Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry

Updated statement on evolution?

At LDS Science Review, a call to update the 1909 First Presidency statement “The Origin of Man” during its centennial year of 2009. That seems like a fine idea, although any update would require consensus among senior LDS leaders on a new statement and I doubt that will happen. Maybe in 2109.

Evolution does not trouble Mormons as it seems to trouble Evangelicals. Evolution is taught as a mainstream biology course at BYU, the flagship LDS university, and there is a very active research focus in evolutionary science within BYU’s biology department. One of the nicer things about being LDS is that it doesn’t make you choose between religion and science.


Surprisingly, the 1909 statement is still cited and quoted by the Church. For example, here is the entire text of the entry “Evolution” in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

The position of the Church on the origin of man was published by the First Presidency in 1909 and stated again by a different First Presidency in 1925: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity …. Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes (see Appendix, “Doctrinal Expositions of the First Presidency”).


The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). 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 ….

Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: “Adam is the primal parent of our race” [First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931].

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Dropping By

posted December 1, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Evolution is just one of many areas where the Church is relatively moderate (“relatively” being a, um, relative term). Someday I wish someone would do a study about this (or, if someone has already done one, that I would stumble upon it): evolution, abortion, gay rights, there are a lot of hot-button topics where the Church really is in the middle. Not the middle of the contemporary American public, of course, but philosophically moderate in a lot of ways. I often muse on how many people I know to the left of me, and the right of me, on such topics, and I get a sense of gratitude that the Church doesn’t take extreme positions.

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Todd Wood

posted December 1, 2008 at 5:36 pm

“Evolution does not trouble Mormons as it seems to trouble Evangelicals.”
Would Boyd Packer, a leader of the twelve, agree with this?

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New Age Cowboy

posted December 1, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I did agree that LDS folks were a lot more moderate till Prop. 8 in California. If anybody would understand (but still possibly disagree with) the rights of gays marrying, I thought it would be Mormons.
You guys nearly lost statehood for Utah (Deseret) over polygamy.
I grew up Evangelical and learned to hate Evangelical polemics against the LDS church. I really hope your church decides to do good works rather than condemn via the political process. The Evangelicals have been in the mud since Carter and now they’re going down with the Republicans. I hope the LDS folks take a different path.

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Stephen M (Ethesis)

posted December 1, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I’m not sure the statement needs changed at all.

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posted December 2, 2008 at 10:53 am

Dropping By,
There was an article done by the Boston Globe around the time of Romney’s primary run for the White House that was the most accurate I have ever seen done by a mainstream newspaper. The sad part was that it was clearly written to drive a wedge betweem Mormons and Evangelicals. I say this because the Boston Globe before and since the article has been anything but positive or fair to the LDS Church and Mormon doctrine.
Alas, I can’t find the article.

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Stephen M (Ethesis)

posted December 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm

BTW, for what it is worth, in times of recession or depression, people tend to become more socially conservative. I doubt that was intended by anyone, though it makes an interesting conspiracy theory.

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posted December 31, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I agree. There is no need to change the statement. What the LDS Science Review wants is for the church to come out and declare evolution a fact. I guess they are getting tired of those folks in the great and spacious building laughing at them for following a church that actually declares us to be literal offspring of God and descendants of a man called Adam.

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