(by Dennis B. Horne)
The fact is that for many decades the Restored Church has produced many manuals for its formal classes (Seminary & Institute, Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society, etc.) that have been approved by Church Correlation. These are now available on the Church’s website, where anyone can look them up and peruse their content on the doctrine of the origin of man. These, of course, carry much greater doctrinal weight than any biology class taught at BYU, or BYUSQ. Below is some quoted material from an Old Testament manual:
“The world would have you believe that Adam and Eve were primitive and superstitious, that they brought about the Fall through immorality, or even that they are imaginary, mythical persons. But as you read about them remember how the Lord views these two great souls.”
“While it is interesting to note these various theories, officially the Church has not taken a stand on the age of the earth. For reasons best known to Himself, the Lord has not yet seen fit to formally reveal the details of the Creation. Therefore, while Latter-day Saints are commanded to learn truth from many different fields of study (see D&C 88:77–79), an attempt to establish any theory as the official position of the Church is not justifiable.”
Abraham records that in the midst of “many of the noble and great” premortal spirits was one “like unto God,” who said to them, “We will go down … and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:22, 24; emphasis added). This passage suggests that others besides Adam may have assisted in the Creation. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
“It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed? [Abraham 3:2–4.]” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74–75.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable: for instance, God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass. 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.)
“Then what is meant by the ‘first flesh’? It is simple when you understand it. Adam was the first of all creatures to fall and become flesh, and flesh in this sense means mortality, and all through our scriptures the Lord speaks of this life as flesh, while we are here in the flesh, so Adam became the first flesh. There was no other mortal creature before him, and there was no mortal death until he brought it, and the scriptures tell you that. It is here written, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Seek Ye Earnestly, pp. 280–81.)
In Genesis and the parallel accounts in Moses and Abraham is a brief record of the creation of the earth and of man who would dwell on it. It is a simple and straightforward account. Although we are not told exactly how the Lord brought about the creative processes, we are taught several essential concepts:
First, God, the Father of all men, instituted the creation of this world as a place for men to come to mortality and progress toward their eternal destiny.
Second, man is the offspring of deity.
Third, the world was not created by chance forces or random accident.
Fourth, Adam was the first man and the first flesh on the earth (see Reading 2-16 for a definition of “first flesh” [Moses 3:7]).
Fifth, Adam fell from a state of innocence and immortality, and his fall affected all life upon the earth as well as the earth itself.
Sixth, the Atonement of Jesus Christ was planned before the world was ever created so that men could come to a fallen earth, overcome death and their sins, and return to live with God.
In the world another theory of how things began is popularly held and widely taught. This theory, that of organic evolution, was generally developed from the writings of Charles Darwin. It puts forth different ideas concerning how life began and where man came from. In relation to this theory, the following statements should help you understand what the Church teaches about the Creation and the origin of man.
“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.” (First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund], in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:205.)
“Any theory that leaves out God as a personal, purposeful Being, and accepts chance as a first cause, cannot be accepted by Latter-day Saints. … That man and the whole of creation came by chance is unthinkable. It is equally unthinkable that if man came into being by the will and power of God, the divine creative power is limited to one process dimly sensed by mortal man.” (Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 1:155.)
“I am grateful that in the midst of the confusion of our Father’s children there has been given to the members of this great organization a sure knowledge of the origin of man, that we came from the spirit world where our spirits were begotten by our Father in heaven, that he formed our first parents from the dust of the earth, and that their spirits were placed in their bodies, and that man came, not as some have believed, not as some have preferred to believe, from some of the lower walks of life, but our ancestors were those beings who lived in the courts of heaven. We came not from some menial order of life, but our ancestor is God our heavenly Father.” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1925, p. 33.)
“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. …
“… Then Adam, and by that I mean the first man, was not capable of sin. He could not transgress, and by doing so bring death into the world; for, according to this theory, death had always been in the world. If, therefore, there was no fall, there was no need of an atonement, hence the coming into the world of the Son of God as the Savior of the world is a contradiction, a thing impossible. Are you prepared to believe such a thing as that?” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:141–42.)
“On a television panel celebrating the centennial of Charles Darwin’s book Origin of Species, Sir Julian Huxley began his comments by saying, ‘The first point to make about Darwin’s theory is that it is no longer a theory, but a fact. No serious scientist would deny the fact that evolution has occurred, just as he would not deny the fact that the earth goes around the sun.’ [Sol Tax and Charles Callender, eds., Issues in Evolution, p. 41.] This is a confusing statement that tells only part of the truth. First, the word evolution must be defined.
“The word itself merely means ‘change,’ and on the basis of this definition, evolution is a fact. However, most people understand evolution to mean progressive change in time from simplicity to complexity, from primitive to advanced. This definition of evolution is not based on fact. The study of inheritance has revealed principles and facts that can prove evolution—if we understand the word evolution to mean ‘change.’ But the obvious minor changes occurring to living things today give no basis for concluding that limitless change has happened in the past. …
“Yes, new species of plants and animals are forming today. The almost endless intergradations of animals and plants in the world, the fantastic degeneration among parasites, and the adaptations of offense and defense, lead to the inevitable conclusion that change has occurred. However, the problem of major changes from one fundamental kind to another is still a most pressing unanswered question facing the evolutionist. Modern animals and plants can change, but the amount of change is limited. The laboratories of science have been unable to demonstrate change from one major kind to another, neither has such change happened in the past history of the earth if we take the fossil record at face value.” (Coffin, Creation, pp. [13, 15].)
“Constant exposure to one theory of origins, and only one, has convinced many that no alternative exists and that evolution must be the full and complete answer. How unfortunate that most of the millions who pass through the educational process have little opportunity to weigh the evidences on both sides!
“Examinations of the fossils, stony records of the past, tell us that complicated living things suddenly (without warning, so to speak) began to exist on the earth. Furthermore, time has not modified them enough to change their basic relationships to each other. Modern living organisms tell us that change is a feature of life and time, but they also tell us that there are limits beyond which they do not pass naturally and beyond which man has been unable to force them. In consideration of past or present living things, man must never forget that he is dealing with life, a profoundly unique force which he has not been able to create and which he is trying desperately to understand.
“Here are the facts; here are the evidences; here, then, are the sound reasons for believing life originated through a creative act. It is time that each individual has the opportunity to know the facts and to make an intelligent choice.” (Coffin, Creation, p. .)