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Friday, August 31, 2007

A question for LDS evolutionists

Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man?

2 Comments:

Blogger NoCoolName_Tom said...

It is true that having a specific statement from the Church about support of evolution would settle this debate once and for all.

However, I feel that the term "apostolic" is in error in regards to this debate, because an apostle (J. Reuben Clark) has already spoken on their authority in this matter. "When any man, other than the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrine in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that is not 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost,' unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President. Of these things we may have a confident assurance without chance for doubt or quibbling" (Church News (July, 31 1954): 9).

Also, if anyone is able to find a statement in support of organic evolutionary origins by the President of the Church, the following (admittedly only apostolic) statement by Elder Widtsoe: "Such inspired deliverances [from the President of the Church] are binding upon all who believe that the latter-day work came and is directed by revelation. There is no appeal from them; no need for debate concerning their validity. They must either be accepted or be subjected to the dangers of private interpretation This has been made plain in modern revelation: "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his (Joseph's) words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

"'For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith' (D. & C. 21:4, 5). In this commandment there is no limitation upon the prophet, as to subject, time, or place.

When the prophet speaks to the people in an official gathering or over his signature, he speaks as the Lord directs him. If a new doctrine or practice be involved in the revelation, it is presented to the people for acceptance, in recognition of the free agency of the Church itself, but once accepted, it is thereafter binding upon every member
" (Evidences and Reconciliations, p.236)

There has never, to my knowledge, been any statement made by the President of the Church that endorses the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man. Further, I don't think there has ever been any statement made by the President of the Church of like subject that was presented before the Church for acceptance. Finally, even if someone finds some obscure statement by a Church President that may have been presented, I'm certain that it has never been accepted by the Church, and thus been binding. We don't believe organic evolution as a Church or as a people.

Of course, it is true that the knife cuts both ways. We don't disbelieve organic evolution as a Church or as a people.

9/01/2007 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

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NoCoolName_Tom,

Thanks for your comment. Mostly, I agree with it. Especially I agree with your statement that, "There has never, to my knowledge, been any statement made by the President of the Church that endorses the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man."

There are two First Presidency statements, however, that have convinced me the Church rejects the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man.

"Mormon View of Evolution" was issued in 1925 by Heber J. Grant's First Presidency.  It is an abbreviated copy of "The Origin of Man," issued in 1909 by Joseph F. Smith's First Presidency.  The position of the LDS Church on evolution is set forth in these two formal declarations of doctrine.

The original 1909 First Presidency statement on "The Origin of Man" is (1) about evolution, (2) official, (3) doctrinal, and (4) definitive.

The 1909 statement is (1) about evolution.

     1-a.  The 1925 statement clearly establishes that the 1909 statement is about evolution.  Because the 1925 statement is actually an abridged version of the 1909 statement, it firmly establishes by its title, "Mormon View of Evolution," that both statements do in fact express the Church's view on evolution.  Because the 1909 statement is titled "The Origin of Man," it is also clear that the subject is human evolution.

     1-b.  This was confirmed in 1992 by the First Presidency and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve when, as members of the BYU Board of Trustees, they approved the BYU Evolution Packet in these words:

"This packet contains, as far as could be found, all statements issued by the First Presidency ... on the subject of evolution and the origin of man....  The earliest ... was issued during the administration of President Joseph F. Smith in 1909....  The second ... was issued during the administration of President Heber J. Grant in 1925.  Although there has never been a formal declaration from the First Presidency addressing the general matter of organic evolution as a process for development of [other] biological species, these documents make clear the official position of the Church regarding the [evolution of, or] origin of man....

"Formal statements by the First Presidency are the definitive source of official Church positions."

     1-c.  The 1909 First Presidency statement was reprinted by the Church in its February 2002 Ensign magazine as the Church's doctrinal position on evolution:

"In the early 1900s, questions concerning the Creation of the earth and the theories of evolution became the subject of much public discussion.  In the midst of these controversies, the First Presidency issued the following in 1909, which expresses the Church's doctrinal position on these matters."  (Ensign, Feb. 2002, p. 26.)

A note elsewhere in the same magazine says:

"Find ... the Church's official teachings on the creation of mankind and evolution ... on p. 26."  (Ensign, Feb. 2002, p. 80.)

     1-d.  The Church's Gospel Topic web page about "Creation" again says the 1909 statement contains the Church's doctrinal position on evolution:

"In 1909, amid controversy and questions about the Creation and the theory of evolution, the First Presidency issued this article, which expresses the Church's doctrinal position."

The 1909 statement is (2) official.

     2-a.  The 1992 First Presidency said the 1909 statement is official.  In 1992, the First Presidency and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve, as members of the BYU Board of Trustees, said "Formal statements by the First Presidency are the definitive source of official Church positions."

Specifically, they said the 1909 and 1925 statements "make clear the official position of the Church regarding the [evolution of, or] origin of man"  (see 1-b, above).

     2-b.  The February 2002 Ensign says the 1909 statement is official (see the note at the back of the Ensign as quoted in 1-c, above).

The 1909 statement is (3) doctrinal.

     3-a.  In its introduction to the February 2002 reprint of the 1909 statement, the Ensign says it "expresses the Church's doctrinal position [on] evolution" (see 1-c, above).

     3-b.  In its introduction to the 1909 statement, the Church's Gospel Topic web page on "Creation" also says it "expresses the Church's doctrinal position [on] evolution" (see 1-d, above).

     3-c.  Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith says the 1909 statement was a "doctrinal exposition" (see p. ix).

     3-d.  The Church's history page for President Joseph F. Smith also says the 1909 statement was a "doctrinal exposition."

The 1909 statement is (4) definitive.

     4-a.  One meaning of definitive is "precisely defined or explicit."  In this sense, some claim the 1909 statement may not be definitive.  Even so, the statement is sufficiently clear.  Here's why:

The apostles have the keys as prophets, seers, and revelators.  With the senior apostle at their head, they are charged with making the Church's doctrine understandable to all (see 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20, 4:12-14; D&C 1:14, 52:9, 36).

     4-b.  A living apostle, President Boyd K. Packer, has stated explicitly and with precision that the 1909 statement constitutes an authoritative pronouncement against human evolution (see here) and he continues to denounce "those who equate humankind with animals" (address given at the BYU Women's Conference, May 5, 2006, p. 5).

     4-c.  A second witness is found in the 1980-81 Priesthood manual where human evolution is refuted by teaching that Adam was physically "the son of God."  Based on the introductory portrait of and message from the First Presidency (click here), I believe this manual was approved for publication by the First Presidency.  The paragraph about Adam's origin was written by Bruce R. McConkie who was himself in 1980 one of the Apostles.  The paragraph interprets a portion of the 1909 First Presidency statement this way:

"Luke 3:38. What does this verse reveal about the origin of Adam's physical body?   ' As to the manner in which Adam was placed on the earth, the First Presidency of the Church ... has given us this plain statement [from Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, p. 80]: "He took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a  ' living soul.' ... All who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner." '  (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 17.)"  (1980-81 Priesthood manual , p. 36; bracketed comment and italics in the original; see also Mormon Doctrine, "Evolution," pp.  247-256.)

     4-d.  Another meaning of definitive is "authoritative."  In this sense, the 1909 statement is clearly definitive because, as the First Presidency and several Apostles said in 1992, "Formal statements by the First Presidency are the definitive source of official Church positions" and the 1909 and 1925 statements "make clear" position of the Church regarding man's origin (see 1-b, above).

"Adam ... was the son of God" (Luke 3:38; also Moses 6:22).  He was NOT the offspring of "lower orders" of animal life.  I have searched in vain for apostolic statements that support human evolution.  I have concluded that there are none.

The Church has a doctrinal position on evolution.

The Church's doctrinal position on evolution is the 1909 First Presidency statement on "The Origin of Man" from which came, in 1925, "Mormon View of Evolution."

The 1909 statement is about evolution.  It is official, doctrinal, and definitive.  Based on the 1909 statement, I think the Church disbelieves organic evolution as an explanation for the origin of man.

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9/01/2007 07:56:00 PM  

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