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Mormon Views on Evolution

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes no official position on whether or not biological evolution has occurred, nor on the validity of the modern evolutionary synthesis as a scientific theory. In the 20th century, the First Presidency of the Church published doctrinal statements on the origin of man and creation. In addition, individual leaders of the Church have expressed a variety of personal opinions on evolution, many of which have affected the beliefs and perceptions of Latter-day Saints.

biological evolution evolution evolutionary synthesis

1. Science and Religion

There exists a wide range of views on the relationship between religious teachings on human origins and scientific findings.[1] In the USA, a 2013 poll showed that 60% of adults believed that humans evolved over time while 30% believed they had existed in their present form since the beginning.[2] A 2014 poll showed that only 42% of US adults believed that humans evolved over time and 52% believed they had always been in their present form.[3] Despite this, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in a variety of different theories, with the one commonality being they agree there is no conflict between the truth in science and the truth in religion.[4][5] This has not prevented all conflict between church members on the topic. For example, during the 1911 BYU controversy, four popular professors resigned from BYU after being threatened with firing by the president for teaching higher science including the theory of evolution to students.[6]:176–177

The intersection of science and religious teachings has been discussed continuously throughout the Church's history. In 1871, Brigham Young taught, “We differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular.”[7][8] On another occasion Young taught, “The idea that the religion of Christ is one thing, and science is another, is a mistaken idea, for there is no true religion without true science....”[9] More recently, apostle (now prophet) Russell Nelson taught in the October 2012 General Conference of the Church, “The human spirit yearns for enlightenment. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from God, we seek it!”[10][11] Henry Eyring, a prominent 20th-century chemist and an active Church member asked, “Is there any conflict between science and religion? There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men.”[12] A BYU professor of biology[13] wrote that "Our physical bodies emerged from deep natural processes, derived through long and profound ecological interactions. ... Our physical body goes all the way down and includes a rich evolutionary history that has stamped it with this earth’s way of being in the universe."[14]

2. Official Church Doctrine

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position on the theory of evolution or the details of "what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created."[15][16] Even so, some general authorities of the Church have made statements suggesting that, in their opinion, evolution is opposed to scriptural teaching. Apostles Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie were among the most well-known advocates of this position. Other church authorities and members have made statements suggesting that, in their opinion, evolution is not in opposition to scriptural doctrine. Examples of this position include Elders B. H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, and John A. Widtsoe.[17]:vii,xi-xiv

While maintaining its "no position" stance, the Church has produced a number of official publications that have included discussion and personal statements from these various church leaders on evolution and the "origin of man." These statements generally adopt the position, as a church-approved encyclopedia entry[18] states, "[t]he 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."[19]

2.1. First Presidency Statements

There have been three authoritative public statements (1909, 1910, and 1925) and one private statement (1931) given from the Church's highest authority, the First Presidency, that represents the Church's doctrinal position on the origin of mankind.[20] The 1909 and 1925 statements of the First Presidency have been subsequently endorsed by church leaders. In 1988, apostle Boyd K. Packer stated:[21]

The doctrines in both [the 1909 and 1925 First Presidency statements] are consistent and have not changed. ... Statements have been made by other presidents of the Church and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles which corroborate these official declarations by the First Presidency.

In February 2002 the entire 1909 First Presidency message was reprinted in the Church's Ensign magazine with this introduction:[22]

In the early 1900s, questions concerning the Creation of the earth and the theories of evolution became the subject of much public discussion. In the midst of these controversies, the First Presidency issued the following in 1909, which expresses the Church's doctrinal position on these matters. A reprinting of this important First Presidency statement will be helpful as members of the Church study the Old Testament this year.

1909 statement "The Origin of Man"

The first official statement from the First Presidency on the issue of evolution was in 1909, the centennial of Charles Darwin's birth and the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. Church president Joseph F. Smith and counselors issued a statement declaring that the Church, "basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity."[23][24] This teaching regarding the origin of man differs from traditional Christianity's doctrine of creation, referred to by some as "creationism", which consists of belief in a fiat creation. In addition, the statement declares human evolution as one of the "theories of men", but falls short of explicitly declaring it untrue or evil. It states:[24]

All [men] who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner. 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. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was "the first man of all men" (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of the race ... all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; and whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.

True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ or embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.

The statement did not define the origins of animals other than humans, nor did it venture into any more specifics regarding the origin of man.

1910 statement "Words in Season from the First Presidency"

In its 1910 Christmas message, the First Presidency made reference to the Church's position on science:[25]

Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. ... Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense.

1925 statement "Mormon View of Evolution"

In 1925, in the midst of the Scopes Trial in Tennessee , a new First Presidency issued an official statement which reaffirmed the doctrine that Adam was the first man upon the earth and that he was created in the image of God.[26][27][28] There is a short article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism which is largely composed of quotes from the 1909 and 1925 statements,[19] and the First Presidency has not publicly issued an official statement on evolution since 1925.[29]

All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally sons and daughters of Deity. Adam, our great progenitor, "the first man," was, like Christ, a pre-existent spirit, and, like Christ, he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a "living soul." The doctrine of pre-existence pours [a] wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality. ... Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and ... is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.

1931 statement "First Presidency Minutes"

In April 1931 the First Presidency sent out a lengthy memo to all church general authorities in which they stated the Church's neutral stance on the existence of pre-Adamites.[17]:97[30]

[The idea that] there were not pre-Adamites upon the earth’ is not a doctrine of the Church. Neither side of the [pre-Adamite] controversy has been accepted as a doctrine at all. ...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."[20][31][32]

3. Official Church Publications

The subject of evolution has been addressed in several official publications of the Church.

3.1. General Conference Speeches

The Church has published several general conference talks mentioning evolution. In the October 1984 conference apostle Boyd Packer stated that "no one with reverence for God could believe that His children evolved from slime or from reptiles" as well as affirming that "those who accept the theory of evolution don’t show much enthusiasm for genealogical research."[33] In the April 2012 conference apostle Russell Nelson discussed the human body stating "some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere". He then compared this to an "explosion in a printing shop produc[ing] a dictionary".[34]

3.2. Instruction Manuals

Old Testament Student Manual

The Old Testament Student Manual, published by the Church Educational System, contains several quotes by general authorities as well as academics from a variety of backgrounds (both members of the Church and non-members) related to organic evolution and the origins of the earth.[35][36] The 2003 edition states that there is no official stance on the age of the Earth but that evidence for a longer process is substantial and very few people believe the earth was actually created in the space of one week. However, it also includes quote from Joseph Fielding Smith indicating his interpretation of Church doctrine as it pertains to the theory of organic evolution. He asserts that organic evolution is incompatible and inconsistent with revelations from God and that to accept it is to reject the plan of salvation.[37]

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual

Doctrine and Covenants 77:6 mentions "the seven thousand years of [the earth's] continuance, or its temporal existence", which has been interpreted by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie as a statement suggesting that the earth is no more than about six thousand years old (the seventh thousand-year period being the future millennium).[38]

However, in relation to this verse, the manual for seminary teachers explains: "It may be helpful to explain that the 7,000 years refers to the time since the Fall of Adam and Eve. It is not referring to the actual age of the earth including the periods of creation."[39]

The BYU Library Packet on Evolution

Since 1992 at the LDS-owned universities, a packet of authoritative statements approved by the BYU Board of Trustees (composed of the First Presidency of the Church and other general authorities and general auxiliary leaders) has been provided to students in classes when discussing the topic of organic evolution.[40][41][42]

3.3. Official Magazines


In 1982, the Ensign, an official periodical of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, published an article entitled "Christ and the Creation" by Bruce R. McConkie, which stated that "[m]ortality and procreation and death all had their beginnings with the Fall."[43]

In an earlier edition of the Ensign published in 1980, McConkie stated that "the greatest heresy in the sectarian world ... is that God is a spirit nothingness which fills the immensity of space, and that creation came through evolutionary processes."[44]

New Era

A July 2016 article for young adults acknowledged questions about how the age of the earth, dinosaurs, and evolution fit with church teachings, stating "it does all fit together, but there are still a lot of questions." The article offered no further explanation to how science and LDS teachings fit together, and stated "nothing that science reveals can disprove your faith" and told youth "not to get worried in the meantime."[45]

A few months later in the same magazine, the Church published an anonymously authored article stating:

"The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study. Nothing has been revealed concerning evolution. Though the details of what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created, have not been revealed, our teachings regarding man’s origin are clear and come from revelation."[15]

A much earlier anonymously authored article from 2004 did not attempt to reconcile church teachings and scientific views of evolution, but stated that not having the answers doesn’t discredit the existence of God, and that God won't reveal more unto us until we prove our faith. An example was provided of how the author avoided a classroom debate on evolution by stating that they knew God existed and created us. The article also quoted past church president Gordon Hinckley giving his own example of how he chose to drop the question and not let it bother him.[46] Subsequent letters from youth stated that the youth viewed themselves as against evolution and supportive of intelligent design.[47] A previous article in the New Era also showed youth viewing evolution as an antagonistic idea to their faith and becoming upset when it was taught[48] and another featured a church seventy using scientific arguments in an attempt to disprove evolutionary natural selection and adaptation.[49]

Improvement Era

The Improvement Era was an official periodical of the Church between 1897 and 1970. The following entry appeared in the April 1910 edition in the "Priesthood Quorum's Table" section of that periodical, and the answer is attributed to the Church's First Presidency.[29][50]

Origin of Man. — "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 1:26, 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 sin 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.

3.4. Canonized Scriptures

Some verses in the standard works raise questions about the compatibility of scriptural teachings and scientists' current understanding of organic evolution. One such verse, in Doctrine and Covenants section 77, verse 6, describes the "temporal existence" of the earth as 7,000 years old. The verse does not describe the process of creation, but if taken literally, implies that species may have appeared through a process faster than natural selection.[51] But as indicated above in the section referring to the Seminary Teacher Manual, teachers are instructed that this 7,000 year period refers to the time since Adam instead of earth's entire history.

Other scriptural verses suggest that no organisms died before the fall of Adam.[52] In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi teaches: "If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end" (2 Nephi 2:22). In Moses 6:48 in the Pearl of Great Price, the prophet Enoch states: "Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe."

3.5. Bible Dictionary

In the Bible Dictionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the entry for "Fall of Adam" includes the following statement: "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."[53] Under the entry "Flesh", it is written: "Since flesh often means mortality, Adam is spoken of as the 'first flesh' upon the earth, meaning he was the first mortal on the earth, all things being created in a non-mortal condition, and becoming mortal through the fall of Adam.[54]

As noted above, the Bible Dictionary is published by the Church, and its preface states: "It [the Bible Dictionary] is not intended as an official or revealed endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal, historical, cultural, and other matters set forth."[55]

4. Statements from Church Presidents

Every statement by a President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not necessarily constitute official church doctrine, but a statement by a church president is generally regarded by church membership as authoritative and usually represents doctrine. Official Church doctrine is however presented and taught by the entire First Presidency as a presidency, usually released in an official letter or other authorized publication.

4.1. Brigham Young

Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stated:[56]

In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular ... whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant.

Young made the following statement two years later:[57][58][59]

We have enough and to spare, at present in these mountains, of schools where young infidels are made because the teachers are so tender-footed that they dare not mention the principles of the gospel to their pupils, but have no hesitancy in introducing into the classroom the theories of Huxley, of Darwin, or of Mill and the false political economy which contends against co-operation and the United Order. This course I am resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to, and I hope to see the day when the doctrines of the gospel will be taught in all our schools, when the revelations of the Lord will be our texts, and our books will be written and manufactured by ourselves and in our own midst. As a beginning in this direction, I have endowed the Brigham Young Academy at Provo.

4.2. John Taylor

John Taylor was the first President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to comment directly on Darwinian theory. In his 1882 book Mediation and Atonement, Taylor stated:[60]

The animal and vegetable creations are governed by certain laws, and are composed of certain elements peculiar to themselves. This applies to man, to the beasts, fowls, fish and creeping things, to the insects and to all animated nature .... These principles do not change, as represented by evolutionists of the Darwinian school, but the primitive organisms of all living beings exist in the same form as when they first received their impress from the Maker. ... [Man] did not originate from a chaotic mass of matter, moving or inert, but came forth possessing, in an embryonic state, all the faculties and powers of a God.

4.3. Joseph F. Smith

Soon after the First Presidency's 1909 statement, Joseph F. Smith professed in an editorial that "the Church itself has no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in His creation of the world."[61]

However, in the very same month (and in the wake of the evolution controversy that had recently ensued at Brigham Young University), Smith published and signed a statement wherein he explained some of the conflicts between revealed religion and the theories of evolution. He wrote:[62]

Recently there was some trouble ... in one of the leading Church schools—the training college of the Brigham Young University—where three of the professors advanced certain theories on evolution as applied to the origin of man, and certain opinions on "higher criticism," as conclusive and demonstrated truths. This was done although it is well known that evolution and the "higher criticism" ... are in conflict on some matters with the scriptures, including some modern revelation. ... The Church, on the contrary, holds to the definite authority of divine revelation which must be the standard; and that, as so-called "science" has changed from age to age in its deductions, and as divine revelation is truth, and must abide forever, views as to the lesser should conform to the positive statements of the greater. ... Philosophic theories of life have their place and use, but it is not in the classes of the Church schools, and particularly are they out of place here or anywhere else when they seek to supplant the revelations of God.

A 1910 editorial in a Church magazine that enumerates various possibilities for creation is usually attributed to Smith or to the First Presidency.[29] Included in the listed possibilities were the ideas that Adam and Eve: (1) "evolved in natural processes to present perfection"; (2) were "transplanted [to earth] from another sphere"; or (3) were "born here ... as other mortals have been."[63] Smith authored an editorial the next year in the Church magazine discouraging the discussion of evolution in Church school stating that members of the Church believe the theory of evolution was "more or less a fallacy." He also stated, however, that the Church "has no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in His creation of the world."[64]

4.4. David O. McKay

In a 1952 speech to students at Brigham Young University, McKay used the theory of evolution as an example while suggesting that science can "leave [a student] with his soul unanchored". He stated:[65]

There is a perpetual design permeating all purposes of creation. On this thought, science again leads a student up to a certain point and sometimes leaves him with his soul unanchored. ... For example, evolution's beautiful theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists there is no intelligent purpose in it, will impress the student with the thought that all may be chance. I say, that no youth should be so led without a counterbalancing thought. ... God is at the helm. God is the Creator of the earth. He is the Father of our souls and spirits. No question about it. You have your testimony—if you haven't you shouldn't be on the faculty—that God lives and Jesus is the Christ, and the purpose of creation is theirs."

In the April 1968, at the general conference held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, McKay's son David Lawrence McKay read a message on his father's behalf that was an edited version of the 1952 speech, including the omission of the word "beautiful" when describing the theory of evolution.[66]

In 1954, McKay quoted the Old Testament while affirming to members of the BYU faculty that living things only reproduce "after their kind". He said:[67]

The stern fact of life is that animals, as other living things, can grow and produce their kind only in accordance with fixed laws of nature and the divine command, "Let the earth bring forth the living creatures after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and the beast of the earth after his kind." (Genesis 1:24)

4.5. Spencer W. Kimball

At a 1975 church women's conference, Church President Spencer W. Kimball quoted, "And, I God created man in mine own image, and in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. [At which point President Kimball stated, "The story of the rib, of course, is figurative."]... and later continued "we don't know exactly how [Adam and Eve's] coming into this world happened, and when we're able to understand it the Lord will tell us."[68]

4.6. Ezra Taft Benson

Prior to becoming president of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson gave an April 1981 general conference address in which he stated that "the theory of man’s development from lower forms of life" is a "false idea".[69] In 1988, after becoming president of the churh, Benson published a book counseling members of the church to use the Book of Mormon to counter the theories of evolution. He wrote that "we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat the falsehoods in ... organic evolution.[70] In 1988, Benson published another book that included his earlier warnings[71] about the "deceptions" of Charles Darwin. He wrote:[72]

As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children, and if they become alerted and informed, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like ... Charles Darwin.

4.7. Gordon B. Hinckley

In a 1997 speech at an Institute of Religion in Ogden, Utah, church president Gordon B. Hinckley said: "People ask me every now and again if I believe in evolution. I tell them I am not concerned with organic evolution. I do not worry about it. I passed through that argument long ago."[73]

Also in 1997, Hinckley published his earlier teachings[74][75] wherein he contrasts "organic evolution" with the evolution and improvement of individuals:[76]

None of us ... knows enough. The learning process is an endless process. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds. I believe in evolution, not organic evolution, as it is called, but in the evolution of the mind, the heart, and the soul of man. I believe in improvement. I believe in growth.

In the late 1990s, Hinckley recalled his university studies of evolution to reporter Larry A. Witham: "'Studied all about it. Didn't worry me then. Doesn't worry me now.'"[77] In 2004, an official church magazine printed a quote from Hinckley from a 1983 speech where he expressed a similar sentiment.[78]

5. Statements from Apostles

Individual leaders of the Church have expressed a variety of personal opinions on biological evolution and as such do not necessarily constitute official Church doctrine.[79]

5.1. Russell M. Nelson

Prior to becoming president of the Church, Russell M. Nelson stated in a 2007 interview with the Pew Research Center that "to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible. Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It's just the way genetics works."[80] He also stated in 1987 in a church magazine that he found the theory of evolution unbelievable.[81]

5.2. Statements from the 1930s Roberts–Smith–Talmage Dispute

In 1930, B. H. Roberts, the presiding member of the First Council of the Seventy, was assigned by the First Presidency to create a study manual for the Melchizedek priesthood holders of the church.[82] Entitled The Truth, The Way, The Life, the draft of the manual that was submitted to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for approval stated that death had been occurring on earth for millions of years prior to the fall of Adam and that human-like pre-Adamites had lived on the earth.[29][83]

On 5 April 1930, Joseph Fielding Smith, a junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the son of a late church president, "vigorously promulgated [the] opposite point of view" in a speech that was published in a church magazine.[82][84] In his widely read speech, Smith taught as doctrine that there had been no death on earth until after the fall of Adam and that there were no "pre-Adamites".[29][82]

In 1931, both Roberts and Smith were permitted to present their views to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.[82] After hearing both sides, the First Presidency issued a memo to the general authorities of the church which stated:[85]:64[86]

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 .... We can see no advantage to be gained by a continuation of the discussion ... but on the contrary are certain it would lead to confusion, division and misunderstanding if carried further. Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: "Adam is the primal parent of our race."

Another of the apostles, geologist James E. Talmage, pointed out that Smith's views could be misinterpreted as the church's official position, since Smith's views were widely circulated in a church magazine but Roberts's views were limited to an internal church document.[29][82] As a result, the First Presidency gave permission to Talmage to give a speech promoting views that were contrary to Smith's.[29] In his speech on August 9, 1931, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Talmage taught the same principles that Roberts had originally outlined in his draft manual.[87] Over Smith's objections, the First Presidency authorized a church publication of Talmage's speech in pamphlet form.[29] In 1965, Talmage's speech was reprinted again by the Church in an official church magazine.[88] As Talmage points out in the article, "The outstanding point of difference ... is the point of time which man in some state has lived on this planet." With regards to evolution in general, Talmage challenged many of its aspects in the same speech. He said:

I do not regard Adam as related to—certainly not as descended from—the Neanderthal, the Cro-Magnon, the Peking or the Piltdown man. Adam came as divinely created, created and empowered, and stands as the patriarchal head of his posterity .... Were it true that man is a product of evolution from lower forms, it is but reasonable to believe that he will yet develop into something higher. While it is a fact that eternal progression is a characteristic of man's Divine birthright, as yet we have learned nothing to indicate that man shall develop physically into any other form than that in which he now appears...Believe not those who would make man but little above the brutes, when in truth he is but little below the angels, and if faithful shall pass by the angels and take his place among the exalted sons of God. ...

Evolution is true so far as it means development, and progress, and advancement in all the works of God .... At best the conception of the development of man's body from the lower forms through evolutionary processes has been but a theory, an unproved hypothesis. Theories may be regarded as the scaffolding upon which the builder stands while placing the blocks of truth in position. It is a grave error to mistake the scaffolding for the wall, the flimsy and temporary structure for the stable and permanent. The scaffolding serves but a passing purpose, important though it be, and is removed as soon as the walls of that part of the edifice of knowledge have been constructed. Theories have their purpose, and are indispensable, but they must never be mistaken for demonstrated facts. The Holy Scriptures should not be discredited by theories of men; they cannot be discredited by fact and truth.

Roberts died in 1933 and The Truth, The Way, The Life remained unpublished until 1994, when it was published by an independent publisher.[35]

Although it is apparent that Roberts and Smith may have had differing views on whether there was death before the fall of Adam, it is evident that they may have had similar views against organic evolution as the explanation for the origin of man. For example, Roberts wrote that "the theory of evolution as advocated by many modern scientists lies stranded upon the shore of idle speculation. There is one other objection to be urged against the theory of evolution before leaving it; it is contrary to the revelations of God."[89] Roberts further criticized the theories of evolution as follows:[90]

As before stated, the claims of evolution, as explained by philosophers of the Darwin school, are contrary to all experience so far as man's knowledge extends. The great law of nature is that every plant, herb, fish, beast and man produces its kind; and though there may be slight variation from that law, those variations soon run out either by reverting to the original stock, or else by becoming incapable of producing offspring, and thus become extinct.

5.3. Joseph Fielding Smith

In 1954, when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Smith wrote at length about his personal views on evolution in his book Man, His Origin and Destiny stating that it was a destructive[91]:280 and contaminating influence[91]:259 and that "If the Bible does not kill Evolution, Evolution will kill the Bible."[91][91]:240 He further stated that "There is not and cannot be, any compromise between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the theories of evolution"[91]:184–185 and that "It is not possible for a logical mind to hold both Bible teaching and evolutionary teaching at the same time"[91]:240 since "If you accept [the scriptures] you cannot accept organic evolution."[91]:276 In response to an inquiry about the book from the head of the University of Utah Geology Department, church president David O. McKay affirmed that "the Church has officially taken no position" on evolution, Smith's book "is not approved by the Church", and that the book is entirely Smith's "views for which he alone is responsible".[92] Smith also produced personal statements on evolution in his Doctrines of Salvation including that "If evolution is true, the church is false" since "If life began on Earth as advocated by Darwin ... then the doctrines of the church are false".[93]:89

5.4. Bruce R. McConkie

Bruce R. McConkie was an influential church leader and author on the topic of evolution having been published several time speaking strongly on the topic. He stated his view in 1982 at BYU that there was no death in the world for Adam or for any form of life before the fall, and that trying to reconcile religion and organic evolution was a false and devilish heresy among church members.[94] In 1984 apostle McConkie disparaged the "evolutionary fantasies of biologists" and stated that yet to be revealed "doctrines will completely destroy the whole theory of organic evolution"[95] and stated that any religion that assumes humans are a product of evolution cannot offer salvation since true believers know humans were made in a state in which there was no procreation or death.[96] In his popular and controversial reference book Mormon Doctrine, general authority Bruce R. McConkie devoted ten pages to his entry on "Evolution".[97] After canvassing statements of past church leaders, the standard works, and the 1909 First Presidency statement, McConkie concluded that "[t]here is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution."[98] The evolution entry in Mormon Doctrine quotes extensively from Smith's Man, His Origin and Destiny.[99] McConkie characterized the intellect of those Latter-day Saints who believe in evolution while simultaneously having knowledge of Church doctrines on life and creation as "weak and puerile".[98] McConkie included a disclaimer in Mormon Doctrine stating that he alone was responsible for the doctrinal and scriptural interpretations.[100] The 1958 edition stated that the "official doctrine of the Church" asserted a "falsity of the theory of organic evolution"[101]:34 along with sentences stating that "There were no pre-Adamites", that Adam was not the "end-product of evolution", and that there "was no death in the world, either for man or for any form of life until after the Fall of Adam."[101]:37


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  37. Church Educational System (2003, 3d ed.). "Genesis 1–2: The Creation", Old Testament Student Manual Genesis – 2 Samuel (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church) ISBN:1-81301-212-1.
  38. Joseph Fielding Smith: "We have evidence beyond dispute that Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden about 6,000 years ago, or perhaps a short time less. ... In [Doctrine and Covenants] section 77:6–15, we have more information in relation to the opening of these seals [i.e., the seven seals mentioned in the Book of Revelation], with the following significant detail: 'Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals? A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.'"[38]
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  77. Quoted in Larry A. Witham (2002). Where Darwin Meets the Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America (New York: Oxford University Press) p. 177.
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  88. James E. Talmage, "The Earth and Man", Instructor 100:474–77 (December 1965).
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  93. Smith, Joseph Fielding (1954–56), "The Earth, Its Creation and Destiny", in McConkie, Bruce R., Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, 1, Bookcraft, 
  94. Marrott, Robert L.. "The Seven Deadly Heresies (Tape Transcript)". Brigham Young University-Idaho. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017. "There are those who say that revealed religion and organic evolution can be harmonized. This is both false and devilish .... there is no way to harmonize the revealed religion which has come to us, with the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and the diverse speculations descending therefrom. Do not be deceived and be lead to believe that the famous document of the First Presidency, issued in the day of President Joseph F. Smith and entitled The Origin of Man, means anything except exactly what it says. ... that there was no death in the world for him or for any form of life until after the fall .... Try as you may, you cannot harmonize these things with the evolutionary postulate that death has always existed and that the various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomically long periods of time. Try as you may, you cannot harmonize the theories of men with the inspired word .... If death has always prevailed in the world, there was no fall of Adam that brought death to all forms of life. If Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement. If there was no atonement there is no salvation ... If there is no salvation there is no God." 
  95. McConkie, Bruce. "The Bible, a Sealed Book". Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
  96. McConkie, Bruce (October 1984). "The Caravan Moves On". Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "There is no salvation in a system of religion that rejects the doctrine of the Fall or that assumes man is the end product of evolution and so was not subject to a fall. True believers know that this earth and man and all forms of life were created in an Edenic, or paradisiacal, state in which there was no mortality, no procreation, no death." 
  97. Bruce R. McConkie (1966, 2d ed.). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) pp. 247–56.
  98. Bruce R. McConkie (1966, 2d ed.). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) p. 256 [emphasis in original].
  99. McConkie was Smith's son-in-law and the two had largely compatible doctrinal views.
  100. Horne, Dennis B. (2000). Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings. Eborn Books. ISBN 1-890718-01-7. 
  101. Dye, David A. (2007). Changes in Mormon Doctrine: A Comparison of the 1958 & 1966 versions of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie. Lulu Press. ISBN 9781257255009. 
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