“On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position.” – David O. McKay (1)
So, is it ok to accept evolution as a member of the Church? What has the Church said about evolution?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position on evolution, yet many members of the Church remain thinking that it’s contrary to the gospel and that they aren’t allowed to accept it. Despite this commonly held paradigm, however, you really can accept it if you want, and still be in good standing with the Church.
But before we proceed, we need to get the following statement out there:
We cannot have a productive discussion about the creation of the world and the diversity of life if we bring in quotations from latter-day prophets, apostles, or any other general authorities on the matter, except for Joseph Smith.
Wow! How’s that for a bold statement? Now, don’t get offended. We’ll explain why this is true- and it actually makes a ton of sense.
In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published (2). By April 1833, the Book of Moses had been published (3). And in 1842, the Book of Abraham was published (4). All of these books were given to the world by Joseph Smith, who died in 1844 (D&C 135:1-7).
In 1859, Charles Darwin first published his famous book On the Origin of Species, which claimed that all animals shared a common ancestor, and that the multiplicity of species we see was caused by evolution through natural selection. In 1871, he published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which claimed that humans evolved from primates (5). Darwin’s work started a debate that rages to this day. In time, this debate spread to the Mormons in Utah, and it became important for the leaders of the Church to address it.
The First Presidency
First, let’s look at what the Church has officially said about the issue. For this, we turn to the words of the First Presidency as a whole, which according to D&C 107:22-24, form a quorum equal in authority to the quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The First Presidency was the only quorum to publish statements dealing with evolution in a unanimous voice between all members of the quorum.
In 1909, the 100th year since the birth of Charles Darwin, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a statement on the matter of evolution entitled “The Origin of Man”. While the statement affirms that man was created in the image of God, and that evolution is one of the “theories of men”, it does not condemn the idea nor say that it is impossible. In fact, it admits that some of the details of Adam’s creation are not known, and cannot be unless revealed by God (6).
A year later, in 1910, the First Presidency issued another statement on the origin of man. This one is short and sweet. They actually give divinely-directed evolution as a possible method for God to create the bodies of Adam and Eve, but maintain that we cannot know for certain unless the Lord reveals it (8).
In 1925, following the Scopes Trial of that same year (10), the First Presidency made another statement. This one was an abridgment of the 1909 statement, being virtually identical except for omitting a big chunk of phrases and scriptural passages. Notably, one of the phrases taken out from the 1909 version is the one which indicates that the ideas of evolution are “the theories of men” (11). For whatever reason, they didn’t seem to think that sentence was necessary.
In 1930, B.H. Roberts of the Seventy got in a pretty heated dispute with Elder Joseph Fielding Smith of the Twelve about pre-adamites and death before the Fall. Pre-adamites are defined as people (or their remains) discovered by scientists to supposedly have lived and died before 4,000 BC, which is when the Fall of Adam is widely considered to have occurred (14). Roberts believed in pre-adamites, and wanted to publish a Church manual that mentioned them, but Smith was forcefully adamant that no such beings ever existed (13).
In answer to this quarrel, the First Presidency issued a memo to all general authorities on the matter (15). In this memo, issued in 1931, the First Presidency declared that there is no doctrine of the Church on whether or not pre-adamites (and by extension, death for any creature) existed before the Fall. “Neither side of the controversy has been accepted as a doctrine at all,” they said. The memo then goes on to tell all general authorities to focus on preaching the gospel, not the mysteries of science (16).
Apostle James Talmage called this neutral-stance decision by the First Presidency a “wise one” (17), and today we can see with even more clarity the wisdom of the men of God on this issue. If they had declared evolution to be of the devil, then the Church would be in a really sticky situation with the mountains of scientific evidence pouring in each day in favor of natural selection- and it really is mountains of evidence. On the other hand, if they had fully accepted evolution, perhaps their statements could have contained errors which could have later been proven false by scientists. And that wouldn’t have been good either.
The important thing to take away from this is that the Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. They do not say that it is true, and neither do they say that it is false. You are free to believe what you want about it! This fact is extremely significant, as many churches and creationists have utterly denounced evolution and all that goes with it (18).
What’s all the fuss about then? Well, even though the Church has no official stance on evolution, many apostles have shared their opinions on the subject. Often, people will use quotations from general authorities to support their viewpoints- you’ve probably seen it- and on the issue of evolution, there is no exception. As you can imagine, most of the apostles’ writings you’ll find on the topic aren’t exactly friendly to the idea of life evolving over millions of years, and this has helped many members of the Church steer clear of evolution. But just because one or more apostles have spoken out against evolution, does it automatically mean that it’s a false theory, and that we should avoid it at all costs? Not at all, and you’ll see why.
The Apostles and Prophets of the Church have had quite the diversity of opinions on the subject of the age of the earth and of the origin of life, and they don’t always agree with each other- which is a super-important fact. Here’s a small sampling for you to get an idea:
Brigham Young was open to the idea of the earth being millions of years old (19); but he also believed our world was formed near Kolob and then fell into this solar system with the Fall of Adam (20). Heber C. Kimball taught that the animals were transplanted here from another planet (21). Orson Hyde was under the impression that there were people on the earth before Adam got here (22). George Q. Cannon said that Adam was not descended from the lower life forms, but from God Himself (23). James Talmage taught that the evidence of death and evolution of creatures millions of years before Adam’s time was real, but he did not think that Adam was a descendant of prehistoric humans (24). John A. Widtsoe believed that the creation of the earth required “immense time periods”, and that this did not discredit the Bible (25); he stated that “no one can safely deny” the existence of pre-adamites (26); and was open to the idea that the body of man was created by evolution (27). David O. McKay expressed that he thought the theory of evolution was “beautiful” and thought-provoking (28). Joseph Fielding Smith taught that organic evolution was Satan’s “chief weapon” to destroy faith in Christ (29); and that if you accept human evolution, you must reject the plan of salvation (30). Bruce R. McConkie wrote that there were no pre-adamites (31), the creation took much less than hundreds of millions of years (32), and included the attempt to reconcile evolution with revealed religion as one of the Seven Deadly Heresies (33). Boyd K. Packer wrote that the theory that God used evolution to prepare a physical body for man’s spirit is false (34, 35).
Out of the apostles above, only Brigham Young and David O. McKay held the position of President of the Church at the time of their respective statements (37). Joseph Fielding Smith wrote vehemently against evolution during his time in the Quorum of the Twelve, yet he was notably silent on the subject while president (38).
Not Essential for Salvation
“I am convinced that if the Lord required that His children understand His works before they could be saved that no one would be saved.” -Henry Eyring (39)
As we have seen, the latter-day prophets and Apostles haven’t always agreed on the matters of science, especially the age of the earth and the origin of life. Some have considered evolution to be a real thing, but others have totally denied it. There is no way to prove or disprove our hypothesis by looking at the statements of these men. They contradict each other, yet their words all carry the same weight of authority. So what are we supposed to believe? How are we supposed to know what is true?
The solution to this problem is actually pretty simple: Throw out all their statements on science.
If a prophet or apostle said anything about how or when the earth was formed, or how man and other life came to be on this earth, it means nothing to us now; pros and antis alike. This doesn’t mean that we stop listening to what they say about spiritual things relevant to our salvation. Not at all! But when it comes to things that are not essential for salvation, such as science-related things, then we are not bound to believe what they say about it.
But aren’t these men supposed to be true prophets? How can they say things about science that ultimately aren’t true? The simple answer is that there may have been a claim said or written by a Church leader that later was shown by science to be wrong. Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained that “there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes… God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.” (40)
“[N]ot every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.” (41)
Prophets and apostles aren’t perfect, and not everything they say is doctrine. They don’t know everything about everything, and we can’t expect them to. Just because they may believe differently than scientists do about some things doesn’t mean that they are false prophets, or that the Church isn’t true. “I never told you I was perfect;” said the prophet Joseph Smith, “but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught?” (42)
Regardless of what has been said by individual Church leaders about science, we can ignore it all because science is not essential for our salvation. If it was, God would have told us, and the apostles would be in complete agreement. It doesn’t matter what process God used to create Adam’s body. It doesn’t matter how long it took for the earth to form or how long ago Pangaea broke apart. It doesn’t matter if you have Neanderthal DNA in yours. What matters is that somewhere around 2,000 years ago, a man claiming to be the Son of God walked into a grove of olive trees and suffered for your sins. After His death, His disciples bore witness that He rose again the third day and lived. What matters is what you do with that information, because that has eternal consequences. All this science stuff is important, yes, but it’s not essential. It can, however, increase your testimony of a loving Heavenly Father who would take billions of years to create you. Regardless of what you believe about the formation of the earth, it’s knowledge and a testimony of the Savior that will get you to where you need to be.
Joseph Smith knew what was most important when he said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (43)
Henry Eyring’s Take on It
“The fundamental principle that has guided my religious life is that I need believe only what is true.” -Henry Eyring (44)
So, is it ok to disagree with an apostle or prophet about science? Yeah, absolutely it is! It’s nothing to worry about, and nobody knew this better than Henry Eyring.
Henry Eyring was a scientific rock star, and a Latter-day Saint. He discovered the Absolute Rate Theory (or Transition state theory), which is vital to our modern understanding of chemistry (45). He believed that evolution and all of science were compatible with Mormonism (46), and that it’s alright to disagree with the Brethren on scientific matters. In his autobiography, he relates a story from his life in the 1950s (47) that illustrates this principle beautifully:
When President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book Man, His Origin and Destiny was published, someone urged it as an institute course. One of the institute teachers came to me and said, “If we have to follow it exactly, we will lose some of the young people.” I said, “I don’t think you need to worry.” I thought it was a good idea to get this problem out in public, so the next time I went to Sunday School General Board meeting, I got up and bore my testimony that the evidence was strongly in the direction that the world was four or five billion years old. That week, President Smith called and asked me to come see him. We talked for about an hour, and he explained his views to me. I said, “Brother Smith, I have read your books and know your point of view, and I understand that is how it looks to you. It just looks a little different to me.” He said as we ended, “Well, Brother Eyring, I would like to have you come in and let me talk with you sometime when you are not quite so excited.” As far as I could see, we parted on the best of terms.
I would say that I sustained President Smith as my Church leader one hundred percent. I think he was a great man. He had a different background and training on this issue. Maybe he was right. I think he was right on most things, and if you followed him, he would get you into the celestial kingdom. (48)
Henry’s attitude is exemplary. He knew that following the prophet would lead him to salvation, but he also knew that the age of the earth had nothing to do with any of it. He recognized that Elder Smith, like all other apostles who have spoken on the issue, was only expressing his opinion, not Church doctrine. And we’re all entitled to our own opinions- even those in high callings. “I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please,” Joseph Smith once said, “It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine” (49). Likewise, Henry Eyring knew that it doesn’t prove that a man isn’t a good man because he errs in science. And so, in order to discuss these things productively, we have to disregard what the prophets and apostles have said about the subject, with one exception: Joseph Smith.
Why Is Joseph Smith OK then?
Joseph Smith was also a prophet, and a fallible man. Why then is it alright to consider his words when we talk about science and evolution?
Because he was the first prophet of this dispensation, and the translator of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, and the Book of Abraham, and the receiver of the Doctrine & Covenants. It is from him that we have the large majority of our scriptures; and it’s with those scriptures that we will support the claims of science. He definitely didn’t know everything, but he said all the right things in the early 1800s to help us accept the science of our day. It’s possible he had special insights into these things that the apostles after him did not. It was he, through the power of God, that translated these ancient and precious documents of scripture. If they have any value in showing that God knows how the universe came to be, then perhaps Joseph caught a glimpse of that. Also, it’s kind of our working hypothesis that pretty much everything we have that reconciles science with LDS religion came from Joseph Smith.
To be clear, Joseph Smith never talked directly about evolution. He died in 1844. Charles Darwin didn’t publish his ideas on evolution and natural selection for another 15 years after that; therefore there is no way that Joseph could have known or commented about the controversial theory. However, Joseph wasn’t one to disregard the findings and realities of science. He once remarked in general conference that he knew the earth wasn’t flat because “science [had] proved to the contrary” (50). We must then wonder how he would have reacted to the scientific evidence of evolution, had he been alive when it came forth. Would he have accepted that all living things descended from a single source, if the science could support it?
While Joseph clearly didn’t know about genome sequences or planetary accretion disks, his words are largely and surprisingly compatible with modern science. For a man who was dead before many major scientific discoveries, he sure did get a lot of things correct when he was alive. And that’s why we will include his words in our discussion.
It’s important to remember that the Church has no official doctrine or position on evolution (51). You’re free to like it, love it, study it, geek out about it, watch documentaries about it, whatever. Whether it’s true or not; or exactly how God created the heavens and the earth and all the plants, animals, and people; or how long it took for it all to happen is not essential for our salvation. We can go to our graves believing that the earth is only 6,000 years old, or die accepting gorillas as our cousins. Either way, if we choose the right and keep our covenants with God, we’ll all still be saved in the same celestial kingdom. Regardless of how fun this stuff is to talk about, it just doesn’t matter in the eternal scheme of things.
The First Presidency said it very well in that Roberts-and-Smith-inspired, 1931 memo to all general authorities:
Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world. Leave Geology, Biology, Archaeology and Anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church. (52)
There you have it. The First Presidency telling all the general authorities, Apostles, Seventy, and the like that science has nothing to do with the salvation of souls, and that they should leave the subject alone. We therefore do not have to consider their statements on the topic. Do the words of general authorities have value when speaking about religious things? Absolutely! These are wonderful men who are called of God to do His work. But we can’t expect them to know everything, especially when it comes to science. And you’ll see that as we strip ourselves of their words and focus on what the Lord has revealed through the scriptures and Joseph Smith on the subject, and what He has revealed through science, everything starts to make a whole lot more sense.
SOURCES AND NOTES
- David O. McKay, in letter to Professor William Lee Stokes, 15 Feb 1957. A copy can be found here: https://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/lds/lds-articles/mckay-evolution.pdf.
- The Book of Mormon was published on 26 March 1830. See “Chronology of Church History”, https://history.lds.org/timeline/tabular/chronology-of-church-history?lang=eng
- The Book of Moses was published in three installments as part of the Evening and Morning Star of August 1832, March 1833, and April 1833. See “How We Got the Book of Moses”, by Robert J. Matthews, Ensign January 1986, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/01/how-we-got-the-book-of-moses?lang=eng
- The Book of Abraham was published in the Times and Seasons between March and May 1842. “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham”, Gospel Topics Essays, https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng
- 30-Second Evolution, edited by Mark Fellowes & Nicholas Battey, Metro Books, 2015, pp. 22-23.
- Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, by William E. Evenson & Duane E. Jeffery, Greg Kofford Books, 2005, pp. 13-25. The text of the 1909 statement can also be found here: http://www.tungate.com/Official_statements.htm
- Image of the 1909 First Presidency found here: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/02/the-origin-of-man?lang=eng
- Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, pp. 42-44. The text of the 1910 statement can also be found here: http://www.tungate.com/Official_statements.htm
- Image of the 1910 First Presidency found here: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-f-smith/chapter-25?lang=eng
- “47b. The Monkey Trial.” USHistory.org, http://www.ushistory.org/us/47b.asp.
- Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, pp. 29-33. The text of the 1925 statement can also be found here: http://www.tungate.com/Official_statements.htm
- Image of the 1931 First Presidency found here: https://www.lds.org/manual/presidents-of-the-church-student-manual/chapter-7?lang=eng
- For more information about the Roberts and Smith disagreement, see: http://signaturebookslibrary.org/the-search-for-harmony-05/;http://signaturebookslibrary.org/the-b-h-robertsjoseph-fielding-smithjames-e-talmage-affair/
- See the LDS Bible Dictionary, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bible-chron/old-testament?lang=eng .
- The Search For Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism, edited by Gene A. Sessions & Craig J. Oberg, Signature Books, 1993, pp. 93-98. http://signaturebookslibrary.org/the-b-h-robertsjoseph-fielding-smithjames-e-talmage-affair/
- Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, pp. 51-67. An annotated excerpt of the 1931 First Presidency memo can also be found here: http://www.tungate.com/Official_statements.htm#1931
- James Edward Talmage, Personal Journal (7 April 1931) 29:42, Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. “Involved in this question is that of the beginning of life upon the earth, and as to whether there was death either of animal or plant before the fall of Adam, on which proposition Elder Smith was very pronounced in denial and Elder Roberts equally forceful in the affirmative. As to whether Preadamite races existed upon the earth there has been much discussion among some of our people of late. The decision reached by the First Presidency, and announced to this morning’s assembly, was in answer to a specific question that obviously the doctrine of the existence of races of human beings upon the earth prior to the fall of Adam was not a doctrine of the Church; and, further, that the conception embodied in the belief of many to the effect that there were no such Preadamite races, and that there was no death upon the earth prior to Adam’s fall is likewise declared to be no doctrine of the Church. I think the decision of the First Presidency is a wise one in the premises. This is one of the many things upon which we cannot preach with assurance and dogmatic assertions on either side are likely to do harm rather than good.” Quotation found here: https://scottwoodward.org/pre-adamites_noofficialposition.html.
- Examples of churches or preachers who deny evolution: Various churches: “Religious Groups’ Views on Evolution.” Pew Research Center, 3 February 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/2009/02/04/religious-groups-views-on-evolution/; Ken Ham: Answers in Genesis. “Evolution Refuted.” AnswersInGenesis.org, 27 June 2011. https://answersingenesis.org/media/video/evolution/evolution-refuted/; Seventh Day Adventists: “Official Statements: Affirmation of Creation.” Adventist.org, 11 October 2004. https://www.adventist.org/en/information/official-statements/statements/article/go/-/affirmation-of-creation/; Jehovah Witnesses: “Evolution—Myths and Facts.” Wol.JW.org. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102010233.
- Brigham Young, 1871, Journal of Discourses 14:116
- Brigham Young, 1874, Journal of Discourses 17:143
- Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 8:243-244. “After the earth was made, then there was a garden spot selected, and the Lord commanded some of his associates to go and plant it, and to cause all kinds of vegetation to grow, and fruits of every description. Some suppose the Lord commanded all these things to come out of the earth. Yes, he did, after the seeds were put in the earth; and he blessed the earth, and the vegetation that was in the earth. When all these things were done, the garden was beautified, and made pure, and clean and holy and sanctified; and then the next thing was to bring forth the animal creation; but the animals were not brought there until the vegetation was planted and grown… When he planted the garden, he planted it with seeds he brought with him; and he also brought the animals from the earth he lived upon, where his Father dwelt.”
- Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 2:79. “Upon this hypothesis [I] will go back to the beginning, and notice the commandment that was given to our first parents in the garden of Eden. The Lord said unto them, “Multiply and replenish the earth.” I will digress here for a moment from the thread of the subject, and bring an idea that may perhaps have a bearing upon it. The earth, you remember, was void and empty, until our first parents began at the garden of Eden. What does the term replenish mean? This word is derived from the Latin; “re” and “plenus;” “re” denotes repetition, iteration; and “plenus” signifies full, complete; then the meaning of the word replenish is, to refill, recomplete. If I were to go into a merchant’s store, and find he had got a new stock of goods, I should say—”You have replenished your stock, that is, filled up your establishment, for it looks as it did before.” “Now go forth,” says the Lord, “and replenish the earth; for it was covered with gloomy clouds of darkness, excluded from the light of heaven, and darkness brooded upon the face of the deep. The world was peopled before the days of Adam, as much so as it was before the days of Noah. It was said that Noah became the father of a new world, but it was the same old world still, and will continue to be, though it may pass through many changes. When God said, Go forth and replenish the earth; it was to replenish the inhabitants of the human species, and make it as it was before. Our first parents, then, were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth;” Quotation found here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Journal_of_Discourses/Volume_2/The_Marriage_Relations
- George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, October 1861, p. 654. “[Brigham Young] unmistakably declare[d] man’s origin to be altogether of a celestial character – that not only is his spirit of heavenly descent, but his bodily organization too, – that the latter is not taken from the lower animals, but from the originally celestial body of the great Father of Humanity.”
- “The Earth And Man”, address given by James E. Talmage on 9 August 1931; also published in the Deseret News, 21 November 1931, pp. 7, 8. Source found here: http://signaturebookslibrary.org/essential-james-e-talmage-37/. In a letter to a friend, Talmage wrote: “Undoubtedly true evolution is true, meaning progress from the lower to the higher, from the simple to the more complex. We cannot sweep aside all the accumulated knowledge in geology, archeology or any other branch of science simply because our interpretation of some isolated passage of scripture may seem to be opposed thereto. I do not believe that Adam derived his mortal body by evolutionary processes from the lower animals. The adamic race of men are of an entirely different order.” Source for the letter: Talmage to F. C. Williamson, 22 Apr. 1933, Talmage Papers. (88), found here: http://ndbf.blogspot.com/2005/08/james-e-talmage-and-theory-of.html.
- John A. Widtsoe, “The Length Time of Creation,” Improvement Era 12 no. 6 (April 1909), 491-94. “The scientific doctrine of the great age of the earth, rests largely upon the evidence of the orderly arrangement of plant and animal fossils in the rocks constituting the upper portion of the earth’s crust. Those who hold to the six day theory of creation, claim that in accordance with the above quotation from the Prophet Joseph, these stratilied rocks, containing fossils, are fragments of other worlds, and do not represent processes that have taken place on this earth. Why fossils may have been formed on other worlds, but not on the earth, is nearly as difficult to understand as the doctrine that living, intelligent beings are found only on the earth. Modern science has developed a doctrine like that of Joseph Smith, which teaches that heavenly bodies may be made up of fragments of destroyed worlds, but the parts of destroyed worlds which go to build new heavenly bodies are minute, even microscopic in size. There are numerous strong evidences against the view that large sections of other worlds were brought together to form this earth (see an article by Dr. J. E. Talmage, Improvement Era vol 7, p 481). Primarily, it would not be the way of nature, as we know it. God, who is nature’s master, does his work in a natural manner…. The more the matter is carefully examined, the firmer grows the belief that the creation of the earth occupied immense time periods, the exact length of which is not yet given to man to know. This view does not in any way discredit the book of books, the Holy Bible. The Bible must be read with understanding minds; as :1 hook, it must no more be held to a word. than a man desires so to be held. By verse and chapter and book, the Bible will be found an accurate, inspired record of the most wonderful and valuable events and doctrines of the world. However, it must not be forgotten that the Apostle Paul has reminded us that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” God reveals himself in nature; and when nature is read understandingly God may thereby in part be comprehended. There is no conflict between the story of the rocks and the Bible, except as man has made it. Finally, it must be said that so far as living a correct gospel life is concerned, it matters little whether or not we know the time God consumed in making the earth a fit habitation for man.”
- John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations”, Improvement Era, May 1948, 205. The article was titled “Were There Pre-Adamites?” Cited in Michael R. Ash, “The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution”, 28, urnal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V35N04_33.pdf
- John A. Widtsoe in July 17, 1934 letter to Sterling Talmage, reprinted in Talmage, Can Science Be Faith-Promoting?, 222-23. “It would not hurt my feelings at all if in the wisdom of the Almighty the body of man was prepared in just the way you outline in your article [‘Is Evolution a Faith-Promoting Principal?’], and then that the spirit of man, the eternal ego, was placed within a body so prepared.” Cited in Michael R. Ash, “The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution”, 28, urnal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V35N04_33.pdf
- David O. McKay, “A message for LDS College Youth,” address to BYU students, (10 October 1952): 6-7, Extension Publications, BYU. “For example, evolution’s beautiful theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists there is no intelligent purpose in it, will infest the student with the thought that all may be chance. I say, that no youth should be so led without a counterbalancing thought. Even the skeptic teacher should be fair enough to see that even Charles Darwin, when he faced this great question of annihilation, that the creation is dominated only by chance wrote: ‘It is an intolerable thought that man and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long, continued slow progress.’ And another good authority, Raymond West, said, ‘Why this vast [expenditure] of time and pain and blood?’ Why should man come so far if he’s destined to go no farther? A creature that travels such distances and fought such battles and won such victories deserves what we are compelled to say, ‘To conquer death and rob the grave of its victory.’” Quotation found here: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Primary_sources/Evolution/David_O_McKay_1952.
- Man: His Origin and Destiny, by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 184. “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.”
- Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, by Joseph Fielding Smith, pp. 141-42. “…I say most emphatically, you cannot believe in this theory [of evolution] of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other, for they are in direct conflict and there is a gulf separating them which is so great that it cannot be bridged, no matter how much one may try to do so….”
- Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie, p. 184. “There were no pre-Adamites. Any assumption to the contrary runs counter to the whole plan and scheme of the Almighty in creating and peopling this earth.”
- Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie, p. 184. “Evolutionary theories assume that hundreds of millions of years were involved, first in the creation of the earth as a habitable globe, and again in the evolution of spontaneously generated, single celled forms of life into the complex and multitudinous forms of life now found on its face. We have rather specific scriptural indications that the creative period was of relatively short duration.”
- Bruce R. McConkie, “Seven Deadly Heresies”, address given at BYU on 1 June 1980. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/bruce-r-mcconkie_seven-deadly-heresies/.
- Boyd K. Packer, The Book of Mormon: Jacob Through Words of Mormon, p. 1-31. “If man is but an animal, then logic favors freedom without accountability or consequence. Had man evolved from animals, there could have been no fall, no law broken, no penalty, no need for a mediator. The ordinance of baptism would be an empty gesture since it is for the remission of sins. Many who perceive organic evolution to be a law rather than theory do not realize they forsake the atonement in the process. And, I am sorry to say, the so-called theistic evolution, the theory that God used an evolutionary process to prepare a physical body for the spirit of man, is equally false. I say I am sorry because I know it is a view commonly held by good and thoughtful people who search for an acceptable resolution to an apparent conflict between the theory of evolution and the doctrines of the gospel. An understanding of the sealing authority with its binding of the generations into eternal families cannot admit to ancestral bloodlines to beasts.” Quotation found here: https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/book-mormon-jacob-through-words-mormon-learn-joy/law-and-light.
- For more quotes about evolution from Church leaders, see http://www.mormonthink.com/QUOTES/evolution.htm; https://cs.gmu.edu/~sean/stuff/Evolution.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_views_on_evolution .
- Collage of the apostles cited above. Their images were taken from the following locations: Brigham Young: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Young; Heber C. Kimball: https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/heber-c-kimball-portrait-284055?lang=eng; Orson Hyde: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Hyde; George Q. Cannon: https://history.lds.org/exhibit/george-q-cannon-a-mighty-instrument?lang=eng; James E. Talmage: https://sites.lib.byu.edu/special-collections/2016/06/09/james-e-talmage-journals-1879-1911/; John A. Widtsoe: https://www.lds.org/manual/by-study-and-also-by-faith/chapter-one-by-small-and-simple-things-1912-1935?lang=eng; David O. McKay: https://www.lds.org/manual/presidents-of-the-church-student-manual/chapter-9?lang=eng; Joseph Fielding Smith: https://history.lds.org/exhibit/prophets-of-the-restoration-joseph-fielding-smith?lang=eng; Bruce R. Mcconkie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_R._McConkie; Boyd K. Packer: https://www.lds.org/church/leader/boyd-k-packer?lang=eng
- Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church on 27 December 1847. He died on 29 August 1877. His two statements mentioned in this section were made in 1871 and 1874. https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-brigham-young/historical-summary?lang=eng. David O. McKay was sustained as President of the Church on 9 April 1951. He died on 18 January 1970. His included statement was made in 1952. https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-david-o-mckay/historical-summary?lang=eng.
- Joseph Fielding Smith was sustained as President of the Church on 6 April 1970. He died on 6 July 1972. His book Man, His Origin and Destiny was published in 1954. His book series Doctrines of Salvation was published in 1956. https://history.lds.org/article/timeline-joseph-fielding-smith?lang=eng.
- Henry Eyring, in letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, 18 Apr. 1955. Quotation found here: http://signaturebookslibrary.org/agreeing-to-disagree-henry-eyring-and-joseph-fielding-smith/.
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come Join With Us,” General Conference, October 2013. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/come-join-with-us?lang=eng.
- Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Christ”, April 2012 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-doctrine-of-christ?lang=eng. See also “Approaching Mormon Doctrine”, Mormon Newsroom, 4 May 2007. https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine. For help discerning what does constitute as Church doctrine, see also “Doctrine: Models to Evaluate Types and Sources of Latter-day Saint Teachings”, by Anthony Sweat, Michael Hubbard MacKay, and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/re-17-no-3-2016/doctrine-models-evaluate-types-and-sources-latter-day-saint-teachings. See also this episode of the Leading Saints podcast with Anthony Sweat, https://leadingsaints.org/wrestling-with-church-doctrine-an-interview-with-anthony-sweat/
- History of the Church, 6:366
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 121 (8 May 1838)
- Reflections of a Scientist, by Henry Eyring, Deseret Book Company, 1983, p. 61.
- Absolute Rate Theory: National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Biographical Memoirs: V.70. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/read/5406/chapter/4#47; “Transition State Theory.” IUPAC. Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the “Gold Book”). Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford (1997). Updated 24 February 2014. http://goldbook.iupac.org/html/T/T06470.html.
- Reflections of a Scientist, pp. 1-3, 59-63
- The Search for Harmony, pp. 137-153. http://signaturebookslibrary.org/agreeing-to-disagree-henry-eyring-and-joseph-fielding-smith/.
- Reflections of a Scientist, p. 53; President Henry B. Eyring, member of the First Presidency, reminisced in General Conference about a time when his father, Henry Eyring, was asked by an apostle to write about the scientific evidence for the age of the earth (see Pres. Eyring’s talk, “That He May Become Strong Also,” October 2016). Historian Ben Spackman, according to his blog, believes the apostle who asked Henry Eyring to write this up was Adam S. Bennion, who was acting under the direction of then-President-of-the-Church David O. McKay in 1954. Pres. McKay was displeased with Joseph Fielding Smith’s publishing his book Man- His Origin and Destiny, and wanted some LDS scientists to weigh in on the matter.
- History of the Church 5:340
- History of the Church 5:344
- See this relatively recent article in a Church magazine, https://www.lds.org/new-era/2016/10/to-the-point/what-does-the-church-believe-about-evolution?lang=eng.
- Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, p. 67.
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