Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mormons on Evolution

Posted by Kiskilili

According to this study, Mormons aren’t terribly likely to accept the proposition that “evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth” (however one interprets this statement).

Rather than arguing specifically over evolution’s merits, I’m interested here in a meta-discussion of the issue. Are there peculiarly Mormon reasons for resisting evolutionary theory, or are our counterarguments basically echoing those advanced by the religious right (and likely absorbed from them)?

Possible unique sites I can see in our doctrine that may create stumbling blocks for would-be proponents of evolution:

(a) Our temple ceremony expands on (and also collapses) the creation accounts in Genesis, elevating them in prominence in our thought and perhaps also militating in favor of a literal reading of the text (although obviously without foreclosing the possibility of metaphorical readings that explicitly exclude the literal–certainly a number of Mormons I know have opted for this latter route).

(b) Our belief in an anthropomorphic God effectively insists that the human form is special in some eternal, qualitative sense. Acceptance of evolutionary theory would both break down the boundary between humans and animals and potentially cast doubt on the idea that our physiognomic particularities are anything more than happenstance.

Does Mormon theology, from your perspective, present a suite of challenges different from other denominations for those who wish to reconcile evolution with revealed truth? Are there other potential problems for accepting evolution that you can see that are unique to Mormonism–or conversely, ways in which Mormon thought is particularly amenable to the claims of evolutionary biologists? What exactly is at issue in accepting or rejecting evolutionary theory?

123 Responses to “Mormons on Evolution”

  1. 1.

    One thing I suspect is at issue–but I’d love to see actual data on this–is sociological: it seems to me Mormons often tend to line up with claims of the religious right in North America, frequently letting them set the terms for what is religiously and morally appropriate.

  2. 2.

    Mormons are freer to accept evolution than some others because we:

    a) don’t have to interpret the Bible literally.
    b) are not quite so forced into orthodoxy in general.

    …but it’s more difficult for us because:

    c) sealing kids to parents is all nice and cozy until someone (Adam?) gets sealed to a non-human primate.

    Mormons often tend to line up with claims of the religious right in North America, frequently letting them set the terms for what is religiously and morally appropriate.

    Best thing I’ve read all week.

  3. 3.

    I certainly ‘believe’ in evolution in the sense that life does evolve and change, and that fossil evidence shows that various life forms have existed on Earth that have evolved. I would, however, not have agreed with that statement as a Mormon because I believe that God created man and, like you point out, we belive in an anthropomorphic God and therefore were created in his image. I have been under the impression that most other Mormons belive something similar: not the literal, Biblical creationism that precludes any belief in forms of evolution, but that man was created as he is in God’s image. But I’ve also been hanging around with a lot of young, college-educated Mormons.

    I think this is also the problem with such blanket statements like “Mormons believe/don’t believe in evolution” What does ‘evolution’ mean in that context? That man evolved from lower life forms (as in this statement)? That life forms evolve? That God uses natural processes to create and change life?

  4. 4.

    I remember reading this on Times and seasons. My thoughts were that the sticking points were “evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.”
    Almost everyone I know is willing to say about evolution “I know God created the earth, but I can’t say exactly how He did it.” I think the use of the word ‘best’ in the question would leave a lot of members compelled to say that they disagree, even if a good number of them feel very positively towards evolutionary science. So while evolution may be a pretty good explanation, God is the best explanation.

    I also think that Brian’s C and your B are a huge part of it. I think lots of members would and likely are perfectly alright with evolution as long as they can believe that Humans are an exception. If it’s horses and platypuses, and birds evolving that’s great! Humans on the other hand, well we’re children of God right?

  5. 5.

    I think your comment #1 deserves a gold star. BINGO.

    I also think that we should be more open to evolution because we believe in a God that works with natural laws. Organizing intelligences rather than poofing something into existence from nothing. Matter being obedient, and all that jazz.

  6. 6.

    Cue NDBF Gary … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …

  7. 7.

    I love it, Brian! That nicely captures one problem in asserting we’re related to animals: at some point should we be sealing Australophithecines into our eternal family (not to mention chest-beating apes and other unsavory characters down the evolutionary chain)?

    FoxyJ and Starfoxy both get at an important issue for Mormons: where there are other biblical religions that also accept that humans bear the image of God, we take this claim literally and physically. Evolution would seem to demote us back into the animal kingdom, where Genesis 1:27 suggests we are qualitatively separate from animals at the same time we are parallel to God.

    Reese makes a point I hadn’t really considered–on the other hand, our God is widely believed to function, in some way, within natural law. If so, we shouldn’t expect to find (as many seem to) a God-shaped hole in the geologic record.

    Let’s not “speak of the devil,” shall we, Ardis? ;) (Truthfully, if Gary would like to offer some further reasons Mormons might be inclined to resist evolutionary theory, more power to him.)

  8. 8.

    The reason that Mormons don’t believe in Evolution is that since the 1950′s doctrinal conservatives have taken over the Church Educational System and the writing of lesson manuals.

    A whole generation of latter day saints have grown up believing that the anti-evolution perspective of the tradition of Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Burce R. Mconkie and Boyd K. Packer is the ONLY valid church position on evolution.

    Unfortunately, few in the Church are aware of the B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe and Henry Eyring Sr. pro-evolution tradition.

    This is not the time or place to argue the merits of either tradition. I would only point out that both are positions that good church members can hold and still be considered orthodox latter day saints. (are you listening Gary at NDBH ?)

    One statement of Henry Eyring Sr. has always given me great comfort in trying to deal with this issue. ” The Church doesn’t require you to believe anything that is not true”

    That applies to all things Geological and Biological.

  9. 9.

    I think bulk of the explanation for the Mormon response is the wording of the question. (Starfoxy’s point in #4 is important) So frankly I chalk the results up to a weakness in the testing method more than anything else.

    But this is not the first time I have been skeptical of the wording of questions in this Pew survey.

  10. 10.

    “it seems to me Mormons often tend to line up with claims of the religious right in North America…”

    I suspect that the data would bear this out. However,

    …frequently letting them set the terms for what is religiously and morally appropriate.

    doesn’t bounce quite right for me. Darwinian evolution has been framed from the beginning* as more than just a theory about how God might have enacted creation; subsequent proponents have attacked the epistemological bases of spirituality and religion even more vehemently. It seems to me that Mormon resistance to evolution theories has far more to do with opposition to militant secularism than with affinity for the (non-Mormon) Religious Right—or, for that matter, irreconcilable opposition to the theory itself.

    In private, I find evolutionary theories interesting, persuasive, and useful. In public, my consistent experience has been that pro-evolutionists tell me that I have to _believe_ evolution, I can’t just understand, apply, and/or accept it; that only falsifiable truths count (irony FAIL); that religious people are stupid; and that it is not appropriate to even talk about different epistemologies in publically-funded educational settings.The issue is not the theory itself but who is peddling it, their techniques, and their overbroad application of the underlying assumptions.

    I think the public-policy issues also complicate the question. Opposition to evolution-the-idea is collateral damage in the contest over who controls education.

    Finally, I think Mormon focus on unity slows the rate at which Mormons are willing to engage the theory sympathetically. The I-know-God-did-it-but-I-don’t-know-how tent is more inclusive, allowing young-earth, no-atom-wiggles-without-instructions creationists, God-is-merely-a-more-evolved-animal evolutionists, and everything inbetween to work together in the church. Once we come out and say “God did it this way,” some part of the membership is going to feel even more uncomfortable than they do now.

    * Darwin, Huxley, et al. began with conciliatory public statements, but in private imagined a much more fundamental assualt on religious belief (especially Huxley).

  11. 11.

    Truth is truth, and Mormons accept truth from science, literature, philosophy, theology, etc. In the life sciences, evolution has overwhelming support. It is extremely rare to find a scientist that rejects evolution.

    I cannot believe the Church would ever be in the business of counseling college students to NOT enter into life science professions. Great damage would be done, if such a policy were ever enacted. No physicians. No biologists. No psychologists.

    Contrary to popular views, evolution has essential applied applications. It cannot be ignored lightly.

    Fortunately, there are MANY LDS evolutionists. They are faithful, and many have served important positions in the Church, at least at local levels.

    An understanding of the gospel is infinitely more important than an understanding of evolution. Although science is ultimately neutral to religion, Richard Dawkins has used evolutionary arguments to promote atheism. I think this is a misuse of science.

    To those that are bothered by evolution, then I say ignore it. But, that policy need NOT apply to the rest of us who love science and who really want to understand the world as it is found in existence. To me, I love evolution, but I love the gospel MUCH MORE. For me, there is no conflict, but I understand my experience does not generalize.

  12. 12.

    “What exactly is at issue in accepting or rejecting evolutionary theory?”

    Parental brainwashing: IIRC some research (Pew?) concluded that people generally stay in the religion of the parents. If this is true then we can probably conclude that parental teachings on evolution theory (pro or con) are generally passed down (what I snarkly called Parental brainwashing) to their children or ‘tribe’.

    Blind faith: Religious leaders (or most faith styles) generally teach some form of “trust me” and “don’t worry about it, God will reveal this when it is important” and, without proof, I claim a good many members do exactly that – they no longer are interested is pursuing study of things like this that ‘doesn’t matter’ to their eternal salvation

  13. 13.

    Man’s interpretation of religion gets in the way of truth, both spiritual truth and physical truth. Man’s interpretation of science gets in the way of truth, both spiritual truth and physical truth. Our ability to truly understand how things really are has always been limited, particularly by our desire to state definitively that we know something to be true, when we only believe something to be true one way, that way being the way we interpret what we see around us.

    For me, I don’t believe humans came from apes. I don’t believe that aspect of the theory of evolution. I also don’t believe the earth was created in “six days” no matter how one attempts to explain that six days doesn’t really mean six days. I believe the earth took probably 4.5 billion years to form to the level it is now. I believe there is strong archaeological evidence of humanistic life of some sort that predates what we believe to be Adam’s existence on earth. But I also believe we simply do not have enough information to judge exactly how long ago Adam was first around. The Bible is not a reputable source for accurate dating.

    I’ve learned to be fairly open to new explanations because I’ve learned we really are no smarter than toddlers when it comes to the world and universe around us. Heck, we have a hard enough time understanding our very own bodies! Our supposed temples! How are we truly going to actually understand the actual reality around us?

  14. 14.

    Nice observations, Edje. Part of my interest in this question is that it’s pretty clear evolution is serving as a significant cultural marker, and I’d love to know more about the history of that, and the ways in which both Church beliefs and cultural alliances have played into current Mormon attitudes. John Willis makes a valid point that our tradition doesn’t unequivocally point us in one direction or the other. (I recently audited a course in which the professor contended evolution played a fairly different role in public religious consciousness in the nineteenth century than it does today. Also that more Americans accepted evolutionary theory in the ’60s than do today.) In any case, the vehemence expressed on every side of the issue is somewhat dismaying to me; if nothing else, surely it’s not healthy for science, either theoretically (dogma restricts creativity) or socially.

    I agree, Geoff, that the wording of the question may be problematic and distorting our interpretation. But my experience has largely been that a significant number of Mormons are in fact suspicious of evolution. Just for fun, let’s suppose, though, that most (if not all) Mormons accept evolution in some form. I’d love to know how that situation developed, and its relationship both to our particular doctrines (are they more compatible with evolution than those of broader Christianity generally?) and our cultural alliances.

  15. 15.

    Blind faith: …I claim a good many members do exactly that – they no longer are interested is pursuing study of things like this that ‘doesn’t matter’ to their eternal salvation

    I think the great majority of members were never interested in the first place, quite independent of its non-effect on their salvation. I’d even go so far as to say the “not essential” defense is mostly post hoc. It can be glossed as “I’m not interested in this topic, and unless you can convince me that it is so important that I should drop some of the other things I think and worry about, leave me alone.” It’s not necessarily anti-intellectual or anti-science or even anti-evolution. It’s, “the cosmos is big and I’m thinking about a different aspect of it.”

  16. 16.

    Others have already pointed out how our idea of sealing to ancestors presents a difficulty. I think we also run into problems as we project forward. We assume that God looks like us, and that heaven is simply an extension of the best parts of earth life. I think there is something uniquely Mormon about imagining God to be pretty much like me, but with a few additional centuries of scripture reading under his belt.

    But there are also reasons to be skeptical of that assumption. We apparently believe in a diety who can travel through time, walk through walls, and stand in the air. Such a being is qualitatively different from the likes of us. Orson Pratt’s explanation about spirit fluid was a nice try, but it doesn’t get us very far down the road to understanding.

  17. 17.

    john willis (8)

    A whole generation of latter day saints have grown up believing that the anti-evolution perspective of the tradition of Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Burce R. Mconkie and Boyd K. Packer is the ONLY valid church position on evolution.

    I’m curious who this whole generation of Mormons is. It’s not my generation, because most of us that I know believe in evolution (true, it’s anecdotal evidence, but it belies the argument that a whole generation doesn’t believe) and don’t see any conflict between Darwinian evolution and the gospel. It’s not my parents’ generation, either, because both of my parents believe that evolution happened and that it’s not incompatible with the gospel (and, even if they were the only two, that totally wrecks that “whole generation” idea). And, although I don’t know what my grandparents think about evolution (believe it or not, it’s never come up at Thanksgiving dinners), they became parents in the late 40s, meaning they’re not susceptible to growing up under a 1950s CES.
    Sure, there are members who don’t believe in evolution. But I never met any until my mission, and most (though not all) are perfectly willing to countenance the idea if confronted with a believing member who doesn’t see any conflict. Of course, YMMV.

  18. 18.

    … travel through time, walk through walls, and stand in the air. Such a being is qualitatively different from the likes of us.

    Speak for yourself.

  19. 19.

    Sam, john willis has in fact described much of my generation, although your parents may not be typical. I grew up assuming that evolution was a bad thing — a very bad thing — and yet I had virtually no idea what the word meant. I just knew that some of my Sunday School teachers had railed against it, and sometimes when I looked at my parents’ Improvement Era issues, I seem to have often run across articles denouncing evolution, pre-Adamites, Darwin, people who thought the earth was one day older than 6,000 years, and explaining that dinosaurs hadn’t really lived on this earth, that their fossils were leftovers from the existing rocks from other worlds that God had used to create this world. In my 7th grade science class, there was one kid — Robert somebody, teacher’s pet — who advocated evolution; all the rest of us knew he and the teacher were both going straight to hell.

    I was in my 30s before I discovered what evolution really was, and why the church had in fact not established any official policy denouncing it.

  20. 20.

    By the way, two? three? years ago — whenever it was we last talked about Genesis in Sunday School (I lived in the same ward I live in now), the teacher’s handout declared that the earth was only 6,000 years old, and cited some of Joseph Fielding Smith’s arguments in support of that claim. fMh Janet and her husband were in class that day, IIRC, and might remember it.

  21. 21.

    Ardis’ comment reminded me of something else I’ve heard people theorizing. That some humans evolved, and others were placed here by God. Given some other folk doctrines I’ll bet you can guess who supposedly evolved and who didn’t.

  22. 22.

    Kiskilili: “it’s pretty clear evolution is serving as a significant cultural marker.”

    Amen and amen.

    A fissure that I don’t understand is between the feminist critique of science and the religious critique in regards to evolution. In many ways, the arguments seem rather similar, but I don’t see any cultural re-alignment based around the similarities.

    On another note… I presume it goes without saying, but Edward J Larson’s Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion is probably required reading for the topic of evolution as cultural marker.

  23. 23.

    As an evolutionary biologist teaching at BYU and fully invested in both the church and evolution I am often saddened by those who try and say the two are incompatible. I and S. Faux above (look at our blogs for details) have written in defense of a ‘both’ position in great detail.

    At BYU we teach evolution straight up, this is the way it happened, without apologies or compromise. We also share our testimonies (those of us who are members). This year we celebrated the “Year of Darwin” with a series of lectures on evolution, all designed to show that evolution is the best explanation for the way life has developed on Earth that we have on the science side and to show that it is compatible with the gospel. There is no conflict. Unbeknownst to many BYU has a premiere reputation in evolutionary studies. I have published in the scientific journal Evolution which is the premier outlet for studies in evolution and published by the Society for the Study of Evolution to which I belong.

    Evolution is supported by every major branch of biological science and it is the unifying framework for all modern biological studies including medicine, agricultural studies, molecular biology, genetics, geology etc.

    I actually think those who argue strongly that the two are incompatible do great harm to our message. Turning bright thoughtful people away who might otherwise listen and discouraging questioning science students who feel they must make a choice.

  24. 24.

    It interests me that we get increasingly sophisticated descriptions of the creation. Genesis is greatly augmented by the PoGP, which is augmented by the Endowment. We get descriptions that sound less and less like the super magic God.

    I especially enjoy reading the account in Abraham 4. There we get things like this: the Spirit “broods” over the waters; the Gods command and “watch” till they see that they are going to be obeyed.

    Sign me up on the side the says all truth is compatible, and that we not only learn line upon line, but that as our personal collection of truth expands we are able to synthesize and get more and more complete and accurate views of God. ~

  25. 25.

    Kiskilili: our particular doctrines (are they more compatible with evolution than those of broader Christianity generally?)

    I think so.

    First we don’t have the problem many in the Bible Worshiping Bunch face with regard to literalism in the Bible.

    Second we have a foundational tradition in Mormonism of breaking with creedal Christian dogma.

    Third we have strong prophetic statements about Mormonism encompassing all truth regardless of the source.

    Fourth we reject creatio ex nihilo so we must come up with an explanation for life here that does not include poofing it into existence.

    Fifth there is a pretty healthy science-friendly tradition in Mormonism with some of our 20th century apostles being scientists (even though there the JFSII/BRM crowd was influential in the late 20th century with their less-science-friendly rhetoric).

    Sixth, without a systematic theology we leave a lot of room for a lot of ideas in Mormonism. Our lack of creeds allows us to evolve with new data (or light and knowledge if you prefer). This is in line with Article of Faith #9.

  26. 26.

    john willis (comment #8)

    First:

    This claim, “The reason that Mormons don’t believe in Evolution is that since the 1950′s doctrinal conservatives have taken over the Church Educational System and the writing of lesson manuals.”

    This suggests that for half a century unauthorized individuals have commandeered Church curriculum in the same way mutineers commandeer a ship and take it where the ship is not supposed to go. This is to me unbelievable. I think curriculum writers work for the First Presidency and the Twelve, not the other way around. I think the reason most Mormons don’t believe in evolution is that those who have stewardship over doctrine (FP Q12) supervise the writing of and approve lesson manuals containing doctrine that doesn’t support evolution. And not just since the 1950′s.

    Second:

    Yes. “Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. Mconkie and Boyd K. Packer.” But don’t forget Russell M. Nelson. And these are only the most vocal of the FP Q12 who have spoken out against evolution. Other FP Q12 have sided with them publicly and forcefully.

    Third:

    It is debatable that B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage or John A. Widstoe was pro-evolution. Published statements from all three cause me to believe they were not.

  27. 27.

    My father (now retired) was a biology professor for over 25 years, and we learned our evolution at home…

    He would challenge the high priests who attempted to shoot down evolution by challenging them to propose another scientifically credible explanation.

    (This is why I get so bored over the whole ID argument. It feels like I’ve been hearing it in my family for 25 years…)

  28. 28.

    .

    I have no problem with evolution, but I’m not keen on that statement. My belief in Mormonism includes a sense that we’re still learning. I don’t claim to have the “best” explanation for anything.

    Being Mormon means being intellectually humble, in my view.

  29. 29.

    Thanks for the lively discussion, all. I appreciate the book recommendation, Edje–I’ll definitely check it out; I’d love to know more about the history of evolution’s reception and cultural significance.

    (I can definitely relate, queuno–my father once somehow wrangled permission to teach a two-part High Priests’ lesson on why Mormons could believe in evolution, which he repeated as a family home evening lesson. Evolution was certainly unassailable dogma in my house growing up.)

    R. Gary, I’m glad you stopped by. You bring another important and relevant point to the discussion, which is the argument from authority: to the degree that Mormons view anti-evolution statements from leaders as authoritative, this constitutes another potential strike against evolution. This is effectively the converse to the argument others have advanced that all reputable scientists in relevant fields accept evolution–which, for us laypeople who have never personally dug up a homo erectus bone, observed fruitflies speciate, or even visited the Galapagos, is another argument from authority on the other side of the debate (and a different claim to authority).

    Thanks for weighing in, Steve–I’m glad to hear the perspective of an actual biologist. I too think it’s a shame when thoughtful people are told they’re forced to choose between evolution and the Church, and would like to think that happens less thanks to people like you.

    Just as a general comment, however, I’m interested in the ways we reconcile different epistemologies and what the implications are for the method in which we do so. For example, do we accept the claims of science and then adjust our reading of scripture to fit–and if so, have we not effectively stripped scripture of much (if not all) of its authority?

    As a related but narrower issue, I’m also interested, from a hermeneutical perspective, in the way metaphor is appealed to in discussions like this. How do we choose to apply metaphorical readings in the particular ways we do, to the particular texts we do? No one (apparently), for example, is suggesting that we reconcile Genesis with the narrative of human history archaeologists have constructed by accepting the archaeologists’ account as “true” but “not literal.” Science is seemingly insulated from being subjected to a metaphorical reworking that emasculates its claims. But even on the religious side, no one (to my knowledge) is suggesting we read doctrines about God’s anthropomorphism metaphorically and non-literally. (I’m using both the terms “metaphorical” and “non-literal” because I don’t think a metaphorical reading necessarily excludes the literal, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

    Scripture, on the other hand–and especially the Bible–is attracting metaphorical interpretations of every stripe. While it’s true there are Christians reading the creation accounts literally, “metaphorizing” the Bible has an extraordinarily long and venerable history in Christianity, and is hardly unique to Mormon thought (and not even consistently deployed in Mormonism—in fact, a much more “Mormon” way of worming out of inconvenient biblical passages is the appeal to faulty translation grounded in the eighth Article of Faith). It’s hard for me not to wonder how much of our method in approaching evolution we’re importing from Protestants.

    Furthermore, although I think metaphors and symbols can be important in understanding literature, I’m not convinced that in the evolution debates such readings have advanced beyond convenient sleight of hand (though I’d love to examples proving me wrong). What in our canonized creation accounts licenses non-literal reading? Especially in Genesis, where the creation accounts are linked explicitly through (admittedly contradictory) genealogical chains connecting them to events throughout the entire scope of Israel’s history, as the text has been redacted—history that’s surely meant “literally”–it’s hard to see the justification from textual grounds for invoking metaphor in an erratic way. And while I certainly see reason to find mythological resonance in the creation stories, I see no evidence that the biblical authors even made a conceptual distinction between the “literal” and the “metaphorical” that we’re so fond of.

    In other words, my impression is that in this “scholastic” exercise as we usually practice it, scientic claims are effectively prioritized where scripture is treated somewhat irresponsibly. I’d love to see the rationales for our various methods spelled out.

  30. 30.

    In other words, my impression is that in this “scholastic” exercise as we usually practice it, scientic claims are effectively prioritized where scripture is treated somewhat irresponsibly. I’d love to see the rationales for our various methods spelled out.

    To the extent that is true, it’s probably because for most of us, the mere mention of the word “evolution” shifts the discussion out of the religious/metaphysical and into the scientific/physical realm (which, despite their compatibility, are still for most of us two different ways of thinking and seeing — it’s hard to look two directions at the same time).

    If a question about the origin of life doesn’t use the word “evolution” but instead is about the purpose of life or the purpose of creation or the origin of our souls, then scripture is going to be prioritized because the question will trigger thoughts that are addressed only by revelation and not by evolution.

    You get the answer you get because of the question you ask.

  31. 31.

    Yes, we believe in authority…and testimony, but some people seem unwilling to acknowledge the authority and testimony of the earth itself. And if that testimony differs from that of a particular General Authority, a fallible human being, should we disregard what the earth has to tell us? Henry Eyring senior argued most eloquently that we cannot disregard that testimony. The claim of science is that it is self-correcting. I would like to think that ultimately our faith is self-correcting as well.

  32. 32.

    1) You could just as easily make the argument the the temple ceremony *supports* a non-literal interpretation of Genesis, since there are characters running around in the story who represent Types from later periods in Christian history–that is, good and bad guys from across time, all doing conversational battle in the Garden. It takes the story as allegory even further than Genesis.

    2) We obsess about the wording of statements such as in the Pew survey, but to me that reveals an uncomfortableness with the idea of human evolution. Even though one might believe that God is the creator and sustainer of the world, “causing His rain to fall on the just and the unjust”, it doesn’t make us uncomfortable to use purely materialistic explanations for the creation of rain, thunderstorms, hail, typhoons, etc. Talking about thermal convection, or condensation, etc., doesn’t imply for most that the earth runs by itself without God’s support or interference. Evolution, otoh, has people arguing about the wording of statements like the above, and worrying about whether the explanation is too materialistic and therefore leaves no room for God.

    It’s the Adam/Monkey Doctrine that gives most Mormons pause (paws?).

  33. 33.

    The old Old Testament Sunday School manual had a long essay in the back by a Seventh Day Adventist creationist that slammed evolution pretty hard. It’s strange that the curriculum people used that essay instead of something from our own people. I think if CES puts something in the curriculum and the First Presidency doesn’t have a strong enough opinion on it to take it out, there could be some cases of the tail wagging the dog.

    Gary (#26) – I believe in evolution, but I actually think you’re right that the positions of Roberts/Widstoe/Talmadge (especially Talmadge) were on the soft side of positive when it comes to evolution. But still, far more positive than the McConkie take on it. The McConkie side has been far more available to people because of his book, which is in no way official “Mormon doctrine,” but is still taken to be by some. So I do think the statements of certain authority figures are a stumbling block to people looking at evolution with an open mind.

  34. 34.

    To R.Gary— Thanks for your comment, even though I diagree.

    A little bit about my background and you might understand where I am coming from. My grandfather taught Science Education in the Elementary Grades at Arizona State University. It seemed that growing up in Arizona half my techers had taken his class.

    He was pro-evolution and a man of great faith and a big influence on me. He attended BYU shortly after the Chamerblin brothers had been fired for their pro-evolution views and maybe was influenced by that.

    He taught at the Gila Academy in Thatcher Arizona and Henry Eyring Sr. was one of his students. He took a class from James E. Talmage before he became an Apostle and knew John A. Widstoe personally. So it is in my DNA to be pro-evolution or maybe I am just a random mutation.

    I did not mean to suggest that “unauthorized individuals have commandered the church curriculum”.
    It is true that CES has become more conservaitve since the 1950′s. Men like Lowell Bennion and T. Edgar Lyon are no longer welcome in CES. There is survey evidence that fewer BYU students believe in Evolution in the 1970′s than in the 1930′s. I can provide a reference to an article by an old professor of mine Harold Christnesen if anyone is interested to document this.

    The Church is a big organization and different parts of it have different perspectives and agendas. CES and the religion department at BYU have an anti evolution agenda. The biology department at the Y as some of the earlier posts has a pro-evolution agenda.

    I know you diagree with Duane Jeffery’s classic Dialogue article from 1973 that shows the conflict between men like Widsote , Talamge and Joseph Fielding Smith. I think the historical evidence is clear that there was real conflict between these men. I also think the evidence is clear that during the Presidency of David O. Mckay the offical position of the Church in regards to evolution was neutrality. I know of no offical statement or revelation since that time to change this position. There will be no anti-evolution statements during President Monson’s time as President of the Church.

    During David O Mckays time men like Henry Eyring Sr could tell Joseph Fielding Smith that he didn’t know what he was talking about in regards to scientific matters and get away with it. He has always been a hero of mine for doing that.(of course the fact that he was Spencer W. Kimball’s brother in-in law helped him get away with that)

    Again R.Gary and I disagree on the historical evidence on the position of the Church concerning evolution and the scientific evidence supporting evolution. But I want him to know that I do sustain all the General Authorities of the Church as authorized leaders of the church and special witnesses of Jesus Christ. This is mY testimony even if we have different views on evolution from some of the brethern.

    If I were on the Church Curriculmn committee ( and it is probably a very good thing that I am not) I would teach that as I said there are two competing traditions in the church in regards to evolution and both are legitimate.

    I wish everyone could of taken my grandfathers class and learned as Darwin said that ” there is grandeur in this view of life”

    For those who want an excellent perspective on how one might resolve the seeming conflict between the scriptures and evolution I would recomend the website
    http://www.biologos.org. This is an site by pro evolution evangelical christians but very relevant to LDS concerns.

  35. 35.

    I agree with those who note that the unique challenge for those (like I do) who accept evolution (including human evolution) within Mormonism is our tradition of accepting as authoritative public statements of prophets and apostles, particularly when those who do not agree with condemnations of evolution (as President McKay did not) decline to make their own positions public in a clearly authoritative way. Thus, in the battle of the GA statements (which for most LDS does not include BYU’s evolutions packet), it is rather one sided.

    The Pew survey, to me indicates that the nonacceptance of human evolution continues to be pervasive in the Church, as do many comments here (animals evolved, but humans did not evolve from animals).

    The antagonism toward evolution has not particularly dissipated. In our August 2009 testimony meeting (again, 2009, not 1989), our bishop, whom I really like, included in his opening testimony a comment from some Church authority that one cannot believe in evolution and believe in the Atonement. Fortunately, only one other member of the congregation jumped on the condemn-evolution-bandwagon as part of his testimony.

    Most members of the congregation nodded, or took those anti-evolution statements as noncontroversial–statements akin to testifying that the sky is blue.

    I know of two other people in our ward (outside our family) who openly, but quietly, accept evolution.

    One of the evolution supporters in the ward is a neuro-surgeon and the former bishop of the ward that recently was merged with ours.

    In our personal conversation after the testimony meeting, he commented that he thought it was unfortunate that so many Church members believe that, by publicly opposing evolution they were serving the interests of the Church. He said that he had many acquaintances who dropped out of the Church, after being confronted in the life sciences with the overwhelming evidence for evolution, but being told on Sunday that they could be a good Mormon and believe in evolution.

  36. 36.

    I believe that God uses scientific principles in all that He does, and that the earth was created through the evolutionary process–some of which we understand and some of which we may not yet understand.

    Brigham Young said, “ As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from these picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, pg. 116 (May 14, 1871).

    BYU still teaches scientific principles, including evolution, in their science classes, not creationism. Although some GA’s may express there personal opinions on how the world was created, I believe that the Genesis is symbolic and that the God, the Master Scientist, created our world in a magnificent and amazing way, using principles of science that we may not yet know.

  37. 37.

    It seems like anti-evolution sentiment took hold of so many members simply because the anti-evolution side was more vocal, while the pro-evolution side actually heeded the First Presidency’s counsel to cease the contention and not make doctrinal claims. The church has always been officially neutral on the subject of evolution.

  38. 38.

    Carol: not to get off on a tangent, but I cringe when people refer to God as “the Master Scientist.” What evidence do we have that he is any kind of scientist? Also, this label for God is often just a way to introduce Intelligent Design, which is decidedly anti-science.

    Michelle: “The church has always been officially neutral on the subject of evolution.” This is contrary to the point R Gary painstakingly makes time and time again. I used to resist him, but he convinced me long ago. Doesn’t mean that I disbelieve evolution, just that I don’t believe that the Church has ever been officially neutral about it.

  39. 39.

    I don’t think the issue of sealings is a problem. If Adam and Eve’s physical bodies were the result of an evolutionary process, then the biological ancestors of those bodies did not have a human spirit, created in the image of God (what with Adam and Eve being the first humans and all). Temple ordinances need only be performed for humans, theologically defined by their human spirit.

    Lurker (#32) beat me to my point about the temple ceremony. Nothing about the endowment suggests that the creation story is anything but ceremonial and symbolic. Unless we are willing to stipulate that the entire human race was somehow present in mortality in the garden with Adam and Eve, we’re not going to be able to make any sense of the ritual as literal history.

    I love the Creation Room in Manti. As you look clockwise around the room from the south wall, you can see the geological ages as well as the symbolic days of creation. A pterosaur flies on the back (north) wall. Mammals and birds are absent until you reach the east wall.

    It may be relevant for some that the temple’s creation ritual defines the days of creation as periods of work not periods of time. When the work assigned to the first day is completed, those labors (however long they take) are called the first day.

  40. 40.

    BrianJ (comment #38)

    Awesome comment.

  41. 41.

    Michelle is right; BrianJ and R. Gary are wrong.

    The mere assertion, without supporting evidence, is sufficient.

  42. 42.

    Ardis (comment #41):

    Right now I want to ask you something but I can’t find the words. Wait. I believe it was you yourself who asked the question this way: “Do you ever read anything but those few lines that reflect on your gospel hobbyhorse? Or do other ideas just never quite register in your vision?”

    Yes. I think that was it. I’ve posted more than 100 articles that contain various examples of the evidence you claim doesn’t exist. It has been said that those who will not read have no advantage over those who cannot read.

  43. 43.

    “There has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency addressing the general matter of organic evolution as a process for development of biological species.” (BYU Board of Trustees)

    That works for me. I stand with Michelle, Ardis, and David O. McKay. The church has never taken a position.

  44. 44.

    You’ve posted over 100 garbled accounts of twisted logic and straining at gnats, R. Gary. Besides, that, you’re a nut.

    Left Field is right.

  45. 45.

    Left Field (comment #43):

    The BYU Evolution Packet cover letter states that the Packet contains all known statements issued by the First Presidency on science, evolution, and the origin of man.  The letter then names all of them.  There are three:

    November 1909, “The Origin of Man” (2,700 words).

    December 1910, “Words in Season” (99 words).

    September 1925, “ ’Mormon’ View of Evolution” (560 words).

    As evidence that the Church doesn’t oppose evolution, you quote the Packet’s cover letter as follows:

    “There has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency addressing the general matter of organic evolution as a process for development of biological species.” (BYU Board of Trustees)

    But you’ve quoted only part of the sentence and, in the context of your comment, it is a gross misrepresentation of what the sentence actually means.  The complete sentence is:

    “Although there has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency addressing the general matter of organic evolution as a process for development of biological species, these documents [the three documents listed above] make clear the official position of the Church regarding the origin of man.”

    In this sentence, the words “biological species” do not include man.  Therefore, the part of the sentence that you quote does NOT mean (as you’ve implied) that there has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency about evolution.  The excerpt refers only to non-human evolution.  When read in its entirety, the sentence explicitly says the opposite, namely that “the official position of the Church regarding the origin of man” is made “clear” in the Packet. The Church HAS taken a position on human evolution.

  46. 46.

    ” the words “biological species” do not include man”

    That’s a new one to me. I don’t know of a biologist on the planet that would not include man among the biological species of this Earth.

    The fact is that human evolution is one of the best represented species in the fossil record. But when that became man? As far as I know ‘man’ as used in these documents is defined as when a spirit child of God entered into a human body whatever its source. Unfortunately that event has not fossilized well.

  47. 47.

    Left Field:

    If Adam and Eve’s physical bodies were the result of an evolutionary process, then the biological ancestors of those bodies did not have a human spirit, created in the image of God (what with Adam and Eve being the first humans and all). Temple ordinances need only be performed for humans, theologically defined by their human spirit.

    The problem in this scenario is that the non-human parents of Adam and Eve would have been virtually indistinguishable (biologically) from Adam and Eve: advanced cognition, language, etc. Unless of course the human spirit carries all that, but I don’t think neuroscience bears that out. So now we have a very intelligent animal that is not “human enough.” Your solution may solve the problem, but it’s still going to leave some people with a queasy feeling.

    Ardis: I’m not interested in recreating NDBF here. My comment to Michelle was meant more as an fyi than to say she’s wrong and I’m right (as you were intent on doing). So be it.

  48. 48.

    Gary, you didn’t specify “human evolution,” you just said “evolution.” Even in the very sentence where you disagree with me. But very well, we can move the goal posts if you wish.

    That “biological species” does not include humanity is your interpretation, neither stated nor necessarily implied by the sentence you refer to.

    The packet does make clear the position of the Church with regard to the origin of man. And the position made clear in the packet is that the Church has not taken a position either on the biological evolution of non-human species, or on the biological origin of the human body. What the statements in the packet address is the spiritual origin of the human soul, which the trustees appear to regard as distinct from the question of the development of humanity as a “biological species.”

  49. 49.

    Brian, I can’t account for what might make other people queasy. Peanut butter does it for me. But we still have with us very intelligent animals that aren’t quite human enough to qualify for temple ordinances. If people are okay with chimps and gorillas not being endowed and sealed, I don’t see much difference between them and any other primate that lacks a human spirit, isn’t a spirit child of God, and that doesn’t have the capability, “by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.”

  50. 50.

    I have to agree with Brian that I see problems in supposing there are humans biologically indistinguishable from us capable of culture, art, religion, and presumably language who are nevertheless not God’s children because they allegedly lack “spirits.” The idea that some Homo sapiens are “human” where others are not seems to rest on Cartesian assumptions about a mind-body split that science hasn’t born out. I can’t help but wonder both exactly what intangible difference this “spirit” contributes to our experience, as well as what relationship a just God would have to humans who are not his children but apparently share their cognitive and cultural potential. Count me in the camp that’s left feeling queasy.

    Ardis, I can appreciate your frustration, but I’d ask you to refrain from using dismissive terms like “nut.” Gary is obviously sincere in his beliefs, and while like Brian I’ve reached different conclusions I think his perspective is an important contribution.

    I won’t weigh in on the trajectory of the Church’s “position” on evolution—mostly because I’ve never looked closely at the relevant documents and identifying what constitutes an “official position” of the Church is, in my opinion, like lassoing a raincloud—except to concur with DavidH that authority is obviously a sticking point for many, else this would not be a subject of debate. Also, I think it’s methodologically sound to attempt (to the degree we can) to separate our own individual conclusions about evolution from our attempts to make sense of what the Church has taught about evolution.

  51. 51.

    Or maybe I’m misunderstanding by equating “ancestors” of Adam and Eve with the human population that’s been around a good hundred thousand years or more, and what is meant by non-human ancestors is more remote and not genetically Homo sapiens sapiens?

  52. 52.

    SteveP (comment #46):

    I can’t argue with you about what every biologist on the planet knows. But, I’m curious. Which member of the 1992 BYU Board of Trustees was a biologist?

    President Boyd K. Packer and Elder Russell M. Nelson have both been asked to serve on the BYU Board of Trustees and neither would include man among the non-human animals of this earth.

    Are you certain your biologist friends know what the apostles and prophets meant by biological species?

  53. 53.

    Gee, Gary, you’re moving all the goalposts today.

    Every biologist includes humans among the biological species of this earth.

    Forget Elders Packer and Nelson. No biologist would include humans among the non-human animals of this earth either. Duh.

    One minute the goalposts are at the back of the end zone (biological species), and the next moment, when you respond, the goalposts are on Neptune (non-human animals).

    In fact, Elder Nelson does recognize humans as a biological species.

    “The Lord said that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15.) Therefore, each one of us is a dual being—a biological (physical) entity, and an intellectual (spiritual) entity. In the beginning, man, the intellectual entity, was with God. Our intelligence “was not created or made,” nor can it be. (See D&C 93:29.)” (Ensign Jan 1988)

  54. 54.

    Left Field (comment #53):

    I’m sorry. I don’t know a lot about biology and its goalposts.

    Funny you should quote Elder Nelson’s talk on “The Magnificence of Man.” Didn’t he also say in that talk:

    “Some … have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been an organic evolution from one form to another…. To me, such theories are unbelievable!

    … It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of men who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved.”

    Okay, goalposts aside, does he or does ne not believe man evolved?

    I mean, heck, you brought up his talk.

  55. 55.

    “does he or does ne not believe man evolved?”

    Gary why does it matter? Does it matter what he believes about Health Care? Which football team is best? Who is the greatest actor of the 20th century? Your focus on hero worship is sad and misaligned. I assure you the board of trustees is inspired in their actions at BYU and that they have not seen fit to shut down the biology department seems to suggest their eyes are on a prize that matters. They are doing a great work and cannot come down. Yours is on some sort of hero worship resting on an assumption of their infallibility in their opinions. They are not Popes and therefore not infallible, which you seem to hold to with the tenaciousness of a pit bull.

  56. 56.

    I think we can both agree from this article that Elder Nelson doesn’t believe that humans are non-human. But I mean, heck, you’re the one who thought it was notable that the Board of Trustees didn’t consider humans to be non-human. But since neither I nor biologists in general think that humans are actually non-human, that really wasn’t in dispute.

    Can we also at least agree from this article that Elder Nelson does consider humans to be a biological species? That was really the only question at issue, and the purpose for my citing the article.

    As to whether or not Elder Nelson believes that humans evolved, the article seems pretty clear that he does not. But then that really wasn’t an issue was it? Just to be clear, I cheerfully stipulate that some church leaders do not accept evolution. But that’s not really relevant to the question of an official church position, which is what was in dispute.

    On the other hand, Elder Nelson’s use of nonsensical expressions like “natural selection of the species” doesn’t give much confidence that he understands evolution.

  57. 57.

    Left Field, 49: Kiskilili did a pretty good follow-through on my point, but I’ll just a little more.

    we still have with us very intelligent animals that aren’t quite human enough to qualify for temple ordinances. If people are okay with chimps and gorillas not being endowed and sealed, I don’t see much difference between them and any other primate that lacks a human spirit…

    This hypothetical parent of Adam and Eve—with its highly developed cerebral cortex, etc.—would be capable of comprehending the Gospel and explaining it back to you. It would be able to answer questions and even blog about the answers. There very most intelligent great ape is not remotely capable of that. There are only two ways I see to get around this problem: 1) that’s just how it is, so deal with it, 2) the human spirit carries some special spark that makes a massive difference (i.e., Adam’s IQ was 50 points higher than his father’s).

  58. 58.

    I am not a scientist, but I believe in human evolution because it certainly appears that almost all knowledgeable scientists tell me that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. I also believe in the gospel. However I have yet to see a persuasive reconciliation of the two.

    If Adam and Eve were the frst humans with spirits, then what became of the millions of other biologically indistinguishable homo sapiens who populated the earth at that time? Are some of my neigbors not spirit children of God? For that matter, where do I fit? Did Adam and Eve’s descendants mate with non-human homo sapiens? Were those children humans or not? Did all of the non-humans just gradually die out for some reason?

    What do I make of the doctrine that the atonement is the antidote for the physical and spiritual death that came as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden? The central doctrine of the atonement seems to require a literal Adam and Eve and a literal fall of some kind. How does one reconcile that with evolution?

    The evolutionists among have to do more than explain the science and remind us that the Church has no official position against evolution. I want them to actually reconcile the two, and explain to me how I can make sense of both.

    Dismiss R. Gary as a nut if you want to, but it is pretty clear to me that his opinions (or at least most of them) have been shared by the large majority of church leaders who have spoken on the issue and by the large majority of church members of my acquaintance. That doesn’t make it doctrine, and I accept that the church does not officially oppose evolution. But until you can provide people with a good reconciliation of the two positions that respects our scriptures and science, the tension won’t go away. Saying that there is no conflict, and affirming that you believe both gives me hope that I might find a reconciliation, but I wish you would quit being so coy, and and just explain it to the rest of us.

  59. 59.

    Left Field (comment #56):

    “nonsensical expressions like ‘natural selection of the species’ doesn’t give much confidence that he understands evolution.”

    You just quoted the only occurrence of the word “species” in that talk and you mocked it. How can you turn around and claim that talk says humans are a biological “species.”

  60. 60.

    Ok, fine.

    Please explain the relevant difference between “biological species” and “biological entity” in the context of whether or not Elder Nelson would consider humans to be a biological species.

  61. 61.

    Steve: Gary why does it matter? … Your focus on hero worship is sad and misaligned… They are not Popes and therefore not infallible, which you seem to hold to with the tenaciousness of a pit bull.

    Amen. All of Gary’s evidence rests on false infallibility assumptions. He persistently implies that since some individual church leaders opposed evolution then God must oppose evolution. Of course that sort of reasoning is ludicrous. In the absence of clear revelation on the subject which is accepted by common consent the issue remains officially open further light and knowledge regardless of the source of that knowledge.

  62. 62.

    Left Field (comment #60): That’s easy. Biological species are all related to each other by blood or genetic lineage. A biological entity exists as a particular and discrete unit. I believe Elder Nelson was emphasizing the special creation of man.

  63. 63.

    GLL: How does one reconcile that with evolution?

    In the absence of revelation, however you’d like.

  64. 64.

    GLL #58: The evolutionists among have to do more than explain the science and remind us that the Church has no official position against evolution. I want them to actually reconcile the two, and explain to me how I can make sense of both.

    That is nice that you want them to do reconcile things for you. But nobody is under any obligation to grant you your every want when it comes to various mysteries of the universe. I would like to know how God heals the sick or hear my thoughts — should I demand that you explain that to me?

  65. 65.

    Geoff J (comment #61): I’m not attempting to pursuade anyone to deny evolution. I’m only trying to show what the Church teaches through its magazines, curriculum, and apostolic leaders. It’s okay with me for you to believe and discuss evolution. I don’t even care if you disagree with the Church on evolution. But it frustrates me when people deny that the Church teaches anything about it, especially when things are made to appear supportive of evolution when they aren’t.

  66. 66.

    R. Gary- I agree with you here in #65, and I am a pro-evolution guy. I do think the church has made numerous public statements which are against evolution. However, I would say that things have become much more favorable for evolution in the church since BYU started teaching it. I do think things are more favorable toward evolution now than, say, when Joseph Fielding Smith, was president. Would you agree?

  67. 67.

    Gary: But it frustrates me when people deny that the Church teaches anything about it

    This a fine example of the is the rhetorical sleight of hand that you have consistently used. You know very well that when you claim “the church teaches” something that you are clearly and strongly implying that God himself agrees with it. But you also know that God has not given any clarifying revelations on the subject of evolution. So it seems to me that you are being nothing short of deceitful in your approach.

  68. 68.

    Matt W. (comment #66): Joseph Fielding Smith holds the all-time record for apostolic opposition to evolution. I doubt anyone else will ever even come close. So, yes. For evolutionists, anytime would be more favorable than when Joseph Fielding Smith was president.

  69. 69.

    Geoff J (comment #67): The implications of what the Church teaches are, in the absence of revelation, up to each individual. For example, I drink an occasional Diet Pepsi even though I’m aware that many Church members and leaders frown on the practice. The official word is that “Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.” Do I think God himself frowns on my habit? No. And neither do I think God frowns on LDS evolutionists. I think deceitful is the wrong word to describe my approach.

  70. 70.

    Well how about you change your approach going forward Gary? Henceforth you can say “God has not revealed to us anything specific relating to human evolution but there have been a lot of church leaders who have speculated on the matter anyway”. That would certainly be a less deceptive approach for someone like you who knows that to be the case to take.

    That way you can stop leaning so heavily on your nearly-patented rhetorical sophistry like when you just said to me “I don’t even care if you disagree with the Church on evolution.” In the end most of us faithful saints care about agreeing with God, not agreeing with the speculations former leaders X, Y, or Z (which you like to call “the Church” apparently).

  71. 71.

    Geoff J: I don’t underrstand why you are so dismissive. It won’t do to say I can reconcile two apparently contradictory teachings any way I like. I am looking for a reconciliation which does not do violence to our doctrine or to science. I can’t just make that up “any way I like”. I don’t have a way. That is the whole point. If you do, I am listening.

    And of course I am not suggesting that you or anybody else has some kind of moral obligation to reconcile the two positions. I am suggesting that those who believe that two positions are not incompatible must surely hold that opinion for a reason, and the assertion that they are not incompatible implies that one believes they have worked out a satisfactory reconciliation. If you don’t seen an apparent contradiction between the two positions, I would like to know why, that’s all. That doesn’t seem like such an unreasonable position.
    Usually I hear people say that people simply declare that the positions are not incompatible because the church has not officially opposed evolution. I acknowledge that the church does not officially oppose evolution, but that does not mean evolution can be reconciled with certain of our doctrines.

  72. 72.

    GLL: two apparently contradictory teachings

    The idea of human evolution does not appear to contradict the gospel or our doctrine to me. Why do you think they are incompatible? Which certain doctrines do you think contradict human evolution? Perhaps I could respond better if I knew where you are seeing incompatibility specifically.

  73. 73.

    GLL, here are some ways to reconcile the two.

  74. 74.

    [Edited]

    I do not argue for or against evolution or any particular flavor of creationism, nor do I rashly claim that I can reconcile conflicting ideas. My only dog in this fight is to affirm that regardless of the personal opinions and statements of any individual general authorities, regardless of where or how often they have been published, the only statements on the subject ever made by the united voice of a united quorum directed to the church at large, and thus the only statements that can in any sense be considered binding on the church as the church’s official position, are that the Lord has not yet revealed the mechanisms by which he created this earth and placed life here. Those same statements affirm that we are literally the offspring of God, created in his image, with the potential to become like him in every way. Those statements neither endorse nor condemn any particular philosophy for attempting to explain the origin of the physical world or of life, as long as those basic ideas are not denied. While secular evolution does not address the spiritual pre-history of the physical world, neither is it necessary for those who support evolutionary ideas to deny the fact of God’s fatherhood or his purposes for creating the earth and placing life here, by whatever mechanism he in fact used.

    [Edited]

  75. 75.

    Geoff J (comment #70): Are you suggesting that, other than revelation, everything we hear in Church is speculation?

    [Edited]

  76. 76.

    [Edited]

    Surely the Mormon Tent is big enough for anti-evolutionists like Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, Boyd K. Packer, and Russell M. Nelson. And if so, maybe also one of their lowly admirers.

    [Edited]

  77. 77.

    Thanks for all of the thoughtful participation–I think there are several issues of importance being discussed.

    Please do try to keep it civil, though, even though you’re of course welcome to disagree vehemently. I’m editing or removing comments focused on individuals’ personalities. No one needs to defend their interests or issues to me; as a champion monomaniac myself, I can hardly ask that of others.

    In any case, I apologize for having removed some good comments that nevertheless belong to a conversation I think it’s better to expunge.

    Carry on.

  78. 78.

    To go off on a tangent in another direction, with regard to the cultural alliances that seem to surround discussions of evolution, one thing I’ve noticed that I find rather fascinating is the use of evolutionary theory by those of a more conservative bent to support traditional gender roles. For example, the argument that men need the priesthood in order to counter some natural tendencies instilled by evolution (whether to abandon their families, or to aggressively push over everyone who gets in their way in a quest to establish dominance, or whatever else). Putting aside my other objections to this line of reasoning, it seems somewhat incoherent to accept contemporary views on how life got here and read scripture through that lens, and then reject contemporary views on gender in favor of a traditional read of scripture. Though to be fair, we all pick and choose, and I’m sure my views also suffer from internal incoherence. But I’m always a little surprised by this particular combination.

  79. 79.

    Gary: Are you suggesting that, other than revelation, everything we hear in Church is speculation?

    Everything? Of course not. But when it comes to metaphysical claims of course it is speculation in the absence of revelation.

    I’m all for speculations. But I am decidedly against speculations being passed off as revealed truth.

    Also, of course there is room for anti-evolutionists in the church. I don’t know anyone who said otherwise. Further, considering how many anti-evolutionists there are among us to suggest otherwise would be ludicrous.

  80. 80.

    Lynnette,

    I have also noticed how conservative evolutionists and conservative anti-evolutionists arrive at the same opinions on many issues from completely different directions. Strange bedfellows indeed.

  81. 81.

    Ardis (comment #74) I understand your concern that we

    “neither endorse nor condemn any particular philosophy for attempting to explain the origin of the physical world or of life [because] the Lord has not yet revealed the mechanisms by which he created this earth and placed life here.”

    Some actually go one step further, claiming that although God hasn’t revealed the origin of man to Church leaders, He has revealed it to secular evolution scientists.

    As I read it, however, the Church’s formal statement says science cannot discover the facts relating to human origins:

    “Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam’s race—God alone can reveal them.” (“The Origin of Man,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, p.30.)

    Man, by searching. Who finds truth by searching? The scientist.

    Who will never, unaided, discover the truth about the beginning of human life?  Man, by searching.

    Why? Because science, by definition, excludes divine revelation from the laboratory.

    Some Church leaders reject evolution. The Church itself, officially, just says nobody knows, not even the scientist.

  82. 82.

    Kiskilili (comment #77): Thank you for taking control.

  83. 83.

    May I suggest The Beak of the Finch?

    If you doubt the reality of natural selection, the work of scientists Peter and Rosemary Grant who, for the past 20 years, have studied the continuing evolution of the beaks of finches in the Galapagos Islands will convince you.

  84. 84.

    “Revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration.” (Hugh B. Brown)

    So revelation can come from searching?

    I think God is powerful enough to guide “secular evolution scientists” (to say nothing of religious evolution scientists) to truth through their work in the laboratory, in the test tube, through their thinking mind and inquiring soul.

  85. 85.

    Left Field (comment #84): The formal First Presidency statement doesn’t say revelation can’t come in the laboratory. It says the facts relating to human origins will never be revealed there, just as God himself will never be revealed there.

  86. 86.

    Just out of curiosity, can anyone name a General Authority who was wrong about something other than evolution? If so, were they kicked out of the leadership? Did the church collapse? Did the world come to an end?

  87. 87.

    Also out of curiosity, can anyone point out where and when the Church has published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man?

  88. 88.

    sigh

  89. 89.

    As many of us have said ad nauseum, the church is officially neutral on the matter. A dictionary may be useful to grasping the concept of neutrality.

  90. 90.

    Nibley points out in “Work We Must, but the Lunch is Always Free” that early Church opposition to Darwinism was actually opposition to the Social Darwinism of the late 19th century that was being used to justify the human misery and brutal inequality of the industrial revolution.

    This may have changed by the early 20th century, but even today, much of the opposition to evolution seems to actually be a confusing of evolution with all things secular and/or atheist. They seem to be addressing the cultural understanding of evolution and not the scientific theory.

    I watched Inherit the Wind again in the last few weeks. The Matthew Harrison Brady character has a break down at the end after losing the evolution argument (eventhough he wins the court case). R. Gary is becoming the Matthew Harrison Brady of the bloggernacle. I think this makes Ardis the Henry Drummond of the bloggernacle.

  91. 91.

    As I understand it there are two significant questions being discussed. One has to do with the authority of statements from Church leaders, and especially those in the fairly distant past—and considering the way our doctrine blooms and withers coupled with our view of our history as a sacred narrative revealing God’s workings explicitly and implicitly, this is bound to be a perennial issue. We can combat past authority (evolution is false) with current authority (we have no position), but that doesn’t solve the underlying issue (for instance, if past authority was wrong, on what basis do we trust present authority?). Evolution might be harder than some issues in this regard since it’s an issue of truth claims and not morality: it’s hard to argue that it was false then and true now.

    The other has to do with the respective purviews of empiricism and theology/revelation. On the one hand there are militant atheists on the pro-evolution side making metaphysical claims on the basis of evolutionary theory (such as that God doesn’t exist) that overreach the purview of science, where on the other side there are evolution-skeptics making basically philosophical arguments but dressing them up as though they’re science, which they’re not (like Intelligent Design), so it’s clear we haven’t entirely sorted out what territory belongs to whom and why. “Who is God?” is a theological question, where “What is the genetic relationship between bonobos and chimps?” is a scientific question; I think we’d probably all agree on that (although there seem to be those who believe absolutely nothing is outside the realm of empirical investigation). Maybe the issue here is whether the question “What are the origins of humankind?” belongs to the theologian/prophet—because humanity’s creation/development was a transcendent, metaphysical event—or to the scientist, who’s equipped to investigate it on the basis of the empirical evidence that does survive. Or to both, in which case there’s predictably going to be a lot of jostling if (as is likely) their approaches and conclusions can’t neatly be slotted together to form a mosaic picture.

  92. 92.

    I can live with that. :)

  93. 93.

    To Chris H.’s 91, that is.

    To Kiskililil’s 92, I say that

    Or to both, in which case there’s going to be a lot of jostling if (as is likely) their approaches and conclusions can’t neatly be slotted together to form a mosaic picture.

    is the position I’ve always taken. The theologian [tries to] tells us “why?” using revealed truth; the scientist [tries to] tells us “how?” using the empirical route. The scientist very seldom intrudes into the theologian’s territory; would that theologian were as aware of the current limits of his revelation as the scientist is of his reason!

    Ultimately, with more revelation from one side and more study fro the other, the two will be reconciled.

    In the meantime, the Church addresses the “why” and offers revelation, and stops there. There are always individual members, though, who look beyond the mark.

  94. 94.

    Now we just need to put on a dramatic puppet show–”Inherit the Bloggernacle”–and film it for Youtube . . .

  95. 95.

    Amazing. Where does the Church say it has a “no position” position on evolution? And where does the Church say it is “neutral” on evolution?

    I’ve been asking around in the bloggernacle for several years whether anyone can point out where and when the Church has published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man.

    So far, I’ve had no takers.

    Now I’m being told there are no such statements because the Church is neutral on evolution. Okay, so what about apostolic statements the Church does publish denouncing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man? Are those statements just rebellion against the neutrality and therefore we can all just disregard them?

    Judging by what the Church publishes, is the Church really neutral?

  96. 96.

    R. Gary,

    My guess would be that the Church does not make official statements declaring that is does not have an official position on any given issue. That would require an entire division of the church to deny that the church has a position on…well….thousands of things.

    Luckily, most of us do not need an official First Presidency directive to think about the things of the earth and the things of heaven.

    That apostle’s have opinions of things does not mean that they are speaking for the church as a whole OR that they are violating some policy of neutrality. The Church being neutral does not mean that members of the Church, including General Authorities, cannot themselves have opinions on said given issue. This seems to be a very difficult idea for you.

  97. 97.

    Chris H. (comment #96): Regarding which of those “thousands of things” on which the Church is neutral are high ranking apostles going around making the Church appear to be not neutral?  On which of those same “thousands of things” are official priesthood and relief society manuals, institute and sunday school manuals, and other Church published books like True to the Faith and Preach My Gospel making the Church appear to be not neutral?

  98. 98.

    I am not so sure that it is always as simple as saying that the theologians answer the “why” questions while the scientists are concerned with “how”.

    I believe that we are doctrinally committed to a literal Adam and Eve who were the first mortal parents of all human beings. Furthermore, these first parents were highly intelligent persons with advanced cognitive and language skills, who worshipped God and understood the gospel. I also believe that we are doctrinally committed to the proposition that our first parents intentionally committed some kind of transgression of one of God’s commandments, and as a result of that transgression, they and their descendants, became subject to mortality with all of its ills. Because of this transgression and resulting fall, they and their future descendants would now be subejct to physical death, and we would need a Savior to overcome this physical death through resurrection. These statements are not exclusively answers to “why” questions because they describe real historical events and purport to explain human origins. .

    If those doctrines cannot be accomodated within our scientific understanding of the origins of human life on the earth, then there is a conflict, and either the religious doctrine or the scientific theory has to give ground to accomodate the other. I don’t think we have the option of saying that they operate in different realms and are answering different questions. Of course, we do have the option of saying “I don’t know how to resolve the conflict at this time, so I will continue to act as if there is none and hold both to my current faith and my current scientific understanding until I know which needs need to change.” But that is not the same as saying that there is no conflict because they deal with different questions.

  99. 99.

    I agree, GLL. I don’t think it’s as easy as confining them to their separate spheres either. They’re bound to make claims that impinge on each other.

  100. 100.

    Also, a practical problem is that it seems science frequently answers the question “why” where religion often addresses the question “how.” Another thing I wonder is why, in theory, religion couldn’t answer every question, assuming God knows the answers and is capable of communicating them to us. Is it really a limit inherent in the method (either theology or revelation) or is it a limit on God’s willingness? On the other hand, we might ask what prevents empiricism from ultimately answering every question, especially if “all spirit is matter” and God lives in our ontological neighborhood and we’ll one day see as we’re seen (i.e. rely on our senses in perceiving the divine). Personally I haven’t figured out exactly what to conclude about much of this.

  101. 101.

    Gary, really. You’ve got to stop this habit of rewording statements as needed to fit your arguments. You’ve done it over and over. You just quoted this statement back up in comment 81.

    “Never, unaided, will [man] discover the truth about the beginning of human life.”

    And now, seven hours (to the minute) later, in comment 85, suddenly the statement as you explain it, has mutated.

    The formal First Presidency statement doesn’t say revelation can’t come in the laboratory. It says the facts relating to human origins will never be revealed there, just as God himself will never be revealed there.

    The First Presidency doesn’t say that the facts of human origins will never be revealed in the laboratory. It says that they will never be discovered unaided. I am quite confident that God is very much capable of aiding scientists in their work, just as he can aid surgeons, letter carriers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. Don’t we always pray for the Lord to guide the hands of doctors, regardless of whether the doctor is religious or irreligious? I have no problem at all with the idea that Darwin, Wallace, Mendel, Simpson, Mayr, Gould, SFaux, SteveP, and yes, even Dawkins and their like have been aided by the Lord (whether they like it or not) in discovering the truth about the evolutionary origins of humanity.

    Judging by what the Church publishes, is the Church really neutral?

    If the Church really isn’t neutral, I’m wondering why the incumbent prophet would explicitly approve publication of an article promoting the compatibility of the gospel with evolution in an official church magazine and recommend it for our serious consideration.

    (Yes, I know the article says it’s not presented as doctrine, but then nobody here is claiming that evolution is doctrine. But the prophet recommends it as worthy of serious study. That seems an unlikely thing to do if it runs contrary to some stated position of the church.)

  102. 102.

    The scientist very seldom intrudes into the theologian’s territory; would that theologian were as aware of the current limits of his revelation as the scientist is of his reason!

    Given the prominence of people like Richard Dawkins, I’m not sure it’s fair to say that only those on the religious side are intruding into the territory of the other.

    On the question of methodology, Ian Barbour–one of the early influential thinkers in the contemporary science and religion discussion–proposed four possible typologies for relating the two:

    –conflict; on the one side, scientists who see their work as disproving religion, and on the other, biblical literalists who reject science based on the Bible

    –independence; this is the two-realms theory, in which science and religion are isolated from each other, engaging different questions

    –dialogue; this relates the two in various ways, such as noting similarities in their methods or concepts

    –integration; this attempts to bring the two together (there are a number of different ways this has been proposed)

    Since then, many thinkers have modified these in different ways, or proposed their own list. But it’s worth noting that while it’s a common response to potential conflict, the “independence” or “separate realms” approach is only one of several possibilities, and there’s a lot of creative work being done with other approaches.

    I have to admit that I’ve never quite understood the assertion that scientists answer “how” and theologians answer “why.” Because most theological work isn’t actually grappling with “why” questions, but rather with “how” questions–issues like how grace or faith or revelation works. I see the difference showing up perhaps more in the kinds of sources that are used. But I agree with Kiskilili & GLL that there are times when their claims have implications for each other.

  103. 103.

    R. Gary,

    I hope your simple view of a complex world brings you comfort.

  104. 104.

    On the authority question (what is the official stance of the church?), this seems to me to be a specific instance of a general problem in any discussion of Mormonism–how exactly do we establish what LDS doctrine is? Does it have to be in scripture? Does it require an official First Presidency statement? What if it’s been taught repeatedly by different apostles? What does it mean that something shows up in the Ensign, or is taught at BYU? Given the fuzziness of all this, I suspect that the argument about what “the church” teaches can continue indefinitely (as has been illustrated time and again on the bloggernacle).

    But while I do think that’s a relevant discussion, on this topic I think the questions raised in the original post are actually more interesting–not so much, can we believe in evolution, or does the church in fact have an official stance–but rather, what kinds of arguments are coming into play in an LDS context, and are they the same arguments being used by other Christians? When church leaders do share their opinions on the matter, what kinds of sources and arguments are they using–and are any of those uniquely LDS? Maybe another way to ask this would be–if you took, say, Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings on the matter and stuck them in a Protestant context, to what extent would the Protestants find the arguments familiar?

  105. 105.

    Gary (#81): Some actually go one step further, claiming that although God hasn’t revealed the origin of man to Church leaders, He has revealed it to secular evolution scientists.

    Who are these mysterious “some” you speak of? Has anyone made such a claim in this thread?

    GLL (#98): I believe that we are doctrinally committed to a literal Adam and Eve who were the first mortal parents of all human beings.

    I don’t. Adam and Eve as archetypes instead of literal people makes more sense I think. But I do concede that the Section 19 Principle needs to be invoked to explain certain modern scriptures that imply a literal Adam and Eve.

  106. 106.

    “literal Adam and Eve”

    I agree with the idea that Adam and Eve are archetypal in what we learn about them. Consider the scriptures that talk about the first man, Adam, and the second man, Christ.

    But you can’t do away with the idea of a literal Adam without doing away with Mormon cormology – particularly the pre-existence. (And if the pre-existence goes, everything else does, as well.) If we at one time lived somewhere other than this earth, and at some time no one like us lived on the earth (not in question), and now people like us, who formerly didn’t live here, now do live on this earth, there must have been a first time someone (or ones) like us lived on this earth – and there is your literal Adam and Eve. ~

  107. 107.

    Thomas,

    I suppose it depends on what one means by “literal Adam and Eve”. It might also depend on what one means by “people like us”.

  108. 108.

    Not really, Geoff. If at one time something didn’t exist here, and now it does, there must have been a first time it did exist. That is true no matter how you parse it. :) ~

  109. 109.

    I disagree Thomas. The problem is that “like us” is not an easily defined thing if our mortal species evolved to its current state. Were Homo sapiens from 5000 years ago like us? (Probably) How about 10,000 years ago? How about 30,000 years ago? When in that continuum is someone considered like us?

    The question might have to do with spirits. If there is a bright line between Human spirits and all others then your assumption might be right on — perhaps a first Homo sapien male with a human spirit is the literal Adam. But we don’t have any clear revelations on this so it is all speculation. Claiming it is easy to parse is based on speculative assumptions too.

  110. 110.

    “perhaps a first Homo sapien male with a human spirit is the literal Adam.”

    What else would it possibly be?

    Well, we could add a few things that it has to have. Adam makes a covenant with God that culminates in Eternal Life. He is created to look like God. So, he must have a body that looks like God and a spirit capable of advancing to live like God and an intellect capable of making covenants. Such a being did not always exist. (Is man found on the earth? No, man is not found.) I don’t see any reason to call a being incapable of these Adam, since that would do away with the the attributes that make up the archetype that we agreed exists. Since such a being didn’t always exist and now does, there must have been a first time.

    But even all this still doesn’t matter to my point. __No matter how you define us__, we didn’t once exist and now we do, and therefore there must have been a first (or firsts). ~

  111. 111.

    Lynnette (102), when I mentioned scientists and theologians and their territories, I was thinking specifically about a believing LDS context — I wouldn’t begin to address the wider world.

    Within the context of the church, scientists don’t seem to speak up very often to say “your theology is baloney — the Old Testament lies when Joshua claimed the sun stood still, because that would mean the earth stopped spinning, which would have had thus-and-such consequences.” If anything, believing LDS scientists have occasionally offered suggestions to explain the phenomena mentioned in scripture — how strong winds coming from such-and-such direction could have opened a dry path through the Red Sea at such-and-such a point, for instance. You just don’t see Mormon scientists attacking theology; that is, I think, because Mormon scientists have as good a grasp on Mormon theology as any other Mormons do.

    You do, on the other hand, find theologians, or theologian wanna-bes, attacking science (as if science ever was or could be destructive of doctrinal truth). This is most often done by people who don’t really understand the science — rather, they attack some strawman parody of science. Mormon anti-scientists don’t often have much to say about science in general or the scientific method, which they tend not to understand; instead they attack their two or three favorite bugbears of evolution and the age of the earth, all of which scientific conclusions have been arrived at by precisely the same methods as the other science which theologians are generally too ignorant to dispute). I submit that disputants don’t really understand the theology, either, or they wouldn’t be so threatened by science — truth is truth, wherever it comes from, and truth isn’t destructive of truth.

    As for the how and why, I mean “why” as in the purpose of creation, which science doesn’t pretend to explain but which religion does a good job of doing (“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”) and “how” as in the mechanism by which it occurred, which theology does a lousy job of explaining beyond the “poof” theory — in Genesis and Abraham, God “says” and “organizes” and “does” without the slightest explanation of how that saying and organizing and doing worked).

  112. 112.

    Or, look at it closer to how I first stated it. Spirits are living in heaven. Now, they are living on earth. There must have been a first instance. (If not, then we do away with Mormon cosmology, as I first stated). ~

  113. 113.

    Thomas: What else would it possibly be?

    It could possibly be innumerable things. I don’t pretend to have the mysteries of God all figured out. For instance if the Orson Pratt model of spirits turned out to be true (where spirits sort of “evolve” over time starting with a single intelligence particle and then more intelligence particles banding together to create a new emergent single “spirit”) and/or if the Heber C. Kimball model of multiple mortal probations turned out to be true then the “we” versus “them” dividing line regarding species would disappear entirely. I am not saying any of that is the way things are, I am just saying you shouldn’t confuse your lack of imagination with a lack of actual possibilities.

  114. 114.

    “I am just saying you shouldn’t confuse your lack of imagination with a lack of actual possibilities.”

    Well, now, that’s just being snide, Geoff. Maintaining a context is not the same as having no imagination. And since we are Mormons, the both of us, having some reference to Mormon context would seem like the thing to do.

    Do you or do not agree that spirits once lived in heaven, and then came to live on earth, and that therefore there mus have been a first time that occurred? No matter what the type of being that spirit entered. ~

  115. 115.

    Sure, obviously the earth has a beginning so life on earth has a beginning. But it probably does not make a lot of sense to equate the first life of any kind on earth with a literal Adam (particularly if that life was some ancient bacteria or something)

  116. 116.

    Obviously I mean the kind of spirit that can do what Adam, even if only figuratively, did. I granted right at the start that Adam isn’t necessary if you want to jettison Mormon cosmology, but that within Mormon cosmology, especially the existence of spirit children of God existing in the preexistence, then a literal Adam is a logical necessity for the reason I’ve stated about ten times. ~

  117. 117.

    My problem is that I don’t agree with your rather narrow definition of “Mormon cosmology” Thomas. I have no problem granting that a non-literal Adam does not fit into your personal variation of Mormon cosmology though.

  118. 118.

    GeoffJ: Thanks for your comments. I agree that if we aren’t doctinally committed to a literal Adam and Eve, then there really is no tension between doctrine and evolution. I also think that abandoning a literal Adam and Eve is probably the best way of accomodating evolution. However, I think that requires abandoning certain doctrines that have been clearly taught by scripture and modern prophets, so I can certainly understand why that would be strongly resisted by the large majority of members. I am not so sure that our doctrine is as flexible as you suggest. Unfortunately, I think that discussion would probably be quite a threadjack, so I should probably refrain from pursuing it too much more here. I will definitely be thinking more about your so called Section 19 principle.

  119. 119.

    Maybe we should talk about Star Trek cosmology instead, Geoff. *ka-wink* ~

  120. 120.

    Incidentally GeoffJ, it is most refreshing to hear somebody say when trying to reconcile doctrine with science: “Yes, I understand that “X” is in fact been taught as doctrine in the scriptures, and yes, I acknowledge that “X” is contradicted by science and therefore appears not to be true. I will not attempt to make sense of this, other than to assert that “X” is just not true. And that is ok.. Sometimes God works that way.”

    I think this is what you are saying, and I like the approach because it is at least intellecutally honest and doesnt leave me lost in a fog of obfuscation. It certainly raises any number of other very significant questions, but at least it doesn’t try to convince me that black is really white, and my problem is that I am just not looking at it the right way.

  121. 121.

    Ardis, (re: 111), thanks for clarifying; I think I understand better what you’re saying. In a Mormon context, I’d agree that there are more people expressing skepticism about science based on their religious views than the reverse.

    However, I’m still somewhat skeptical about the “how” vs. “why” distinction re science and religion. I would certainly agree that religion addresses the “why” question in a way that is outside the scope of science. But the scriptural accounts still largely focus on how. It’s true, as you say, that the details are vague–but Genesis doesn’t really touch on the question of why God created the earth; rather, it lays out an account of how it happened (however non-literally one might decide to read it.) Abraham has a bit more on the why, as in the verse you cited, but it still includes a description of the process of creation. I personally incline toward reading Genesis non-literally, and I don’t have a problem with evolution. But I also think that those who point to conflict between the two are raising legitimate questions. If our scripture only consisted of philosophical kinds of statements regarding the purpose of life, I think a neat categorization of science and religion as dealing with different spheres might be more tenable. But given that it also includes a lot of “how,” of God’s actions in the world, the situation seems messier to me.

  122. 122.

    This is one of the issues that led me away from the church (after having grown up in it, serving a mission, etc) for years. It really led me away from all Christian religions. I couldn’t accept atheism because I believed that there was ‘something’ there. This led to attempting to find answers about God elsewhere, somewhere, anywhere. This trial of religious faith was a long process which I won’t go into here but I eventually came back to Mormonism because regardless of my doubts, I still could not deny that I felt something there when I didn’t elsewhere, or at least, not to the same extent. My answers (or at least, what became my philosophy) eventually came from a scripture I had read many times before and hadn’t been touched by it. It is 1st Corinthians 13:12
    For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    This scripture opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me about the nature of God, humanity and existence, as well as doubt, faith, belief, fact and truth. This allowed me to accept many things that I couldn’t accept before. Granted, I have friends and even a few family members who insist that this scripture allows me to fit square pegs into round holes.

    As far as evolution is concerned, I don’t pretend to know the reason why God does the things that God does, but I firmly believe that evolution was the vehicle in which life was accomplished on this planet. As to Adam and Eve, couldn’t they have been simply the first people that God chose to talk to? Is it so far outside the realm of possibility that God let thousands of years go by without communicating with this version of humanity? If we believe in Mormonism, God certainly let an awful long time go by between the time his gospel was destroyed after the death of Christ, and the time it was restored. It doesn’t mean though that those people who lived between the time of the Great Apostasy and The Restoration are damned. In the same way, I don’t believe that those human beings who lived before Adam and Eve are damned, or less important or less significant than us. Also, the temple, when talking about Creation, doesn’t refer to days, but to (can’t remember the exact terminology it uses) something like periods of time.

    Again, friends would say that I’m fitting square pegs into round holes, but I also believe that to force God into terms, explanations, definitions that are defined by us is the height of unmitigated hubris. It suggests that we have all the answers and we can’t possibly be wrong. Maybe when we all die and know the answers, then the questions are not going to be important anymore. Maybe, creating viable worlds are like making spaghetti noodles. If you don’t cook it long enough, the noodles are too hard. If you cook it for too long, they get mushy. I don’t know.

    Maybe when we die and truly understand the nature of god, these things will all make sense. One other thing, the bible is a great book, but there are some concepts that are difficult to explain and so it talks in generalities, in stories, in parables. I believe that the same can be said for our other scriptures. They are more specific, but in the same way that we don’t talk about things outside the temple, maybe the same is true about the nature of God. Maybe the technical aspects of life are closely tied to things like spirituality, agency, choice, etc and so the details are not fully explained to us, or at least, not to our satisfaction.

  123. 123.

    [...] Mormons are famously (though with plenty of exception among the laity) unconcerned with what the truth is because we are concerned with what the truth is. Or, to be less [...]

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