(by Dennis B. Horne)
Joseph Fielding Smith’s famous book, Man: His Origin and Destiny, was
published in 1954, by Deseret Book, and is now fairly rare. It is also hated by
BYU (and all) evolutionists and is therefore one of the most demeaned and
slandered books ever written by an apostle (up there with Mormon Doctrine).
It was not written by assignment from the First Presidency (as such older books
as Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith were), but is instead a
privately written and published doctrinal book.
But that “unofficial”
designation also covers almost every book ever written by any general authority
in the Restored Church, from the Prophet Joseph Smith to President Russell M.
Nelson. President Nelson’s superb gospel-explanation books are also unofficial
private publications, the same as most of President Smith’s. People who think that
status makes such volumes false or less-valuable or trite are fools.
Only a few books (like those mentioned above by Elder Talmage and 2 or 3 others) have been published by the Church. Such is really not of great import. The real issue is whether the doctrine in a particular book is true or not. On a side note we should notice, however, that two of President Smith’s book have been officially published by the Church. A two-volume hardback set (or four volume paperback) titled, Church History and Modern Revelation, subtitled: “Being a Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums 1949,” and also a special abridged one-volume edition of Doctrines of Salvation. Both of these were approved and published by the Church itself and contain instruction condemning evolution and teaching the true doctrine of the origin of man. Other blogs will explore these books more fully.
Smith’s book Man: His Origin and Destiny is largely divided into two
groupings (not exactly, but in the main): the teachings of science (as he
understood them), and the teachings of the scriptures as he understood them.
There are two beginning chapters that mix both; then twenty-one chapters that
expound the scriptures; and five chapters that delve into the science of
with Elder Smith’s book usually fixate on the evolution science chapters
because that is the book’s weakness, and they simply can’t cope with President
Smith’s knowledge of the revelations, ancient or modern, making up the other
chapters. I have read many a critique of the supposedly “bad” science in the
book (like Sterling McMurrin’s and Dr. Henry Eyring’s), but none of those
critics have dared get near Brother Smith’s doctrinal mastery—except those
critics that disbelieve in the Church and its scriptures. So they must stay
away from the scriptural doctrine. I bring this up for a major reason.
three years (2024) this book will be 70 years old. This means that from the
time he wrote it, whether he used good science or bad, old-earth or new-earth scientific
arguments, much of it will now be obsolete and revised. He himself stated: “Let
me call your attention to the fact that all down through the ages the teachings
of science have had to be changed.” Brother Smith knew that the science he shared
in his own book would one day, no matter how up-to-date in 1954, gradually be revised
and become obsolete to some extent. No one today, or in 70 more years, should
use President Smith’s book as a science text because the science of this year
or decade isn’t the science of the 1950s and won’t be the science of future
decades. Some matters might be less changed, others more. But President Smith
knew and taught this over-riding principle and we must therefore apply it to
his books where he dabbled in science. We must also apply that principle to
Elder Widstoe’s and Talmage’s and Roberts’ books, wherein they engaged the science
of their day. They are now also old and changed. So will BYU’s current biology
textbooks be in coming decades. But the gospel of Jesus Christ will remain
unchanged eternal truth, and this doctrine encompasses the creation and the fall.
Where those doctrines conflict with evolution, the eternal truth prevails over
the changing theories and tentative notions of science. Of course, each
succeeding scientist thinks their pronouncements to be the latest and greatest,
but vanity and pride are no substitute for revelation.
again: though the critics harp on the science in President Smith’s book, that
is not the issue. The real issue is whether President Smith was doctrinally
correct in his explanations of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the scriptures as
they touch on matters that evolution (as taught today or in 70 years) touches
on. And that is the great question of whether Adam was the product of evolution
or was a son of God.
years before President Smith wrote Man: His Origin and Destiny,
President Heber J. Grant wrote him a letter that said: “I don't want to flatter
you, Joseph, but I want you to know that I consider you the best posted man on
the scriptures of the General Authorities of the Church that we have.” Others
have said like things about him. Excluding dissidents, the faithful are largely
in agreement that President Joseph Fielding Smith was about the most
knowledgeable and best teacher and expounder of the scriptures that existed on
planet earth during the 1900s. All one has to do is peruse the manuals assigned
for use in Church classes for the second half of last century, and one quickly
sees how ubiquitous and valuable Brother Smith’s books and teachings were. He
was one of the greatest doctrinal teachers of the Restoration, period.
This is why
it really doesn’t matter that the First Presidency didn’t assign President
Smith to write his book Man: His Origin and Destiny (although he was
prompted to by his fellow apostles) or that it wasn’t approved by the Church,
or used as a text by the Institute program, and was a private publication.
President Smith didn’t write a book of false doctrine and anyone who says he
did is a liar and a deceiver. People who didn’t want to believe what it said
and didn’t agree with its message would and will cling to the fact that it is a
private individual’s book, as if that means anything. But it is still filled
with scriptural truth, also known as eternal truth. So—the real question is
whether or not President Smith taught true or false doctrine in his book. Some (various
scientists, evolutionists, biologists and those under their influence) believe
it false, everyone else views it as a marvelous treatment of gospel doctrine,
prepared by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a mighty
scriptorian. No one is forced to read the book or believe its teachings, but
many have been blessed and enlightened by doing so—and have seen the fallacy of
evolution explaining the origin of man.
have those evolutionists who would try to manipulate the facts and seek to
throw this book in the most negative light possible. Many of them have come
from the ranks of BYU biologists, both in the past and today. President Ezra
Taft Benson spoke of one of them and his attempt to sully President Smith’s
recently, one of our Church educators published what he purports to be a
history of the Church’s stand on the question of organic evolution. His thesis
challenges the integrity of a prophet of God. He suggests that Joseph Fielding
Smith published his work, Man: His Origin and Destiny, against
the counsel of the First Presidency and his own Brethren. This writer’s
interpretation is not only inaccurate, but it also runs counter to the
testimony of Elder Mark E. Petersen, who wrote this foreword to Elder Smith’s
book, a book I would encourage all to read. Elder Petersen said:
of us [members of the Council of the Twelve] urged [Elder
Joseph Fielding Smith] to write a book on the creation of the world and
the origin of man. . . . The present volume is the result. It is a most
remarkable presentation of material from both sources [science and
religion] under discussion. It will fill a great need in the Church and
will be particularly invaluable to students who have become confused by the
misapplication of information derived from scientific experimentation.
one understands that the author to whom I alluded is an exponent of the theory
of organic evolution, his motive in disparaging President Joseph Fielding Smith
becomes apparent. To hold to a private opinion on such matters is one thing,
but when one undertakes to publish his views to discredit the work of a
prophet, it is a very serious matter.
is also apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding
Smith’s [doctrinal] writings will stand the test of time.
decide on their own about the current accuracy of the science in the
book, but the core issue in play is really whether President Smith taught the
gospel correctly and accurately in his book, concerning the creation and the
fall. President Benson, along with members of the Quorum of the Twelve, thought
he explained the gospel relating to the origin of man superbly. And they deeply
resented those who slander the integrity of Church leaders who write these
superb gospel explanation books, unofficial though they are. Elder Bruce R.
McConkie has been likewise vilified over what he wrote about evolution in Mormon
Doctrine. (Keep in mind that when one rejects the doctrine in Man: His
Origin and Destiny about the creation and the fall, they also reject the
same doctrine in all of President Smith’s other books, as well as his teachings
on those doctrines in his general conference addresses, BYU Speeches,
and CES addresses, or anywhere else he taught it. They are basically rejecting
a significant portion of his over-all teachings to the Church, whether in the
name of “unofficial” or not.
issue brings up another: once you start challenging the integrity of the
apostles and prophets who have written and spoken strongly against the theory
of evolution, where do you stop?—the list is so very long! They have to demean
and reject the united teachings not only of Joseph Fielding Smith and his
father Joseph F. Smith, but also those of many other apostles, including Brothers
Talmage, Lee, McConkie, Romney, Petersen, Packer, Whitney, Nelson, Benson,
Cowley, Ivins, Richards, G.A. Smith, Clawson (all apostles/prophets), and the
list goes on.
themselves against all of these prophets, seers, and revelators, such a good
idea for the editors of BYUSQ, the BYU biology department, and BYU’s
reviewed one issue related to President Smith’s wonderful work, further history
is in order. President Harold B. Lee wrote the below explanation regarding
President Smith’s book to a confused church member:
I have a
few moments to respond to your letter of recent date in which you express some
concern about some contradictory information as to the position we should take
with regard to the doctrine of evolution. This, as you know, has been long a
bone of contention so serious that in the earlier years when Darwin’s theory
first was enunciated, a number of professors at the Brigham Young University
were released because of their unwillingness to teach the theory and then
counter by delivering the true doctrines of the gospel.
the thing that confused you was that these who have contended have shown you a
copy of a letter which was signed by President David O. McKay in which he
disavowed the church having taken any official position on the subject of organic
evolution. And, furthermore, that in that note to Professor William Lee Stokes,
he declared that the book, Man, His Origin and Destiny was not published
by the church and is not approved by the church.
There is a
little bit of history that I should tell you about. One summer some years ago,
I was assigned to deliver a day by day set of lessons to all the seminary
teachers and some of
the institute teachers of the church, which proved to be a
very demanding assignment. I went down each morning and met with all of these
teachers. President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book had just come off the press
and I assigned, as a part of the course, the reading of this book and writing a
dissertation not less than 2500 words on the subject “What Your Appraisal Is of
the Value of This Book to a High School Senior or a College Student.” This
caused quite a consternation among the teachers, some of whom wanted to write a
very critical analysis of the book and were fearful of doing so lest I would
downgrade them in the course. This was not
at all my intent, it was merely to have them respond
critically if they wished, and I so told President Smith that I was inviting
criticism and he said that was all right.
these brethren who were critical of the book came directly to President McKay
and represented to him that I had used President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book
as a text for my lectures at the BYU. He called President Ernest Wilkinson in
to express his criticism that I had done so, and President Wilkinson told him
that that was not true, that he, President Wilkinson, had sat in on most of the
lectures that I had given and I did not use the book as a text, it was merely
an assigned reading outside of the lessons.
undoubtedly the undue pressure of some of these dissidents, one of which was
his own son, who was a professor at the University of Utah, that induced him to
write this brief and to them a satisfying but to you a disturbing note, which
poured water over their wheel and tended to lessen the influence of President
Joseph Fielding Smith’s book.
letter came to our attention, President Marion G. Romney told me of a
conference address which he had delivered at the April conference in 1953,
where he spoke directly to this subject of the fall of Adam, or the fall of
man, as it is spoken of, and then brought forth scriptures to support the
position of the church with respect to the advent of man upon the earth, etc.
conclusion of his talk, President Romney said that President David O. McKay had
congratulated him and had written a brief note, a copy of which I am attaching
hereto, in which he congratulated President Romney and then said, “I
congratulate you for your excellent contribution during the conference and
express gratitude for your remarks as well as your
fine spirit, and I assure you that I agreed heartily in
every instance.” President Romney thought if you had this statement from
President David O. McKay, signed by himself, to counter this other statement
which has been so confusing, that that should be sufficient for you to
understand that President McKay had made this other statement probably because
of a compromising position he had been in due to the circumstances as I have
I might add
one further thought. Just after this book of President Joseph Fielding Smith’s
was printed, I had a young student of science from the University of Utah who
came from a
family who lived in my stake, come in with several books and
wanted to argue against statements made in President Joseph Fielding Smith’s
book. I said to him, “Now Brother ___.” (his name was Dr. ___.) “I haven’t had
the opportunity of delving deeply into science, but I want to tell you an
experience that Mark E. Petersen and I had when we organized the new Kansas
City Stake. In our interview we had a man who was considered
as a bishop of one of the wards who was a teacher of anatomy in the Kansas City
University, which was a dental school. Of course this made it necessary for us
to examine very carefully his faith as contrasted with his teaching of the
evolutionary theory which of course would be taught in connection with the
subject of anatomy. After we had discussed this, I asked him if he had read
Brother Smith’s book. He smiled and said, ‘’Yes, I have, and it was the most
difficult book I have ever read.’ ‘’But,’ he said, ‘’I want to tell you that in
my opinion this is the finest book that the church has ever produced for men
who were teachers in the field of science. And I endorse what President Smith
has said entirely.’ “
I said to
this young Dr. ____, ‘”I wish you would write to this professor of science, who
is much older and more experienced than you, in Kansas City, and have him
respond to your questions.”
A few weeks
later this young man came back in a humble spirit and said, ‘”Well I need
nothing more to quiet my concerns, when a man of his experience can say what he
said, that’s enough for me.” “Now if I were you, Brother ____, I would not be
discouraged. This is a contention which has gone on and will continue to the
end of time I suppose, and until the scientists get nearer and nearer to the
doctrines of the Church, there will still be contention, but remember this,
that truth can never be composed with the errors of men. Just know that the
gospel is true and that these are the theories of men which you as a student
must learn if you want to pass the courses you are taking.
kindest personal regards and trusting this letter will be
sufficient to set the matter right in your mind I am,
sincerely yours, Harold B. Lee.
Here is Elder Mark E. Petersen’s entire Foreword to
President Smith’s book:
attitudes expressed concerning science and religion have confused many people.
Especially has this been true in the class room where hypotheses have been set
forth erroneously as facts and where deductions made from those theories have
been regarded as established truth.
Many of the followers of Darwin, for instance, carried his
views to the extreme of materialistic atheism, declaring not only that creation
occurred without the aid of any Intelligent Creator, but that as a matter of
fact, no such Being even exists.
science and religion have suffered as a result. The greatest damage, however,
has been among students who have lost their faith in God through accepting
these man-made theories as facts.
changes things. Whereas for years atheistic deductions were made from
scientific research, now true scientists, armed with what they term "the
new knowledge," are revising their "hasty first conclusions" as
Sir James Jeans expressed it, and have discovered "evidence of a designing
or controlling power that has something in common with our individual
day attitude of top scientists was expressed recently by Dr. Joseph W. Barker,
president and chairman of the Research Corporation of America, and formerly
dean of the engineering school at Columbia University, in an address at Ripon
University. He explained there that scientists of the nineteenth century were
misled by certain of their observations, and as a result came to conclusions
which were definitely atheistic.
now," said Dr. Barker, "even the most pragmatic materialist, in the
face of present day scientific knowledge, is led to the inevitable conclusion
that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his
Barker's concluding remarks to the students were: "As the children of
Israel foreswore the worship of the golden calf and returned to the faith of
Jehovah, so have we foresworn the crass mechanistic materialism and returned to
that faith in God of which the Psalmist of old sang. The Earth is the Lord's
and all that therein is."
great need to provide Latter-day Saint students of science with material which
would help them to preserve their faith and coordinate in their minds the pure
truth of both science and revelation, some of us have hoped for a book which
could make the facts readily available to them.
recognized in President Joseph Fielding Smith of the Council of the Twelve the
profound student of scripture which he is, but not so many were acquainted with
the fact that he also is a deep student of science, widely read in various
phases of the subject.
his possession of this superb knowledge of both science and religion, some of
us urged him to write a book on the creation of the world and the origin of
man, setting forth both the up-to-date views of science, and the facts provided
volume is the result. It is a most remarkable presentation of material from
both sources under discussion. It will fill a great need in the Church, and
will be particularly invaluable to students who have become confused by the
misapplication of information derived from scientific experimentation.
It will be
an outstanding addition to a list of this author's books which already have
stabilized the faith of countless thousands the world around. -Mark E. Petersen
President Smith’s funeral, President
N. Eldon Tanner: “As a young man I remember his series
of ‘Questions and Answers’ appearing in the Era, and reading
some of his twenty-four books, notable among which are Essentials in
Church History, Man—His Origin and Destiny,
The Progress of Man, Answers to Gospel Questions, Teachings of the Prophet
Joseph Smith, and The
Way to Perfection, from which I taught many priesthood lessons. He has
always been a great influence in my life.” Either President Tanner is right,
and President Smith’s book is valuable enough to be read and taught from, or
the BYUSQ people are right and he was a fool, too inept to understand President
Smith was wrong and the scientists were right.
search of the Church’s website shows that Man: His Origin and Destiny
has been quoted scores of times in many church manuals and talks given by the
lesson in a manual about Church presidents listed it as one of many books
written by President Smith. It commented on his strength of gospel scholarship
and noted that he learned much of what he knew from his father, President
Joseph F. Smith. He and his father believed alike on the doctrines of the
creation and the fall. The fact is that his doctrine is the church’s doctrine.
His teachings on the subject have been approved by church authorities and correlation
many many times.
Smith gave a number of addresses in his lifetime that repeat and echo and
reaffirm the doctrines in his book, including in general conference. One of them was on April 22, 1953 as a BYU Devotional
Address (Speech) titled, “The
Origin of Man.” In this, he reviewed the scriptures and statements of
church presidents and the First Presidency at some length, teaching the
doctrine of the origin of Adam. All of this refuted evolution as the source of
Adam and Eve or anyone. Listen
to or read President Smith’s doctrine in his October 1967 general
conference talk, “Adam’s
Role in Bringing us Mortality.”
two months later, Elder Harold B. Lee invited President Smith to lecture before
the Seminary and Institute teachers meeting for their summer instruction from
the Brethren that year (see Pres. Lee’s explanation above). His address was
also entitled, “Man: His Origin and Destiny” (June 25, 1954) and was given at
BYU. His book Man: His Origin and Destiny was an assigned supplementary
reading for the class taught by Elder Lee.
President Smith’s lecture to the CES men, he taught:
Moses we read: “And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree,
naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it. And
it became also a living soul” (Moses 3:9). Now, He is speaking about the
spiritual creation. The trees and vegetation were created spiritually and then
placed on the earth to become living souls, just as man was.
the 19th verse of the same chapter we read: “And out of the ground I, the Lord
God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded
that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were
also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and
commanded that whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the
here we find that the animals and the plants and vegetation became living souls
and were created spiritually before they were naturally upon the earth. These
are very significant expressions, and I am stressing them as evidence that
contradicts and confutes the theory of organic evolution.
what do the proponents of this theory teach? They teach that man has evolved
and come to what he is by accident. Some of them have said man is an accident.
All life is “an accident” upon the earth, Sir James Jeans said, a “by-product.”
We are just a by-product, something that happened and likely could not happen
anywhere else in the universe, just a by-product—people who are sons and
daughters of God! . . .
there is the word of the Lord. Do we believe the revelations in the Doctrine
and Covenants, in the Pearl of Great Price, in the Book of Mormon, in the
Bible, or are we to discard all that because some men are “educated beyond
their intelligence”? That is what J. Golden Kimball said of them, and that is
what they are—educated beyond their intelligence. . . .
teaches production and development of all things by chance, development from
the smallest germ to a man created in the image of God, requiring several
million years for that development. Moreover, this process would, if true,
produce on other earths passing through similar conditions beings of the most
hideous and dreadful nature imaginable, and by chance only would any develop in
the form of God. There could be no intelligence in a Supreme Being who had,
each time an earth is formed, to leave everything to chance, hoping that in
some great period of time, from an amoeba, creatures would be developed fit to
possess an eternal spirit in His image. I want you to get that. The idea for
us, sons and daughters of God, is to be led astray by these theories of men
into thinking that things began way back in that far-distant time by some germ
suddenly appearing. Conditions today are far more favorable to spontaneous life
than they were, according to the teachings of science, millions of years ago.
Have not men struggled and done everything they knew how to do to find
spontaneous life? And in searching for it they have always been defeated. They
have never found life coming only from antecedent life. God is the author of
life, and that is one secret He has not revealed to man. It is absolutely
ridiculous to think that in this universe, created by God, every time a new
earth comes to take the place of one that has gone on, it has to start with the
hope that some germ will appear spontaneously. . . .
the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to the church educators of
his day (1954). After President Smith finished his lecture and departed, other
days of instruction ensued, and class members were invited to submit questions
to Elder Lee anonymously for him to answer before the class. One question and
answer included the following:
Question: Is there any evidence that scientists are
becoming less aggressive in teaching their theories of organic evolution and
opposition to the creation of man as we have it in the Bible?
Answer: I think the only thing we
could comment there is that the scientists are less sure of their earlier
“evidences,” so called. I think you all read in Life magazine and elsewhere some while ago the exposé of the
Piltdown Man, which for a long time has been held up as one of the evidences of
prehistoric man. That and some other findings, I think, have caused scientists
to change some of their earlier views. I noticed that some of you were prone to
criticize Brother Smith’s book [Man: His Origin and Destiny], [and also]
Price, and Howarth as being somewhat antiquated, but you didn’t criticize Dr.
Fleischman, and you didn’t criticize Dr. Fleming. They are pretty recent and
pretty bold in declaring their opposition to some of these evolutionary
theories. Now, just have that in mind. Weigh carefully all of these and hold
fast to that which is good.
(As we have
seen, Elder Lee despised evolution as much as President Smith did, but used
somewhat less stringent and harsh language to convey that dislike. What Elder
Lee said about the views of scientists in his day has changed and is different