Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The implications of key LDS doctrines for evolution

In 1988, Boyd K. Packer presented a paper at BYU about the evolution and the origin of man. [1]  I am fully aware that this publication is not an "official declaration."  I am also aware that the same is true of all material published privately by individual apostles.

But such a distinction makes little or no difference to most Church members, who accept the writings of living apostles as credible gospel teachings.

Therefore, ignoring what the apostles publish about evolution will negatively impact an effort to create a place for evolution in the Church.  With that in mind, let us consider a few aspects of President Packer's 1988 paper.

In this paper, he he sets forth his opinion that an evolutionary origin of man is not only a problem, it is "the problem" [2]

He identifies three fundamental doctrines, "the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement" and notes that these "fundamental doctrines cannot co-exist" with the belief that man evolved from lower life. [3]

President Packer states rather clearly that the idea of man being the offspring of animals "is false!" [4]  And he is certain that theistic evolution, the idea that God used evolution to create man, "is equally false" [5]

President Packer asserts that if the theory of evolution applies to man, "there was no Fall and therefore no need for an atonement." [6]

And finally, President Packer maintains that human evolution is incompatible with "an understanding of the sealing authority," which he says (twice for emphasis), "cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts." [7]


  1. Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990), 1; see also an on-line pdf, 1, but note that the page numbers in the book don't match those in the pdf.

  2. "The Law and the Light," 6; on-line pdf, 4; italics in the original.

  3. "The Law and the Light," 7; on-line pdf, 4.

  4. "The Law and the Light," 21; on-line pdf, 11.

  5. "The Law and the Light," 21; on-line pdf, 12.

  6. "The Law and the Light," 22; on-line pdf, 12.

  7. "The Law and the Light," 22; on-line pdf, 12; italics in the original; see also "The Chicks," and "After Their Own Kind" in Ensign, Nov. 1984, 66.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bloggernacle dodgeball

Last Sunday, I was accused of fashioning a quote from Gospel Principles that conveys meaning not found in the manual. Here's the quote:

Chapter 6: "When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden,... there was no death" (p.28). "Their part in our Father's plan was to bring mortality into the world" (p.27).

Chapter 38 corroborates: "Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world" (p.219).

And here's the allegation (the entire comment is here):

"his ellipsis and his creative selection of this bit from p. 28 carefully placed in front of that bit from p. 27 differs very little from clipping stray words from a magazine to rearrange them into a ransom note. Chapter 6 makes nothing like the cogent argument he sets out in his comment."

I disagree completely. Read the manual (here) — it teaches ndbf. Furthermore, both the quote and the manual are consistent with the larger context of LDS media in general.

The larger context

Gospel Principles was written in 1978 and ndbf has been in it all along. So let's look at a sampling of what the Church has said about ndbf since 1978.


In 1979, the Scriptures Publication Committee (Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer, and Bruce R. McConkie), under the direction of the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney), placed ndbf teachings in the LDS Bible Dictionary (see death, p.655; Fall of Adam, p.670; flesh, p.676; paradise, p.742; and restitution; restoration, p.761).


Every copy of the LDS Bible has bound in with it the LDS Bible Dictionary (English) or Guide to the Scriptures (Spanish); and all electronic editions of the LDS Scriptures have them both. Guide to the Scriptures says: "The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)." ("Death, Physical.")


Teachings of Presidents of the Church is a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who approved Churchwide distribution of ndbf teachings in the Harold B. Lee and Wilford Woodruff manuals.


In 1988, Boyd K. Packer taught ndbf in both General Conferences. Again in 2008, President Packer emphasized that the Fall was "essential if the condition of mortality was to exist ." If the condition of mortality could not exist without the Fall, then it clearly did not exist before the Fall.


In his April 2000 general conference talk, Russell M. Nelson taught ndbf. In the April 2001 general conference, Elder Nelson recommended the Bible Dictionary entry for "Fall of Adam (page 670, paragraphs 1–2)" (Ensign, May 2001, p.32). The following year, Elder Nelson recommended the same Bible Dictionary paragraphs (Ensign, Mar. 2002, p.17). Part of the first paragraph in the Bible Dictionary entry for Fall of Adam states:

"Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There was no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the  ' forbidden fruit,'  Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life. Adam became the  ' first flesh '  upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal." (Bible Dictionary, Fall of Adam.)


Current Sunday School and Primary manuals ask teachers to understand the Bible Dictionary entry for "Fall of Adam" before teaching certain lessons.


The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are expected to study and teach. Twenty eight times, missionaries are directed by Preach My Gospel to read and become familiar with ideas found in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

The Scripture Study section on page 52 asks missionaries to study the Bible Dictionary entry for "Death" which states explicitly:

"Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."


The First Presidency's doctrinal guidebook, True to the Faith, teaches that "the Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world (see Moses 6:48)."


The above sample is large enough to demonstrate how pervasive and persistent ndbf is in LDS media. My quote is not misleading — it faithfully echos both the manual and the larger Church context.

And my accuser is playing Bloggernacle dodgeball.

Granted, if we were talking about just one manual, there's a slim chance the game might have worked. But Church published manuals, scripture study helps, and the teachings of living apostles unitedly and consistently teach ndbf, and that makes it a lot more difficult to dodge.

Keep in mind, however, that ndbf isn't binding, it's not a revelation, and it's not the official position of the Church. Nobody is obligated to believe it. You can believe whatever you want.

What you cannot do is claim ndbf isn't being taught. It's taught in the Church generally and it's taught in Gospel Principles.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Science versus the Fall of Adam and Eve

There was a discussion earlier this week at Boap.org's Blog about Gospel Principles, Chapter 5: "The Creation."

There were a variety of comments on related subjects, including the observation that "an anti-science suspicion ... still lurks in Mormonism." But Last Lemming made what was (in my opinion) the most cogent comment when he said: "I hope you noticed that the printed lesson was free of any explicit science-bashing."

The same cannot be said for Chapter 6: "The Fall of Adam and Eve."

"When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden,... there was no death" (p.28). "Their part in our Father's plan was to bring mortality into the world" (p.27).

Chapter 38 corroborates:

"Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world" (p.219).

Science claims the birth and death of numerous generations over long periods of time results in speciation, the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. [1]

The Fall of Adam and Eve happened only about six thousand years ago. [2]  Before that, speciation was not possible because there was no death in the world. Therefore, Chapter 6 is neither evolution friendly nor science neutral.


1.  Wikipedia, Speciation, as of Mar. 20, 2010.

2.  See D&C 77:12. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand Himself" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 252). See also Marlin K. Jensen, Ensign, Dec. 2002, p.60; The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp.104-105; Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, pp.253-254; Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Oct 1983, p.3; George Albert Smith, Tambuli, Jan 1980, p.39; Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, Nov 1989, p.35; Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1978, p.100; Marion D. Hanks, Ensign, Jul 1971, p.60; Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Nov 1977, p.14; Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Sep 1987, p.6; Guide to the Scriptures, Chronology; Bible Dictionary, Chronological Tables; Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, p.9. Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp.8, 65, 95-96, 241, 252; Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.445; Faith Preceeds the Miracle, p.326; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp.104, 403, 555; Messages of the First Presidency, 2:221, 3:93; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, Meridian of Time.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Gospel Principles, Chapter 5: The Creation

God made this world and everything in it. I make stuff too. Using the same methods ascribed to God by LDS evolutionists, I created the building pictured below.

Every day on my way to work and again on my way home from work I drive past the above location. Three years ago, it was an empty field. Using a policy of strict non-interference, I checked up on its progress twice a day for the entire period it was under construction.

In other words, according to the way LDS evolutionists describe God's role in the Creation of heaven and earth, I created the above building.

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