Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Theory of Evolution and the Origin of Man

Editor's note: This is number 36 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the introductory post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

The following material is excerpted from two sources, a Deseret [Morning] News article and a Brigham Young University information packet on the subject of the origin of man. The packet was compiled by BYU administrators to provide students with statements giving the official position of the Church on that subject, as well as guidance in determining such official positions and statements. The contents of the packet were approved by the BYU Board of Trustees, which includes the First Presidency. As quoted from Determining Doctrine:

Deseret News:

            A packet of LDS Church declarations on evolution was compiled at Brigham Young University this month to avoid confusion in the classroom about the church’s official position….

            Only statements made by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be considered official, [William] Evenson said. Evenson, Provost Bruce Hafen and Robert Millet, dean of religious education, compiled the 10-page packet. Hafen asked Evenson to head the project.

            “The goal is not to achieve some kind of balance among the views that have been expressed, but to give students of this subject the full range of official views so they can judge for themselves the different positions they encounter,” Evenson said.

            The packet includes First Presidency declarations from 1909, 1910, 1925, excerpts from a 1932 First Presidency meeting and a brief article from the “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” published this year.

            “The church has said a lot more about the origin of man than evolution,” Evenson said....

            BYU’s Board of Trustees, made up of general church leaders, approved the packet. (Dennis Romberg, “BYU compiles LDS statements on Evolution,” Deseret News, Sunday, November 1, 1992, B22.)

BYU Board of Trustees:

            Evolution and the Origin of Man, October 1992:

            This packet contains, as far as could be found, all statements issued by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the subject of evolution and the origin of man, and a statement on the Church’s attitude toward science. The earliest First Presidency statement, “The Origin of Man,” was issued during the administration of President Joseph F. Smith in 1909. This was followed by a First Presidency Message in 1910 that included brief comments related to the study of these topics. The second statement, “Mormon View of Evolution,” was issued during the administration of President Heber J. Grant in 1925. Although there has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency addressing the general matter of organic evolution as a process for development of biological species, these documents make clear the official position of the Church regarding the origin of man.

            This packet also contains the article on evolution from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992. The current First Presidency authorized inclusion of the excerpt from the First Presidency minutes of 1931 in the 1992 Encyclopedia article.

            Various views have been expressed by other Church leaders on this subject over many decades; however, formal statements by the First Presidency are the definitive source of official Church positions. It is hoped that these materials will provide a firm foundation for individual study in a context of faith in the restored gospel.

            Approved by the Board of Trustees, June 1992 (from page 1 of packet; emphasis in original).

THE ORIGIN OF MAN, by The First Presidency of the Church….

            Inquiries arise from time to time respecting the attitude of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints upon questions which, though not vital from a doctrinal standpoint, are closely connected with the fundamental principles of salvation. The latest inquiry of this kind that has reached us is in relation to the origin of man. It is believed that a statement of the position held by the Church upon this subject will be timely and productive of good.

            In presenting the statement that follows we are not conscious of putting forth anything essentially new; neither is it our desire so to do. Truth is what we wish to present, and truth—eternal truth—is fundamentally old. A restatement of the original attitude of the Church relative to this matter is all that will be attempted here. To tell the truth as God has revealed it, and commend it to the acceptance of those who need to conform their opinions thereto, is the sole purpose of this presentation (from page 2 of packet.) ...

            When the divine Being whose spirit-body the brother of Jared beheld, took upon Him flesh and blood, He appeared as a man, having “body, parts and passions,” like other men, though vastly superior to all others, because He was God, even the Son of God, the Word made flesh; in Him “dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” And why should He not appear as a man? That was the form of His spirit, and it must needs have an appropriate covering, a suitable tabernacle. He came unto the world as He had promised to come (3 Nephi 1:13), taking an infant tabernacle, and developing it gradually to the fulness of His spirit stature. He came as man had been coming for ages, and as man has continued to come ever since. Jesus, however, as shown, was the only begotten of God in the flesh.

            Adam, our progenitor, “the first man,” was, like Christ, a pre-existent spirit, and like Christ he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a “living soul.” The doctrine of the pre-existence,--revealed so plainly, particularly in latter days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality. It teaches that all men existed in the spirit before any man existed in the flesh, and that all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner.

            It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race. It was shown to the brother of Jared that all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; and whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.

            True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ or embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.

            Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself, or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam’s race—God alone can reveal them. Some of these facts, however, are already known, and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain.

            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. God Himself is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme. By His almighty power He organized the earth, and all that it contains, from spirit and element, which exist co-eternally with Himself. He formed every plant that grows, and every animal that breathes, each after its own kind, spiritually and temporally—“that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal, and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual.” He made the tadpole and the ape, the lion and the elephant but He did not make them in His own image, nor endow them with Godlike reason and intelligence. Nevertheless, the whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, each class in its “distinct order or sphere,” and will enjoy “eternal felicity.” That fact has been made plain in this dispensation (D&C 77:3).

            Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.

            Joseph F. Smith,
            John R. Winder,
            Anthon H. Lund,

            First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

(Pages 5-6 of packet; see also Improvement Era 13:75-81 [November, 1909].)


            Deseret Evening News, December 17, 1910, part 1, p. 3.

            In this Christmas message, the First Presidency devoted several sentences to the Church’s position with regard to questions raised by science:

            Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. The Christ taught kindness, patience, and charity.

            Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy, but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense. But everything that tends to right conduct, that harmonizes with sound morality and increases faith in Deity, finds favor with us no matter where it may be found. (From page 7 of packet.)


            In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded,

            Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church….

            Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: “Adam is the primal parent of our race” [First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931]. (From page 9 of packet.) [This concludes quotations from the packet.]

The following is the complete text of the quotation from the First Presidency minutes given immediately above, which actually includes three paragraphs and was edited for the packet.

The First Presidency:

            We call attention to the fact that when one of the general authorities of the Church makes a definite statement in regard to any doctrine, particularly when the statement is made in a dogmatic declaration of finality, whether he express it as his opinion or not, he is regarded as voicing the Church, and his statements are accepted as the approved doctrine of the Church, which they should be.

            Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world. Leave Geology, Biology, Archaeology, and Anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.

            We can see no advantage to be gained by a continuation of the discussion to which reference is here made, but on the contrary are certain that it would lead to confusion, division, and misunderstanding if carried further. Upon one thing should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: “Adam is the primal parent of our race.”

            Heber J. Grant,
            Anthony W. Ivins
            Charles W. Nibley
            First Presidency

(“To the Council of the Twelve, the First Council of Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric,” April 5, 1931; cited in B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, An Elementary Treatise on Theology: The Masterwork of B. H. Roberts, Stan Larson, ed., [San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994], 678. For further information regarding the incident to which this excerpt refers, see chapter 8, “Church Correlation,” section on Sample Correlation Experiences, and the subsection “Comments from the Reading Committee of the Quorum of the Twelve for B. H. Roberts’s book, The Truth, The Way, The Life”.)

No comments:

Post a Comment