Evolution and the Atonement

Mc Conkie's sixth objection is where he really wants to lay down the gauntlet. If you accept evolution, you must reject Christ. I have already posted my thoughts on the subject, but since they apparently were not clear enough, perhaps I can elaborate here.

Our Lord's atoning sacrifice is the cornerstone on which the whole gospel of salvation rests. For this atonement to come to pass, two things were necessary: 1. Christ had to come into the world as the literal Son of an immortal, personal Father, a Father who had life in himself and from whom his offspring in mortality would inherit power over death. 2. The fall of Adam had to introduce temporal and spiritual death into the world, for the atonement in its very nature was designed to ransom all things that fell from the effects of that fall. All forms of life are ransomed from the temporal effects of the fall in that they are resurrected and become immortal.
Now if Adam did not fall and bring death into the world, there would be no need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ. If there were no atonement to ransom fallen beings and creatures from the effects of the fall, there would be no resurrection, no immortality, no salvation, no eternal life; and if all these things should vanish away, we could discard God himself and our faith would be vain.

I imagine that to anybody who has been following my posts, my response will be fairly predictable.

This is where I accused Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. Mc Conkie of trying to score easy wins against evolution. For instance, consider Elder Smith's ultimatum:
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?

Clearly JSFII and BRM had their reasons for rejecting evolution. I have been trying to address them in every post so far. But statements like these can hardly be considered shining examples of calm reasoning. They intentionally present a dichotomy (which we are assuming must be false) so as to push their intended and obviously biased audience away from evolution. It is because of statements like these, I have noted, "that these people now feel obligated to act like idiots in the rest of the worlds opinion by denying carbon dating, fossil records, the age of the earth and so on. And all this through no great fault of their own."

That said, let's briefly address the objection. We saw that there are versions of the fall that preserve the necessary doctrines without the popularized stories of the Garden. We all came here from an immortal, spiritual paradise in God's presence to this "lone and dreary" world. We all sin. We all die. Thus regardless of whether there was an actual Adam or not (a topic which I have not yet addressed) we all still need salvation. "We believe that mankind will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression."

We still need to be saved from the effects of the fall, but the fall that we need to be saved from is our fall, not Adam's. As I also mentioned earlier, this problem results from JSFII's and BRM's using the Garden story as a form of theodicy. Adam did not introduce sin. It has always existed, even in the spirit world. Adam did not introduce death, it has always been part of life here on earth. But we were all introduced to both death and a significantly greater degree of sin upon our fall from heaven to come here.

Summary: Some have unfortunately declared any attempt at reconciliation between evolution and the gospel to be a lost cause. This, they think, is due to evolutions rejection of the Garden story and consequently the Atonement. Such fears, however, are without foundation.


I think the point about the atonement being about our  fall is important. However I think you are too hard on McConkie and Smith. Afterall I think what underlies their position is that it isn't just human beings who need salvation, but fallen existence itself. Now I disagree with that position. But if you buy into that view of the fall as something universal, then their reasoning makes a lot of sense, even if it is difficult to reconcile to the historic record.

My inclination is that all the battles over this really reduce down to a misunderstanding over the nature of the fall. 

Posted by clark

4/11/2005 03:13:00 PM  

There is some intellectual dishonesty in claiming that, if I don't think the Earth itself (and Mars, Pluto, Venus, etc.) needs a Savior, then I must not believe that I have one either. I'm tempted to believe that this claim wasn't intended dishonestly--but it is in effect dishonest. It artificially reduces the doctrinal, spiritual, and intellectual options available to the audience.

The thing is, I don't really care if Jesus is also the Savior of Adam (whether he existed as such or not), the cute bunnies, or hypothetical space aliens. I really DO care that Jesus is my Savior and the Savior of all other people that I meet. I honestly can't see any way this could be affected, even indirectly, by evolution! 

Posted by RoastedTomatoes

4/12/2005 07:16:00 AM  

I think part of the problem is assuming we know exactly how the atonement works, and then building arguments on those assumptions. For example Joseph Fielding McConkie has argued that if the conditions of the Garden of Eden were restricted to the garden, with death occuring outside the garden, then you are restricting the effects of the atonement to the square footage of the Garden. My opinion is that there are unwarranted assumptions in his argument. 

Posted by Jared

4/12/2005 07:34:00 AM  

Has anybody else just gotten really, really frustrated with blogger? I spend 15 minutes typing up a nice response only for it to not be able to be posted. Not to mention the problems I've been having with my our site. I know, I could dish out a little bit of money and not complain, but where is the fun in that.

Maybe I was being a bit harsh on JFSII and BRM, but you got to admit that their dogmatic tone almost asks for it.

I always was under the impression that the reason why we all get resurrected, regardless of our works or faith or anything is because it is not our fault that we die. It was Adam's fault, under the popular understanding. Thus we don't have to do anything to be redeemed from death.

To be redeemed from sin is a whole different matter. Our sins are our fault, therefore we have to do something about them to receive forgiveness. This is why we are punished for our own sins and not for Adam's transgression.

This reasoning still works very well when applied to the new model of the fall. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/12/2005 09:34:00 AM  

Everyone is complaining aboug Blogger and many have switched away from it.

4/12/2005 10:09:00 AM  

Regarding Blogger. I've only been using it for a few days and don't have any  complaints. For a lengthy post, I like to compose in wordpad. You can even add HTML tags in wordpad if you like. Then when I've got my wording worked out, I cut and paste it into notepad (which removes everything except plain text). For this, you have to turn on the word wrap feature found on the Format dropdown menu in notepad. Then I use cut and paste again to get it from notepad into the Blogger comment box. If there are posting errors, I can fix it in notepad or wordpad and try again with very little pain. 

Posted by Gary

4/12/2005 12:30:00 PM  

I am not having problems composing anything. My problem is that after I spend 15 minutes writing a comment and click "post comment" every once in a while blogger is simply off-line.

Over at my site, I am using expandable post summaries which work for a day after I put them in, but the next day, it doesn't show my side bar. I have contacted their help line, but it is a little slow. I guess it isn't that big of a deal, though it is an inconvenience. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/12/2005 12:51:00 PM  


Are we sidetracking here? But if you spend your 15 minutes writing a comment in wordpad or notepad and the blogger goes off-line, you just go right back in and paste it again. You don't have to rewrite your comment and you don't lose any  mintues. Granted it's a work-around and not a fix, but it works. 

Posted by Gary

4/12/2005 03:20:00 PM  

I suppose your right.

BTW, have you thought of tidying up your essay on the Encyclopedia articles on evolution and submitting it to Dialogue or Sunstone? I think it would be nice. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/12/2005 03:47:00 PM  

Very thorough and I'm with you on this. But why spend so much time rebutting two big theological fakes, Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. Mc Conkie? JFS couldn’t even give a plausible interpretation of the parable of the laborers (a story that doesn’t need interpretation; for all who come to Christ, the reward is the same, end of story). Anyway, we’re talking about two people you can't distinguish between allegory, mythological construct, etc that aid our understanding of what we’re here for vs. physical reality and the origin of our physical bodies. Why waste time on them? There never was any conflict between evolution and faith. Atheist Darwin didn’t come up with the idea of evolution anyway, many ancient myths employ the concept. Darwin’s contribution was a plausible mechanism to explain it, natural selection.

My spirit for the moment inhabits a body that has a commonality with all other life on the planet. I am an animal with a big brain and an enemy of god, until, with divine help I rise above my natural inclinations, surrender to the tutelage of the Holy Sprit and, through the grace of JC am born again into an enlightened state. If JFS and BRM can’t grasp so simple a concept, so what?

See, now you have me wasting time on this. We’re too smart to do this to ourselves.

Posted by Steve (FSF)

4/13/2005 02:45:00 PM  

That was a little harsh, even to me. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/13/2005 03:06:00 PM  

Sorry for the tone, but if there’s a subtle way to say the Emperors are naked, I haven’t learned it yet. 

Posted by Steve (FSF)

4/13/2005 04:20:00 PM  

Steve said

"through the grace of JC am born again into an enlightened state. If JFS and BRM can’t grasp so simple a concept, so what?"

I don't know who this "JC" is, but I do know of a person named Moroni who said:

". . . wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words."

Then, someone called JESUS CHRIST answered him:

" And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the MEEK, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that HUMBLE themselves before me;"

I'm also not sure who "JFS" and "BRM" are, but, surely you don't mean President Joseph Fielding Smith, and Elder Bruce R. McConkie, called by this JESUS CHRIST to be special witnesses of His Name to the world?

It is one thing to understand intellectually that "I am an . . . enemy of god, until, with divine help I ... am born again into an enlightened state." It may be quite another to "become . . a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and become . . as a child . . . MEEK, PATIENT, FULL OF LOVE."

If this rebirth should actually happen to a person, I would hope that he or she, in that "enlightened" state, would be able to SEE AND KNOW by sacred, personal experiences that those called by Jesus Christ to be special witnesses of His name; past, present, or future, are not "Emporers," but ordinary men who are called, by virtue of their character, among other talents, (one of which may be a high IQ) to carry burdens you and I can hardly imagine.

4/14/2005 11:18:00 AM  

Greg --

Just because someone is called by the Lord doesn’t means they can’t fail in the calling. We sustain and support our leaders, but if they don’t listen to anyone else, ignore offers of assistance and just do their own thing, what can you do? BRM was infamous for doing his own thing.

Anyone who sets up bogus theological conflicts (such as faith/evolution) where there are none is a theological fake. Granted we’re all fallible and in need of daily redemption, but to my knowledge JFSII and BRM never retracted or softened any of this stuff. I know BRM retracted his racist writings backing up Brigham Young’s Mark of Cain BS, but not the anti-evolution stuff. And, yes, JFSII couldn’t even grasp the point of the parable of the labors. I don't think having a high IQ or being a theologian is a requirement to be President of the church, but those w/o the talent shouldn't fake it.

Regarding your personal concern for me, I assure you, I have accepted JC’s gift and I am born again. Yes, you can believe in evolution and receive grace.

My reference to the Emperors being naked above comes from the allegory of the Emperor’s new clothes.

I hope that helps clarify were I'm coming from. 

Posted by Steve (FSF)

4/15/2005 06:34:00 AM  

Wow, Steve, thanks for making Jeffrey look like an EFY Councilor by comparison....
I don't think it is wise to throw the Apostle and the Prophet out with creationism. Unless of course you are saying the Church currently isn't true, in which case, all I can do is disagree.

I find JFS2 and BRM's exhaustive efforts to lay out everything they knew and felt, even those speculative things, for the examination of the whole world. BRM said it best when he explained and spirtually corrected hundreds of years of doctrinal speculation with his now famous "We see through a Glass Darkly". I sustain BRM not because of his seven deadly heresies(Which I mostly agree with), but for his Ten Blessings of the Priesthood . I sustain him because he taught me about Calling and Election being made sure.I sustain him because shortly before he died, he bore one of the greatest testimonies of the Life of Christ I have ever heard.
I don't think he even was in that much trouble in regards to evolution, excepting that he did not do enough to indicate it was his opinion and not doctrine. After all, the Church is neither for or Against evolution, so we've the right to discuss it in either light.
As for the Atonement, Jeffrey, I'm not sure you've fully addressed the objection, but I admit, I haven't read your whole series yet. The objection from JFS2, as I see it, is that Adam's Fall Caused death, death meaning the seperation of body and spirit into two. He does not see How evolution reconciles with that, as he does not see How Christ's resurrection could overcome the death, as defined above, brought about by the Fall, if the Fall did not bring about this death.
Let me say that I believe in a literal Adam and Eve and I believe in the theory of evolution, but that I do not understand either, and definitely do not understand both togethor. On the other hand, I have definitely learned fromthe Temple that the creation story is most importantly to me a symbol for How my Wife and I should come unto our Father in Heaven. The Temple shows, via simple means, that some things within it's version of the creation story were not literal, but were for our benefit.
Again, I do believe in a Literal Adam and Eve, and I believe in the lessons taught in Genesis, but we do have some room for interpretation there.
How do I hold both beliefs, I accept that there is a need for Further Light and Knowledge and wait.
However, on a BLog like this, that would be a weak way out. :)
But I don't know a better answer. All I have are questions? Did the Spirit and the body seperate before the fall? Or was perahps death was the SDA version? Do the spirit and body of fruit seperate at "death"? Why do we need a body to be Happy anyway? Why is that such an important aspect of our progression if Spirit also is Matter? And If Spirit is Matter and Flesh and Blood is Matter, what is the difference, besides "refinement"? 

Posted by Matt WItten

4/16/2005 07:34:00 AM  

A little bit more on BRM, since I've been thinking about this while I did the dishes. In his anti-evolutionary, 7 deadly heresies, he said,

"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." He then goes on to raise his concerns, never out and out declaring doctrine against evolution, but does so by asking questions, such as:
"Can you harmonize the theories of men with the inspired words that say: And now, behold, 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 in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

And they [meaning Adam and Eve] 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. [2 Ne. 2:22-26]?"

So he is inviting us, in a way to harmonize our science with our theology, even saying:
"These are questions to which all of us should find answers. Every person must choose for himself what he will believe. I recommend that all of you study and ponder and pray and seek light and knowledge in these and in all fields. "

He concludes with his personal views:

"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."

"I believe" and "My Reasoning"... Sounds like Paul when he speaks "by permission, and not of commandment"....

4/16/2005 11:26:00 AM  

I agree. This was one of the moments where I admire his honesty in the matter. While sometimes I generalize a bit and say that Mc Conkie a pulpit pounding authoritarian, I do so because in his writings he usually comes off that way. But put him behind a podium at conference or in this case at BYU and he is a pleasure to listen to. The discussion about him over at Times and Seasons  is well worth the read. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/16/2005 12:47:00 PM  

Matt said

"After all, the Church is neither for or Against evolution, so we've the right to discuss it in either light."

Matt, as discussed in more detail at "Adam and Eve, How, etc" to the degree that "The Church" can be "against" anything, it has taken and recently repeated its official position against the origin of Adam's body being from lower orders of life. This is an official doctrinal position of the First Presidency of the Church. Duane Jeffery tried to gainsay it, and was successful, even to the point of watering it down in the Encylopedia of Mormonism. See Gary's article here (sorry, I don't know how to make a link) http://www.ndbf.net/index.htm)

I have no trouble with someone honestly disagreeing with official doctrine, or saying that the "doctrine" of what determines doctrine should be modified to include the latest "revelations" from science. However, this is different than pretending there is no current official doctrine, or no current doctrine defining official doctrine.

The Church has limited its stance on evolution to the questions of Adamic origins. As to a "pre-Adamic" bioshere, or, even the evolution of presently existing animals, there is no First Presidency statement. However, all current church teaching materials state, in support of several Scriptures, that Adam brought death into the world for our present biosphere.

4/16/2005 02:32:00 PM  

Steve - I hope you are younger than I am. If so, I'm sure that when I was your age, my understanding of the word "meek" was almost nonexistent, although no one could have thus convinced me.

If I could, (without unneccessarily wasting your time) I would like to test the fairness of your analysis of "theological fraud," by soliciting your response to Duane Jeffery's classic "Seers, Savants and Evolution (sic)" as deconstructed by Gary, here http://www.ndbf.net/index.htm)(Sorry, I don't know how to insert a link)

4/16/2005 02:40:00 PM  

Jared and Christian - why couldn't your "doctrinal" objections (in other words, "10 reasons why an official Church position my be false and subject to change")
be applicable to:

(1) The law of chastity (i.e, why don't we subscribe to Freud and Kinsey on this?), or

(2) The Emancipation revelation - discontinuing the practice of polygamy. (Why aren't the fundamentalist groups justified in the defences of their doctrinal positions?)

4/16/2005 02:57:00 PM  

Steve - the anonymous above was me.

Posted by Greg

4/16/2005 05:10:00 PM  

Greg – I’m honestly surprised to have stirred up such a hornet’s nest here. I know I’m not the first active and believing LDS free thinking iconoclast. We’re rare, but I know of others. Regarding the "Seers, Savants and Evolution (sic)", I’m preparing for a week long business trip to the west coast (I’m an east coast Mormon). So, it will be sometime before I can comment.

To answer some of your other questions, I’m afraid you can’t blame relative youth on my demeanor (perhaps a mid life crisis). I'm an old fart proud dad of five, with only 3 at home now. Natural history has been a hobby of mine since I was about 7. I've never seen any conflict between my faith and evolution. In fact, our coming into this world as spiritually dead animals w/ big brains and not regaining our spiritual identity w/o divine help makes perfect sense to me in the context of my faith. While sympathetic to lay people who might build a house of cards on a single premise such as a literal Fall of father Adam, or a literal Adam and Eve, etc, I have no patience for people like BRM who supposedly know what they’re doing, but build the same house of cards and mislead all the GA groupies who marvel at the BS. Yes this is harsh, but so was the kid who had the _____ to say the emperor’s naked. To those who say evolution denies G-d, yes there have been bogus intellectuals who so argued but, I think a non-intellectual, Rush Limbaugh, hit the nail on the head with “Evolution doesn’t explain creation” (to which I elaborate, it just pushes the question back.).

I only became aware that many in the church rejected evolution on my mission in the late 70’s when some companions, if the subject came up with investigators, would rail against it, which was both incredibly ignorant and embarrassing to me (none of those people even came close to joining). On discussing the matter with my mission Pres, he made me aware of a letter from Pres McKay stating the church has no position on the matter and said what I already knew, that as missionaries we were gathering the elect and the lessons we present centering on faith, repentance, baptism and the holy ghost were perfectly sufficient w/o commenting in depth about subjects not essential to salvation. Over the years I’ve developed a very short fuse on this stuff. 

Posted by Steve (FSF)

4/16/2005 07:30:00 PM  


I'm not sure I understand what you are asking.

The two examples you listed, chastity and the ending of polygamy, have to do with how we behave. There are no independent means for testing how we should behave.

On a different issue, Gary's website is interesting and he makes some good points. But the fact that the current First Presidency uses the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article (in addition to the 1909 statement)in its responses for clarification of doctrine undermines, somewhat, the thesis that the article is fundamentally flawed and does not really represent church views.

And on a different issue, apparently Elder McConkie's 7 heresies speech was toned down in print--FYI. 

Posted by Jared

4/16/2005 08:21:00 PM  

Current First Presidency Position on Evolution

Following is the letter one will have read to him or her if one sends a letter of inquiry to the Church. If is very similar to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry given elsewhere in this document. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry was an extract from the 1931 First Presidency message on evolution.


The position of the Church on the origin of man was published by the First Presidency in 1909 and stated again by a different First Presidency in 1925:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. . . . Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes .”

The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, the First Presidency said:

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."

Greg: Couldn't help it. But you kind of digged into me. Anyways, you are right regarding the 1909 Statement, and we are Duty Bound to regard Adam as our first parent.

On the otherhand, Jared, I got my BRM quotes from an Anti site, so I can only assume they are correct. I'm not old enough to have heard them live...
Here is a list of all the evolution quotes that Mel Tungate has on his site...

4/16/2005 09:29:00 PM  

Responding to this comment  above by Greg---

As Jared pointed out, there is an important difference with the two examples you give: They are matters of policy, standards of behavior a community agrees to follow, believing the leaders are asking them to do so in accordance with God's will. This is different than factual questions about the past, on which scientific evidence may be brought to bear.

There is a similarity, however. Each truth individually is subject to confirmation or rejection by personal confirmation by the Holy Ghost (this is my interpretation of Moroni 10:5). Relying only on statements by prophets, seers, and revelators in a blanket fashion might be a useful shorthand or "first cut" pointing in the general right direction; but I think it can objectively be shown to be inadequate, as inconsistencies and/or inaccuracies can be historically demonstrated.

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall (TSM)

4/17/2005 11:44:00 AM  

You can listen to the original talk online here: http://speeches.byu.edu/index.php?act=browse&speaker=McConkie%2C+Bruce+R.&topic=&mediatype=&year=&sort=0

4/17/2005 08:22:00 PM  

Matt said: "Following is the letter one will have read to him or her if one sends a letter of inquiry to the Church. If is very similar to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry given elsewhere in this document. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry was an extract from the 1931 First Presidency message on evolution."

Matt - thanks so much for informing about this letter. It seems to have key phrases from 1931, and the Encyclopedia, but omits the final paragraph as follows:

"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" (First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931).

Thus, the letter you describe definitely "pulls some punches" - and someone is going to have to go a little deeper to find out what the position really is, or, is this a revised position? Or - is it like the materials one will find at the Church's official site under "creation"?

Posted by Greg

4/20/2005 09:12:00 PM  

Christian: I am trying to understand your doctrinal philosophy: I think we would both agree all truth, from any source, is subject to the Moroni 10:5 test, at the level of the individual. I think we would also agree that, at the general church level, there must be doctrinal authority, because without it, there has been and would be apostacy - which is the situation in most of the Christian world.

I have always taught and been taught that the "anti-apostacy" authority keys at the General Church level reside in the Scriptures, (some of which we share with the Christian world) and with the "prophets, seers and revelators." With legal training, I can twist different meanings out of almost any sentence. Oh, what one can do with a paragraph!! So, without "keys of scriptural interpretive authority," we might end up with, say, 1,000 Christian sects.

So far, I see you and Jared, I believe, limiting these keys, in the hands of the Prophets and Seers, when they encounter:

(1) Scriptures which may clash with historical facts, as discoverable by, say, geologists, anthropologists, and the like;

(2) Scriptures which may clash with historical facts or current science, as may be discovered by biologists; physicists, etc;

(3)Unless they deal directly with issues of "behavior."

Do I have this generally correct?

4/20/2005 09:44:00 PM  


You say here that the current First Presidency uses the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article in its responses for clarification of doctrine. This is only a rumor from where I sit, I've not seen such a letter.

Matt Witten then quotes one such letter here. But, this letter doesn't have any effect on my thesis that the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article about Evolution is fundamentally flawed. Heck, it doesn't even mention the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

The letter does quote a previous First Presidency which any member of any First Presidency has every right to do. And without the utterly false statement that in 1931 there was "intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution," the admonition to leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology to scientific research makes a lot of sense. What it says to me is that science and the gospel don't mix and it's best not to try and understand either in terms of the other. My word! Haven't we seen the wisdom of that advice here!!

Now note this: The Church does not announce policy in letters to individuals,* consequently it doesn't matter who quotes the 1931 First Presidency in a letter to an individual. And by the way, just who did sign the letter and when was it dated?

The only comment on my site about the 1931 Statement vis-à-vis Church views is here, where I ask how Latter-day Saints generally can be expected to accept a private discussion, even a First Presidency discussion, as the current position of the Church if that discussion has never been published by the Church and issued to its members in an official Church magazine or in any Church curriculum materials.

Can any of you clarify this for me? Has the 1931 Statement been published by the Church? If so, can you tell me in which Church magazine it was published or in which curriculum manual?

* Boyd K. Packer stated firmly that "letters to individuals are not the channel for announcing the policy of the Church" and he offers sound reasons and scripture for his conclusion. The letter spoken of was written in answer to a question about the Church's position on evolution and it was signed by a Church President. See "The Law and the Light," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990). p. 23; emphasis in original; or see here, p. 13.

4/20/2005 09:55:00 PM  

Addendum to the above comment.

Well, maybe its not the only comment on my site about the 1931 Statement vis-à-vis Church views, but help me out here guys. Tell me where the 1931 Statement has been published by the Church.

4/20/2005 10:21:00 PM  

Gary - if I am not mistaken, part of the 1931 Statement is given out to students at BYU in the "evolution packet," which was approved by the Board of Trustees. I don't know if this is the same thing as being publised by the Church, but it certainly has "clout," given the its point of distribution. 

Posted by Greg

4/21/2005 08:24:00 AM  

Something which I probably should have included in the original post is JFSII's logical reasoning behind his claim. We all can basically guess what it was, but he actually tried to logically deduce his conclusion step by step:

1) All life upon this earth has come from antecedent life. Man has never been able to create life, notwithstanding the many attempts so to do.
2) All life, having been created by our Eternal Father, must be eternal, as he is eternal.
3) If all life is eternal, then it must have been subject to a fall.
4) If all life fell because of Adam's fall, then all life is entitled to a resurrection, through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
5) If life was produced, or can be produced, spontaneously without the power of God, but in a natural state, then such life would not be entitled to a redemption, or restoration, since it never had anything to which it could be restored.


1) Evolutionists agree with this completely.
2) Not so. This only follows when we try to use the fall as a theodicy. God is not infinitely powerful, so we don't have to attribute all the evil in the world to man's making. If God had created everything out of nothing according to His will, then we might be able to maintain this, but He didn't. He organized the world and life according to physical law.
3) I'm not sure I understand what he is saying here. I think he means that if life was created eternal and we now see that it isn't there must have been a fall somewhere along the line. But life wasn't created eternal.
4) Where did Adam's fall come in. He says that all things seem fallen (this is true enough) and therefore need to be redeemed, but nowhere does it say that all this is because of Adam's  fall. Things on this earth are imperfect enough without Adam's fall. I also get nervous when we start discuss the thing which animals are "entitled" to. What "rights" do a bacterium have?
5) Since when do we think that we have a "right" to redemption. Doesn't this seem a bit arrogant, maybe a bit ungrateful? We do not "deserve" redemption from anything, it comes as a gift from Christ to those who He gives it to (not arbitrarily). Anything beyond this can easily be accounted for in our agreeing to come down to earth in hopes of eventually being exalted.

Adam's fall is not necessary. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/21/2005 09:07:00 AM  


Stephens and Meldrum, in Evolution and Mormonism, in the second chapter, describe their request for the Church's current position on evolution. They met with one of their bishops, and then their stake president. The stake president received permission from the area president to request an "official declaration of doctrine" from the First Presidency.

The bishop received a letter from the First Presidency (apparently written by the FP secretary) and a copy of the 1909 "The Origin of Man" statement. The letter to the bishop emphasized that attempts to interpret or elaborate on the 1909 statement must be considered personal opinion and not the position of the church. [This much can be read on amazon.com--follow link above.]

On closer reading, Stephens and Meldrum apparently did not receive the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article from the First Presidency. Their writing on a subsequent page could easily be mistaken to mean such, so if the First Presidency did use the article it apparently does not do so now.

The cover letter to the BYU packet (available on the sidebar). It states, in part:

Although there has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency addressing the general matter of organic evolution as a process for development of biological species, these documents make clear the official position of the Church regarding the origin of man.
This packet also contains the article on evolution from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992. The current First Presidency authorized inclusion of the excerpt from the First Presidency minutes of 1931 in the 1992 Encyclopedia article.
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. It is hoped that these materials will provide a firm foundation for individual study in a context of faith in the restored gospel.

Interestingly, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article contained in the packet, as formated in the pdf on the sidebar, has corrected the word "proclaims" to "declares." Whether current editions of the encyclopedia have corrected this word, I do not know.

I am not aware of the church having published the 1931 statement, however as the BYU packet cover letter states, the First Presidency did authorize its inclusion in the EM article.

If you are correct, that the reference to evolution in the context of th 1931 statement was an error, would changing the text to read something like, "when there was intense discussion on the issue of the history of life on earth..." satisfy you as accurate? How would such a correction change the meaning of the EM article?

4/21/2005 08:08:00 PM  

Whoops. Gary has pointed out that I was wrong about the EM article having been corrected. I should have been more careful. 

Posted by Jared

4/25/2005 10:13:00 AM  



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