(by Dennis B. Horne)
[Pres. Ivins began his October 7, 1917 general conference address by reading from the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 26:1-4:]
"Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the traditions of their fathers.
"They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
"And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
"And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the Church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God."
Since the last general conference of the Church, in April, I have visited many of the organized stakes of Zion. I have been in Canada on the north, and to the extreme limits of this state in the south, and it affords me great pleasure and sincere satisfaction to testify before this large congregation of Latter-day Saints to the faith, the devotion and good works of the great majority of the Latter-day Saints wherever I have been. I have found, however, in all of these different localities people who appear to lack faith, who are indifferent to the doctrines of the gospel as taught by the Church, they do not believe, or at least doubt, that the spirit of man existed before coming to this world, that it lives after leaving it, or that there will be a reunion of the spirit and body in the resurrection from the dead. To them this life is all there is of human existence. In searching for the cause which led up to the unbelief of these young people among the Nephites, to whom the scripture which I have read refers, I discovered, to use the words of those who kept their records, that there appeared among them men of cunning device and flattering words, teaching doctrines which were destructive of faith in God, Prominent among such men was Korihor, from whose words I now wish to read [Alma 30:13-16]:
"Oh, ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of any thing which is to come.
"Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.
"How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.
"Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But, behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.
"And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but that every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.
"And thus did he preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness; . . . telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof."
As I read and reflected upon these words, I thought how like the past the present is, when applied to this question. Recently, in one of the stakes of Zion which I visited, a man professing great learning, before a public gathering, with cunning device and flattering words declared to those to whom his remarks were addressed that their ancestors hung from the branches of the forest trees by their tales. With boldness he advocated the theory that man had gradually evolved, without conscious effort, from the lowest type of created life to what he now is, and that as his past had been a continued process of change so is his future to be.
In this, I thought, he is at least consistent, for if man was not always what he is now, if it is true that he has gradually come up from the lower order of created things, what changes may not the future ages bring to him! I took occasion to question the theory advocated by this man, to point out what appeared to me to be its inconsistencies, with the result that a request was made that I read certain books which treated the subject of evolution: some of them, it was said, were in very general use in our common schools. I did so, with the result that my conclusions, long since arrived at, were more strongly confirmed than ever before, and my faith in the revealed word of the Lord strengthened, if that were possible.
The doctrine taught in these books takes you into the realm of doubt, teaches that this earth and all things which are upon it are the result of chance, it leaves you bewildered regarding the past, uncertain of the present, and without hope in the future. The truth, as revealed from heaven, teaches the plan of an infinitely wise creator, designed for the accomplishment of a divine purpose.
I know it will be claimed that I am not capable of discussing this question, that I am not a learned man, that I have no college degree, and consequently am incapable of rendering intelligent judgment. I admit that I have not passed my life behind closed doors, reading books written by uninspired men, and accepting their conclusions without reserve. I have not passed it in an effort to produce, by cross breeding, a new species of guinea pig, or by selection and intensive cultivation a new variety of pea; but I have read some books, have been in close contact with nature, unspoiled by the hand of man, have been an observer and student of my surroundings, until I have reached conclusions which satisfy me, and seem to justify my faith, and so I am going to assume to tread upon this ground made sacred to men of so-called learning, and express to this congregation the result of some of my observations.
This modern theory of evolution suggests that at a period in the past, so remote that it is almost beyond conception, by some spontaneous action, the earth came into existence. By degrees life appeared upon it; it gradually changed under some natural process until what in the beginning was a very inferior form of vegetable and animal life evolved into what the world now is, with man representing its highest development.
I take it for granted that if this theory is admitted it must logically follow that this evolution from an inferior condition is still in process of development, and that just as man at present has no association or affinity with the source from which he is said to have sprung, so as the ages pass he will be as unlike what he now is, as he is now unlike what he once was.
In contrast to this theory we have the doctrine, taught by the Church, that the earth, and all that is upon it, were created by God's fiat, or decree. That the earth, the vegetation, and all life were created in successive periods, and lastly man, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. The only created thing which was in the image of God, the only created thing endowed with reason, and in a degree with the intelligence of the Creator. And God gave to man dominion over the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, and every other created thing. Because of transgression a curse came upon the earth, and it was decreed that thorns and thistles should be its spontaneous product, that the natural tendency of all created things should be toward decay and dissolution, and that redemption from these untoward conditions could only come through the application of the intelligence with which man had been endowed, and the effort which he put forth to subdue the earth and redeem it until it should be restored to its paradisiacal glory.
I desire to ask advocates of this theory of evolution without conscious effort, to point me to a single instance where, within the known history of the world, any living thing has, without application of the intelligent effort of man, which is the application of the intelligence of God, changed from what it was to something else, where a thing has come up from an inferior to a superior condition. On the other hand my own observation has taught me that the moment the most highly developed thing is left to itself, left to chance, without the intelligent application of the intelligence of man, it immediately reverts from what it is to an inferior condition, just as the Lord decreed it should. . . .
My brethren and sisters, the thought which I wish to leave with you is this, in your search after knowledge, in your desire to become profound, in your study of philosophy, do not lose sight of this one thought: that God, the Creator of heaven and earth is the author of intelligence and all the light, and knowledge, and wisdom which has come to man or which will ever come to him emanates from that source. Do not allow yourselves, because of the words of men, of cunning device and flattering words—they are here just as they were among the Nephites, to delude you and lead you away from the eternal truth, that we must recognize God our Father, who is the author of all things, the Creator of heaven and earth, to whom all men owe deference, and allegiance, and service, whether they render it or not. Do not deny the atonement wrought out by his only begotten son. Do not become obsessed with the thought that this life is all there is to human existence, because it is a fallacy. I bear witness of it to you in all humility. I have tried to understand, I have studied, I have sought the Lord from my youth until the present time when I am growing old. I find from my own observation, my own study, and the testimony which God has given me, the eternal truth of these things growing stronger and stronger, if that were possible. He has restored the truth to the earth through the agency of the Prophet Joseph Smith; the fulness of the gospel is here; it is the power of God unto salvation and has in it everlasting life to all of those who believe and obey.
May the Lord preserve us from delusions which are abroad in the land, fix faith firmly in our hearts that we may hold fast to the iron rod which is the word of God, and it will bear us safely through, until we find our way back into the presence of our Creator, and then we will understand. Yes, there has been evolution, evolution will continue until we shall become like him, knowing as we are known, seeing as we are seen, and comprehending that in all these wonderful works that are around us, the wisdom of God is manifest and that the laws by which they have been accomplished are simple, and will be simple to us when we come to understand them. The Lord preserve us all in the truth, keep us from the delusive snares of the adversary.