“Let Us Prepare the Earth”: Natural Selection in the Scriptures

“I see no good reason why the views given in this volume [On the Origin of Species] should shock the religious feelings of any one.”– Charles Darwin (1)

Portraits of Charles Darwin and Joseph Smith [2]

You’ve probably heard of Charles Darwin. He’s kind of famous in the scientific community; infamous in some other communities. But do you know why everybody knows him? It’s because he came up with evolution, right?… Well, not exactly.

Charles Darwin isn’t famous for thinking that animals evolved, but for coming up for a way that explained how they evolved–a mechanism that drove evolution and caused it to occur (3). He called that mechanism “natural selection”, where changes in the earth produce changes in living things (4). This is what made Darwin’s theory so captivating, because he described how nature created the animals. For many people (perhaps even Darwin included), this removed the need for any Creator (5). And this–not the idea of evolution happening–is the root of the conflict between evolution and religion.

But of course on this blog, we’re believers of both God AND evolution, so there has to be a way that a Creator could use nature to make things (see Introduction post). If natural selection is true, then it would have been super nice if God had given us some kind of clue that He utilized it to create life on earth. I mean, just a little hint would’ve been really great.

But wait… Did He give us some kind of clue about it? Did He hint that changing the earth was how He created stuff? In this post, I claim that He actually did. Even though nature did the creating, God was behind it all, and I think there’s good evidence in the Pearl of Great Price to support that. Of all the accounts of creation, this method of creation by changing the environment is found in only two of them: the rocks and the Book of Abraham.

Yes, you read correctly. The idea of natural selection came from Charles Darwin in 1859, but it’s been in the Book of Abraham since 1842, right under our noses. And with some incredible science-anticipating foresight, the Book of Abraham came from Joseph Smith. Sounds like something a prophet would do.

What Is Natural Selection, Again?

“My eyes are constantly wide open to the extraordinary fact of existence. Not just human existence but the existence of life and how this breathtakingly powerful process, which is natural selection, has managed to take the very simple facts of physics and chemistry and build them up to redwood trees and humans. That’s never far from my thoughts, that sense of amazement.”– Richard Dawkins (6)

A delicious açaí bowl (açaí na tigela). If Nature were to select a dessert, it would select açaí. [7]

On earth, things change, a lot. All the time. And when things change, the animals and plants have to change too. They either adapt, or die. I guess you could say, they get pressured to change with the earth—kind of like peer pressure, but from the planet. Planet pressure, if you will. Populations will experience selective or evolutionary pressures which force nature to select for certain traits over others (see How Evolution Works). Climates change, continents split apart and change, habitats change, ecosystems change—and all of this change helps groups of living things to change as well. Those who survive these changes will pass on their good attributes and will continue to reproduce and evolve; and those who don’t survive the changes (i.e. don’t have those good attributes that help them survive) will eventually die out, leaving no descendants. That’s natural selection, and that’s how it drives evolution (8).

The big thing that natural selection tells us is that nature created the stunning diversity of life on earth–which, if you think about it, is completely amazing! Everything around you was created by natural processes. It was nature that created the precious, cuddly-looking fur of the panda (9); it was nature that created the terrifying, bone-crushing bite of the Tyrannosaurus rex (10); and it was nature that created the irresistible, life-altering taste of the açaí berry (11). Nature, obviously, is pretty darn awesome at making things.

But even with the undeniable coolness of nature, is there still room for a loving, imaginative God to be a part of the creation process?… Absolutely.

God Does Not Micromanage the Universe

“[T]he universe keeps proving itself to be more creative than we give it credit for.”- Pamela Gay (12)

Depiction of the expansion of the universe over time since the Big Bang, something like 13.8 billion years ago. [13]

As we begin to delve into how God uses natural selection to create, we need to first understand that He doesn’t micromanage the universe. He lets it do its own thing.

The Book of Abraham teaches us that, like ourselves, the universe and all living things in it are free to act for themselves. During the creation account, the Gods “order” or command the waters, land, earth, beasts, whatever, and they wait until those things obey Them: “And the Gods saw that they were obeyed” (Abraham 4:10,12). “And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed” (Abraham 4:18). “And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good” (Abraham 4:21). “[A]nd the Gods saw they would obey” (Abraham 4:25). “And the Gods said: We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient” (Abraham 4:31).

The universe doesn’t necessarily have to obey, so the Gods watched it until it did.

This is an important principle to understand. God doesn’t have to keep his hand in everything all at once. He just has to organize things, then watch them obey. Yes, the scriptures do say that God upholds the heavens and keeps the planets in orbit (see D&C 88:41-47; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17), but that doesn’t mean that if He loses concentration, the entire fabric of reality would crumble to pieces. If He were to focus on something other than the cosmos for a moment, electrons won’t proceed to fall off their atoms and the moon won’t come crashing down on us. He doesn’t have to sit there and control everything. The fact that the Gods have to wait to see if the universe and the living things within it will obey them speaks volumes. VOLUMES. And as we have already discussed on the blog, all living things have freedom of choice, to essentially do and live as they please (see The Four Beasts and Organization of Intelligences). They don’t have to obey if they don’t want to.

We know that there are fundamental laws of nature, such as those contained in physics, chemistry, biology, etc. It was through these laws, according to scientists, that stars, planets, and life were formed and evolved to what we know today. Was it “the God of nature” who established these laws before our universe existed (1 Nephi 19:12)? Were the things we see and are part of now ingeniously coded into the initial conditions of the Big Bang? And was setting the universe in motion and waiting for it obey and create all that God had to do?

Things Appear “Naturally”

“God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens, for instance; the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field; all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb, bearing seed, should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law, or principle.”– Joseph Smith (14)

An adorable human baby, who had to be born to get here. [15]

The Book of Moses teaches us that all living things appeared on our planet “naturally” (Moses 3:5). This is a big deal. And how do living things appear naturally?… Why, they are born of course! That’s how all plants, animals, and humans are created. They have to be born! Why would it be any different at the beginning of the world? Why would the creation process described in the scriptures, which is said to have happened “naturally”, be any different? (Ahem… does “natural selection” ring a bell?)

All organisms, whether it be your pet chinchilla, the apple tree in your grandma’s backyard, or the fossilized plesiosaur in the museum, had to be born (or hatched or something along those lines), and had to have parents that gave them life. “Where was there ever a son without a father?” reasoned Joseph Smith, “And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way” (16). Everything must be born. Everything must come forth naturally, and that’s the rule. God, the Creator of all things, has to follow this rule, even from the very beginning of Creation.

This brings us to the principle that the creation, including the creation of animals, was not out of nothing. The idea that God created things out of nothing, or ex nihilo, is a “sectarian notion” that Joseph forcefully preached against (17). It’s just not how the Lord works. You say that God created you, and you are correct–He totally did! But He didn’t fashion you out of clay, or wave His hand to make you magically appear out of thin air. You had to be born, naturally, as a baby with a mom and a dad, with moms and dads for each of them too. You had to have a long line of “progenitors” all the way back to the beginning, as did all living things that ever existed on earth. And this has never changed, no matter how far back in time you go. Apparently, Joseph Smith had no problem with this idea.

Now, contrast this with what many Creationists believe. They subscribe to the “sectarian notion” that the creation was done specially; that it happened supernaturally, from nothing–as opposed to naturally, from something (i.e. from previously-existing ancestors)(18). Also, contrast this with Heber C. Kimball’s idea that earth’s animals were transplanted here from other worlds (see Church Leaders and Evolution)(19). There’s nothing natural about either of these methods of creation. Yes, they would certainly get the creatures here physically, but it wouldn’t do the job “naturally,” as Moses 3:5 so elegantly requires (20). Since the beginning of time, all organisms had to be born, for they “cannot,” as Joseph Smith would say, “come forth after any other law, or principle.”

In this view, Joseph did not differ much from Darwin, who wrote, “When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before … , they seem to me to become ennobled” (21). There is nothing dishonorable or blasphemous about life always appearing on earth through natural birth and lines of descent. Charles Darwin knew that, and so did Joseph Smith.

Once again folks, it’s the Pearl of Great Price that helps us to understand that life always comes about “naturally” by natural processes (i.e. birth), and that science is well in line with the revealed word of God on this fundamental fact.

The Earth, Not God, Does the Bringing Forth

“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with 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; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:24-25)

The earth. Home. Made for us. Made us. [22]

The books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham all teach us that during the creation of plants and animals, it’s not God that’s creating them, but the earth that is. The Gods want “the earth” and “the waters” on the earth “to bring forth” the various living creatures (Abraham 4:11-12, 20-21, 24-25). “Let the earth bring forth [living things]” (Genesis 1:11-12, 24; Moses 2:11-12, 24), and “Let the waters bring forth [other living things]” (Genesis 1:20; Moses 2:20), they say. This is super important because it’s not the Gods that are doing the bringing forth, it’s the earth itself. And the earth brings forth the animals and plants naturally, remember? None of this special, supernatural creation stuff– and that’s according to the creation accounts in the scriptures themselves.

However, the Genesis and Moses creation accounts aren’t completely consistent all the way through that it’s the sole responsibility of the earth to do all the bringing forth—yet (unsurprisingly) Abraham still is. Even when Genesis and Moses seem to slip up a couple times and say that “God created [the whales and stuff],” and “God made the beasts of the earth” (Genesis 1:21, 25; Moses 2:21, 25); Abraham fixes it and says instead, “the Gods prepared the waters that they might bring forth [the whales and stuff]” and “the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts” (Abraham 4:21, 25)(23). By doing this, Abraham is essentially saying, “Whoa! Wait, guys. I’ll take it from here. It’s not God who made the beasts, but the earth that did.” Abraham, as the last scriptural creation account Joseph Smith gave us, is the ONLY one that keeps the bringing forth coming exclusively from the earth, as it should be (24). It takes all semblances of a special creation out and makes it 100% compatible with natural selection. More points to the Book of Abraham for that one! Abraham knew what was up.

The scriptures declaring that the earth brings forth the diversity of plant and animal life is completely consistent with what we know about natural history and evolution: that all the species on earth now and in the past were created by the earth. Their histories and lineages stretch far, far back–even 3.8 billion years or so back when the earth was just coming out of a cooling, recently-molten baby phase (25). And the reason each species came to be what they are is because of the earth, and the changes that have happened in it. That’s what natural selection is. Nature, or the earth, selected certain species to live or die, to reproduce and diversify or leave no descendants. Therefore, to use the language of the scriptures, it was the earth that brought them forth.

Is it any wonder, then, why the earth in Enoch’s vision refers to herself as “the mother of men”, and by extension, the mother of all living things (Moses 7:48)? Whether it be the scriptures or the rocks, the message is the same: The earth is what brings living things forth, and we’re all here because of that liveable/loveable planet.

The Gods Changed The Earth To Bring Forth Diversity

“As geology plainly proclaims that each land has undergone great physical changes, we might have expected that organic beings would have varied under nature, in the same way as they generally have varied under the changed conditions of domestication. And if there be any variability under nature, it would be an unaccountable fact if natural selection had not come into play.”–Charles Darwin (26)

Artistic depiction of Pakicetus, an archaeocete which lived around 52-48 million years ago. This guy lived primarily on land, but he spent a lot of time wading around and eating things in the water. Something about the water made him keep coming back to it, until eventually he became a likely ancestor to all whales alive today. I guess the waters must have been prepared just right… [27]

So, if it’s the earth that brings things forth, and all things must be born or created naturally, then what role did God play in the creation? Well, my friends, we have to look to the Book of Abraham to find the answer. This is my all-time favorite thing about this particular book because this is where we see natural selection in the scriptural creation account.

The Book of Abraham describes the Gods making plans to “prepare” and “organize” the earth and waters to bring forth different species of plants and animals (Abraham 4:11,12,20,21,24,25). They didn’t just order or command the earth to make birds, whales, or cows; they prepared it so that it would produce those things. “Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass”, herbs, trees, and fruit (Abraham 4:11-12). “Let us prepare the waters to bring forth … the moving creatures that have life”, the fowl, and great whales (Abraham 4:20-21). “Let us prepare the earth to bring forth the living creature,” cattle, creeping things, and the beasts of the earth (Abraham 4:24-25). Apparently, the Gods were making (or planning to make) certain changes in the earth such that the earth would bring forth different living things “abundantly”, in breathtaking variety (Abraham 4:20-21)(28).

And their plan worked. “And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good.” (Abraham 4:21) Their plan was good because it was working! The preparations, organizations, or alterations they made in the earth were causing different forms of life to appear, or–dare we say–evolve. They didn’t just speak and cause a whale to magically appear, they prepared earth’s waters just right so that they would bring forth whales. They didn’t just snap their fingers and make a cow out of dirt and water, they organized the earth in such a way so that it would produce cattle–presumably (as with the whales) over a very long period of time. Same for the birds and for every living thing: the earth was prepared in a specific way so that these groups would eventually appear. And as these different organisms and families appeared, the Gods would “cause them to be fruitful and multiply” (Abraham 4:22)(29). They would make such changes to the planet so that these animals could reproduce and be successful on their own, so that they could survive and pass their genes on to their offspring. Later in this blog, we’ll see how the Gods “caused” humans to be successful too, and eventually to take over the world (Abraham 4:28).

Now, doesn’t that sound like natural selection to you? Isn’t making or exploiting changes in the earth to cause different species to appear exactly what natural selection claims to do? Remember, it’s the earth that brings things forth; and different environments, climates, and pressures on said earth that drive the evolution of species. And if God doesn’t micromanage the universe, but can perhaps make or cause or “plan” little adjustments here and there when needed, then it wouldn’t necessarily be Him that’s doing the creating, but natural selection that is (see Abraham 4:21, 5:1). I mean, if God can create animals and a world for them to live on, then He could certainly arrange the right changes to occur in that world so that the world itself would make the animals. The planet just needs to be “prepared” right, and then nature will do the rest.

The idea of “preparing the earth” is an extremely important principle to understand. It fully complies with what we know about natural selection and how evolution works. The earth was formed. Life arose somehow. The earth changed a lot. Life changed a lot too. That’s how it works! That’s natural selection, and it’s all in our Book of Abraham. So, if you’ve been looking for evolution in the scriptures, here it is, nestled snugly in the pages of the Pearl of Great Price for over 175 years.

How To Prepare An Earth

“Boys, there is some meaning to this. God is in this storm!”- Joseph Smith, at Zion’s Camp, 1834 (30)

Artistic depiction of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. [31]

How would one go about preparing the earth for different species to emerge?

Our scriptures and Church history contain stories of God using natural phenomena to further His work. Around 34 A.D., a furious mix of natural disasters caused fatal destruction in the Americas following the death of Christ (see 3 Nephi 8-10)(32). In 1815, a massive volcano erupted in Indonesia, drastically altering climates all over the world, which effectually forced the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith family to relocate from Vermont to Palmyra, New York–close to where Moroni deposited the gold plates (33). In 1834, a powerful rain and hailstorm caused a flash flooding of the Fishing River in Missouri, protecting the Zion’s Camp from an angry, militant mob (34). And we could go on and on, but you get the idea. Natural things happen; God works in mysterious ways; and His will is ultimately executed.

Now, I’m not saying that God necessarily commanded a deadly volcano to erupt so that Joseph Smith would eventually find the gold plates and translate the Book of Mormon. But He does have really good timing, and seems to make the most out of any situation. I definitely think He knew that the volcano would explode long before it did, and He knew how it would affect His children on earth–for good and bad (see 1 Nephi 9:6). I believe He can use natural events to realize His plans, and that He does so all the time.

But let’s take that principle in the context of natural history, natural selection, and evolution. What kinds of changes were made in the earth to bring forth the glorious array of different species we have today and have had in the ancient past? What changes to the planet can cause evolution to occur? What kinds of changes caused us and every other organism to appear?… Well, you’ve got earth’s axial tilt, earth’s wobble, gamma ray bursts, solar radiation, solar flares, sunspots, supernovae, hypernovae, sea level drop and rise, glaciation, climate change, asteroid impacts, vulcanism, continental drift, carbon dioxide, oxygen, ocean currents, Milankovitch cycles, ecological niches, magnetic field strength and reversals, the moon, storms, trophic cascades, co-evolution, mass extinctions,… and many, many more (35).

There are SO MANY factors that could cause evolution that we couldn’t possibly name them all. Everything on earth is connected, and one change here can cause another change there. In fact, every boundary in the geologic time scale actually marks a significant shift or change in the earth’s conditions that brought about new environments and new types of organisms (36). How these shifts occurred, how they influenced life, and what the earth looked like throughout each period are questions that make up a large portion of what geologists and paleontologists are continually studying.

Although we can’t know all of the big or little changes that have shaped our planet over the eons, somehow they all worked together to give us the staggering array of species we see today, including us. It’s truly astounding to think about the sheer amount of stuff that had to go down in the past just to make it possible for you to be here. You are pretty special, and God definitely loves you. I hope you are reminded of that as you contemplate the fossil record, because it’s basically a meticulous journal detailing how the Lord created you.

Now, I don’t think that God sits there and throws asteroids at our planet when He needs to make an adjustment; but I do think He’s behind it in some way. All the physics of moving things in the universe–all the asteroids, planets, comets, star formations and star demises–all of it was basically predetermined by the initial conditions at the Big Bang, and then physics has run its course since then (37). Like I said above, God may have planned His creations, mass extinctions, and other factors to influence natural selection long before this universe even existed. That would allow for Him to be both the Creator AND the non-micromanager of the universe. Perhaps, as the theory of natural selection implies to some, there appears to be no divine Creator simply because He has already done His part of the creating or “planning” (Abraham 4:21) long before the atoms that make up our bodies were even formed. This, in my opinion, is way more impressive than a supernatural creation. God, as He complies with the laws of the universe, is “able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men,” yet is more than enough to craft the various species of this world from cosmic scratch (Ether 3:5).  

“Let Us Prepare the Earth [With Mass Extinctions]”

“[A]ll things shall work together for your good.” (D&C 90:24)

We will always remember that fateful day at the end of the Cretaceous period, when our beloved dinosaurs and pterosaurs met their unfortunate demise. Sad, but necessary. [38]

I don’t want to sound morbid, but my favorite evolution-influencing factor has got to be mass extinction. Mass extinction events are just what they sound like: they are bad (for most) and make a lot of cool (and scary) things go extinct. Mass extinctions are like pruning the tree of life, snipping off a branch here and another branch there. The spaces left in the tree after the pruning session are eventually filled by new branches–a.k.a. new species. When groups disappear, or go extinct, it leaves niches open for other groups to fill and diversify in (39). For example, it was a gnarly mass extinction that allowed the dinosaurs to take over the world; and it was another gnarly mass extinction that killed them off. Mass extinctions sound horrific–and they are–but they go both ways, and you’re only alive (and can even have a favorite dinosaur at all) because of a whole specific slew of them.

So, for you to get an idea of how the earth is constantly changing and experiencing extinction events, and how life is trying to survive it all, here’s a table showing some of the known mass extinctions in earth’s history. Somehow, miraculously, your ancestors survived every single one of them, allowing you to be born:

Table of mass extinction events and their suspected causes. The highlighted ones are the more well-known “Big Five” mass extinctions. [40]

When I read the words “Let us prepare the earth” in Abraham 4, I imagine erupting volcanoes, falling space debris, and rising sea levels. I imagine retreating glaciers, shifting continents, and global temperature spikes. I imagine mass extinctions and the wonderful creations that followed them. When I think of mass extinctions, I see “God moving in his majesty and power” (D&C 88:47).

Conclusion

“But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.” (Mosiah 8:17)

The title page of the first edition of On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, next to a copy of the first page of the first edition of the part of the Book of Abraham that contains the creation story, published in 1842. [41]

In 1859, Charles Darwin gave us his theory of natural selection, delineating the way that nature itself creates the diverse and abundant forms of life on earth. Between 1830 and 1842, Joseph Smith gave us the books of Moses and Abraham, which opened the door for us to accept natural selection, a good chunk of time before the theory had even been published. This Pearl of Great Price, which came from Joseph, tells us that the Creator is hands-off in the universe, and must wait for it to obey; that life must and always has appeared naturally, even at the dawn of creation; that it’s not a Deity who directly brings forth life on our planet, but the earth itself; and that the earth had to be organized and prepared so that it would bring forth the various different species and families, of both creatures and vegetation.

If you look in the fossil record, you will find evidence of the many ways in which the world has been prepared to bring things forth. You’ll find the factors with which the earth was organized so that certain groups would evolve and flourish, or languish and die. Mass extinctions are very important in paleontology and the study of the evolutionary history of our planet, and have prepared it just right for us. We owe a lot to those devastating asteroids, volcanoes, and other natural, physics-obeying killers. And we owe a lot to that God who prepared the earth for us. Who’s to say that it wasn’t He who planned everything out before the world was? Who’s to say that He’s not the God of natural selection?

If you look in the fossil record, you’ll find how God prepared the earth. In the Pearl of Great Price, you will find the same. It’s not as detailed or as filled with scientific evidence, but it’s the same. The Lord loves us, along with all other living things, and He organized and prepared this earth for us all (see Abraham 3:24-25). He is the Creator of every person, plant, and creature; and He used natural selection to do it.


Joseph Smith prophesied of many things in his sermons, conversations, and in the scriptures he produced. That’s what prophets do. He foretold of things from when the Second Coming would not happen to the American Civil War (see D&C 130:12-17, D&C 87)(42). Much has been written about his predictions and their fulfilments (see Matthew 7:15-20)(43)… Should we add the theory of natural selection to the list?


Sources and Notes:

  1. Darwin, C. R. 1861. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray. 3d edition. Seventh thousand, p. 514 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=F381&viewtype=text
  2. Image of Joseph Smith found here: http://www.historyisnowmagazine.com/blog/2015/1/30/an-important-date-when-mormon-founder-joseph-smith-met-the-president#.XJXIzLfYqlc=; image of Charles Darwin found here: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-British-naturalist-Charles-Darwin-1809-1882-Even-if-he-had-never-published-one_fig8_26862801.
  3. Common Descent Podcast, Episode 56: “Evolution of Evolutionary Theory.” https://commondescentpodcast.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/episode-56-evolution-of-evolutionary-theory/; for audio of podcast, see: https://youtu.be/dPFwp7zC8RY.
  4. Charles Darwin defining ‘natural selection’: “How do those groups of species, which constitute what are called distinct genera, and which differ from each other more than do the species of the same genus, arise? All these results, as we shall more fully see in the next chapter, follow inevitably from the struggle for life. Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power of selection. We have seen that man by selection can certainly produce great results, and can adapt organic beings to his own uses, through the accumulation of slight but useful variations, given to him by the hand of Nature. But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art.” Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray. [1st edition], p. 61, http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=side&pageseq=76.
  5. For examples of people who believe that natural selection removes the need for God, see: Richard Dawkins, “WHY THERE ALMOST CERTAINLY IS NO GOD,” Edge, 25 Oct 2006, https://www.edge.org/conversation/richard_dawkins-why-there-almost-certainly-is-no-god; “Natural selection: God’s tool?”, Why Evolution Is True, 19 Mar 2011, https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/natural-selection-gods-tool/; “Charles Darwin,” Humanists UK, https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/the-humanist-tradition/19th-century-freethinkers/charles-darwin/. Some contend that Charles Darwin may not have ever become an atheist: https://publicdomainreview.org/2011/06/28/was-charles-darwin-an-atheist/.
  6. Richard Dawkins quote found here: Andrew Anthony, “Richard Dawkins: ‘I don’t think I am strident or aggressive.’” The Guardian, 14 Sep 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/sep/15/richard-dawkins-interview-appetite-wonder
  7. Photo of açaí bowl found here: http://eatwildgreens.com/2017/09/03/simple-summertime-acai-bowl/
  8. Stated Clearly, “What is Natural Selection?”, YouTube, 14 May 2013, https://youtu.be/0SCjhI86grU; CrashCourse, “Natural Selection – Crash Course Biology #14,” YouTube, 30 Apr 2012, https://youtu.be/aTftyFboC_M.
  9. For some stuff on the evolution of pandas, see: Jasmin Fox-Skelly, “The first ancestors of giant pandas probably lived in Europe,” New Scientist, 27 Oct 2017, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2151717-the-first-ancestors-of-giant-pandas-probably-lived-in-europe/.
  10. For the evolution of T. rex, see: Michelle Starr, “Turns Out The Fearsome T. Rex Evolved From a Ridiculously Tiny Ancestor,” Science Alert, 22 Feb 2019, https://www.sciencealert.com/the-legendary-tyrannosaurus-rex-evolved-from-a-teeny-tiny-ancestor; Katherine J. Wu, “Tiny “Coyote of the Cretaceous” Fills a Gap in the Tyrannosaur Tree,” NOVA, 6 May 2019, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/suskityrannus-hazelae?utm_source=FBPAGE&utm_medium=social&utm_term=20190506&utm_content=2292681650&utm_campaign=NOVA+Next&linkId=67006896. For T. rex as a bone crusher, see also: Carolyn Gramling, “T. rex pulverized bones with an incredible amount of force,” Science News, 22 Oct 2018, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/tyrannosaurus-rex-pulverized-bones-incredible-amount-force.
  11. For the evolution of açaí, see more about the evolution of Arecaceae, the family in which açaí resides, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arecaceae
  12. Dr. Pamela Gay, Astronomy Cast, “Ep. 514: Planetary Protection Protocols”, http://www.astronomycast.com/2019/01/ep-514-planetary-protection-protocols/.
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansion_of_the_universe; see also
  14. “Discourse, 20 March 1842, as Reported by Wilford Woodruff,” p. [135-136], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed May 4, 2019, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-20-march-1842-as-reported-by-wilford-woodruff/2.  If you think this quote is anti-evolution (which it isn’t), please read my explanation of how the principle of kinds begetting only after their kind actually supports evolution in my previous blog post entitled How Evolution Works.
  15. Photo of adorable human baby found here: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/newborn-behaviour
  16. Joseph Smith in a sermon given 16 Jun 1844, “History, 1838–1856, volume F-1 [1 May 1844–8 August 1844],” p. 103, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed April 30, 2019, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-f-1-1-may-1844-8-august-1844/109.
  17. “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1973, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed April 30, 2019, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-e-1-1-july-1843-30-april-1844/345. For an example of Joseph using the term “sectarian notion”, see D&C 130:3.
  18. For examples of Creationists preaching that God made the world from nothing, see: Dr. Terry Mortenson, “Did God Create (Bara) or Make (Asah) in Genesis 1?”, Answers in Genesis, 15 Aug 2007, https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/did-god-create-bara-or-make-asah-in-genesis-1/; Ken Ham, “How Did God Create Everything From Nothing?”, Answers in Genesis, 29 Apr 2010, https://answersingenesis.org/kids/creation/how-did-god-create-everything-from-nothing/; Ross Peters, “Did God create plants on Day 3 out of nothing?” Creation.com, 7 Jul 2013, https://creation.com/creation-from-nothing-in-genesis-1; Kent Hovind, “Scientific Evidence Disproves Evolution Theory: Facts prove Universe is about 6,000 years old, not billions of years old.”  http://www.wiseoldgoat.com/papers-creation/hovind-introduction.html; “What does creation ex nihilo mean?” GotQuestions.org, https://www.gotquestions.org/creation-ex-nihilo.html.
  19. Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 8:243-244.
  20. Emphasis added.
  21. Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray. [1st edition], p. 488-489, http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=F373&viewtype=text.
  22. Photo of earth found here: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html
  23. Emphasis added on the scriptures in this paragraph.
  24. For a side-by-side comparison of the Genesis, Moses, and Abraham creation accounts, see https://www.lds.org/study/manual/the-pearl-of-great-price-student-manual-2018/a-harmony-of-the-creation-accounts?lang=eng. Notice how Abraham sticks with a natural selection mindset the whole time, while the other accounts do not.
  25. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_history_of_life, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geological_history_of_Earth
  26. Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray. [1st edition], p. 468 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=F373&viewtype=text
  27. Image of Pakicetus found here: http://www.eartharchives.org/articles/the-evolution-of-whales/. Age range of Pakicetus found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakicetus. Pakicetus included as an archaeocete (or ancient whale) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeoceti. For more on how the waters were prepared to bring forth the whales, see Big Picture Science podcast, “Deep Time,” http://radio.seti.org/episodes/Deep_Time; and The Common Descent Podcast, “Ep. 41 – Evolution of Whales,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR_FnKu-VPA. Perhaps the increase in oxygen due to the colliding of India with Asia prepared the waters for the whales by making the waters more hospitable for life–a.k.a. providing for more and better food for the early archaeocetes; perhaps driving them into the water?: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190426142057.htm.
  28. Emphasis added in all the scriptures quoted in this paragraph.
  29. Emphasis added.
  30. History of the Church, 2:104, https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-2-chapter-7 note 8.
  31. Painting of Mount Tambora found here, with this caption: “Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupts. (Photo: Ron Wood from the cover of ‘The Year Without Summer’)” https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/stories/200-years-ago-mount-tambora-erupted-what-happened-next-changed
  32. Book of Mormon Central, “KnoWhy #197: What Caused the Darkness and Destruction in the 34th Year?”, https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/what-caused-the-darkness-and-destruction-in-the-34th-year.
  33. Saints, Vol 1, pp. 3-6, https://www.lds.org/study/history/saints-v1/01-ask-in-faith?lang=eng. Futility Closet podcast, “Episode 222: The Year Without A Summer”, https://www.futilitycloset.com/2018/10/29/podcast-episode-222-the-year-without-a-summer/
  34. Saints, Vol 1, pp. 194-206, https://www.lds.org/study/history/saints-v1/18-the-camp-of-israel?lang=eng. See also: lds9999, “Mormon Church History – LDS Zion’s Camp – ⅔”, YouTube, 31 May 2008, https://youtu.be/-J7-fUygwLY.
  35. For a small sampling of how some of these factors influence evolution, see: Heather Scoville, ThoughtCo, “How Earth Changes Can Affect Evolution,” 14 May 2018, https://www.thoughtco.com/how-earth-changes-affect-evolution-1224552.
  36. Geologic time scale boundaries are significant shifts/changes in the earth–see: Common Descent Podcast, Episode 12, “The Geologic Time Scale,” https://commondescentpodcast.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/episode-12-the-geologic-time-scale/, audio: https://youtu.be/qfDOyu6onBY.
  37. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the 2014 TV series Cosmos, presented the idea that the asteroid that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 Ma, was actually set in its course to collide with planet Earth while the solar system was still forming, some 4.5 Ga; see Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, “Episode 1: ‘Standing Up in the Milky Way.’”; for a transcript of the episode, see https://www.jacksonwild.org/uploads/2/4/3/7/24374754/cosmos_-_standing_up_in_the_milky_way_script, pp. 34, 37. If it was indeed God who planned for that asteroid to hit the earth at the right time and place to prepare the earth for humans, He could have done it a very, very long time beforehand–at least as far back as the formation of the solar system itself, while Earth was still forming.
  38. Image of memorial for our beloved dinosaurs found here: https://me.me/i/never-forget-65-000-000-b-c-e-20889228,
  39. Mass extinctions are like pruning the tree of life–see: MinuteEarth, “How Many Mass Extinctions Have There Been?” YouTube, 20 Jan 2016, https://youtu.be/aO9mOAKXvJs.
  40. Table is adapted from the mass extinctions list found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extinction_events. I inverted the table to make it read from Precambrian at the top to the present at the bottom (chronological order), instead of the original, which read present to the Precambrian (reverse chronological order) in reflection of the physical geologic time scale as seen in the rock strata. I added possible causes for the End-Ediacaran from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End-Ediacaran_extinction; Dresbachian from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018216306915; Cambrian-Ordovician from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrian%E2%80%93Ordovician_extinction_event; Carboniferous rainforest collapse from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carboniferous_rainforest_collapse; Olson’s from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olson%27s_Extinction; End-Jurassic from http://fossilsandshit.com/why-i-think-the-jurassiccretaceous-boundary-is-super-important/ and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12255; Aptian from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aptian_extinction. The Big Five Mass Extinction list was obtained from https://cosmosmagazine.com/palaeontology/big-five-extinctions.
  41. Photo of the title page of the Origin of Species found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Origin_of_Species#/media/File:Origin_of_Species_title_page.jpg. Photo of the article where what is now Abraham chapter 3 found here:  https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/book-of-abraham-and-facsimiles-1-march-16-may-1842/1.
  42. For Joseph Smith prophesying that, unlike the prophecy of William Miller, the Lord would not return that year or for at least another 40 years, see: “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1922, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed May 10, 2019, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-e-1-1-july-1843-30-april-1844/294.
  43. For lists of some of the prophecies of Joseph Smith, look here: https://www.lds.org/study/history/topics/prophecies-of-joseph-smith?lang=eng, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prophecies_of_Joseph_Smith

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