(by Dennis B. Horne)
As a result of the BYU Modernism controversy, but mainly the scopes monkey trial of evolution vs Biblical creationism, President Smith gave this October 1925 general conference talk:
Now to this vast audience I could ask that question without hesitation, with the assurance that most of you would say, Why, there were two creations referred to. In the first place God created all these things. He formed the earth that was without form and void. He caused light to appear, he caused the waters to take their place, and the dry land to appear. He created spiritually, everything that dwells upon the earth; and after he had done that, the statement is made that there was not yet man to till the earth. Man in his spiritual condition was not prepared to till the earth, and so God formed his body for him. He prepared his physical being, and then the spirit that had been prepared before was placed in that body and he became a living soul. It seems to me that a splendid opportunity was lost to say to all the world, read the first and second chapters of Genesis carefully, and, to a very may as large degree it will settle any doubt that be in your mind to the possibility of the various forms of life gravitating from one to the other, because we are told, “every tree and every seed bearing fruit after its kind.”
And then the Latter-day Saints have another witness, and I am reminded to read to you, just briefly, the testimony of something that the world has not yet received, but which, to my mind, is the truth as contained upon papyrus, and I will read the heading of this:
“A translation of some ancient records, that have fallen into our hands, from the catacombs of Egypt; the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” The Latter-day Saints accept the statement at face value, as contained in the first and second chapters of Genesis. Yea, we believe the Bible, all the Bible, to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly, and in addition we find in this translation that has been given to us from papyrus, by the Prophet Joseph Smith this statement by Abraham:
“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits.”
Let us keep that in mind: “For he stood among those that were spirits.”Not the physical tabernacles that we now possess.
“And he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
“And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
“And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
“And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate, and, at that day, many followed after him.”
Of course there is a great similarity between this and the Old Testament.
“Then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.
“And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.
“And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.
“And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.
Then I will skip several passages:
“And the Gods called the expanse, Heaven. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and this was the second time that they called night and day.”
Note the phraseology. Whether it was a period of twenty-four hours or whether it was a period of hundreds of years was not explained, but it was a period of time. And this record that is given as the words of Abraham, having been revealed to him by his heavenly Father, specifies it as a time. And so after each creation it is referred to as a first time, a second time, a third time, and so on.
“And the Gods ordered, saying: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the earth come up dry; and it was so as they ordered;
“And the Gods pronounced the dry land, earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, great waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.
“And the Gods said: Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass.”
Mind you, they were to prepare the earth to bring forth grass.
“The herb yielding seed; the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, whose seed in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon the earth; and it was so, even as they ordered.
“And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.
“And it came to pass that they numbered the days; from the evening until the morning they called night; and it came to pass, from the morning until the evening they called day; and it was the third time.”
We will now pass over a few paragraphs, telling of the preparation for bringing forth whales, winged fowl, creeping things, etc., then we read:
“And the Gods prepared the earth to bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind; and it was so, as they had said.
“And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey.
“And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
“So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.
“And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
“And the Gods said: Behold, we will give them every herb bearing seed that shall come upon the face of all the earth, and every tree which shall have fruit upon it; yea, the fruit of the tree yielding seed to them we will give it; it shall be for their meat.”
Again I will pass over a few passages:
“And the Gods came down and formed these the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods formed the earth and the heavens,
“According to all that which they had said concerning every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Gods had not caused it to rain upon the earth when they counseled to do them, and had not formed a man to till the ground.
“But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
“And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man's spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
“And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed.”
That is another testimony to me of the origin of the species. It is to me the simplest explanation of the preparation of this earth for the habitation of animal and vegetable life that has ever been prepared. It has been my privilege to read the theories and to listen to the solutions of this problem by some of the wisest men of the world, but wherein they have differed from this plain statement of facts, as revealed by our Father in heaven to his servants, who were his mouthpieces to the children of men, the arguments of my Father's sons, my brethren if you will, whom I love, every one of them has been feeble indeed, to bear to my mind a comprehension of the origin of man.
Then we come again to the story contained in the Book of Mormon, which adds also to the testimony we have of where we came from. Then we have the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in our day, who has supplemented these things by revelations, that to me are beautiful explanations of the purposes of God toward his children, and his preparation of their peace and happiness throughout the ages of eternity.
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.
These are some of the things that have come into my mind during this conference, and I stand here, my brethren and sisters, again to say to you: grateful am I that there is no doubt in my mind as to our ancestry, and I believe, as I believe that I live, that if we will keep the commandments of God, as they have been handed down to us through his prophets from age to age, if we will avail ourselves of this glorious truth as it has been promulgated among the children of men, our lives upon this earth will be filled with joy and satisfaction and assurance, and in the end there will come to us the joy of eternal life and eternal companionship with those we love throughout the ages of eternity.
This is a part of your mission, ye men of Israel, to evidence by your lives, to teach by word of mouth, this truth, as also the other truths that are essential for men and women to dwell in the celestial kingdom of our heavenly Father. Gathered together as we are today under the roof of this building that has been dedicated to the worship of the Lord our God, how grateful we ought to be that there has been removed from us the doubt that exists in the minds of so many of our Father's splendid sons and daughters, that there has come to us that abiding assurance that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that he is our elder brother, and that if we are faithful, in his own due time he will cleanse and purify this earth on which we dwell, and it will be celestialized, and those who have prepared themselves for the celestial kingdom will have the joy of dwelling hereon, to be directed, to be counseled, to be taught, and advised by the Lord of lords and King of kings, throughout the ages of eternity. What a wonderful promise, my brethren and sisters, has been given to the children of men, and oh, how I pray that there may come into the souls of the thousands and millions of God's children a knowledge of the purpose of their being, that they may prepare, while there is yet time before their final summons, for the time when we will be classified and placed in whatever kingdom we have earned the right to dwell in, when we go to the other side. (Conference Report, October 1925, 28-33.)