Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Man: His Origin and Destiny" quoted in General Conference

Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, apparently has no reservations about President Joseph Fielding Smith's book, Man: His Origin and Destiny. Elder Hales quoted the book in his keynote address at this month's 176 Annual General Conference (see "To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency," footnote 11, Ensign, May 2006, 4.)

Here is the full paragraph from President Smith's book (the words Elder Hales quoted are in bold):

"This being true, then does it not appear to you that it is a foolish and ridiculous notion that when God created this earth he had to begin with a speck of protoplasm, and take millions of years, if not billions, to bring conditions to pass by which his sons and daughters might obtain bodies made in his image? Why not the shorter route and transplant them from another earth as we are taught in the scriptures? Surely to any reasonable mind, the Lord would not have to start with an amoeba, pass through the stage of lower fish to higher fish to reptiles to apes and to man! When we stop to consider how perfect are the workings of God; how thorough he is and orderly, surely these theories flatten out and are without substance. Then we have this to think about. According to the revelations to Moses and Abraham, as given to us in the Pearl of Great Price in clearness, and also stated in the Bible, does it not seem rather out of harmony for a Latter-day Saint to believe that several billion years ago, according to our reckoning, there was a council held in heaven at which we shouted for joy because we were to have the opportunity of coming to the earth to receive bodies that we might become, through faithfulness, like unto our Father, God? At that time many of the great and noble spirits were chosen to become rulers. According to the theories of men, if we believe the revelation of that pre-existence, we had to wait, some say several billions of years, before that promise could be accomplished."

Elder Hales graduated from the University of Utah in 1954, the same year Man: His Origin and Destiny was published. It is unlikely that he is oblivious to the controversy among LDS evolutionists surrounding the book, just as it is unlikely that he didn't read this paragraph before quoting from it in general conference.

Elder Hales was serving as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve in 1976 when President Ezra Taft Benson mentioned in a speech at BYU certain allegations that had been made regarding Man: His Origin and Destiny:

"More recently one of our Church educators published what he purports to be a history of the Church's stand on the question of organic evolution. His thesis challenges the integrity of a prophet of God."

Apparently, Elder Hales agrees with President Benson's assessment that the book's author was "a prophet of God."


Blogger Jared* said...

My main reaction to this is: what an odd passage to quote and give a reference to in a conference talk. Not because the quote is strange, but because it is so simple.

4/30/2006 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Whoa, you threw me for a second there, Gary. I initially thought the long passage you quoted was straight from Elder Hales' talk! I had pen and paper out to ready to write him a letter explaining how he could be teaching such zany ideas from the pulpit in the 21st century. Maybe you should emphasize that it was Joseph Fielding Smith who authored that long statement, not Elder Hales.

Elder Hales' talk was about agency; it nowhere adopted or endorsed the anti-science mantra of Elder Smith. It was a nice talk despite quoting Man, His Origin and Destiny, not because of it.

5/01/2006 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Dave: If an Apostle, in general conference, quoted favorably from Darwin's Origin of Species, that talk would become a sacred text among LDS evolutionists and the rest of us would hear about it for years to come. So don't mock President Smith's "mantra." The consistency of his message throughout his sixty two year ministry merely emphasizes its importance.

5/02/2006 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous t.o. said...

Through the speech, I gathered that we were being called to remember the pre-existence and POS - we chose agency. "Why the comment" is the question we must study out for ourselves.

IMO, this is preparation for those that study how we fit into a changing world. More LDS need to become aware that we deny creation ex nihilo, therefore we deny the literal seven day Genesis account of creation "out of nothing" that is being pushed as the ID/Creation theory in school politics and curriculum.

The speech for many LDS moms with school age students, reminds us of our core beliefs about creation. For us, we are being prepared to stand up to those convictions should the time come to battle them out with school boards that want to push ID into the curriculum.

5/05/2006 05:45:00 PM  
Anonymous samdb said...

Gary: re: your response to Dave: A GA's quoting something in Conference does not constitute an endorsement of the parts left unsaid, else Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis would be cannonical.

Case in point: the quotation of the lines "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul" from Invictus by Henley (the quick search I ran found Pres. Faust quoting it in April 2000 conference). Alone, it's a great statement of free will. But the poem is actually a repudiation of God, and a statement that we are solely responsible for ourselves. But I'm confident that Pres. Faust didn't mean to invoke the whole meaning of the poem; rather, he was speaking of self-mastery, and the poem speaks of self-mastery.

If Elder Hales had meant to endorse other ideas from the book, he would have done so. That fact that he selectively quoted means neither that he accepts or rejects Joseph Fielding Smith's opinions on creationism.

5/08/2006 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...


I've always found it interesting that the 1966 First Presidency (David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, and N. Eldon Tanner) borrowed words from the book's Preface in a tribute to President Smith when they said: "His writings have strengthened the faith of many throughout the world." (Improvement Era, July 1966, p. 613.)

Man: His Origin and Destiny was written, said President Smith in its Preface, "to strengthen the faith ... of students in the public schools and colleges, who are constantly exposed to the theories of organic evolution and the higher criticism, so-called." (Man: His Origin and Destiny, p. xi.)

Some LDS evolutionists think the book Man: His Origin and Destiny should never have been written and ought to be forgotten. They will have to be more careful about such thoughts in the future thanks to Elder Robert D. Hales.

5/08/2006 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger tmg_founder said...

How wonderful President Boyd K. Packer's words at Women's Conference this May 5th, "'children are an heritage of the Lord' (Psalms 127:3). Each is a child of God. He is not a monkey; neither were his ancestors."
gary d. goodwin

5/14/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Thank you, tmg_founder (aka gary d. goodwin)! I heartily endorse Jared's hat tip to you!

I would like to just add that there are at least four items of interest in President Packer's recent talk as it relates to evolution.

First, the absence if a disclaimer in 2006 as opposed to 1988.

In 1988, Elder Packer said: "The talk which follows was given without such assignment and no such approval has been sought or given. The author alone is responsible for the views set forth therein. They do not necessarily represent the Church."

In 2006, President Packer said: "The Twelve Apostles are called to 'set in order' (D&C 107:58) and 'regulate all the affairs of the [Church] in all nations' (D&C 107:33) under the direction of the First Presidency."

Second, the consistency of his "origin of man" position over time.

Eighteen years ago, in 1988, Elder Packer said that evolution as a possibility for the origin of man's body is incompatible with "an understanding of the sealing authority," which he said (twice for emphasis), "cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts."

Earlier this month, in 2006, President Packer said: " 'Children are an heritage of the Lord' (Psalms 127:3). Each is a child of God. He is not a monkey; neither were his ancestors."

Third, a New Testament verse is quoted in an anti-evolution context.

Twenty two years ago, in general conference in October 1984, and again in his recent talk, President Packer said, "A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget a reptile, nor 'do men gather ... figs of thistles.' (Matt. 7:16)."

Fourth, at least six past comments made on this blog during the past year were probably invalidated by President Packer's recent talk.


Posted by will on Fri 6/17/2005 10:54 AM

I challenge you to find a single statement on evolution by any leader in the past 15 years. During that period, evolutionary biology research has blossomed at BYU, right under the noses of the Board of Trustees. This doesn't imply a pro-evolution stance by the church, but it certainly means that the church is no longer anti-evolution, if it ever was.


Posted by will on Fri 6/17/2005 9:52 PM

As stated by Cromwell in A Man for all Seasons, "silence can, according to the circumstances, speak."

As witnessed by the very existence of your blog, the number of evolutionists in the Church is significant. BYU teaches evolution to thousands of students every year. Why are Church leaders silent?...

Why is are our leaders silent on this subject, other than allowing an occasional reprint of previous prophets' words?


Posted by will on Thu 6/30/2005 10:18 AM

You can interpret the church's silence however you want, but I'm betting that if [a BYU prof.] said something heretical like "Joseph Smith was a false prophet," then the church wouldn't be silent.


Posted by will on Fri 1/6/2006 10:56 AM

The fading of anti-evolution rhetoric in the church seems pretty obvious to me. In the 80's, we got talks like The Seven Deadly Heresies, The Pattern of our Parentage, and The Magnificence of Man, all of which pointedly rejected evolution. Nowadays, if you want to find church support for an anti-evolution position, you have to do it inferentially.


Posted by will on Mon 1/9/2006 2:11 PM

I stand by my observation that anti-evolution rhetoric has faded in the past few decades.


Posted by Mike Parker on Tue 1/24/2006 5:09 PM

If Church leaders were clearly and indisputably opposed to evolution, ... all they would have to do is issue a clear statement to that effect. But they haven't, and that action speaks volumes.


Go back to the first item in this comment and notice again President Packer's 2006 prefatory remark, in contrast to his 1988 disclaimer. Notice also that the most recent six Church Presidents and thirty one Apostles have have demonstrated a remarkable unity in their public comments about evolution.

5/15/2006 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...


In regard to your points:

1. I guess we'll disagree on what the absence of a disclaimer means. Anyway, the real point of his talk was the importance of family--children and motherhood. To the extent that he sees evolution as the boogey-man of the family, rightly or wrongly, it's not all that surprising that he would touch on it given prior statements.

2. Yes, this does help establish the consistency of his views.

3. I don't see why the NT verse is important at all.

4. I'm not sure that all of the comments are totally invalidated, but I'm glad to see that none of the statements were mine. :)

5/16/2006 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Last summer, in Clark Goble's article, Hinckley on Evolution, there was a flap about the disclaimer in Elder Packer's 1988 talk (see comments #139, #140, #142, #144, and #145). Regarding Matt. 7:16, it just seems noteworthy that President Packer (for the second time) has used the verse in an anti-evolution context.

5/16/2006 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger BrianJ said...

I'm surprised by Elder Packer's use of Matt 7:16. I have never heard that verse used in that context. In fact, if someone had told me that that verse was used in relation to evolution, I would have guessed that it was pro-evolution; viz. to emphasize the broad scientific progress and discovery made through applying evolutionary theory.

5/16/2006 08:59:00 PM  

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