Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The First Presidency on the Origin of Man

He believed the Church had a clear "neutral" position on evolution. He found out otherwise.

In 2001, Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum (authors of Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding) received a copy of the 1909 Origin of Man statement from Church headquarters. They were informed that it represents the official position of the Church on evolution (details here).

In 2002, the 1909 Origin of Man statement was published in its entirety in the February issue of the Ensign. Follow these links to download the complete magazine in PDF format or view the article in HTML format.

A 2007 Update

A few days ago, I received an email message from a reader. I asked his permission to post it because I believe it strongly reinforces what Stephens and Meldrum found out six years ago regarding the Church's position on evolution. Here is what he said:

Feb 11, 2007

I was corresponding with a former pupil of Prof. Duane Jeffery's, who teaches at BYU. During the course of our correspondence, he had asked me many, many times to write to the First Presidency and ask them what the position of the "origin of man" or "evolution" is. I didn't do it for a while, but finally decided to. I wrote a very short question, put my name and address, but did not include anything about me being a member of the Church. I wrote "What is the Church's position on the origin of man?"

The person I was corresponding with mentioned I would get a copy of the evolution entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism back in the mail. He was wrong.

About a month after sending the letter (via USPS), my Bishop called me in his office and took out a letter from the First Presidency. He did not let me hold or see the letter, but read some of it to me. Included in the letter was instructions to my Bishop to print a copy of the Feb 2002 Ensign article which has Joseph F. Smith's entire 1909 Improvement Era editorial. The Bishop had made a copy of the Ensign article and handed it to me. My Bishop was really concerned about me. The letter advised him to mention members should take questions first to their local leaders. Needless to say, I was very apologetic to my Bishop. I was VERY embarrassed.

First, I was really impressed the Church actually took the time, looked me up and found my ward, then spent time to write my Bishop.

I actually already knew about this article, and had a text copy of it. It is also in the Old Testament Institute manual. This person I was corresponding with was having a hard time believing the Church would have re-printed it because he believed the Church had a clear "neutral" position on evolution. He told me that the Ensign re-print was probably done by mistake and/or the First Presidency never knew about it.

I know a person that worked for Church magazines and she said a big mistake like that would *never* happen. When little mistakes happen (very rarely) they correct it. It is taken very seriously. Even after giving him her response, he was still not convinced. It was after that I started realizing what a slippery slope he was on.

Name Withheld

I've noticed that some LDS bloggers, including DMI Dave, have misunderstandings similar to those of the above mentioned BYU instructor. But my reader discovered for himself that the 1909 First Presidency statement is the current position of the Church on the Origin of Man, not the evolution entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

(read more...)