Prophets or Evolution – An LDS Perspective
- 1972, Published
Author: R. Webster Kehr
Length: approx. 407 pgs.
Chapter 1: An Overview of LDS Doctrine Compared to the Theory of Evolution
“The time is coming and facing you right now … when except you have that testimony of certainty that these things [the gospel, the Church, and so on] are true you will not be able to weather the storms that are going to beat upon you and try to tear you from your moorings today. But if you know with all your soul that these things are true … you will know who Jesus your Savior is and who God your Father is; you will know what the influence of the Holy Ghost is. If you know those things you will stand as an anchor against all the storms that shall beat upon your house … (Matthew 7:26–27)” 1
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS):
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the “Latter-Day Saint” church or LDS church, is a Christian church, as its name implies. Many of its teachings are similar to the teachings of the majority of the Christian churches today. The LDS church officially endorses the King James Version of the Bible, as far as it is translated correctly.
The foundational differences between the beliefs of the LDS church and other Christian churches begins with its belief that other scriptures exist, other than the Bible; and that the authority and calling of living prophets and living apostles has been restored to the earth; prior to the Second Coming of the Savior; as prophesied in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The first book of scriptures published by the church (actually it was published shortly before the formal organization of the church) was the Book of Mormon, which is more than 500 pages long. Many of the quotes in this book come from the Book of Mormon and will thus reference books which are not familiar to most Christians. Examples of these books are: 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Mosiah, Alma, Ether, Mormon, Moroni, etc.
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, but it covers a period of time in the earth’s history between 600 B.C. and 400 A.D., a period of about a thousand years. Most of the Book of Mormon was written by prophets of God in the Americas. The visit of Christ to the Americas, shortly after his resurrection, is included in its pages.
One special book in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Ether, actually covers a period of time between the Tower of Babel and some time after 600 B.C. Most of this book (which is part of the Book of Mormon) was also written in the Americas.
Another official book of the LDS church is the Doctrine and Covenants or D&C, which were revelations given primarily to the prophet Joseph Smith.
Several small books are bound together and are called the Pearl of Great Price. This small book includes the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, an inspired version of Matthew chapter 24, a history of the prophet Joseph Smith, and a summary of official church doctrine.
The Official LDS Position on the Theory of Evolution
Most Christian churches have adopted a position that the theory of evolution is a scientific fact and that the doctrines of evolution can be made compatible with the teachings of their church.
The LDS church has NOT taken a position that there is ”any truth” to the theory of evolution!
The LDS church, which was organized about three decades prior to Darwin’s famous book on evolution was published, has always taken a position that this earth; and all life on this earth; were planned, organized and created by God, meaning by Heavenly Father and/or Jesus Christ. The LDS church has always stated that all people have spirits and that our spirits are literally the children of God.
While the officers of the LDS church have generally ignored the theory of evolution, there have been times when officers of the church have discussed the theory of evolution, such as an official statement of the First Presidency in 1909. More will be said about the official position of the church in a future chapter.
Here is a recent example of an apostle of the church speaking on the theory of evolution. Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said this:
“Through the ages, some without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species, or organic evolution from one form to another. Many of these people have concluded that the universe began as a “big bang” that eventually resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.
To me, such theories are unbelievable! Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary? It is unthinkable! Even if it could be argued to be within a remote realm of possibility, such a dictionary could certainly not heal its own torn pages or renew its own worn corners or reproduce its own subsequent editions!
We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. Recently I studied the scriptures to find how many times they testify of the divine creation of man. Looking up references that referred to create, form (or their derivatives), with either man, men, male, or female in the same verse, I found that there are at least fifty-five verses of scripture that attest to our divine creation.” 2
As Elder Nelson states, the scriptures of the LDS church are purely aligned with a designed creation of this earth and all life on this earth.
The Theory of Evolution in the Book of Mormon
The theory of evolution was described in the Book of Mormon and was taught by the anti-Christ, Korihor, who lived about 74 B.C. in America. The Book of Mormon, which documents the account of Korihor, was published in 1830, about 29 years prior to the publication of Darwin’s most famous book on evolution – The Origin of Species. There is little difference between what the anti-Christ Korihor taught in the Book of Mormon and the modern day theory of evolution.
The difference is that Korihor was honest enough to admit that his version of the theory of evolution was a result of his strong belief in atheism.
The modern scientific establishment knows that the theory of evolution is a magnet for atheism, but they instead claim that their support for the theory of evolution is because of their belief in “naturalism,” not atheism. It is a play on words to attract more converts to their theory (or technically to repel fewer people away from the theory of evolution). The theory of evolution is clearly atheistic (i.e. it is opposed to “supernatural” beings and “supernatural” events).
But even this does not fully explain why the theory of evolution is so intensely driven by the scientific establishment.
Alma the Younger, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, stated to Korihor:
“And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God?. . . “ 3
This verse explains why the theory of evolution is strongly pushed by many people. A belief in the theory of evolution implies there is no God, thus the followers of this theory believe it allows them to do (or believe) whatever they want to (i.e. they believe there is no God, thus they believe there is no Judgment Day and thus they believe there are no consequences to what they do). In their hearts, they want to believe in the theory of evolution. A person’s heart frequently drives what a person believes. More will be said about Korihor in the next chapter.
The Theory of Evolution
The “theory of evolution,” or simply “evolution,” is a theory postulated in 1859 by Charles Darwin. Prior to the first edition of his famous book: The Origin of Species, which is the book which started the public evolution debate, there were already those who supported the concept of evolution.
In fact, scholars in evolution history were surprised and disappointed that Darwin did not mention many of the evolutionists who preceded him. However, prior to Darwin, there was very little open public debate as to the origin of man.
In Darwin’s day, those who believed in the Old Testament believed that God existed and that He created the earth and He created Adam and Eve, and they believed that all mankind were descendants of Adam and Eve.
Those religions which additionally believed in the New Testament, and not just the Old Testament, refined the details of the creation into saying that it was Jesus Christ who was the God who created the earth and Adam and Eve (John 1:1–4).
The LDS church takes this one step further and states that it was Jesus Christ who created the earth from previously existing materials, and that He took others with Him to create this earth (Abraham 3:24–25 in the Pearl of Great Price).
When The Origin of Species was published in England a significant public debate over the origin of man began. Suddenly a scientist was claiming that human beings descended from the apes (i.e. primates) and had not been created directly by God.
Darwin was a “naturalist,” meaning a person who believed that all things, including human beings, came to exist by “natural” events, unaided by God. God would be considered by a “naturalist” to create “supernatural” events. Thus, Darwin did not believe that any “supernatural” events (i.e. events caused by God) were involved in the creation of human beings.
The theory of evolution of Darwin was essentially trying to replace the commonly believed supernatural events of Christian doctrine, and the doctrine of other religions, with “naturalistic” events that did not include any God. It would be fair to say that evolution was an attempt to replace a belief in God with a belief in nature.
Many people in Darwin’s day were very upset with Darwin because they felt his book was intentionally designed to replace Christian doctrine with atheistic doctrines. This meant they believed that Darwin was challenging the divinity of the Bible and especially the New Testament.
However, even from a scientific viewpoint, not all scientists in Darwin’s day agreed with the scientific conclusions of Darwin’s observations.
Perhaps foremost among these scientists was Louis Agassiz. He was acknowledged as the greatest naturalist in his time and was known as the “Father of the Ice Age.” Yet Agassiz was a strong supporter and believer in God.
Though world-famous in his own day, Agassiz is not well known today because the flood of Darwinism (in the later stages of the career of Agassiz), largely caused Agassiz to be written out of science textbooks because he openly challenged Darwin.
Darwin himself said to the famous poet Henry W. Longfellow:
“What set of men you have in Cambridge! Why, there is Agassiz — he counts for three.”
In fact, Darwin used the work by Agassiz in entomology in his The Origin of Species.
Agassiz said of Darwin:
“[Darwin has] overstepped the boundaries of actual knowledge and allowed his imagination to supply the links which science does not furnish.”
Agassiz also said:
“A physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own nature demands from us this double allegiance.”
Here is another quote of Agassiz:
“… facts are the words of God, and we may heap them together endlessly, but they will teach us little or nothing till we place them in their true relations, and recognize the thought that binds them together.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
In 1859, the LDS church was 29 years old. The Book of Mormon, the flagship book of the church (along with the Bible) had been published in 1830, shortly before the organization of the church.
As with other Christian churches, Darwin’s most famous book challenged the basic beliefs of the LDS church.
Since almost all of the current “standard works” (i.e. scriptures) of the LDS church were published long before Charles Darwin became famous; it is impossible for the church to hide the fact that its own scriptures speak volumes on the subject of the creation by Christ, the literal existence of Adam and Eve, the flood of Noah, etc.
Before comparing church doctrine with pure evolution, it should be understood by the reader that many scientists of all faiths today do not believe in the theory of evolution. Many scientists today consider that the scientific evidence strongly favors the doctrine of “creation,” meaning the doctrine that life is so complex that it could not have been created by many, many random and directionless accidents and that only God could have created life as found on this planet.
Thus, it would not be accurate to say that the following discussion is about the differences between the LDS church and scientists; but rather it would be accurate to say that the following discussion is about the differences between LDS church doctrine and the theory of evolution doctrine.
Prophets or Evolution – Overview of the Differences
Church doctrine, mostly from the scriptures and an official statement of the First Presidency in 1909, make it very clear that the doctrines of the church are mutually exclusive with the theory of evolution.
The LDS church clearly teaches that human beings are a combination of two entities: a spirit body and a physical body. The LDS church teaches that our spirits are literally the spirit children of our Father in Heaven and that Christ is our eldest brother, meaning He was the first-born of all spirits.
The LDS church teaches that we lived as spirits (and were sentient) before we came to this earth to gain a physical body. This is called the preexistence or premortal world.
The theory of evolution teaches that human beings do not have a spirit body.
A note regarding the spirit of man is important. While the theory of evolution does not overtly claim a human being does not have a spirit (just like they claim they are not atheistic); should a person be totally indoctrinated in the theory of evolution, and should this person totally reject all religions; this person would believe that human beings do not have a spirit. The human spirit is a doctrine that comes from religion, not science.
With this in mind, consider this quote by author Douglas Noel Adams:
“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” 4
In other words, it if walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, flies like a duck, and most importantly, lays duck eggs (i.e. its offspring are ducks), then it is a duck; in spite of the fact that some may claim it is an eagle.
Thus, by “extension” (i.e. by what a person would believe if they were exclusively the offspring of the theory of evolution), the theory of evolution teaches that humans do not have a spirit because it is a key issue and the theory of evolution does not talk about it for political reasons (i.e. they want to attract a wider audience of followers).
Also consider that the theory of evolution teaches that we descended from prehistoric primates. This, by itself, implies we did not exist prior to birth (it is a claim we did not exist in a preexistent world). And it implies, by extension, that we will not exist after death.
Thus, even though the scientific establishment (which is the caretaker of the theory of evolution) carefully avoids controversial issues, the reality is that the theory of evolution cannot escape being attached to certain beliefs. “Missing doctrine” caused by politics, cannot be used to avoid obviously implied teachings.
(Side Note: What is interesting about this is that the evolution establishment; in actual court cases attacking creation science; has made great efforts to get creation scientists to admit that “intelligent design” implies a belief in God. Yet they avoid admitting that the claim that humans descended from extinct primates does not imply a belief in atheism or a belief that humans and other species do not have a spirit, etc. It is the typical double-standard of atheists.)
Thus, we can say that the theory of evolution teaches that human existence begins at conception or birth; which is another way of saying that the theory of evolution teaches that humans have no spirit which will live on after we die physically.
Time after time church doctrine attributes our human intelligence primarily to our spirits, not to our physical bodies (i.e. not to our DNA). For example, Christ created the heavens and the earth while He was still a spirit (Ether 3:9 and Abraham 3). This could not have happened if His intelligence was primarily from his physical body. He also had others with him who also had not yet been born with a physical body.
The theory of evolution has no choice but to teach that our intelligence comes exclusively from our DNA, meaning our brains, because it does not teach that humans have a spirit.
Furthermore, in the preexistence, when we were still spirits, there were debates and we had our free agency to side with the leaders of the different sides of the debates. This could not have happened if we were not sentient and did not have intelligence before we were born. We also “cast our vote,” in some manner, for who we supported.
The LDS church teaches that a prominent man in the preexistence, named Lucifer, a “Son of the Morning,” campaigned to become the Savior of the world. How much of his campaign was secret and how much was public is unknown.
Lucifer literally tried to overthrow the position of Christ and the Father in the preexistence; and as a result of this conspiracy, Lucifer was cast out of heaven and became the devil, meaning satan (Doctrine and Covenants Section 76).
Satan, and his followers from the preexistence, do not have physical bodies, and were cast down to the earth after a battle with the forces of Michael (i.e. Adam) (Revelations 12:7-9). In fact, satan and his followers from the preexistence still do not have bodies, which is another evidence that our intelligence comes primarily from our spirits.
God would not be a just God if He punished satan and his followers during a time they did not have very keen intelligences with which to make very critical decisions.
Since Adam was the head of the forces of Christ in the premortal world, this implies Adam and his forces had intelligences and were sentient prior to their birth.
Because the theory of evolution does not claim there are such things as spirits, they also must claim there is no such being as satan and that there is no such thing as outside temptation from satan and his followers.
The church teaches that the physical bodies of Adam and Eve, who lived in the preexistence, were created directly by God and that all humans are the literal descendents of Adam and Eve, our “first parents.”
Adam was the head prophet of the first dispensation and the chief prophet of all of the dispensation heads. This is in stark contrast to the theory of evolution which claims that Adam and Eve were not real people, and that all of mankind descended from ape-like creatures which lived many tens of thousands of years ago.
The church also emphasizes the literalness of Noah and the flood. Noah also headed a dispensation and is second only to Adam in priesthood authority (of course Adam reports to Christ). Noah is also known as Gabriel. Adam is also known as Michael, as mentioned above. The literal existence of both Adam and Noah are confirmed in the Book of Mormon several times.
Furthermore, when people die, their spirits continue to live. Their spirits go to the “spirit world.” The preexistence was before our birth, and the “spirit world” is after our death. In both cases we were or will be sentient and did or will have only a spirit.
The spirits of those who die do not suddenly become stupid, which is what would happen if our intelligence primarily came from our DNA. There are numerous events in LDS literature which document people in the spirit world appearing to living members of the church, primarily (at least the publicly documented appearances) with regards to genealogy and temple work.
Also, the church teaches that there is missionary work going on in the spirit world, which obviously requires intelligence on the part of the missionaries and the listeners (I Peter 4:6).
Our physical bodies can inhibit (i.e. interfere with) our spirit intelligence. As two examples: first, when we are born our spirit intelligence is immediately suppressed by our physical bodies. It takes time for our physical body to develop to the point our spiritual intelligence starts to become effective again.
A second example is that children with Down Syndrome (called Down’s Syndrome in England) have their spiritual intelligence suppressed, but only while in mortality. After death their preexistent intelligence returns.
It is not know how much, if any, our physical brain contributes to our overall intelligence or how the brain and our spiritual intelligence interact; beyond the fact our physical brain can interfere with our spirit intelligence.
The theory of evolution claims that when we die that is the end of our existence because our intelligence comes only from our DNA and we have no spirit.
In the statement of the First Presidency in November of 1909; it clearly states that every species which has lived on this earth, and is living on the earth, was created spiritually before it was created physically. Both the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham say the same thing. This excludes the possibility, according to church doctrine, that any species on this earth came to exist by a series of accidental mutations, called evolution.
This doctrine separates the LDS church from the theory of evolution completely. There can be no overlap because the prime focus of the theory of evolution is the claim that all life on earth came to exist by a series of accidents, coupled with “natural selection” (this is the foundation of “neo-Darwinism”). Thus, there can be no compromise between the theory of evolution and the teachings of the prophets.
While many religious people, of many faiths, claim that a person can believe both in the theory of evolution and in Christian doctrine, such a scenario makes no sense for a member of the LDS church. Even a superficial belief in the theory of evolution would severely undermine the faith of a member of the LDS church.
The scientific establishment welcomes religious people into their fold. This is no doubt one reason the scientific establishment is very careful about their claims regarding the theory of evolution being atheistic.
But LDS doctrine is diametrically opposed to the theory of evolution.
The church teaches us that there is “right” and “wrong” and that we will someday be judged by a Supreme Being on the basis of our choices. The theory of evolution claims there is no “right” or “wrong” and that there is no Judgment Day because we cease to exist after death.
The LDS church also teaches that there must be an atonement made or all mankind would be lost forever as soon as they died. In other words, the church teaches that without an atonement: we would not be resurrected; and we would not return to God for Judgment; and our spirits would be eternally subject to satan and his angels as soon as we died; and we would eventually become like satan (2 Nephi 9:7–9 and Helaman 14:16–18).
Since the theory of evolution does not teach life after death, it teaches that no atonement was necessary and that whatever we do is “right.” According to evolution, we do not prosper on the basis of following the commandments of God; but instead we prosper on the basis of how smart, fast and strong we are.
The church also teaches that Jesus Christ, who lived in mortality in the meridian of time, was and is the one and only Savior of the world. The theory of evolution teaches that there is no need for a Savior and that all mankind survives on his or her own genius.
To members of the church, Christ was the greatest of those who have lived on this earth. He was not just a prophet, but was literally the Son of God and was a God before He created this earth and the heavens thereof. He did not just raise the dead; but his sacrifice is the sole reason all of the descendants of Adam and Eve will be resurrected and have the opportunity (based on their choices) to return to live with God.
To the theory of evolution, Christ may have been an impressive leader and teacher; but to evolution there was no need for Him to atone for anyone’s sins because humans are just animals.
The LDS church teaches that both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 in Palmyra, New York.
Evolution teaches that Christ died many years ago and no longer exists; because evolution does not teach the existence of spirits or the resurrection. Thus, the theory of evolution directly conflicts with the “First Vision” given to the first prophet of the LDS church, Joseph Smith.
To the LDS church, Christ is not only living today, but He stands as the literal Head of the LDS church and it is He who directs the living prophets today. In other words, the LDS church teaches that there is a living prophet at the head of the LDS church today, under the direction of the Savior, and has been continuously since the prophet Joseph Smith.
The theory of evolution does not teach there is a God or Judgment Day, thus the theory has no interest in revelation or in prophets; living or otherwise.
As far as the creation of the earth is concerned, the LDS church teaches that the earth was created for a very clear purpose and that mankind is here to learn and to be given a choice between good and evil.
The theory of evolution claims that the creation of the earth was a total accident and there is no purpose to our existence.
As far as the purpose of life is concerned, the LDS church teaches that as children of God our purpose in life is to learn good from evil and to learn to choose the good and to eventually become like God (because we are the literal children of God, this is our opportunity).
The core reason for the creation of the earth, and in fact the reason for God’s involvement in our lives, is that our spirits are literally the children of God.
However, because no unclean thing can inherit the Kingdom of God, God must be just. Fortunately for mankind, because of the perfect life of the Savior, and the atonement and resurrection of the Savior, God is also merciful (Alma 34:14–15).
Since the theory of evolution does not teach the existence of spirits, the theory of evolution must conclude that we humans (meaning our spirits) are not the children of God.
The theory of evolution explains that the purpose of life (i.e. the driving force of a species) is to reproduce and have more offspring than other species so the species will survive.
While technically the theory of evolution does not claim to be atheistic (technically, it claims to be “naturalistic”), when a theory claims that Christ did not have a spirit, and died forever on the cross, and thus could not have been resurrected; then for all practical purposes the theory of evolution is in direct opposition to the teachings of the prophets of this, and all prior, dispensations.
Thus, by using the duck example above, the theory of evolution is indeed atheistic and anti-Christ (i.e. they do not believe Christ was the Savior and redeemer of mankind), by extension.
The scientific establishment claims they do not infringe on anyone’s religious beliefs and that the only things they claim are that humans descended from primates due to accidental mutations of DNA. But this alone implies humans are nothing but animals. If we were nothing but animals, God would have no interest in humans any more than He would have an interest in turtles or mosquitoes or roses, which simply followed a different evolutionary path according to the theory of evolution.
The most basic beliefs of the theory of evolution imply Adam and Eve were not real people and thus, without the fall of Adam, there would be no need for a Savior.
But above and beyond all the false doctrines of the theory of evolution, the basic doctrine that our spirits are literally the children of God and that we can someday become like God (our literal parent), and live in joy beyond comprehension with Him in the eternities; is reason alone for members of the church to totally be repulsed by the theory of evolution. It is nothing but false doctrine designed by the evil one (see the discussion of Korihor in the next chapter) to distract us and dissuade us from our Eternal opportunities.
But isn’t the theory of evolution a scientific fact? As this book will demonstrate the theory of evolution is scientific nonsense.
Evolution’s mixture of false doctrine with false science should not derail us from pursuing our Eternal potential.
In summary, there is no way to reconcile LDS doctrine with the theory of evolution. There is simply no way to find a “hybrid” of LDS doctrine and the theory of evolution.
This is no way to marry true religion with false religion and false science.
”’Note:”’ It should be clearly understood that this book is not an official publication of the LDS church. The author takes full responsibility for the content of this book.