(by Dennis B. Horne)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith took his inspiration from the previous speaker’s remarks (that of President Anthony W. Ivins) and spoke about the origin of man, also condemning the false theory of evolution. Close readers will notice his explanatory wording when it came to how animal life and vegetation were placed on the earth—they were “planted” here. This is the same doctrine that Elder McConkie taught, that vegetation was placed on the earth when the Creators brought seeds from other earths and planted them in the soil of ours. Because this doctrine is beyond the scientists they dismiss it with a wave of their academic hand and cheat themselves and many others out of the mysteries of Godliness. Elder Smith here spent his entire October 1917 General Conference talk on this subject—not the only time he would use the scriptures to refute and correct the scientists. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith’s discourse:
“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
Now, my brethren and sisters, I suppose I also belong to that class of individuals to which Brother Ivins belongs, and perhaps it will be considered, by those who think they know, that I also am incapable of expressing intelligent thought in regard to that same subject, the origin of man. However, I have great confidence in the word of the Lord and I accept, without reservation, these passages of scripture which I have read. I have also concluded that one can learn more and get nearer to the truth by heeding the testimony of the servants of the Lord and hearkening to the teachings of the Spirit of the Lord, than one can possibly do by following the commandments and the teachings of men who have received their understanding and their learning in the spirit and in the wisdom of man. Therefore, I put my trust in the Lord, and what I speak I believe I speak by the Spirit of God, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. I believe that man is the offspring of God, that he was created in the beginning in the image of God and is in very deed his son, so far, at least, as the spirit is concerned. I wish to read in connection with this which I have just read, a few verses from the Pearl of Great Price on this same subject:
“And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom, and it remaineth in me.
“And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.
“And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
“But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.
“And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.
“And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
“And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.”
From this we learn that there has never been a time when worlds were not created and when heavens did not exist. And, furthermore, that the creation of heavens and earths by our eternal Father from the beginning, whatever that may mean, and throughout eternity, has been and is for the one grand purpose which is explained in the next verse following this which I have just read: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
There never was a time when there was not a world; there never was a time when that world was not peopled with beings who were created in the image of God—his children fashioned after his own likeness. Life is not spontaneous upon this earth. It did not have its origin here; it was planted here in its varied forms. 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. We know, for our Father in heaven has revealed these things unto us, that life has always existed. It existed long before it was planted here, and this earth, we understand, is passing through a probation such as other worlds have passe d through, and when it completes its earthly mission and fills the measure of its present creation, for it keeps the law that was given to it, it shall be sanctified and exalted. When that time comes it will be removed out of its present place as other worlds have been removed when they have filled the measure of their creation, and then another world will come and take its place. This procession will go on, worlds without end: so I understand from the reading of these scriptures.
How foolish, how narrow, how contemptible it is for men professing to be men of intelligence and possessing scientific knowledge and wisdom, to declare that all life upon this earth is spontaneous, and to confess that they know nothing of any life upon any other world. Moreover, to declare that the life here has all developed from the same single, simple source. It is true that all life does come from the same source, but that is not the scum of the sea, a jellyfish or a pollywog. God, our Father, is the creator of life and he placed life on this earth in varied forms, and also on other worlds. He will continue his work on this earth and upon other planets, or worlds, which will take the place of this earth when it has been exalted and gone on to its celestial glory. He will continue to bring to pass his purposes by peopling worlds and bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children. Now I think this is a noble thought. I think it is something that will enlighten the minds of men and buoy them up. It will strengthen our faith and give us encouragement to continue on in well doing, because it gives us hope of better things, even immortality and eternal life as the sons and daughters of God. But this false theory, which prevails in the world so extensively, is one that is debasing and not ennobling nor uplifting.
Here is another passage of scripture I wish to read from the D&C, section 76, known as “the vision”—a vision given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon on the 16th day of February. 1832:
“And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness: and saw the holy angels, and they who are sanctified before his throne worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him for ever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of him, that he lives: for we saw him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him and through him, and of him the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”
This they beheld in vision, and it was revealed unto them that all mankind upon the face of this earth and other worlds are the offspring of God in the spirit, but that Jesus Christ is his Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Now, this to me is consistent, it is reasonable, it is logical and it is true. The first life created for this world was not placed upon it at the time it was created. Let me read again; this same thought is found in the account in Genesis in the Bible, but not so clearly expressed as it is here, therefore, I will read from the Pearl of Great Price:
“And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth.
“And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men: and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them: and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air.”
Now, I could continue to read—I shall not take the time—and show you that the creation that was made spiritually was in the same likeness of the creation that was later made temporally, when man, beast and plant were placed upon the earth. All were created before the foundation of this world was prepared—created spiritually—and existed in the kingdom of God. When the earth was formed and ready to receive them they were clothed with bodies that were physical and thus not only man, but the animals and the plants upon the face of the earth, became living souls, because they were composed of the spirit and the body combined. I like to believe this. I know it is true. It appeals to my reason, it appeals to my spirit, I accept it as the truth which God has revealed, and I rejoice in the knowledge that I have received regarding it. There is no theory in the world that can compare with it. These ideas of men, their foolish doctrines regarding the origin of life which are taught in many of the schools and against our protest very largely—and I am sorry to say, in too many cases without our protest, for I believe we ought to protest against these things—constitute the wisdom of uninspired men and must perish. I do not believe that the falsely called scientific theory of man's origin has any more right to a place in the public schools than the principles of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ have—and not half as much!
Now, it may be true, and it is true, that Abraham as he sat in his tent, could not receive the news of the world published in the daily press and have it delivered to him at his door; he could not push a button and turn on the electric light, but is that saying that Abraham was less intelligent than men are who dwell on the earth today? The truth of the matter is that these things were not intended for Abraham's day, and they would not be known and utilized today if the Lord had not revealed them to men and had not inspired men to make the discoveries which have been made, by which we are able to receive the news as it is gathered from the telegraph and from wireless telegraphy and have it printed by machinery which is run by electricity. We can sit in our comfortable homes and turn on the light by pressing a button; we can read the public prints, and we will know what is going on today in all the world; but does that prove that we today are more intelligent, or that we have greater understanding than Abraham, than Moses, than Elijah, or any of the prophets of those early times, pertaining to those things which are most essential to the salvation of mankind? Not by any means! I read in the scriptures, if I understand them correctly, that many of the prophets of old had opened to their vision scenes pertaining to the history of the children of men down to the end of time, and the Lord revealed unto them the conditions that would prevail in the earth in this generation. They saw, if I understand the matter correctly, our automobiles, our railroad trains: they saw, very probably, the communication that was taking place upon the face of the earth so wonderfully by wireless communication, or by means of wires by which news is conveyed. They saw, I believe, the airplanes flying in the midst of the heavens, because we can read in the prophecies of these ancient scriptures many things that indicate that these things were revealed unto those ancient prophets. But these wonderful discoveries and conveniences were not intended for their day. They could not sit in an automobile and travel from city to city, or in a railroad train, and ride comfortably, nor could they ride in a modern carriage drawn by horses, but upon the back of an ass would they journey from place to place, or walking by the side of their beast of burden they would travel a few miles each day and call it a day's journey.
And yet the prophets saw the time in the latter days when an ensign should be lifted up that those gathering to Zion should come with speed swiftly; they should not be weary, neither should they be under the necessity of slumber, nor the loosing of their girdle or the shoes from off their feet. But these advantages were not for their times and the customs and conditions which prevail now were held in reserve, not because we are any better or more worthy than the Saints of former times, nor because we have greater intelligence, but because we are living in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, when the Lord is gathering all things in one and preparing the earth for the great millennial reign, and, it is necessary now that all these discoveries, these wonderful inventions and conveniences should be made known to the children of men.
Those who make these discoveries are inspired of God or they would never make them. The Lord gave inspiration to Edison, to Franklin, to Morse, to Whitney and to all of the inventors and discoverers, and through their inspiration they obtained the necessary knowledge and were able to manufacture and invent as they have done for the benefit of the world. Without the help of the Lord they would have been just as helpless as the people were in other ages. Abraham knew far more in his day regarding the planets and the great fixed stars out in space than the greatest astronomer knows today.
How did he get his knowledge? Not through the telescope; not through the spectroscope; but through the opening of his vision by the Spirit of God. He was taught by the Lord himself who revealed unto him all these things and explained the great heavenly bodies and their workings, also the earth, in a manner that never has been approached and cannot be approached by the scientific man with all his instruments to aid him and inspired by worldly learning, and don't you forget it! These ancient seers and saints were just as intelligent as we are. They were just as full of inspiration. They had the Spirit of the Lord to guide them and were directed by it. They hearkened unto those things which God taught and they understood the truth and knew far more of that which is essential, in a minute, than some of these so-called scientists, who declare that life is spontaneous and commenced upon this earth, know in a year.
Now this is my testimony. They may say I am incompetent. What do I care, as long as I know I have the truth, as long as I know that God has revealed unto me that these things which I have declared are true! What do I care what they teach, so far as my knowledge is concerned? I do care so far as the poisoning of the minds of the youth of Israel is concerned, and I protest against it. I have protested from this stand, and I expect to continue to protest, whether it does any good or not, at least with the desire to stir up the Latter-day Saints; and I want to say to you, my brethren and sisters, that it is your duty to seek for the light and the truth and the wisdom and the inspiration that come through contact with the Spirit of the Lord, that you may understand and know the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and see things spiritually and compare spiritual things with spiritual. By so doing we may understand all things which our Father in heaven has reserved for those who obey him.
May God bless you, and all Israel and help us to walk in the light and seek the knowledge that we may lay a foundation in truth which cannot be overturned by the follies and theories of men,
Bonus teachings from Elder Smith:
This we know, and that will suffice until all things are revealed, the inhabitants of these worlds created by Jesus Christ, are begotten sons and daughters unto God. Life did not originate here; man did not first come into existence here. We are told by our Father in heaven, that man is eternal, that he has always existed, and that all life on this earth came from elsewhere. We may not be able to comprehend all this now, but the time will come in the providence of the Lord, when all these things shall be made known and we shall have knowledge in the fullness. (Conference Report, October 1925, 113.)
Now I said in the beginning that the world is full of philosophy. One prominent and intelligent writer has called these theories, "scientific fiction." I think he is right. We have the theories of evolution, of higher criticism, the ideas that prevail in the schools throughout our land that are dangerous, that are striking at the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ, trying to destroy the faith in the minds of the students who attend the schools. We are troubled with it to some extent even in our own state and the colleges throughout the country are full of it, and the professors teach it, they believe in it, at least they profess to believe in it, and it seems to me that the sole purpose of it is to undermine and destroy the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to say to the Latter-day Saints that it is our duty to put our faith in the revealed word of God, to accept that which has come through inspiration, through revelation unto his servants, the prophets, both ancient and modern, and whenever you find any doctrine, any idea, any expression from any source whatsoever, that is in conflict with that which the Lord has revealed and which is found in the holy scriptures, you may be assured that it is false and you should put it aside and stand firmly grounded in the truth in prayer and in faith, relying upon the Spirit of the Lord, for knowledge, for wisdom, concerning these principles of truth. (Conference Report, April 1917, 65.)