IS EVOLUTION COMPATIBLE WITH MORMON DOCTRINE?
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Is the theory of organic evolution compatible with Mormon doctrine? Quite simply, no, it is not. Some LDS scientists prefer to believe the two are compatible, but they aren't. Over the years the General Authorities have repeatedly reaffirmed the truth that God created the earth and created the life that was placed upon it in the manner described in the scriptures, and that we did not get here by chance. But, some Mormon scientists espouse what can be called "theistic evolution." That is, they believe God created a "primordial soup" and provided the necessary conditions so that life would then evolve on its own, albeit by divine plan and design. According to this theory, when the first man finally evolved from ape-like creatures, God was able to place the spirit of the man Adam into him, and thus began the human race. This theory finds no support in the scriptures. One would think that if God had performed the creation in this manner, there would be at least some hint of this in the scriptures. But there is no trace of any such idea in holy writ.
President Ezra Taft Benson warned that evolution was a false concept that could lead us astray:
Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book [the Book of Mormon] to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, etc. (Ensign, April 1975, pp. 96-97).
President Benson said much the same thing thirteen years later:
God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time. (Ensign, January 1988, p. 3)
There is no credible doubt President Benson considered evolution to be one of those "false educational . . . and philosophical concepts." In a General Conference talk that he gave as an apostle, President Benson said the following:
As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. There is more than one reason the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children; and if they have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others. . . . ("Strengthening the Family," General Conference, October 2, 1970, quoted from Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, Deseret Book, 1974, p. 225, emphasis added)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, one of the most respected and prolific apostles in the history of the church, was equally clear in his rejection of the theory of evolution:
Of the several theories postulated in one age or another to explain (without the aid of revelation) the origin of man and the various forms of life, none has taken such hold or found such widespread acceptance as the relatively modern so-called theory of organic evolution. Stated generally, this theory assumes that over long periods of time, and through a series of changes, all present living organisms or groups of organisms have acquired the morphological and physiological characteristics which distinguish them. The theory assumes that all present animals and plants have their origin in other pre-existing types, the distinguishable differences being due to modifications in successive generations. One or more common origins for all forms of life are assumed.
From the day of their first announcement, these theories or organic evolution found themselves in conflict with the principles of revealed religion as such are found recorded in the scriptures and expounded by inspired teachers. (Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition, 1979, p. 257)
President John Taylor specifically rejected Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. He said life forms are governed by certain laws and principles and that, contrary to Darwinian evolution, these principles do not change:
The animal and vegetable creations are governed by certain laws, and are composed of certain elements peculiar to themselves. This applies to man, to the beasts, fowls, fish, and creeping things, to the insects and to all animated nature; each one possessing its own distinctive features, each requiring a specific sustenance, each having an organism and faculties governed by prescribed laws to perpetuate its own kind. So accurate is the formation of the various living creatures that an intelligent student of nature can tell by any particular bone of the skeleton of an animal to what class or order it belongs.
These principles do not change, as represented by evolutionists of the Darwinian school, but the primitive organisms of all living beings exist in the same form as when they first received their impress from their Maker. . . . If we take man, he is said to have been made in the image of God, for the simple reason that he is a son of God. . . . He did not originate from a chaotic mass of matter, moving or inert, but came forth possessing, in an embryotic state, all the faculties and powers of a God. (The Mediation and Atonement, p. 160, as quoted in B. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 247)
President George Q. Cannon, who was an apostle and later a first counselor to three prophets, emphasized man's divine origin and explicitly rejected the idea that man evolved from lower life forms:
It cannot be a question with any person of faith in our Church as to the origin of man. We did not have monkeys for ancestors, nor any inferior order of beings. We have not grown up to our present position as human beings through various stages of development from a very low order of creation. (The Juvenile Instructor, vol. 27, 1892, p. 720, quoted in Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, vol. 1, p. 1)
The First Presidency, under the leadership of President Joseph F. Smith, issued an official statement in which it repeated this rejection of the idea that man evolved from lower life forms:
It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon the earth, and that the original human was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was "the first man of all men" (Moses 1:34) and we are therefore duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race. -- The First Presidency, Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund
In recent years, Joseph Fielding McConkie, a
professor of ancient scripture at
Is the theory of evolution compatible with the doctrine of the Fall? No. We can tug, twist, contort, and sell our birthright, but we cannot overcome the irreconcilable differences between the theory of organic evolution and the doctrine of the Fall. Some have argued for a form of theistic evolution--that is, a God-inspired evolution--in which lower forms of life progressed over great periods of time to the point that God could take the spirit of the man Adam and place it in an animal and declare it to be the first man. The argument is at odds both with scripture and with an official declaration of the First Presidency on the origin of man. The scriptures of the Restoration declare Adam to be "the son of God" (Moses 6:22) and the "firstborn" of all earth's inhabitants (Abraham 1:3). They further state that he and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God's body. In the book of Moses we read: "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God" (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added). Let the idea not be lost that the physical body of God is being spoken of here. This plain declaration is sustained by the Book of Mormon, which teaches that the premortal Christ would take upon himself "the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth" (Mosiah 7:27, emphasis added). Similarly, the official statement of the First Presidency is that "Adam, our progenitor, 'the first man,' was, like Christ, a pre-existent spirit, and like Christ he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a 'living soul.' The doctrine of the pre-existence--revealed so plainly, particularly in latter days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man's origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality. It teaches that all men existed in the spirit before any man existed in the flesh, and that all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner" (Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:204, emphasis added). Be it Adam, Christ, or any other human being, the process of birth is the same. The First Presidency continues, "Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes" (Ibid., 4:206).
Evolution is the notion that lower forms of life can, through the course of generations, genetically improve themselves. For that to happen, both birth and death would have to exist. By contrast, Father Lehi teaches us that if there had been no Fall, "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 would have had no children," he tells us. Thus, he testifies, "Adam fell that men might be" (2 Nephi 2:22-23, 25). Enoch, teaching the same thing, said: "Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe" (Moses 6:48).
The gospel of Jesus Christ rests upon the union of three doctrines--the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. They have been aptly called the three pillars of eternity. No meaningful understanding of the gospel can be had independent of an understanding of the interrelationship of these three doctrines. Unless we understand how things were created--that is, the original state or nature of things in prefallen earth--we cannot understand what they fell from or what the redemption seeks to return them to. Latter-day Saint theology recognizes God as the creator. Thus the labor of creation must be godlike. God does not do shoddy work. Having completed the work of creation, he declared it "very good" (Moses 2:31). All created things were in a paradisiacal state--a state in which there was no corruption, no aging, decay, pain, sickness, or death. It is this state to which the atonement of Christ seeks to return us, and it was from this state that Adam fell. This is a matter of developing, not evolving. Well might we ask, Did Christ redeem us from our present condition to take us back to a more primitive one, on in which living organisms are fighting with and destroying each other? We could hardly consider that a state of glory, yet the promise of the scriptures is that the earth is to be renewed and receive again "its paradisiacal glory" (Article of Faith 10).
Some have argued that the paradisiacal glory of
which we speak was confined to the Garden of Eden while evolutionary processes
were taking place through the rest of the earth. The great difficulty with this
idea is that it confines the effects of the Atonement to forty acres (or
whatever size the Garden of
Elder Boyd K. Packer observed that if the theory of evolution applies to man, there was no fall and therefore no need for an atonement, nor a gospel of redemption, nor a redeemer (see "The Law and the Light," in The Book of Mormon, Jacob through Words of Mormon: To Learn with Joy, Fourth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium, 1988, p. 15). The matter is really quite simple. Because Adam was the son of divine parents, he had an immortal body without blood. The Fall caused blood to enter his veins. It was a blood fall that required a blood atonement. One cannot tamper with the story of the Fall without tampering with the story of Atonement. . . .
In a further attempt to harmonize evolution with
the gospel, some have separated man from the evolutionary process. They concede
that man is the creation of God but maintain that the
earth and all other life forms were created by evolution. Yet we know that all
life forms were represented in
Some young Latter-day Saints have said to me something like the following: "I see your point about the conflict between evolution and the scriptures. But isn't there overwhelming evidence of evolution? Isn't evolution established scientific fact?" My answer to both questions is an emphatic "No." I believe that at some point in the future, evolution will be recognized as the greatest hoax in the history of man. Contrary to the picture painted in most science textbooks, there is no persuasive evidence of evolution. Evolution certainly has not been proven or established as a scientific fact, and a handful of evolutionists have been honest enough to admit this. In addition, evolution is illogical to the core. Ultimately, it requires one to believe that something came from nothing, and that life sprang from inanimate material. A few basic facts about evolution need to be stated:
* No living organism or creature known to man has ever changed from one species to another species at the macro level. In short, evolution has never been observed. Speciation occurs, certainly, but only within kinds. To put it another way, there is no evidence that one genus has ever changed into a new genus.
* In the fossil record, life forms appear suddenly, fully formed, just as we would expect from the scriptural account of the creation.
* There is not a single, clear-cut "transitional form" in the fossil record that proves that one species ever evolved into another species at the macro level.
* Science has proven that in fact there are limits to mutations, i.e., that mutations can only bring about a limited number of changes. Even in the most sophisticated lab experiments to date, scientists have been unable to make one species change into another species at the macro level; they've also been unable to create even a "simple" life form.
* The alleged evidence of man's supposed evolution from ape-like creatures is both doubtful and highly subjective. One alleged "missing link" after another has been refuted (and then rejected even by other evolutionists); some have even been exposed as outright hoaxes.
* Evolutionists can offer no sensible, credible explanation as to how highly sophisticated systems such as the eye would have evolved purely by chance through random mutations and natural selection. Nor can they explain how the wing could have come into existence by chance mutations and natural selection.
* Contrary to what many evolutionists want people to believe, not all scientists accept evolution. Although they admittedly constitute a minority in the scientific community, there are numerous scientists, to include biologists and physicists, who openly reject the theory of evolution.
* Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In essence, the Second Law says that every system left to its own devices always tends to move from order to disorder, from complex to less complex, and that its energy tends to be transformed into lower levels of availability, eventually reaching the state of complete randomness and unavailability for further work. Some evolutionists admit evolution contradicts the Second Law, but they opine evolution somehow happened in spite of this law (see, for example, J. H. Rush, The Death of Life, Signet, 1962, p. 35). A common response of evolutionists to this problem is to argue that the Second Law does not apply to open systems like the earth. Other scientists have pointed out that this argument does not resolve the problem:
There do exist a few types of systems in the world where one sees an apparent increase in order, superficially offsetting the decay tendency specified by the Second Law. Examples are the growth of a seed into a tree, the growth of a fetus into an adult animal, and the growth of a pile of bricks and girders into a building.
Now, if one examines closely all such systems to see what it is that enables them to supersede the Second Law locally and temporarily (in each case, of course, the phenomenon is only ephemeral, since the organism eventually dies and the building eventually collapses, he will find in every case at least two essential criteria that must be satisfied:
(a) There must be a program to direct the growth. . . .
(b) There must be a power converter to energize the growth. . . .
In the case of a seed, one of the required energy conversion mechanism is the marvelous process called photosynthesis, which by some incompletely understood complex of reactions converts sunlight into the building of the plant's structure. In the animal, numerous complex mechanisms--digestion, blood circulation, respiration, etc.--combine to transform food into body structure. In the case of the building, fossil fuels and human labor operate numerous complex electrical and mechanical devices to erect the structure. And so on. . . .
Neither mutation nor natural selection is either a directing program or an energy converter. If neither is either, they can't both be both! And evolution must have both to produce growth!
Until evolutionists can not only speculate, but demonstrate, that there does exist in nature some vast program to direct the growth toward higher complexity of the marvelous organic space-time unity known as the terrestrial biosphere (not to mention that of the cosmos), as well as some remarkable global power converter to energize the growth through converted solar energy [energy from the sun], the whole evolutionary idea is negated by the Second Law.
We are warranted, then, in concluding that the evolutionary process (the hypothetical Principle of Naturalistic Innovation and Integration) is completely precluded by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. There seems no way of modifying the basic evolutionary model to accommodate this Second Law. (Henry Morris, editor, Scientific Creationism, Master Books, 1985, pp. 43-45; this book was prepared by the technical staff and consultants of the Institute for Creation Research)
Evolutionist Dr. Harold Blum admitted:
No matter how carefully we examine the energetics of living systems we find no evidence of defeat of thermodynamic principles. . . . (Time's Arrow and Evolution, Princeton University Press, 1962, p. 119)
Finally, let's consider the founders of the theory of evolution. This was
something that first gave me pause about evolution. For example, Charles Lyell,
Another person who had great influence on
This issue was one of the first things that prodded me to at least consider the possibility that theistic evolution might be wrong. I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the anti-deity, anti-supernatural, humanistic nature of the men from whom the theory of evolution came. Much more could be said about the unwholesome, anti-Christian views of Darwin, Spencer, Lyell, Wallace, Lamarck, and other founders of evolutionary theory.
If the Lord had used organic evolution as the method of creation, isn't it reasonable to believe he would have revealed it to us through the prophets, or in the scriptures, or at least through decent and honest men? Would the theory that explained the very method of creation cause millions of people to doubt or reject God's own existence?
LDS theistic evolutionists cling to the fact that the First Presidency now
declines to overtly reject evolution, that the First Presidency essentially
says the church has no official position on the theory of evolution, and that
the First Presidency has not prevented the teaching of evolution at
I testify that the earth and all life upon it are of divine origin. The Creation did not happen by chance. It did not come ex nihilo (out of nothing). And human minds and hands able to build buildings or create computers are not accidental. It is God who made us and not we ourselves. We are His people! The Creation itself testifies of a Creator. We cannot disregard the divine in the Creation. Without our grateful awareness of God's hand in the Creation, we would be just as oblivious to our provider as are goldfish swimming in a bowl. With deep gratitude, we echo the words of the Psalmist, who said, "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." ("The Creation," General Conference, April 2000, emphasis added)
For those who might wish to read some scholarly scientific books that refute evolution and offer evidence of creation, I would recommend the following titles, for starters:
* Phillip E. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Inter-Varsity Press, 1998)
* Michael Behe,
I would also refer interested readers to my Creation vs. Evolution Web Page.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:† Michael
T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance
University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from
American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from
Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the
Community College of the Air Force.† He
also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil
War Studies from