Teachings of the Prophets Regarding Evolution

 

“We have no right to take the theories of men, however scholarly, however learned, and set them up as a standard, and try to make the Gospel bow down to them; making of them an iron bedstead upon which God’s truth, if not long enough, must be stretched out, or if too long, must be chopped off – anything to make it fit into the system of men’s thoughts and theories! On the contrary, we should hold up the Gospel as the standard of truth, and measure thereby the theories and opinions of men.”

Orson F. Whitney, General Conference, Apr. 1915

 

“…there will never be a majority of the Council of the Twelve on the wrong side at any time. The Lord has chosen them; he has given them specific responsibilities. And those people who stand close to them will be safe.”

Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, Apr. 1951

 

            A brief perusal of the teachings of the prophets – those of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve – will show that there has been a very consistent voice on the matter of evolution. At no time have the prophets taught that evolution – the theory of man evolving from lower animals – is true. But rather they have been consistent in denouncing evolution as false. A short tour of the teachings of the prophets of the matter of evolution will here be made, to demonstrate to young readers how we ought to believe on this subject.

 

The Days of the Prophet Joseph Smith

 

            Joseph Smith died on June 27, 1844, and so he was not contemporary with the theory of evolution since Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859. Had the Prophet been contemporary with Origin of Species, there is little doubt that he would have commented on it and contradicted its claims. How can we say this? The Prophet Joseph assured us, “I could go back and trace every subject of interest concerning the relationship of God to man, if I had time. I can enter into the mysteries; I can enter largely into the eternal worlds.”[1] He also said, “I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and he is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.”[2] Joseph Smith the Prophet also declared, “I know the scriptures and understand them,”[3] and he stated unequivocally, “I believe in the fall of man, as recorded in the Bible.”[4]

 

Darwin Undermined

            Interestingly, while the Prophet was not contemporary with Origin of Species, he did teach unequivocally a truth which essentially falsifies the thesis of that book. Recall that according to Darwinism, all life forms evolved from a single-celled organism, which slowly branched out into different kinds of creatures through the ages. But the Prophet Joseph Smith taught us in no uncertain terms that life does not do that. It does not transcend the general “kinds” which God has created in the beginning. He said,

“God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable; for instance, God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass. God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field, all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law or principle.”[5]

            The Prophet also taught that life does not come from non-living matter, as evolution ultimately claims. According to Darwinism, the first single-celled organism arose from non-living matter in a “warm little pond.” This is called spontaneous generation. But the Prophet taught us, “Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way.”[6] There is no such thing as spontaneous generation.

            Joseph Smith taught that life must come from already existing life, and that it cannot transcend the general “kind” of life that it belongs to. Both of these concepts undermine Darwin’s theory of evolution. If Joseph Smith was a true Prophet, we must accept that Darwin’s theory is wrong.

 

The Early Brethren Through the Nineteenth Century

           

            Since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, when Darwin’s book exploded onto the scene, the Brethren of the Church through the nineteenth century had not been shy about denouncing its theories. A person should consider: if Darwin’s theory was the incredible ray of light and truth that evolutionists claim it was, then why did God’s authorized servants so uniformly reject it upon its outset?

           

The President of the Church Speaks (Brigham Young and John Taylor)

            President Brigham Young declared his unalterable opposition to the theory of evolution, and lamented that it was being taught in Zion. He said,

“We have enough and to spare, at present in these mountains, of schools where young infidels are made because the teachers are so tender-footed that they dare not mention the principles of the gospel to their pupils, but have no hesitancy in introducing into the classroom the theories of Huxley, of Darwin.... This course I am resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to, and I hope to see the day when the doctrines of the gospel will be taught in all our schools, when the revelations of the Lord will be our texts….”[7]

            President Brigham Young also taught publicly relative to the theory of evolution:

“The whole Scriptures plainly teach us that we are the children of that God who framed the world. Let us look round and see whether we can find a father and son in this congregation. Do we see one an elephant, and the other a hen? No. Does a father that looks like a human being have a son like an ape, going on all fours? No; the son looks like his father. There is an endless variety of distinction in the few features that compose the human face, yet children have in their countenances and general expression of figure and temperament a greater or less likeness of their parents. You do not see brutes spring from human beings. Every species is true to its kind. The children of men are featured alike and walk erect.”[8]

           
            The foregoing statement by President Young clearly acknowledges microevolution (observable variations among the kinds of animals), but just as flatly denies macroevolution (theoretical changes from one basic kind of animal to a different kind). Without splitting hairs about the meaning of the ambiguous term, “species,” or applying a contemporary meaning to Brigham Young’s use of it, it is telling that President Young declared, “Every species is true to its kind,” and that for evidence of this fact he appealed both to the scriptures and to common experience. In other words, while there are a great variety of dogs, we do not see a dog producing offspring that are not dogs.

            One of the most notable denunciations of evolution from this era came from John Taylor. While he was President of the Church, President Taylor wrote his famous treatise Mediation and Atonement. In that work, President Taylor wrote the following:

“The animal and vegetable creations are governed by certain laws, and are composed of certain elements peculiar to themselves. This applies to man, to the beasts, fowls, fish and creeping things, to the insects and to all animated nature; each one possessing its own distinctive features, each requiring a specific sustenance, each having an organism and faculties governed by prescribed laws to perpetuate its own kind. So accurate is the formation of the various living creatures that an intelligent student of nature can tell by any particular bone of the skeleton of an animal to what class or order it belongs.

“These principles do not change, as represented by evolutionists of the Darwinian school, but the primitive organisms of all living beings exist in the same form as when they first received their impress from their Maker…. and if we take man, he is said to have been made in the image of God, for the simple reason that he is a son of God; and being His son, he is, of course, His offspring, an emanation from God, in whose likeness, we are told, he is made. He did not originate from a chaotic mass of matter, moving or inert, but came forth possessing, in an embryotic state, all the faculties and powers of a God. And when he shall be perfected, and have progressed to maturity, he will be like his Father—a God; being indeed His offspring. As the horse, the ox, the sheep, and every living creature, including man, propagates its own species and perpetuates its own kind, so does God perpetuate His.”[9]

            Again we have a President of the Church directly denounce the theory of evolution, and this time link the name of Darwin to the denunciation, and put it into print, on record in his great magnum opus. Again also, we cannot be too exacting about the use of the term “species” by President Taylor. The term is vague enough in our modern day as it is, to say nothing of President Taylor’s time. But the meaning is clear: macroevolution does not happen.

 

The Witness of Early Apostles

            Erastus Snow, called to be an apostle in 1849, was astute enough to see the fundamental flaw of evolution theory: that its tale of single cell to man is beyond the power of observation, and is therefore not demonstrable. Instead, it must be taken on belief, as a matter of “faith.” Elder Snow taught,

“Mr. Darwin, and a kindred school of modern philosophers, would fain try to impress upon us their theory of evolutions, and would have us believe we are descendants from, and only a little in advance of our ancestor, the monkey; and that other inferior grades of animals are aspiring to become monkeys; they fail to demonstrate their theories, simply because they are not demonstrateable.”[10]

             Elder Snow also spoke with clear disdain of “Mr. Darwin, and others, that is the school of modern philosophers” who propound the theory of evolution, and noted that the theory was inconsistent with what we see in the natural world.[11]

            Orson Pratt, the great scriptorian of the nineteenth century and one of the original Twelve, denied evolution by the authority of scripture as well. He remarked,

“By revelations given in ancient days, and renewed through this young Prophet of God, we learn that we, ourselves, did not begin to exist when we were born into this state of existence; we learn that we are of higher origin than that assigned by poor, unbelieving man. Contrast the ideas of the last few centuries with the ideas that God has revealed from heaven. They would make man look for his origin down to the very reptile and the worm that crawls upon the earth, and to the fish of the sea—as the first father, the first origin, the first oyster. Such is the reason of the learned of the last few centuries—the evolution theory; in other words, that which you learn from books, the creation of man’s folly and foolishness. But when we learn through the revelations of God that instead of man’s coming up from the poor worm of the dirt, he descended from the being who controls the universe by his power; that he descended from that being who is the fullness of all knowledge, and who sways his sceptre over more planetary systems than there are sands upon the sea shore. We are his offspring, we are his sons and his daughters, we are his children, he has begotten us, and we existed before the foundation of the world.”[12]

            Elder Moses Thatcher, while speaking words of encouragement to the youth of the Church, took occasion to warn them of the false philosophy of evolution theory:

“I would have you view all the great architectural designs that man has made by the inspiration of his Maker and prove to you that man did not originate from the lower animals, and that the creator is greater than that which is Created.”[13]

            President George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, related that he had given the same counsel to young men when they go to college – that they should beware of the false doctrine of Darwinism. He said that we can know it is false because the scriptures show it to be false:

“We are a very imperfect people. We have much to learn. But, as I said, God has revealed some things to us, and we know they are true; and we can bring all the science of the world to that standard which God has given unto us. As I have told many of our young men when they have been going to college, how valuable it is to know that these doctrines of Darwin are incorrect, and that man has not come up from that low condition, through thousands or millions of years, to his present stature and reasoning faculties, etc. It is worth something to know that, to begin with, and not spend time over it.”[14]

 

The First Half of the Twentieth Century

 

            Since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Church officers had been consistently denouncing the theory of evolution both on theological and scientific grounds. But it was in the early part of the twentieth century that the Church formally coalesced an official stance against evolution. This official stance takes the form of three statements of the First Presidency.

 

The Origin of Man

            The first and most notable First Presidency declaration on evolution was given during the presidency of Joseph F. Smith. The year 1909 renewed discussion and excitement about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, being 50 years since the publication of Origin of Species. In response, the First Presidency felt it prudent to formulate a statement representing the attitude of the Church towards evolution theory. It is a fairly long dissertation, and lays some doctrinal foundation such as preexistence and divine revelation prior to unleashing its most poignant paragraphs. The paragraphs of greatest interest are quoted below:

“In presenting the statement [on evolution] that follows we are not conscious of putting forth anything essentially new; neither is it our desire so to do. Truth is what we wish to present, and truth—eternal truth—is fundamentally old. A restatement of the original attitude of the Church relative to this matter is all that will be attempted here. To tell the truth as God has revealed it, and commend it to the acceptance of those who need to conform their opinions thereto, is the sole purpose of this presentation….

“It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declared that Adam was ‘the first man of all men’ (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race. It was shown to the brother of Jared that all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our Heavenly Father. 

“True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.

“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. Some of these facts, however, are already known [i.e. from the scriptures], and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity.”[15]

            This “Origin of Man” statement is still considered to be the Church’s quintessential statement on the matter of evolution, both by the faithful and the unimpressed. This is simply because it is hard to deny such a forthright statement from the First Presidency. In fact, as recent as February 2002, the Church declared that it “expresses the Church’s doctrinal position on these matters [of questions concerning the Creation and evolution theory].”[16]

            Evolutionists in the Church go to great lengths to make it appear that this impressive document does not really say what it very obviously brings across to the reader, and often they choose to interpret it in very strange and convoluted ways. But we must keep in mind that the First Presidency issued this declaration to the generality of the Church, and therefore would have chosen to put it into words which would have been readily understandable to the average person. It is a very strained interpretation indeed, to suggest that some secret code or line of thinking is required to interpret it properly, or that it can be sidestepped through such means.

            Of course, evolutionists in the Church, in order to preserve their precious theory which they love better, have done just those very things. The First Presidency’s statement, “The Origin of Man,” was poorly received by evolutionists in the Church, which is no doubt the reason why the First Presidency (and subsequent First Presidencies) have not pursued the issue further by official declaration (except to reinforce the validity of “The Origin of Man” document and its doctrines). Amazingly, there are those who will not accept the will of the Lord, even from the highest authority in the Church and in an official capacity. Rather than fracture the unity of the Church because of reluctance of some to accept the official doctrinal declarations of God’s prophets, the Church seems instead content to teach the truth of the scriptures and not dwell long on the issue of evolution. To make absolute adherence to the truth about origins a required article of faith would cause a great schism of the less faithful who think they are learned, forcing them into a corner, so to speak, and putting them in circumstances in which they must choose (for many would choose their theory instead). Whereas a measure of allowance on the matter, without disciplining those who hold the heretical view of Darwinism, may allow many of these misguided souls to nevertheless find salvation.

            As for himself, in June of 1909, President Smith taught extremely anti-evolutionary doctrine at the funeral of Rachel Grant (Heber J. Grant’s mother):

“We did not spring from spawn. Our spirits existed from the beginning, have existed always, and will continue forever. We did not pass through the ordeals of embodiment in the lesser animals in order to reach the perfection to which we have attained in manhood and womanhood, in the image and likeness of God. God was and is our Father, and his children were begotten in the flesh of his own image and likeness, male and female. There may have been times when they did not possess the same intelligence that they possessed at other times. There are periods in the history of the world when men have dwindled into ignorance and barbarism, and then there were other times when they have grown in intelligence, developed in understanding, enlarged in spirit and comprehension, approaching nearer to the condition and likeness of their Father and God, and then losing faith, losing the love of God, losing the light of the Spirit and returning again to semi-barbarism. Then again, they have been restored, by the power and operation of the Spirit of the Lord upon their minds, until they again reached a degree of intelligence.”[17] 

 

That Which Is Demonstrated, We Accept With Joy

            Not long after the “Origin of Man” statement, the First Presidency again commented on the whole matter, with the following statement. In a Christmas message in 1910, the First Presidency made a statement that, while not specifically referencing evolution, had obvious implications for the theory. The First Presidency stated,

“Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense. But everything that tends to right conduct, that harmonizes with sound morality and increases faith in Deity, finds favor with us no matter where it may be found.”[18]

            Many charge those who disbelieve in evolution with being against science. The underlying premise of this charge is that evolution = science. But this statement of the First Presidency is not to be interpreted with the thought that “science” is synonymous to evolution. But rather, the qualifier, “real science” strongly suggests that there are elements of science that are not true. This would include the evolutionary theory of common descent, which is “vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men” that is “contrary to divine revelation [and] to good common sense.”

            It can be readily obtained from the foregoing statement that, since evolution from a single-celled organism to a human being is not observable, it does not classify as that “which is demonstrated.” Interestingly, the First Presidency apparently did not regard evolution as “real science.” No doubt this is because the worldview which evolution offers is not demonstrable and requires belief to subscribe to.

            Secondly, the First Presidency proclaims that our religion accepts demonstrated truths of science, such as microevolution (variation within the different kinds of animals). We see it regularly in our natural world; we accept it. But macroevolution, the idea that all life evolved from a single-celled organism, is not and cannot be demonstrated, and so we need not accept it. And since it is contrary to the scriptures and the observations in nature, we cannot accept it in good conscience.

 

The “Mormon” View of Evolution

            In 1925 there was great national controversy over the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, spurred over the teaching of evolution in public school. The fervor of the controversy was sufficient to elicit a further statement from the First Presidency (this time consisting of Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley) on the subject of evolution. Entitled “The ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution,” the document is merely a shorter version of the previous 1909 statement, “The Origin of Man,” except that the more explicit paragraphs are not present. Like the 1909 statement, “The ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution” also reinforces that Adam was the first man, a living soul (i.e. a real person), and that mankind is descended from God, not animals. The basic premise of the document, as evidenced by its title, is that the only way Mormons correctly accept evolution is by this meaning:

“Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so that undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.”[19]

            How did authorities of the Church at the time interpret “The ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution”? No doubt spurred by the Scopes Monkey Trial and energized by the authority and spirit of the First Presidency’s “‘Mormon’ View of Evolution,” George Albert Smith, then a senior apostle, proclaimed in General Conference just one month later,

“I am grateful that in the midst of the confusion of our Father's children there has been given to the members of this great organization a sure knowledge of the origin of man, that we came from the spirit world where our spirits were begotten by our Father in Heaven, that he formed our first parents from the dust of the earth, and that their spirits were placed in their bodies, and that man came, not as some have believed, not as some have preferred to believe, from some of the lower walks of life, but our ancestors were those beings who lived in the courts of heaven. We came not from some menial order of life, but our ancestor is God our Heavenly Father. I am grateful that we are not laboring under a handicap such as I feel that some men are who feel that they have grown up and evolved from some unknown condition; but, on the contrary, standing as we do, facing the problems of life, believing as we do that we were first created in the image of God, that he is the Father of our spirits, and that he created this earth for us that we might dwell hereon, under his wise counsel and direction, we may be happy to rejoice in life and to prepare ourselves to go back into his presence, to live forever, when our life here upon this earth has been terminated.”[20]

             Later, as President of the Church, George Albert Smith repeated much the same teaching, confirming that we are not the product of evolution. He said, “We are the children of God. He is the Father of our spirits. We have not come from some lower form of life, but God is the Father of our spirits, and we belong to the royal family, because He is our father.” [21]       
            Elder Orson F. Whitney remarked, after referring to the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, “I believe that when God made man in His own image, He made a man, and not a monkey, nor any other animal out of which man has evolved.”[21] In other words, man was created in God’s image, rather than coming from lower forms of life from which man was supposed to have evolved according to evolution theory.

 

Other Apostolic Statements

            Elder John W. Taylor, the son of President John Taylor and an apostle himself, likewise spoke out against evolution in the October General Conference of 1903. In discussing false doctrines that have crept into the Church among a limited number, he said:

“We have still a great work to perform, and we should not waste our time on hypnotism, or Christian Science, or evolution, and such things. We have believers in evolution in our midst, and there is a little ‘blight upon the top of the trees’ in this regard. As a servant of God I tell you mankind can not be redeemed, worlds without end; can not evolve, or crystalize, or get into the condition entitling them to become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, and to partake of the fulness of His glory; can not go on to perfection, and sit down in the councils of heaven with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and those bright intelligences who created this world and others, only through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. All the evolution in the world will not save a single soul; neither will all the Christian Science, neither will spiritualism, nor hypnotism, nor any other ism that is not of God.”[22] 

            During General Conference of the Church in 1918, Elder Rudger Clawson was discoursing on the first chapter of the Bible and noted its implications for evolution:

“Now, it seems to me that there is to be a very great lesson learned from this important chapter in the Bible [Genesis chapter 1]. In the first place, I think that it answers perfectly the false doctrine of evolution. We are distinctly given to understand that every living creature was made after its kind. We are not to expect that a lion will grow into a horse, or that a cow will grow into an elephant, but we have reason to believe that a horse will always be a horse. You may be able to improve the horse, but it will still be a horse, and so with the other animals of God's creation.”[23]

            Note Elder Clawson’s acknowledgement of microevolution (i.e. “You may be able to improve the horse,”) but his denial of macroevolution proposed by Darwin (“…We are not to expect that a lion will grow into a horse, or that a cow will grow into an elephant, but we have reason to believe that a horse will always be a horse…. so with the other animals of God's creation.”). This is the reasonable view that all believers in the scriptures hold. We can observe variation among the kinds of animals (microevolution), but the idea that animals evolve into completely different kinds is not scriptural and not observed in nature, either. 

            Elder George F. Richards, the son of deceased apostle Franklin D. Richards and the father of future apostle LeGrand Richards, preached in General Conference of the Church that the doctrine of the preexistence confounds evolution as a false doctrine. He said, “There is just the one individual from beginning to end. The fallacy of the reincarnation of man theory is here made apparent, as also the doctrine of evolution, in which it is taught that man originated with the lower animals, the very lowest type, and came up by degrees.”[24]

 

The Misrepresented Views of James E. Talmage and John A. Widtsoe

            Many evolutionists in the Church attempt to claim notable apostle-scientists James E. Talmage and John A. Widtsoe to their side of the issue. It is unfortunate that this myth has perpetuated among LDS evolutionists, but there is no justification in it. While both believed in an old earth and death before the Fall of Adam, neither one came close to accepting evolution as the LDS evolutionists in our midst do today. In fact, both were harsh critics of the theory of evolution in several respects. 

            It is evident that Elder Talmage openly acknowledged microevolution (i.e. variation within the different kinds of animals that we can observe and demonstrate, such as the variety of dogs) as anyone would, but denied macroevolution (i.e. the change of one kind of animal into another, such as from ape to man). He noted,

“Attempts have been made to show that the present state of man is the culmination of a long course of development, higher forms having been evolved from inferior progenitors. Undoubtedly much that is classed under the current title, Evolution, is true. That part which comprises facts is true; and with equal assurance be it said that much of the theory of evolutionists is error.”[25]

            No doubt the “facts” which are “true” were the observable, demonstrable variations of microevolution. The “theory” which is “error” would constitute the story of man evolving from apes and all the rest of the macroevolution tale.

            This is apparent from Elder Talmage’s statement in his address, “The Earth and Man.” This speech does make some unscriptural concessions, such as death before the Fall, while the world was passing “through ages of preparation,” and an old earth, but these matters are quite trivial when considered to acceptance of the whole theory of evolution lock, stock, and barrel. In this address, Elder Talmage made sure to stress that, “We believe that Adam was a real personage, who stands at the head of his race chronologically. To my mind Adam is a historic personage, not a prehistoric being, unidentified and uncertain.” He also declared, “I do not regard Adam as related to -- certainly not as descended from -- the Neanderthal, the Cro-Magnon, the Peking or the Piltdown man. Adam came as divinely directed, created and empowered, and stands as the patriarchal head of his posterity….”[26]

            Elder Talmage made a distinction between the truth and falsehood that can be found with this scientific theory. He said, “At best, the conception of the development of man's body from the lower forms through evolutionary processes has been but a theory, an unproved hypothesis…. Theories have their purpose and are indispensable, but they must never be mistaken for demonstrated facts. The Holy Scriptures should not be discredited by theories of men; they can not be discredited by fact and truth.” Finally, Elder Talmage declared, “Man is the child of God…. He is born in the lineage of Deity, not in the posterity of the brute creation.”[27]

            As for Elder Widtsoe, when commenting upon the theory of evolution, he wrote,

“Had the proponents as well as the opponents of evolution, as a whole or in part, kept in mind that they were discussing a theory, subject to frequent and fundamental change, the civilized world would have been spared much unseemly behavior.

“Again the warning: Distinguish clearly between facts and the inferences from facts.

“Certainly, it is a mistake to accept theories in building faith in anything, from religion to our everyday life pursuits.”[28]

            John A. Widtsoe was consistently careful to stress the difference between “facts” and “the interpretations of observed facts” which “must be distinctly labeled as inferences, and not confused with facts.”[29] Obviously, this has implications for evolution. It is a fact that fossils exist. How old they are, how they got where they were found, what their ancestors were, and what their progeny were, can never be anything more than inferences and interpretations, and not facts in and of themselves. “No scientific worker worthy of his task attempts to give a scientific explanation a higher standing than that of an intelligent guess, supported by existing facts” Elder Widtsoe maintained, “New discoveries may modify or upset the explanation….”[30]

            In an excellent treatise entitled, “To What Extent Should the Doctrine of Evolution Be Accepted?”[31] Elder Widtsoe discusses the difference between microevolution, which is observable variations within basic kinds of animals, and macroevolution, which is the fantasy that all life evolved from a single-celled organism, is related to each other, and that man is descended from lower forms of life. In this address Elder Widtsoe rejects macroevolution. Elder Widtsoe goes on here to point out what most every evolutionist is unwilling to admit - that while microevolution is observable and unanimously accepted, macroevolution must be accepted as a matter of belief. Though Elder Widtsoe did not use the terms “microevolution” or “macroevolution” in this somewhat archaic address, the ideas carried within those terms is clearly the exact distinction he is was intending to make.

            Referring to the dogmatic theory of common descent, Elder Widtsoe wrote, “Yet, at the best the doctrine of the common origin of all life is only an inference of science. After these many years of searching, its truth has not been demonstrated.”[32] Again he reiterated, “The doctrine of the common origin of life on earth is but a scientific theory, and should be viewed as such,” and “Such hypotheses or theories, which are often helpful, become dangerous when confused with the facts themselves. There are now many theories of evolution, all subject to the normal scrutiny to which all theories should be subjected; and until their probability is demonstrated, it is well to remain wary of them.”[33] He further made this indictment of which many LDS evolutionists are highly guilty:

“The man, learned or unlearned, who declares the doctrine of the common origin of life on earth to be demonstrated beyond doubt, has yet to master the philosophy of science. The failure to differentiate between facts and inferences is the most grievous and the most common sin of scientists.”[34]

            In another treatise in the same work, Elder Widtsoe appealed to 16 different quotes from scientists that challenged the theory of evolution and cast doubt upon it.[35] Like Elder James E. Talmage, we cannot justify ourselves in saying that Elder John A. Widtsoe was a proponent of Darwinian evolution. Those LDS evolutionists who attempt to recruit these two apostles to their cause fly in the face of these apostles’ own written words.

 

A Few Minor Aberrations

            Have there ever been statements by apostles that have left the door open for evolution? Strangely, there have been a few – and a very few only. Mind you, none of these statements have openly come out and said to the effect that ‘evolution is true.’ (And this is significant because there is an abundance of statements that have said to the effect that ‘evolution is false.’). One of the statements in question is an editorial in the April 1910 Improvement Era (the forerunner to the Ensign magazine), of which Joseph F. Smith was an editor. The statement briefly recounts some creation scriptures and then reads:

“These are the authentic statements of the scriptures, ancient and modern, and it is best to rest with these, until the Lord shall see fit to give more light on the subject. Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the parking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.”[36]

            It is apparent that there are a few issues with this anomalous statement: It was not authored by President Joseph F. Smith (even though he was apparently editor of the column), it contradicts what President Joseph F. Smith taught on the subject of evolution and the origin of Adam, it ignores what the scriptures have taught which make strong implications to the contrary, and even this statement proclaims that “it is best to rest with these [scriptures]” because they are “authentic statements.” Nevertheless, there are many who place their hopes on this statement, and look to it as an official concession to evolution by Joseph F. Smith.

            For President Smith’s views, they should consult other works already cited above. They should also take note that in 1913 President Smith taught, “Man was born of woman; Christ, the Savior, was born of woman and God, the Father, was born of woman. Adam, our earthly parent, was also born of woman into this world, the same as Jesus and you and I….”[37] If Adam was born of a woman then who were his parents? The scriptures confirm that Adam was “born into the world” (Moses 6:59) naturally, but also proclaims that Adam was “the son of God” (Moses 6:22). And President Smith himself, in the official “Origin of Man” statement declared, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity.”[38]

            There is another situation in which one with apostolic authority left open the possibility of evolution – but did not proclaim it as truth as modern LDS evolutionists do. Stephen L Richards was a distinguished lawyer and a close personal friend of David O. McKay; he was also destined to become a future member of President McKay's  First Presidency. He was called to be an apostle in 1917. In June of 1933, still as a member of the Council of the Twelve, Elder Richards included in the Improvement Era “An Open Letter to College Students” in which he wrote,

“If the evolutionary hypothesis of the creation of life and matter in the universe is ultimately found to be correct, and I shall neither be disappointed nor displeased if it shall turn out so to be, in my humble opinion the Biblical account is sufficiently comprehensive to include the whole of the process....”[39]

            Of course, Elder Richards was certainly in the vast minority with his “humble opinion” that “the Biblical account is sufficiently comprehensive to include the whole of the process [of evolution].” At no point in his letter did he demonstrate scriptural evidence of this comprehensiveness. Neither is the statement tantamount to a declaration of belief in evolution – it is a disavowal of certainty regarding the matter. Notwithstanding his tentative approval of evolution, Elder Richards did close his letter with these words: “Never abandon a time-tested thing of worth until you are very, very sure that the new is better. Be not ashamed of faith in God.” This advice, if followed, would incline a person to disbelieve in evolution. It is very apparent that Elder Richards was simply attempting to give practical advice to students to not mortgage their testimony of the gospel for a scientific theory.

 

The Latter Half of the Twentieth Century

 

David O. McKay and Evolution

            Another person that LDS evolutionists try to claim for their camp is the great prophet David O. McKay. President McKay was President of the Church for an impressive 19 years (1951-1970), holds the record for longest-serving person in the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve, and is fondly remembered for his many wonderful and insightful teachings. Is it true that David O. McKay espoused evolution, as the liberals among our number often claim? What is the basis for such thoughts? In a BYU speech to young college students in 1952, David O. McKay, after discoursing on the necessity of a proper, Gospel-centered education, said the following:


“Milikan is right when he says, ‘Science without religion obviously may become a curse rather that a blessing to mankind.’ But, science dominated by the spirit of religion is the key progress and the hope of the future. For example, evolution's beautiful theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists there is no intelligent purpose in it, will infest the student with the thought that all may be chance. I say, that no youth should be so led without a counter-balancing thought. Even the skeptic teacher should be fair enough to see that even Charles Darwin, when he faced this great question of annihilation, that the creation is dominated only by chance wrote; ‘It is an intolerable thought that man and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long, continued slow progress.’”[40]

            Much is made by evolutionists within the Church of President McKay’s use of the descriptor, “beautiful” for the theory of evolution, and they treat it as an endorsement of Darwinism. This seems a stretch, however. Personally, the interpretation which this author finds in that statement is this: President McKay was simply saying that, though evolution may have aesthetic appeal to some, it by itself is spiritually dangerous and fails to answer the great questions of life. Interestingly, President McKay gave this same phrase in the April 1968 General Conference (read by his son, David Lawrence McKay), except this time the confusing adjective “beautiful” was omitted, and the entire context reads quite unfavorably towards evolution:

“There is a purposeful design permeating all nature, the crowning event of which is man. Here, on this thought, science again leads the student up to a certain point, and sometimes leaves him with his soul unanchored. For example, evolution’s theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists that there is no intelligent purpose in it, undoubtedly impresses the student with the thought that all may be chance. I say that no youth should be left without a counterbalancing thought.”[41]

            Another circumstance that pleases LDS evolutionists is a private written correspondence that President McKay had with a Professor William Stokes in 1957, in which President McKay wrote in answer to inquiry, “On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position. The book ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny’ was not published by the Church, and is not approved by the Church. The book contains expressions of the author's views for which he alone is responsible.”[42] But this is a release from any Church sanction that a person might face for believing evolution, not an endorsement of Darwinism. In fact, in another letter written only a few years later on the same subject, President McKay said essentially the same thing but then included the words:

“Evolution is a theory. You say that biologists would agree on the general lines of what happened, although there may be less agreement about just how it happened. While scientific people themselves differ in their interpretations and views of the theory, any conflicts which may seem to exist between the theory and the truths of revealed religion can well be dealt with by suspending judgment as long as may be necessary to arrive at facts and at a complete understanding of the truth.”[43]

            Next, there was a Professor Sterling McMurrin who claimed that David O. McKay told him in private confidence, “I believe in evolution.”[44] Whether this anecdote is accurate or not, of course, is impossible to say. But if President McKay did indeed say that, perhaps he was thinking of the observable processes of microevolution (i.e. the variety produced within the basic kinds of animals), when he espoused belief. Also, the idea that President McKay believed in evolution would strongly seem to contradict his publicly stated views. He said, “Charles Darwin…as he contemplated the greatest descent or origin in his mind of the human family, his theory…. He finally came to the point that there will come a time when the human family will end. If that theory is right, all sentient beings known as man cannot live.”[45] President McKay was even more explicit relative to the theory of macroevolution – the full theory of Darwinism in which life evolved from lower life, for he declared:

“The stern fact of life is that animals, as other living things, can grow and produce their kind only in accordance with fixed laws of nature and the divine command, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creatures after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and the beast of the earth after his kind.’ (Genesis 1:24).”[46]

 

The Testimony of Apostles

            George Q. Morris had been a long-time school friend of David O. McKay’s, and eventually, during the Presidency of David O. McKay, he was called into the apostleship. George Q. Morris had the distinction of being the oldest man to have been called into the apostleship, being 80 years old at the time of his call. Elder Morris spoke out against evolution in 1956 General Conference when he remarked about a young person of his acquaintance, 

“…I am concerned for all of our young people as they go into the field of higher education and meet all the ideas that are so prevalent, which are in sharp conflict with the revelations of God that we know to be true. I suppose he had been taught something about the origin of man according to the theory of organic evolution. I presume he might have been told what I remember reading in some man's writings, that we would have to look for our origin in some minute life in the ocean, perhaps, or in some amoeba-like organism- the simplest form of life. That, he said, was man's beginning. But we know better than that.”[47]

            Marion G. Romney was another consistent voice against evolution. Four times in a span of 20 years he spoke out against it in the General Conference of the Church. In 1953 he remarked, “It would please me immensely if … we could get away from using the language of those who do not believe in the mission of Adam. I have reference to words and phrases such as ‘primitive man,’ ‘prehistoric man,’ ‘before men learned to write,’ and the like.” He then reaffirmed, “There were no pre-Adamic men in the line of Adam. The Lord said that Adam was the first man. (Moses 1:34, 3:7; D. & C. 84:16.) It is hard for me to get the idea of a man ahead of Adam, before the first man.”[48]

            Later in the April 1959 General Conference, after quoting an evolutionist’s postulations, Elder Romney commented, “I repeat that in our peculiar beliefs and faith in Jesus Christ, comprising the foregoing and other revealed truths concerning him, we greatly differ from other people of the earth.”[49] Speaking in derision during the April 1969 Conference, Elder Romney said, “Man—so our children are told—is an animal, the product of biological evolution…. they are playthings to be exploited and prostituted for the gratification of sensual and lustful desires.” He then suggested the remedy for this false teaching: “If our children are to be sufficiently strengthened to stand against this satanic onslaught, they must be taught and trained in the home, as the Lord has directed.”[50]

            Finally, as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency, President Romney gave a stirring address in the April 1973 General Conference entitled “Man – A Child of God.” In it he taught, “…it is the universal law of nature in the plant, animal, and human worlds for reproducing offspring to reach in final maturity the likeness of their parents.” He also stated that, “The theory that man is other than the offspring of God has been, and, so long as it is accepted and acted upon, will continue to be, a major factor in blocking man’s spiritual growth and in corrupting his morals…. The concept that man is a beast relieves him of a sense of accountability and encourages him to adopt the fatalistic attitude of ‘eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’”[51]

            Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Council of the Twelve also confirmed in a BYU speech in 1964 that mankind did not evolve from animals, but that he came from a higher source. Elder Stapley taught, 

“The scriptures teach us that we are descended from the lineage of the Gods; therefore, we are created in their likeness and image, in both spirit and body, and we are endowed with like character traits, qualities, and powers. We are not the product of evolution from some lower organism of life as man speculates and would have us believe.”[52]

 

Scriptural Stalwarts Speak Out Against Evolution

            There is an oft-recognized opponent of evolution that has had a large influence on the Church. This was Joseph Fielding Smith. He was the son of Joseph F. Smith, was the grandson of Hyrum Smith, and was a widely recognized authority on the scriptures and doctrine. In 1938 President Heber J. Grant wrote privately that “I consider [Joseph Fielding Smith] the best posted man on the scriptures of the General Authorities of the church that we have.”[53] Joseph Fielding Smith was called as an apostle at the young age of 33 in 1910, served in that Quorum for nearly 60 years, 19 years as the President of that Quorum (i.e. for the entire presidency of his predecessor, David O. McKay), and finally was permitted by the Lord to succeed as President of the Church at the grand age of 93. Never before or since had such a seasoned apostle ascended to the presidency of the Church. No doubt his ascendancy to the presidency of the Church can be interpreted as a vindication of his long ministry. Joseph Fielding Smith was consistently opposed to evolution theory throughout his long tenure as an apostle.

            Joseph Fielding Smith’s attitude toward evolution can be summed up in these statements found in a popular compilation of his teachings: 

“This idea that everything commenced from a small beginning, from the scum upon the surface of the sea, and has gradually developed until all forms of life, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, and the plants upon the face of the earth, have all sprung from that one source, is a falsehood absolutely. There is no truth in it, for God has given us his word by which we may know, and all who are led by the Spirit of God can understand through that Holy Spirit, the truth of these things.…”[54]

“I say most emphatically, you cannot believe in this theory of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other, for they are in direct conflict and there is a gulf separating them which is so great that it cannot be bridged, no matter how much one may try to do so.”[55]

            In 1954, President Smith (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) published his landmark work on the subject, Man: His Origin and Destiny. The book is a masterful work in excess of 500 pages, which systematically rebuts all of the major arguments of evolution theory using both scripture and science. It is an effective reference and a powerful standard of truth on this subject of evolution. Man: His Origin and Destiny is spoken of with derision by LDS evolutionists in the Church, but few appreciate the book for what it is, or take the time to read it. It is usually simply disdainfully dismissed without engaging its contents. But President Ezra Taft Benson said, “It is…apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings [in Man: His Origin and Destiny] will stand the test of time.”[56]

            Another equally adamant opponent of evolution was Joseph Fielding Smith’s son-in-law, Elder Bruce R. McConkie. In fact, Elder McConkie was so famous for his opposition to the theory, that when many LDS evolutionists balk at the prophets’ teachings on the matter, they almost exclusively focus their displeasure on Bruce R. McConkie. The reason for that is probably the long entry on “Evolution” in his famous book, Mormon Doctrine, in which after approaching the subject from multiple angles and destroying the theory in several respects, he concluded unequivocally, “There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.”[57]

            There were frequent other denunciations of evolution by Elder McConkie, both in public speaking venues and in written works. For instance, in a notable 1980 BYU speech, he included evolution as the second of seven “deadly heresies” that plague some members of the Church.[58] In another speech he labeled evolution as one of the “doctrines that weaken faith and may damn.”[59] In a later written work, he referred to evolution as a “false philosophy…that leads men away from God and salvation.”[60] In an official article in the Ensign magazine which he was asked to author on the subject of Creation, Elder McConkie related the circumstances of the Garden of Eden, the Fall of Man, and the change to a natural state of being. He wrote, “There is no evolving from one species to another in any of this.”[61] And his final written work, still unpublished when he died, referred to evolution as a heresy and “the false view of many self-designated scientists,” noting that, “The tendency among them is to present Darwinian theories as established realities,” when in fact they are certainly not. And he also submitted that those members of the Church who accept such theories are “those whose faith falls short of the divine standard.”[62] 

            Mark E. Petersen, an insightful and prolific apostle, was another that spoke out strongly against evolution, and not without knowledge of the details of the theory. He queried students in a 1973 speech at BYU, “Do you believe there was an Adam, described in the scripture as the first man? Do you believe there was such a thing as Adam’s transgression, some called the Fall? Now I ask you, can you believe in Adam and in Darwinian evolution at the same time? Our religion teaches that there was no death in the world before the Fall. Do you believe that?”[63]

            Elder Petersen wrote at length in his book Adam: Who Is He? about the failure of evolutionists to provide evidence for macroevolution (changes from one basic kind of animal to another). He also criticized the veracity of radiocarbon dating and other assumptive approaches that evolution is built on, and concluded, “The endless evolutionary voyages into the seas of speculation certainly cannot be allowed to destroy our faith in divine revelation, which revelation completely refutes these hypotheses.”[64] Elder Petersen included a similar lengthy discussion in his following book, Moses: Man of Miracles.[65]

 

From the President of the Church

            It is notable that several Presidents of the Church in the latter part of the twentieth century spoke against evolution or made implications of its falsity.

            President Harold B. Lee wrote a relevant article in his December 1972 First Presidency Message while he was President of the Church. He related the following story in which he was frustrated by a seemingly good Church member’s belief in Darwinist theories:

“I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a church family, ask, ‘What about the pre-Adamic people?’ Here was someone who I thought was fully grounded in the faith.

“I asked. ‘What about the pre-Adamic people?’

She replied, ‘Well, aren’t there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?’

“I said, ‘Have you forgotten the scripture that says, “And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also. …”’ (Moses 3:7.) I asked, ‘Do you believe that?’

“She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error.

***

“I say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures. If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren’t able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false—it is as simple as that. But the unfortunate thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves. I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today.”[66]

            President Ezra Taft Benson also spoke out against evolution during his Presidency. This was done by him reprinting older talks of his that spoke out against evolution. In 1988, President Benson reprinted several of his earlier apostolic talks in book form. These reprints condemn evolution: 

“Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat the falsehoods in ... organic evolution….”[67]

            Earlier, while President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Benson gave his fervent warning given in General Conference, which also appeared in book form:

“As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children, and if they become alerted and informed, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like ... Charles Darwin….”[68]

            While he never showed much interest in discussing the issue, President Gordon B. Hinckley also disavowed belief in evolution. He said, 

“I believe in evolution, not organic evolution, as it is called, but in the evolution of the mind, the heart, and the soul of man. I believe in improvement. I believe in growth.”[69]

 

Words of the Apostles

            Of course, several apostles in the latter part of the twentieth century have likewise spoken out against evolution. Two of these are still living apostles at the time of this writing: Russell M. Nelson and Boyd K. Packer.

            As a renowned heart surgeon, Elder Russell M. Nelson is no stranger to science, biology, and anatomy. And yet he has been a consistent voice against evolution. Elder Nelson wrote in his 1988 book, The Power Within Us, a firm denunciation of the theory of evolution:        

“Through the ages, some persons without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species, or organic evolution from one form to another. Still others have concluded that man came as a consequence of a ‘big bang,’ which resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.

“To me, such theories are unbelievable. Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary? It's unthinkable! One might argue that it is within a remote realm of possibility, but even if that could happen, such a dictionary could certainly not heal its own torn pages, renew its own worn corners, or reproduce its own subsequent editions.

***

“It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of those who would deny divine creation or think that mankind simply evolved. By the spirit, we perceive the truer and more believable wisdom of God.”[70]

            Boyd K. Packer has been a consistent voice against the false doctrine of evolution. He declared in the 1983 October General Conference, “When we understand the doctrine of premortal life, then things fit together and make sense. We then know that little boys and little girls are not monkeys, nor are their parents, nor were theirs, to the very beginning generation.”[71] And he proclaimed again in General Conference just one year later: 

“No lesson is more manifest in nature than that all living things do as the Lord commanded in the Creation. They reproduce ‘after their own kind.’ (See Moses 2:12, 24.) They follow the pattern of their parentage. Everyone knows that; every four-year-old knows that! A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget reptiles, nor ‘do men gather … figs of thistles.’ (Matt. 7:16.)

“In the countless billions of opportunities in the reproduction of living things, one kind does not beget another. If a species ever does cross, the offspring cannot reproduce. The pattern for all life is the pattern of the parentage.

“This is demonstrated in so many obvious ways, even an ordinary mind should understand it. Surely no one with reverence for God could believe that His children evolved from slime or from reptiles. (Although one can easily imagine that those who accept the theory of evolution don’t show much enthusiasm for genealogical research!) The theory of evolution, and it is a theory, will have an entirely different dimension when the workings of God in creation are fully revealed.

“Since every living thing follows the pattern of its parentage, are we to suppose that God had some other strange pattern in mind for His offspring? Surely we, His children, are not, in the language of science, a different species than He is?”[72]

 

Regarding Evolution and BYU

            Many Latter-day Saint evolutionists have assumed that evolution has the Church’s stamp of approval, or that it is compatible with the gospel, because it is found among the science curriculum at BYU. In fact, the science faculty itself vehemently pushes this perception. This is not what the prophets have taught us, however.

            The prophets have been consistent in the thought that, while evolution is taught at BYU (which is appropriate for an accredited university), we are not to thereby accept it as true. Harold B. Lee taught, “This institution [BYU] must turn out the best scientists. We want them to turn out the best philosophers to be found in any of the schools. But we want those scientists and philosophers thus trained to measure the theory of their science and philosophy by the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[73] Likewise, Ezra Taft Benson taught in General Conference, “If your children are taught untruths on evolution in the public schools or even in our Church schools, provide them with a copy of President Joseph Fielding Smith’s excellent rebuttal in his book Man, His Origin and Destiny.”[74] We must not be gulled by the ridiculous argument that we ought to believe evolution merely because it is found among the curriculum at BYU.

 

The Brethren in the Twenty-First Century

 

More Recent Statements

            The twenty-first century has likewise seen its share of statements against evolution. For instance, the “Origin of Man” document was reprinted in the February 2002 Ensign, with a preamble declaring it to “[express] the Church’s doctrinal position on these matters [of questions relating to the Creation and evolution theory].”[75]

            President Boyd K. Packer has continued his opposition to evolution theory, repeating some of his earlier objections in a 2006 Women’s Conference talk entitled “Children of God.” He said:

“No lesson is more manifest than that all living things do as the Lord commanded them in the Creation. They reproduce after their own kind (see Moses 2:12, 24-25). They follow the pattern of their parentage. Everyone knows that. Every four-year-old knows that! A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget a reptile, nor ‘do men gather . . . figs of thistles’ (Matthew 7:16).

“In all that you do as women, do not forget that we are all children of God. If you get that doctrine in place, with that rule established, it will serve you well in times when you are confronted with those who equate humankind with animals.”[76]

            More recently, President Packer also included anti-evolutionary statements in a Church-sanctioned article prepared for a special 2008 Ensign issue all about Jesus Christ. He wrote,

“We are taught in Genesis, in Moses, in Abraham, in the Book of Mormon, and in the endowment that man’s mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation. Had the Creation come in a different way, there could have been no Fall.

“If men were merely animals, then logic favors freedom without accountability.

“How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do not look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and by millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance.”[77]

            The following is an excerpt from an interview with Elder Russell M. Nelson in May 2007 by “The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life,” a major religious research organization:

Pew Forum: Different denominations deal differently with questions about life's origins and development. Conservative denominations tend to have more trouble with Darwinian evolution. Does the church have an official position on this topic?

Russell M. Nelson: We believe that God is our creator and that he has created other forms of life. It's interesting to me, drawing on my 40 years experience as a medical doctor, how similar those species are. We developed open-heart surgery, for example, experimenting on lower animals simply because the same creator made the human being. We owe a lot to those lower species. But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible.

Pew Forum: Why is that?

Russell M. Nelson: Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It's just the way genetics works.”[78]

            Our living prophet has stated several times his opposition to scientific theories which cast doubt on the veracity of scriptural Creation accounts. President Thomas S. Monson repeated the following quote from Stephen L Richards during BYU Speeches in 2005, 2007, and again in 2009 after he was President of the Church: 

“Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you agnostic, doubting thoughts to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.”[79]

            Elder D. Todd Christofferson has also spoken out against evolution in the October 2010 General Conference, commenting on the eroding effect it has upon moral values. He said: 

“Those who believe that our bodies are nothing more than the result of evolutionary chance will feel no accountability to God or anyone else for what they do with or to their body. We who have a witness of the broader reality of premortal, mortal, and postmortal eternity, however, must acknowledge that we have a duty to God with respect to this crowning achievement of His physical creation.”[80]

 

Conclusion

 

            There has never been a prophet, seer, or revelator which openly proclaimed that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true. There have been a myriad of times, however, when such watchmen on the tower have proclaimed evolution to be false – and this in public and official venues of the Church, in addition to nonofficial channels. A few – and a very few only – have given ambiguous or neutral statements, but never positive ones affirming evolution. And such ambiguous or neutral statements are very much the exception, and are very greatly outnumbered by those which have denounced evolution. Likewise, the venues in which such ambiguous or neutral statements are given are not to be compared with the official capacities, such as General Conference of the Church, in which evolution has been regularly preached against. In fact, the teachings of the prophets are so overwhelmingly against evolution that no serious consideration can be given for sympathy toward the theory from God’s servants. If the axiom that the prophets will not lead us astray is correct, and that the majority of the Brethren will never be on the wrong side of a major issue, then we must see that evolution is untenable for believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976] p. 359.

[2] Ibid., p. 350.

[3] Ibid., 357.

[4] Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, Dahl & Cannon, ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997] p. 238, emphasis added.

[5]Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976] p. 197-198, emphasis added.

[6] Ibid., p. 373.

[7] Dean C. Jessee, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974], p. 200.

[8] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 8:29-30, Delivered 1860.

[9] John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1882], 165 - 166.

[10] Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 19: 321-329. Delivered January 20, 1878.

[11] Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 19: 265-279. Delivered March 3, 1878.

[12] Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 20: 62 - 77. Delivered August 25, 1878.

[13] Moses Thatcher, M.M.I.A. Conference, held May 31, 1891, as quoted in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 2.

[14] George Q. Cannon, The Chicago Parliament of Religions, delivered at the Tabernacle, Sep. 24, 1893 as quoted in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 3.

[15] Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund, “The Origin of Man,” November 1909.

[16] Preamble to “The Origin of Man,” reprinted in Ensign, February 2002.

[17] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], p. 25-26.

[18] Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund, “Words in Season from the First Presidency,” Deseret Evening News, December 17, 1910.

[19] Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, Charles W. Nibley, “The ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution,” September 1925.

[20] George Albert Smith, General Conference, October 1925.

[21] George Albert Smith, General Conference, April 1946

[21] Orson F. Whitney, General Conference, October 1925.

[22] John W. Taylor, General Conference, October 1903.

[23] Rudger Clawson, General Conference, April 1918.

[24] George F. Richards, General Conference, April 1933.

[25] James E. Talmage, “Fallen, But He Shall Rise Again,” Improvement Era, 1919, Vol. Xxii. October, 1919 No. 12 .

[26] James E. Talmage, “The Earth and Man,” Delivered August 9, 1931.

[27] Ibid.

[28] John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era], p. 28-30.

[29] Ibid., p. 139-142.

[30] Ibid., p. 143-145.

[31] Ibid., p. 159-164.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., p. 166-169.

[36] Priesthood Quorum’s Table, Improvement Era, 13:570, April 1910.

[37] Deseret News, Dec. 27, 1913, Sec. III, p. 7.

[38] Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund, “The Origin of Man,” November 1909.

[39] Stephen L Richards, "An Open Letter to College Students" Improvement Era 36:451-453, 484-485 (June 1933).

[40] David O. McKay, “Message for LDS College Youth,” BYU Speeches, October 8, 1952.

[41] David O. McKay, General Conference, April 1968.

[42] David O. McKay, Letter to Professor William Lee Stokes on February 11, 1957.

[43] David O. McKay, Letter dated February 3, 1959.

[44] Gregory A. Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism [University of Utah Press: 2005], p. 45-49.

[45] David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1953], p. 50.

[46] David O. McKay, “Some Fundamental Objectives of a Church University”, BYU Faculty Workshop, September 17, 1954. Published in Deseret News, 25 Sept. 1954.

[47] George Q. Morris, General Conference, October 1956.

[48] Marion G. Romney, General Conference, April 1953.

[49] Marion G. Romney, General Conference, April 1959.

[50] Marion G. Romney, General Conference, April 1969.

[51] Marion G. Romney, “Man – A Child of God,” General Conference, April 1973.

[52] Delbert L. Stapley, BYU Speeches, May 5, 1964.

[53] Francis M. Gibbons, Joseph Fielding Smith: Gospel Scholar, Prophet of God [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], p. 291.

[54] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1:140. Emphasis in original.

[55] Ibid., 1:141-142. Emphasis in original.

[56] Ezra Taft Benson, “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History,” BYU Speeches, Mar. 28, 1976.

[57] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], p. 256.

[58] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” BYU Speeches, June 1, 1980.

[59] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Foolishness of Teaching,” Address given religious instructors, seminary and institute teachers in 1981.

[60] Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 424.

[61] Bruce R. McConkie, “Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982. 

[62] Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], p. 98-99.

[63] Mark E. Petersen, “We Believe in God, the Eternal Father,” BYU Speeches, September 1973.

[64] Mark E. Petersen, Adam: Who Is He? [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], p. 42 - 51.

[65] Mark E. Petersen, Moses: Man of Miracles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], p. 159-166.

[66] President Harold B. Lee, “Find the Answers in the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec. 1972.

[67] Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon is the Word of God,” General Conference, Apr. 1975. See also Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning: A Modern-Day Prophet Testifies of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], p. 6.

[68] Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, Apr. 1970. See also Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], p. 225.

[69] Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book., 1997], p. 298, emphasis added.

[70] Russell M. Nelson, The Power within Us [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], p. 9.

[71] Boyd K. Packer, “The Mystery of Life,” General Conference, Oct. 1983.

[72] Boyd K. Packer, “The Pattern of Our Parentage,” General Conference, Oct. 1984.

[73] Harold B. Lee, “Cram for Life’s Final Exam,” BYU Speeches, January 5, 1954 (emphasis added).

[74] Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, October 1970 (emphasis added).

[75] Preamble to “The Origin of Man,” reprinted in Ensign, February 2002.

[76] Boyd K. Packer, “Children of God,” BYU Women’s Conference, May 5, 2006.

[77] Boyd K. Packer, “Who Is Jesus Christ?” Ensign, March 2008.

[78] See http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/pew-forum-interviews-church-leaders or http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=143

[79] See Thomas S. Monson, “Decisions Determine Destiny,” BYU Speeches, November 6, 2005; “Guideposts for Life’s Journey,” BYU Speeches, November 13, 2007; “Great Expectations,” BYU Speeches, January 11, 2009.

[80] D. Todd Christofferson, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” General Conference, October 2010.

 
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