Posted by: Jay | April 25, 2007

Evolution friend or foe?

All of us know who Charles Darwin is. Some choose to demonize him and other praise him. In Christian circles his ideas on evolution are usually condemned, but does it have to be this way? Some claim that a belief in evolution and a belief in God are mutually exclusive. Though I believe that God created man, I don’t see how it is logical for us to say we know how it was acomplished. The Bible tells us that God created man from “the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) The theory of evolution is compatible with this statement. Is it not possible that God understands how evolution works and guided the process along to form us in his image? I’m not saying this is how it happened, but it is possible. No one can know for sure how it happened. However, logic can take us to certain conclusions based on the evidence we have accumulated so far.

Evolution may have weak points, but I submit that they are very few. To understand modern science there must be at least a casual acceptance of the idea of evolution. Indeed, if you understand science you know that science changes. It is always changing, inching closer to universal truth. It is quite possible that in the future our understanding of evolution will change, perhaps it will then coincide with the idea of a supreme creator. Why not be patient? Wait for science to catch up. Truth is not going anywhere. If that is what we really want as Christians we should not be afraid to let scientists wrestle to understand God’s creations. Eventually, we’ll all end up where we want to be, the truth.

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Responses

  1. I am glad that you posted this. This is one of the problems I have with organized religion and scriptures in general. There is so much evidence that points to evolution that it is almos absurt to deny it. And now that they have DNA to confirm everything, it makes you question how people can take anything seriously from the bible.

    If anything, it demonstrates to me that the problem is that people are stubborn. People don’t like to admit that they are wrong. I see nothing wrong with evolution being the way that God creates things, but what I do see wrong is that very few religions teach this. That is where I lose faith in organized religion. I can’t help but wonder if they are wrong about this, what else are they wrong about.

  2. Zelph,
    The LDS Church doesn’t take a stand on evolution. It is one of the things I love about the Church. It didn’t paint itself in a corner on this issue, like so many others did. As a result there are people that believe in evolution and those that don’t among the LDS members. I find this very refreshing that we are given the freedom to believe as we choose without being judged for it.

  3. I am an active LDS member, and I lean toward evolution. The bible does not exclude it. Usually when I share my belief in evolution, other members are okay with it. It doesn’t really matter to me how God created us. I also am glad that the church has not taken a stand on the issue.

  4. I am a little perplexed that LDS believe that they can subscribe to evolution. I think there are a few doctrinal problems, but more related to earth age and the origin of man and the literal fall of Adam.

    The Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve living in Missouri along with all the Biblical figures up until Noah as revealed to Joseph Smith.

    No death before the fall of Adam also presents a problem.

    The Pearl of Great price defining God’s time buts the Earth in the 6k range.

    I think JFS completely understood the Doctrine of the Church and the implications of what Evolution really meant in relation to those doctrines.

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie, 1:, p.143

    “IF EVOLUTION IS TRUE, THE CHURCH IS FALSE. If life began on the earth, as advocated by Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel (who has been caught openhanded perpetrating a fraud), and others of this school, whether by chance or by some designing hand, then the doctrines of the Church are false. Then there was no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, and no fall. If there was no fall; if death did not come into the world as the scriptures declared that it did-and to be consistent, if you are an evolutionist, this view you must assume-then there was no need for a redemption, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, and he did not die for the transgression of Adam, nor for the sins of the world. Then there has been no resurrection from the dead! Consistently, logically, there is no other view, no alternative that can be taken. Now, my brethren and sisters, are you prepared to take this view?”

    Jay you say “It is one of the things I love about the Church. It didn’t paint itself in a corner on this issue, like so many others did. “

    If you look at what so many of the early prophets said and the doctrine behind the Mormon story in regards to creation and the origin of man they did indeed paint itself into a corner, unless you are willing to completely dismiss what these Prophets claimed to have revealed to them. It wasn’t until the scientific evidence became so overwhelming that they became silent on the issue, vague or avoiding the topic all together. This is what is confusing to me and how does one hang unto the belief that the Church is lead by Prophets that receive revelation from God but yet they can be wrong about so many revealed things.

  5. IF EVOLUTION IS TRUE, THE CHURCH IS FALSE.

    This is the type of hyperbolic statement I would expect from Joseph F. Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. McConkie also call the Catholic Church the Church of the Devil and said that Blacks would never have the priesthood.

    Joseph F. Smith was one of the leaders strongly opposed to evolution. His statements on the subject are in direct conflict with many other LDS leaders which favored evolution. In fact, Joseph F. Smith and Bruce R. McConkie’s ideas fly in the face of the official Church position of neutrality on the subject. It is obvious, when it came to this topic they were expressing opinion and not revelation.

  6. Jay

    I understand that is the standard response. The problem I see is you have to look at the whole picture. When you break it down by statements made by this Church leader or that yes you can make that argument, plus the vast consensus of the Mormon leaders where against the theory until the evidence became so overwhelming, what about President Benson he was not just stating his opinion when he was preaching against socialism, organic evolution and such he was speaking as a Prophet of God not only in the Ensign but many times over the pulpit at Conferences.

    President Ezra Taft Benson, The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God, Ensign (CR), May 1975, p.63
    “Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, etc. Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are “hissing forth” with it. Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains.”

    Benson understood the problem is when you take the WHOLE Mormon story, the book of Mormon the Pearl of Great price, the Promised Land the fall of Adam, the plan of salvation as it concerns death and such Adam and Eve being cast out so they could experience death, procreation. I know you know all the doctrine so I am not going to rehash all that here. The Mormon Story doesn’t fit with evolution.

    My point is that your logic only holds up when you argue each piece by itself perhaps. I think JFS and BRM along with many other Prophets and leaders understood this and voiced it why should they be worried it would come back to bite them since they believed they this is what was revealed by God.

  7. …plus the vast consensus of the Mormon leaders where against the theory until the evidence became so overwhelming…

    Why shouldn’t they be? Are you likely to change your thinking unless it becomes apparent that you are wrong? Why should you buckle your knees for everyone that walks by and tells you you’re wrong. Show me the proof, I say.

    The problem I see is you have to look at the whole picture.

    But I am looking at the whole picture. Each of us is arguing the opposite side of the issue. You propose that every word from LDS anti-evolutionist leaders is from God himself, while ignoring the many LDS pro-evolutionists and the official Church standing on the issue. I’m taking a more moderate, and IMO correct, approach in advocating that the Church’s position of neutrality has been the same since the early 1900’s.

    Elder Talmage and B.H. Robert’s supplications to the First Presidency in 1930 refuting Joseph Fielding Smith’s anti-evolution statements elicited the following response from the First Presidency, which describes nicely the Church’s position on the matter to the present day:

    “The statement made by Elder Smith [Jospeh Fielding Smith] that the existence of pre-Adamites is not a doctrine of the Church is true. It is just as true that the statement: ‘There were not pre-Adamites upon the earth’ is not a doctrine of the Church. Neither side of the controversy has been accepted as a doctrine at all.

    Both parties make the scripture and the statements of men who have been prominent in the affairs of the Church the basis of their contention; neither has produced definite proof in support of his views…

    Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of 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…” (“Seers, Savants and Evolution” 64.)

    When I attended BYU, evolution was taught and vigorously promoted as it had been for many years. If evolution contradicts LDS scripture so blatantly as you have suggested by quoting past leaders (i.e. Joseph F. Smith, Bruce R. McConkie and Ezra T. Benson), it is highly unlikely that the Church would allow it to be taught in a school whose curriculum is controlled tightly by the Prophet and the Quorum of the Twelve.

    I do understand how someone can come to the conclusion that the Church has painted itself into a corner if statements from only those opposed to evolution are emphasized. However, the strongest statements given by the Church (i.e. First Presidency Statements), confirm the neutrality of the Church when it comes to this topic. This official stance was republished in the Ensign after Ezra T. Benson’s statement, confirming the Church’s view had not changed despite his comments.

  8. Jay

    I can certainly see where you are coming from, but I only used the comments as an example of what some had said to back up my premise in regards to evolution and the Mormon story as a whole not being compatible with each other not to necessarily say see what so and so said. My point was all things that are interwoven within the whole purpose and story behind Mormonism, book of Mormon and why there is even a record of these people and all that have been taught about the Promised Land etc. IMO completely contradicts what we know about Evolution, Origin of Man, and Earth age and how it was formed etc.

    “Why shouldn’t they be? Are you likely to change your thinking unless it becomes apparent that you are wrong? Why should you buckle your knees for everyone that walks by and tells you you’re wrong. Show me the proof, I say.”

    I am not sure that I am taking this statement correctly, but I just don’t understand the logic behind teaching what sets you apart from other Churches is that you have living Prophets, revelation and the Fullness of the Gospel the one and only true Church of Jesus Christ, but yet there is no accountability for any claims made that prove to be false. It just seems odd that the one true Church of an all knowing unchanging God also tends to be such a Shape Shifter and changes it’s stance as evidence and pressures mount and then attributes it revelations from God. You don’t find this odd or perplexing?

  9. I respect what you are saying and I don’t mean to say that your interpretation of the LDS evolutionary view is wrong. In fact, you have a strong argument (as I believe I do). I just don’t agree with your conclusion. When it comes to LDS theology it appears that we don’t have everything figured out. When there are conflicting views on a subject among “high ranking” Church leaders, who have an understanding of LDS scripture, I believe the conclusion that the issue has not been resolved by direct revelation to the Prophet is a reasonable one.

    Why shouldn’t they be? Are you likely to change your thinking unless it becomes apparent that you are wrong?

    My statement was based on the belief that a Prophet doesn’t know everything. God hasn’t revealed everything to him. A Prophet can be as ignorant as me when it comes to secular matters. What I do expect from him is that his leadership will lead me closer to God with the ultimate goal of obtaining salvation.

    I would expect a Prophet or Church leader to stand up for doctrine that has been revealed to him by God regardless cultural pressure to do otherwise. However, I see no problem changing doctrine, practices or beliefs, which are in error because they were introduced by human foibles. I believe the LDS Church has officially stated its position on evolution and those leaders that continue to advocate a view contrary to it are in error.

    Does it perplex me? No, it just reinforces in my mind that the Prophets of the past and the “latter day” Prophets are men that are ignorant of many things and sometimes say things they shouldn’t. I don’t seek perfection from leaders, only from God.

    The lack of accountability, I believe, is due to the Church’s reluctance to embarrass leaders and/or the Church by publicly exposing their faults (something I don’t agree with). I think they fear if members knew their faults they would loose faith in their leadership. To some degree this is what has happened to me, so maybe their fears are justified. I suppose they would rather accept the small losses as collateral damage than expose all members to the more human side of a Prophet and the Church.

  10. Jay

    Thanks for the conversation, it is always a pleasure and thought provoking.

    You didn’t sick Ditchu on me did you? 🙂

  11. Thank you as well.

    I don’t even know Ditchu, though I’ve seen him/her on some of the threads I’ve visited.

  12. Jay ,

    This conversation is intruiging as I was led to believe in the LDS church that there was an Adam and Eve who made a wise choice to disobey God and follow Satan ( concerning the fruit at least) in order to bring forth spirits into Mortality .

    How does evolution fit in with that ? Or were the biblical prophets and Book Of Mormon ones also expressing fallible opinions like the LDS Prophets .

    All the Mormons I’ve spoken with are so happy to know that Adam and Eve is true and Evolution false .
    Its new to me that there are Pro Evolution Mormons !

    What would Adam and Eve think ? All that they went through and the very church they belonged to ( according to LDS) in the beginning doesn’t know for sure if they were real ?

  13. Its new to me that there are Pro Evolution Mormons !

    You must not have looked very hard into this topic yet. B.H. Roberts (Church Historian and Scholar) and Elder James Talmage (Apostle and author of “Jesus the Christ”) were both strong supporters of Evolution. You will find others too some of them even have buildings named after them on BYU campus (e.g. John A. Widtsoe). I would say that the majority (there’s always an exception) of Mormons that are educated in Science accept evolution as put down by Darwin. When you get out of the sciences I think the number drops quite a bit.

    All that they went through and the very church they belonged to ( according to LDS) in the beginning doesn’t know for sure if they were real ?

    Being a little dramatic aren’t you EJ? Of course the existed. I don’t think evolution in any way precludes that.

    When I was at BYU there was a Jewish scientist (well known and respected, though I forget his name) that came to give a guest lecture to the Zoology department. He explained this “dilema” in a way I thought was interesting.

    I know I’m butchering this but the basic idea he presented was that there are animal spirits and spirits of God’s children. He believed that God used evolution to form Adam and Eve’s body in his image. Before that point these “human like” pre-Adamites had animal spirits. Once they had evolved into what God wanted he put Adam and Eve’s spirit into those bodies. I liked the explanation and its stuck with me ever since. Though I’ve never had a problem with evolution this helped me to warm to the idea even more.

  14. Jay,

    You mean Adam and Eve were not created instantly via soil from the ground but actually took millions of years while God was getting it right through various prototypes or something ?

    I can’t believe I just read this from you .I never would have even thought it .I must have been in a Literalist Creation Supporting Ward.

    I once asked my missionaries about Evolution and they responded that it was not possible with the LDS church and that the church believes a literal Instant Adam and Eve etc .

    To be honest I’ve now realised that the missionaries are effectively so uneducated that they should be recalled at once and allowed to get on with their lives rather than spend two years misinforming us all.

  15. You mean Adam and Eve were not created instantly via soil from the ground but actually took millions of years while God was getting it right through various prototypes or something ?

    Yes, that’s what I and many active LDS members that I personally know believe. And while BYU does not teach that, it can be implied. I know there are people in the religious department (Bruce R. McConkie’s son – surprise surprise:) that are opposed to evolution being taught at BYU and have complained about professors in the Zoology department and their treatment of evolution, but the Church continues to allow it to be taught. Proof in my mind of their neutrality.

    Well as I think you already know, missionaries are seldom very well versed in such things. Almost all of them have the basics down, but I wouldn’t trust them on a controversial or more in depth topic. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but the missionaries you talked to don’t know what their talking about. They must be basing their statement on their own personal experiences. Because of the Church’s neutrality, there are LDS members that strongly oppose evolution also (my father-in-law) and that’s OK.


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