Evolution and an Immortal Creation

Moving on to number 4 of Mc Conkie's doctrinal objections to evolution, we must deal with the doctrine taught be many that there was no death in the earth prior to Adam's fall.

Adam and Eve and all forms of life, both animal and plant, were created in immortality, that is, when first placed on this earth, all forms of life were in a state of immortality. There was no death in the world; death entered after the fall. All things existed in a state of primeval innocence. If conditions had not changed, death would not have entered the picture. Instead, as the revelations express it, "All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end."
If the revelations are true which say that all life was created in immortality, then evolutionary theories which necessarily assume there was always death in the world are false.

This last sentence seems to be a bit of an exaggerated dichotomy: either the scriptures are true and evolution is false, or vis-versa. Never the twain shall meet. One line of defense against evolution states that though somethings are true, there are still big holes in the theory. Why can't we adopt a similar position regarding scripture? This should definitely be kept in mind when the scripture in question is a conceptual translation (done by Joseph Smith) of an account (related by Nephi many years after Lehi's death) of an interpretation (given by Lehi to Jacob) of other scriptures (written by Moses) which were written 2,000 years after the events they describe! Maybe we could allow for a little bit of fallibility to have crept in after passing through so many mortal hands.

That being said, this objection is closely related to the previous one regarding evolution in paradise. Why would God create imperfect mortals, when all He creates is perfect, just as He is? Well, as we saw, when it comes to potence He is not absolutely perfect. Not only that, but His benevolence, which is as perfect as we could ever hope it to be, might also have reasons for not doing so. For instance, the trillions of organisms that lived and died before 4,000 BC could have been "inhabited" by inferior intelligences also in need of mortal experience.

This, I might even suggest, is a way in which that phrase from Lehi can be applied truthfully. "All intelligences which were self-existent must have remained in the same state in which they found themselves; and they must have remained forever, and had no end, unless they too entered an already "fallen" world." Whether my new rendition has any merit to it whatsoever, it is beside point. What the verse clearly intends to convey is that progess can only be achieved in a fallen world.

If we are able to overcome our notions of scriptural infallibility and God's utter perfection as well as that of His creations, we don't have to reconcile much of anything. God used the billions of years of utter mortality to help inferior intelligences progess, just like He is now doing with us.

We should also mention some other things regarding death prior to the fall. The fact is, there was death, even according to the scriptures. Ben S. commented over at Virtual Theology that according to Trent Stephens, the co-author of Evolution and Mormonism:
To a cellular biologist, cell death IS death. The death of a human is just cell death on a large scale.
Saying there was no death must mean something other than what we assume, because regular day-to-day regulation of plants and animals requires death on a cellular level. Picking an apple will inevitably result in the cellular death of that apple.
Did Adam and Eve have hair? Fingernails? Both are made from dead cells. If a fingernail broke off in the process of gardening (as they were doing), would it be replaced? That would require the death of some cells, each of which, according to Brigham Young, would have had some intelligence or spirit (not going to get into that argument) associated or attached to it.
There was indeed death on a cellular and thus larger level, but something un-did or counteracted any effects of that until the fall. He suggested that they ate regularly from the tree of life (that wasn’t forbidden, remember) and that kept death in abeyance. (This is the theory which Jared posted on) Once they had sinned, they were NOT allowed to partake of the tree of life or else they would live forever. In this view, eating from the tree of life is not a magical thing that grants eternal life if you only eat it once. Rather, it’s like a supplement that you take continuously to keep your body in young condition, where the DNA that produces new cells to replace the old dead ones (you have a completely new body every 3-4 years, btw) doesn’t shorten and produce bad cells, ie. aging.

Now whether his theory regarding the tree of life has any merit is a different matter for a different post. The point is that there was death before the fall, not only outside of the garden (which all attempts at reconciliation have suggested), but in the garden as well to a certain extent. Further details regarding Eden and the Fall are still to come.

Summary: Having rejected the necessity that God create things in an absolutely perfect form, it is not difficult to accept that there was death before Adam. In fact, according to molecular biology, there must have even been a certain amount of death in the Garden of Eden.




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