Science is so cool. You are part Neanderthal!

Q_and_PicardHow deeply I love studying the wonders of the universe. There was a report of a four billion light year across object! That’s 4,000,000,000 light years! Not miles. Lightyears! I watched a show on PBS last night that talked about the recent complete sequencing the the Neanderthal genome. A species near our own, but vastly different, and guess what? Unless you are from Africa, from one to four percent of your genome is Neanderthal! African populations missed this introgression. Now that’s genealogy! (If you don’t believe this, I would encourage you to become an activist demanding the release of all death row inmates convicted on DNA evidence. It’s of the same type.)

I count it as one of my greatest privileges to get to cavort with the great minds who have wrestled with trying to shed some light on the nature of this place in which we find ourselves living and learning. What a wonderful place to exist. We’ve learned so much! We understand only a glimmer of course, but even so, this small glance has exposed us to mind-blowing wonders. We get to peer into deep time because of the things found lying under the earth, above the Earth and in all places. We live in such an age! On a visit to the BYU bookstore I was left drooling. There are books on light, the formation of the universe, books explaining the wonders we see from such instruments such as the Hubble Telescope, the history of life on Earth as written in the fossil and genetic record! Books on how ecologies are structured, how the embryonic development of an organism proceeds from fertilization to birth. Amazing. I get giddy just thinking about it.

I hate to read the whiney little complainers who do not bother to sample the richness of this feast. Those who slog forth their narrow vision of the cosmos and claim that evolution should be held under suspicion because it does not fit their small-minded interpretation, and stale reading, of past leaders. Oh they have quotes to mine, pulled out of context, forgetting the big picture, and the absolute fact that the Church has no position on evolution. And, they miss, that we believe in continuing revelation, both from prophets and the scripture of nature itself. However, they say the Church is wrong on this. It really has a ‘secret’ stance on evolution that they can reconstruct with the ever so careful twisting of past GA opinion and speculation. They blog that BYU, the Deseret News, and those that run such have all gone astray. Pffst. What little faith they have in the leaders of this Church and the way its demesnes are run.

And the most galling thing of all is they have never bothered to read a book on evolution (unless it is from Creationist clearing houses). Their entrenched ignorance of evolution is staggering, thank goodness at least nowadays in High School they learn enough evolution to know how laughable the old “I believe in micro evolution, but not macroevolution” is–analogous to “I believe in inches, but not miles.” Gag.

But no matter. They will wring their hands and grind their teeth and pull out their beards on evolution, but it will go on. But let me just offer some advice. Learn some of the wonders spilling from the pages of people studying this magnificent universe and its processes. It’s no threat to your faith, unless it is so shaky and built upon stacks of out of context quotes that it can’t stand face to face with the wonders of the given universe. I suspect this is actually the heart of the matter for these zealots. These are the kind of people that leave the church over evolution. They become so firmly convinced that their reading of past GAs is the only ‘correct’ one, that when they meet the staggering amount of evidence for evolution they trip over it and become born-again atheists. So the whiners and wresters, the gospel anti-evolutionary hobbyists, bury their heads in the quotes, plug their ears and scream “I can’t hear you.” One thing they know is facts are dangerous to the shallow faith they’ve developed, so they don’t bother to learn anything about what they criticize. But their ignorance shows. Oh how it shows.

But for you seekers, those of you with the spirit of curiosity that drove Joseph Smith to the grove and to visions of the universe, there are riches to be harvested. There may have to be adjustments. You may not get all the answers about how everything fits together at this time, but as Q tells Picard in Star Trek the Next Generation, “If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.”

And it’s amazing.

Administrative note: Because the author of this is about 2.3 % Neanderthal, he may have certain biases inherited from his ancestors. Don’t trust him further than you can throw a stone-tipped spear.

Comments

  1. Love this! I was worried and cautious on this subject as a somewhat creationist teenager, but fortunately kept up on fossil finds in the New York Times and learned enough on related subjects like geology to shed that rotten skin, and fall in love with the wonders of our universe. At least the tiny fraction I have so far discovered.

  2. I so agree! I’m in school to be an Earth and space science teacher, and one of the times when the spirit has been strongest for me was while learning about evolution. If you just follow the evolution of the arm and hand, it is stunningly beautiful.

  3. “It’s no threat to your faith, unless it is so shaky and built upon stacks of out of context quotes that it can’t stand face to face with the wonders of the given universe.”

    Yeessss!!!!!!!!

  4. You obviously aren’t aware that in 1916 the First Presidency…plus Elder Nelson…and the MANUALS, heaven’s sake, the manuals. That’s all the evidence I need!

  5. Is a copy from your talk at the 2012 SMPT Conference in Logan available anywhere?

  6. It’s fun reading rants by people who know what they’re talking about.

    Someday, appreciation of science, inquiry, and education will be a big differentiator of the Mormon church. Pity that it isn’t already.

  7. DEGBE jean-claude paul says:

    African as I am glad to read this post

  8. I bear my testimony that this is true. Amen.

  9. How about, StevenP is part Neanderthal. The rest of use get to self-identify as we wish

  10. Ah, h_nu, if only we got to choose our reality, I’d be a Klingon, but alas the universe will have its way with us whether we like it or not.

    @5 Hopefully it will appear in Element the SMPT Journal if it comes back alive.

    Kyle, “Someday, appreciation of science, inquiry, and education will be a big differentiator of the Mormon church.” Yes, yes, yes. But as it stands, a few members keep trying drag us backwards into Christian fundamentalism and its silly 18th Century inventions.

  11. It’s like they want us to climb back onto a sinking ship (when we’re safely on a much nicer ship)

  12. HerschelBMartin says:

    I loved reading this, because it mirrors my own passion on the matter. I’m a learner. I do it for fun. How is it that one exists and does not wish to KNOW? I need to know whatever it is that can be known of the stuff around me, near and far. I’m addicted to that feeling I get when I learn something which absolutely blows me away. Thank goodness for places like this where the curious may gather and prosper.

  13. I love it! Science won’t shake anyone’s testimony unless their testimony was founded on shaky ground to begin with. How can we deny the truth the universe shows to our senses? Surely our Heavenly Parents want us to use the intelligence and other faculties they’ve bestowed upon us. The glory of God is Intelligence. Amen.

  14. I love this post! Thank you Steve for sharing your brilliant and insightful thoughts.

  15. Can it not be that if the process of creation is not revealed, God may just trust us to discover the details for ourselves? Furthermore, until something is revealed (in detail), we are free to give it our very best efforts to understand it. It’s the search for truth that sets us free; free from ignorance, dogma, and the collection of one-liners that SteveP is talking about!

  16. Something more to peck at, mull in the mind, to grind in a gizzard. Nicely crowed.

  17. StevenP – I would love to hear your thoughts (ideally in form of rant like this one) on the science crowd that think they own all these discoveries. I see the religious “fundamentalist” as rejecting science and then I hear from the scientific “fundamentalist” thinking they are owners of it. I feel left out.

  18. SteveP’s answer to current and official Church teachings about the origin of man:  Pretend they don’t exist.

  19. “scripture of nature” Awesome.

    “They become so firmly convinced that their reading of past GAs is the only ‘correct’ one, that when they meet the staggering amount of evidence for evolution they trip over it and become born-again atheists.”

    The same can be said of testimonies dependent on Church history, the Scouting program, or what women wear to church, rather than on Jesus Christ and his gospel.

  20. Meldrum the Less says:

    The trouble with many evolution critics is that they never read past the first 2 chapters of the Bible. When you skip to Noah’s Flood the simplicity of both positions increases remarkably.Science provides no evidence of a world wide flood and plenty of evidence for a catastropic local flood of the Black sea. Strict Biblical literalists are forced to accept a God who created a world that flagrantly deceives us when observed carefully. The eternal snows on Kilimanjaro were never flooded in the last 10,000 years, or the evidence of the flood was miraculously wiped from off them.

    On a deep doctrinal level, would the Neaderthal men have been allowed to hold the Priesthood had they survived to see the early 20th century? Vicarious temple ordinances anyone?

  21. R. Gary’s answer to the incredible amount of evolutionary knowledge, as well as knowledge in genetics, geology, and many other areas of science: Pretend it doesn’t exist. And by all means possible, don’t actually study it. Studying it could kill testimonies. (Hint–if you’ve told your children that evolution doesn’t happen, they may learn better and, as Henry Eyring once stated on this topic, “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” That would be a tremendous loss.)

    Seriously, the church through BYU pays a ton of money for the purposes of teaching and researching science, including evolutionary science. In fact, “The primary goal of the doctoral program in the Biology Department is to provide advanced training in ecology and evolutionary biology, and experience in biology teaching.” http://biology.byu.edu/Majors/GraduatePrograms/PhDinBiology.aspx

    And of course several majors at BYU are required not only to take many courses that teach evolution as part of the course, but also courses that have Evolution as the main focus.

    Your tithing money at work. (I know some of it comes from grants, tuition, etc., but much of it comes from the same source as other BYU funding–tithing dollars). And what a great work it is.

  22. Latter-day Guy says:

    R. Gary’s answer to the current overwhelming evidence for the reality of evolution: “La-la-la-la-la! I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” Also: Kerpow! Decontextualized G.A. quotebomb!

  23. Simul-post FTW, Tim!

  24. I prefer to believe that the church uses Matt and Mandy as its primary venue of establishing current doctrinal positions.

  25. I always love a good NDBF Gary-bait post. (I mean this without a hint of sarcasm.)

  26. My personal belief is that God put evidence for evolution in the rocks below just to mess with R. Gary’s head…

  27. On a deep doctrinal level, would the Neaderthal men have been allowed to hold the Priesthood had they survived to see the early 20th century? Vicarious temple ordinances anyone?

    #19: To the contrary, it appears that having Neanderthal DNA was a prerequisite…

  28. …so one can only conclude that a full-blooded Neanderthal would be guaranteed a bishopric by right of lineage and need only present himself at his local stake president’s office to have his skull inspected to claim said bishopric.

  29. What’s so great about R. Gary’s post in #17 is that he perfectly illustrates what I’m talking about–And I paid him nothing to trot this out as an example. The sad thing is he actually believes he’s doing good. Buy not understanding how rational argument proceeds, or how evidence is presented and processed, he mangles his own efforts. By thinking that anyone is convinced by his sifting through material and selectively grabbing only those things that support his view he unmasks nothing but his own biases. By declaring that he has unfailingly captured what the Church teaches he betrays that very Church.

    We see this in the recent case of Randy Bott whose blog used this technique to much harm to the church. Luckily he was quickly retired after his frighteningly embarrassing interview with the NY Times. Yet the harm he did to the church in his interview pale in comparison to the harm to thousands of students he taught (He was the most popular professor at BYU) his nonsense about race, evolution, and such. He did the same thing with race (and evolution but his blog has been taken down so I can’t show you) as R. Gary does with evolution, by mining GAs from a different age, who were children of their times as if that represented today’s Church, he produces the impression that he is only representing the Church. But it is not. He’s pulled things he wants to believe, just as Bott did, that may represent what certain individuals might have understood, but do not represent the teachings of the Chruch. Bott so embarrassed the Church with this poisonous views that Church had to issue a newsroom statement to correct them.

    R. Gary is setting himself for the same treatment as he misportrays the Church’s position on science and evolution, with his own amalgamation of old GA quotes, Christian fundamentalism, and deep misunderstandings. Yet he marches around with his flag thinking his fantasy construction is the only valid interpretation of the church. But he does not believe in any hermeneutics, his interpretation is the only one, so there is no convincing him. I like how he says I ignore quotes. No Gary I put them in historical context vis-a-vis current understandings. There is a difference. That you can’t see it is telling.

  30. Steve, I’m on your team, but may I offer two quibbles?

    “Oh they have quotes to mine, pulled out of context, forgetting the big picture … It’s no threat to your faith, unless it is so shaky and built upon stacks of out of context quotes…”

    When you say evolution opponents are taking G.A. quotes “out of context”, this can sound like the claim that LDS leaders, when read “in context”, were not opponents of evolutionary theory. But this obviously isn’t correct, in many, many instances. Can I assume you mean that General Authorities should be read in the “context” of their times, and that the times have changed, so that their condemnations of evolution — which is very much what many of them were offering — have been superseded by greater light and knowledge that we’ve gained through scientific study? Just checking …

    “These are the kind of people that leave the church over evolution. They become so firmly convinced that their reading of past GAs is the only ‘correct’ one, that when they meet the staggering amount of evidence for evolution they trip over it and become born-again atheists.”

    Yes, but … and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this … there’s another reason someone might “leave the church over evolution” that your critique doesn’t apply to. Suppose I find a Christian Gospel which incorporates evolutionary theory — and rejects fundamentalist readings of scripture — as much more compelling than the R. Gary version. I could still plausibly decide to “leave the church” on the ground that I believe any “true church” worth its salt would have leaders who were more enlightened on scientific questions than LDS leaders have usually proven to be. Whether or not my choice to leave is desirable or not (from whatever perspective), it would constitute “leaving the church over evolutio,n” even as it embodied a perspective on the relationship between faith and evolution that is the opposite of R. Gary’s.

    Aaron B

  31. Aaron Brown says:

    your comment #28 (which I hadn’t read) answers my first quibble, I think.

  32. Aaron, your quibblandum, as always, shows greater wisdom than my quibblans. Yes, by out context I mean the context of the present moment. I recognize many GAs did not believe in evolution (to put it mildly).

    As you point out, my jab did was not meant to capture the actual reasons people leave the church, but some fundamentalists of Gary’s ilk, seem to need the fundamentalist structure on the flip side and become atheists of the same bent. No leaving the church for those I’ve known was almost always is a complex, multifaceted, and nuanced decision. I have some very good friends who have done so and the cases I know in detail are never simple or carelessly done for only single reasons. However, I do know some students who having been raised with the ‘general authority quotes arrayed just so, are the Church’ collapse when they meet the enormous amount of evidence of evolution when they get into collages other than BYU which do not try and bridge the gap between their fundamentalist religious education and the science.

  33. Tom Weber says:

    I love the passion displayed here for discovery of the “wonders of the universe.” This inspires me to learn more.

    While I agree that evidence for macro- and microevolution is incontrovertible to those who are open to learn about it, I also admire the generosity of spirit displayed by Henry Eyring (the elder) on such issues. If I remember correctly from “Reflections of a Scientist” Bro Eyring had no fear of defending the reality of an old Earth even to such as Joseph Fielding Smith, but also went out of his way to say that there’s plenty of room in the Church for those who acknowledge scientific fact and those who don’t.

    Though I’m uncomfortable with anti-evolution views and am determined to expose my children to the facts of geology and biology, I remain glad that there’s plenty of space in the tent of Zion for both the R. Garys and StevePs of the world. (I’m guessing SteveP would agree.)

  34. Tom, well said. A useful reminder. I must admit I get so beat up on this issue, I tend toward the junk yard dog mentality about it.

  35. SteveP: I’ve posted links to the source for all of the quotes in my post (click here). I hereby challenge you to review each of the complete articles and show how my quotes have a different meaning when read in context.

  36. R. Gary, are you reading the comments? I addressed what I meant by context in #31.

  37. SteveP: Yes, you mentioned “the context of the present moment,” i.e. that General Authorities should be read in the “context” of their times. Are you saying that quotes are out of context if they are from 2010? How about 2002? Or what about 1988 and 1984? Does science really outgrow the words of living apostles and prophets?

  38. I’m saying that a person living in the early part of the century will have a different cultural context then a person living today. That effects our attitudes and understandings.

    While I’ve got you on the line, let me ask a question,

    What do you think fossils are?

    Please explain using all the scientific facts we know about them, age, sequence, etc. You may have to google some things. But give us some details. Reconcile our scientific understanding and your conviction of no death before the fall (a statement from an evangelical book in the 19th Centuries found nowhere in Mormon official sources).

  39. SteveP: It may surprise you to learn that I think Morris S. Petersen wrote a fine article about fossils that was published in the September 1987 Ensign. Sadly, however, his facts are probably “out of context” (in the SteveP sense), since they represent science that is now more than a quarter century old.

    My own opinion is that Petersen’s explanation represents a good faith effort to explain fossils from a geologists point of view, which is exactly what James E. Talmage did in 1931.

    As for reconciling fossils with NDBF, that’s not my problem. I’m content to have it correctly understood that in the scriptures and in the scripture study helps, in the teachings of living apostles in Church magazines, and in current curriculum materials, in all of these the Church teaches NDBF.

  40. I hope to one day be so famous for one thing that its acronym becomes almost synonymous with my own first name, just like “NDBF Gary.” Perhaps “ATWATRS Cynthia” or “JLWWPAP Cynthia.”

  41. Dinosaur Man says:

    “Gospel hobbies” comes to mind. How about “GH Gary”?

    Apostles words are interesting.

  42. Gary, I love Morris Petersen. I learned evolutionary theory at this feet. I took his History of Life on Earth while I was an undergraduate at BYU. He taught me that evolution was how life on earth emerged from simple beginnings and traced for us that delightful and wondrous history–creatures that lived and died over about a half a billion years. He showed us fossils of simple sea creatures, complex dinosaurs, and early mammals, including the hominids. Thank you for bringing up his wisdom and words in the Ensign as in when he says, “The existence of these animals is indisputable, for their remains have been found in rocks all over the earth.”

    And I appreciate that he quotes Talmage in that same article,

    “We can only conclude, as Elder Talmage did, that ‘the whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.’ Lived and died. Oh yes.

    And in his final testimony in that article, “But this does not mean that science has no place in our eternal pursuit of truth. The more we learn of God’s handiwork, the more we come to know him and love his works. As a Latter-day Saint geologist, I consider myself fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to study rocks and fossils as evidences of God’s creation of our earth. Everything I have learned of the grandeur of the Creation has strengthened my resolve to learn more of our Heavenly Father and live as He would have me live.” (i.e., Science is so cool!)

    So, I appreciate your bringing up one of my mentors in evolutionary theory. He was one of those that taught me to love science and its findings and not to run and hide from the truths the universe reveals to us through science. I try to do the same for my students, despite having to ward off the cherry pickers and hobbyists. And he had them too, I actually spent some time in his office discussing a religion teacher who told me I was going to hell for believing in evolution. I remember how comforting I found his booming laugh at that.

    It’s a pity you stopped at his Ensign article. There is so much more he could have taught you.

    Here is the full link for those who want to see it.

  43. I am reminded of this video.

  44. So … the only source pointed to by NDBF Gary in #38 is a page labeled as “guidance” and explicitly not as an “official.”

  45. Even more than the snows on Kilimanjaro are the layers in the ice in Greenland. There are alternating layers – summer -> winter -> summer, etc. They can be followed like rings in a tree. Events from hundreds of years ago (ie. ash from volcanos) fall where one would expect in the layers. And these layers go back approximately 50,000 years – with no evidence of a catastrophic flood nor a 6000-year existence.

    Science is beautiful and profound and reflects the wisdom and order of God. I’m glad we (most people) have moved past the mental gymnastics necessary to incorporate an ancient Semitic cosmology over actual findings. Someday, everyone will get over it. In spite of the naysayers, religion didn’t fall apart when the world wasn’t proven flat, even through the Bible suggested it was. The same will happen here.

    Nice article.

  46. If you do click the link in 41 please note that it leads to an answer to gospel questions, the first question in the article is about stillbirth and miscarriage-so fair warning there.

    I really enjoyed this quote from the article… .” A conflict arises only when we assume that God has revealed all he is going to reveal on the subject or forget that scientific theories change as new discoveries are made. We also need to remember both the purposes for which the scriptures were given and the objectives of the scientific method.”

    This, in my mind, is the key to letting conflicts be…our limited understanding is most likely the cause of the conflict.

    I do find conflicts…most notably the conflict between evolution and the fall. I think the best thing to do is shelve it. Just let it be. Problems arise when I assume that the fall means something that God has never said it really means. I do find it annoying when believers assume scripture means such and such about science…as if they completely understand God’s mind in the first place. Of course I also get grumpy when a scientist or most likely a lay scientist with endless wikipedia sources, or the rare aggravated atheist assumes that science is in anyway intending to say anything about revelation; to prove or disprove a scripture scientifically is to assume we have the final scientific word, and that we understand the scripture in the first place.

    It is true that my own box of “stuff i don’t understand yet” is growing to gigantic proportions, but I have teenagers, so any pretense that I actually know anything is gone anyway.

    Besides, I like science too much to handle it any other way. I do have patience for those people who have not yet succumbed to admitting that we just don’t know quite a bit and so cling…either the “scientific method REALLY means science is absolute truth” people, or the “I know it says the earth is young in here somewhere” believer.

  47. I’m reminded of an incident in the Lord of the Rings, where Frodo is told that Golum was once a Hobbit, or at least closely related to Hobbits. He’s horrified. He doesn’t believe it. He thinks too highly of Hobbits (despite the fact that so many of them are just plain rotten) to believe that Golum is one of them.

    But that doesn’t stop it from being the truth.

    I’m also reminded of Henry Eyring recounting watching chimpanzees. He said, essentially, that they’re clever creatures and that he feels no shame in being related to them.

    You’re part Neanderthal. And you share common ancestors with an ape. Get over it already.

  48. Sharee Hughes says:

    Haven’t had a chance to read all the comments yet, but wanted to just say this: “And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.” (Abraham 4:18). Isn’t this a scriptural validation of evolution?

  49. SteveP in #41 FTW

  50. I am very proud of my Neanderthal heritage and I occasionally wonder how anyone could doubt their continued genetic presence among us.

  51. Seems pretty simple to me, based on the article Gary himself referenced:

    1. Dinosaurs and other fossilized creatures that lived millions of years ago are dead.
    2. Mankind came into terrestrial existence long after dinosaurs.
    Ergo, death existed before mankind.

    Unless you you want to argue that Dinosaurs were contemporary with mankind, that’s the end of it. If you assert that LDS doctrine teaches that there was no death before mankind (I’m assuming that The Fall requires that mankind have been on earth), you simply have to reject one of the other premises. Since to my knowledge Gary does not join young earth creationist in asserting that early man lived like the Flintstones, his logic goes something like this:

    1. Dinosaurs and other fossilized creatures that lived millions of years ago are dead.
    2. Mankind came into terrestrial existence long after dinosaurs.
    3. LDS doctrine teaches definitively that there was no death before mankind.
    4. ***MAGIC***
    Ergo, death did not exist before mankind.

    There’s little point trying to debate any further because he’ll never deal with premises 1, 2, and 3 at once, and premise 4 remains unstated. At least young earthers vigorously deny the science (as h_nu seems to have done regarding Neanderthal ancestry), and while the results are often laughable, they’re based on a sincere recognition of the logical issues that their beliefs require them to confront. Gary never has, and I suspect, never will, address any of that.

  52. Taking the Fall symbolically or representationally removes the conflict completely, without doing any harm, whatsoever, to either our theology or science.

    Some things really are that simple.

  53. Maybe its as simple as saying there was no spiritual death before the fall.

  54. HerschelBMartin says:

    The best, most basic, comprehensive treatment of the subject of evolution as it relates to the Gospel (that I know of), is, “let the earth bring forth” Evoluntion and Scripture, by Howard C. Stutz.

    The author is quite accomplished in the field, and doesn’t alienate scripture in gis work. Please, do yourself a favor and get it at Greg Kofford Books.

  55. Sharee Hughes says:

    Okay, first of all, let me say that I am not a scientist, neither am I a theologian. I am merely an old lady of faith who likes to read and study. The total answer as to how the earth and everything in/on it were created may never be known in any of our lifetimes, especially mine, since I think most, if not all of you are much younger than I am. When I was making a study of the Book of Abraham some months ago, the quote I mentioned in #47, above, jumped out at me and I felt I was having a true aha! moment. Here, I thought, was the whole explanation of the creation. Here was why there were dinosaurs and cavemen and Steve’s ancestors :-) before Adam and Eve came along. The Gods had to go through a process until those things which they had ordered obeyed. Once the created beings obeyed sufficiently, then God implanted this being with the soul of man, one of God’s spirit children–and Adam became the first man. There were humanoids before Adam, but he was the first man. It made sense to me. But, like the theories of others, it’s just a theory. How long ago this happened is another question. Certainly the Fall came a lot further back than 6,000 years. There was human (not just humanoid, assuming that fire and basketry came with man) habitation right here in the Salt Lake Valley long before that, as evidenced by the artifacts found during excavations in the Danger Cave near Wendover. I think the NDBF concept might just refer to the Garden of Eden. Although the fossil evidence tells us there was death for millions of years before man appeared, perhaps there was no death in the Garden of Eden from the time Adam and Eve were placed there until the Fall. Just another possibility.

  56. The Neandertal introgression question is a very interesting one and has progressed significantly in the last six months or so. The high coverage, ie better quality, Denisova (sister group to Neandertals) genome paper (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6104/222) has recently come out and puts a higher percentage of archaic DNA in Papuan/Polynesian groups. Also, there is mounting evidence of archaic introgression in African populations, just not from Neandertals. I’m a bit skeptical still, but thought I’d bring it up as a PhD candidate in the lab I’m in is working on this and I heard his update on Thursday ;) At a minimum there is a Cell paper (http://www.cell.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867412008318) as well as a Nature Communications paper (http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n10/ncomms2140/metrics/news) that support this. Sorry if they are behind paywalls.

    I know this isn’t the purpose behind your rant, but thought it would be interesting to share. And while I know Elder Nelson doesn’t personally agree with evolution I love this quote from his most recent conference address: “Missionaries can help you with your desire for greater knowledge. The human spirit yearns for enlightenment. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation, we seek it! The glory of God indeed is intelligence.”

    As I progress in my career I find it more and more difficult to see the distinction between sources of truth. Science is a tool Heavenly Father has given us to bless the lives of his children and our neighbors. Evolutionary theory in particular is fundamental in applying science, specifically genetics, to help others.

  57. Michael Taylor says:

    OK, can someone help me out here? I’m going to try to keep this simple. Like most of you I (1) stand convinced by much of evolutionary theory and (2) believe in the restored gospel. Last time I checked though, evolutionary history doesn’t line up very well with a worldview that includes a traditional/esoteric Mormon narrative of history (at least the one that my dearly-beloved “McConkie-style” father taught me as a child):

    1. Earth was created in the presence of Kolob
    2. God creates the world in six periods/phases
    3. He finishes by putting Adam/Eve on the earth (pick which theory you want of how this happened)
    4. Adam and Eve fall and all creation falls with them about 6,000 years ago
    5. The gospel is revealed to Adam in its fullness and is revealed again to each dispensation-head
    6. A literal flood takes place; all terrestrial life on earth is wiped out
    7. Civilization coalesces at and then spreads from the Tower of Babel; different languages are born. Oh, and the single-land mass of the earth flies apart in the days of Peleg to give us continents.
    8. The Americas are inhabited first by the Jaredites and later by the Lehites/Mulekites.
    9. Abraham is called at some point, his descendants go down into Egypt, come back up and as God’s chosen people inherit Palestine.
    10. Israel reaches its Golden age under King David and is later dismantled with the Babylonian captivity.

    PHEW!!!! We finally hit the point where secular history meets up with (at least one traditionalist Mormon reading) of scriptural history! (From what I understand most scholars agree that King David in some incarnation was a historical figure, but not so much with Abraham and Moses).

    So, now to my question: WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS STUFF? Obviously we couldn’t even begin to enumerate the issues that modern geology, evolution, archaeology, linguistics, anthropology, etc. would take with this narrative. So where do we draw the line between what is to be taken as myth and what is to be taken as literal? Where does our commitment to certain historical narratives break down and where does it remain immovable? I imagine that most readers on this blog are still committed to the literal resurrection of Jesus and to angelic visitations to Joseph Smith. But what about the literal personhood of Adam and Eve, etc?

    Any faithful perspectives on this question would be sincerely and deeply appreciated.

  58. Michael Taylor says:

    And this probably goes without saying, but the last place I want to end up is mythologizing everything down through the Christian Era, like some mainline protestants (Episcopal Bishop John Spong comes to mind). At least for me, if it came to that, there would be no appeal for me to stick around in Mormonism/Christianity.

  59. What if R. Gary were part of your immediate family? How would you treat him/her? I pose the question because just yesterday, this discussion came up with my daughter-in-law. She is a very black and white thinker. She believes, like Randy Bott, literal interpretations of the “curse” in the BofM and in Abraham. She believes firmly in “no death before the fall” and in the 6000 year old earth as taught to her by her dad, a bishop, through good old BRMcConkie. My own father is so staunchly conservative in his views of Mormonism that we have difficulty communicating even in the most simple of conversations. I see a growing gap in the church, a polarization of sorts, between liberal and conservative (not necessarily politically speaking) and it is disheartening. Any suggestions on how to reach people like R. Gary? Does R. Gary want us (liberals, if you want to call us that, I’m OK with that) to be part of “his” church or not? Ah yes, it all comes down to this new commandment that is now an old commandment from the Savior. Also disheartening, the “doubting” devil talk by Pres. Uchtdorf last night.

  60. I recall reading in “Evolution and Mormonism” many years ago the line that changed my perspective. The authors discussed being faithful Latter-day Saints but also evolutionary biologists, and said, in a polite way, that those who dispute evolution have the luxury of ignorance. They can make silly comparisons to Boeing 747s and go on their way. But as evolutionary biologists, the authors did not have that luxury, because they saw the overwhelming evidence for evolution every single day in their work.

  61. I’m not an evolutionary biologist by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but the easy-to-understand writings, like SteveP’s OP above, and many other articles and research that is easily accessible in today’s information world, makes me clearly out of the “ignorant” realm. I can’t really say that R. Gary is ignorant, either, as he/she seems to write well and researches Church resources well. R. Gary seems to pretty much follow what Pres. Uchtdorf wants us to be (from last night’s CES broadcast speech), a person who doesn’t doubt the Church leaders. Hence, this great polarization that I see, and I’ll admit that my perception of this polarization is influenced heavily by my family, as I love this daughter-in-law of mine and wouldn’t want her to not visit me (with my little grand-daughter who gives old grandpa a kiss, “it’s always fun when grandpa comes”, etc.) And, for those who say this topic (and similar topics as enumerated by Michael Taylor above) don’t come up, or shouldn’t come up “in church” classes, that’s hiding one’s head in the sand. These things need to be discussed and something needs to be done to resolve the contradictions and paradoxes, at least some of them.

  62. Michael Taylor says:

    Kevin Rex,

    I’m sorry to here of the heartburn this has caused your family relationships. I can understand. I agree with what you said after that these things do need to be addressed. It has come to a head of late for me for two reasons: (1) I serve as ward mission leader in my ward and absolutely do not want to be disingenuous or evasive when these things come up in lessons, which they do, and (2) I’m a father of three young children and I want to teach them right and I am trying to figure out what to teach them.

  63. Jeremy Cantu says:

    Kevin Rex,
    I disagree with your characterization of President Uchtdorf’s talk last night as being the “doubting devil talk” or as being one that our leaders want us to blindly follow them. Why would he quote the Brigham Young who said, ” I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”? He focused on truth, how we can find truth. He said science, logic, reason, are forms in which we can find truth, as well as inspiration.

  64. Most scientists who look for human origins have concluded that the available evidence points to Darwinian evolution. This conclusion, however, is contradicted by current Church teachings about the origin of man. How can the overwhelming evidence for evolution be true and, at the same time, opposing Church teachings be true as well?

    The scientific search for human origins may be likened to a man walking into his kitchen on his birthday after work and seeing eggshells in the trash, flour spilled on the floor, and a birthday cake on the table.

    A reasonable conclusion based on the evidence is that earlier in the day his wife made a birthday cake for him. But that conclusion will probably change when he discovers (1) a voice message to his wife left that morning by their son about her earlier promise to bake a batch of cookies for his school class, and (2) a credit card payment dated that very day to a specialty cake shop.

    Although his initial conclusion was wrong, his problem wasn’t false evidence. His problem was incomplete evidence. And nobody can be certain that today’s science has all the evidence.

  65. “How can the overwhelming evidence for evolution be true and, at the same time, opposing Church teachings be true as well?”

    They can’t. Church leaders who have taught that evolution did/does not occur or that human beings were/are not a part of that process are wrong. Whatever the Fall was, it did not introduce biological death into the living world.

    “Although his initial conclusion was wrong, his problem wasn’t false evidence. His problem was incomplete evidence. And nobody can be certain that today’s science has all the evidence.”

    It is almost impossible to overstate the degree to which such a statement bespeaks profound ignorance about the questions, the evidence, the theories, the science, and the knowledge in question.

    Your insistence that because Church leaders are called by God to lead the Church they must therefore be correct in everything they say or teach is the most demonstrably false and dangerous idea in Mormonism today.

  66. “and, at the same time, opposing Church teachings be true as well?” Your interpretation of the church Gary. Others have a different view, including the church itself, which has explicitly sanctioned our work at BYU and stated to us repeatedly the Church has no position on evolution. Of course, I’m sure you know better than the general Authorities running BYU so carry on in advising the Brethren on your opinion. I’m sure it is appreciated. PS thank you for borrowing my example of adductive reasoning about the cake. It’s good to see I’m doing some good. But it’s good form to name your sources rather than borrow without attribution. In scholarship we value that.

    And all above, thank you for your discusion. There is much we don’t know and I’ve really not figured out away convince people like R. Gary. Our knowledge of evolution is based on evidence and when someone is unwilling to even look at the evidence because it threatens their private interpretation, it is hard to provide a convincing argument based on evidence. I’m at a loss many times myself. If you are not a seeker after knowledge, and knowledge is not of enough value to drive the curiosity it takes to find answers. . . well what can you do? There is little one can do to convince them. But like you I think maintaining a relationship with family is more important and that’s where I put my stock.

  67. I also want to remind people what happened when another person claimed that “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” and Church, President George Albert Smith, slapped them down.

  68. Kevin Rex says:

    Jeremy Cantu, thank you for additional information on Pres Uchtdorf’s talk. I haven’t heard the whole CES talk yet, only read a tidbit quote from it online. It’s a relief to hear that he quoted Brigham Young, I think. You never know for sure with BY quotes. Thanks for your insight on it. Did he quote that entire passage?

  69. Kevin Rex, No prob, and I’m pretty sure he did quote the entire passage. It was the first time I had ever heard that quote cited in a somewhat official church setting, which I was happy to finally hear. I just think the whole talk in general was excellent and wish something like that could be given in general conference sometime.

  70. Just to reiterate, President Uchdorf is the last person who would preach what he is accused of teaching. It takes someone who is looking for that exact message and ignoring (or intentionally distorting) to reach that conclusion. Seriously, that conclusion can’t be reached through an unbiased reading of what he said.

    Most people who have opposed evolution have done so, imo, under one of two mistaken assumptions (or both):

    1) The creation narratives in our scriptures, including the story of the Garden of Eden, are literal;

    2) Evolution, by definition, denies the existence of God.

    Remove those two incorrect assumptions, and, within Mormon theology, the tension and conflict disappear.

    I’ve pointed this out in other places, but even the LDS Church’s official statement about the origin of man has a sentence that leaves open the possibility that Adam started his physical existence as an “embryo” – and it is clear that it means a traditional, biological, gestational process. The assertion is that, even if that is how his body was created, he still is the first “human” – defined as the first combination of mortal body and immortal, child-of-God spirit. The statement is NOT an attack on evolution; it is an assertion that God was involved in creating humanity, no matter the process used to create our physical bodies.

  71. Kevin Rex, my comment was not directed at you, since you said you hadn’t read the entire talk. I just want to make sure that is clear.

  72. Kevin Rex says:

    Ray, I appreciate your clarification, however, I don’t quite get what you were trying to say in your first paragraph “preach what he is accused of saying?” I do agree on your two points, and I think #1, literalness, is a deep-seated problem in our Church. Just the other week, I heard comments in Sunday School reaffirming (in the commenter’s mind) how all the bible stories are quite literal and that anyone who doesn’t believe them to be so is unfaithful, and the comment was about an Old Testament story, which I personally have much less incline towards literalness (story of Job).

  73. Kevin Rex says:

    Sorry, Ray, “preach what he is accused of teaching.” What was your intent there?

  74. Pres. Uchtdorf is the last person who would say members need to follow church leaders blindly, just because they are leaders.

  75. Sharee Hughes says:

    Where can I read (or listen to) Pres. Uchtdorf’s CES talk?

  76. Gary are you so certain that your right about your conclusion that our current living apostles and prophets have concluded that there is no bilogical evolution of man to the point that you believe SteveP (and the entire BYU science dept) is an state of apostacy? I’m not suggesting that you have to change to your mind regarding your intrepatation of the evidence and the statements of the past leaders, but please reconsider your approach by allowing the current actual policy of the church to be the olive branch that allows others to come and partake of the living waters of the gospel.

  77. Kevin Rex (#58): The Mormon doesn’t exist who fully understands everything taught by the apostles and prophets. If I am your son-in-law and you tell me you just don’t understand NDBF teachings and you’re not in the mood to talk about it, I’m good with that. No arguing. No name calling. We’re still family and we’re still friends. I think creationists and evolutionists should gladly home teach each other, participate together on ward temple trips, and in all other ways enjoy full fellowship with each other as Church members (just like Pepsi drinkers and caffeine purists do).

    Ray (#69): It is not clear how one word, embryo, opens the 1909 official statement to a meaning that contradicts the stated beliefs of the Prophet who signed it.

    Carey (#76): My comment to Keven Rex should answer your question.

  78. Great post! Love science! Love evolution!

    It seems so easy to accept these things. They don’t work against our gospel but with it, to learn the nature of God, and methods he uses. Evolution, science . . . they work so well with our gospel, and in fact, I would say, must work within our religion. Brigham Young said, “Our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular.” (DBY, 258–59).

    I also love what the Dalai Lama says, [paraphrasing]: any discovery within the sciences must work with religion, or that religion cannot be true. (To lazy to find the actual quote, but it is in “The Universe in a Single Atom”).

  79. R. Gary:

    1) The First Presidency signed it, not the President – and they signed it as the official statement of the Church, not the personal belief of the President of the Church. I know you know that, so I am left to ask if you are discounting the beliefs of everyone else at the top of the Church and everyone else throughout the Church who believed in evolution. Are you doing that – equating the beliefs of the President with the positions of the Church?

    2) There was a STRONG disagreement among the apostles regarding evolution at the time of the statement, so the statement itself leaves open the possibility. That is incontrovertible. The statement says Adam’s body might have started as an embryo. It is fact. Are you saying it doesn’t mean the clearest (and, imo, only) interpretation of the words themselves?

    3) To phrase it differently, are you really saying that you don’t accept the actual words chosen in the statement, just because one of the people who signed it didn’t believe in evolution? It isn’t the official statement of a President of the Church; it is the official statement of the Church. Surely, you understand the difference.

    I’d appreciate answers to the actual questions above. In a nutshell, I really do want to know if you accept the official statement of the Church as being the official position of the Church.

  80. Saw this on the T&S sidebar. Since BCCs has been down a while might as well throw it here. Dedicated to NDBF Gary.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/11/think-outside-the-box-the-cutest-response-to-creationism-ever.html

  81. The duty of the First Presidency (D&C 107:27, 29): “Every decision made by [the First Presidency] must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member … must be agreed to its decisions…. Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men.”

    Gordon B. Hinckley: “No president in any organization in the Church is likely to go ahead without the assurance that his counselors feel good about the proposed program. A man or woman thinking alone, working alone, arriving at his or her own conclusions, can take action which might prove to be wrong. But when three kneel together in prayer, discuss every aspect of the problem which is before them, and under the impressions of the Spirit reach a united conclusion, then we may have the assurance that the decision is in harmony with the will of the Lord.

    “I can assure all members of this church that in the First Presidency we follow such a procedure. Even the President of the Church, who is Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and whose right and responsibility it is to make judgment and direct the course of the Church, invariably consults with his counselors to determine their feelings. If there is a lack of unity, there follows an absence of action. Two counselors, working with a president, preserve a wonderful system of checks and balances. They become a safeguard that is seldom, if ever, in error and affords great strength of leadership.”

    As evidence that Joseph F. Smith did not issue a formal statement with which he did not fully agree, I will point out that the word embryo, fits perfectly with his stated beliefs and therefore does not carry the meaning you suggest.

    And, by the way, where is the evidence of a “disagreement among the apostles regarding evolution at the time of the statement.” I’ve been asking LDS evolutionists via my blog for more than five years: “Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man?”

  82. First off, Gary, I don’t really think the church needs to lead us in EVERY aspect of life. Why would there be a necessity to announce that evolution is the correct method in which things came about? I think that looking at our world/universe is proof enough that God used complexities and evolution to create. Never in our religion, since the children of Israel, has there been a need to instruct us all in exact methods on how to believe or live our lives. We are here to LEARN and PROGRESS and figure things out. Not be told every facet of everything we’ve ever wondered so we don’t have to use our brains.

    The point of this is, Gary, copying and pasting quotes does little to further the discussion, edify, or learn the nature of God, his methods and come to an understanding of the universe and life and is a bad way to try and prove a point.

  83. Nice point Cap. The first presidency has been very silent about quantum mechanics too. Must be false.

    So Gary explain to me why you so blatantly are not following the first presidency in this statement from the Grant presidency (as quote in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (this entry was approved by President Hinckely)? “In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded, Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to 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….” So, let’s see he tells us that this is to be left to scientific research. I take that as a mandate. He tells you to leave it alone. Have you done that? By what sanction were you given to make yourself an exception to this utterance from a first presidency statement which you extol above as the gold standard. I’m commanded to study it, you are asked to leave it alone. Have you done that? My, oh my, you are selective in what you follow and what you don’t.

  84. SteveP, you’ve been misled. The counsel “to leave it alone” is pure fiction. Your comment is a misrepresentation of events relating to the 1931 First Presidency memo you quote. Addressed to the general authorities, the memo was not about evolution, nor was it the result of any debate about evolution. And it certainly did not forbid anyone to speak or write against evolution.

    The memo summarized the Church’s evaluation of a priesthood manual submitted by B. H. Roberts, and announced the Church’s decision to reject it.

    Roberts had marshaled the conclusions of geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology to support his theory reconciling fossils with scripture.  The decision of President Heber J. Grant was that neither the Roberts theory nor the conclusions of science belong in a priesthood manual:

    “Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to 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.”

    This counsel applies specifically to Roberts’ attempted use of science to interpret scripture. By extension, it applies to any attempt to force scripture to accommodate science. Its meaning is the opposite of what you represent.

  85. Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that diseases are cause by germs?

  86. Well it’s a pity Pres. Hickey is not here to defend its inclusion in the EofM, maybe you can straighten him out on his use of it on the other side.

  87. Mark Brown says:

    The scriptures, the hymnal, and many sermons in general conference testify that the earth has four corners.

    I call upon all of you to exercise your faith and not be misled by the vanity and foolishness of men, masquerading as science. Please join me in the Flat Earth Society.

  88. So, R. Gary, and SteveP, am I to believe that general authorities may have different opinions, and just maybe, this is because evolution is not a mater of doctrine? Pres Hinckly even stated that he did not care one way or another whether evolution is true. This in no way means that it is not important, but that it is not apart of what he feels leads to exaltation and eternal life. It also shows me that there is no stance in the church whether or not it is to be accepted. And, we’re back at my earlier comment, (and I quote myself), “We are here to LEARN and PROGRESS and figure things out. Not be told every facet of everything we’ve ever wondered so we don’t have to use our brains.”

  89. As I said, the statement leaves open the possibility of evolution as the source of Adam’s body. There is no other logical reading of it. R. Gary and I have discussed this numerous times, and he has never, not once, offered an alternate explanation of what the sentence I quote means – since there is no other logical reading of it. So, R. Gary, you don’t believe the actual words in the actual official statement issued and signed by the First Presidency actually mean what they obviously say.

    I understand that, but it is directly opposite of everything you say about what you accept and don’t accept. The only logical conclusion is that you pick and choose what statements to accept, based on how they line up with what you believe and reject whatever doesn’t line up with what you believe.

    I do it, as well, and I accept that I am doing it. You do it, but don’t accept that you are doing it.

    I’m fine with that, but I’m not fine with implying I don’t accept the Church’s position on evolution when I accept the official statement in its entirety (and the Church’s funding of evolution at its universities). You are the one who doesn’t accept the Church’s written, official position on evolution – which, in summary, is:

    “Humans are a unique species, in that we are a combination of mortal physical body and immortal, divine spirit. We don’t know exactly how human bodies were created, and evolution is a possibility, as long as it isn’t taken to mean we are nothing but smart animals.”

    I’m not changing your mind; you’re not changing mine. Once again, like so many other times, let’s end this treadmill and walk away – unless you want to quote the official statement and show me how I am wrong about what it says.

  90. The scientific advances just since I graduated from college 13 years ago are staggering. Back then we had no human genome, let alone the genome of a fossilized species. This is awe-inspiring and humbling.

    It also has me thinking about how I’ll talk to my kids about Adam and Eve. My 6 year old already has questions. He has a book in which Adam & Eve are drawn as Africans – definitely more accurate than the painting in his Gospel Art Picture Book. But since I’m not so sure they were historical figures myself, I just don’t know how to put things to him. I don’t want to undermine nascent faith, nor do I want to tell a story I’m going to have to significantly revise later.

  91. “The only logical conclusion is that you pick and choose what statements to accept, based on how they line up with what you believe and reject whatever doesn’t line up with what you believe.”

    This is absolutely clear. Go look at his blog. These tactics are the same used by ex-BYU Religion Professor Randy Bott to promulgate his poisonous views and these two are of the same spirit–they promote ignorance, paint the church in anti-intellectual colors, and insist everyone (including GAs as in Hinckley approval of the EofM entry on evolution) submit their views to him for the one and only correct interpretation. No matter how much you point out the church has no stance he’ll string together a bunch of quotes, ignore what you’ve said, and pound the key on his one note hobby horse until you find your hearing affected.

  92. Kevin Rex- “These things need to be discussed and something needs to be done to resolve the contradictions and paradoxes, at least some of them.”
    Some of us are working on it, though from the scripture angle instead of the science angle. Check out my notes from teaching Institute on Genesis (beginning here, and others like this and this, all part of a larger book project.

    I’d also note that the Mormon Theology Seminar on Gen 2-3 has begun.

  93. Ray: For the record, Adam’s physical body was created the same way yours and mine was. As with all men, Adam’s body began life as a human embryo, a fertilized human egg.

    The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose) stated very clearly in 1912 that the question of the origin of Adam’s physical body is, in fact, answered in the revealed word of God, offering Luke 3:38 as a scriptural answer to the question:

    “Our father Adam — that is, our earthly father — the progenitor of the race of man, stands at the head, being ‘Michael the Archangel, the Ancient of Days’,… he was not fashioned from earth like an adobe, but begotten by his Father in Heaven.

    “Adam is called in the Bible ‘the son of God.’ (Luke 3:38.)”

    (See Joseph Fielding Smith in Man: His Origin and Destiny, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954, p. 345; see also James R. Clark, ed., Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols., [1965-75] 4:265-267.)

    This is in complete harmony with the official declaration of doctrine that was signed by all members of the 1909 First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) and published in the November 1909 Improvement Era:

    “He [Adam] took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a ‘living soul’ [and] all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner.”

  94. So we are done. Once again, you refused to explain the sentence in question and ignored it completely, instead continuing the quote fight method of argument and proving my point. This conversation is over.

  95. SteveP, your interpretation of the 1931 memo is an accusation against two living apostles (Packer and Nelson), plus several who have passed on. Based on your view of the 1931 memo, most of the sins you lay at my door must also be charged to them.

    My view fits the actual history and leaves those same Church leaders unaccused.

  96. Thanks Ben #91. There are a number of attempts to try to come up with genuine reconciliations rather than the my way or the highway approach of the fundamentalist/literalists. I think it’s going to take some work in looking closely at the Fall, upon which I think the most important work needs to be done.

  97. “SteveP, your interpretation of the 1931 memo is an accusation against two living apostles” My accusation that it is in the EofM? I looked and its still there. Tell me why you think it is there? And state if you think Hinckley was wrong to use it like that (he made several corrections to the entry according to Evenson who wrote it)?

  98. Actually, we aren’t done, since I want to point out the implications of the following from R. Gary’s comment:

    “all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner.”

    This implies that Adam’s physical body was created in the same way that every other human’s body was created and that each of us became “souls” in the same way Adam did. I still say that evolution only is left as a possibility in the official statement, but R. Gary’s excerpt implies, at least, evolution just as strongly as the sentence I asked him to address.

    That really isn’t the issue for me, since all I’m saying is that there is no official position of the Church when it comes to the exact nature of how that happened. The only position is that it happened somehow – and the quote above, quoted by R. Gary himself from the official statement, shows that his earlier quote cannot be taken to mean that Adam was a begotten son of God in some other way than each of us is a begotten child of God – IF all quotes are somehow consistent and mean the exact same thing.

    This is pointless, but at least it’s obvious that R. Gary’s own position isn’t internally consistent – that he has to interpret things specifically in ways that support his position, even if it involves manufacturing meaning that is inconsistent with the most obvious and only logical meanings.

  99. Nobody has laid any sins at any door of yours in this thread, R. Gary. We simply have disagreed with you. It is both interesting and instructive, however, that you classify simple disagreement as sin.

    Good grief.

  100. R. Gary, “He [Adam] took upon him an appropriate body”

    So, is [Adam] referring to his spirit? And so, his spirit chose the body of a man. So, the body of a man was already here. Where did that body come from? Is it so hard to believe that the body is a result of evolution? There are so many problems with the body. Problems that don’t make any sense, (vestigial organs) except in the light of evolution. However, who are we? Are we our bodies? Is it our flesh and blood that define our place in existence? Or is it our spirit, or rather, our unique spirit, being a “spirit child of our Heavenly Father”?

    This, for me, is why evolution is never going to be prophesied right or wrong. Our bodies are needed in our eternal progression, but there is nothing unique or special in their design. In fact, if God did create them, if evolution was not the method in their creation, then God did a pretty spotty job of it. Giving us needless organs and bad sight, etc.

    It seems, in this light, that the Garden of Eden doesn’t need to exist, and Adam can only be the representation, or the actual being who first had this unique combination of spirit and body. Rather, we can look at the garden as a beautiful analogy of our pre-mortal life, and suck so much more meaning out of it than in a literal sense.

    Evolution should be a no-brainer within the LDS faith. It promotes one of our core beliefs–that we are here to progress, and that there is a method, a real method, to this progression.

  101. If disagreement is sin, then you are accusing apostles and Presidents of sin throughout the entire history of our religion. There is no way I would make that charge, since it’s an appalling one. Try telling any of the current apostles that disagreement is sin and see what response you get.

    I mean that seriously.

  102. It wouldn’t matter if a 1931 FP memo articulated an incontrovertibly unanimous position of all apostles that it was possible to simultaneously know the position and the velocity of a subatomic particle. It wouldn’t even matter if there were living apostles who believed that memo to be true. It wouldn’t matter if Gary had amassed thousands upon thousands of web pages of evidence that many, many, many apostles spoke with absolute certitude that the memo was correct. It is as foolish to argue that Adam and Eve’s bodies were not the product of evolution as it is to argue that Cain and Abel were born with adult bodies and faculties.

    Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that Cain and Abel were conceived and birthed according to natural, biological processes (instead of molded out of dirt like their parents)?

  103. Ray,
    I don’t have a problem acknowledging that the FP and Q12 are sinful so even if disagreement (or, more likely, contention) are sins, I wouldn’t be shocked to find any of them as prone to it as the rest of us. Of course, I don’t find any problem with declaring R. Gary sinful (as he is as human as the rest of us). Certainly we can all do with a call to repentance on occasion. We are all definitely in the boat of being prideful and frequently mistaken.

    Not that that has anything to do with anything. Just felt like pointing it out.

  104. Well, when Gary starts in with his, To-find-fault-with-me-is-to-find-fault-with-the-apostles-themselves logic it’s time to go to bed. I’m with Ray when someone doesn’t follow the rules of logic and rational discourse it’s time to sign off. Anyway, Science rocks ya’ll, keep learning, keep exploring, and keep wondering. The universe God has laid before us has wonders beyond imagination, for those who do not close themselves to its magic. Do not let the fundamentalists get you down. Truth has a way of winning out in the end.

  105. #102 – Agreed, John, about me as much as anyone else.

  106. SteveP, In 1982, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (including Gordon B. Hinckley) once again considered the possibility of publishing the 1928 Roberts book. This necessarily involved a review of the circumstances surrounding Heber J. Grant’s 1931 refusal to publish the book. Again, however, the decision was not to publish. Historian James B. Allen tells us:

    “The [1982] First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve had reviewed the 1931 decision and were impressed with the wisdom of the admonition given then that the Church’s mission was ‘to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world. Leave Geology, Biology, Archeology 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.'” (James B. Allen, “The Story of The Truth, The Way, The Life,” as published in The Truth, The Way, The Life [2nd edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996], p. 715.)

    For a second time, the Roberts book was rejected because he marshaled the conclusions of geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology to support his theory reconciling fossils with scripture.

    Those who wish to correctly understand President Hinckley’s feelings about evolution will want to consider the following statement published “with his permission and approval” two years after he became Church President:

    “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.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.298.)

    Hinckley viewed the 1931 excerpt in its correct historical context: Don’t use science to interpret scripture.

  107. Popular topic. My husband is a biologist and believes in evolution, as do I being a science major and so do our children. Believing so does not shake or contradict our faith in Christ. Evolution came up in my child’s Seminary class. All the kids became angry at the thought that someone could believe in evolution. (You would have to know where we live and know the mentality of the church members here to understand why all the kids reacted that way) My child had enough guts (my kids like a good intellectual fight), to state there is evolution and to give an example, but the others kids would not let her say anything. Some were quite rude and the Seminary teacher had to step in – sad. We have enough faith and knowledge to know we will not know everything until Christ comes again. Meanwhile we study and continue to learn secular and religious knowledge, and strive to have the Holy Ghost with us so that we can discern truths and progress. We must beware of false doctrines that have crept into church also. There is more to say but no time. It does not do any good to get so upset over this and other issues that are not imperative for our Salvation. This is just an interesting topic to think about and we must respect one another, listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Unfortunately there is very little of that (respecting others and their beliefs on certain issues) in the church. I know because I have dealt with it and so have my children. # 88. Cap said it best. Thank you.

  108. Thank JR, that is sad and I’ve experienced the same thing. You’ll be happy to know that there are efforts to try to retrain the Church education people to understand evolution. This summer I taught a four hour class to the Master’s religion class in the Religious Education Department at BYU for seminary teachers and LDS Chaplins on evolution. It was a great experience. By the end I think we had all come to an agreement that evolution was best left to the sciences and that it was not a threat to faith and that there are truly faithful integrations that allow for both. Things are slowly changing and I have high hopes that this will not be an issue for the next generation of seminary teachers.

  109. Gary, and yet now the Church through BYU Studies as published Robert’s book. What might this mean? We do believe in continuing revelation don’t ya know (as people get ready for greater truth, like that of evolution.)

    Well, I’m shutting down the thread. I won’t be around for a couple of days to deal with Gary’s efforts to thwart the light and knowledge that is entering the world through science.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,805 other followers