The Organization of Intelligences: The Why of Evolution

The glory of God is intelligence (D&C 93:36).

Why is it that evolution would be a necessary means of creating life on this planet and on others? Why is it that there existed so many generations of trilobites, dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, etc, in so many different variations and levels of complexity? Why did there exist creatures that looked like men who lived before Adam’s time?  

If God were to have answers to these questions, where would be the best place to talk about it? The premortal life of course! The Council in Heaven! Abraham chapter 3! That’s where everything else was planned out; why wouldn’t evolution be one of those things planned out as well?

We claim that there was a reason to use evolution to create; it was planned out in the premortal existence; and… it’s all about the intelligences.

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; (Abraham 3:22)

What Is an Intelligence?

Okay, so what are “intelligences”(1)? They are the “spark” that gives a thing life. In your case, your intelligence is you. That thing that makes you who you are. The spirit that makes you unique. It is your mind, your thoughts, your consciousness. Your intelligence is, or rather you are, your own entity with feelings, desires, thoughts, and freedom to act as you choose. “All [intelligence] is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, … otherwise there is no existence” (D&C 93:30). Your intelligence is you. And would it surprise you to find out that you have been around for forever? Joseph Smith said:

Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven… Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. (2)

You were always you, even ages before the world came to be. Abraham learned the same thing when the Lord told him that intelligences “have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal” (Abraham 3:18).  And even though at some point God created your body, He did not create your intelligence, for “intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29). Your intelligence is, as Joseph says, “self-existent”, meaning it exists without anyone putting it there or bringing it to being (3). Nobody created you, and nobody could. You just always were and always will be. Said Joseph Smith:

All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. (4)

Try to remember the day you came into existence. Can you? Nope. Just like God, we are “without beginning of days or end of years” (Moses 1:3). We are eternal. When you realize this is true, you realize that you must have quite the glorious past and an even more promising future.

Abraham also learned that he existed as an intelligence in the presence of God (see Abraham 3:22-23). And so did you. We all did. And we can therefore infer that the spirits of all men and women existed as intelligences in the Lord’s presence before the world began. But does that account for ALL of the intelligences in God’s presence? Were those intelligences with Him exclusively the ones that would become humans? Or did this group include other, non-human creatures as well?

Do Animals and Plants Have Intelligences?

This brings us to the important question: Do animals and plants have intelligences? Well, of course they do! They have to. And here you’ll see why.

As we learned from the Four Beasts, each animal is full of “light and knowledge”, or with a certain level of intelligence, with “power, to move” and “to act” (see D&C 77:4) and to choose things for itself. And we know that the animals have spirits which are “in the likeness” of their physical bodies, just like we do (D&C 77:2). Moses tells us that everything was created spiritually before it was created “naturally”, or physically, including “every plant … and every herb of the field” (Moses 3:5). Even the plants have spirits! So, if you and I each have a spirit with an intelligence, and animals and plants have spirits, then they must have intelligences as well. They too must have existed as intelligences in the Lord’s presence before the world began.

Thus we see that the intelligences Abraham saw organized before the world was must have included Abraham and you, along with all other humans, and all the lizards, zebras, velociraptors, worms, platypuses, spiders, palm trees, mushrooms, amoebae, and every other living thing that has been or ever will be born or grown on our planet (see Abraham 3:22). They were all there. Contrary to its most common interpretation, the passage in Abraham 3 never says that these intelligences were only humans like us. We all must have been there, and we all had just as much right to be. God perhaps hints at this when he tells Abraham:

I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen. (Abraham 3:21)

God rules over all of the intelligences Abraham had seen, and He came down in the midst of all of them. He rules over us humans here on earth, yes; but He also rules over all the animals as well, doesn’t He? Doesn’t He rule over all the kingdoms of life? Isn’t He called “the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are” (Ether 4:7, emphasis added)? The scriptures are packed with examples of animals obeying God (see Genesis 8:6-12; Exodus 8-10; Numbers 11:31-32; Numbers 22:22-33; 1 Kings 17:1-7; 2 Kings 2:23-24; Jonah 1:17-2:10; Daniel 6:16-24; Matthew 17:24-27; Luke 5:1-6; John 21:3-6). It seems they know who their King and Father is. From now on, read Abraham 3 as talking about the intelligences of all living things, not just humans.

So, logically, from the scriptures, it makes sense that animals and plants are intelligences; but is there any scientific evidence to support that claim? Actually, yes, and it’s overwhelming. Brace yourself.

Many animal species regularly migrate hundreds of miles to places they know and remember from their infancy (5). Chimpanzees have been observed to remember and put numbers in order better than humans can (6). Gorillas have learned human sign language (7).  Elephants can make art (8). Parrots have learned to speak English and answer complex questions (9). Dolphins can think abstractly, understand syntax, and use tools (10). Otters, octopuses, chimps, some monkeys, and various types of birds also use tools (11). Wasps can recognize the faces of individuals (12). Crows, sheep, and fish can even recognize different human faces (13). Dogs can memorize the names of hundreds of objects (14). Hyenas can count to three (15). Ants skillfully domesticate and farm fungus and aphids (16). Mosquitos can learn to stay away from people trying to kill them- as hard as that is to believe (17). Microbes use teamwork to accomplish tasks (18). Mimosa plants have demonstrated the ability to learn and remember (19). Slime mold has shown an ability to learn and to create efficient pathways through a maze (20).

And while some of these organisms had to be trained and had to learn these skills, it reminds us of the words of Joseph Smith when he said, “All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement”- even, apparently, the minds and spirits of our animal friends (21).

Animals and plants have forms of communication, or languages, like we do. Many predator species work together in teams to catch their prey in clever and strategic ways, thus indicating that they are not only thinking, but are communicating with each other somehow (22). Chimpanzees in the wild have developed their own forms of sign language (23). Dolphins communicate three-dimensional images through sound (24). Sperm whales have cultural vocalizations or songs which spread across the ocean to other populations when they become trendy (25). Elephants communicate in subsonic rumbles that can be heard for many miles (26). Turkeys have their own language and vocabulary (27). Prairie dogs have different calls to describe the size, speed, and color of a predator (28). Wild horses speak their own language with body movements (29). River turtles vocalize to their unhatched offspring through the eggshells, and the youngsters talk back (30). Grouper fish signal to and collaborate with moray eels to hunt other fish (31). Honey bees dance to describe where the food is and how far (32). Ants communicate through pheromones and touch (33). Trees also communicate with pheromones to warn each other of attackers (34). Jumping spiders send messages to each other through vibrations (35). Some species of dolphins, bats, and parrots give themselves distinct names, or “signature calls”, which they use to introduce themselves, and which others use when addressing them. Green-rumped parrotlet parents actually assign names for their babies, like human parents do (36). Electric fish use electrical pulses to communicate with each other, and can even address specific individuals (37).

These behaviors are consistent with the statement by Joseph Smith that “John [the Revelator] heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them.” (38)  

Studies have also revealed the emotional side of animals. The same brain cells that help humans feel emotions (spindle cells) are also found in the brains of large whales, dolphins, hippos, manatees, walruses, great apes, and elephants (39). Wild chimpanzees form friendships with other chimps who share common interests with themselves, which then can help them to achieve their political aspirations (40). Elephants bury their dead family members with leaves, mourn over their remains for weeks, and visit their graves for years afterward (41). Bison and crows also have funerals to pay respect to their dead (42). Killer whales and dolphins have saved humans in danger and led sailors out of dangerous circumstances (43). Tigers and wolves have been known to enact calculated revenge on specific individuals of other species that have hurt them in the past (44). Parrots can get jealous (45). Capuchin monkeys get jealous when their friends get better food than they do (46). Mice have been shown to grimace when they know their buddies are experiencing pain (47). Rats laugh when they are tickled (48). Mammals in general love to play and have fun (49). Some apes are considered practical jokers (50). Many species choose one mate and stay with them for the rest of their lives, often becoming depressed when their companion dies (51,52). Fish do things to have fun and try to avoid painful experiences (53). Many, if not all animals feel fear (54). Some plants may even experience fear when the sound of leaf-chomping caterpillars is played to them (55).

Don’t forget that Joseph taught with the Four Beasts that animals experience emotions too (D&C 77:2-3).

There are so many more examples to consider that we can’t fit them all in this post. But if you take time to really learn about the amazing lives of the creatures that God has created, you will be blown away by how similar they are to us. Science, it seems, is indicating that other non-human living things do indeed have intelligences (56).

But of course, we’ve all known this since we were kids. We knew animals were conscious entities and had feelings. We’ve all observed creatures doing funny stuff at the zoo, talked to our plants when no one was looking, or cursed a particularly pesky and determined insect. Anybody who has worked with animals or has pets will tell you that different individual animals have different personalities. Look into the eyes of any creature. There’s something there- or should we say some-one? Just like there’s someone there when you look into the eyes of an adorable baby human, or when you look behind the spectacles of your wizened honors biology teacher. Be it human, llama, praying mantis, goldfish, giant squid, or triceratops- there’s someone there inside.

A collage of various animals. Look into their faces. Each one is an individual, eternal intelligence. [57]

So does an animal have an intelligence? Yes, absolutely! It thinks for itself; acts for itself; it has a mind and a consciousness and a life and an eternal, independent, self-existing intelligence just like us- only it is not as smart as we are. And it’s that difference of smartness that’s important when it comes to evolution.

The Spectrum of Intelligences

Abraham 3 tells us all about this difference of smartness among living things. In this chapter, the Lord shows Abraham how you can always find a planet with a longer rotational period than another, or a greater star than the last star; and then He says to Abraham:

Howbeit that [God] made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

… These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. (Abraham 3:18-19)

These are some powerful words. If there is an intelligence A, then there is an intelligence B which is smarter. And if that is true, then there is an intelligence C which is smarter than B, and a D smarter than C, and so on until you get to God. Notice that God tells us quite scientifically that this is a “fact” (Abraham 3:19); a fact which cannot be helped, as these intelligences are “eternal” and have existed forever (Abraham 3:18). Joseph Smith said, “Intelligences exist one above another, so that there is no end to them” (58). If that is true, then they must also exist one below another, so that there is no end to them. Or in other words: they must exist on a continuous spectrum, like this:
Scale of relative intelligence.

We can then assume Abraham 3:18-19  is talking about a spectrum of less-intelligent beings to more intelligent beings, in very small, almost imperceptible increments, with the ultimate Being at the top, who is God. And if all the creatures that ever live on earth have a certain level of intelligence, then this continuum must have very simple, algorithmic living things on the bottom (such as single cell microbes), and very complex, intelligent, and adaptable living things at the top (such as Homo sapiens).  From now on, we will call this continuum “the Spectrum of Intelligences”.

If not this, then what else could this scripture be implying? Did the Lord throw it in there merely to remind us that some people have higher IQs than others? What good would that do? Once we realize that animals and plants are intelligences too, then we must consider that perhaps there’s something else we’re supposed to learn from it. “If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them” (Abraham 3:16).

And what more fitting way to introduce the nature of intelligences to Abraham than by talking about the stars, for stars also exist on a spectrum. We will discuss this more on the blog when we talk about Day 1. Light, sound waves, and the elements all exist on spectrums as well. The universe, it seems, loves spectrums, and living things are no exception.

Some Implications

So what are some of the implications of this? If all the plants, animals, and humans lie on a Spectrum of Intelligences, then what does it mean? Here we propose a couple of things:

Firstly, it means that all life on earth is different shades of the same stuff. All life has an intelligence, but some life is smarter than other life. Scientists will tell us that humans are merely successful animals descended from other animals (59). They tell us that all life on earth is related. We are all kin. Charles Darwin observed:

[T]he difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. (60)

A difference of degrees, not of kinds! That is exactly what the Spectrum of Intelligences shows us. We’re all the same eternal stuff, just different grades of it. Many other churches teach that animals have no souls; or if they do, their spirits cease to exist after death (61). The Spectrum of Intelligences, along with what Joseph gave us in his sermons and the scriptures (see D&C 77), tells us that animals indeed have eternal spirits just as much as we do, and that we all have a similar origin.

Second, this world wasn’t made just for us humans. We don’t own the other animals. Their purpose isn’t solely to make us happy or to give us food. Their purpose here is the same as our purpose here: to receive a physical body and to be happy. A common question posed in the Church is “What was the purpose of the dinosaurs”(62)? What a silly question! Their purpose was to live and reproduce and have joy. It had nothing to do with us! There were still a few tens of millions of years to go before we showed up.

There are definitely more implications of the Spectrum of Intelligences, but we can’t cover them all in this section. It’s a common theme that we will be applying and revisiting as we go through the Days of Creation and throughout the rest of this blog because it really does tie everything together quite nicely. This spectrum is vitally important when seeking to understand how the natural history of our world is compatible with our religion.

How Were They Organized?

Abraham said that the Lord had shown him all “the intelligences that were organized before the world was” (Abraham 3:22, emphasis added). And so we see that they must have been organized or sorted in some way.

The Spectrum of Intelligences is evident to us in our everyday lives. You can clearly see that some species of animal are smarter than others. But placing all animals on a scale from dumbest to smartest isn’t easy, especially because intelligence is multidimensional. It’s hard to even put humans on such a scale because everybody’s different. You may be awesome at math, but your friend knows way more about history than you do. Who then is “more intelligent” (Abraham 3:18)? There are different areas of intelligence, including logical, emotional, kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and many others (63). Which one should we focus on while trying to organize? The fact that intelligence can be measured in many ways would force a God to be creative in His organization of said intelligences. Joseph Smith declared:

God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. … He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits. (64)

God would make rules and laws through which these intelligences could progress and ultimately live with Him forever. Abraham learned that in this place of organized intelligences, there was “one like unto God” (Abraham 3:24), who said unto the intelligences around Him:

We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; (Abraham 3:24)

An earth had to be made where they could live. All of these intelligences needed bodies in order to “advance” like God had. And although (as we shall see further) not all intelligences could have the privilege to become just like God, all could receive physical bodies, be resurrected and saved in some way, and thus be eternally happy. Why would they need physical bodies made from physical elements? Because “the elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, [they] cannot receive a fulness of joy.” (D&C 93:33-34). It couldn’t be much clearer than that. They needed bodies so they could have joy. The same goes for humans too, for as Lehi taught, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

Saving the animals and plants makes up part of God’s purpose. We know His ultimate purpose as we are concerned is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), but the other creatures play a role in this as well. In the Four Beasts Sermon, Joseph said:

John [the Revelator] learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them. (65)

So, in order to give all these intelligences bodies, God probably organized them further into something like domains, kingdoms, phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, and species- similar to how biologists do today (66). He may have chosen some to be turtles, some to be dinosaurs, elephants, salamanders, plankton, sharks, and so on; each according to their capacity and level of intelligence. These all would have fit snuggly somewhere on the Spectrum of Intelligences, in a place that was right for their level.

Scale of the relative intelligence of various living groups. [67]

And from the very top part of the Spectrum, He chose some very special ones.

The Noble and Great Ones

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham 3:22-23)

Among all the intelligences in the presence of God, there were some that were very “noble and great”. “These”, said God, “I will make my rulers”.

Now, our first thought when we read this scripture is that these were spirits that had been chosen and foreordained to be “rulers in the Church of God” (D&C 138:53-56; see also Jeremiah 1:5, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Alma 13:1-3). This is certainly true, but we present another interpretation of this passage, as is often possible with scriptures (see the parables of Jesus, 1 Nephi 15:31-32). It is possible that these “noble and great ones” chosen to be God’s “rulers” are those intelligences that were chosen to become human sons and daughters of Adam (either by blood or by adoption), with the potential to advance and become Gods themselves as the Father had done (68). This view makes a lot of sense when we assume that “the intelligences that were organized before the world was” included all the microbes, plants, and animals. The noble and great ones were already part of these organized intelligences, just higher up on the scale.

Why call them his “rulers”? Maybe we can find some explanation of that from other scriptures.

When planning the creation of man and woman, the Gods said, “We will give them dominion … over all the earth, and over every creeping thing … upon the earth” (Abraham 4:26). Or in other words, “We will make them our rulers.” The human family, as it was planned, was to have dominion and rule over all the earth and all of the intelligences on the face of it, and ultimately they did and still do. Humans came to dominate their environments and domesticate other living things, in effect, becoming rulers over them. (We’ll get a better picture of how this was done when we get to talking about Day 6 on the blog.)

But God’s declaration to make humans his “rulers” doesn’t only cover this mortal life. It reaches into the eternities as well. The obedient in this life are promised to become “priests and kings”, priestesses and queens hereafter (D&C 76:56). And one who is “faithful over a few things” will be made “ruler over many things” (Matt. 25:21; see also D&C 52:13). Furthermore, the Savior said, “He that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:38); and “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). [Emphasis added on all of those.] And don’t forget that no matter how people act and live in this life, everyone will inherit a kingdom of glory (see D&C 76).

Joseph Smith taught the reason why God had a special interest in the lives of modern humans. He said:

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to … tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret… He was once a man like us; yea, … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming His name, is not trifling with you or me. (69)

God is especially interested in us because He was once like us, a human being. And we can become like Him! It was only those noble and great ones chosen to be God’s rulers that could become exactly like Him if they so lived. It was only those chosen to be biological or adopted descendants of Adam that would have the privilege of potential godhood. Mormon said that “every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam” will have to one day “stand before the judgment-seat of Christ… to be judged of [their] works, whether they be good or evil” (Mormon 3:20). They were smart enough for this; or had an intelligence great enough that they could handle it. You were smart enough for this.

[W]e will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Abraham 3:24-26)

“Then shall they be gods,” the revelation says of those who live the gospel in this life and keep their second estate, “because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power” (D&C 132:20, emphasis added). Then shall they become God’s rulers.

So, was Abraham among the noble and great ones because he had been chosen before his birth to be a prophet? Yes, absolutely. But was he also among them because he had been chosen before his birth to be a human- a human after the time of Adam? Probably, yes. Like Abraham, you were among the noble and great ones. You were chosen before you were born. You are very special indeed.

What About the Other Creatures?

What about all the poor creatures that weren’t chosen to be humans like us? Why couldn’t they become like God too?

They couldn’t be chosen because they weren’t intelligent enough. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. Remember, God told us that it’s a “fact” that some intelligences are smarter than others, and there’s nothing that can be done about it because these intelligences have always existed. Through supposedly unfathomable supereons of eternity, these intelligences have existed, and yet, here they are, different in level of smartness. That’s what God was saying in Abraham 3:18. So yes, you can be grateful that you weren’t born as a slug, but at the same time it wasn’t ever going to happen anyway- you were way too smart for that! And don’t feel sorry for the slug either. She is living out the life that was best for her intelligence, and she’s experiencing joy because she’s filling the measure of her creation.

Rare photograph of a slug. [70]

The animals were given commandments too, and will be blessed and saved for keeping them.  Perhaps the declaration made by the Gods, “we will prove them… to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord… shall command them,” was meant for the animals as well (Abraham 3:25). Joseph said the Four Beasts were “noble”, “perfect”, and were “like angels in their sphere”, implying that they had been obedient to some form of commandment (71). And what was the one thing that we know God commanded all the beasts to do? “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Moses 2:22). And interestingly enough, it’s exactly this commandment that drives the evolution of species by natural selection- the desire to survive and leave offspring for future generations. Charles Darwin wrote that there’s “one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die” (72). “And the Gods saw they [the beasts] would obey” (Abraham 4:25). “And the Gods saw… that their plan was good” (Abraham 4:21). So we must ask the questions: Was creation of life by evolution their plan? Were the Gods commanding life to evolve?

Don’t worry about the beasts and plants. God loves them very much and He watches over them (see Luke 12:24, 27-28). Jesus said that “not one [sparrow] is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6). They are not given the same commandments we are given and therefore do not have to keep them. Nevertheless, there is a salvation for them. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob explained:

Where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him. (2 Nephi 9:25)

The animals will be saved, but their requirements are different than ours. The mercies of the Savior have claim upon them. He gives them “all that he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). And this especially goes for those creatures who looked like men, but who were not given the same laws we are and who are therefore not condemned. They are the family hominidae; the family that scientists say gave rise to us. And that brings us to the question:

Why Were There Creatures Like Us?

The species Homo sapiens appears in the fossil record around 300,000 years ago (73), and yet Adam, who was said to be the “first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), is believed to have exited the Garden of Eden around 4,000 BCE (6,000 years ago) (74). Why would God create people before our people? There were even other species in the genus Homo, such as Homo erectus, Homo habilis, Neanderthals, and others. All of these would be considered humans, just different species, and they’re all gone now except for us. Why did they all exist? Did they play a role in God’s plan?

The answers to these questions may lie in the Spectrum of Intelligences.

Now, humans are pretty smart. You know that. We’ve conquered the world after all. We build skyscrapers, pilot helicopters, read blogs, do calculus, and have 401ks. In fact, the term “Homo sapiens” means “wise human” in Latin (75). We definitely have an intellect superior to all other living creatures on earth today (as far as we know) (76). And so, recall the Spectrum of Intelligences. If you can always find an intelligence just smarter than the last, then you can always find an intelligence slightly less intelligent than the last as well. It has to go both ways because it’s a continuum. If there is an intelligence A, then there is an intelligence B1 that is less intelligent than A, and a C1 that is less intelligent than B1, and so on.
Scale of relative intelligence illustrating that the spectrum works in decreasing intelligence as well.

Orangutans and chimpanzees are considered to be some of the smartest primates on the planet behind us, yet there are many, many things that we are capable of doing that they are not (77). If the Spectrum of Intelligences is true, then there cannot be such a wide gap between us and the next most-intelligent human-like creature. Unless we assume that they just skipped over a bunch of intelligences, there must have been similar-looking living things on Earth that fill that gap and come in just ever so slightly below us; with some below them, and so on.
Scale of the relative intelligence of prehistoric and modern hominids. [78]

Who, then, is just below us humans on the spectrum? It would be the prehistoric Homo sapiens who were anatomically identical to us; followed by Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo erectus, and so on. If the animal creation is ordered by intelligence from the single cell bacteria to the modern man, then there must be a plethora of creatures in between on a continuous spectrum. And if there are intelligent organisms just below us on the scale, why wouldn’t they look very much like us? Why wouldn’t they also walk upright, use tools, language, art, and even have religion too? And if religion, why would their God be any different than ours, or their possible rewards in the life to come? Neanderthals are thought to have had rituals and to bury their dead (79). They, along with other prehistoric humans covered their bodies in a symbolic red paint called ochre, and drew pictures to represent things in their world (80,81). They were smart, even if they weren’t “us”.

And they weren’t “us”, because the Spectrum of Intelligences hadn’t gotten to “us” yet. These prehistoric humans must have been intelligences that were very close to us on the scale, but didn’t quite make the “noble and great” mark. Each generation of Homo sapiens got smarter and smarter, until eventually “we” appeared, presumably around the time of Adam. Perhaps he was the first of the “noble and great ones” to come to this earth and receive a body. And maybe he was the first human designated to hold the priesthood and the keys of salvation (Abraham 1:3, D&C 78:16); the first prophet, through whom any person (whether his descendant or not) could receive the ordinances of salvation. If the Spectrum of Intelligences exists, then we have to consider it when we talk about human evolution and Adam.

Chart showing the “increase in hominin cranial capacity over time.” [82]

And so we see that just a few verses in Abraham chapter 3 can explain why we find the remains of men many thousands of years before we think Adam came on the scene. All of these prehistoric men and women lived on the earth because they, as intelligences, lived in the presence of God just like we did.  They weren’t “chosen” to be His “rulers” on earth because they weren’t as intelligent as we were. Were they intelligent? Oh yes! You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between us and them, but the line had to be drawn somewhere. They were blessed to be fruitful and multiply and fill the measure of their creation. Hugh Nibley said it best:

Do not begrudge existence to creatures that looked like men long, long ago, nor deny them a place in God’s affection or even a right to exaltation—for our scriptures allow them such. Nor am I overly concerned as to just when they might have lived, for their world is not our world… God assigned them their proper times and functions (83).

They had a purpose on this earth: to prepare it for us, to prepare bodies for us, and to have joy for themselves. God, who created them too, knew exactly what He was doing. He knew their stories and their struggles. He knew who they were.

This is a forensic reconstruction of the face of a female adult Homo erectus. She lived sometime between 2 million and 140,000 years ago. [84]

Why Evolution?

And so we get to the big question: Why use evolution to create? Just as the Spectrum of Intelligences was the reason for human evolution, it is the reason for the evolution of every species.

If all the animals alive today existed in the beginning as intelligences, then all the animals ever to live on earth had a spirit and an intelligence. All the trilobites, tyrannosaurs, and woolly mammoths. All the quintillions of ants, bacteria, worms. All the monkeys, apes, and hominids. Why wouldn’t God then create all these different forms and families through a gradual process of evolution; step by step; line upon line; precept upon precept; here a little and there a little (see Isaiah 28:10)? As more advanced and varied intelligences came to the earth, they needed more advanced and varied bodies. That would allow for each intelligence, no matter its capacity, to receive a physical body, fill the measure of its creation, and have joy.

Scientists say that there was a continual line of descent from the earliest form of life on earth to the modern man, each generation getting ever smarter, more adaptable, closer to the human form (85). And if you followed the line of every animal, it would be similar- each generation coming closer and closer to what we know today. Since the beginning of life, most lines eventually died out, but each generation was different and unique, just as every self-existing, eternal intelligence is different and unique and has something to contribute to this glorious creation that we call home.

Hypothetical evolutionary family tree incorporating the Spectrum of Intelligences. Black lines represent lineages stemming from a common ancestor, and red arrows indicate increasing intelligence. [86]

Thus, the Spectrum of Intelligences gives God a reason to use evolution to create life on earth. There was a spectrum of individual intelligences before; why not put them in a spectrum of bodies? And all this is found in Abraham chapter 3, in the Pearl of Great Price! This is extremely significant, because the rest of the world doesn’t have this book, but we do. That’s kind of a big deal.

It is often said that science is the how and religion is the why. Joseph Smith is the only one to give us a “why” that explains evolution.

Sources and Notes:

  1. The true nature of intelligences is unknown for certain. Not much other than Abraham chapter 3 has been revealed on the subject. Many general authorities have added their opinions to the debate, without consensus. My use of the term “intelligence” is based upon an interpretation taken mostly from logical readings of Abraham 3 and the words of Joseph Smith, and is not official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this video, (Clark Goble, “Roberts on the Doctrine of Pre-Mortal Life and Intelligences,” YouTube, 21 Jun 2012), James Faulconer of BYU discusses the different views held by Church leaders over the course of Church History. Around minute 24, he proposes three different ways of interpreting Joseph Smith’s words on the nature of intelligences: (1) All persons are made from the non-individualistic “stuff” of  intelligence, except for God, who was always his own entity. (2) All persons including God are made from the non-individualistic “stuff” of intelligence, having been organized therefrom into individual entities at some point. (3) All persons including God are their own, eternally-existing intelligences and have always been individual entities… Faulconer supports the 3rd view, saying that he thinks it aligns most closely with Abraham 3 and the words of Joseph Smith. I also take the third view in my discussion of intelligences- i.e. that each intelligence has always existed, separate and individual, as its own entity. To me, that makes the most sense when reading Abraham 3 and Joseph’s sermons.
  2. History of the Church 6:311.
  3. History of the Church 6:310-311.
  4. History of the Church 6:311.
  5. Nat Geo WILD. “Amazing Animal Migrations by Land, Air, and Sea | Nat Geo Wild.” YouTube, 14 November 2017.
  6. BBC Earth. “Chimp vs human! | Working Memory test | Extraordinary Animals | Earth.” YouTube, 25 December 2013.
  7. BBC Earth. “Did you know there’s a talking gorilla? | #TalkingGorilla | BBC.” YouTube, 13 June 2016.
  8. BBC Earth. “Awesome Elephant Artist pt1 | Extraordinary Animals | Earth.” YouTube, 20 September 2013.
  9. For Alex the parrot, see: xXxANJ1xXx. “ALEX – One of the most smartest parrots ever!” YouTube, 11 September 2008. For Griffin the parrot, see: BBC Earth. “Parrot vs Child: The Intelligence Test | Extraordinary Animals | Earth.” YouTube, 6 November 2013.
  10. Conversations With Dolphins, documentary by Kwanza, 2016. Curiosity Stream. For dolphins understanding syntax and using tools, see: TED-Ed. “How smart are dolphins? – Lori Marino.” YouTube, 31 August 2015.
  11. For otters using tools: BBC Earth Unplugged. “Sweet Shell Smashers! | Amazing Animal Babies | Sea Otters (Ep 7) | Earth Unplugged.” YouTube, 27 December 2012. For octopus tool use, see: SciShow. “Octopuses Are Ridiculously Smart.” YouTube, 27 June 2016. For chimps using tools, see: National Geographic. “Chimps & Tools | National Geographic.” YouTube, 4 February 2009. For capuchin monkeys using tools, see: University of Oxford. “Monkeys have used stone tools for hundreds of years.” YouTube, 11 July 2016. For crows making and using tools, see: Nat Geo WILD. “Tool-Making Crows Are Even Smarter Than We Thought | Nat Geo Wild.” YouTube, 24 January 2018. For a cockatoo making and using tools, see: University of Oxford. “Cockatoos Make Tools from Different Materials.” YouTube, 16 November 2016.
  12. Handwerk, Brian. “Wasps Can Recognize Faces.” National Geographic News, 3 December 2011.
  13. For Crows:Simon and Schuster Books. “John Marzluff Shows How Crows Will Recognize You.” YouTube, 26 May 2012.; For sheep: National Geographic. “Sheep Can Recognize Human Faces, National Geographic.” YouTube, 14 Nov 2017,; For fish, see: LiveScience. “Archerfish Spit At Faces They Recognize, With Training, Video.” YouTube, 7 Jun 2016,    
  14. BBC Earth. “Dog Understands 1022 Words | Super Smart Animals | BBC Earth.” YouTube, 31 May 2017.
  15. Marchant, Jo. “Hyenas can count like monkeys.”, 17 August 2011.
  16. SciShow. ‘How Ants Take Care of Their Farms.” YouTube, 31 Aug 2015.
  17. Donahue, Michelle Z. “First-Ever Evidence That Mosquitoes Can Be Trained.” National Geographic News, 25 January 2018.
  18. Marshall, Michael. “Why microbes are smarter than you thought.” New Scientist, 30 June 2009.
  19. Krulwich, Robert. “Can a Plant Remember? This One Seems to- Here’s the Evidence.”, 15 December 2015.
  20. SciShow. “Slime Mold: A Brainless Blob that Seems Smart.” YouTube, 27 July 2017.
  21. History of the Church 6:311.
  22. For dolphins making a mud net to catch fish, see: BBC Earth. “Dolphins trick fish with mud “nets” | One Life | BBC.” YouTube, 8 February 2013. For killer whales synchronizing to catch seal, see: Animal Planet. “Orcas Attack Seal.” YouTube, 6 August 2008. For humpback whales making bubble net to catch fish, see: BBC Earth. “Ingenious Bubble Net Fishing | Nature’s Great Events | BBC.” YouTube, 2 January 2015. For wolves hunting bison, see: BBC Earth. “Pack Of Wolves Hunt a Bison | Frozen Planet | BBC Earth.” YouTube, 30 August 2017. For lions hunting an elephant, see: BBC Earth. Extraordinary Lion Hunt Filmed | Attenborough 60 Years In The Wild | BBC Earth.” YouTube, 20 August 2017. “
  23. NOVA Wonders What Are Animals Saying?, PBS documentary aired 4 April 2018.
  24. Operation Dolittle, documentary by Autentic, 2013. Curiosity Stream.
  25. NOVA Wonders What Are Animals Saying?, PBS documentary aired 4 April 2018.
  26. Beyond Words, pp. 77-78, 92-95.
  27. BBC Earth. “Learning the Language of Turkeys, BBC Earth.” YouTube, 8 Sep 2018.
  28. 105km. “Prarie dog dictionary.” YouTube, 3 May 2009.
  29. Super Smart Animals: Social Intelligence, documentary by BBC, 2012; from 15:30-19:49 (mm:ss). Curiosity Stream.
  30. Beyond Words, p. 393.
  31. nature video. “Clever Fish: Cooperation on the reef.” YouTube, 26 May 2015.
  32. Smithsonian Channel. “What’s the Waggle Dance? And Why Do Honeybees Do It?” YouTube, 20 May 2016.
  33. For ants communicating through smells, see: PBS. “NOVA | Lord of the Ants | The Ant Whisperer | PBS.” YouTube, 19 May 2008. David Attenborough’s Ant Mountain, documentary by Terra Mater, 2017, found on Curiosity Stream; ant tells other ant to feed her by stroking the other’s antenna.
  34. TED-Ed. “Can plants talk to each other? – Richard Karban.” YouTube, 2 May 2016.
  35. NOVA Wonders What Are Animals Saying?, PBS documentary aired 4 April 2018.
  36. Beyond Words, pp. 313-314.
  37. Rachel Nuwer, “Fish Have Feelings, Too.” NOVA,; See also: Charles Walcott. “Electric Fish Communication.” YouTube, 20 May 2017. .
  38. History of the Church 5:343.
  39. Beyond Words, pp. 347-348.
  40. “Chimp friendships are based on trust”, Max-Planck-Gesellchaft, 14 January 2016: For chimp politics, see: BBC Studios. “Chimp Politics – Chimp TV – BBC.” YouTube, 30 August 2011.
  41. National Geographic. “Rare Footage: Wild Elephants “Mourn” Their Dead | National Geographic.” YouTube, 2 September 2016. Beyond Words, pp. 67-69.
  42. For bison, see: living skills. “.bison funeral rite.” YouTube, 18 February 2014. For crows, see: Deep Look. “You’ve Heard of a Murder of Crows. How About a Crow Funeral? | Deep Look.” YouTube, 15 May 2018.
  43. For killer whales saving humans, see: Leiren-Young, Mark. “How the Killer Whale Avoids Eating People, Helped 19th-Century Whalers, and Became Public Enemy Number One.” Nature Now, 1 September 2016., For more stories of killer whales saving people, see: Dreadfin Records & Clips. “Orcas protected humans from sharks and saved drowning people.” YouTube, 13 September 2013. For killer whales leading humans out of fog, see Beyond Words, pp. 352-353. For dolphins saving peoples’ lives, see: “Dolphins Rescuing Humans.” Dolphins-World, 26 April 2017. For dolphins leading humans out of tough places, see Beyond Words, pp. 371-373.
  44. Tiger revenge: Penguin Random House Canada. “The Tiger who Sought Revenge.” YouTube, 24 August 2010. Beyond Words, pp. 179-180. Story of the wolf named “Oh-six” getting premeditated revenge on pesky coyotes, found in Beyond Words, pp. 163-164.
  45. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship, by Joanna Burger, 2002.
  46. TED Blog Video. “Two Monkeys Were Paid Unequally: Excerpt from Frans de Waal’s TED Talk.” YouTube, 4 April 2013.
  47. Morell, Virginia. “Rats see the pain in other rats’ faces.”, 31 March 2015.
  48. National Geographic. “See What Happens When You Tickle a Rat | National Geographic.” YouTube, 1 December 2016.
  49. Seeker. “Elk on Trampoline: Why Animals Play.” YouTube, 9 November 2013.
  50. Funny Pets. “GORILLAS PRANKING HUMANS (HD) [Funny Pets].” YouTube, 27 September 2016.; Beyond Words, p. 288; Reflections of a Scientist, Eyring, p. 60.
  51. Nat Geo WILD. “Animals That Mate For Life | Nat Geo Wild.” YouTube, 14 February 2018.
  52. Bird Brain, documentary by Terra Mater, 2014; Curiosity Stream.
  53. Rachel Nuwer, “Fish Have Feelings, Too.” NOVA,
  54. Check out this awesome video of a lion outnumbered by a pack of hyenas. Look at the fear on his face:, BBC Earth. “Lion Attacked by Pack of Hyenas – FULL CLIP (with ending) | Dynasties | BBC Earth.” YouTube, 26 Nov 2018. It’s like something straight out of the Lion King.
  55. Michael Pollan, “The Intelligent Plant: Scientists debate a new way of understanding flora.” The New Yorker, 30 Dec 2013. See also this article about Cleve Backster: He did experiments on plants where he claimed they felt things. The MythBusters replicated some of his findings- see this YouTube video:
  56. For more stories and research on animal intelligence and emotions, see: Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina, Picador, 2016 (this book is amazing); The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy- and Why They Matter, by Marc Bekoff, New World Library, 2007; The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity, by Eugene Linden, Dutton, 2002; Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness, by Donald R. Griffin, The University of Chicago Press, 2001.; YouTube search for “animal intelligence”.
  57. Collage of animal faces found here: .
  58. History of the Church 6:476.
  59. “How closely related are humans to apes and other animals? How do scientists measure that? Are humans related to plants at all?” Scientific American, 23 October 2000.
  60. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, by Charles Darwin, 1871, p. 105.
  61. Towns, Elmer. “DO ANIMALS HAVE ETERNAL SOULS?”, 2015.; Catholic Answers Staff. “Do animals have souls like human beings?” Catholic Answers, 4 August 2011.
  62. Petersen, Morris S. “Do we know how the earth’s history as indicated from fossils fits with the earth’s history as the scriptures present it?” Ensign, September 1987.
  63. Vital, Mark. “9 Types Of Intelligence – Infographic.”, 17 March 2014.
  64. History of the Church 6:312.
  65. History of the Church 5:343.
  66. Cain, A.J. “Taxonomy, Biology.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 April 2018.
  67. This scale is adapted from the research work of Robert Henry, whose blog is found here: See also his posted answer to a question asked about animal intelligence here: He put wolf as a group that nearly missed making the numbered list. I added plants and bacteria to the bottom of the spectrum to give an idea of where those might fall in comparison to animals.
  68. There are other ways of interpreting this too. One other possibility I’ve thought of is that perhaps the Noble and Great Ones are all the intelligences chosen to be humans and to be born after a certain point in time- i.e. all the humans born after or near the time of Adam. Once again, this is speculation and theory on my part to help reconcile the fossil record with the Book of Abraham,  the existence of Adam, and other points of our teaching; it is not doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will likely explore other options on this blog in other posts.
  69. History of the Church 6:305-306.
  70. Photo of slug found here:
  71. History of the Church 5:343.
  72. On the Origin of Species, 1861 edition, p. 266.
  73. Callaway, Ewen. “ Oldest Homo sapiens fossil claim rewrites our species’ history.”, 7 June 2017.
  74. “Bible Chronology.”
  75. “Homo sapiens (n.).” Online Etymology Dictionary.
  76. Robert Henry, according to his blog, actually puts sperm whales as more intelligent than or comparable to humans. Perhaps they are just aquatic, undiscovered geniuses, who speak a different language and are bound by the sea…
  77. Wootton, Anne. “What Are the Smartest Primates?” Discover Magazine, 10 November 2006.
  78. This scale is adapted from “Table 3. Encephalization quotient (EQ) of various extant and fossil species”, in; chimpanzee EQ is found in
  79. Than, Ker. “Neanderthal Burials Confirmed as Ancient Ritual.” National Geographic, 16 December 2013.
  80. Wreschner, Ernst E., et al. “Red Ochre and Human Evolution: A Case for Discussion [and Comments and Reply].” Current Anthropology, vol. 21, no. 5, 1980, pp. 631–644. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  81. Marchant, Jo. “A Journey to the Oldest Cave Paintings in the World.” Smithsonian Magazine, January 2016. For Neanderthals painting, see: .
  82. ”Homo sapiens”, Encyclopaedia Britanica,
  83. Before Adam, by Hugh Nibley, 1980.
  84. Wikipedia article for Homo erectus:
  85. It’s Okay To Be Smart. “There Was No First Human.” YouTube, 24 Mar 2014.
  86. Drawing and photo done by the author of this post (me). We’ll likely talk about this in more detail later on in the blog, but just because the Spectrum of Intelligences coupled with evolution implies that lineages get smarter and smarter over time does not mean that every child is automatically more intelligent than its parent. It means that over long periods of time, intelligence tends to increase generally throughout each lineage. Once body plans are sufficient enough, various levels of intelligence could be housed comfortably in the same species. And not every lineage intelligence increases at the same rate. That’s my guess, anyway.

Other Notes:

The “Brace yourself: Lots of science is coming” meme is Boromir from Lord of The Rings, warning everyone about the impending onslaught of science. Meme was generated by me on, using one of their “Brace Yourself” meme templates. To view or share this meme, use this link: .  

5 thoughts on “The Organization of Intelligences: The Why of Evolution

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