“There is no need to attempt to harmonize conflicting views when some of the
views are out of harmony with the Standard Works. This is what life is all about.
The Lord is finding out what we will believe in spite of the allurements of the
world or the philosophies of men or the seemingly rational and logical
explanations that astute people make.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie
“Informed members of the Church know that when they come across statements or
doctrinal explanations which are contrary to what is in the revealed word, they are duty
bound to reject such.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie
“I see others, [BYU Students] sharp, cynical, skeptical, in the know-it-all arrogance of blossoming young manhood and womanhood. They have inquisitive minds. They are easily taught—and easily led astray. Teach these with extra care.” Elder Boyd K. Packer
I may be behind the news, but I recently learned, to my dismay, that some professors in the Brigham Young University Biology Department are actively promoting another attempt to harmonize evolution with the gospel. Such a misguided and possibly even spiritually dangerous effort must not go unchallenged and uncorrected.
I recognize and fully appreciate that BYU biologists must study and teach evolution for the school to be acceptable to the world as an accredited institution of higher learning. I also enthusiastically appreciate the almost inestimable value of the great majority of science for the betterment of the world.
What is not appreciated, and what is unacceptable, is when the theories of the historical life sciences are forced to mix with the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in ancient and modern revelation—specifically, the theory (or theories) of organic evolution. Round pegs just don’t fit in square holes without causing damage; in this case spiritual harm. Where this latest BYU movement loses its way, as with its predecessors, is in supposing it can harmonize evolution of any brand with revealed gospel doctrine.
These BYU biologists strategy seems to be to choose certain authoritative documents—official declarations of the First Presidency on the origin of man—and search for interpretive loopholes within them. If room for their desired interpretations allowing for theistic (God directed) evolution isn’t there, they force them (as shown below). This reinterpreting, or twisting and wresting of plain doctrine, is done in the (allegedly heroic) name of helping and enlightening misled students who cannot reconcile evolution with scripture, and therefore might leave the Church. It is also being billed as “ecumenical,” meaning they are dragging other (non-Latter-day Saint) Christian religious schools into their vain proposals.
This scenario brings up an important but brief preliminary point. In too many circles today, if someone (like a student) gets upset and wants to leave the Church over something, far too often the reaction is to lower the standard or weaken and compromise the doctrine to placate the distressed person, hoping thereby that they won’t leave (apostatize). To me, such a course leaves behind weakened people in a weakened church that is all about softening commandments and watering-down doctrine. This is not the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I know and love, nor is it the one that the prophets and apostles lead. We must stand firm in the true doctrines and declare them with faith and testimony. This builds strength to resist and overcome the world. Declared President Ezra Taft Benson: “If we really did our homework and approached the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we could expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men, including humanism, organic evolution, immorality, lesbianism, homosexuality, and others.”
The current desire of certain BYU faculty to seek to harmonize evolution with the gospel is not new or original. One of the earlier efforts happened on campus from 1909-11, when several newer highly educated professors taught evolution vigorously, trying to use the theoretical educational philosophies of their day to harmonize evolution with their conception of the doctrines of the gospel. They obstinately refused to listen to counsel from the BYU administration, the General Superintendent of Church Schools, and the Church Board of Education, and became increasingly determined, almost obsessed, with propounding their views to the students. Alarm bells went off as parents and local priesthood leaders complained. In the midst of the growing controversy (mostly about evolution and higher biblical criticism), President Joseph F. Smith wrote his son and said “For my sake, my son, as well as your own, eschew the [BYU professors’] evolution and all such things.” Elder Boyd K. Packer takes up the story:
I remember as well Sunday, January 8, 1956. To understand why that is memorable to me, we must go back to 1910.
George Brimhall, having already served 19 years as president of BYU, determined to establish a recognized teacher’s college. He had hired three professors: one with a master’s degree from Harvard, one with a doctorate from Cornell, and the other with a doctorate from Chicago. They hoped to transform the college into a full-fledged university. They determined that practicality and religion, which had characterized the school, must now give way to more intellectual and scientific philosophies.
The professors held that “the fundamentals of religion could and must be investigated by extending the [empirical] method into the spiritual realm,” and they “considered evolution to be a basic, spiritual principle through which the divinity in nature expressed itself.” The faculty sided with the new professors and the students rallied to them.
Horace Cummings, superintendent of Church schools, became concerned because they were “applying the evolutionary theory and other philosophical hypotheses to principles of the gospel and to the teachings of the Church in such a way as to disturb, if not destroy the faith of the pupils,” and he wrote, “Many stake presidents, some of our leading principals and teachers, and leading men who are friends of our schools have expressed deep anxiety to me about this matter.”
Superintendent Cummings reported to the board that:
1. The teachers were following the “higher criticism”. . . , treating the Bible as “a collection of myths, folk-lore, dramas, literary productions, history and some inspiration.”
2. They rejected the flood, the confusion of tongues, the miracle of the Red Sea, and the temptation of Christ as real phenomena.
3. They said John the Revelator was not translated but died in the year A.D. 96.
4. “The theory of evolution is treated as a demonstrated law and their applications of it to gospel truths give rise to many curious and conflicting explanations of scripture.”
5. The teachers carried philosophical ideas too far: (1) “They believed sinners should be pitied and enlightened rather than blamed or punished,” (2) and they believed that “we should never agree. God never made two things alike. Only by taking different views of a thing can its real truth be seen.”
6. . . . .
7. The professors taught that “all truths change as we change. Nothing is fixed or reliable.”
8. They also taught that “Visions and revelations are mental suggestions. The objective reality of the presence of the Father and the Son, in Joseph Smith’s first vision, is questioned.”
Superintendent Cummings concluded his report by saying that the professors “seem to feel that they have a mission to protect the young from the errors of their parents.”
President Brimhall himself defended the professors—that is, until some students “frankly told him they had quit praying because they learned in school there was no real God to hear them.”
Shortly thereafter President Brimhall had a dream.
He saw several of the BYU professors standing around a peculiar machine on the campus. When one of them touched a spring a baited fish hook attached to a long thin wire rose rapidly into the air. . . .
Casting his eyes around the sky he [President Brimhall] discovered a flock of snow-white birds circling among the clouds and disporting themselves in the sky, seemingly very happy. Presently one of them, seeing the bait on the hook, darted toward it and grabbed it. Instantly one of the professors on the ground touched a spring in the machine, and the bird was rapidly hauled down to the earth.
On reaching the ground the bird proved to be a BYU student, clad in an ancient Greek costume, and was directed to join a group of other students who had been brought down in a similar manner. Brother Brimhall walked over to them, and noticing that all of them looked very sad, discouraged and downcast, he asked them:
“Why, students, what on earth makes you so sad and downhearted?”
“Alas, we can never fly again!” they replied with a sigh and a sad shake of the head.
Their Greek philosophy had tied them to the earth. They could believe only what they could demonstrate in the laboratory. Their prayers could go no higher than the ceiling. They could see no heaven—no hereafter.
Now deeply embarrassed by the controversy and caught between opposing factions, President Brimhall at first attempted to be conciliatory. He said, “I have been hoping for a year or two past that harmony could be secured by waiting, but the delays have been fraught with increased danger.” When an exercise in administrative diplomacy suddenly became an issue of faith, President Brimhall acted. [With the full support and recommendation of the Church Board of Education, the three stubborn professors were fired or resigned.]
And now to Sunday, January 8, 1956. President David O. McKay came to Brigham City to dedicate a chapel built for students of the Intermountain Indian School. I stood next to him to introduce those who came forward to shake his hand.
A very old man, a stranger to me, came forward on the arm of his daughter. He had come some distance to speak to President McKay. It was impossible for me not to hear their conversation. He gave President McKay his name and said that many years ago he had taught at BYU. President McKay said, “Yes, I know who you are.” Tears came as the old man spoke sorrowfully about the burden he had carried for years. President McKay was very tender in consoling him. “I know your heart,” he said. That old man was one of the three professors who had been hired [and fired] by President Brimhall in 1910.
The dismissal of the professors caused some observers to predict BYU’s demise. However, although the school suffered through a difficult period, the administration remained firm, knowing the true place of the school in relationship to the Church. Horace Cummings, the superintendent, wrote: “The school cannot go off and leave the Church in any line of activity without perishing in the desert. My mind has been thoroughly made up for sometime. . . . There are some people who predict the death of the college if these men go. I am ready to say that if the life of the college depends upon any number of men out of harmony with the brethren who preside over the Church, then it is time for the college to die. I would rather the Maeser Memorial remain a sealed tomb containing our college hopes and ambitions until the day of a new educational resurrection than to have its doors thrown open to influences antagonistic to the heroism, inspiration and revelation of those who have made the school and who have the right to say, ‘thus far shalt thou go and no farther.’ The school follows the Church, or it ought to stop.” As with that day, so with this; if the school departs from the oversight of the Church and the prophet, it ought to stop.
One sentence in Cummings’ report in particular (as quoted by Elder Packer), line 4, is especially apropos to our focus: “The theory of evolution is treated as a demonstrated law and their applications of it to gospel truths give rise to many curious and conflicting explanations of scripture.” This could have been written today, given the quotations from the BYU biologists given below.
President Joseph F. Smith wrote an editorial in a Church magazine in reaction to the campus controversy in which, among other things, he said: “Some of our teachers are anxious to explain how much of the theory of evolution, in their judgment, is true, and what is false, but that only leaves their students in an unsettled frame of mind. They are not old enough and learned enough to discriminate, or put proper limitations upon a theory which we believe is more or less a fallacy.” A concerned Apostle, Elder George F. Richards, observing the BYU troubles, wrote in his journal: “The extent to which evolution and higher criticism is gaining ground among our school teachers is something alarming. The effects of such teachings in the B. Y. U. are indeed alarming.” Another similarly displeased Apostle, Elder John Henry Smith, recorded in his own diary (February 3, 1911): “Some wild ideas [organic evolution and higher criticism] are getting into Brigham Young University at Provo. Three of the Professors are belittling the Bible.”
The entire BYU “Modernism” and evolution controversy of that former time period is more complicated than space or need here allows, but is briefly reviewed to indicate that others have unsuccessfully tried to do what these present BYU biologists are seeking to do today.
An April 1910 Improvement Era statement is often cited by theistic evolutionists to give credence to their harmonization attempts. The editorial, after referencing the three main scriptural accounts found in the standard works (the books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham), reads: “These are the authentic statements of the scriptures, ancient and modern, and it is best to rest with these, until the Lord shall see fit to give more light on the subject. Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.”
Only the year before (as this Improvement Era source notes) the First Presidency had already specifically given more light on the subject, in their declaration on “The Origin of Man,” (partially quoted below). Since then, other prophets and apostles have also shed more light on these scriptures as well—meaning we have access to more knowledge than just the figurative scriptural expressions describing the creation of Adam. That is, unless you need to use the first mentioned Improvement Era option for support of theistic evolution. These may be “questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God” but they are doctrines better answered in the revealed word than the first two options account for, and they are better clarified by many authoritative scripture expounders. None of the three options account for the doctrine of the Fall of Adam and Eve, as rendered below, and therefore do not harmonize with many scriptures.
In 1974, Elder Packer spoke to a group of BYU faculty and traced a history of some other BYU professors and Institute (CES) men who had likewise become enamored of the educational philosophies of the world and found themselves out of harmony with gospel doctrines. (Remember, this issue isn’t just about biological science and the theory of evolution, it is also about gospel doctrines and scriptural interpretation; both are made equal partners in the attempt at harmonization—especially when it is Latter-day Saint biologists that are trying to define the doctrine.) Elder Packer explained:
At about that time (1926), the institutes of religion were established; and soon there was encouragement, both for the men in the institute program and for the teachers of religion at Brigham Young University, to go away and get advanced degrees. “Go study under the great religious scholars of the world,” was the encouragement, “for we will set an academic standard in theology.”
And a number of them went. Some who went never returned. And some of them who returned never came back. They had followed, they supposed, the scriptural injunction: “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.) But somehow the mix had been wrong. For they had sought learning out of the best books, even by study, but with too little faith. They found themselves in conflict with the simple things of the gospel. One by one they found their way outside the field of teaching religion, outside Church activity, and a few of them outside the Church itself. And with each went a following of his students—a terrible price to pay.
Such difficulties occasionally rose, and senior church leaders periodically reacted. Elder Packer traced more of the history: “This pulling at the moorings by some of our teachers of religion did not go unnoticed in the councils of the Church. Dr. John A. Widtsoe and Dr. Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve . . . were directed by the First Presidency to conduct courses for the teachers of religion to anchor them again to the moorings.”
Elder Packer’s reference to this assignment from the First Presidency to Elder Joseph F. Merrill deserves a quick note. He (Elder Merrill) had this to say about evolution: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost" (A of F 1:1)—three separate, distinct persons, who are united as one in purpose and attunement. Since in the world of life, like begets like, it must follow that in bodily form we are like our Father in heaven. Hence, it cannot be true that we are brutes or descendants of beasts; we are of the race of the Gods. It therefore follows that man did not, as the atheist asserts, create God in his own image. As a spirit child of our Father in heaven, man not only inherited His divine form, but also the divine attributes, even though it may be in minute quantities only.”
Elder Packer continued: “Such efforts were repeated from time to time. In 1938 all seminary and institute personnel were assembled for Summer School in Aspen Grove. They were not a large group by present standards. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., speaking for the First Presidency of the Church, presented instruction entitled ‘The Charted Course of the Church in Education.’”
Further, jumping ahead some years: “At about that time there was a change in the leadership of Church education. It was time once again to check the moorings. So, in 1954, all the seminary and institute teachers (by this time a goodly number) were assembled for the first time in many years for a Summer School of intensive instruction. The Brethren sent a teacher, Elder Harold B. Lee, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. We met two hours each day, five days a week, for five weeks. Frequently he would invite other members of the Council of the Twelve and members of the First Presidency of the Church to instruct us in class or in special evening sessions. There was good reason to check the moorings.” The assigned reading for the class was President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book Man, His Origin and Destiny. At Elder Lee’s invitation, President Smith also gave a lecture to the class by that same name, summarizing the doctrine found in his book.
In the later 1920s, Elder B. H. Roberts, then senior President of the First Council of the Seventy (now the Presidency of the Seventy) prepared a manuscript that he proposed be used as a manual for church classes in 1929. Before the (Heber J. Grant) First Presidency would approve such a use, they desired that his manuscript be passed on by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to ensure that it contained only correct doctrine. Accordingly, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Rudger Clawson, appointed a manuscript reading (or review) subcommittee of five quorum members: Elders George Albert Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, David O. McKay, Stephen L Richards, and Melvin J. Ballard. These Apostles thoroughly reviewed the manuscript and recommended it not be approved unless certain speculative and objectionable items were removed. Elder Roberts refused their recommendations and therefore his work was never used.
The reading committee’s written report regarding Elder Roberts’ speculations about Adam being a translated being from another planet, and also about the existence on earth of other races of men (pre-Adamites) prior to Adam, were rejected as contrary to the scriptures and teachings of the Church. The official report of the committee regarding Elder Roberts’ speculations about Adam stated:
We feel that the arguments as given contradict the accounts given in all our scriptures, and the more especially in the temple ceremonies. As we understand it the term, “first flesh also,” does not have reference to Adam as being the first living creature of the creation on the earth, but that he, through the “fall” became the first “flesh.” Or mortal soul. The term “flesh” in reference to mortal existence is of common usage. We find it so used in the scriptures. Adam having partaken of the fruit became mortal and subject to death, which was not the condition until that time. We are taught in the Temple as well as in the scriptures that man was the last creation placed upon the earth, before death was introduced. Adam was the first to partake of the change and to become subject to the flesh. This is the view expressed by President Joseph F. Smith and President Anthon H. Lund [in their “The Origin of Man” declaration]. Following are examples bearing out this thought.... [see 1 Nephi 19:14; 1 Nephi 19:6; Daniel 2:11; 1 Peter 4:2.].
[George Albert Smith reported] This entire chapter is questioned by the brethren. It pertains to man’s place in the creation. It is not in harmony with the revelations, especially the ceremonies of the Temple, which were given by the Prophet by revelation.
As to Elder Roberts’ theory of “pre-Adamite” races living on the earth, the committee reported:
This entire chapter deals with the question of “pre-Adamites.” This doctrine is not taught by the Church; it is not sustained in the scriptures. It can only be treated as an hypothesis, and the result will be uncertain, confusing, for after all is said it is speculation leading to endless controversy. We are aware that one of the brethren (Orson Hyde) in an early day advocated this teaching, however we feel that the brethren of the general authorities cannot be too careful, and should not present as doctrine that which is not sustained in the standards of the Church. It appears to us that all which has been revealed is contrary to this teaching, especially that given in the Temple.
[George Albert Smith reported] This entire chapter is out of harmony with the teachings of the authorities of the Church. The doctrine of pre-Adamites has never been accepted by the church and is viewed by the brethren as being in conflict with the revelations of the Lord. This is so with the Temple ceremonies. References in other chapters to these two thoughts—the place of man in creation and pre-Adamites, should be eliminated [from the manuscript].
President Clawson passed the report along to the First Presidency, and as noted, since Elder Roberts would not edit his manuscript in accordance with the wishes of the Quorum of the Twelve for either church or private publication use, the manuscript was shelved. This episode from the past potentially contains a valuable lesson for the present.
In the early 1930s a doctrinal disagreement between a few of the leading church authorities was arbitrated by the Quorum of the Twelve and settled by the First Presidency. It involved a discourse delivered by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith (in which he taught there was no death on the earth before the Fall, and that there were no pre-Adamites) along with some objections to that talk by Elder B. H. Roberts (who still promoted his belief that there were pre-Adamites); also a response to President Smith’s talk by Elder James E. Talmage (titled “The Earth and Man”). In the end, the First Presidency decided to shut down the vigorous public and private discussions of these matters (among senior church leaders) and simply declare none of the competing views to be doctrine—that neither the presence of pre-Adamites nor the absence of them was doctrine. (More will be reviewed about “The Earth and Man” lecture of Elder Talmage below.) The next President of the Church after Heber J. Grant, President George Albert Smith, spoke against evolution (without using that name) in a General Conference address: “He [God] is the Father of our spirits. We have not come from some lower form of life, but God is the Father of our spirits, and we belong to the royal family, because he is our Father.”
In the 1980s and 90s, a (now long retired) BYU biologist wrote a lengthy paper laying out his own untenable theories for harmonizing evolution with the gospel. I speculate that the present effort has drawn from his notions and reasoning, since there are many similarities. The information herein refutes his ideas and interpretations also.
Perhaps the most recent occasion in which the Prophet of God has sent a member of the Quorum of the Twelve to BYU to “check the moorings” was in November of 2018, when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke to the academics associated with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. On that occasion, he warned those involved with scholarship that faith was to have the greater proportion in the mix, when learning by study and also by faith. (My observation is that those administering and staffing NAMI did not heed Elder Holland’s charge; the moorings are pulling loose.) One wonders why every new generation of biologists ignores the history of their predecessor’s failures and proclaims that they, of the new (even smarter) generation, have the answers.
Quoting the BYU Biologists Vain Attempts at Harmonization
We now quote from their publications. In a PowerPoint presentation, the BYU biologists argue, regarding the statement of the First Presidency on “The Origin of Man”: “Anti-evolution tone is clear, but no explicit rejection of evolution.” This is their own singularly bizarre interpretation, based on what seems to be the most strict, letter-of-the-law reading they could muster. A more reasonable reading is that while the First Presidency of that day (or any day) was not interested in getting into the ever-changing and disputed minutia of evolutionary science, they were entirely clear in stating that the first man, Adam, did not result from an evolutionary process, but that he was born of resurrected heavenly parents. The only way these biologists could miss the clear language is by willful misreading (bias) in their zeal to harmonize the un-harmonizable.
The concluding salient portion of the First Presidency declaration states:
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 declared 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; 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 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 coeternally 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 (see 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; November 1909.
The forthright conclusion is that the BYU biologists are straining and wresting their interpretation to make this definite and easily understood declaration say what it does not, and allow for evolution—the opposite of what it was written for. They must do this to harmonize the “theories of men” with the revelations of God.
It can be advantagious to know what a superlative doctrinal thinker—in this case Elder Bruce R. McConkie—thought about this First Presidency statement in regards to how it has been viewed by some who dispute its meaning. To one individual he explained: “On page 249 of the second edition of Mormon Doctrine, there is a long quotation from the First Presidency of the Church [“The Origin of Man” document] which tells as plainly and as fully as they felt at liberty to so do, how Adam got into this world. Additional views are expressed in the articles “Fall of Adam,” “First Flesh,” and “First Man.” I think the statement of the First Presidency may be considered as the official view of the Church. If you study it with some care you will have no difficulty in seeing what they intend to convey.”
To another inquirer Elder McConkie expanded his explanation: “As to official church pronouncements on doctrinal points, they are almost nonexistent. The Brethren made one in 1916 entitled, ‘The Father and the Son, A Doctrinal Exposition.’ The First Presidency made another in 1913  on the subject of evolution. There, of course, have been those who have questioned the expressions in this statement on evolution by President Joseph F. Smith, President John R. Winder and President Anthon H. Lund. As far as official doctrinal pronouncements are concerned, about all the Brethren ever do is say here are the Standard Works, get the spirit of inspiration and figure out what the doctrines are. Those with extensive backgrounds of study in the Church are aware that differing opinions have been expressed by various of the Brethren on certain points over the years. This, of course, is of no great moment. All the opinions cannot be true, but the marvel is that there are so few differences in views and that there is so great harmony on the basics of the gospel.”
Continuing with the PowerPoint from the biologists, we find a statement from the same First Presidency that, taken out of context, is being wrested to mean something it does not: “First Presidency Christmas Message – ‘Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated we accept with joy.’” This First Presidency quotation leaves out the fact, as shown in “The Origin of Man” document, that the First Presidency of that day did not believe evolution was demonstrated or factual, and that it should not be accepted. The BYU biologists on the other hand, believe it to be demonstrated science, and therefore we should accept it “with joy.” This kind of bias and manipulation of circumstances is misleading. Still, that First Presidency, and today’s, have a great desire for church members to know that the Church does accept and rejoice over (helpful) verifiable demonstrated scientific findings and discoveries—and these could indeed be thought to be part of the gospel, in a broad sense.
The BYU biologists then talk about how the Church has always embraced all truth no matter where it comes from, and quote the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Hinckley to that effect. Quite true, but the subtle sleight-of-hand being employed here is that they are trying to get students to unquestioningly accept that evolution is truth that comes from science. It is one thing to accept truth no matter where it comes from, but another thing to reject the false theories of men, no matter where they come from. Therefore, these quotations become meaningless in the context used.
In a First Presidency Message, President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted President Joseph F. Smith on this subject of accepting truth from wherever it may be found, and then added some cautionary explanation of his own:
President Joseph F. Smith once declared: “We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination [or, I may say, no searcher of truth] in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 1.)
We have nothing to fear when we walk by the light of eternal truth. But we had better be discerning. Sophistry has a way of masking itself as truth. Half-truths are used to mislead under the representation that they are whole truths. Innuendo is often used by enemies of this work as representing truth. Theories and hypotheses are often set forth as if they were confirmed truth. Statements taken out of context of time or circumstance or the written word are often given as truth, when as a matter of fact such procedure may be the very essence of falsehood.
After giving that warning, he added: “I remember when I was a college student there were great discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it throw me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God.”
Elder Orson F. Whitney, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1906 to 1931, is oft-quoted as stating: “It suffices me to know, and to testify, that this people are the friends, not the foes, of education; that they are seekers after wisdom, lovers of light and truth, universal Truth, which, like the waters of earth, or the sunbeams of heaven, has but one Source, let its earthly origin be what it may. ‘Truth is truth, wher'er 'tis found, On Christian or on heathen ground,’ and worthy of our love and admiration, whether far or near, high or low, whether blazing as a star in the blue vault of heaven, or springing like a floweret from the soil.” I suppose there are some who would try to use this quotation and others like it, to justify the acceptance or harmonizing of evolution with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That could only work if evolution did not contradict the doctrine taught in the revelations.
Further, Elder Orson F. Whitney himself was strongly opposed to the theory of evolution and in fact was the original (assigned) author of the article that was used as the foundation draft for the First Presidency’s “The Origin of Man” doctrinal declaration.
Elder Whitney’s journal describes some of his work on this document in 1909:
“President Smith commissioned me to prepare an article on ‘The Origin of Man,’ for the Liahona and Elders Journal.”
“Took the 8:15 am train for Salt Lake . . . and after lunch at home worked with Frances [his secretary] on the article for the First Presidency ‘The Origin of Man.’”
“Completed my article on Man’s Origin and listened with others at President’s Office.”
“In the afternoon, at the Tabernacle, I was the only speaker. My theme, the Book of Life. Had good freedom, though somewhat fatigued from a hard week’s work on my literary task—The Origin of Man.”
“Today I read to the First Presidency the article on the Origin of Man. They were pleased with it, and Pres. Smith thanked me. It will be read again to the Twelve (with the Presidency) and some of our Church school brethren.”
“Read to the Presidency and others my article, ‘The Origin of Man.’”
“Worked on History and read ms of revised article ‘Origin of Man’ to Dr. Talmage, Dr. Widtsoe, and President Brimhall.”
In corroboration, President Anthon H. Lund’s journal noted: “[October 14, 1909] The [First] Presidency read the article on the origin of Man written by Orson F. Whitney. It was much improved from the original. As it will go out under our names the Presidency made a few changes.” Also: “Our meeting at the Temple lasted five hours. The statement as to our position on the Origin of Man was read and sanctioned by the Twelve.” Such are some of the historical details behind the creation and approval of this seminal but occasionally misrepresented and misinterpreted document.
The BYU biologists PowerPoint then mentions another First Presidency statement (from Heber J. Grant’s administration) titled “Mormon View of Evolution” and places their interpretation on it: “This is a shortened version of The 1909 statement, but with the anti-evolution sentiments removed.” This is misleading, though the statement is indeed shorter. Yet it does not lend itself to any pro-evolutionary interpretations; rather, it reinforces the same doctrine as the earlier statement from Joseph F. Smith’s administration.
There are available published minutes from a decision of the Heber J. Grant First Presidency (relating to the controversy among the senior Brethren mentioned earlier). These state the Church’s position well: “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’” This wording makes these leaders seem loath to do as the BYU biologists desire—seek to harmonize evolution with the revelations about Adam, the first man. These church leaders evidently wanted to leave the historical sciences to science, where they belong, and keep them clear of “the realm of the Church.” But instead we have to endure another foolhardy attempt at harmonization, something the First Presidency, of any day, is unwilling to do.
Next, a much more recent (October 2016) New Era statement is quoted by the biologists in their PowerPoint and also in a handout: “The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study. Nothing has been revealed concerning evolution. Though the details of what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created, have not been revealed, our teachings regarding man’s origin are clear and come from revelation.”
This statement should be read carefully and with due caution, since it could erroneously be understood to contradict other approved doctrinal teachings found in a Church Educational System manual. One issue relates to the common but careless or intermingled uses of the crucial phrases “theory of evolution” and “origin of man.” A letter from the Office of the First Presidency (of David O. McKay) noted this wording distinction (one that is easily manipulated, especially by biologists, but that I have tried to recognize herein). The letter, from a secretary to the First Presidency, said: “I have been directed to say that the enclosed statement published in the Improvement Era over the Signature of President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors express the position of the Church upon the subject of the ‘origin of man.’ I have also been directed to say that the Church has made no official statement on the subject of evolution. It is a scientific theory and is subject to and is undergoing modification from time to time. Scientific people seem to differ in their interpretation and views of the theory. . . . The authorities of the Church rely upon the revelations of the Lord for information about the creation of man. I have also been directed to say that the book to which you refer in your letter (Man, His Origin and Destiny by Joseph F[ielding] Smith) expresses the views of the author, for which he assumes full responsibility. The book was not published, approved, or authorized by the Church, nor did the author intend that it be.”
This explanation captures the important difference between the “theory of evolution” on the one hand and the “origin of man” on the other; distinctions that the New Era piece misses or avoids. It also delineates the source church authorities rely on for information on the origin of man—as does another letter, from President McKay’s secretary: “I have been directed to say that the Church has issued no official statement on this subject [evolution]. It is a theory, and it is subject to and undergoing modification from time to time, at least in the differing interpretations of scientific people. Under these circumstances, any conflict which may seem to exist between the scientific theory and the truth of revealed religion should be dealt with by suspending judgement as long as may be necessary to arrive at the facts and a complete understanding of the truth. While the theory is subject to controversy and differences of opinion in the scientific world, the authorities of the Church rely upon the revelations of the Lord for information about the creation of man.” This item also distinguishes between the theory of evolution and the origin of man in relation to the position of the Church, points out where the authorities of the Church get their information on the origin of man, and gives a recommendation of what to personally do with the conflict now. (Readers may determine for themselves whether the BYU biologists innocently intermix these terms, or whether they do so manipulatively for an agenda, in the below quotations from them.)
Continuing, several senior church leaders have in fact, taught that it has been revealed how the bodies of Adam and Eve were created. Two separate passages of scripture declare the same doctrine. Moses 6:22 states: “And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed.” A footnote conveniently takes us to the second, from Luke 3:38: “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” Two scriptural references teaching the same doctrine—that Adam was the son of God. I am unable to fathom how the author and vetters of the October 2016 New Era piece missed these scriptures; or, if they were aware of them, perhaps it was an issue of interpretation or caution.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie encountered this doctrinal question himself (regarding Luke 3:38), as he prepared his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (vol. 1), writing: “Adam, which was the son of God. 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 an 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.” This comment does not contain a great deal of detail, although discerning readers will realize what is being said.
It seems that Elder McConkie did not always hold himself to quite the same restraint he showed in his New Testament commentary. For instance, in 1979 he contributed a chapter (along with a number of other apostles and general authorities) for a commercial publication titled Woman, in which he plainly but sensitively taught how Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, but also cautioned that some with limited spiritual understanding would not believe:
How did Adam and Eve gain their temporal bodies? Our revelations record Deity's words in this way: "And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Moses 2:26.) Man on earth—Adam and Eve and all their descendants—was to be created in the image of God; he was to be in his image spiritually and temporally, with power to convert the image into a reality by becoming like him. Then the scripture says: "And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them." (Moses 2:27.) Also: "And I, the Lord God, formed men from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also." (Moses 3:7.)
For those whose limited spiritual understanding precludes a recitation of all the facts, the revealed account, in figurative language, speaks of Eve being created from Adam's rib. (Moses 3:21-25.) A more express scripture, however, speaks of "Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed." (Moses 6:22. Italics added.) In a formal doctrinal pronouncement, the First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) said that “all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner,” and that the first of our race began life as the human germ or embryo that becomes a man. (See Improvement Era, November 1909, p. 80.)
Christ is universally attested in the scriptures to be the Only Begotten. At this point, as we consider the “creation” of Adam, and lest there be any misunderstanding, we must remember that Adam was created in immortality, but that Christ came to earth as a mortal; thus our Lord is the Only Begotten in the flesh, meaning into this mortal sphere of existence. Adam came to earth to dwell in immortality until the fall changed his status to that of mortality.
Those who have ears to hear will understand these things. All of us, however, must know and believe that when Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, there was no death. They were immortal. Unless some change occurred they would live forever, retaining all the bloom, beauty, and freshness of youth. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and our early brethren preached many sermons on this.
In the mid-1950s, one of the leading scholars at BYU, Dr. Sydney B. Sperry, asked President Joseph Fielding Smith how Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. The exchange went like this:
Bro. Sperry: Bro. Smith, relative to Adam’s condition before the Fall, the fact that he had no blood in his veins would rather suggest therefore, that his father and mother were individuals, shall we say resurrected individuals, meaning God, let’s say. Now, we’ve got a strange situation here, we’ve got an individual, in the case of Adam, who would have lived forever. I think that Dr. Talmage attached the name “unmortal” to that state.
Pres. Smith: He did, but he took it away again.
Bro. Sperry: Would you care to comment on his parentage and his state there. I know it’s a difficult thing to do, but go as far as you can.
Pres. Smith: Bro. Sperry, I can’t go very far because all of that has been withheld. Now I don’t believe the Lord took the soil [clay] and molded it in the form of a man and then put a spirit in it. As to his father and his mother and Adam being born—I’m going to be very cautious, and not get myself in trouble in regard to that.”
After some more Q&A, the subject returned to Adam, with a new questioner:
Bro. Bennett: The book of Moses concerning the creation of man uses the expression, “In the image of His own body, male and female created He them.” What explanation could you give on the male and female?
Pres. Smith: Well, we sing so frequently in our General Conferences and stake conferences and throughout, the words to “O My Father.” If we don’t have a [Heavenly] mother, we did not have a [Heavenly] father. That’s logical. We don’t read in the scriptures much about mothers anyway, but we certainly had to have one, and we had a [Heavenly] mother. I might say something more—that the laws of God are eternal. I don’t want to get into any difficulty now—and mortality is not different from immortality [regarding mothers]. We marry for time and eternity, don’t we? Why? To have a continuation of the seeds forever. Now there’s the answer—to have a continuation of the seeds forever. They are natural principles, that’s all. So, according to what has been revealed to us, we know that if we had a [Heavenly] father, we had a [Heavenly] mother, and we are to be like them, and then that passage you refer to is evidence enough in itself; for we’re created in the image of God—male and female. . . . Is that answer enough, Bro. Bennett?
Surely these scriptures and explanations would have been more insightful to church members, young or old, than the puzzling wording in the New Era article indicating that the manner in which Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden had not been revealed.
The New Era item also stated: “God directed the creation of Adam and Eve and placed their spirits in their bodies. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, our first parents, who were created in God’s image. There were no spirit children of Heavenly Father on the earth before Adam and Eve were created. In addition, ‘for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family.’ They fell from that state, and this Fall was an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us to become like Him.” The quoted reference is from a General Conference talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, which needs repeating so that full and accurate context can be given:
In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.
I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before that, but I do know these two were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death. (Emphasis added.)
Notice that Elder Holland is teaching the doctrine that Adam and Eve were not mortal in the Garden of Eden, but instead existed in a “paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family.” Obviously, this doctrine destroys the theistic theory of evolution, which would have God directing evolutionary processes to eventually create Adam and Eve from the animal kingdom. There is no provision in any brand of the theory of evolution for the creation or natural selection of Edenic paradisiacal immortality.
The below quotations, followed by my responses, are from the BYU biologist’s handout titled: “Reconciling Evolution & Religion: A Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJC) Perspective; Instructor Guide”
[BYU students often think that] “Animals can adapt and change over time (e.g., natural selection occurs) but there are no ‘change in kinds’ (i.e., speciation events do not occur). This comes primarily from the Genesis account (Genesis 1) that refers extensively to the fact that each life form “brought forth abundantly, after their kind…’ ‘Kind’ has been interpreted by many to mean ‘species’, although this is never clarified anywhere in scripture or modern revelation. These ideas has [sic] been perpetuated by many prominent Church figures including Elder Joseph Fielding Smith in Man: His Origin and Destiny and more recently by Elder Russell M. Nelson in a 2007 interview by the Pew Forum.”
Response: Such understanding comes from Genesis, yes, but also from the books of Abraham and Moses, and from the temple presentation. It seems that BYU students who have studied the scriptures and been through the temple become very familiar with the phrase “after its kind” and will naturally interpret such language as meaning a generalized “kind” as meaning “species.” It is unreasonable to expect the scriptures to define a scientific term like “species” as the author of the handout seems to desire. I have not encountered any authoritative gospel commentary on these scriptures that did not generalize “kind” to mean “species.” I say “generalize” because science often defines words differently or more narrowly, and may do so with the word “species” (“theory” is another example); perhaps even altering or refining definitions as the decades or centuries pass.
Professor James E. Talmage, in his 1890 lecture “The Theory of Evolution,” asked: “What is a species? As applied in the Life sciences, the term refers to any group of living things, which are closely allied in attributes, and which possess the power of indefinite multiplication of individuals through reproduction. It is a fact, known no less clearly to scientists than to breeders, that the results of union between different species are hybrids, which in themselves are incapable of reproduction. Here then, in the sterility of hybrids, is an easy method of identifying a species.” This definition sounds scriptural: each after its own kind. Brother Talmage continued:
That variations do occur among animals and plants is beyond doubt. Equally certain is it that by human agency even, selective breeding may be so directed as to bring about great changes in development. From the wild and stunted ponies have come the Peteheron, the Norman, the Cleveland, and the Clydesdale. By man’s care, the Alderhey, the Devon, the Friesian, the Holstein, the Jersey, and the Durham cattle have been bred; each breed possessing distinctive qualities. From the hard, sour crab apple have come, under man’s protection, many varieties of rich and mellow fruit, but they all are apples. From the wild dog rose have sprung hundreds of rich and rare varieties, but they all are roses. All of these are readily recognized as varieties of the same kinds. No florist has yet developed a rose from a tulip; human power is insufficient to cause a willow to bear acorns; the stock breeder cannot transform his cows into wool bearers, nor his dogs into horses. Even the amoebae, that structureless bit of jelly, produces only amoebae.
Taking the sterility of hybrids as a test, the first case of origination of a species through natural selection, has yet to be heard of.
So stated Brother Talmage long ago, with regard to “species.” (Again, science has revised the definition of “species” since Talmage’s day, but his explanation still makes an accurate though generalized point.) More recently, Elder Packer taught:
No lesson is more manifest in nature than that all living things do as the Lord commanded in the Creation. They reproduce “after their own kind.” (See Moses 2:12, 24.) They follow the pattern of their parentage. Everyone knows that; every four-year-old knows that! A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget reptiles, nor “do men gather … figs of thistles.” (Matt. 7:16.)
In the countless billions of opportunities in the reproduction of living things, one kind does not beget another. If a species ever does cross, the offspring cannot reproduce. The pattern for all life is the pattern of the parentage.
This is demonstrated in so many obvious ways, even an ordinary mind should understand it. Surely no one with reverence for God could believe that His children evolved from slime or from reptiles. (Although one can easily imagine that those who accept the theory of evolution don’t show much enthusiasm for genealogical research!) The theory of evolution, and it is a theory, will have an entirely different dimension when the workings of God in creation are fully revealed.
Since every living thing follows the pattern of its parentage, are we to suppose that God had some other strange pattern in mind for His offspring? Surely we, His children, are not, in the language of science, a different species than He is?
In harmony with these teachings, in the Church’s former CES Old Testament student manual, commenting on the creation, we find the Prophet Joseph Smith quoted thusly: “God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable. . . . God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field, all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law or principle.” (Teachings, pp. 197–98.)
[They also think] “Animals may evolve, but humans do not. We have been created in the image of God out of the dust of the earth and placed in the Garden of Eden. This belief comes from the Biblical account of the creation in the Book of Genesis as well as the account[s] of the creation given in the Pearl of Great Price, specifically in the Books of Moses and Abraham. The Pearl of Great Price is an additional book of scripture used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is further perpetuated in some of the temple liturgy. However, these accounts can differ widely between a more literalist interpretation (2 Nephi 2:22-25) to a more developmental creation (Abraham 4).”
Response: If I understand correctly, the loophole sought for here is divergence in how these accounts are interpreted, alleged as “literalist” or “developmental.” The handout does not explain who is doing the interpreting other than the noted scriptural passages. Are we supposed to gather that these passages contradict each other?
A strong scriptural commentator, or harmonizer of the four revealed accounts, has no problem explaining them in their cohesive unity, including noting which parts are literal and which are figurative. See Elder McConkie’s “Christ and the Creation” in the Ensign for example, or Elder Russell M. Nelson’s General Conference talk “The Creation” for another, or Elder Boyd K. Packer’s extraordinarily insightful BYU Speech “The Law and the Light” for a third. There is no need to toss the baby out with the bath water and label them too confusing to figure out—unless you need to as a means of justifying a theistic evolutionary interpretation. In his Ensign article, Elder McConkie wrote: “The Lord expects us to believe and understand the true doctrine of the Creation—the creation of this earth, of man, and of all forms of life. Indeed, as we shall see, an understanding of the doctrine of creation is essential to salvation. Unless and until we gain a true view of the creation of all things we cannot hope to gain that fulness of eternal reward which otherwise would be ours.” This counsel and admonition runs contrary to the handout’s attempt to give up the quest to understand the scriptural accounts teaching creation.
[Some also think] “There was no death before the fall of Adam, therefore, evolution could not have occurred since nothing died before the first humans. This statement is primarily a result of a literalist interpretation of versus [sic] found in the Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 2:22-25. Much debate has surrounded these versus among many apostles, including Elder James E. Talmage. The Church has since published statements about dinosaurs living and dying long before man, but no reconciliation has been offered. This statement appears in the Bible Dictionary, a non-canonized helper to the Bible used by members of the Church; however, this book (per its preface) is not meant to convey the doctrine of the Church.”
Response: The biologists’ handout needs to set aside the “literalist” interpretation of the named verses in 2 Nephi, since they utterly destroy evolution if interpreted that way, and ignores passages in the book of Moses that teach the same doctrine. We are told “many apostles” have debated that interpretation, but not which ones, other than a reference to Elder Talmage (likely referring to his famous talk “The Earth and Man” which will be examined further below). Yet it is a reasonable question, since a firm interpretation would be powerfully settling. I evidently have a higher regard for the doctrines taught in the Bible Dictionary than the handout author. While it is true that the Bible aids, such as the dictionary, are not canonized scripture, they are still published with, meaning in the same book as, the scriptures. I rhetorically ask—would the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve include the (thoroughly revised and corrected) dictionary with the canonized scriptures if they didn’t approve of the doctrine it taught? I think not. On this question, Elder Boyd K. Packer wrote: “Only the scriptural text itself is recognized as scripture. All the other materials were included to be of help to Church members in their study of the scriptures. . . . All that went into it was read and approved by the Brethren.”
One sign that solid work was done on the Bible Dictionary is indicated by how few substantial changes were made in it when it was reviewed for the updated 2013 edition of the scriptures. The chapter summary for the verses (2 Nephi 2:22-25) disputed by the biologists only says “Adam fell that men might be”—but that says a lot. The chapter summary for Moses 3 also says a lot: “God created all things spiritually before they were naturally upon the earth—He created man, the first flesh, upon the earth.”
The Bible Dictionary entry on “Adam” says: “The name Adam is given to the first man of the human family on this earth as cited in the account of the Creation in the books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham and in many instances in the New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. From these scriptures we learn that Adam is the father and patriarch of the human race on the earth.”
The entry for “Fall of Adam and Eve” says: “Before the Fall, there were no sin, no death, and no children. With the eating of the ‘forbidden fruit,’ Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, and death became a part of life. Adam became the ‘first flesh’ upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal.” This entry destroys evolution; hence the biologist’s desire to cast it aside as unofficial and inconsequential; to be ignored.
The entry for “flesh” states: “Since flesh often means ‘mortality,’ Adam is spoken of as the ‘first flesh’ upon the earth, meaning he was the first mortal on the earth, all things being created in a nonmortal condition and becoming mortal through the Fall of Adam. Jesus is the ‘Only Begotten of the Father’ in the flesh, meaning He is the only one begotten of the Father into mortality (Moses 3:7).” Again, this entry destroys theistic evolution and so must be dispensed with. (I also find it interesting that the Bible aid “Chronology of the Old Testament” cites 4000 BC as the date of the Fall of Adam.)
Then there is the “Guide to the Scriptures,” another study aid prepared by the Scriptures Publication Committee. It contains the same approved doctrine as the Dictionary:
The first man created on earth. Adam is the father and patriarch of the human race on the earth. His transgression in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3; D&C 29:40–42; Moses 4) caused him to “fall” and become mortal, a step necessary in order for mankind to progress on this earth (2 Ne. 2:14–29; Alma 12:21–26). [Notice the scriptures being used.]
Adam and Eve were sent out of Eden after eating of the forbidden fruit and becoming mortal (Moses 4:29).
The process by which mankind became mortal on this earth. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they became mortal, that is, subject to sin and death. Adam became the “first flesh” upon the earth (Moses 3:7).
Flesh has several meanings: . . . (2) mortality; . . .
Jesus is the only one begotten of the Father into mortality, John 1:14 (Mosiah 15:1–3).
Adam became the first flesh, Moses 3:7.
I reject the handout’s interpretive loophole that the Scripture Publications Committee of the Church and the Church Correlation Committee (consisting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve), would let erroneous doctrine appear in these study aids, especially when they had a chance to change it if they wanted by 2013. Rather, I suggest that such doctrine is deemed to be entirely accurate and is supported and sustained by the teachings of modern prophets and apostles. The doctrine is contrary to the theories of theistic, or allegedly harmonized, evolution.
“First, have students consider what we actually ‘know’ from the creation account in Genesis. Have them read Genesis 1:20-21 referring to animals and 1:26-27 referring to humans (S1 slides 11 – 12). The take-aways from these scriptures are that we know that God created animals and humans and we know that he was pleased by what he created. We know that we are in the image of God. But, it says nothing of how God did all of this. I emphasize that it is open for interpretation and certainly does not oppose anything we have found in science.”
Response: Why pick on the Genesis creation account? Why not use all three found in the standard works? Why use the weakest, though (admittedly) best known? Why not, instead of relying on personal or skewed biologist interpretations of the creation accounts, why not rely on explanations offered by those apostolic church leaders that God has called and designated as expounders of the scriptures? Elder Russell M. Nelson taught (in General Conference):
The plan required the Creation, and that in turn required both the Fall and the Atonement. These are the three fundamental components of the plan. The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God. Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam. . . .
In period five, fish, fowl, and “every living creature” were added. They were made fruitful and able to multiply—in the sea and on the earth—each after its own kind.
In the sixth period, creation of life continued. The beasts of the earth were made after their kind, cattle after their kind, and everything which “creepeth upon the earth”—again, after its own kind. Then the Gods counseled together and said: “Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness. …
Eventually, “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” At the Second Coming of the Lord, the earth will be changed once again. It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new. (Emphasis added.)
It would seem that inspired doctrinal teachers, such as this one that later became the President of the Church, can easily resolve the dilemma the handout seeks to create for BYU biology students. I see that Elder Nelson deliberately noted the “after its own kind” wording of the revelations. Also, that he knew the earth was originally created in a “paradisiacal” condition, and will at the Second Coming be returned to that condition; something that science knows nothing about. Reinforcing this doctrine, Elder Nelson also taught (in a different General Conference):
The Creation culminated with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were created in the image of God, with bodies of flesh and bone. Created in the image of God and not yet mortal, they could not grow old and die. [Footnote: They were created as amortal beings—“without mortality”—not at that time subject to death.] “And they would have had no children” nor experienced the trials of life. (Please forgive me for mentioning children and the trials of life in the same breath.) The creation of Adam and Eve was a paradisiacal creation, one that required a significant change before they could fulfill the commandment to have children and thus provide earthly bodies for premortal spirit sons and daughters of God.
That brings us to the Fall. Scripture teaches that “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death. (Emphasis added.)
Elder Nelson’s doctrine is in perfect harmony with that found in the Bible Dictionary and Guide to the Scriptures. Elder Nelson’s use of the term “amortal” in his footnote should be recognized. I have seen other apostles employ words like “nonmortal,” “unmortal,” and “unresurrected immortality” when attempting to define and describe this same paradisiacal condition. I am unable to see how theistic evolution can account for “amortal” paradisiacal beings (Adam and Eve), with no blood circulating in their special-creation bodies. I highly doubt Elder Nelson has reversed his quoted doctrinal views since becoming the President of the Church. Elder Harold B. Lee also discussed this doctrine, indicating the substance that flowed in Adam and Eve’s amortal bodies in the Garden of Eden, before the fall:
Now, you will recall that up to the time of the Fall, Adam and Eve had been told to dress the garden, to partake of its fruits, and to enjoy the fruits of the garden. There was one tree, however, after the Fall that he was forbidden to eat. It was even guarded, lest he partake and live forever in his sins. That tree was the tree of life. Now, the assumption is that the eating of that would have prolonged his life forever because it was of a celestial nature. You recall how Brother James E. Talmage, in his book The Articles of Faith, reasons out this point. The texture of the fruit, which he did partake, which was the forbidden fruit, was of such nature as to change the quality of the fluid in his veins that made him subject to death. The blood replaced the spirit fluid which had existed heretofore. You will find some discussions of that from some other Brethren, but I think I have stated it just in that sense. Read [D&C] section 29:13 and 88:27.
“Consider the different interpretations people have made about creation and whether or not they agree with CJC [Church of Jesus Christ] theology. Show students the ‘Creationist Creed’ (Henry Morris, Creation Research Institute; S1 slide 13). Think/Pair/Share – is this statement compatible with our doctrine? Two issues students should notice: 1) We do not believe that creation has stopped, or that the processes God used are no longer happening, and 2) We do not believe we are limited exclusively to revelation to gain understanding; we are firmly accepting of scientific evidence – this may be a good time to refer students to the 1910 Christmas Message in the Evolution Packet that states, “Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy…”
Response: What Henry Morris said in his (Protestant inerrantist-sounding) creed is not binding and should have no present influence on BYU students, nor should various non-Latter-day Saint, non-authoritative “different interpretations” of the creation. (What should have influence on BYU students, and on all Latter-day Saints, is the explanations made by prophets and apostles about the creation accounts.) Further, whether Henry Morris and his “creationist” cronies influenced insightful Latter-day Saint authors (like President Joseph Fielding Smith) or not, General Authority publications would still be issued on their own responsibility and not someone else’s. I am not sure what is meant in the handout by not believing that creation has stopped. We know that God is creating and peopling other worlds with His spirit children (and obviously plants and animals also, as is the pattern), since D&C 76 and the Book of Moses tell us these things, but how that relates to trying to harmonize evolution with the gospel is not clear. This seems to be an attempt to use weak and irrelevant non-Latter-day Saint “creationist” propaganda to nudge BYU students toward accepting theistic evolution as taught and defined by the BYU biologists. Again, it is helpful to distinguish between the theory of evolution and the revealed doctrine of the creation of man.
“Now cover the official statements of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on evolution and explain the historical context. The first statement (S1 slide 17) came in 1909 under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith and signed by apostles Orson Whitney and James Talmage. If students have not read it already, encourage them to do so (although I don’t usually use class time to do this). Before delving into details, ask students why the Church might have felt the need to issue a statement at this time in history. Allow for discussion. As it turns out, 1909 was the 50th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species and the 100th anniversary of his birth. Darwin’s ideas were becoming more popular and mainstream in the scientific community and members of the Church were understandably curious about where the Church stood on these matters (see S1 slide 18). The 1909 statement asserts that Adam was the first man and that he took upon himself ‘an appropriate body’. It does not specify how this body came to be or whether or not the Church supports evolution. However, I find an anti-evolution tone to be fairly clear in the statement. Interestingly, so did members of the Church who then took it further to imply that the Church was anti-science.”
Response: This biased reasoning has already been reviewed in-depth above. Actually, the 1909 statement is signed by the First Presidency of that day, Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund. It was not signed by Elders Whitney and Talmage, though they approved it with their Quorum (and as shown above, Elder Whitney prepared the first draft). Elder Orson F. Whitney believed evolution to be a false and foolish theory of men; he even wrote some humorous poems mocking evolution. Elder Talmage had little to do with it. (I think it revealing that President Joseph F. Smith chose the non-scientist Whitney to draft it, instead of the scientist Talmage.) When the handout says that the First Presidency statement “does not specify how this body came to be or whether or not the Church supports evolution” it is sorely misstating matters. We continue to see the revisionist interpretations necessary for seeking loopholes.
“The 1925 statement (also included in the BYU Evolution Packet) is a shortened, copied-and-pasted version of the 1909 statement, but with all of the anti-evolution tone removed. Again, it asserts that Adam was the first man, that he was in the image of God, and that he took upon himself an appropriate body. But, it says nothing about the theory of evolution.”
Response: These conclusions are a matter of interpretation, and they are looking for loopholes to justify their “harmonization” purposes.
“In 2016, the Church issued another statement about evolution in its publication, The New Era under the question heading, ‘What does the Church believe about evolution?’ Give students a moment to read this statement (S1 slide 24). It clearly states that the Church is neutral when it comes to evolution and that the mystery of how Adam’s and Eve’s bodies were created has not been revealed.”
Response: these rationalizations have already been addressed above. We have seen that Church leaders are not interested in delving into the ever-evolving particulars of evolutionary science, but have spoken clearly and definitely on the origin of man, as do the scriptures that have been quoted and explained at length. While evolutionary theories remain the province of science, the position of the Church on the creation of man is certainly not neutral.
In 1959 the First Presidency directed their secretary to send the following response to an inquiring individual: “We have your letter of January 8th in which you wish positive statements made by the First Presidency regarding certain matters that have not received official direct answer, and regarding certain theories which are being announced by different scientists regarding the earth, its age, creation, etc. I am directed to say to you that, as you will perceive on a little reflection, until either the Lord speaks directly upon the matter, or until the scientists are able to say that they have the ultimate truth covering these matters, it would only be confusing for the First Presidency to make any statement regarding such things.”
“After seeing the Church’s neutral stance, students are often baffled as to why they grew up hearing that the Church was against evolution and as to where all of this cultural animosity toward the theory has come from. At this point, you may choose to take time to briefly cover some of the history of the conflict within the Church to give them some cultural background for the controversy. Below is a brief overview of that history. More details can be found in Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, by Evenson and Jeffery (see Resources section). Between the years of 1928 and 1931, there was a very heated and very public dispute between two apostles: Elder B. H. Roberts (who was supportive of evolution) and Elder Joseph Fielding Smith (who was not). It is interesting to note that public conversations such as this are not common in the Church anymore, but were quite common at the time. In 1931, Elder James Talmage was sanctioned by the First Presidency to issue a response to this debate. In the response, Elder Talmage strongly emphasized that countless organisms had lived and died prior to the fall of Adam and that fossils were very much a reality (see S1 slides 26-27). However, the controversy continued and was heightened by the publication of Joseph Fielding Smith’s, Man, His Origin and Destiny, which outright denied the legitimacy of evolution. Interestingly, it was at this time that President J. Rueben Clark gave his famous talk ‘When are church leaders’ words [considered] scripture’” (Brackets in original.)
Response: Hopefully “students” will not be baffled or fooled into believing the Church has a neutral stance on matters that the First Presidency has taken such a clear and firm position on. I repeat, while not addressing the scientific aspects of evolutionary theories, they have explained the meaning of the scriptures regarding the creation of Adam. Therefore, animosity toward scientific theories which contradict those precious teachings is to be expected.
We have already briefly reviewed the referenced disagreement between Elder B. H. Roberts (who was not an apostle and actually did not believe in evolution, but did theorize pre-Adamites in his writings) and Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, with the discussion largely concluding with Elder Talmage’s discourse and a decision of the First Presidency to cease agitating the subject in their preaching.
It should be thoroughly understood that there is a difference between the First Presidency appointing (or to use the handout’s stronger word “sanctioning”) a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (in this case Elder Talmage) to give a lecture or talk, and for them to approve or “sanction” its doctrinal content. This differentiation will be discussed in detail below in the section on Elder Talmage’s talk. Suffice it to say that most members of the Quorum of the Twelve were hesitant for the Church to publish his lecture without modifications.
President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book Man, His Origin and Destiny, has been criticized and denigrated by evolutionists and other scientists since it first issued from the press. This is to be expected; what else would a class of scientists (and their sympathizers) say about a book-length treatment that rejects their favorite theories? Some of them wrote letters to President David O. McKay to complain about the book. In response, President McKay wrote: “I have before me this morning your letter of March 5, 1955, pertaining to the book Man, His Origin and Destiny, by President Joseph Fielding Smith. I am sending this short note to let you know that this book is not an approved publication of the Church. The author alone is responsible for the theories therein expressed.”
This note is not the devastating denouncement that some have supposed. The correct perspective is that President McKay would have said the same thing about most any book written by any of the General Authorities (Apostles), including his own. Unless there is a special circumstance, like the approved missionary reading list or a book that is used for an approved church class, all private books written by any of the General Authorities are done so on their own responsibility and represent their own views. This was and is true of David O. McKay’s books, of Bruce R. McConkie’s books, of Joseph Fielding Smith’s books, of Boyd K. Packer’s, Marion G. Romney’s, Harold B. Lee’s, J. Reuben Clark Jr’s, Mark E. Petersen’s, Neal A. Maxwell’s, Jeffrey R. Holland’s, David A. Bednar’s, and the list goes on and on. That is simply the long-standing policy of the Church. The situation is slightly more complicated than that, but such is the general policy and procedure.
These kinds of matters—who declares doctrine for the Church—are behind President Clark’s talk to BYU and CES Faculty in 1954, in which he clarified how the writings and teachings of church leaders should be viewed by members. The point is that only the President or First Presidency can speak for the Church as an institution, and that seldom happens in private books. Readers are to evaluate and discern for themselves the worth or value of the written text when they read doctrinal and historical books by General Authorities (or anyone else for that matter; even evolution handouts). Church-produced productions—books and manuals, etc.—whether written by General Authorities or others—are another matter. They have the Church’s name and copyright notice and Correlation approval date on them; they are approved.
Regarding the content of President Smith’s book, we find this further comment from President Ezra Taft Benson:
More 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: Some 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.
When 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.
It 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.
President Smith also defended his book to inquirer’s. To one person wondering if his book was “accepted as church doctrine,” he wrote: “I have quoted from several Presidents of the Church and former apostles. Which you can plainly see if you read the book. I can add other expressions from other Presidents if need be. Are not the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley P. and Orson Pratt, John Taylor and George Q. Cannon reliable? Here is a statement by President Cannon: ‘We hear considerable about evolution. Who is there that believes more in true evolution than the Latter-day Saints? The evolution of man until he shall become a god, until he shall sit at the right hand of the Father, until he shall be a joint heir with Jesus! That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believed in by the Latter-day Saints. That is the kind of evolution we believe in, but not the evolution of man from some low type of animal life.’ Did not you discover that I had quoted Church Doctrine throughout the book?” This tells us that a private Apostle’s book can contain sound church doctrine, yet still not be approved or authorized by the Church itself. Both President McKay and President Smith knew this well, even if many members did not.
“However, the controversy did not end there. In 1958, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith’s son-in-law, published Mormon Doctrine, another book actively speaking out against evolution. David O. McKay was prophet at the time and was asked about the statements in Mormon Doctrine, and if they were truly doctrine, to which he replied that both books (Man, His Origin and Destiny and Mormon Doctrine) were not official publications of the Church and did not represent Church doctrine (see S1 slides 30-31). Another interesting quote to share is by Elder John A. Widtsoe about the potential for pre-Adam human-like creatures.”
Response: The handout is playing a little fast and loose with the facts. Mormon Doctrine does contain several entries strongly opposing evolution, but the impression left by the handout quotation is that the entire book actively spoke against evolution, which is not true. Being encyclopedic in nature, most of it explains many other doctrinal subjects.
Further, the letter from President McKay is being misquoted or at least incorrectly summarized. It said: “I have your letter of January 25, 1959 in which you ask for a statement of the Church’s position on the subject of evolution. The church has issued no official statement on the subject of the theory of evolution. Neither “Man, His Origin and Destiny” by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, nor “Mormon Doctrine” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, is an official publication of the Church. Evolution is a theory. You say that biologists would agree on the general lines of what happened, although there may be less agreement about just how it happened. While scientific people themselves differ in their interpretations and views of the theory, any conflicts which may seem to exist between the theory and the truths of revealed religion can well be dealt with by suspending judgment as long as may be necessary to arrive at facts and at a complete understanding of the truth. Sincerely yours, David O. McKay (President).”
The text of the letter says that “neither” of these private, unofficial, books “is an official publication of the Church,”—quite true—not that they “did not represent Church doctrine.” This sentence is an interpretation of the handout and is largely incorrect. While President McKay would not accept responsibility in behalf of the Church for the views expressed in these Church leaders’ privately published books, both of them contain abundant church doctrine. But the biologists don’t like the scriptural commentary in them that conflicts with evolution.
President McKay also wrote, in another private letter to an individual: “Your letter of February 11, 1957 has been received. On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position. The book “Man, His Origin and Destiny” was not published by the Church, and is not approved by the Church. The book contains expressions of the author’s views for which he alone is responsible.”
President McKay’s statements in these private letters that “The Church has issued no official statement on the subject of the theory of evolution”; and “On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position” are incorrect, since the Church has, in the sense that sometimes the distinction between “the theory of evolution” and “the origin of man” is intermingled. Elder Boyd K. Packer explained:
Twice the First Presidency has declared the position of the Church on organic evolution. The first, a statement published in 1909 entitled “The Origin of Man”, was signed by Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund. The other, entitled “ ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution,” signed by Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, was published in 1929. It follows very closely the first statement, indeed quotes directly from it. The doctrines in both statements are consistent and have not changed. One paragraph from the first will give you a feeling for their content.
“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” (“The Origin of Man” 80).
Statements have been made by other presidents of the Church and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles which corroborate these official declarations by the First Presidency.
I should take note of one letter signed by a president of the Church addressed to a private individual. It includes a sentence which, taken out of context, reads, “On the subject of organic evolution the church has officially taken no position.” For some reasons the addressee passed this letter about. For years it has appeared each time this subject is debated.
Letters to individuals are not the channel for announcing the policy of the Church. For several important reasons, this letter itself is not a declaration of the position of the Church, as some have interpreted it to be. Do not anchor your position on this major issue to that one sentence! It is in conflict with the two official declarations, each signed by all members of the First Presidency.
Elder Packer would certainly not be pleased with this latest BYU biologist attempt to harmonize evolution with church doctrine. “Many Church members,” he stated, “are entirely unaware that fundamental doctrines cannot co-exist with a belief that man evolved from lower forms of life.” He therefore counseled: “Do not mortgage your testimony for an unproved theory on how man was created. Have faith in the revelations; leave man in the place the revelations have put him!” (Emphasis in original.) Regarding theistic evolution, the mistaken kind this “harmonization” effort at BYU is promoting, he averred:
It is my conviction that to the degree the theory of evolution asserts that man is the product of an evolutionary process, the offspring of animals—it is false! What application the evolutionary theory has to animals gives me no concern. That is another question entirely, one to be pursued by science. But remember, the scriptures speak of the spirit in animals and other living things, and of each multiplying after its own kind (D&C 77:2; 2 Nephi 2:22; Moses 3:9; Abr. 4:11–12, 24).
And I am sorry to say, the so-called theistic evolution, the theory that God used an evolutionary process to prepare a physical body for the spirit of man, is equally false. I say I am sorry because I know it is a view commonly held by good and thoughtful people who search for an acceptable resolution to an apparent conflict between the theory of evolution and the doctrines of the gospel.
With this declaration ringing in our minds and hearts, we inquire: should the fine folks in the biology department at BYU really be promoting theistic evolution? Why work so hard to make something false true? Their effort is futile, doomed. As we have seen, others have tried and they always fail—because the laws of God are against it.
“Another source of confusion for students comes from the Church’s Bible Dictionary (S1 slide 33). In the Bible Dictionary it states that before the fall of Adam, there was ‘no death’. Students have often seen this phrase used to say that evolution could not have occurred and that fossils are not accurate representations of things that lived and died before Adam and Eve. Point out to students that 1) the Bible Dictionary is not canonized scripture and it ‘not intended as an official statement of Church doctrine.’ It is also ‘subject to reevaluation as new research or revelation comes to light.’ (Both quotes are taken from the introduction to the Bible Dictionary.) Also point out the history of the Bible Dictionary and that it was largely borrowed from a Cambridge University version. Many students are unaware that the Bible Dictionary is not canonized scripture.”
Response: we have already reviewed the issues relating to the Bible Dictionary; that while not scripture, its doctrinal contents are approved and it is unthinkable that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve would let either that or the Guide to the Scriptures contain false doctrine. This tells you how far these biologists are willing to go to wrest matters looking for loopholes.
To me it seems dubious that the Bible Dictionary is really the main source for students to learn the true doctrines of these biblically-related themes. Rather, I think it comes from repeated exposure to the teachings of the General Authorities and the scriptures themselves, collectively known as the teachings of the Church. When young people, or old for that matter, read the passages that contradict evolution, they understand and accept them. Then when they hear the teachings of modern prophets and apostles explaining these same scriptures, they are further fortified against accepting the false theories of men.
While it is true that the Bible Dictionary was based on a sectarian dictionary borrowed from Cambridge University, it is also true that it underwent a major revision, and that the entries that touch on the creation of man, and Adam and Eve, and the Fall, were extensively revised (or added) using the assistance of modern revelation. Elder McConkie and Robert J. Matthews did most of this revising and correcting work; their efforts were approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve before being published with the Bible.
“Another source of confusion for students is the story of the creation of Eve from the rib of Adam. There is a great quote by President Spencer W. Kimball: ‘We don’t know [how Adam and Eve got their bodies, but] the story of the rib, of course, is figurative’ (Ensign 3. 1976: 70-72). It is important to point out to students that CJC doctrine is not a doctrine of strict literal interpretation of scripture. Many of the teachings in scripture are meant to be figurative and symbolic.”
Response: The “great quote” from President Kimball in this handout is misquoted. It is not to be found in the online version of that talk, which says:
The role of woman was fixed even before she was created, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is written:
“And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. [The story of the rib, of course, is figurative.]
“And I, God, blessed them [Man here is always in the plural. It was plural from the beginning.] and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over [it].” (Moses 2:27–28.)
And the scripture says,
“And I, God said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man [not a separate man, but a complete man, which is husband and wife] in our image, after our likeness; and it was so.” (Moses 2:26.) What a beautiful partnership! Adam and Eve were married for eternity by the Lord. Such a marriage extends beyond the grave. All peoples should call for this kind of marriage.
“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.” (Gen. 4:1.)
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam [Mr. and Mrs. Adam, I suppose, or Brother and Sister Adam], in the day when they were created.” (Gen. 5:1–2.) (All of the brackets are presumed to be President Kimball’s own wording insertions into this quote; none are mine.)
A number of paragraphs later, President Kimball said: “Man became a living soul—mankind, male and female. The Creators breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and man and woman became living souls. We don’t know exactly how their coming into this world happened, and when we’re able to understand it the Lord will tell us.”
The handout alters the quotation to: “We don’t know how Adam and Eve got their bodies.” It may well have been that President Kimball didn’t know “exactly” how it happened, and it may well also be that he knew or theorized more than the Spirit would permit him to say. I suspect he knew what President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder McConkie believed but hesitated to teach; such doctrines are not revealed until “when we’re able to understand.” President Kimball did explicitly teach that Adam’s creation did not happen by evolution—that should not be overlooked. Elder McConkie, when asked, “was woman taken out of man?” answered with similar restraint and caution: “As a rib? That is a wonderful story, and that story is given to us by the Lord because we are not prepared to receive the whole true account of what is involved. Woman is equal with man. She is not a rib.”
On another occasion Elder McConkie spoke more plainly (and in harmony with what was quoted earlier from him) although he also indicated that he didn’t know exactly how. He taught:
Adam was born into the world; that is the way he had to get here. The rib story is as much as people are able to receive and it’s figurative as is the dust of the earth story. I was made of the dust of the earth, and so was Adam. The way I was made of the dust of the earth was for my mother to partake of the elements of the earth in the normal birth process. . . .
All that is involved is that God obeyed some law that we’re not acquainted with by which he could create Adam a temporal [paradisiacal] body—Adam and Eve. And they started out with an immortal body and they then fell and started the human race on this earth. We don’t talk much about this but the quotations are there. Brigham Young’s quotation is strong on the point, and the First Presidency has said it [in “The Origin of Man”], but the Lord has couched it for the world in this figurative language in the scriptures. Suffice it to say that Adam got here and was immortal and then he fell and brought spiritual death into the world. (Emphasis added.)
The mission of Adam, meaning his (non-evolutionary) creation or birth on earth as the amortal son of God, his duration in the Garden of Eden, and especially his Fall, are not minor matters, but are of the greatest importance and consequence. His mission has been named one of the three pillars of eternity. His mission in both amortality and mortality affected us all. Elder Marion G. Romney spoke candidly in General Conference about the mission of Adam, who his father was, and how he personally felt about it:
I have an assignment from the First Presidency to serve on the Church publications committee. This committee is expected to read and pass upon the literature proposed for use in the study courses of our auxiliary organizations. It would please me immensely if, in the preparation of this literature, we could get away from using the language of those who do not believe in the mission of Adam. I have reference to words and phrases such as “primitive man,” “prehistoric man,” “before men learned to write,” and the like. We sometimes use these terms in a way that offends my feelings; in a way which indicates to me that we get mixed up in our understanding of the mission of Adam. The connotation of these terms, as used by unbelievers, is out of harmony with our understanding of the mission of Adam.
“Adam fell that man might be” (2 Ne. 2:25). There were no pre-Adamic men in the line of Adam. The Lord said that Adam was the first man (D&C 84:16; Moses 1:34; Moses 3:7). It is hard for me to get the idea of a man ahead of Adam, before the first man. The Lord also said that Adam was the first flesh (Moses 3:7) which, as I understand it, means the first mortal on the earth. I understand from a statement in the book of Moses, which was made by Enoch, that there was no death in the world before Adam (Moses 6:48; see also 2 Ne. 2:22). Enoch said:
. . . death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam.
For a book of remembrance we have written among us, according to the pattern given by the finger of God; and it is given in our own language (Moses 6:45-46).
I understand from this that Enoch could read about Adam in a book which had been written under the tutelage of Almighty God. Thus there were no prehistoric men who could not write because men living in the days of Adam, who was the first man, wrote.
I am not a scientist. I do not profess to know anything but Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), and the principles of his gospel. If, however, there are some things in the strata of the earth indicating there were men before Adam, they were not the ancestors of Adam. Adam was the son of God. He was our elder brother, not older than Jesus but he was our brother in the same sense that Jesus was our brother, and he “fell” to earth life. He did not come up through an unbroken line of organic evolution. There had to be a fall. “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25). . . .
I must not go into a longer discussion, but I say again that I would be very pleased if, in our teaching of the gospel, we could keep revealed truth straight in our minds and not get it confused with the ideas and theories of men, who do not believe what the Lord has revealed with respect to the fall of Adam.
After giving this Conference talk, Elder Romney shared more of the story: “Following this Conference, on April 13, 1953, President David O. McKay wrote me a letter in which he said: ‘I have heard many express gratitude for your remarks, as well as for your fine spirit. I assure you I have agreed heartily in every instance.’ I would assume that this statement of President McKay’s did not repudiate what I had said about the origin of Adam.”
Elder Romney also wrote this illuminating and telling summary of the united beliefs of his Quorum: “I don’t suppose that any two minds in the world understand exactly alike any statement on any subject. The General Authorities of the Church are, of course, like all other men, different in their personalities. However, on the fundamentals they are in accord, and one of those fundamentals upon which they are in accord is that Adam is a son of God, that neither his spirit nor his body is a product of a biological evolution which went on for millions of years on this earth.” And lastly, “If you will study these documents [First Presidency statements], I think you will be persuaded that they, with the written revelations which the Lord has given, teach rather clearly that the physical bodies created by God, not only for man but for the animals upon this earth, were created after the likeness of the pre-existent spirits which were to inhabit them. I think the scriptures are clear that animals, as well as man were endowed by the Creator, in the day that they became mortal, with the power to bring forth young after their own kind, and not after some other kind.” These are informative and meaningful comments about the collective, united doctrinal position of the Quorum of the Twelve, from one who knew.
“Theistic Evolution holds that God used evolution as a tool to create all organisms, including humans, in a directed and purposeful process. It is completely compatible with all of the evidence science has produced about the history of our planet. Agnostic evolution is also completely compatible and simply states that science cannot prove or disprove that God was involved; but God is not a necessary part of the process. Since science cannot make any statement regarding the existence or non-existence of God, the most scientifically accurate definition of evolution would be an agnostic one. For people of Faith, the theistic definition is just as accurate, scientifically. Interesting to note, many scientists go too far, claiming that evolution provides evidence that God does not exist; this is an atheistic definition of evolution and is scientifically inaccurate—as scientifically inaccurate as special creation. From a CJC perspective, it is important to understand that doctrinally, the Church is neutral so any range of these beliefs that are compatible with what science has shown, and we ‘accept with Joy’, are compatible with the Faith.”
Response: All that has been said above and below this quotation refutes theistic evolution and any other kind as well. I again quote Elder Packer: “How old is the earth? I do not know! But I do know that matter is eternal. How long a time has man been upon the earth? I do not know! But I do know that man did not evolve from animals.”
“Ask students, ‘How does the common use of the term theory differ from the scientific use of the term theory?’ Explain that we often use the term theory in common vernacular to refer to a guess or a hunch, e.g., ‘I have a theory about why my stomach hurts.’ This is an incompatible use of the word theory with the scientific use of the word. A scientific theory is the best explanation of a set of phenomena given all of the available evidence. How sure are scientists of the accuracy of a theory? Pretty darn sure! But, are there aspects of theories of which we might still be unsure? . . . Yes. But, as we gather more evidence, we can become more and more sure of the accuracy of our model. To build this model, scientists collaborate with each other to refine the theories and make sure that they are the most in line with what evidence we have.
“Now make the connection with evolution. Ask students to think about the theory of evolution. Before we define it, ask, ‘How sure are we of evolutionary theory?’ Well, being called a theory, by definition, it is built using the best evidence we can gather and through great collaborative efforts. But, can we ever go back in time and witness the creation of all of this diversity (i.e., can we ever look in the bag)? Unfortunately, we cannot. So, we gather as much evidence as is currently available and we build a theory. Remember, a theory, though, is not the same as the common use of the word in our everyday vernacular. A theory is more than a guess. A theory is a model based upon large amounts of evidence (the best evidence we can gather) and through countless collaborations. How sure are scientists that evolution is the most likely explanation for the diversity of life? Pretty darn sure.”
Response: I include these last handout quotations to compare how scientists use the word “theory” especially as it relates to “the theory of evolution,” versus how church leaders and regular, non-scientist citizens and church members use it. In other words, how science defines it contrasted with how regular people do. This is a huge leap, from an educated guess or concept, to being “pretty darn sure.” Readers should keep in mind that when the church leaders quoted herein are using the term “theory,” they are meaning something much less sure, and much more speculative than scientists are, or the handout or PowerPoint. To walk into a biology class and be told that evolution and natural selection is for pretty darn sure a strong model of how God created the varieties of life, and Adam and Eve, because of a new word definition, instead of it all being a speculative scientific theory, must be jarring and perplexing.
Elder Harold B. Lee warned about theories and while doing so also quoted Elder James E. Talmage, from his lecture “The Earth and Man,” cautioning against mistaking theories as facts:
We have these speculations, these theories that if we want to have them in our minds as something to ponder and something that we never can find a full answer to, let us go ahead and think about them but label them what they are and do not teach them as facts until the Lord tells us about the details: for the present, such ideas must be considered in the realm of theory.
With further reference to this matter, Elder James E. Talmage, who was one of our great scientists, has this to say about evolution: “Evolution is true so far as it means development, and progress, and advancement in all the works of God; but many of the vagaries that have been made to do duty under that name are so vague as to be unacceptable to the scientific mind. At best, the conception of the development of man’s body from the lower forms through evolutionary processes has been but a theory, an unproved hypothesis. Theories may be regarded as the scaffolding upon which the builder stands while placing the blocks of truth in position. It is a grave error to mistake the scaffolding for the wall, the flimsy and temporary structure for the stable and permanent. The scaffolding serves but a passing purpose, important though it be, and is removed as soon as the walls of that part of the edifice of knowledge have been constructed. Theories have their purpose and are indispensable, but they must never be mistaken for demonstrated facts.”
Now let me emphasize that again, with reference to religion as well as science. Theories may have their purpose as scaffolding until we begin to evolve into a better understanding of the gospel, but they must never be mistaken for demonstrated facts.
Elder James E. Talmage’s lecture “The Earth and Man” has become something of a banner for evolutionists to rally behind, even though it doesn’t really promote evolution—though he does allow for death of plant and animal life before the fall. Yet the story behind the lecture is not as simple as some have supposed. The main reason Elder Talmage gave the lecture (in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on August 9, 1930) was because the First Presidency had desired that a senior church leader inform church membership (especially young people and students) that “the Church does not refuse to recognize the discoveries and demonstrations of science, especially in relation to the subject at issue [whether there was death of plants and animals on the earth before the fall].” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith had given a talk earlier in which he had taught that there was no death of any form of life before the fall of Adam. Evidently some students were mistakenly inferring from his address that the church was opposed to science, period. Elder Talmage, being an accomplished scientist (a chemist and geologist), spoke of fossils being found in the earth’s crust, thinking they indicated the death of plants and animals before the fall.
Elder Talmage’s journal does not specify a formal request for him to speak, just that some one or more of the Brethren should. There is also no indication of Elder Talmage being given any particulars, by the First Presidency, of what to say. Under these circumstances, it is not fully clear whether to see Elder Talmage’s lecture as arising from a First Presidency appointment—but for the sake of argument, we can entertain that possibility. Elder Harold B. Lee quoted a letter from a later First Presidency, written to Elder Talmage’s son Sterling (who was seeking to defend both evolution and his father’s lecture) explaining how appointments in the Church should be viewed:
If the [First] Presidency appoints someone to do a certain thing, is that appointment sufficient to guarantee what he says to be authentic? With reference to a certain address which had been delivered years ago by one of our brethren on a controversial subject, the First Presidency wrote:
“We make this foregoing statement without making any comment at all upon the matters discussed in the sermon. The whole point of this explanation is that the sermon cannot be regarded as the official pronouncement of the Church.
“With reference to a further question involved in your letter, as to the value to be attached to a publication [“The Earth and Man”] made ‘by appointment’: In our Church, as you know, men are called ‘by appointment’ to do many things, but that does not mean that the Church must approve everything that they do, nor does it necessarily give to that which they do an official sanction. These ‘appointments’ are made merely in order that certain work shall be done. For example, Elder John A. Widtsoe is at present engaged in delivering a series of lectures at the University of Southern California, in a course bearing the title, ‘Mormon History, Doctrines, and Philosophy.’ He is doing this ‘by appointment’ of the Presidency, but that does not mean that everything or anything which Elder Widtsoe may teach or say acquires by virtue of the ‘appointment’ any peculiar value or force. Certainly what he says cannot be taken as the official and therefore, of necessity, the inspired view of the Church, nor the official doctrine of the Church. This does not mean that his views are not orthodox—they may be or they may not be; it only means that whether orthodox or not, they are not the official utterances of the Church and are not binding upon the Church and stand only as the well-considered views of a scholar . . . of the Church. This is the position in which all of the work which your father [James E. Talmage] did ‘by appointment’ stands.”
Now, that is a pretty straightforward interpretation, isn’t it? But I think it is one that we all should get.
This explanation gives us improved perspective on how to view Elder Talmage’s lecture. It almost wasn’t approved for publication by the Church, and though it eventually was, it is not a formal doctrinal statement by the First Presidency, as is “The Origin of Man” and “Mormon View of Evolution.”
After Elder Talmage gave his talk, the advisability of publishing his lecture for the Church was deliberated by the Quorum of the Twelve (Elder Talmage’s Quorum) at the request of the First Presidency. Their report states:
“Report of President Clawson made at the regular weekly meeting of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, October 1 , dated November 20, 1931”
The Council of the Twelve were in session on Tuesday, September 29, their quarterly meeting day.
I am prompted to give rather a full report of our proceedings because of the importance already attached to brother Talmage’s sermon which was referred to the Twelve for their opinion as to whether or not it should be published.
The whole day was given over to a consideration of this matter. Nearly all, if not all, the brethren spoke expressing their views with reference to various portions of the sermon which, in the views expressed, were quite fully analyzed.
Early in the discussion one of the brethren said he could not see an objectionable utterance in the sermon whatever, that, in his opinion, it is exactly what is needed to be placed in the hands of our young people who are tinged with skepticism, to reconcile them to the teachings of the gospel. He reported that a great number of copies of the sermon had been applied for to distribute among the young people of the Church.
Others of the brethren did not apparently entertain this view.
The consensus of opinion was, as I interpreted it, that inferences might be drawn from the sermon, if published in its present form, that would lead to much discussion in the Church and possibly put into the minds of many people doubts in relation to the correctness of some matters, or doctrines, given to the Church by divine revelation. As for instance, it is well understood by the brethren of this Council to be a doctrine of the gospel, given to the Church by Divine Revelation, through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, that Adam was the first man (on the earth); that he was and is the Father of the human family, and presides over the human family under Christ; that he is the Ancient of Days, which in itself is a very significant title; that mortality and death upon the earth came through the fall and the fall came by the transgression of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I take it for granted that the brethren of this Council accept these doctrines fully and completely without mental reservation.
This was one phase of the question under discussion. Now, let me point out the other principal phase briefly, and as fairly as I am able to do.
The sermon in one paragraph sets forth the claim, (which to do justice to Brother Talmage, is given as the views of eminent scientific men) that there was life and death upon the earth in an endless succession of animals and plants running back into the ages and ages that are past, thus leaving one to infer that there was life and death upon the earth before Adam, or prior to the fall.
Wherever in the Church the discussion takes this phase our young people will be left to choose between Divine Revelation and the claims of science, which latter are often based on theory;
And again the scientific theory, or claim, is set forth in the sermon to the effect that man finally emerged, or was developed from and through a line of animal life reaching back, into numberless ages of the past, to the protoplasm. This of course is the doctrine of evolution and is as I understand it repugnant to the teachings of the Church of Christ.
Should this phase of the sermon be discussed among our people, many misleading inferences would be drawn, and questions like this might arise: If there was life and death and a race of men before the fall of Adam, then there must have been two Adams and two falls, also two fathers of the human family, all of which would lead to utter confusion.
Finally a motion was made and seconded to the effect that in the opinion of the Twelve the sermon should not be published. This motion, after some further discussion, was followed by a substitute motion to the effect that the sermon be returned to Brother Talmage and that he be requested to remodel it if possible by cutting out the objectionable features. Brother Talmage consented to do this.
The substitute motion was adopted. The matter will be further considered by the Twelve. I may be permitted to say that throughout the discussion good feelings were maintained by the brethren who appeared, notwithstanding difference of opinion, to desire to do the right thing.
Note: When this report was made to the Council some of the brethren took exception to the expression, “reaching back, into numberless ages of the past, to the protoplasm.” I presume I should have said “reaching back, into numberless ages of the past, to the single-celled protozoan.”
It is insightful to follow the deliberations of the Twelve on the matter of this lecture, which provides a more negative nuance than Elder Talmage’s journal; also to notice the President of the Twelve’s comment about the Quorum viewing evolution as being repugnant to church doctrine; also how close the lecture came to not being published because of objectional portions. We are not appraised as to what Elder Joseph Fielding Smith may have said in this meeting. We can easily guess however, that he would have favored either not publishing the lecture, or removing the parts he believed contrary to the scriptures. We do know what President Smith wrote to Elder Talmage’s son about the publication of his father’s address: “In your communication you refer to a talk delivered by your father entitled ‘Earth and Man’ and say it was an ‘Apostolic utterance delivered by appointment,’ and again, ‘to be considered as an Apostolic utterance, and not merely an airing of his own views.’ ‘for which the Church should not be held responsible’ as was ‘presumptuously suggested by Dr. Sidney B. Sperry.’ Since you have referred in similar terms to this discourse before, I am writing to say that I happen to know it was not issued by authority of the Church, but arbitrarily, in the absence of the President of the Church, and over the protest of the majority of the Council of the Apostles.” President Smith gave the same information to Dr. Henry Eyring:
[In a letter] You also said: “It would be instructive to have President Smith comment on ‘The Earth and Man,’ by Dr. James E. Talmage, delivered from the tabernacle August 9, 1931, and published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” I assure you that it would have been a pleasure to have commented on that talk. No one is more familiar with it and how it came to be published than I, and I can state positively that it was not published by the Church, nor by the approval of the Authorities of the Church. There are some circumstances concerning this discourse which I think it is hardly proper for me to write inasmuch as the First Presidency, one of whom was President David O. McKay, gave the answer to Dr. Sterling B. Talmage in reply to an inquiry from him, which, in my opinion, sets forth the facts as I have stated them. I suggest that you write Dr. Sterling B. Talmage and ask him to permit you to read this communication from the First Presidency, Presidents Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and David O. McKay, dated December 19, 1935. [This is the First Presidency letter on “appointments” quoted by Elder Lee above.]
There are still other angles from which this lecture and its publication can be viewed. For instance, over the last few years, the superb journal of President George Q. Cannon has become available for study. One entry is especially relevant. It seems that Brother Talmage, long before he gave his lecture on “The Earth and Man,” put considerable thought and effort into formulating his own position. In 1899 (over 30 years before the lecture) President Cannon recorded: “Brother James E. Talmage came to the office [of the Church president] with a number of questions that he wished answered. The First Presidency listened to them. President [Lorenzo] Snow excused himself and asked President (Joseph F.] Smith and myself to answer them. They were questions concerning science and the attitude that scientific men occupied in relation to the scriptures. He wished these questions answered because he is professor of geology in the University [of Utah] and holds the chair endowed by the Church. I fancied from the drift of his talk that he himself was unsettled on some points, for instance, the antiquity of man, and whether there were more progenitors of our race than Adam.” It shows a marked degree of humility and receptiveness in this gifted professor, that before deciding his own mind he sought the views of the First Presidency. From Presidents Cannon and Smith he would have received no encouragement regarding these scientific theories of men “in relation to scripture”; both counselors were opposed to evolution. This helps explain why he eventually settled on the position he did regarding the creation of Adam and Eve.
Another angle: in 1967, when Elder McConkie was teaching a summer school class for religious educators at BYU, he conducted a question and answer session, and these items came up. Elder McConkie was obviously familiar with the content of Elder Talmage’s address, and very diplomatically sought to explain how issues such as contrary opinion among church leaders should be approached:
Question: Was Adam immortal before the fall?
Answer: Adam was immortal before the fall; meaning that body and spirit were inseparably connected. But it’s a different kind of immortality than resurrected immortality, and that is what caused Bro. Talmage to coin the word “unmortal,” to try and distinguish between the two kinds of immortality. There was no death for Adam until a change came, which change is named the fall….
All we have done up to this point in our consideration of the atonement, is lay the basic foundation, to define the term and show its importance, and show the foundations upon which it rests [the creation and the fall of Adam] and out of which it as a doctrine grows and a lot of blessings that flow from it. And there are a lot of applications to things that it has….
Question: In relation to the fall of Adam, why was “The Earth and Man” by Talmage reprinted in the Instructor two weeks ago because it seems to contradict—
Answer: I haven’t the faintest idea—write the Instructor. Don’t ask me.
Question: How do you feel about the comments of Bro. Talmage?
Answer: There are a lot of divergent views on this business. Everybody knows that. There isn’t anybody here who doesn’t know that there are people who think that they can harmonize evolution and the gospel, or who think that things happened in a different way than the scriptures say they did.
All I’m hoping to do today is to say precisely and accurately what the scriptures say, and I did make the comment earlier that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and Orson Pratt and Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor and Joseph F. Smith and the early Brethren who interpreted these scriptural passages did it in the way we are doing it here. Now it just so happens in the Church that people believe all [different] portions of the gospel and some of them don’t believe very much and some of them believe a little more and I hope the day comes that we will all believe a lot more. But you can’t really harmonize 2 Nephi 2 about no death in the world with some of the evolutionary theories. You just can’t do it…. Now that’s what I say. You’re going to find somebody else that says something different. I’m aware of that. I hope what you will do is get a hold of the scripture and try to tie in what you believe with what the revelations actually say—as interpreted by Joseph Smith the Prophet and so on.
Comment: I heard “The Earth and Man” was published without the consent of the First Presidency and without their approval—I think we need to note that fact.
Answer: I don’t know that this is true so maybe I shouldn’t say it, but I understand that someone who’s the top man in the Church was a little upset with it. He didn’t tell me that but the rumors float around our building.
These further insights enlarge and clarify perspective where this lecture by Elder Talmage is concerned. No matter what he actually came to believe in regard to plant and animal life and death on the earth before the fall of Adam, we do have this testimony from Elder Talmage, given at the October, 1916, General Conference, that tells us what he thought of evolution (or theistic evolution) in relation to the creation of man: “When I see how often the theories and conceptions of men have gone astray, have fallen short of the truth, yea, have even contradicted the truth directly, I am thankful in my heart that we have an iron rod to which we can cling—the rod of certainty, the rod of revealed truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints welcomes all truth, but it distinguishes most carefully between fact and fancy, between truth and theory, between premises and deductions; and it is willing to leave some questions in abeyance until the Lord in his wisdom shall see fit to speak more plainly. As the result of the combined labors of wise men I learn that man is but the developed offspring of the beast; and yet I read that God created man in his own image, after his likeness; and again, I stand on the word of God, though it be in contradiction to the theories of men.”
Vital Questions to Ponder
Having now reviewed the above information and quotations, some key questions arise that deserve serious reflection. Regarding the substantial extant body of Church leaders’ teachings and views about the origin of man and the theories of men, including those quoted and referenced herein, the First Presidency (of 1992) as part of an approved introduction to the BYU Evolution Packet, stated the following: “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.”
This statement ostensibly allows those who so desire to exclude from their consideration all but the four items included in the BYU Evolution packet: “The Origin of Man,” the “Mormon View of Evolution,” the Christmas message, and the 1931 minute entry. With only those items remaining as “definitive,” it becomes easier for those with biased motivations to interpret the documents as they so desire, even the opposite of what they say. Being beholden to the four items only, all the rest becomes ignorable instead of troublesome and corrective or even rebuking. This reasoning brings up the critical question: even though the abundant material set forth herein is not officially categorized as “definitive,” should it be dismissed and ignored, or, should it be highly valued; gratefully accepted as precious, as sound and inspired teachings and counsel; some of it, perhaps, even as (uncanonized) scripture? Are all of these Apostles inspired interpreters of scripture and expounders of doctrine, or are they not?
In the body of this article (excluding the notes), only the First Presidency and Apostles are quoted (B. H. Roberts was quoted by Elder Lee): much from General Conference addresses, some from BYU devotional speeches, all from legitimate historical sources. (The personal doctrinal correspondence, while not approved channels for church communications, still reflect their author’s views.) Ten Apostles who were or later became Presidents of the Church are quoted. Of the teachings of Apostles, President Clark taught: “We should bear in mind that some of the General Authorities have had assigned to them a special calling; they possess a special gift; they are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, which gives them a special spiritual endowment in connection with their teaching of the people. They have the right, the power, and the authority to declare the mind and will of God to His people, subject to the overall power and authority of the President of the Church.”
We have seen that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve of President Joseph F. Smith’s administration were united in accepting and approving “The Origin of Man” document, which means what it says about how Adam was created by (born of) Heavenly Parents. We ought remember what it stated its purpose was: “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.” This speaks of “restatement” and of “original attitude” of church doctrine, of telling the truth as God—not science—“has revealed it.” Also that those who need to ought “conform their opinions thereto.”
We have seen that the First Presidency of Heber J. Grant’s administration reissued part of the earlier First Presidency statement, thereby sustaining and upholding it.
We have followed the work of a committee of Apostles, assigned by the First Presidency to review Elder Roberts’ theories on life and death and pre-Adamites before the fall, recommending his manuscript not be published unless its speculative doctrine was corrected.
We have quoted the lengthy formal report of the Quorum of the Twelve to that same (Heber J. Grant) First Presidency, as prepared by Quorum President Rudger Clawson, indicating that “This of course is the doctrine of evolution and is as I understand it repugnant to the teachings of the Church of Christ.” Also that a majority of the Quorum did not want “The Earth and Man” published by the Church.
We have read the statement of Elder Marion G. Romney that “on the fundamentals they [the Apostles] are in accord, and one of those fundamentals upon which they are in accord is that Adam is a son of God, that neither his spirit nor his body is a product of a biological evolution. . . .”
We have read the emphatic statement from President Ezra Taft Benson, quoting Elder Mark E. Petersen, indicating that members of the Quorum of the Twelve “urged” President Joseph Fielding Smith to write his book Man, His Origin and Destiny, scripturally refuting the theory of evolution (theistic or otherwise).
Many members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and I would presume all of them, have indicated that, especially for their most important addresses like General Conference talks and BYU devotional speeches, they put much serious thought and fasting and prayer into the preparation of their messages. They often indicate and occasionally testify that divine guidance and inspiration attends their preparations and delivery.
We found that the current President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, has (at least) thrice spoken in opposition to the theory of evolution as explaining the origin of man. We have found that more than a score (closer to twice that), of individual Apostles, as they sought the Lord for His guidance in giving their messages, felt guided to speak and write in opposition to evolution, many of them vigorously. What then—do we conclude that they teach false doctrine on this subject of the origin of man, of Adam and Eve? Do we really think that the Lord, His prophet, and their fellow Quorum members would allow them to do so?—or have they been encouraged? Would four of them have become Presidents of the Church after repeatedly teaching against evolution if they were wrong? Should we dismiss all of their repeated unified Apostolic teachings and instead try to harmonize evolution with the gospel? How would these Apostles react today to such an effort? Do we not know, having quoted them?
Apostolic Warnings to Evolutionists
Some of the apostles have had strong words for those who have allowed themselves to fully accept evolution and consider it a demonstrated law to the point that it alters their doctrinal understanding. The consequences that they enumerate, for sufficient belief in this man-made theory, are indeed alarming. Below are some examples of their warnings. (These men are using the non-scientific common definition of theory that most regular people would recognize, and not the scientific definition of a theory as being almost a demonstrated law of nature):
Elder Mark E. Peterson: “Christ is the Creator! Shall we not accept His word in preference to uninspired theories of men?
“Probably the greatest challenge to belief in Christ today is the fast-spreading denial that He is the Creator, coming from men who would supplant the revealed truth with the very tenuous and fragile theory that the universe and all life came about in some mysterious, spontaneous, accidental manner.
“To deny that He is the Creator is to deny also that He is the Christ.”
Elder Boyd K. Packer: “Many who perceive organic evolution to be law rather than theory do not realize they forsake the Atonement in the process.”
Elder Harold B. Lee and President J. Reuben Clark: “You see how vital to all we are teaching is an understanding of the Fall, making necessary the Atonement—hence the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Recently President J. Reuben Clark and I were talking about some of these things—about some who perhaps claim membership in the Church but who deny the Fall and therefore deny the need for the Atonement and even the Atonement itself. President Clark said, ‘If they really only knew it, they are not Christians, because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.’”
President J. Reuben Clark: “No man or woman is a true member of the Church who does not fully accept the First Vision, just as no man is a Christian who does not accept, first, the Fall of Adam and, second, the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
President Joseph Fielding Smith: “Evolution leads men away from God. Men who have had faith in God, when they have become converted to that theory, forsake God.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Here are some doctrines that weaken faith and may damn. It depends on how inured a person gets to them, and how much emphasis he puts on them, and how much the doctrine begins to govern the affairs of his life. Evolution is one of them. Somebody can get so wrapped up in so-called organic evolution that he ends up not believing in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Such a course leads to damnation.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “We are saved or damned by what we believe. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the saving truths of his everlasting gospel, we have a hope of eternal life. If our beliefs embrace the philosophies of men and the vagaries of the world, they may lead to destruction. Nearly the whole educational world goes blithely along, espousing the false theories of organic evolution, which rule out the fall of man and the atonement of Christ.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “There are those who believe that the theory of organic evolution runs counter to the plain and explicit principles set forth in the holy scriptures as these have been interpreted and taught by Joseph Smith and his associates. There are others who think that evolution is the system used by the Lord to form plant and animal life and to place man on earth.
“May I say that all truth is in agreement, that true religion and true science bear the same witness, and that in the true and full sense, true science is part of true religion. But may I also raise some questions of a serious nature. Is there any way to harmonize the false religions of the Dark Ages with the truths of science as they have now been discovered? Is there any way to harmonize the revealed religion that has come to us with the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and the diverse speculations descending therefrom?
“Should we accept the famous document of the First Presidency issued in the days of President Joseph F. Smith and entitled ‘The Origin of Man’ as meaning exactly what it says? Is it the doctrine of the gospel that Adam stood next to Christ in power and might and intelligence before the foundations of the world were laid; that Adam was placed on this earth as an immortal being; that there was no death in the world for him or for any form of life until after the Fall; that the Fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world; that this temporal death passed upon all forms of life, upon man and animal and fish and fowl and plant life; that Christ came to ransom man and all forms of life from the effects of the temporal death brought into the world through the Fall, and in the case of man from a spiritual death also; and that this ransom includes a resurrection for man and for all forms of life? Can you harmonize these things with the evolutionary postulate that death has always existed and that the various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomically long periods of time?
“I believe that the atonement of Christ is the great and eternal foundation upon which revealed religion rests. I believe that no man can be saved unless he believes that our Lord's atoning sacrifice brings immortality to all and eternal life to those who believe and obey, and no man can believe in the atonement unless he accepts both the divine sonship of Christ and the fall of Adam.
“My reasoning causes me to conclude that if death has always prevailed in the world, then there was no fall of Adam, that brought death to all forms of life; that if Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement; that if there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no resurrection, and no eternal life; and that if there was no atonement, there is nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us. I believe that the Fall affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself, and that the atonement affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself.”
This is all well-considered, strong language from some of our inspired Apostolic doctrinal teachers and finest scriptorians—even though they do not speak formally and officially for the Church in the same sense as does the President or First Presidency.
I thought this quotation from Elder McConkie to be prophetic in how well it engages the mistaken goal of harmonization coming from this latest generation of BYU biologists:
We're going to be judged by whether we walk by faith. We're going to be judged by the truths we believe, and if we don't believe all the gospel truths that we should, there's a deficiency. If we believe something and accept it as truth, which is not, that's going to be taken into consideration in our judgement.
I'm perfectly well aware of the theoretical postulates that go around about creation and evolution, and all the rest, and I know that the theories have changed radically from when I studied them here at the University of Utah to the day when you are now studying them. When your children and grandchildren study them they'll be changed again, and every generation of teachers will think that they're setting forth eternal, absolute, and ultimate truth. But nonetheless, these are the theories of men and they don't accord in many respects with the revelations.
In one of his talks touching on our subject, Elder McConkie asked his own weighty question, also worth earnest pondering in our hearts and minds: “Will the Lord give us the full and revealed account of the creation as long as we believe in the theories of evolution?” We can easily guess the answer. The more we seek revelation to give us the truth of things as they really are, were, and are to come, the better our chances of receiving inspiration. The principle is the same as this powerful statement from the Bible Dictionary: “God can be known only by revelation. He must be revealed or remain forever unknown (Mosiah 4:9).” So also with the creation of the earth and man and all forms of life. If the purpose is to harmonize error with truth, how far will that goal help us with obtaining God’s divine assistance?
We have now carefully considered the BYU biologists purposes and classroom teachings. We have quoted them to be accurate, and we have quoted the opposing views of the First Presidency and the Apostles for the same reason. There is no question where Church leaders stand on this issue.
We have this counsel from Elder Harold B. Lee (and B. H. Roberts), given to church religious instructors but applicable to all—especially the BYU biologists:
There is still one other kind of, shall I say, “theorist.” They are called by some of our writers “Christian evolutionists.” These are the ones who try to harmonize science with religion, and we possibly have had some in the Church whom we might call Christian evolutionists. Of course, Elder Roberts says this: “I am aware that there is a class of men who profess to be ‘Christian evolutionists,’ and who maintain that Christianity can be made to harmonize with the philosophy of evolution. But how are they made to harmonize? We are told that Jesus is still a Redeemer, but in this sense only: he gave out faultless moral precepts, and practiced them in his life, and inasmuch as people accept his doctrines and follow his example they will be redeemed from evil. But as to the fall of man and the atonement made for him by the Son of God—both ideas are of necessity rejected [by the Christian evolutionist]; which means, of course, denying the great fundamental truths of revelation; it is by destroying the basis on which the Christian religion rests, that the two theories are harmonized—if such a process can be called harmonization. It is on the same principle that the lion and the lamb harmonize, or lie down together—the lion eats the lamb.”
When you find some of our Latter-day Saint teachers who struggle to try to explain how the Creation and the Fall of man took place and can be harmonized with the evolutionary theory of science, the net result is that the teachings of the gospel are destroyed and the theory of evolution prevails. (Brackets in original.)
Similar teachings and counsel comes from Elder Russell M. Nelson:
Just think, if you could create anything that could defend itself, repair itself, and renew itself without limit, you could create perpetual life. That our Creator did with the bodies he created for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. If they had continued to be nourished from the tree of life, they would have lived forever. According to the Lord, as revealed through his prophets, the fall of Adam instituted the aging process, which results ultimately in physical death. . . .
Through the ages, some without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species, or organic evolution from one form to another. Still others have concluded that man came as a consequence of a “big bang” that resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.
To me, such theories are unbelievable! Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a Dictionary? It’s unthinkable! But it could be argued to be within a remote realm of possibility. Even if that could happen, such a Dictionary could certainly not heal its own torn pages, or renew its own worn corners, or reproduce its own subsequent editions!
We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. Recently I studied the scriptures simply to find how many times they testify of the divine creation of man. Looking up references that referred either to create or form (or their derivatives) with either man, men, male, or female in the same verse, I found that there are at least fifty-five verses of scripture that attest to our divine creation (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 8; 5:1, 2; 6:7; Deuteronomy 4:32; Isaiah 45:12; Malachi 2:10; Mark 10:6; Romans 9:20; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 3:10; 2 Nephi 1:10; 2:15; 9:6; 29:7; Jacob 4:9; Mosiah 4:2, 9; 7:27; Alma 1:4; 18:32, 34, 36; 22:12, 13; Mormon 9:12, 17; Ether 1:3; 3:15, 16; Moroni 10:3; D&C 20:18; 29:30, 34; 77:2; 77:12; 93:29; Moses 1:8; 2:27; 3:5, 7, 8, 9; 6:8, 9; 7:32; 8:26; Abraham 4:26, 27; 5:7, 8, 14, 16). I have selected one to represent all those verses that convey the same conclusion:
And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness. . . .
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. [Abraham 4:26, 27]
I believe all of those scriptures pertaining to the creation of man. But the decision to believe is a spiritual one, not born solely by an understanding of things physical:
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. [1 Corinthians 2:14]
It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of men who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved. By the spirit we perceive the truer and more believable wisdom of God. . . .
For years I have attended scientific meetings of learned societies. Medical scientists and practitioners by the thousands participate in such assemblies annually from all over the world. The quest for knowledge is endless. It seems that the more we know, the more there is yet to learn. It is impossible that man may learn all the ways of God. But as we are faithful and are deeply rooted in scriptural accounts of God’s magnificent creations, we will be well prepared for future discoveries. All truth is compatible because it all emanates from God.
Of course, we know that “there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). In the world even many so-called “educators” teach contrary to divine truth.
Sound counsel for all, from two men who became prophets of God. A final question and recommendation: we have seen that there can be no harmonization between revealed truth and the theory, theistic or not, of evolution. What then, should these BYU students do with the conflict, since the BYU biologist’s purposes are false and will fail?
A statement from President McKay’s office contains wise counsel on how to proceed: “Under these circumstances, any conflict which may seem to exist between the scientific theory and the truth of revealed religion should be dealt with by suspending judgement as long as may be necessary to arrive at the facts and a complete understanding of the truth. While the theory is subject to controversy and differences of opinion in the scientific world, the authorities of the Church rely upon the revelations of the Lord for information about the creation of man.” (Emphasis added.) Contrary to the BYU biologist’s agenda, here is a satisfactory though temporary solution.
 Personal Correspondence, Bruce R. McConkie to Mr. Eugene England, February 19, 1981, 8; copy in author’s possession.
 Personal Correspondence, Bruce R. McConkie to Mr. Clair A. Millett, May 30, 1980; copy in author’s possession.
 “Seek Learning, Even by Study and also by Faith,” Given April 10, 1974, Salt Lake City; in Boyd K. Packer, That All May Be Edified, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 43-45.
 I like past BYU religion professor Joseph Fielding McConkie’s logic. He wrote: “The first issue here is whether we square the revelations of God with the theories of men, or test the theories of men against the revelations. That has a great deal to do with the kind of conclusion we come to. If we try to square religion with science, and this has been done plenty of times, we simply say that the language of the revelation [or First Presidency document] doesn't mean what it says it means. On the other hand, if we are squaring science with revelation, we conclude that there hasn't been death on this earth as long as the theories of men tell us there has.” As quoted in Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1998), 157.
 The anti-Mormon (or so-called exMormon) community, has invented a new name for apostasy, that I presume sounds gentler to them “faith-transition.” But it all adds up to the same thing, leaving behind your baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood, and most seriously, their sacred temple covenants. They can name it a transition all they want, but they are apostatizing from truth into error and are then without God in this world.
 As quoted in “Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Weber State College Institute of Religion Fireside, December 11, 1977; 5. In President Benson’s 1974 BYU Speeches slightly altered version of this address with the same title, this paragraph reads: “If we really did our homework and approached the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we could expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men, including socialism, humanism, organic evolution, and others.” In his famous BYU address “The Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet,” President Benson said: “Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.” I think we can safely conclude that the BYU biologists “would-be authorities on evolution.”
 Higher criticism, while a complicated subject, basically means that those who accept it do not accept anything supernatural in the Bible; they deny the many described miracles; offer alternate explanations for them, and so forth.
 Joseph F. Smith to Andrew Smith, 25 February 1911; cited in Ernest L. Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 4 vols, 1:426.
 Heber J. Grant diary, February 10, 1911:
“This afternoon met with President Lyman, Bros Hyrum M. Smith, Charles W. Penrose, Anthony W. Ivins, George H. Brimhall, Joseph B. Keeler, Henry and Joseph Peterson, Ralph Chamberlin and Horace H. Cummings, and we were together until nearly 7 p.m. listening to explanations regarding the teachings of the Bros Peterson and Chamberlin at the B.Y.U. at Provo. They were very frank in their explanations of their beliefs on Evolution, and as to certain parts of the Bible which they did not believe. They manifested a very good spirit.
[Feb. 11] “Attended the meeting of the Twelve ... and after discussing the status of Bros Peterson and Bro Chamberlin we were unanimous of the opinion that it was unsafe for them to continue teaching at the B.Y.U.”
 Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University, 1:431.
 Spending tithing to support false doctrine is not a good idea. Elder Packer said of BYU students: “The budget for their education is the second largest of all Church appropriations (the budget for BYU alone is in the hundreds of millions of dollars).” With that being said almost 25 years ago, I speculate the budget would now be a billion dollars or more per year.
 Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University, 1:429.
 Quotation dated February 10, 1911; copy of entry in possession of the author.
 “Seek Learning, Even by Study and also by Faith,” in Packer, That All May Be Edified, 43-45. At a talk he gave to the BYU administration, Elder Packer shared further details of this experience: “Seven years later I walked into the Maeser Building, then the administration building, to an office I was to occupy as chairman of a summer school for all seminary and institute personnel. There were problems, and so we had been called in for some reinforcement, some shaping up. Our instructor was Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He invited guest lecturers. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. came more than once; President Joseph Fielding Smith, Elders Spencer W. Kimball, Mark E. Peterson, Marion G. Romney, LeGrand Richards, Delbert L. Stapley, and Richard L. Evans, President Belle S. Spafford of the Relief Society (one of the greatest women of our time), and others came. For two hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks we were taught at the feet of the apostles. The influence of those days is still evident in our lives and in Church education.”
 See James B. Allen, “The Story of The Truth, The Way, The Life” BYU Studies 33, no. 4 , 691-741
 B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, John W. Welch, ed. (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994), 292-93.
 Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, 197.
 For an online expanded version of this biologist’s reconciliation theories, see here. I had a biology class from this professor (it was team taught) at BYU in the summer of 1988. It was during this term that Elder Packer came to BYU and spoke at a devotional, giving his famous address, “The Law and the Light.” The professor ignored Elder Packer’s talk refuting evolution and instead promoted it as demonstrated and factual.
 Personal Correspondence, Bruce R. McConkie to Mr. Robert M. Frame, October 10, 1967; copy in author’s possession.
 Personal Correspondence, Bruce R. McConkie to Walter M. Horne, October 2, 1974, 1. Elder McConkie’s son Joseph Fielding McConkie phrased it this way: “If the body of ‘official doctrine’ is to be limited to formal declarations by the First Presidency, the Church has precious little doctrine. From the time of its organization in the spring of 1830 to the present, there have been very few instances in which the First Presidency has issued ‘official’ doctrinal declarations. These have included the statement on the origin of man, a doctrinal exposition on the Father and the Son, and most recently the proclamation on the family. Each of these declarations is marvelous in its own right, but if our definition of ‘official doctrines’ is defined so narrowly that it is limited to these declarations and the few others we have received, we could not even declare faith, repentance, and baptism as doctrines of the Church. Indeed, most of what we understand to be the doctrine of the Church finds no mention in such documents. Certainly the standard works, the temple ceremony, and much instruction that has come to us by those whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators is also ‘official doctrine.’” (as quoted in Answers, 213.)
 Elder Whitney journal entries given as quoted in Dennis B. Horne, The Life of Orson F. Whitney: Bishop, Poet, Apostle (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 214), 291-92.
 Elder John Henry Smith also noted the preparation of this doctrinal declaration in his diary, September 27, 1909.
 First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931; emphasis added. See BYU Evolution packet.
 This manual contains writings of President Joseph Fielding Smith that strongly condemn the promotion of theistic evolution: “Of course, I think those people who hold to the view that man has come up through all these ages from the scum of the sea through billions of years do not believe in Adam. Honestly I do not know how they can, and I am going to show you that they do not. There are some who attempt to do it but they are inconsistent—absolutely inconsistent, because that doctrine is so incompatible, so utterly out of harmony, with the revelations of the Lord that a man just cannot believe in both.
“… I say most emphatically, you cannot believe in this theory of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other, for they are in direct conflict and there is a gulf separating them which is so great that it cannot be bridged, no matter how much one may try to do so.”
 Letter from A. Hamer Reiser, Assistant Secretary to the First Presidency, to Mr. Robert C. Stones, April 21, 1960; copy in possession of the author. Past BYU religion professor Joseph Fielding McConkie agreed with this distinction, and explained: “In telling the story of the Creation, for instance, teachers are commonly challenged with the question, ‘Does the Church have an official position on the theory of evolution?’ The answer is no, it does not. On the other hand, and this is certainly very important in such a discussion, the Church does have an official position on the doctrine of the origin of man. The way questions are framed is very important. On the one hand, the Church is not in the business of evaluating scientific theories; on the other, it is in the business of teaching that all humankind are the offspring of divine parents and thus not the product of an evolutionary process.” (As quoted in Answers, 212-13.) I have tried to emphasize this same point throughout this piece.
 Letter, Claire Middlemiss, Secretary to President David O. McKay, to Mr. Pertti Felin, May 8, 1964. Copy in author’s possession.
 As quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft; 1966), 3 vols., 1:95.
 As quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” in Woman (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 60.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Fundamentals of the Gospel,” August 25, 1954, Brigham Young University; question and answer discussion period, 11-12; copy in possession of the author. In his remarks, President Smith also made this statement: “They would have had no children. Now don’t anyone ask me why they couldn’t have children—I don’t know” (3-4).
 In the Pew Forum interview, Elder (now President) Russell M. Nelson said: “We believe that God is our creator and that he has created other forms of life. It’s interesting to me, drawing on my 40 years experience as a medical doctor, how similar those species are. We developed open-heart surgery, for example, experimenting on lower animals simply because the same creator made the human being. We owe a lot to those lower species. But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible.” “Why is that?” “Nelson: Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It’s just the way genetics works.”
 I suspect the handout is referring to the 1930-31 controversy.
 The Bible Dictionary preface states: “Many of the entries draw on the work of Bible scholars and are subject to reevaluation as new research or revelation comes to light. This dictionary is provided to help your study of the scriptures and is not intended as an official statement of Church doctrine or an endorsement of the historical and cultural views set forth.” It also said this: “It is based primarily on the biblical text, supplemented by information from the other standard works.”
 Personal Correspondence, Boyd K. Packer to Dennis B. Horne, April 7, 1995; original in possession of the author.
 Letter, Joseph Anderson, Secretary to the First Presidency, to unnamed individual, February 25, 1959; copy in author’s possession.
 Three articles, all written by people with very liberal and pro-evolution views, which cover this episode, are found here, here, and here. President Ezra Taft Benson’s negative reaction to the first item is found here.
In reviewing some chapters of Edward L. Kimball’s biography of his father, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), I noticed that the author devoted space to President Kimball’s interactions with members of the Quorum of the Twelve who spoke against evolution at BYU devotionals or in General Conference addresses. I further noticed from the notes (and I reviewed the enlarged version of the book) that most of Ed Kimball’s citations were from liberal-biased (even dissident) sources; periodicals like Dialogue and Sunstone, and publishers like Signature Books, whose authors believed evolution to be true demonstrated science. These exhibited a pro-evolution bias; the articles kept trying to make it seem like there were many silent senior church leaders that disagreed with those who opposed evolution. This is simply not the case. The public criticism of evolution from the Apostles was not curbed simply because President Spencer W. Kimball thought they were correct to do so. President Kimball requested Elder McConkie to write his article “Christ and the Creation” and directed that it be printed in the Ensign. It explained the falsity of evolution when contrasted with the scriptures (see Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003], 298-99.)
 Personal Correspondence, David O. McKay to Dr. LaRele J. Stephens, undated; copy in author’s possession.
 For another example, in the published text of his refutation of evolution entitled “The Law and the Light” Elder Packer included this disclaimer: “Only the Standard Works and statements written under assignment of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles are considered official declarations by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The talk which follows was given without such assignment and no such approval has been sought or given. The author alone is responsible for the views set forth therein. They do not necessarily represent the Church.” It should go without saying that despite the formality of the disclaimer, Elder Packer did not think he was going to go teach BYU students a bunch of false doctrine. While he did not speak for the Church or the First Presidency, he believed and knew the truth of every word he spoke on that occasion. I was in attendance on that occasion and felt a sweet Spirit present.
 I inserted the bracketed word “doctrine” because I think there is little doubt that both President Smith and President Benson would recognize that the scientific portions of President Smith’s book would eventually, as the decades passed, become revised and even obsolete as science progressed. Science was not President Smith’s forte’; however, doctrinal and scriptural explanations were his spiritual gift and wondrous strength, and those portions of his book remain as insightful and doctrinally correct as the day he penned them.
 Personal correspondence, Joseph Fielding Smith to Donald R. Snow, circa. July 1958.
 For the text of this letter and some others like it, see Dennis B. Horne, comp., Determining Doctrine (Roy, UT: Eborn Books, 2005), 34-35.
 Ibid, 35.
 To BYU Students, President Kimball said: “The first commandment recorded seems to have been ‘Multiply and replenish the earth.’ Let no one ever think that the command came to have children without marriage. No such suggestion could ever have foundation. When God had created the woman, he brought her unto the man and gave her to him as his wife, and commanded, ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). . . .
“There is enough in that one line to make a hundred sermons. Think it through very carefully, every word. This was not the evolution of Adam to human status. Adam was already an intelligent, trained, and knowledgeable man. He was a prophet in his first recorded days on earth (see Moses 5), and this prophet blessed God and prophesied concerning his posterity. . . .
“In true order, Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bore Adam’s children—many children. And a book of remembrance was kept, and recordings were made in the language of Adam. . . . They kept the genealogical records of their fast-expanding families. This would indicate, then, that Adam was a great man when we first are introduced to him. He didn’t come from the jungle.” (Emphasis added.)
 As quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, “Marriage & Exaltation,” unpublished lecture transcript, University of Utah Institute, March 25, 1968; copy in author’s possession.
 “Mormon Doctrine Lecture #1,” unpublished transcript, Brigham Young University, 1967; transcript created by author. Elder McConkie’s son, past BYU religion professor Joseph Fielding McConkie, supported his father’s doctrine, writing: “As first created in their physical form, no living thing was subject to death. Consider what we are taught in Moses 3:7. This passage announces that God created ‘man from the dust of the ground,’ a metaphor for the normal birth process and understood as such by prophets in both the Old and New Worlds. Enoch, for example, used this metaphor in the same manner as Moses did (see Moses 6:59), and Jacob said, ‘All flesh is of the dust’ (Jacob 2:21). Similarly, speaking to his people, King Benjamin said, ‘Ye were created of the dust of the earth’ (Mosiah 2:25), and Moroni said, ‘Man was created of the dust of the earth’ (Morm. 9:17).” (As quoted in Answers, 159-62.)
 ” Personal correspondence, Marion G. Romney to Mr. Joseph T. Bentley, March 24, 1955, accompanying letter to unnamed recipient, February 18, 1955; copies in author’s possession.
 Joseph Fielding McConkie, a past professor in religious instruction at BYU, wrote: “Is the theory of evolution compatible with the doctrine of the Fall?” and answered, “No. We can tug, twist, contort, and sell our birthright, but we cannot overcome the irreconcilable differences between the theory of organic evolution and the doctrine of the Fall. Some have argued for a form of theistic evolution—that is, a God-inspired evolution—in which lower forms of life progressed over great periods of time to the point that God could take the spirit of the man Adam and place it in an animal and declare it to be the first man. The argument is at odds both with scripture and with an official declaration of the First Presidency on the origin of man. The scriptures of the Restoration declare Adam to be ‘the son of God’ (Moses 6:22) and the ‘firstborn’ of all earth's inhabitants (Abr. 1:3). They further state that he and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God's body. . . . Let the idea not be lost that the physical body of God is being spoken of here. . . . Be it Adam, Christ, or any other human being, the process of birth is the same.” (Answers, 158-59.)
 Harold B. Lee, “The Story of the Creation,” Lecture Given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, June 22, 1954,
Brigham Young University. For further information about the problems of holding too tightly to scientific theories, see Hugh Nibley, “Archaeology and Our Religion,” and especially its follow-up document, a letter that Hugh Nibley wrote to Lorin F. Wheelwright, September 16, 1965, discussing and defending his Archaeology article that had been rejected for publication, and also bringing up the fallacies of evolution.
 As quoted from James E. Talmage journal, November 21, 1930.
 Harold B. Lee, excerpt from “The Church and Divine Revelation,” Lecture Given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, Brigham Young University, July 13, 1954.
 Personal Correspondence, Joseph Fielding Smith to Sterling B. Talmage, December 4, 1935; copy in author’s possession.
 Personal Correspondence, Joseph Fielding Smith to Henry Eyring, April 15, 1955, 4; copy in author’s possession.
 Here, “inseparably connected” is evidently a misstatement, or should be understood to mean inseparably connected only while they were in their unmortal/nonmortal pre-Fall condition, as the next sentence in full context clearly shows. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “We read also that in fulfilment of the promise of the Lord, Adam died. . . . He, like all of his posterity, had to be redeemed from death through the mission of Jesus Christ. A resurrected being cannot die; therefore Adam was not a resurrected being from some other planet, when he came here. . . . It is true that Adam (Michael) as a spirit came from another planet, a celestial world; so did I and you, for we dwelt in the presence of God our Eternal Father in that world before we were assigned to this mortal world. Adam was not born of earthly parents, that is mortal parents. He was not subject to death and could have lived forever had he not transgressed the law. (2 Nephi 2:22.) It was possible, however, for Adam, through that transgression, to bring mortality upon himself because he had not passed through the resurrection. In the resurrection the spirit and body became inseparably connected. (D&C 88:15-16, and 93:33.) (As quoted in personal correspondence, Joseph Fielding Smith to unnamed recipient; undated.)
 “The Atonement,” BYU Summer 1967 graduate religion class lecture, unpublished transcript made by author.
 James E. Talmage, General Conference, October 1916, 75. One author of an article on the disagreements and discussions of Bros. Talmage, Smith, and Roberts, wrote this about Elder Talmage: “Although he seems to have rejected (after his college years) the theory that life forms evolved from one another, the logical implication of
his comments was that his mind could be changed by further scientific evidence; his objections to evolution did not derive from a particular scriptural interpretation” (82). I think there is no question the testimony quoted from Elder Talmage’s General Conference talk entirely refutes that conclusion.
 J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “When are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture,” Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, Brigham Young University, July 7, 1954, 12.
 Harold B. Lee, “The Fall of Man,” Lecture given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, June 23, 1954, Brigham Young University.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, “Man: His Origin and Destiny,” Lecture Given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, June 25, 1954, Brigham Young University.
 Lee, “The Fall of Man.”
 Letter, Claire Middlemiss, Secretary to President David O. McKay, to Mr. Pertti Felin, May 8, 1964. Copy in author’s possession.
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