him.” But there was more about it than that. Enoch preached the Gospel to the people, and so did hundreds of Elders as they are doing to-day; and they gathered the people together and built up a Zion to the Lord, and when Enoch was not, but was caught up, Enoch’s city was not, but was caught up, and there were certain things associated therewith that are very peculiar. Why were they taken away from the earth? Because of the corruptions of men, because of the wickedness of men, because mankind had forsaken God, and become as broken cisterns that could hold no water, because they were not fulfilling the measure of their creation, and because it was not proper that they should live and perpetuate a race that was so corrupt and abominable. But before this was done, the righteous, the virtuous, the honorable, the pure, the upright were gathered together, and taught and instructed in the things of God. And what came next? Why, the destruction of the world. It was overflowed, we read, by the flood. What! And all the people destroyed? Yes, except a very few, according to the statements we have. [9]

The people became excessively wicked and corrupt, so much so, that, as the Scriptures informs us, “Their thoughts were only evil, and that continually;” and in consequence of this the Lord decreed that he would destroy the people from the face of the earth. But before he did it he gave revelation unto Noah, telling him that the destruction of all flesh upon the earth had been decreed by the Almighty in consequence of the wickedness of the people; and Noah had special revelation given to him adapted to the circumstances which surrounded him, and the age in which he lived. He was not told to build a city, to preach the Gospel and gather the people as Enoch had done; but he was told that the wickedness of all flesh had come up before the Almighty and that he had determined to destroy them with a flood; and Noah, believing in God and in the revelation which he gave unto him, according to the testimony of the Scriptures, built an ark, and gathered into that ark himself and wife, his sons and their wives, and two—male and female—of the various kinds of beasts, birds and creeping things that dwelt on the face of the earth. History records the coming of the flood, the destruction of the world by it, and the preservation in the ark of those who had listened to the word of God and to whom he communicated his will.

Subsequent to this time a variety of singular circumstances transpired and there existed many prominent characters both good and bad, worshipers of God and worshipers of idols. We find that after the re-peopling of the earth after the flood men set to work to build a tower, and the Lord confused their languages and scattered them from hence, throughout all the earth. About this time a singular kind of personage appeared on the stage of action, named Abraham. He had been taught by his father to worship idols; but the Lord had manifested himself to him on certain occasions and instructed him in the true religion. He did not teach him as he taught Enoch, or as he had taught Noah; the circumstances of Abraham were different from those of Enoch and Noah, and if Abraham had the history of their times, as he unquestionably had, for Abraham was contemporary with Noah and Noah with Adam, and must have been acquainted with the events which had transpired, from the days of Adam at least from information given by Adam to Noah and by Noah to himself, he would know that the revelations they received were not applicable to his case, but he needed revelation from God for his own guidance and direction, that he might be led aright, and that he might be able to instruct his children after him in the path they should tread, in the principles, doctrines and ordinances that should be according to the mind and will of God. [10]

Wilford Woodruff

The Lord gave father Adam the priesthood, and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, after the fall. When he went out into the dreary world, driven from the Garden of Eden, he received the Gospel, he received the priesthood, and he started forth upon the face of the earth with the keys of the kingdom of God, to endeavour to establish the works of righteousness upon the earth. . . . We find from the Bible, as well as from other revelations which God has given us, that Adam and the early patriarchs, those who were willing to be led by the law of God in that generation, received the high priesthood, and lived to a great age. It is said Methuselah lived to be almost 1,000 years old, and so did father Adam and others. . . . We are informed by revelation that Adam, three years previous to his death, “called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah. Who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-ahman,” and there bestowed upon them his last patriarchal blessing; and he prophesied what would take place even till the coming of Messiah, which prophecy is said to be written in the Book of Enoch. But men soon began to work corruption and unrighteousness on the earth in that early age; and in tracing the history of the church and kingdom of God from those prophets down, we find that the majority of the human family were unwilling to keep the commandments of God or to live according to those principles which were revealed to them for their salvation. It was but a little time after, comparatively speaking, that Enoch, who was acquainted with the teachings of Adam and of his fathers who held the holy priesthood, laboured to gather the people together to practise righteousness, but the majority of them would not be guided by him. He laboured 365 years, we are informed by revelation teaching them principles of righteousness, that they might become sanctified and prepared to receive celestial glory, but his labors were not appreciated by them. [11]

Bless your souls, if you lived here in the flesh a thousand years, as long as Father Adam, and lived and labored all your life in poverty, and when you got through, if, by your acts, you could secure your wives and children in the morning of the first resurrection, to dwell with you in the presence of God, that one thing would amply pay you for the labors of a thousand years. [12]

Noah was 120 years building the ark, we are informed in the Scriptures, and during that time he preached the Gospel. How many who were willing to believe his testimony? Only eight souls in all, including himself. He was very unpopular, I presume, and had as much derision heaped upon his head, for building an ark on dry ground, as any man that ever lived on the earth. But Noah was a prophet and a messenger of God, called to warn that generation and to build an ark, and if he had not done it he would have been held responsible for the lives of himself and family and all that generation. But he had the Spirit of God and was willing to do as he was told, whether the doctrine he preached was popular or unpopular. He built the ark, and went into it with his family, and they were saved. The history of the flood and of the salvation of Noah and his family is well known. He performed the work assigned him to do, and was saved; and that generation went to hell, there to remain until Christ went and preached the Gospel to their spirits in prison that they might be judged like men in the flesh. So you may trace the history of the kingdom of God through the world, generation after generation, and there is no generation that we have ever read of, the majority of whom have been willing to serve the Lord. [13]

You may go back, for instance, to the days of Noah. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. He was called of God. He was warned of God, and told what to do to save himself and family. The world had become terribly corrupt, and it was necessary that the people be called upon to repent. To this end God Almighty raised up a prophet. That prophet was Noah. He went forth as he was commanded and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and truth. He was commanded to build an ark on dry land. The people laughed at him and would not believe his testimony. For one hundred and twenty years he warned the inhabitants of the earth of the coming flood; but all that he could save were the members of his own family, some eight souls. The flood came, and all the inhabitants of the earth, save those who had entered the ark, were drowned. Their spirits were shut up in prison in the spirit world, and they remained there until after the death of Jesus Christ; and while His body lay in the tomb three and a half days He went and preached to those spirits in prison, where they had been shut up for thousands of years. [14]

Howard W. Hunter

After announcing that God created the heaven and the earth, the Old Testament relates that God conversed with our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. He gave them commandments and he conversed with them. No doubt Adam instructed his descendants, through eight generations to the father of Noah, in the things he had received from God by direct manifestations. Noah had direct communication with God and taught ten generations of his descendants.” [15]

Darwinist and Neo-Darwinist

Charles Darwin

I had gradually come . . . to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc. . . . was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.” [16]

Scripture

D&C 88:108–110
And then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years. And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years— And so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer; and Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years.”

Doctrine and Covenants 107:41–42, 44–48, 50, 53–56
This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner: From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth; Enos was ordained at the age of one hundred and thirty-four years and four months, by the hand of Adam. God called upon Cainan in the wilderness in the fortieth year of his age; and he met Adam in journeying to the place Shedolamak. He was eighty-seven years old when he received his ordination. Mahalaleel was four hundred and ninety-six years and seven days old when he was ordained by the hand of Adam, who also blessed him. Jared was two hundred years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam, who also blessed him. Enoch was twenty-five years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam; and he was sixty-five and Adam blessed him.

Methuselah was one hundred years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam.

Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.

Supporting Statements


  1. They Knew the Prophet, Andrus, Hyrum L. and Helen Mae Andrus, pg. 84
  2. History of the Church 6:366
  3. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, p. 85
  4. President Brigham Young, Eternal Punishment—”Mormonism,” etc., Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 9: 149
  5. John Taylor, Continued Revelation, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 14: 357 – 358
  6. John Taylor, October 6-7, 1884, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 25: 304 – 305
  7. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 26: 129 – 130
  8. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 24: 291 – 292
  9. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 26: 35 – 36
  10. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 14: 358
  11. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 11: 242 – 243
  12. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 21: 284
  13. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 11: 244
  14. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 24: 238
  15. Elder Howard W. Hunter, Conference Report, April 1970, First Day—Morning Meeting 8
  16. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, p. 85

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