(by Dennis B. Horne)
Today, and for some 50 years previous, the Church has used something called “correlation” or “correlation review” to evaluate and ensure the doctrinal correctness and accuracy of gospel teachings and instruction it produces. Correlation review has other purposes than this, but such is its main use. It has not always worked perfectly; it has had some annoying side-effects; in some cases it has dumbed-down the Church; but over-all it has been very helpful and necessary and its origins and continued use has been declared inspired by many of the Brethren. Before 1960s-1970s its purposes were the same but were called by other names, such as reading or publication committees. The below items and information will give the reader a feel for the creation of these processes and their internal church usages. First is the text of an official letter from the Heber J. Grant First Presidency appointing and explaining the duties of a new reading (correlation) committee. Those who don’t enjoy learning about such matters might skip to the next item, which is a definite and substantial quotation taken from a general conference address given by Elder Marion G. Romney. In this address he discusses his work and feelings as part of that reading/review committee as it pertains to the origin of man and the mission of Adam. (As far as I am concerned, Elder Romney spoke by pure inspiration.) Then excerpts from letters written by Elder Romney and by Elder Harold B. Lee are given, in support of and explaining some reaction from President McKay to his conference message refuting evolution. These powerful teachings won’t persuade biology teachers of evolution, who know more than the Lord, but they do represent the position and feelings of the leading Quorums of the Church—which is all that matters.
Elders Joseph Fielding Smith, John A. Widtsoe, Harold B. Lee, and Marion G. Romney.
As you are aware, the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve approved, by a formal action, the setting up of a committee on Publications as proposed by the First Presidency. You Brethren were named and approved to constitute that Committee.
The function of this Committee is to pass upon and approve all materials, other than those that are purely secular, to be used by our Church Priesthood, Educational, Auxiliary, and Missionary organizations in their work of instructing members of the Church in the principles of the Gospel and in leading others to a knowledge of the truth. No non-secular materials will be used by any of these organizations that do not receive the approval of your committee. This assignment will cover reference books prescribed or placed at the disposal of our youth by any of the organizations named, as also books used in reading courses.
To meet the required standards for use by Church organizations, such materials must:
1. Clearly set forth or be fully consistent with the principles of the Restored Gospel.
2. Be wholly free from any taint of sectarianism and also of all theories and conclusions destructive of faith in the simple truths of the Restored Gospel, and especially be free from the teachings of the so-called "higher criticism." Worldly knowledge and speculation have their place; but they must yield to revealed truth.
3. Be so framed and written as affirmatively to breed faith and not to raise doubts. "Rationalizing" may be most destructive of faith. That the Finite cannot fully explain the Infinite casts no doubt upon the Infinite. Truth, not error, must be stressed.
4. Be so built in form and substance as to lead to definite conclusions that accord with the principles of the Restored Gospel, which conclusions must be expressed and not left to possible deduction by the students. When truth is involved there is no place for student preference or choice. Youth must be taught that truth cannot be blinked or put aside; it must be accepted.
5. Be filled with a spirit of deepest reverence. They should give no place for the slightest levity. They should be so written that those who teach from them will so understand.
6. Be so organized and written that the matter may be effectively taught by men and women untrained in teaching and without the background equipment given by such fields of learning as psychology, pedagogy, philosophy, and ethics. The great bulk of our teachers are in this untrained group.
Courses on "comparative religion" have no place otherwise than in the Post-Graduate School to be established at the Brigham Young University and there only for the purpose of developing and demonstrating the truth of the Restored Gospel and the falsity of the other religions of the world, and thereby build the faith and knowledge of post-graduate scholars. The subject is one for careful, prayerful study by the mature mind, not for the framing of the thought and belief of the youthful mind.
The work of all these Church organizations must have as their purpose the building up of firm testimonies in the minds and hearts of the Saints, particularly of the youth,—testimonies of the truth of the Restored Gospel, of the Messiahship of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the divinity of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the divine origin of this Church established by God and His Son by and through the Prophet, and of the fact that this is and always will be the Church of Jesus Christ with all that this connotes,—all to the end that the Saints may have and enjoy these testimonies, that they may live in keeping with the commandments of the Lord, that they may constantly increase their knowledge of the Truth, thus enabling them so to live that salvation, exaltation, and eternal happiness in the Celestial Kingdom may come to them, and lastly that they in turn may lead others of the world to a knowledge and testimony of the Truth both by their precept and by their example, so bringing to them these same blessings.
No assignments for the preparation of text books or lessons for use by any of the named organizations shall be made without prior consultation with and approval by your Committee. All texts written and lessons prepared are to bear the name of those who write or prepare them. All such materials must have your approval before they are used by any of the organizations of the Church.
In the preparation of all these materials prime consideration should be given, by those undertaking it, to our own Church history and doctrinal literature. In the rather recent past these sources have been too little considered. Sectarian views and doctrines have had too large a place and consideration; the paganistic theories and tenets of the so-called “higher criticism” have not been without their influence; none of these have a place in our Church. They should be wholly eliminated from our literature.
The leaders of the Church have from the beginning been men of stalwart spiritual integrity, righteous in their living, virile in their thinking, profound in their knowledge of the Gospel, and with undoubting faith. They have left sermons and writings which in good part are original sources and should be so dealt with. In recent years they have been too little consulted and too infrequently used. Not mere sectarian scholarship, but Church scholarship coupled with unwavering faith and a deep knowledge of the Gospel should be the test of fitness for the preparation of the materials involved in this assignment. As we have already said: worldly knowledge has its place, but it may not be substituted for revealed truth, nor the inspired utterances of God's prophets. Ethics and philosophy are found in the Gospel, but it is far more than these; whenever either or both of these are used, they must be used with great care and caution, and for the sole purpose of indicating that human wisdom, when sound, supports the divine Gospel truths. All secular knowledge used should be so set forth as to support the Gospel truths.
The discussion of mysteries and of doctrines upon which there is not a recognized accepted view, should be avoided. The aim should be to present the simple truths of the Restored Gospel in as plain and understandable a way as possible. Care should be taken that the Gospel teachings are not cast in an ethical mold. Ethics are man-made and vary with man's concepts and development; the Gospel is God's truth and is unchanging through the eternities. Teaching the Gospel as if it were an ethical code will breed questions in the minds of the youth as to the relationship of the Gospel to ethics, to the possible destruction of faith in the divinity of the Gospel.
We are naming a Reading Committee to assist you brethren in your labors. This Committee will operate under your direction. It is contemplated that the Reading Committee will, in the first instance, read all the materials covered by this assignment and then bring to you Brethren of the Committee on Publications their recommendations thereon. It will be the duty and responsibility of your Committee finally to pass upon and approve or disapprove all such materials….
In making this assignment to you Brethren of the Committee on Publications and of the Reading Committee, we wish to assure you that in our view the work you are now called to do is of the very first importance to the Church membership as a whole, and to the youth of the Church particularly. The assignment is given with the intention that no other Church work shall take precedence over it, that you will begin your labors at once, and will prosecute them with vigor and constancy, having an eye single to the glory of God and to the upbuilding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on this earth, and to the salvation and exaltation of God's children in the Celestial Kingdom.
Praying that the blessings of the Lord may attend you in the carrying on of this important work to which you have been called, and that constantly His spirit will be with you to inspire your minds and give you wisdom in your labors, we are Faithfully your brethren,
HEBER J. GRANT, J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency.
President Marion G. Romney (April 1953 general conference):
I would like to say just a word about my testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ. I want to go a little farther back for a moment, if I can be given guidance by the Spirit of the Lord to speak the truth accurately, and mention the great condition precedent to the efficacy of the mission of Jesus Christ. That condition precedent is the mission of Father Adam, because without the mission of Adam there would have been no need for the mission—the atonement—of Jesus Christ.
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 Nephi 2:25.) There were no pre-Adamic men in the line of Adam. The Lord said that Adam was the first man. (Moses 1:34, 3:7; D. & C. 84:16.) 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 Nephi 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, 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 Nephi 2:25.)
I will go on now and read this scripture before I forget it:
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.
And as Enoch spake forth the words of God, the people trembled, and could not stand in his presence. (Moses 6:46-47.)
Some men speak of the ancients as being savages, as if they had no intelligence. I tell you this man Enoch had intelligence, and Adam had intelligence, as much as any man that ever lived since or that lives now. They were mighty sons of God.
And he said unto them: Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe. (Moses 6:48.)
If Adam and Eve had not partaken of the forbidden fruit, they would have had no children, and we would not have been. (2 Nephi 2:23-25; Moses 5:11.)
I do not look upon Adam's action as a sin. I think it was a deliberate act of free agency. He chose to do that which had to be done to further the purposes of God. The consequences of his act made necessary the atonement of the Redeemer.
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.
Now, I believe with Enoch, " . . . Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death;" (Moses 6:48) that every man must die, as Brother Petersen said yesterday. I believe that to meet the demands of justice, it took the atonement of Jesus Christ to redeem men from that death, that they may be raised again and have their spirits and their bodies, which are separated through death, reunited. I believe that through the atonement of Jesus Christ whatever "transgression" Adam committed was paid for, and that as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, every living creature. (1 Cor. 15:22; D. & C. 29:24, 77:2.) I believe, too, that through the atonement of Jesus Christ my individual sins, your individual sins, and the individual sins of every human being that ever lived or ever will live upon the earth were atoned for, upon condition that we accept the gospel and live it to the end of our lives.
I know that my Redeemer lives. I shall not know it better when I stand before the bar of God to be judged. I know that Jesus is the Redeemer. I bear that witness to you, not from what people have told me; I bear it out of a knowledge revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. (Conference Report, April 1953, 123-24.) (For those wishing to actually hear the audio file of this address, go to: https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=9573212a-e844-4d2f-bd53-802dc2e5f695&crate=0&index=0 At about 17:14 mins. in is when Brother Romney starts talking about Adam and the true doctrine of the origin of man. Keep in mind that because this was extemporaneous it was also somewhat choppy and disjointed and he read few scriptures, but all of that was cleared up, with some scripture citations added, in the published conference report.)
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 on the origin of man], 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.
And there is yet more to the story. President Harold B. Lee shared this information:
I have a few moments to respond to your letter of recent date in which you express some concern about some contradictory information as to the position we should take with regard to the doctrine of evolution. This, as you know, has been long a bone of contention so serious that in the earlier years when Darwin’s theory first was enunciated, a number of professors at the Brigham Young University were released because of their unwillingness to teach the theory and then counter by delivering the true doctrines of the gospel.
Apparently the thing that confused you was that these who have contended have shown you a copy of a letter which was signed by President David O. McKay in which he disavowed the church having taken any official position on the subject of organic evolution. And, furthermore, that in that note to Professor William Lee Stokes, he declared that the book, Man, His Origin and Destiny was not published by the church and is not approved by the church.
There is a little bit of history that I should tell you about. One summer some years ago, I was assigned to deliver a day by day set of lessons to all the seminary teachers and some of the institute teachers of the church, which proved to be a very demanding assignment. I went down each morning and met with all of these teachers. President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book had just come off the press and I assigned, as a part of the course, the reading of this book and writing a dissertation not less than 2500 words on the subject “What Your Appraisal Is of the Value of This Book to a High School Senior or a College Student.” This caused quite a consternation among the teachers, some of whom wanted to write a very critical analysis of the book and were fearful of doing so lest I would downgrade them in the course. This was not at all my intent, it was merely to have them respond critically if they wished, and I so told President Smith that I was inviting criticism and he said that was all right.
Some of these brethren who were critical of the book came directly to President McKay and represented to him that I had used President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book as a text for my lectures at the BYU. He called President Ernest Wilkinson in to express his criticism that I had done so, and President Wilkinson told him that that was not true, that he, President Wilkinson, had sat in on most of the lectures that I had given and I did not use the book as a text, it was merely an assigned reading outside of the lessons.
It was undoubtedly the undue pressure of some of these dissidents, one of which was his own son, who was a professor at the University of Utah, that induced him to write this brief and to them a satisfying but to you a disturbing note, which poured water over their wheel and tended to lessen the influence of President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book.
When your letter came to our attention, President Marion G. Romney told me of a conference address which he had delivered at the April conference in 1953, where he spoke directly to this subject of the fall of Adam, or the fall of man, as it is spoken of, and then brought forth scriptures to support the position of the church with respect to the advent of man upon the earth, etc.
At the conclusion of his talk, President Romney said that President David O. McKay had congratulated him and had written a brief note, a copy of which I am attaching hereto, in which he congratulated President Romney and then said, “I congratulate you for your excellent contribution during the conference and express gratitude for your remarks as well as your fine spirit, and I assure you that I agreed heartily in every instance.” President Romney thought if you had this statement from President David O. McKay, signed by himself, to counter this other statement which has been so confusing, that that should be sufficient for you to understand that President McKay had made this other statement probably because of a compromising position he had been in due to the circumstances as I have explained them.
I might add one further thought. Just after this book of President Joseph Fielding Smith’s was printed, I had a young student of science from the University of Utah who came from a family who lived in my stake, come in with several books and wanted to argue against statements made in President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book. I said to him, “Now Brother ___.” (his name was Dr. ___.) “I haven’t had the opportunity of delving deeply into science, but I want to tell you an experience that Mark E. Petersen and I had when we organized the new Kansas City Stake. In our interview we had a man who was considered as a bishop of one of the wards who was a teacher of anatomy in the Kansas City University, which was a dental school. Of course this made it necessary for us to examine very carefully his faith as contrasted with his teaching of the evolutionary theory which of course would be taught in connection with the subject of anatomy. After we had discussed this, I asked him if he had read Brother Smith’s book. He smiled and said, ‘Yes, I have, and it was the most difficult book I have ever read.’ ‘But,’ he said, ‘I want to tell you that in my opinion this is the finest book that the church has ever produced for men who were teachers in the field of science. And I endorse what President Smith has said entirely.’ ”
I said to this young Dr. ____, “I wish you would write to this professor of science, who is much older and more experienced than you, in Kansas City, and have him respond to your questions.”
A few weeks later this young man came back in a humble spirit and said, “Well I need nothing more to quiet my concerns, when a man of his experience can say what he said, that’s enough for me.” “Now if I were you, Brother ____, I would not be discouraged. This is a contention which has gone on and will continue to the end of time I suppose, and until the scientists get nearer and nearer to the doctrines of the Church, there will still be contention, but remember this, that truth can never be composed with the errors of men. Just know that the gospel is true and that these are the theories of men which you as a student must learn if you want to pass the courses you are taking.
With kindest personal regards and trusting this letter will be sufficient to set the matter right in your mind I am,
Very sincerely yours, Harold B. Lee.
Further teachings by President Romney on the origin of man:
Satan, our enemy, is making an all-out assault upon righteousness. His well-marshaled forces are legion. Our children and youth are the targets of his main thrust. They are everywhere subjected to wicked and vicious propaganda. Every place they turn, they are buffeted with evil, cunningly devised to deceive and to destroy every sacred thing and every righteous principle.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is scoffed at. God, they are told, is dead. The principle of repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost are ridiculed.
Morality in general and chastity particularly are outmoded. Man—so our children are told—is an animal, the product of biological evolution; his generative powers are not sacred and God-given for the purpose of bringing God's spirit children into mortality, and therefore to be exercised within the limits divinely prescribed, as the gospel teaches, but they are playthings to be exploited and prostituted for the gratification of sensual and lustful desires. Courage, honesty, loyalty, patriotism, law and order—these and other elements of the divine nature are no longer revered as virtues.
If our children are to be sufficiently strengthened to stand against this satanic onslaught, they must be taught and trained in the home, as the Lord has directed. (Conference Report, April 1969, 110.)
To Adam, the first man, God revealed himself as the Father of man. And he has renewed that revelation in every dispensation since.
In the Garden of Eden, both before and after the Fall, God walked and conversed with Adam, who was his son, even as one man walks and talks with another. After Adam was driven from the Garden, he was visited and taught the truth of these things by holy beings from the presence of God.
And Adam and Eve . . . made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God. [Moses 5:12–13]
This claim by Satan that he was “also a son of God” is proof that he knew Adam had instructed his children and that they knew that they were sons and daughters of God. While admitting that he and Adam’s children were the sons of God, he commanded them not to believe what Adam and Eve had taught them, “and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish. Doing so is their own responsibility, however; it is not God’s because under his direction the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
. . . And a [divine] decree [was] sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end there of. [Moses 5:58–59]
And thus it has been, and thus it will continue to be.
The truth I desire to emphasize today is that we mortals are in very deed the literal offspring of God. If men understood, believed, and accepted this truth and lived by it, our sick and dying society would be reformed and redeemed, and men would have peace here and now and eternal joy in the hereafter.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept this concept as a basic doctrine of their theology. The lives of those who have given it thought enough to realize its implications are controlled by it; it gives meaning and direction to all their thoughts and deeds. This is so because they know that it is the universal law of nature in the plant, animal, and human worlds for reproducing offspring to reach in final maturity the likeness of their parents.
They reason that the same law is in force with respect to the offspring of God. Their objective is, therefore, to someday be like their heavenly parents.
They not only so reason; they know they may so become because God has revealed the fact that it is his work and glory to bring to pass their eternal life (Moses 1:39), which is the life God lives.
Adam, the first man, knew that he was a son of God. He walked and talked with him in the Garden of Eden before the fall. After the fall, “Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them. …” (Moses 5:4–5.). . .
The theory that man is other than the offspring of God has been, and, so long as it is accepted and acted upon, will continue to be, a major factor in blocking man’s spiritual growth and in corrupting his morals.
That it would be so was clearly predictable. In the mind of its devotee, any such theory as Pope’s doubt as to whether “to deem himself a God or Beast” is resolved in favor of being a beast; and his doubt as to whether to prefer “his mind or body,” in favor of his body.
The concept that man is a beast relieves him of a sense of accountability and encourages him to adopt the fatalistic attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”. . .
The truth is, my beloved brethren and sisters, man is a child of God—a God in embryo. . . . That man is a child of God is the most important knowledge available to mortals. Such knowledge is beyond the ken of the uninspired mind. Neither logic, science, philosophy, nor any other field of worldly learning has ever been, or ever will be, able to find it out. Those who limit their search to such learning techniques will continue to be as they have always been, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7.)
The only means by which such knowledge can be had is divine revelation. Fortunately for us, as has already been shown, it has been so revealed repeatedly from Adam until today.
The aspirations, desires, and motivations of one who accepts, believes, and by the power of the Holy Spirit obtains a witness to the truth that he is a begotten son or daughter unto God differs from the aspirations of him who believes otherwise, as the growing vine differs from the severed branch.
I can see no justification for us, who have the clear light of the revealed gospel of Christ, to spend our lives stumbling around through the mists following the uncertain glimmer of a flickering candle lighted by the wisdom of men. Rather, we should devote our energies to spreading the true light, and leave the mists to those who do not see that light.
Elder Romney talks about God and science: Conference Report, April 1959, 9-12.
Elder Marion G. Romney, “That Which is Born of the Flesh is Flesh and That Which is Born of the Spirit is Spirit.” (John 3:6.); BYU Speeches. February 14, 1962. Audio version only is given.
 ” 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.