It’s been 6 months already since I launched this blog! Can you believe it? We’ve talked about A LOT of things, and–I confess–we’ve had a lot of pretty long blog posts… so I figure it’s time we do a little summary to catch everybody up to speed. Here are the posts I’ve published so far, along with a quick rundown of what each contains.
There are many people who tell us that you can’t have both science and religion, but they are lying–you totally can have both! And nobody is better prepared to have both than the Latter-day Saints. Here we hypothesized that “the LDS scriptures not only allow for evolution to be the way that God created all life on Earth, they imply it.” The current findings of science (Big Bang, evolution, old Earth, etc.) can be true without making the Church untrue. I, as the author of this blog, am not perfect, and the stuff on this blog isn’t doctrine, neither does it necessarily reflect the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m just a guy putting out some ideas, hoping that they can be helpful. I value discussion and invite it, so let’s talk about this stuff! Let me know what you think and let’s figure out together how to reconcile science with our religion.
The Church has no official stance on evolution–you can accept it or reject it without affecting your chances of salvation. Although the personal opinions of individual apostles and prophets on evolution have been all over the map (from the favorable to the militantly opposed), I’m not going to use the statements of any General Authorities to back up my arguments. How can I when there are apostles with conflicting views? No one apostle has more weight or authority than any other, so we have to leave their thoughts out of the discussion to be productive. The only exception to this will be Joseph Smith, the first prophet of this dispensation. We’re definitely going to examine what he said about sciencey stuff, because it may just blow your mind. As we do this, reconciling science with our religion becomes much, much easier.
In a 1843 sermon, Joseph Smith taught us some pretty radical truths about the universe, one of them being: There are hundreds of millions of other habitable planets out there with life on them that looks different than the life on Earth. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like evolution and the astrobiology of 2019 to me! Some of these planets, continued Joseph, even have creatures that look like men, but aren’t. The Four Beasts mentioned in the Book of Revelation were four alien animals that had lived on other worlds. These four strange extraterrestrials in the scriptures can help us understand evolution, and also that animals have spirits, emotions, and can be rewarded in heaven for their behavior in mortality.
Most people that think evolution is false and evil probably also don’t understand how it works. Once you do though, it starts making WAY more sense how evolution could indeed be the method God used to create life. Evolution is all about families and natural selection, and how natural conditions cause certain heritable traits among families to flourish and multiply while causing others to die out and vanish. We’ve all heard it, but saying that the Bible requires that animals can only reproduce “after their kind” actually SUPPORTS evolution, because that’s exactly how evolution happens. Let evolution be your friend.
In Abraham 3, Abraham sees all “the intelligences that were organized before the world was.” Animals have spirits, and so must be “intelligences” also; which means that animals (and maybe even plants) were included in the organized intelligences that Abraham saw. Abraham also learns that these intelligences exist on a continuous spectrum from less intelligent to “more intelligent”. Evolution tells us that our ancestors’ bodies were a spectrum too, from us today to monkey-like creatures 55 Ma, to rodent-like animals 160 Ma, to fish-like critters 400 Ma, to single-celled microorganisms 3 Ga. And all along this spectrum, the intelligence level of our ancestors increased from that of a microbe to that of modern humans. Could it be that the spectrum of intelligences introduced in Abraham chapter 3 is the reason for God to use evolution in His grand creation? That would be pretty awesome, because Joseph Smith published the Book of Abraham in 1842.
As Latter-day Saints, we have access to 5 different accounts of the creation: Genesis, Moses, Abraham, the temple, and ….. the rocks! When I say the rocks, I basically mean the universe, because, let’s be real, the universe is pretty much just rock–or the stuff that makes up rock. The Lord told Adam that “all things are created and made to bear record of [Him]”, and that means EVERYTHING–the exoplanets above, the DNA in the creatures on Earth, the hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old fossils in the rocks, and the earth’s solid-iron core miles underground. It all testifies of Christ. The very rocks that teach us of evolution also bear record of a loving Creator. We need the first four accounts to teach us who did the creation and why, but we need the fifth account (the rocks) to teach us HOW the creation happened.
By the time of his death in the summer of 1844, Joseph Smith had given us everything we need to allow us to accept the discoveries of modern science. And a large part of that stuff is now in a collection of books called the Pearl of Great Price. That not only makes the POGP awesome, but also prophetic. I argue (and I think Hugh Nibley would maybe agree) that one of the main purposes of the POGP is to help us with the science-vs-religion conflict of the latter days. Here I give a large (and subject-to-grow) list of things that the POGP got right about science before scientists got right about science. Atheists and Young Earth Creationist alike both assert that Mormonism is false; but Latter-day Saints have unique scriptures and doctrines that can bring a belief in God into harmony with modern science. We just gotta let it happen, guys.
If you’re looking for evolution in the scriptures, look no further than Abraham 4. This chapter of scripture contains language that sounds a heck of a lot like natural selection. Instead of just creating animals and plants, the Gods “prepare” and “organize” the earth and the waters “to bring forth” the animals and plants. If you look up the evolutionary history of any species, it will detail the events in Earth history that shaped the planet, and thus shaped the evolution of that particular species. Every creature alive today is the result of many factors, such as asteroid impacts, global warming, glaciations, supernovae, and mass extinctions. Things weren’t created supernaturally with a snap of the fingers, but by a slow process of descent with modification as a result of the changing environment and conditions of Earth. That’s how natural selection works, and it seems like you can find it in the Book of Abraham creation account, published in 1842. Pretty amazing since Charles Darwin published his theory on natural selection in 1859.
The creation account in Abraham 4 actually does agree with science, and it does it a whole lot better than Genesis 1. In fact, Abraham fixes all the points Genesis gets wrong—and it does this by a few small, yet significant word changes. Was Joseph Smith inspired to make these changes so it would better conform to the truth? It seems like while Genesis is talking about a supernatural creation, Abraham is talking about a natural one—just like scientists say it happened. Some of the things it does to do this are: taking out just about any time restrictions, fixing anachronisms, implementing changes in the earth to bring about new species, etc. A lot of what we know about natural history today was discovered long after Joseph’s death, so how did he get the Abrahamic creation account so right?
Well folks, there’s the last 6 months on this blog in a few paragraphs. It’s been a blast, and I hope to continue writing it for years to come! As always, I am grateful to accept feedback and comments. Is any of this stuff helpful in the science v religion debate, or is it just rubbish? Let me know what you guys think!
The featured image for this post was found here: https://www.seeker.com/chimps-trade-tools-to-help-out-pals-1767329050.html. I used it in the post “The Creation Account vs Science: Do They Agree?” I set it as the image for this 6 month review to showcase the importance of the intelligence of non-human animals. This chimp is using a tool, and is thinking about something. How could he/she do that if he/she did not possess an eternal, independent, self-existing intelligence like you and I have? (For more, see Abraham 3 and the blog post “The Organization of Intelligences: The Why of Evolution”.)