Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our physical bodies have a divine origin

The following statements correctly suggest that Mormonism is science-friendly:

M. Russell Ballard: "The Lord, over the centuries, has had a hand in inspiring people to invent tools that facilitate the spreading of the gospel. The Church has adopted and embraced those tools, including print, broadcast media, and the Internet." (Ensign, July 2008.)

Dallin H. Oaks: "The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith and our reliance on priesthood blessings." (Ensign, May 2010.)

However, not all science is embraced by Mormonism. The science of human evolution, for example, has been repeatedly repudiated and never endorsed in official Church media by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

Here are two current examples:

In the October 2013 General Conference, D. Todd Christofferson testified that "our physical bodies have a divine origin." (Ensign, Nov. 2013.) This declaration expands on his earlier warning about those "who believe that our bodies are ... the result of evolutionary chance." (Ensign, Nov. 2010.)

Christofferson's declaration also affirms remarks about man's origin by Russell M. Nelson in a current Church video, "The Creation." As you view the video, note especially these words, "I testify that the earth and all life upon it are of divine origin. The Creation did not happen by chance."

Click here to view at LDS.org or view below:


Blogger R. Gary said...

The LDS faith is not defined by science, it is defined by revelation from God to His authorized servants. For more than 183 years, God's latter-day servants have talked about the origin of man in official settings. Their statements speak unanimously against the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man. Human evolution is not a revelation from God and no school teacher, not even a BYU biology teacher, has authority to teach LDS students that it is.

10/26/2013 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I accept the reality of organic evolution, including the evolution of the human body. I also believe that all life is of divine origin and that our current physical form of humanity is not the result of mere chance. In my view, evolution and divine creation are not incompatible.

10/26/2013 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: I believe I understand your comment and I believe you are sincere. However, human evolution and divine creation are incompatible according to the teachings of the Lord's authorized servants. Human evolution has never been endorsed in official Church media by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Further reading is available here.

10/26/2013 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So your arguement is we should never believe anything not officially endorsed by the Q12? Does that mean we shouldn't believe in genetics, dinosaurs or gravity because the church has not never officially endorsed them either?

10/26/2013 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: I didn't say any such thing. You, as all people, can believe whatever you want. My argument is that we should not teach fellow Mormons that members of the FP/Q12 are wrong about the science of human evolution.

10/27/2013 01:28:00 AM  
Blogger David Foster said...

How does evolution contradict a divine origin?

The Apostles have seen to that it that Evolution AND a Divine origin are both taught at BYU and church schools.

Christofferson's comments should probably be better understood as saying that God was involved, and not just only blind chance.

10/27/2013 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

David Foster: Evolution is taught in the science department, not the religion department. The existence of BYU evolution courses does not establish compatibility between Church teachings and the science of human evolution.

Christofferson's comments are best understood within the context of what his associates in the First Presidency and Twelve are teaching now and have taught in the past. They have spoken unanimously about the science of human evolution. Your comment misrepresents what they believe and teach.

10/27/2013 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Left Field said...

"My argument is that we should not teach fellow Mormons that members of the FP/Q12 are wrong about the science of human evolution."

RG, you're the one who repeatedly insists that the FP/Q12 are wrong about the science of human evolution.

10/27/2013 07:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother Gary. I can't sit by while my kids at BYU are taught false doctrine. My daughter told me that in her microbiology class human evolution was just taken as fact and not even challenged. Not even a mention of the words of modern prophets on the subject. I wonder if you could tell me who is the best person to contact at the University to effect any change? I know you can email President Samuelson through the BYU home page but in my experience these just get passed to some administrative assistant. Do you know anyone else I could talk to?

10/27/2013 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: Science and religion are taught in separate BYU departments. I personally don't see anything wrong with studying the theories of men in one department and the teachings of apostles and prophets in the other.

10/27/2013 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if those theories of men are in direct opposition to the teachings of the apostles and prophets? Shouldn't those theories of men be taught but appropriately denounced? At BYU, even the alphabet should be taught by the spirit of God.

10/27/2013 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: Actually, evolution was kicked out of BYU more than a hundred years ago.  Church 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, Joseph F. Smith said:

-------------- quote --------------
"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).
-------------- end quote --------------

Sixty years later, the BYU Board of Trustees reversed its policy. To help 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, which is headed by the First Presidency of the Church.

The following year, in 1972, Harold B. Lee became Church President and Chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees. In 1973, he summarized the 1911 BYU evolution controversy in these words:

-------------- quote --------------
"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).
-------------- end quote --------------

Yes, BYU teaches evolution courses.  But BYU students are required to take religion classes where the theory of evolution is countered with the true doctrines of the gospel. And all of this is done in accordance with instructions from a modern prophet.

10/28/2013 01:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want the biology professors to do exactly what President Lee said: "teach the theory and then counter by delivering the true doctrines of the gospel". Why must this be left to the religion faculty? Why should we set up a situation that leads to warring factions between religion professors and the rest of campus? This situation places unnecessary burdens on students.
Do you have any advice about who to contact at BYU with my concerns?

10/28/2013 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: 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:

-------------- quote --------------
"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.)
-------------- end quote --------------

Yet Joseph Fielding Smith knowingly granted his permission for the science department to resume evolution courses at BYU.

Ezra Taft Benson gave a clear indication of his feelings about evolution when he made this suggestion to parents:

-------------- quote --------------
"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.)
-------------- end quote --------------

Ezra Taft Benson was chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees for nine years while the BYU science taught evolution. Obviously he was comfortable with the science department teaching science and the religion department teaching religion.

Russell M. Nelson is presently serving on the BYU Board of Trustees and he has warned BYU students pointedly about evolution (previously discussed here). Russell M. Nelson is obviously comfortable with the science department teaching science and the religion department teaching religion.

Bruce R. McConkie served on the BYU Board of Trustees. He 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.)

These prophet leaders are and were involved with the administration of BYU. They are and were aware of the lack of harmony between science and religion regarding Darwinian evolution. After more than 40 years, you might want to just accept that the FP/12 know what's going on and are satisfied with how it works.

10/28/2013 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary, I'm not sure why you are posting these statements condemning evolution as a doctrine of the devil in response to me. I'm in agreement with you on this point.
What I don't agree with you is the idea that science teachers should teach science in a vacuum, and not integrate the gospel into their subjects. This is what is expected of them, from what I've been told and what I've read on the BYU webpage. When my daughter does her course evaluations, she is asked how well the professor was able to integrate the gospel with the subject being taught. From what I can see, this is not happening, or if it is happening, the words of the prophets are being trampled upon.
Why would we keep BYU running if their were no such integration? If the "science department teaches science and the religion department teaches religion", then what does the Church gain by running BYU rather than having students attend UVU, and then attend institute so the teachers can refute the false theories of science?

10/28/2013 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: When God reveals truth to his authorized servants, you can be sure He isn't going to contradict Himself to a scientist. But I don't control anything at BYU, so I suggest you let it go, at least on this blog.

10/28/2013 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

To Gary and Anonymous;
The gospel is indeed being integrated with science in BYU classes, including the biological sciences. In my class, we discuss the spiritual implications of scientific findings regularly. I'm not sure what you mean, Gary, when you say that even BYU biology teachers do not have the "authority" to teach LDS students that evolutionary principles, including the evolutionary history of man, can be reconciled with their LDS faith. We are expected to do this by those who hire us, determine our pay, review our performance, and oversee the university's mission. I'm sorry that you find this troubling, but nevertheless it is true. You are absolutely correct that it has not always been so, but thankfully things have changed and continue to change. Please don't leave the church if you should live long enough to see a total reversal or abandonment of the words of Joseph Fielding Smith or Bruce McConkie, or all the others that you have so carefully compiled, that teach that these things cannot be reconciled.

10/31/2013 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Dave: Human evolution has never had an advocate in the FP/12 who has taken that position in official Church media. I'm basing my comments on what the LDS Church says in its media. And what if such an advocate never shows up? In the meantime, human evolution is a scientific teaching, not a gospel teaching, and no school teacher has authority to teach LDS students otherwise.

10/31/2013 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The more I read of this discussion the more I appreciate the wonderful state schools my children attended. Yes, they were taught evolution as one would expect in any first-rate science class, but no they haven't fallen away from the church. In fact, the more science they have learned, the greater their testimonies as far as I can see.

10/31/2013 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Again Gary, I'm not sure what you mean by "authority" in this context. Could you please clarify what that authority would entail?

10/31/2013 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Gary, I forgot to respond to your very good question about "what if such an advocate never shows up?"

I won't be too worried if we never see any official endorsement of human evolutionary theory from the pulpit at General Conference, in lesson manuals, or in Church magazines. However, I would be concerned if there were additional speeches like the seven deadly heresies speech you linked to earlier, that are aggressively anti-evolution. I would be surprised and admittedly discouraged to hear such.

On the other hand, I would not be surprised if a member of the FP/12 at some point mentioned evolution in a way that could be interpreted as favorable or in ways that could be reconciled, at least to those with ears to hear.
My prediction is that over time, fewer apostles will make or quote past teachings about the evil of evolution, until there will come a time when Church members will be surprised that it was ever an issue. Much like changes in teachings about birth control, or race, or vaccination, or music, to name a few.

10/31/2013 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Dave: When the Church and its authorized leaders say one thing, they speak with authority. When an employee of the Church, a BYU teacher for example, tells LDS students that the authorized leaders are mistaken, that is done without authority.

Are you making a prediction or a prophecy?

10/31/2013 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger wage slave said...

Evolution is a spiritual phenomenon explained from a material perspective. The GAs are correct to state that a philosophy that leaves out the spiritual component is dead in the water. That God's hand is in all things, including natural selection, would be a good reminder. I find that Rupert Sheldrake, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff provide excellent ways forward that integrate the material and spirit sides in scientifically plausible ways.

11/02/2013 09:20:00 PM  

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