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Evolution & LDS
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Personal Letter about evolution

Brief History of Evolution as Taught by the LDS church 

Official Positions of the LDS church
   Current First Presidency Position on Evolution
   Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on Evolution
   1931 Statement of the First Presidency
   1925 First Presidency Statement on Evolution

1910 First Presidency Statement on Evolution
   1909 First Presidency Statement on Evolution

GA statements
   Earth is 2.55 Billion years old ( WW Phelps, Joseph Smith? )
Apostle Stephen L. Richards - An Open Letter to College Students
President McKay disses Man His Origin and Destiny
   Selected Quotes

Death Before Adam by BYU Professor Steven Jones

Evolutionary Biology - a primer

Mormons and Evolution by David H. Bailey  

More Material:  http://eyring.hplx.net/Eyring/faq/evolution/

And even more material:  More and more

August 1, 1999 

My dear brothers and sisters,

I have been concerned over the past several years about a matter being taught to my children by some misguided members of this church.  I have vigorously researched the topic, and you will find the results of that research in this packet.

The topic is evolution. I know, probably more than any of you, that this topic is very controversial in our religion, as well as other religions.  However, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have issued five statements on the topic, the last four of them stating neutrality ( the first was a long discourse, and somewhat ambiguous on the exact topic at hand ).  I ask each of you to read the statements (see enclosures), then ponder and pray about them.  My suspicion is that most of you are not aware of the statements.

Official First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve statements are relatively rare.  The most recent is the Proclamation to the World on The Family, issued on September 23, 1995.  Sometimes, such statements find themselves canonized and part of our official scriptures.  This is precisely what occurred with Official Declaration 1 (the Manifesto on Polygamy) and Official Declaration 2 (giving all men the right to hold the Priesthood).   It should be considered quite informative that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have addressed the issue of evolution five times, three of them in official proclamations. 

It is also of some interest that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve published and copyrighted a pro-evolutionary pamphlet written by James E. Talmage, and this stands as the only church publication on the topic.  Basically, for much of our church’s first hundred plus years, our church was mostly pro-science, and considered quite liberal on the topic of how man came to be.  One of Joseph Smith’s strongest push was to educate his people in languages and the sciences, particularly the children in his church.  I have written and enclosed a summary on the history of evolution and the church to allow you to understand the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve statements in their historical context.

Often, some in the church teach that the LDS Church stand is against evolution, usually in quite negative emotional language.  I do not wish to fight on this, for there are far more important issues to deal with in the Lord’s kingdom.  I only wish that we teach our children what the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve teach by their proclamations, i.e.: that the church stand is neutral as regards to evolution.  I want each of you to know that it does not bother me what you personally believe on this issue, as I hope each of you do not care what I or my family believe, but I do care when our teachers label those who believe differently than them in negative terms.

The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33)…  Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed.  Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world.... Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to  scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church...  May I ask each of you who teach our young ones to do the same, to teach them of Christ, and not your (or my ) personal belief in any scientific topic, specifically including evolution.

The rest of this package will be attachments.  I have attached the First Presidency statements, plus a history of the topic in the church.  For those of you who want more information, I have in my files many quotes from General Authorities and books on the topic, on both sides of the issue. I have read and collected well over 2000 pages on this topic alone in the past year, with a similar reading rate for the past many years.

You should also note that not one time on this page have I told you my personal stand on evolution, nor will I, for my view is not important.  I simply wish that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve statements of neutrality be taught to my children. 

Your brother in the gospel,

Mel Tungate

Brief History of Evolution as Taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Some general authorities, notably Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie and Boyd K. Packer, have on occasion been critical of science in general and geology and evolution in particular.  But other General Authorities, including Brigham Young, B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage and David O. McKay, have expressed positive views.  In any event, none of these comments constitutes the official view of the Church. 

In 1909, the church made an official statement, and it is a rather long, wide-ranging discourse on the nature of man.  With regards to evolution, it includes the passage,

“It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of   men....”

Shortly after this appeared in 1909, the church received a number of inquiries asking if this passage should be interpreted as an official condemnation of the scientific theory of evolution.  In response, in an editorial in the Improvement Era (the equivalent of the Ensign at the time), emphasized that evolution was one of the three permitted views on the means used by God to achieve the physical creation.

In 1925, the Scopes trial focused national attention on evolution.  At this time the Church issued the statement "Mormon View of Evolution”.  This statement was an abridgment of the 1909 statement, but with the above passage conspicuously omitted.  It is rather open-minded, quite in contrast to the shrill comments of many other denominations at the time.

The fact that there were disagreements on these issues even among the Brethren during this period is indicated by the Roberts-Talmage-Smith dispute of 1930.  B.H. Roberts sought permission to have his manuscript "The Way, the Truth, the Light" published by the Church. Joseph Fielding Smith objected to it for its acknowledgment of "pre-Adamites", ie,: living things, including human-like beings, which have been on the earth for many years before Adam.  Talmage, a learned geologist who openly acknowledged the great antiquity of the earth in his conference address "Earth and Man", tried to mediate.  The matter ended when the first presidency issued the short statement mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism's article on evolution (which is essentially the same as the Church's current "official" position on evolution):

  ... Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of   which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to  scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the   Church...

With regards to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on evolution, its author William Evenson reports that the Church's review committee (which included members of the Quorum of the Twelve), considered and rejected three much longer earlier drafts, two of which were rather negative towards evolution.  Gordon B. Hinckley then provided Evenson with the 1931 statement from their archives and instructed him to prepare a very brief article, one that would not reflect greater closure on the issue than is reflected in these few lines.

So as you can see, it is hard to claim that the Church now, or ever in the past, officially condemns evolution.  Instead, it seems clear that the Church recognizes that such issues are outside its purview, and are best left to scientific research to sort out.

Several have questioned my language above concerning the 1910 statement.  For that reason, I put it here in its entirety

Editorial in the Improvement Era 13:570  April 1910

 "In just what manner did the mortal bodies of Adam and Eve come into existence on this earth?"  This question comes from several High Priests quorums.
Of course, all are familiar with the statements in Genesis 1:25, 27; 2:7; also in the Book of Moses, Pearl of Great Price, 2:27; and in the Book of Abraham 5:7.  The latter statement reads: "And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit [ that is, the man's spirit ] and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul."

These are the authentic statements of the scriptures, ancient and modern, and it is best to rest with these, until the Lord shall see fit to give more light on the subject.  Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God;

whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of  time;

whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been

are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.


President Joseph Fielding Smith said in Juvenile Instructor 46:208-209  "The church itself has no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in His creation of the world."  He opposed teaching biology in church schools ( again JI 46:208 - 209 ) because it was not appropriate - he said that we should "emphasize the industrial and practical side of education". 


This page last updated  02/15/05 05:23 PM

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