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Mormon Inquiry

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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