Evolution and the Fall

We now come to Mc Conkie's fifth objection which is a big one. Fortunately we have already dealt with much of the material. (Topics which he has not already mentioned before and will be addressed here are in bold.) While we have addressed the issue of death in the world, I intentionally avoided a full treatment of the fall, with its supposed introduction of both temporal and spiritual death to the world. But such must now be addressed.
FALL OF ADAM AND ALL THINGS. — Before the fall there was neither death nor procreation. Plants, animals, and man would have continued living forever unless a change of condition overtook them; and in their then immortal condition they could not have reproduced, each after its own kind. Death and procreation pertain to mortality, that is, to the status and type of existence attained by all forms of life subsequent to the fall.
Lehi said: "If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall."
Eve expressed the same truth in this language: "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." Adam's fall brought temporal (natural) and spiritual death into the world. The temporal or natural death means that body and spirit separate, the spirit going to a world of waiting spirits to await the day of the resurrection, the body returning to the dust, the primal element, from which it was taken. The effects of this fall passed upon all created things.
Obviously, the whole doctrine of the fall, and all that pertains to it, is diametrically opposed to the evolutionary assumptions relative to the origin of species.

Dismissing the fall altogether is a notion that most members are simply not going to be willing to give up. But why is this? Is it the fall as we commonly understand it that cannot be rejected or the effects from and reasons for the fall which are more important? I suggest that it is the second, though saving the first would be icing on the cake. After all, Mc Conkie's strong adherence to the doctrine of the Fall stems from two things: 1) his desire to maintain the credibility of the scriptures and 2) it's association with the atonement which shall be dealt with shortly.

The doctrine of the fall is as follows and surely any attempt at reconciliation must account for such things:

  1. It was an introduction of physical death for those involved.
  2. It was an introduction of spiritual death for those involved.
  3. It was an introduction of the ability to physically procreate, again, for those involved.
  4. It was an introduction of knowledge in one form or another to those involved.

I have left these statements rather vague (i.e. "those involved") for good reason. First, and most obvious yet least persuasive, is that abiguity makes reconciliation easier. Second and more persuasively, we already saw that organisms have been dying and procreating for billions of years. We cannot say that the fall introduced death and procreation into the earth with the fall of two human beings about 6,000 years ago. There is no evidence for these notions and if one is to accept any form of evolution, even IDC, we simply must reject such ideas.

Thus, we cannot apply the ideas Mormons commonly maintain about the fall to the entire earth and its history. Whatever the fall was, it was not the introduction of death and procreation to the earth. Whatever the fall is meant to describe, it is to that and that alone that we should also apply the introduction of spiritual death and knowledge.

Well, what could it have been? Some of you already know my theory concerning this issue and I will describe it now since I can think of no other event which these ideas could refer to in Mormon doctrine. It makes little mention of Adam and Eve but such shall be taken up in one of Mc Conkie's later objections.

Before I go on the describe my theory, I should first address another category of "alternate falls." These other attempts at reconciliation invoke an isolated fall where death and procreation were happening outside of the garden of eden. I find such attempts unsatisfactory for a couple of reasons.

  1. We do not have a common ancestor which lived a mere 6,000 years ago which could have introduced any of these things to all of humanity.
  2. Such a limited account of the fall seems to destroy the point of the fall all together, since it is supposed to be a description of all of mankinds predicament.
  3. It seems very contrived and somewhat desperate. Though all attempts at reconciliation will seem that way to a certain degree, we should avoid excess.
  4. Such schemes, as we will see in reviews of Skousens' Earth in the Beginning and B.H. Robert's The Way, the Truth and the Life, usually posit someform of mass destruction of life around 6,000 years ago. This simply isn't true.

Some things to remember about the fall. Accounts of it tend to be closely intertwined with ceremony (the temple) or are rather legendary (genesis). Though I don't presume to actually do so right now in too much detail, we must separate, the ceremony from the story and the myths from the historical kernal. In the ceremonial setting, the point is not to learn about Adam and Eve. It is to learn more about yourself. The genesis is objective history, it is a story with a point. With this in mind I will continue.

What we know about life before the fall is:

  1. Adam was in God's presence. God walked and talked with Adam.
  2. Adam lived in a paradise, whereever this was, it was not "here."
  3. Adam had an immortal spiritual body of sorts. It is difficult to tell what this actually means.
  4. Adam was ignorant in that he had not gained some form of knowledge which seems to be an experience of good and evil. He could only progress spiritually by subjecting himself to spiritual and physical death.
  5. Satan was present was also present here in God's presence. Only after goes against the Father is he banished.
  6. Adam was childless. This seems to be related to the nature of his spiritual body.

After the fall the conditions were as follows:

  1. Adam was cast out of God's presence. We no longer had relatively easy access to God, but instead had to pray for "many days" for an angel to come.
  2. Adam was cast out of paradise into was is termed a lone and dreary world. In other words we was sent "here."
  3. Adam became mortal. He received a mortal body just like we have now.
  4. Adam could now have children. Again, just like we can with our bodies now.
  5. Adam began to gain knowedge and progress spiritually.
  6. Satan was also was cast out of the paradise. He then came to the lone and dreary world with Adam to tempt him.

If these events do not describe the Garden scene, what could they describe? An interesting question, especially when we consider that the name Adam means man or mankind (hence my reason for not mentioning eve, sorry ladies). If we replace Adam with mankind in all of these points we recognize these as describing something else, namely the pre-existence!

Now how this idea of the fall would work with our ideas of the premortal counsel would be a fun chore for another day, but we must admit that the parellels are startling. The story of our coming to earth and the story of the fall, seem to be telling the exact same story. Why not just consider them to be one and the same story, namely mankinds fall from heaven? This could be a valid way of reconciled the doctrine of the fall with evolution.

Summary: We have already addressed issues concerning the fall of the earth. We cannot however evade the issues of the fall of man, since salvation must include us being saved from something. Startling parellels between the accounts of the fall and our coming to earth may provide us with the fall we need while maintaining scientific cerdibility.


Jeff - Great post. Before attempting to find doctrinal problems with your proposal, I have a couple of foundational questions.

(1) If the fall as we are taught in all of our Scriptures and by all of our leaders is not historical, we weren't we simply told the real story?

(2) If I cannot believe the fall story in the Scriptures, and all other stories that are connected to it, why should I believe any of the stories in the Scriptures about Christ?  

Posted by Greg

4/07/2005 10:16:00 AM  


1. The scriptures and prophets rarely, if ever, give the whole story. In fact the question assumes that prophets know the whole story, which I think it is apparent that they do not.

2. Our evangelical brethren could ask similar questions of us. The question presupposes inerrancy of scriptures. Furthermore, even our most conservative LDS thinkers admit that at least some portions of the fall story are figurative.

BTW, I don't think Jeff is arguing that the fall is not historical. He is just giving an alternative intepretation of what is really behind the symbolism. 

Posted by Jared

4/07/2005 10:49:00 AM  

Jeffrey, I think this is a promising approach. As I mentioned in a comment on a previous post, I think taking the Fall to be simply the passage from premortal life to mortality makes the easiest fit to the scientific data.

Greg, the scriptures are not monolithic in style, time, place, authorship, and purpose. It is possible to consider Genesis as myth or ritual, telling us something about the meaning  of our origin, but little about the history or science of the matter. The gospels may be considered independently, with the eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Savior taken as "history".

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall (TSM)

4/07/2005 11:52:00 AM  

It might also be wise, in this context, to consider the strong evidence of the Hebrews having borrowes much of the creation and garden account from other cultures. The accounts in Genesis were definitely not written in a vacuum as can be seen in the fact that the Garden account in Ezekiel is very different in many details. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/07/2005 12:35:00 PM  

Jared and Christian - I will accept your answers as good faith responses and get on to the "fun stuff."

If one is going to relocate the story of the fall to the pre-mortal world, some elements need to be seriously considered, in my opinion, to see if they are necessary to be included in the "Script."

(1)It is my understanding that Adam chose to become mortal, in order to remain with Eve, even though he was aware that he would be committing physical and spiritual "suicide," so to speak, by doing so.

(2) In our current version of the story, all of us essentially make the same choice that Adam did: By choosing to be born, we suffer physical and spiritual death, voluntarily.

(3)EVE, however, the leader in this matter (for which she is often given due credit in LDS thought)- entered mortality under unique circumstances - which I am going to list. Now, the issue will be, are Eve's unique circumstances essential and can they be replicated in an entirely "pre-mortal" version of the story.

(a) Eve was lied to by Satan. She was told she would not die. When this took place, she had only the accountability we now attribute to children under 8.

(b) Eve "fell" by herself; her eyes were opened, and she reported her condition to Adam, counseled with him, and they decided together that he would join her.

(c) A primary reason for joining Eve was to provide a passageway into mortality for the rest of us.

In this account, certain "roles" are played by God (He provided the props -the Garden and the 2 trees -gave instructions and warned of consequences, and allowed for choice). Another specific role was played by Lucifer, by Eve, and by Adam.

The basic solution proposed by Jeff, it seems to me, is to recognize that there are two environments, the pre-mortal spirit world with spirit bodies, and the mortal world with appropriatly evolved physical bodies, and that all that needs to take place is for us "kids" to decide to be born.

The story we Now have has several additional elements. I offer 2 challenges:

(1) Construct a scenario in the pre-mortal world that includes all of the "roles" described above - and link them reasonably to an existing group of hominids in the mortal world - or,

(2) Make a simpler one, i.e., "there's a body, I will jump in" and explain -

(a) Why the various roles described above don't matter, and

(b) The status of "unused" hominids in relationship to a just plan of salvation.

4/07/2005 02:28:00 PM  

P.S. Jeff - your insightful comment came up while I was writing. Cultural sources are fun. For example, did you know that a Professor somewhere in the South has assembled 80,000 separate universal flood accounts?

4/07/2005 02:31:00 PM  


I'll reserve judgment until I learn more, but I happened to look through this today. These kinds of issues should be kept in mind about flood legends.

4/07/2005 07:10:00 PM  

I've mentioned before at Jeff's blog, that the providing of coats of skin fits into this idea nicely.

4/07/2005 07:24:00 PM  

Jared - I know there is a lot of conflicting information out there. I have yet to research it in depth, but, the 80,000 number certainly caught my attention. I will need to see if they are broken down in a manner that would address some of the issues raised at Talk Origins.

4/07/2005 07:27:00 PM  

Greg, I'm not too commited to my proposed model, I simply can see no other way, a blatant argument from ignorance. We must admit that while the story is pretty much gone (the icing as I called it), the doctrine still remains. This is what really matters most.

Before I address some of your questions I should point out a mistake which everybody, even prophets sometimes fall into. That of confusing doctrine with excuses . I'm not accusing you of doing this, I'm accusing all Mormons of having done it.

Here are some possible  examples:
1. Why do only men have the priesthood? Because it was a woman that cause our fall. (This is not inconceivable when said 3,000 years ago.)
2. Why do bad things happen in the world? Man brought it upon himself in the fall. (This is not what Mormonism commits itself to, thank goodness.)
3. Doesn't the fall of Eve place women in a lessr position? No, she was seeking knowledge. (This is our current way of avoiding ridicule in a significantly less misogynistic community.)
4. Why would man, who was created so good by God, choose evil? Because he realized the importance of staying with Eve for the opportunity of having children.
5. Why would woman have sinned? Because it is actually the devil's fault, he tricked her, she being more gullible.
6. Why would God even put the fruit there when it would tempt them? There must be in opposition in all things.
7. Why did God give them conflicting commandments? (There are lot's of answers to this one, most of which are in conflict with eachother, a dead give away that there are excuses amok.) a) He didn't because He said, nevertheless, thou mayest choose (like this isn't implied in every commandment). b) The introduction of death and sin had to be somebody else's fault, not Gods (So instead He introduced Satan and the tempting tree into the garden? I thought mortality was good in a certain way?).

And the list could go on and on. But which of these answers are doctrine and which are excuses. Might some be doctrine based on excuses and some excuses being needed to justify these doctrines?

We all know what happens when General Authorities speculate with excuses. Consider the false excuses people still repeat for the denying Blacks the priesthood. They all stem from General Authorities. Such excuses breed not only racism but also extreme self righteousness. (I was righteous in the preexistence so I was blessed by being born into a Mormon home.)

When it comes to the Garden story, there are some things we just shouldn't defend.
1. The serpent, being the most subtle of all animals, could really talk.
2. That women was simply a by-product of man, being created from his rib.
3. It was 6,000 years ago.
4. It introduced death into the world.
5. It's all Eve's fault.
and so on.

The roles which you mention are an intimate part of the ceremonial aspect of the fall. That account is talking more about us than something which happened to somebody long ago. This makes it more meaningful, not less.

As I intimated in my posts and comments regarding the pre-existence, all creatures have spirits. This is part of evolutions rejection of essentialism. Animal spirits are simply less intelligent than ours. There was no specific hominid group into which Adam one day said, "I think I'll jump in!"

The roles above do matter, just not in a historical sense, but in a moral sense.

There were not unused hominids.


Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/08/2005 10:37:00 AM  

Greg, I agree it's not clear whether or how all elements of the story fit with what might have happened in the premortal life. One could retreat to the position that not enough about the premortal life has been revealed yet to make those connections.

It would be distasteful (similar to speculations about premortal valiance of different peoples/races), but one could speculate (going way out on an uncomfortable limb) that Adam and Eve were types representing two broad classes of responses to Lucifer's challenge to Heavenly Father's plan, and that our sex in mortality was determined by the nature of our personal response.
Or, alternatively (and probably more palatable), that gendered premortal spirits tended to react in the "battle in Heaven" in some way roughly represented by Adam and Eve's responses in the story.

I'm not saying one response was better than the other; our tradition ennobles both Adam and Eve; perhaps they were just different.

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

4/08/2005 06:02:00 PM  

Jeff said: "The introduction of death and sin had to be somebody else's fault, not God's"

Jeff and Christian - thanks for your thoughtful responses. Before I "tip my hand" completely on something that for me is quite definitive, as you guys probably know better than myself, traditional Mormon Doctrine solves what is known in theology as "the problem of evil." The early Christian philosophers who have defined the theological basis for modern Christianity have contructed their interpretations of Scripture in such a way that God becomes morally responsible for the evil in the world. Some unique LDS ideas, beginning with rejection of Creation ex nihilo, arguably solve "the problem of evil" and remove God from direct moral responsibility for the sins of mankind.

Here are a few "exam questions" for you guys:

(1) What is the causal relationship between "fallen" bodies and "mans inhumanity to man"?

(2) In what ways does our traditional Fall story carefully absolve God from moral responsibility for the fall?

(2) If God is charged with having created the "fallen bodies" of Adam and Eve, (remember "the natural man is an enemy to God" Mosiah 3:19), does this make Him responsible for the sins of the world, remove the "LDS solution" to the "problem of evil"?

(BTW, I am now studying the influential existential writer Jean Paul Sartre, and, I believe he once gave a speech on how the "problem of evil" was a turning point for him in his rejection of theism)

4/09/2005 09:23:00 AM  


1. The contribution of fallen bodies to inhumanity cannot be quantified, of course. But you need only look around the animal kingdom, which is full of conflict and violence even between members of the same species, to see that our biology very likely plays a role. Yet we are not mere animals, but spiritual children of God with consciences and freedom to act. We are influenced by our biology, but we need not be total slaves to it.

2. Philosophical debates about what God is responsible for are of little interest to me. Regardless of who is responsible, through the atonement he will heal all wounds. In mortality it is natural to want to point fingers, but I believe in the resurrection, nobody will care. Loved ones will be reunited, physical and emotional pain will be gone (except maybe sorrow for others' wickedness), it will be a non-issue.

Given that mortality is part of God's plan, I don't see how anyone can argue that he has no responsibility in what goes on. Do not misunderstand--I'm not saying God is guilty of our sins. Just that it was his plan for us to be in the mess we're in and it is his plan to get us out.

3. Similar to what I've just written. We think of God creating everything in a state of paradise and it was Adam and Eve who messed it up. But clearly if God is the creator, then fallen conditions are ultimately created by him. How can you say to your son, "don't go down to the basement" unless there was a basement to begin with? Maybe another example would be better--did God create blood? If the creation was finished before Adam and Eve fell, and Adam and Eve did not have blood, then how did they get it when they fell? Did Adam and Eve create the blood? Did Satan? If God created blood, or the genes and organs necessary to make it and maintain it when the time came for its use, then how can we say that God had nothing to do with our fallen natures? In fact it was God who issued the curses that define the fallen condition. So as I see it, Adam and Eve may have put the fall in motion, but it was God who created the fallen condition. If this is so, then is evolution that big of a problem?

I may not be writing clearly, but I hope you are getting my point--the philosophical gymnastics are fruitless. We are here. The scientific evidence is what it is. We will die. We are not in God's presence. How do we overcome death and regain God's presence? Jesus' atonement.

4/09/2005 02:20:00 PM  

This is very interesting. I am just catching up in the middle of an unusually slow ER night-shift. The comments regarding Adam and Eve as two different responses to the the battle in heaven struck me. The other day in a conversation regarding political philosphy, a collegue accused me of being too much like Adam, that everything was right or wrong (philosophically) and not being like Eve, taking into account the practical necessities of decision making. In the context of this discussion, his point means more.

I find little that is doctrinally incongruent in Jeffrey's proposal.  

Posted by Mike Wilson

4/13/2005 04:23:00 AM  

Along these same lines about the pssible allegoric nature of these stories, check out this article by John Welch about the Good Samaritan and th Fall.


Posted by Mike Wilson

4/13/2005 02:12:00 PM  


Regarding cultural borrowing of the creation and garden stories, Clark has recently linked to a great article here . 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/15/2005 11:44:00 AM  



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