Origin of the Origin of Man

1909 marked the centennial of Charles Darwin's birth and the semicentennial of the publication of Origin of Species. According to Gary James Bergera,
Seven months after the Darwin centennial, and perhaps in response to questions raised during the Darwin celebration [apparently at BYU - M&E], the First Presidency of the LDS church, consisting of life-long Mormon official Joseph F. Smith and counselors John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund, asked Apostle Orson F. Whitney to draft an official statement on the "origin of the physical man." A special committee of apostles corrected Whitney's text, which was then read to the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles, was "sanctioned by them" as "the official position of the church," and appeared in the November 1909 issue of the official Improvement Era.
James Talmage, not yet an apostle, was also involved in the drafting of the statement.

Interestingly, the 1909 statement draws on an article previously written by Orson F. Whitney and published in the Contributor in 1882. (Contributor, vol. 3 (October 1881-September 1882) June, 1882. No. 9.) In that article, Whitney discussed the absurdity of both evolution and creation ex nihilo. The end of the article is quite similar to the end of the 1909 statement.

Below I have formatted the passage to show the changes made to the 1882 paragraph.

"[The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims] [m]an is [to be] the direct [and lineal] offspring of Deity, of a being who is the Begetter of his spirit in the eternal worlds, and the Architect of his mortal tabernacle in this. God himself is an exalted man, possessing body, parts and passions, refined and developed to the highest state of perfection [perfected, enthroned, and supreme]. [By His almighty power] He organized the world [earth] and all that it contains, from matter; from ever-living spirit and everlasting element, which exist co-eternally with [H]imself. He formed every plant that grows and every animal that breathes, each after the image of its own kind, and determined the fixity of their respective species. [spiritually and temporally--"that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal, and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual."] He made the tadpole and the ape, the lion and the elephant,; but He did not make them in His own image, nor endow them with godlike reason and intelligence. Monkeys are the offspring of monkeys, and have been from time immemorial. Hybrids may appear, but they are without the power to propagate. There is no instance on record where a baboon ever evolved into a human being, and science in attempting to unearth a "missing link" which it is claimed will connect mankind with monkeykind, is like a blind man hunting through a haystack to find a needle which isn't there. [Nevertheless, the whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, each class in its "distinct order or sphere," and will enjoy "eternal felicity." That fact has been made plain in this dispensation (Doctrine and Covenants, 77:3).]

[new paragraph]For [M]an is the child of God, fashioned in His [formed in the divine] image and endowed with His [divine] attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father [and mother] is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable in due time of becoming[, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into] a God."


Tongue-in-Cheek Commentary:

The proposition that the 1909 statement is based on the 1882 article is a theory, not a fact. Consider:

1. Nobody alive today was there to see the drafting. Assuming that editorial processes were the same back then is uniformitarianism.

2. All of those changes could not have happened at once. But no intermediate drafts exist. There is a missing link.

3. They could be independent creations. There are only so many ways to express the content of the paragraphs and it may be that tadpoles, apes, lions, and elephants are just good examples to give of creation.

4. The 1882 article could be a deception created by Satan or a test by God.

5. If the 1909 statement came from the 1882 article, why do we still have the 1882 article? 

Posted by Jared

1/04/2006 09:30:00 PM  

What's interesting is that Whitney was a staunch advocate of both Adam-God and Reincarnation.

I do find it interesting that the immutability of species is explicitly removed from the article.

That said, Jared, your comments are absolutely hirarious. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

1/05/2006 01:29:00 PM  

Jared, very interesting. It would be fascinating to be able to read a transcript of meetings in which the changes were made.  

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

1/05/2006 06:42:00 PM  


Could you give me a reference on Whitney and Adam-God? I checked Buerger's article but did not find any reference to him.

1/07/2006 08:39:00 AM  

Apparently my memory doesn't serve me as well as I thought. Though he was a strong advocate of reincarnation, the only reference to A-G that I can find is pretty indirect. Of course this is really the latest reference one can find any reference at all in official literature since by this time the church was trying pretty hard to distance itself from Brigham's teachings. Here is the Hymn which Orson wrote in his "Elias An Epic of the Ages" pg. 18, 76, 77; c. 1914:

"Father!" - The voice like music fell,
Clear as the murmuring flow
Of mountain streamlet, trickling down
From the heights of virgin snow-

"Father," it said, "since one must die
Thy children to redeem,
Whilst Earth - as yet unformed and void -
with pulsing life shall teem;

"And thou, great Michael, foremost fall
That mortal man may be,
And chosen Savior yet must send,
Lo, here am I, send me!

I ask - I seek no recompense,
Save that which then were mine;
Mine be the willing sacrifice,
The endless glory - thine!


"The sealing of the sexes, male to mate,
Earnest of exaltation's lofty state,
Where evermore they reign as queens and kings,
And endless union endless increase brings;
While serve as angels the unwedded ones,
Abandoning their right to royal thrones.

"One are the human twain, as sheath and sword-
Woman and man, the lady and the Lord;
Each pairthe Eve and Adam of some world,
Perchance unborn, or into space unhurled...

"Earth a celestial law hath magnified,
And by that law shall she be sanctified,
And by the same shall she be glorified;
By fire refined, the gold from dross set free,
Shining forever as a crystal sea,
Celestial seer-stone, making manifest
All things below to souls upon her breast-

Chosen, omniscient, children of the Sun,
Offspring of Adam, Michael, Ancient One,
Who comes anon his fiery throne to rear,
His council summoning from far and near.
Ten thousand times ten thousand bow the knee,
And "Father" hail him, "King," eternally."

As I said, pretty indirect.


Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

1/07/2006 09:13:00 AM  



<< Home