Saturday, June 23, 2012

Neal A. Maxwell: Adam and Eve "from the beginning"

Today's LDS evolutionists say there is a solid line of transitional fossils connecting all major groups of vertebrate lineages from fish to humans, with modern humans appearing about 200,000 years ago. Scripture, on the other hand, says the first humans were Adam and Eve, placed on earth only about 6,000 years ago. This post adds one more apostle to the list of those who taught the latter view.

Neal A. Maxwell accepted the traditional biblical chronology. In the October 1993 general conference, he said, "We believe Adam and Eve were this planet’s first humans and first Christians. 'And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance' (Moses 5:58–59)." (Ensign, Nov. 1993; emphasis in the original.)

Again in 2003, Neal A. Maxwell said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ... in the unique position of knowing that there were different gospel dispensations. These dispensations began with Adam. One scripture says, “And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Moses 5:58)." (Ensign, Apr. 2003.)

Indeed, Adam and Eve were this planet's first humans and the gospel was preached to them from the beginning.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Michael Whiting, BYU, and human evolution

On Saturday, June 16, 2012, the Deseret News published an article titled "Evolution, dinosaurs and faith: Navigating the world of discovery." The article highlights Dr. Michael Whiting's evolutionary biology lab at Brigham Young University. According to the article, Whiting teaches that God uses evolution.

As Whiting's lab lets out, the model skulls on every desk are lined up chronologically. Whiting said that although some students have trouble accepting human evolution, the students in his lab typically do not have any problems. He said many of his students come to see evolution not as a theory that threatens their beliefs, but as a tool God uses to "accomplish his design."

The article thus suggests there is room in the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for evolution. Speaking of his students, Whiting says:

"They leave the class thinking, 'Isn't this cool? Isn't the creator so clever?'" he said.

In truth, however, it is Whiting himself who is "clever." LDS faith is not defined by science, it is defined by apostles and prophets. And for more than 182 years, the apostles and prophets have talked about the origin of man in official settings. The result? Church published apostolic statements about the origin of man speak unanimously against the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: Church published apostolic statements about the origin of man speak unanimously against the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man.

The remainder of this article is reprinted from an earlier blog post that addresses the question of whether BYU evolution courses constitute an endorsement of evolution by the Church.

Dropped in 1911

Evolution was kicked out of BYU nearly a hundred years ago.  President Joseph F. Smith, in an April 1911 Improvement Era editorial, publicly berated three BYU instructors who had "advanced certain theories on evolution as applied to the origin of man."  And when their ideas came into conflict with scripture, "it required the modification of the latter to come into harmony with the former."  Cancelling BYU evolution courses, President Smith said:

"Teachers in a Church school [should] not be given opportunity to inculcate theories that [are] out of harmony with the recognized doctrines of the Church, and hence that they be required to refrain from so doing"  (click here).

In 1973, while he was serving as Church President and Chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees, Harold B. Lee summarized the 1911 BYU evolution controversy in these words:

"The doctrine of evolution ...  has been long a bone of contention so serious that in the earlier years when Darwin's theory first was enunciated [at BYU], a number of professors ...  were released because of their unwillingness to teach the theory and then counter by delivering the true doctrines of the gospel"  (click here).

And so it was that for sixty years, between 1911 and 1971, evolution courses were not taught at BYU.

Brought back in 1971

To help its students prepare for biology graduate programs at other universities, BYU resumed undergraduate evolution courses in 1971.  Harold B. Lee was involved in obtaining the required permission from the Board of Trustees.  But, he said, "don't ... beat the Church with it."  (See Duane Jeffery interview, Dialogue, Vol.  35, No.  4, Winter 2002, 12.)

This is the same Harold B. Lee who, six months after becoming Church President, expressed sorrow in an Ensign First Presidency Message over a Church member who had asked him about pre-Adamites:

"She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was:  How do you reconcile science with religion?  The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error."  (Ensign, Dec. 1972, p.2.)

This is also the same Harold B. Lee who, just weeks before his death, praised Joseph Fielding Smith's Man, His Origin and Destiny as the finest Church book for science teachers  (click here).

It seems pretty clear that President Lee didn't view BYU evolution courses as evidence for Church acceptance of the theory.

Chairman of the Board

In 1971 when the BYU evolution courses returned, Joseph Fielding Smith was Chairman of the school's Board of Trustees.  Here is one of President Smith's legendary comments about the theory:

"Today the world ... has adopted and is promulgating in textbooks and schools the debasing doctrine that man is ... a natural development through countless ages from the lowest forms of physical life to his present form and intelligence.  Such a doctrine is an insult to our Father in whose Image we were created.  [It] is the doctrine of the devil."  (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:143-149.)

It should be obvious that permission from Joseph Fielding Smith to resume evolution courses was not an endorsement of the theory.

Students warned

President Boyd K. Packer and Elder Russell M. Nelson have each been asked to serve on the BYU Board of Trustees and both have warned BYU students about evolution (previously discussed here and here).  President Packer and Elder Nelson clearly don't believe BYU evolution courses connote Church acceptance of the theory.

President Ezra Taft Benson made this suggestion to parents:

"If your children are taught untruths on evolution in the public schools or even in our Church schools, provide them with a copy of President Joseph Fielding Smith's excellent rebuttal in his book Man, His Origin and Destiny."  (Era, Dec 1970, p.49.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie warned BYU students that one of today's seven deadly heresies is trying to harmonize organic evolution with revealed religion (click here).  "There is no harmony," McConkie consistently taught, "between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution"  (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p.256.)

President Benson and Elder McConkie both served on the BYU Board of Trustees, yet it seems quite apparent that neither of them felt BYU evolution courses meant Church acceptance of the theory.

The gospel perspective

Yes, BYU teaches evolution courses.  Even so, the BYU Board of Trustees has established the BYU Evolution Packet (click here) which makes clear the Church's position on evolution (click here).  In addition, BYU students are required to take religion classes where certain aspects of evolution theory are countered with the gospel perspective (click here, for example).


BYU evolution courses do not supersede the official 1909 First Presidency statement which is the predominant item in the BYU Evolution Packet and has been reprinted in major Church publications twice in this century (click here and here).

The 1909 statement is easily and usually interpreted as anti-evolutionary (click here).  Duane Jeffery himself has called it "anti-science" [1]  and "quite anti-evolutionary." [2]

For the above reasons, I think BYU evolution courses do not establish compatibility between Church doctrine and evolution, and do not connote Church approval of the theory.



1.  As quoted in William E.  Evenson and Duane E.  Jeffery, Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2005), p. 30.

2.  As quoted in Deseret Morning News, March 1, 2006, p. B3.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

A question for LDS children: Who were the first people on the earth?

The official Church manual for teaching LDS children ages 8 through 11 contains this game:

The game is played like tic tac toe with two players or two teams taking turns. However, players don't automatically have X's and O's to place on the game board. These must be earned by choosing an unused number between one and nine and answering the corresponding question correctly. LDS evolutionists should avoid question four because a wrong answer means a skipped turn.

1)  What is Heavenly Father’s great plan for us called? (The plan of salvation, the plan of redemption, or the plan of happiness.)

2)  What does redeem mean? (Save us from the bondage of sin.)

3)  Who created the earth? (Jesus Christ, under Heavenly Father’s direction.)

4)  Who were the first people on the earth? (Adam and Eve.)

5)  What happened because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit? (They were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they could have children, they became mortal, and they were able to choose between right and wrong [see Moses 5:11].)

6)  Aaron taught the king from the scriptures or the brass plates. What are the four books of scripture we use to teach the gospel, or plan of redemption? (The Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.)

7)  What was the first thing Aaron taught King Lamoni’s father? (There is a God.)

8)  How did Jesus make it possible for us to return to live with him again? (He suffered and died for our sins.)

9)  What must we do to be able to return to Heavenly Father? (Repent of our sins, keep our covenants, do good works.)

Who were the first people on the earth? Adam and Eve.

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