The Natural Man in Evolution

Part of Mc Conkie's seventh objection is rather complex issue which is difficult to address though easy enough to state (most objections to evolution are this way, which is what makes lawyers such good proponents for IDC). He rejects evolution because it posits that we came from "lower" animals instead of from "higher" beings:

It is vain to belittle Adam and attempt to place him but a step ahead of some lower form of creature. Revelation speaks to the contrary. And, of course, the reasoning that concerns us here is: No Adam, no fall; no fall, no atonement; no atonement, no true religion, no purpose in life.

What makes this objection so surprising is that he hardly gives it any merit whatsoever. He only briefly mentions it in passing while discussing his thoughts concerning Adam. This is in stark contrast to his father in law
whose main reason for rejecting evolution was Darwin's "strange inversion of reasoning" that suggested that we came from the creatures below rather than the higher beings above. Joseph Fielding Smith simply could not conceal his utter contempt for such an idea:
This idea that everything commenced from a small beginning, from the scum upon the surface of the sea, and has gradually developed until all forms of life... is a falsehood absolutely... It is true that all life does come from the same source, but that is not the scum of the sea, a jellyfish or a pollywog... This false theory, which prevails in the world so extensively, is one that is debasing and not ennobling nor uplifting... Do you think that Adam, this great and important prince, the archangel before the presence of God, was a half-breed monkey?

In other words, we are too good to have come from monkeys. Nevertheless, the same people who cling most tenaciously to this doctrine of man's enobled nature are the first ones to lament at how we are but the dust of the earth, indeed, we are even lower than the dust because at least the dust obeys God. To say that we came from the dust of the earth, fine, but to claim that there was a gradual progression from the dust which culminated in us is somehow blasfemous. Am I the only one who sees an inconsistency in this?

Combine this with the doctrine of man's utter depravity before God. We are "born in iniquity and shaped in sin," and this is why the "natural man is an enemy to God." Well, which is it? Are we too good to come from animals or below even the dirt? Brigham Young noted this inconsistency in our beliefs concerning the nature of man:
"It is... universally received by professors of religion as a Scriptural doctrine that man is naturally opposed to God. This is not so. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, 'But the natural man receiveth not the things of God,' but I say it is the unnatural 'man that receiveth not the things of God.'... The natural man is of God."

It was with this quote in mind that a round table discussion regarding The nature of man in Mormonism was held in the Winter 1968 issue of Dialogue. The details of the discussion need not concern us here, only that we realize that appeals to our being too good probably are not as solid as many sometimes think.

Are we less than the dust of the earth? No, not literally. But when placed in comparison with the nature of God himself, our nature is quite lowly as the dust of the ground. But we believe that there is a continuum between the two natures, there is no unbridgable gap between the two. "As man now is God once was, as God is now, man may become." If our nature can be bridged to God, why can it not be bridged to dust as well?

Regardless of whether we can up from below or down from above, our natures are still what they are. The whole point of the plan of salvation when applied to self-existent spirits is that we are trying to become sons and daughters of God in a fuller sense. This is done, as we have noted, by accepting the gospel and the "articles of adoption" as Joseph called them.

One more thing we must discuss regarding this issue. That is progress. Some, including JFSII, have thought that evolution was synonymous with progression, but such is not the case. Evolution in its purest form does adopt any form of progression. Evolution does not work or progress toward any "end." Whatever survives is whatever survives be it viruses, bacteria, trees or humans. Therefore, there is no such thing as devolution.

This does not mean, however, that evolutionists don't acknowledge a continuous spectrum of intelligence. They acknowledge that man has become more and more intelligent thus enabling him to survive better, but this is not considered "progress" from an evolutionary standpoint. Intelligence is but one trick among many which organisms use to survive. The only progress recognized by evolution is surviving long enough to reproduce. Thus, appeals to "progress" don't mean very much in an evolutionary context. We will discuss these ideas as applied to the creation later.

Summary: Evolution is often dispised by many due to its saying that we came from lower life forms instead of from higher beings. Saying what our nature derives from, however, has little to do with what our natures currently are. Such an objection misses the point of evolution and the plan of salvation.


Excellent points.

4/19/2005 02:10:00 PM  

I've read a couple of places that monkeys and apes used to be thought of as a mockery of man. We still use the terms "monkey" and "ape" as insults. Perhaps this explains some of the visceral hostility to evolutionary theory.

Nice post. 

Posted by Jared

4/19/2005 02:50:00 PM  

Jeff said:

"Regardless of whether we came up from below or down from above, our natures are still what they are.The whole point of the plan of salvation when applied to self-existent spirits is that we are trying to become sons and daughters of God in a fuller sense. This is done, as we have noted, by accepting the gospel and the "articles of adoption" as Joseph called them."

Here, Jeff is repeating the doctrine he is teaching that "it doesn't matter how we got here, as long as Jesus can redeem us." What follows are some good-faith questions designed to explore some of the doctrinal consequences of this doctrine.

I will introduce the questions with one of the most explicit scriptures describing the "articles of adoption."

"Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: "That by reason of TRANSGRESSION cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit•, which I have made, and so became of dust• a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and eenjoy• the words• of eternal• life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;"(Moses 6: 58-59 see also v. 60)

Here are the questions:

(1) (Now, this is Jesus speaking directly to Enoch.) Is it Elder McConkie and President Smith that need to better explain the connection between the fall and the atonement, or Jesus?

(2) When "teaching your children" about the "articles of adoption," what word will you subsitute for the word (or implied doctrine) of "TRANSGRESSION" in the above scripture (or those like it).

(3) Why would Jesus, the "Author and Finisher" of the plan of redemption, tie Adam's TRANSGRESSION to the fallen state of man in Scripture as consistently as "common consent" may be tied to TOE, if it is not important?

(4) Most Christian churches, although they think Adam did a "bad thing," believe that man is fallen, and that "the Blood of Christ" redeems him. What gives Joseph's particular brand of "articles of adoption" special authority? Put another way, what do we have in our Church that they don't have that put the Lord's stamp of approval on our DOCTRINE?
(hint, Apostles and Prophets)?

(5) Quoting Elder McConkie's letter to Eugene England regarding the Adam god theory, Jeff intimated that the Lord allows false doctrine to be taught. Is it false doctrine to couple the introduction of the fallen state of man into the world to TRANSGRESSION in general or to the transgression of one man specifically?

(6) "The natural man IS an enemy to God." Steve, for example, finds it very plausable that our bodies are "natural men" because they are, in every sense, only mammals. Like Palpatine, the Emporer in Star wars, did God create an "army" of "natural men" (like either the robot or clone armies)"from the dust of the
earth," for Satan to take command of, fight against Him, and reign with "blood and terror" on earth? Or, was this condition brought about by TRANSGRESSION, as the Scriptures teach?

(7) If God created the mechanism for the fall, and knows that Hitler or Charles Manson are going to hurt a lot of people when they come to earth, why doesn't His role in and foreknowledge of these events make Him responsible for their actions in mortality?

(8) Does the harmonization of Jeff's doctrine, stated above, require a plausable scenerio to replace the doctrinal concepts tying TRANSGRESSION to the Fall and the Atonement, or, can they just be set aside as "speculative."?

4/20/2005 07:05:00 PM  

Thanks for the questions. It is through questions that I come to know how well I have explained some points, and what other points need more clarification. It also lets me know that people are actually paying attention.

1) The verse you cited does not say anything about Adam. And even if it did, it could be reinterpreted as applying to us. It is through transgression that we all fall, not just Adam.

2) I won't substitute anything.

3) Did you mean "common descent"? The redemption is the act of being redeemed from something, namely sin or transgression. This is the case for everybody, not just Adam.

4) I'm not sure what you are asking here. I guess, if I understand the question correctly, the answer is more revelation.

5) I wouldn't call either false doctrine. You know which one I believe to be true, but my views are hardly firm enough to run around calling others heretics on this matter.

6) I think that the term "natural man" has been so vaguely defined in the church that it can mean almost anything. Some say that it is a "non-spirit-child-of-God" that is natural, similar to what Steve says. Others, Geoff Johnston for example, believe that it is the causally determined man. Some say that it is merely sinful man (see the Encyclopedia of Mormonism which says basically this).

I should point out that BY thought that it is the UNnatural man which is an enemy to God, and Pres. Taylor echoed the same thing.

I personally believe that it is a combination between Steve's and the E.M. theories. Our spirits are naturally disposed toward God, but our bodies and physical genetics are not quite so. We have inherited from our evolutionary past many desires which can hardly be considered righteous (read any book on evolutionary pyschology). I personally believe that one of the points of this life is to see what our natures really are. Thus some people are more "enemy-ish" than others.

7) I'm not sure what you are asking here. It seems that you are asking for my version of a Mormon Theodicy, but I'm not sure what this has to do with the mechanisms for the fall. I have spoken on how I feel it to be a serious error to read the fall literally as an attempt at theodicy. This is more in line with ethical monotheism, not Mormonism. Mormons believe that God did NOT create 3 things: 1) elements (meaning matter and energy) 2) intelligence (meaning agents) 3) laws (both physical and moral). Give God's limited control over these things, we don't have to worry too much about justifying the existence of evil.

8) I don't consider the Transgression, the Fall or the Atonement as speculative. They are all very real. I just think that we should only accept versions which are 1) worth wanting and 2) are in harmony with what we observe in the world around us. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/21/2005 01:06:00 AM  

Jeff Said:

"The verse you cited does not say anything about Adam. And even if it did, it could be reinterpreted as applying to us. It is through transgression that we all fall, not just Adam."

Comment: Actually, the whole context is about Adam's transgression (see vs 48, 53-54)

I would like to know how MY transgression caused me to leave God's presence, if it was not Adam's.

Regarding the "natural man," described in Mosiah 3:19 - regardless of philosophical musings by Pres. Young or others, the Scriptural definition is clear and consistent, the natural man is simply a spirit child of God in a fallen body. And, in spite of the gift of agency, no such being can overcome the "natural tendencies" that fight against God, without a new birth, which involves the sacrifice and blood of Christ.

Having chided Elder McConkie and Pres. Smith for falling short of reasonably connecting the necessity of the Fall of Adam to the veracity of the Atonement of Christ, it will take more on your part, in my opinion, to excuse God from responsibility for the consequences of creating a race of "natural men," than just stating that He is so excused because he didn't create matter, intelligence, and because spirit beings have agency, and when they are in fallen bodies; limited agency.

In existential philosophy, one says "existence PRECEEDS essence." The idea is that man, with his freedom to act, has no "essence" until he creates it using his will. However, God teaches that man in his fallen state has an "essence" that fights against God, and, that his will alone cannot change it. Thus, for the "natural man," ESSENCE preceeds existence: man's agency is limited.

If you are going to replace the carefully constructed "story" of the Fall of Adam, wherein Adam, Eve, God, and Satan each play very well defined roles, with a different doctrine which essentially bypasses this story, I would like to see the following from you:

(1) An alternate "story," carefully constructed, with specific characters, (use me as one, if you like) playing roles to illustrate how my TRANSGRESSION(S)caused the separation of my spirit from the presence of God, since Adam's didn't do it, and

(2) A carefully reasoned explanation of how God is absolved from responsibility for all the sins of mankind because he didn't create matter or intelligence, and man has agency. Jared wanted to know who created blood. This is an interesting question, and my be part of the answer. I know that, in some way, Jesus' blood matters. But, apparently the story of how Adam's body came to have blood does not.

In previous posts, someone has said that an "alternate story" would be "speculative." Of course it would, since we have no revelation about it. However, does this excuse the need to put forth an alternate story?

Speaking of stories, one of my all time favorites is Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein." In the story, Dr. Frankenstein creates a being who has agency that is limited by defects in his creation. He commits horrible acts. Is the creator responsible? He didn't create the elements. Did the being have an "intelligence,"? Well, especially if you read the novel, he certain exhibits all the features of one. Did he have agency? Yes, but it was limited by defects caused by faulty construction. Was the good Dr. Responsible for the acts of his "creature?" That is the question.

4/22/2005 09:35:00 AM  

OK, you got me. I was a little lazy to actually look up the verse and I sounded stupid because of it. But like I said, even if it is about Adam, I'm still not that concerned, for Adam is us.

I would like to know how MY transgression caused me to leave God's presence, if it was not Adam's. 

Well my response to that is two part. First, it was becasue of our shortcomings that we came here to earth I'm not sure I would say that it was because of our sins (a viable option), but we did come here to repent.

Second, perhaps it would be best if we rephrased the scenario. We shouldn't say that our trangressions caused our fall (though they certainly do spiritually), but that our trangrssions ARE our fall. After all, even under the popular reading of the fall, Adam left God's "real" presence to come to the garden before he fell.

I don't think the scriptures are near as clear as you do. First of all, the BoM reflects a rather non-Mormon-ish understanding of God and man. The translation was done well before any of the unique Mormon doctrine had been revealed. It was for this very reason that BY said,
"The writers of (the Book of Mormon) according to their best language and understanding."
"When God speaks to the people, he does it in a manner to suit their circumstances and capacities... Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings."

Regarding the story of Adam in the Garden, he said,
"I have publicly declared that I do not believe that portion of the Bible as the Christian world do. I never did, and I never want to. What is the reason I do not? Because I have come to understanding, and banished from my mind all the baby stories my mother taught me when I was a child."

Now the statment in question "the natural man is an enemy to God" does not take into account the revelation which were to come later, revelation which led to BY's "philosophizing." We should also put the statement in context of King Benjamin revealing for the first time that there is savior which they all depend upon for salvation, regardless of how righteous they may think they are.

Let's take another verse which describes the situation a bit clearer. Alma 41:
"All men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness. And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?"

In other words not only are some people not in a "state of nature" but those who are had to get there on there own. I think the point of this verse is that we are here to show what our natures really are and improves on them as much as we can.

Q: What is the "natural man"? A: Somebody who has gone contrary to the nature of God, which is our real nature. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says it is the unrepentant man, no more, no less.

All of this is completely independant of a real Adam.

It will take more on your part, in my opinion, to excuse God from responsibility for the consequences of creating a race of "natural men."

This is the point of evolution, God did not completely create us. This is also the point of God's "organizing" things as opposed to "creating" them. God really didn't create anything in the strictest sense. He did the best He could given our self-existent natures and the physical laws which He had to work with and ultimately bow to.

To say that God created you (not you Greg, a generic you) as a fallen person doesn't sound very Mormon to me. It sounds like an excuse for all your short comings and sins. The fact is, God didn't create "you" spiritually, since "you" never were created. God took some part in the process which eventually brough the physical "you" into existence, but He didn't create the physical "you" either. He isn't responsible.

I disagree with you application of existentialism to our fallen state. For one, we have rejected essentialism, though the idea that existence preceeds essence does find some room. There is no "essence" in us which fights against God, we do it ourselves by not repenting. We are not essentially bad, nor are we essentially good. These are two relative terms used to describe a variety of people who do not really differ at all in essence.

This whole idea of "fighting against God" is seems very non-Mormon. It derives from the ethical monotheistic (apostate) doctrine that any sin is a sin against God. This isn't Mormon at all. Our sins, though they may sadden God, or offend Him (in the case of blasphemy) in the same way it offends the people around us (in the case of mocking them), are against ourselves. Now we may fight against God and His plan in the same way we can fight against the Republicans or Democrats, but that's about it. In such instances we are hurting ourselves more than anybody else.

Now I'm not trying to reject the story of the fall. It is the story which is symbolic and therefore meaingful. I'm simply rejecting the historicity of the story. Adam, Eve and Satan can all have their parts, parts which have very important meanings. In my opinion this makes the roles more important, not less.

OK, here is the story:

You have always existed as a self-existent spirit. You had progressed in the spirit realm by learning things and by making good decisions and bad ones, things we can call sins. Sin was very real in the preexistence since agency and morality were very real. In fact, a third of the spirits their used their agency to sin in such a way that they refused to participate in this life. In this act of rebellion against God, they were sinning against themselves more than anybody else, though those around them were saddened by their actions.

These spirits followed Satan who proposed a plan wherein people would not really fall. They would gain knowledge. They would have children. But they would not sin. They would not spiritually die. He might have even suggested that we need not be subject to physical death as well. "Ye shall not surely die, but shall be as the Gods." For this he was cast from the presence of God taking the spirits which would follow him and attempt to possess the bodies which we would all recieve.

Eventually you came to a point wherein a mortal existence would be quite beneficial. Therefore you agreed to come to this earth due to desire to overcome your inadequacies and fall from the presence of God. This fall would bring about a number of changes. 1) you would now be mortal (physical death). 2) you would now be able to procreate. 3) You would no longer be in the presence of God (spiritual death). 4) you would gain knowledge and progress as planned.

This fall from heaven was not a bad thing at all.

The story of Eve may represent a number of things. It could mean that women were more excited to come here than were men and are therefore more righteous. It could mean that women are naturally more suseptible to Satan than men and therefore less righteous. It could be a left over remnant of misogynistic tendencies in the cultures from which Moses borrowed his account. It could be a statement of misogynistic tendencies in Moses.

Regardless which one(s) in more accurate, Eve's part is very small in the story. Her purpose in the story seems to be two fold: 1) to accept responsibility for the fall and 2) to show the importance of procreation in the fall.  

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

4/22/2005 11:29:00 AM  

Greg, I will refer you to this previous comment .

Also, if you're willing to get speculative and want a precise allegorical interpretation of transgression bringing about the fall, it is possible that it was some trangression of ours in the premortal life that required us to go through a mortal probation.

Note that across the history of earth a large fraction of humanity has died before the age of accountability, and will automatically be saved without probation. What differentiates those who need a probation from those who don't? Possibly, transgression in the premortal life.  

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall (TSM)

4/23/2005 05:16:00 AM  



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