Science and Religion: The LDS Standpoint

Science and Religion: The LDS Standpoint

Growing up in a city with very few LDS members, I was continuously bombarded with scientific theories of human evolution and what I thought to be scientific ideas contradicting my religious beliefs. My parents had raised me to pay attention in my science classes and know what answers the teacher wanted me to put on my tests, but to take everything that they taught me with a grain of salt. While I was taught at school that evolution was a real thing and that humans could have very well evolved from non-human creatures, at home I was taught quite the opposite. My parents taught me that evolution was bogus and that humans were not descendants from apes. Being the obedient child that I am, I always took my parents’ word over my teachers’ word. Sometimes I may have taken it a bit to the extreme. Evolution, being the controversial topic that it is, is usually associated with very strong feelings leaning one way or the other. Because my parents had taught me that humans were not descendants of apes and that I shouldn’t trust what my science teachers were telling me about evolution, I assumed that evolution must be a myth and that it definitely was not part of God’s plan.

When I started my first semester in my GEOL 100 class at Brigham young University with Professor Brooks Britt, he cured me of these all around negative feelings that I had towards evolution. On the very first day of class, he brought up the idea of evolution and mentioned that talking about it might make some of us uncomfortable. It occurred to me that in that moment, he was referring to me. He may have also been referring to other students in the class, but that I would never know. I only knew that he was referring to me. My stomach tied up in knots and I thought to myself, “This is BYU. This school is meant to be highly religious and focus on the LDS views about science. WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT EVOLUTION?! Evolution is not an LDS belief.” That semester, as Professor Brooks assigned readings on evolution and continued to teach that evolution is a part of life, my views and opinions about evolution slowly began to change. I realized how wrong I had been to think that evolution is not a natural phenomenon. Professor Brooks did not teach that humans evolved from apes, but he did teach that creatures evolve.

Some of the articles that we were asked to read in this class helped me to better understand the LDS views on science and evolution.

There is one talk in particular from the first presidency of the church that addressed this topic. The talk is called, “The Origin of Man”. It was given at a time when many members of the church were questioning exactly what I am addressing right now. “Where does the LDS church stand on the topic of human evolution?”

In this address, they quoted many scriptures that clarify what the LDS church believes about evolution. These scriptures include:

Moses 3: 4-7

And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created , in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,

And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually , before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face…

But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul , the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to…

Moses 2:26-27

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. And I, God, said: Let them have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.

Moses 1:34

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. And I, God, said: Let them have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.

 

After using these scriptures to make their point, the first presidency said,

“It was shown to the brother of Jared that all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; and whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.”

“It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was the first man of all men.”

They then go on to end their address by saying,

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. God Himself is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme. By His almighty power He organized the earth, and all that it contains, from spirit and element, which exist co-eternally with Himself. He formed every plant that grows, and every animal that breathes, each after its own kind, spiritually and temporally-” that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal, and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual.” He made the tadpole and the ape, the lion and the elephant; but He did not make them in His own image, nor endow them with Godlike reason and intelligence. Nevertheless, the whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, each class in its “distinct order or sphere,” and will enjoy “eternal felicity.” That fact has been made plain in this dispensation.

 

In another article titled, “Science and Scientists”, Robert L. Miller describes how the LDS church views science. He talked about how Utah has the most scientists of all of the states. He then went on to talk about some of the most commonly known LDS men who have been scientists. Some of these include Orson Pratt, James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, Joseph F. Merrill, Henry B. Eyring, Harvey Fletcher, Willard Gardner, Russellgtf M. Nelson, and Richard G. Scott.

Some of the quotes from this article that best describe the LDS view on science include:

“Latter-day Saints also teach that God created all things using laws natural to his environment; that the natural world is a world of pattern, law, order, and meaning; and that men and women possess the ability to discover truth and to use that knowledge to improve the world in which they live.”

“Both science and revealed religion are continually building toward greater understanding of truth.”

“Early-twentieth-century controversies over biological evolution did stimulate formal statements from the First Presidency. But these were carefully drawn to avoid dampening legitimate scientific activity while clearly articulating and defending basic doctrinal positions of the Church.”

Some scriptures that are used to describe the LDS view on science include:

Doctrine & Covenants 130:18

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

Moses 6:63

And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.

 

What I have learned from reading these articles and taking this class is that God loves science. He used science to create us and the earth that we now live in. He wants us to study it and increase our knowledge of all things scientific. It is because of science that we are blessed with the amazing technologies that we have today. I have no doubt that Heavenly Father is looking down and smiling at all that we have discovered and learned. I have also learned that humans did not evolve from other life forms. Adam was the first human and he had a body very similar to what we have today. The theory of evolution on the other hand is in many ways a very possible reality. Based on what we know about past and current creatures and species, it seems that they very likely learned to evolve in order to survive in their environment.

 

If you would like to read some of the articles that have been published about the LDS standpoint on Science and Evolution, I have included the links below.

http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Science_and_Scientists

http://www.ndbf.net/010.pdf

 

 

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