(by Dennis B. Horne)
Not all BYU professors have allowed themselves to be deluded by evolution as explanation for the origin of man. In fact, many haven’t, especially among those in the Religious Education Department. Foremost among them were superb gospel teachers and scriptorians like Hugh Nibley, Robert J. Matthews, and Joseph Fielding McConkie (many others could be named). Below are some of Professor Matthews’s teachings and personal beliefs about evolution and the origin of man. They beautifully harmonize with and sustain the teachings of Church leaders, past and present:
I believe that Adam’s physical body was the offspring of God, literally (Moses 6:22); that he was begotten as a baby with a physical body not subject to death, in a world without sin or blood; and that he grew to manhood in that condition and then became mortal through his own actions. I believe that Adam’s physical body was begotten by our immortal celestial Father and an immortal celestial Mother, and thus not into a condition of mortality, a condition which would have precluded Jesus from being the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh (D&C 93:11)—flesh meaning mortality. Jesus’ physical body was also begotten of the same celestial Father but through a mortal woman and hence into mortality. Commenting on Luke 3:38 (“Adam, which was the son of God”), Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “This statement, found also in Moses 6:22, has a deep and profound significance and also means what it says. Father Adam came, as indicated, to this sphere, gaining a immortal body, because death had not yet entered the world. (2 Ne 2:22.) Jesus, on the other hand, was the Only Begotten in the flesh, meaning into a world of mortality where death already reigned.” [Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 1:95.]
Evolution would place Adam’s body as the offspring of animals, each generation having gradually evolved and improved in structure and in intelligence until a creature came into being that was more man-like than animal-like. This seems to me such a time-wasting process. We know that God can beget children: he is the Father of Jesus’ body and has also begotten innumerable spirit children in his own likeness and image. Why would the Father resort to animal evolution to bring his very own family into the new world that he had created, rather than he and the heavenly mother doing it in just one generation by begetting Adam themselves? Surely we would not deny the heavenly parents the privilege of begetting their own children. If our heavenly parents were but spirits only, there might be some cause for expecting they would need an alternate way to produce Adam’s body. But since they are tangible resurrected beings of flesh and bone, there seems to be no necessity to resort to the animals to produce bodies for Adam and Eve....
For the foregoing reasons, all of them taken from the teachings of the scriptures and the Brethren, I see the theory of organic evolution as contrary to the nature of God, insulting to the original status of man, and a subtle attack upon the mission of Jesus Christ. It may not seem so at first glance, but in terms of doctrine the theory of organic evolution is a concept that, if believed, would undercut the entire plan of salvation and our faith in the divinity and accomplishments of the Messiah. There must be a simple, straightforward way to make this situation evident to honest believers who espouse so-called theistic evolution, believers who may not realize they harbor a philosophy that is not only contradictory but also destructive. I do not think it is harmless. The end result is disaster, because the tenets of organic evolution are contrary to the plan of God.
In review then, what are the universal truths that are given to us in the scriptures that would have bearing on this subject? First, there is an eternal, perfect plan. Accepting this concept enables us to see the larger picture and prepares our minds against any false doctrine. This is especially so when one accepts the whole plan, with all of its parts extending from the premortal existence to the final judgment. To pick and choose, to alter and adapt, are not acceptable intellectual options when one is dealing with the plan of redemption. In other words, we should not “monkey” with the plan of salvation. The provisions of the plan are not negotiable. Second, there is order in God’s plan; there are certain fixed principles that were in place before the world was formed. Therefore, the plan does not change. This concept can be another major stabilizing influence in our gospel studies. Third, what sin is and how it got into the world are moral issues. If a person accepts organic evolution as the explanation for the origin of man on this earth, it seems he has to reject the explanation for the origin of sin that is given in every one of the standard works. Because of the moral implications of such a course, it seems to me that most “believers” would not be eager to do this.
We are able to turn to the scriptures for a statement of the principles related to man’s origin, but in some ways, with regard to this particular matter, we who live today are in a situation more critical than that of any other people. The high degree of scientific progress today, the sophisticated methods of gaining knowledge and formulating hypotheses, and the current advances in tests and measurements have all tended toward more complex hypotheses about man’s origin than those with which Lehi, Jacob, Abinadi, Alma, or even Joseph Smith had to deal. Matters are complicated also because the scientific method is regarded so highly in our society.
Therefore, we have to diligently search to understand the revelations well enough to find adequate explanations. The doctrinal framework has been given to us in the scriptures and by the prophets of this dispensation for our guidance and use. It takes considerable effort to comprehend it, but if we ignore it, we are left to our own limited understanding. We cannot be content with a mediocre acquaintance with the plan of God. What we are challenged to do is to find a way, a simple way, to put the doctrinal issues so clearly before our hearers that those with faith in the revelations and in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ will not unwittingly forsake the faith of our fathers—or of Elijah, Enoch, Nephi, and Joseph Smith—in order to try to be in harmony with what the world accepts.
Probably never before have believers in the scriptures had as great a need as they do now to grasp the iron rod of Lehi’s dream to guide them through the subtle mists of darkness lest they wander in strange paths and become lost (see 1 Ne. 8:19-21,24,30). On scientific grounds, I cannot effectively answer the evolutionist, whether he be in or out of the Church; but I can see what the theological and moral issues are, and I can see that the theory of evolution is deeply entrenched in almost every discipline and field of study in which modern man is engaged. It is a very popular philosophy, but it is capable of eroding men’s faith because it undercuts what God has revealed about the doctrine of Christ. The erosive effects of this theory are subtle, and it may not appear harmful to many at first. However, because of evolution’s inherent opposition to the mission of the Messiah, it may possibly be that in connection with this subject, more than with any other, everyone must eventually and individually answer Pilate’s question, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Mt 27:22.) (A Bible! A Bible!, 188-189, 193-194.)
What was the type of life experienced by man and the animals in the Garden of Eden before the Fall? According to the scriptures, and the interpretations made by many of the Brethren, the conditions were as follows:
There was no death for man or the animals in the garden. Father Lehi states that there was no death among all the creations God had made on this earth until Adam ate the forbidden fruit: "And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end." (2 Ne. 2:22.)
Similarly we read in the book of Moses: "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. For it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it, yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man; and man saw that it was good for food." (Moses 3:9; italics added.)
We note that the above statements do not pertain to man alone, but to the whole creation. Lehi speaks of "all things which were created," and the passage from the book of Moses refers to "all things which I [the Lord] prepared for the use of man." Thus the message of these two passages is dear: when God created the earth, man, and all things in the earth, there was no death, and all of these things would have remained forever and had no end if death had not entered by the transgression of Adam. This brings to mind the declaration in the Doctrine and Covenants that to God all things are spiritual, and that he has given no temporal or mortal commandment (D&C 29:34-35). That is, God is everlasting and endless; he is a spiritual being, and that which he does is spiritual, not mortal and not temporal. According to the scriptures it was Adam, not God, that brought death. Death was not part of the Lord's original creation of this earth or of anything in the earth.
There would have been no children born in the garden. Lehi is forthright in his explanation that without the Fall Adam and Eve would not have had children (2 Ne. 2:23). And Lehi is not the only one who mentions that Adam and Eve would have had no children if there had been no fall. Eve herself realized the situation and spoke forth with gladness, "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed" (Moses 5:11). This marvelous declaration is not found in our present Bible and was made known through the translation of the Bible by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It no doubt was upon the plates of brass, which seems to be the source for Lehi's understanding. In addition, we have the confirming words of the prophet Enoch: "Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death" (Moses 6:48).
There was no blood in the bodies of Adam and Eve in the garden. That there was no blood in the bodies of Adam and Eve before the Fall, and that blood came as a result of the Fall, is not categorically stated in any one passage of scripture, but leading doctrinal teachers such as President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie have declared that such was the case. This conclusion is scripturally based and takes into account that blood is the mortal life of the body (see Gen. 9:2-6; Lev. 17:10-15).
A further point supporting the conclusion that Adam and Eve had no blood in their premortal, non-death bodies is that we are assured by the Prophet Joseph Smith that resurrected beings do not have blood but possess bodies of flesh and bones "having spirit in their bodies, and not blood." The Prophet also said, "When our flesh is quickened by the Spirit, there will be no blood in this tabernacle." In speaking of the place where God dwells, the Prophet said, "Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones, quickened by the Spirit of God, can." (See also 1 Cor. 15:50.)
This much we know about blood: (a) it is a vital part of our mortal lives and is basic to the reproductive process of mortals; (b) it was the agent of redemption in the atonement of Jesus Christ, he shedding his blood to redeem all people from the effects of the Fall and, upon the condition of repentance, from their personal sins; and (c) blood will not exist in the bodies of resurrected beings. With these known facts it becomes evident that blood is the badge of mortality, and since it will not exist in the deathless bodies of Adam, Eve, and their posterity in the resurrection, it is therefore reasonable to conclude that blood did not exist in the deathless, premortal bodies of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall.
There was no sin in the Garden of Eden until the transgression of Adam and Eve. This fact seems to be without controversy. The whole concept of the Fall is based upon it. Lehi declared that without the Fall Adam and Eve "would have remained in a state of innocence, “doing no good, for they knew no sin" (2 Ne. 2:23).
Adam and Eve were in the presence of God in the Garden of Eden. Although the Father was not constantly in the garden with Adam and Eve, he visited them from time to time, and they could see him and talk with him. However, after the Fall occurred and they were cast out of the garden, they were able to hear God's voice, but "they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence" (Moses 5:4).
The five conditions outlined above, which were characteristic of Eden, no longer exist on the earth. They have been taken away and replaced by physical death, reproduction, blood, sin, and separation from God. This is the mortal, temporal, fallen world into which we were born. Since the Fall, mankind has, by the birth process, come directly from the premortal spirit world into a world of mortality. However, Adam, Eve, and the animals-those beings placed first upon the earth-went from the premortal condition, into the Garden, and then into mortality. (The Man Adam, 44-46)