An Article By The Late Robert J. Matthews - BYU Professor
Throughout my life I have read far more from the scriptures and the words of the Brethren than l have from the writings of the non-LDS theologians and philosophers of the world. I am only moderately acquainted with the teachings of the various branches of philosophy, language, and science. However, I have been exposed to them and I am not a complete stranger to their theories.
I am much more familiar with the authors and the content of the standard works particularly the latter-day scriptures and with the history of the Church in this dispensation. I have been tutored and influenced by the writings and viewpoints of such prophets as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, J.. Reuben Clark Jr., Harold B. Lee, Marion G. Romney, and Ezra Taft Benson, as well as those of Elders Orson Pratt, Bruce R. McConkie, and Boyd K. Packer. I have especially tried to become thoroughly conversant with the doctrinal teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
I know there is a kind of monitor in a person's soul that gives him direction and feeling. This monitor often exceeds human judgement and knowledge arid sometimes it is the source for viewpoints or feelings that a person cannot articulate and prove by the facts and logic in his immediate possession: yet these feelings are true. Regarding most matters I expect adequate tangible proof will come later. However we generally need the guidance of this monitor now since in many cases we cannot wail for the proof before we act. This monitor is the working of the Holy Ghost. It is the companion to research but is not dependent on it. It provides conviction and testimony and inspiration to the soul, whereas mere facts, however brilliantly displayed and stimulating to the intellect. sometimes leave else soul unconvinced or even troubled.
I am converted to the story of the gospel--the knowledge we have of the plan of salvation as taught in the scriptures and by the prophets of this dispensation. I believe that our spirits are literally the sons and daughters of heavenly parents and that we lived as intelligent individuals in a premortal sphere, where both sin and righteousness existed. I believe that a grand council was held, Lucifer rebelled, and there was war in heaven. I believe also that there was created as a place where spirits could obtain bodies of flesh and bones, and that earth life was designed as probationary state. Further, it is my conviction that there was a fall of Adam, that an atonement was made by Jesus Christ, and that after mortal life we all enter the spirit world to await the resurrection. A judgement will follow, and each person will be assigned to a kingdom to which he is best suited-some to become gods and goddesses, others to become angels, and some to become sons of perdition. I know there is a God, who has a body of flesh and bones, and I know there is a devil. I know there is a heaven, and I know there is a hell.
The entire plan as taught in the scriptures indicates that God is in charge and that there is order in his designs. God has a plan and he has every necessary power and ability to carry out that plan to the fullest extent and to the minutest detail. Given these scriptural witnesses, our concept of God must be that he is perfect and has all power and knowledge, that he does not lack in any particular, and that no being can prevent, alter, or overturn his desires. This is the God of the scriptures and of the prophets. This is the message of the first three of the lectures on faith taught in the School of the Elders during the Kirtland period. There is order and unity in the plan that God has revealed. Thus, as we study the scriptures and read of the premortal existence, of mortality, and of the life beyond, we discover that there is security and wholeness in the way the gospel is unfolded in these sacred records.
In this chapter I wish to focus On three aspects of the plan of God and how they relate to an understanding of the origin of man. These three aspects are the Creation, the fall of man, and the atonement of Jesus Christ. Each of these is an item of history that actually took place in time and space, but all of them are beyond our immediate conscious frame of personal experience and remembrance; thus we have to depend on what we can learn of them from other sources, preferably from the revelations of God. The revelations are the only source from which we can obtain accurate information on these three subjects. Furthermore, if we accept the idea that God is perfect, we automatically come to the conclusion not onlythat God has a plan but also that this plan is the only right plan. Moreover, we can see that each part of the plan is essential to the function of every other part of the plan.
The Creation of the Earth and of Man
By the term creation I mean the creation of the world, man, animals, and so on. I don't know how long it took to create the earth or how it was done. Two of the informational contributions given by the scriptures and the prophets are that the Creation was accomplished by the Father through his Only Begotten Son and that the Creation was done for a specific purpose. Latter-day revelation shows that the purpose of the earth is ( I ) to provide a place for our spirits to get a body of flesh and bones, (2) to provide a place for embodied spirits to live ill a probationary state, and (3) to provide eventually an eternal celestial sphere upon which those beings who lived on this earth may dwell--a sanctified place which even God the Father will visit. The scriptures explain that the earth was deliberately formed or organized for these very definite purposes. (See Moses 2-3; 1 Nephi 17:36; D&C 49:15-17; Abraham 3:24-25; Alma 12:24; 42:4, 10, 13; D&C 88: 17-20, 25.)
The Fall of Man
We will next consider the fall of man. In doing so, it must be emphasized that mankind's fallen condition, the condition brought about by the fall of Adam, is a step beyond that state in which the world and man were found when first created. That is to say, the conditions that characterize the mortal world and with which you and I are acquainted are not the same conditions that characterized the world at its creation, as described in the early chapters of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham. New conditions were introduced, and the scriptures say this change was the result of the Fall.
More specifically, the world as we know it is really the result of a three-step process, and it is necessary that we view each step in its proper sequence and that we use the proper terminology to describe all three. We should speak of the ''spirit creation,'' the physical spiritual creation,'' and the "mortal, or temporal, creation.'' Thus the full process of creation as we know it was not complete until there had been a fall. Creation was a joint venture: we know that God created the world, but it was Adam and Eve who brought about the Fall.
The scriptural account of the Creation tells us that there was a spirit creation, but it does not give us a detailed record of it. All we know is that there was such a creation. All things-people, animals, plants-existed as spirits before anything existed physically on the earth. (See step 1 on the accompanying chart.)
As created physically during the six periods of creation, the earth and everything in it were physical, or tangible, in their nature, but spiritual in their condition (see 2 Nephi 2:22; Moses 3 :9). That is, there was no blood in the veins, no death, no children, and no sin. In this step, the plants and animals were placed upon the earth on the third, fifth, and sixth days; Adam and Eve were placed here on the sixth day, after the animals. (See step 2 on the accompanying chart.)
When Adam and Eve partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a change came over them--they became mortal. This brought upon them, first, the spiritual death, which means separation from the presence of God, or alienation from the things of God--to die as to things of righteousness. This death came upon Adam and Eve as a result of, and soon after, the transgression. The Fall also introduced physical death, although Adam did not die that death for nearly a thousand years: yet as Abraham points out, Adam experienced the physical death within a ''day'' of the Lord's time, since the earth was on the Lord's time when the promise was made that man would die within a day. Our present form of reckoning was not given to man until after the Fall. (See Abraham 5: 13.)
As a result of the transgression of Adam and Eve, blood, death, reproduction, and sin entered the world. This change came upon not only Adam but also the whole creation, and so the earth and all life became part of the mortal, fallen world we now know. Although in sequence Adam was placed upon the earth after the animals, he was the first to become mortal--the ''first flesh'' (Moses 3:7). (See step 3 on the accompanying chart.)
At this point we should note that each of us, since the Fall, has come directly from the premortal spirit world into mortality, whereas Adam and Eve--and whatever animals, birds, and plants were placed upon the earth at the physical-spiritual creation--went through the in-between stage (step 2 on the chart).
This in-between stage--that is, the physical-spiritual creation described in Genesis I and Moses 2--was a necessary stage to set up the program and enable man to bring about the conditions of mortality. In the garden Adam and Eve had physical bodies to house their eternal spirits, but those physical bodies were living subject to spiritual conditions. They were real bodies with tangible muscle and bone, but they did not contain blood. This was a physical creation under spiritual conditions. It was deathless. Doctrine and Covenants 88:27 describes resurrected beings as spiritual. They are physical but also spiritual. Saying they are "spiritual" bodies is different that saying they are "spirit" bodies. This is the same sense in which Paul uses the term spiritual bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:44-46.
The Importance of a Divine Plan
Before going further and discussing specific items relative to the Atonement, let us look first at some other pertinent issues. In considering the doctrines of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement and how they relate to a correct understanding of man's origin, it is absolutely essential that we acknowledge and remember that there is a perfect, eternal plan and that it existed in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. The end was known ever since the beginning. And everything in between was also known to God.
The whole plan is one eternal 'now'' in the mind and vision of God. Every day is a clear day with the Lord, and he can see forever. It is as Nephi stated: ''The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words'' (I Nephi 9:6).
That God has a plan for mankind is mentioned at least twenty-eight times in latter-day scripture. These scriptures give various names for the divine plan, such as the following:
''Great and eternal plan'' (Alma 34:16)
In contrast, the bible does not speak specifically of a divine plan. However, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible restores to the biblical record at least' one direct reference to God's plan (see Moses 6:62). Evidently this concept is one of the plain and precious concepts taken away from tile Bible (see I Nephi 13).
The plan of God calls for a creation, a fall that brings two kinds of death, a probationary period, a set of commandments and ordinances, an infinite atonement by a God, a resurrection, a judgment, and an assignment to one's everlasting destiny. It would destroy the plan if any part or any step were changed or omitted (see Alma 42:8). The plan is a package--none of it is superfluous, none is optional. The whole of it is ''fitly joined together'' by that which ''every joint supplieth'' (Ephesians 4:16).
Organic Evolution Not Part of Plan
Clearly, the items we have so far discussed (as well as the accompanying chart) do not provide for organic evolution. Nor do they need to. It is not my intention to attack the evolutionist, but I will point out what I see in the theory of evolution that is inconsistent with the revelations. While I do not agree with the concept of organic evolution for the origin of man, that does not mean I have ill will toward the evolutionist. This is not an indictment against anyone's goodness but rather a statement about what I believe the scriptures say.
There are particular things in the revealed accounts of the Creation and of the fall of man that, in my mind, preclude organic evolution from being the process by which man's body was created on this earth. To accept organic evolution as the process by which man came upon the earth is to say that the processes of birth and death, including the element of blood, existed upon the earth before the fall of Adam. This seems contrary to the teachings of the scriptures, for in several instances the scriptures say that it was Adam who introduced death and also reproduction. If those scriptural teachings are correct, l do not see how there could have been death or reproduction before Adam or how Adam's body could have been the offspring of animal life on this earth. It simply is not theologically sound for Adams pedigree chart and family group sheet to show him at the bottom of a list of animal ancestors.
Thus, it seems to me that to accept the concept of organic evolution as the origin of man's physical body would be to negate and deny the doctrine of the fall of Adam: to do so would be to seriously alter the plan of salvation as it has been revealed to us.
The Idea of Theistic Evolution
Some have developed a hypothesis asserting that God created Adam by the evolutionary process. This is sometimes labeled "theistic evolution" and is an attempt to harmonize what is perceived as scientific evidence for organic evolution on the one hand with faith in God and the divine origin of man on the other. The theistic evolutionist often speaks of a guided evolution, in which God intervenes in the process. There are those in and out of the Church who, because they believe in a divine being, sincerely attempt to hold to both the theory of evolution and their faith in God as creator. It is my opinion that in the eternal plan of God these two positions are incompatible, and that a person cannot ascribe to both if he understands what the issues are. I am not qualified to discuss the scientific issues, but I am somewhat acquainted with the doctrinal and theological issues. I am aware that there are varieties of theistic evolution and that not all its advocates see it in precisely the same way. But it appears to me that there is a fundamental sameness among all brands of evolution that makes them discordant with the revelations recorded in the scriptures.
The Fixed Principles of the Plan of God
Let us examine some statements from the scriptures and from the Prophet Joseph Smith that provide guidelines for understanding any gospel subject and that can also assist us in evaluating the theory of organic evolution. Undergirding these statements are the concepts that a plan existed in the mind of God before the world was created, that the earth and all things in the earth were created as part of that plan, and that the plan is based on certain fixed principles.
Consider the following from Joseph Smith the Prophet:
All men know that they must die.... What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.... Could you gaze into heaven five minutes. you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.
We are only capable of comprehending that certain things exist, which we may acquire by certain fixed principles. If men would acquire salvation, they have got to be subject, before they leave this world, to certain rules and principles, which were fixed by an unalterable decree before the world was....
The organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeable to the most perfect order and harmony: their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to in their heavenly estate by themselves, and were by our first parents subscribed to upon the earth. Hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth by all men upon the earth that expect eternal life.
I assure the Saints that truth, in reference to these matters, can and may be known through the revelations of God in the way of His ordinances, and in answer to prayer.'
And again from Joseph Smith:
In the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, a footnote apparently written by Joseph Fielding Smith makes the following comment about the Prophet's statement above: ''This very positive statement by the Prophet,. that every tree, plant, and herb, and evidently every other creature cannot produce except after its kind is in harmony not only with the scriptures but also with all known facts in the world.''
Note that the Prophet is very definite in his pronouncements about ''fixed principles'' that are ''unalterable''and that pertain to the earth and to man. He said these fixed principles were ordained and established before the earth came into existence. Continuing the Prophet described gospel ordinances in the same terms as these fixed principles--they are all part of the plan of salvation:
Upon the same principle do I contend that baptism is a sign ordained of God, for the believer in Christ to take upon himself in order to enter into the kingdom of God, ''for except ye are born of water and of the Spirit ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of God '' said the Savior. It is a sign and a commandment which God has set for man to enter into His kingdom. Those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain; for God will not receive them, neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not obeyed the ordinances, nor attended to the signs which God ordained for the salvation of man to prepare him for and give him a title to a celestial glory: and God had decreed that all who will not obey His voice shall not escape the damnation of hell.
None of us will question what the Prophet said about the necessity of baptism. But do we catch the full force of his statement? He indicated that everything in the plan of salvation--which includes creation, reproduction, and baptism--is governed by the same set of fixed unalterable principles. Each item is indispensable to the operation of the whole plan.
The Prophet further explained that baptism, the priesthood, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are all essential for salvation and are all governed by fixed principles that permit neither variation nor omission. Since that is the case with the ordinances, can we not also see that such things as the creation of the earth and of men, the fall of Adam, and the introduction of death, sin, and reproduction were also accomplished on the basis of God's fixed principles? These are part of the same eternal plan of salvation, all aspects of which are essential and none of which cam be rationalized away or omitted.
Notice the way Alma 42:6-8 is worded. This passage points out as many others do that death is an integral part of the plan of God. If death were omitted. ''it would destroy the great plan of happiness'' (Alma 42:8). Alma doesn't say that the omission of death would merely alter, affect, or inconvenience the plan; he says it would destroy it. There is at least a suggestion here that the plan of God isn't subject to change.
These statements from the Prophet Joseph and the scriptures are clearly an affirmation or declaration that everything is governed by the laws of God that were established before the world was formed. Similar affirmations are found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Note that all of the following passages emphasize that the law was established before the world was created:
There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world upon which all blessings are predicated-- And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated (D&C 130:20-21 ).
For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world (D&C 132:5).
Behold mine house is a house of order saith the Lord God and not a house of confusion.
I am the Lord thy God and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was (D&C 132:28).
What I am saying is that, on the basis of what the Prophet Joseph Smith has said and what the Lord has said, we have no more right to alter the Lord's declaration about how he created man or how man fell and became mortal than we have to alter the revealed methods of baptism, ordination, and so on. The Creation and the Fall are as much a part of the plan of salvation as baptism or any of the ordinances are.
In seeking to understand the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement in relation to the origin of man, we would do well to remember an observation made by the Prophet Joseph Smith during his King Follett discourse: ''In the first place, I wish to go back to the beginning--to the morn of creation. There is the starting point for us to look to, in order to understand and be fully acquainted with the mind, purposes and decrees of the Great Elohim, who sits in yonder heavens as he did at the creation of this world. It is necessary for us to have an understanding of God himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it be a hard matter to get right."
The Prophet's declaration about the importance of getting started right and his warning about the dangers of getting started wrong invite all of us to look to the key passages of the scriptures that deal with the nature of God, the premortal existence, the Creation, the Fall, and the mission of Jesus Christ as the chief sources for our understanding of what took place. In this way we can discover what laws governed those events.
I once learned some fixed principles for myself in a geometry class. We learned, for instance, that there were unvarying rules for determining certain unknown measurements of a triangle. There are just two requirements: first, a person has to be given enough basic information about the triangle; second, he has to know the fixed principles involved. If these requirements are met, a person can discover the unknown or unstated measurements of a triangle as accurately as though they were stated. For example, it is a fixed rule that the sum of the three angles of a triangle is always 180 degrees. This sum never varies; it cannot vary. Thus if a person is given the sizes of two angles of a triangle he can compute the size of the third angle with perfect confidence of accuracy.
The Prophet Joseph used this same kind of reasoning and deduction in determining some doctrinal principles. For example, he concluded that Noah was baptized and ordained by the laying on of hands, even though the scriptures do not expressly so slate. He knew how to arrive at the right conclusion because he knew the fixed principles involved. We read from the
Prophet's teachings: ''Now taking it for granted that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say we have sufficient grounds to go on and prove from the Bible that the gospel has always been the same; the ordinances to fulfill its requirements, the same, and the officers to officiate, the same; and the signs and fruits resulting from the promises, the same: therefore, as Noah was a preacher of righteousness he must have been baptized and ordained to the priesthood by the laying on of the hands, etc."
On this same basis, I am saying that if we will listen and understand what the revelations and the Prophet Joseph are telling us about the fixed principles--about the laws of God that governed the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement--we will have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the eternal plan that we will not be seduced by, or drawn into an acceptance of, any false concept at the expense of gospel principles and the mission of Jesus Christ. If we don't know the doctrine or the scriptures, however, we might find ourselves making such trade-offs.
The scriptures do not always answer directly each question that might arise concerning a given topic. But if we know the principles involved we can generally arrive at an acceptable answer in the same way that we can determine the measurements of a triangle, or the way the Prophet concluded that Noah was baptized. We do this by first considering the known facts and formulas involved and then arriving at a conclusion based on those known principles. Then we should examine our conclusion to ensure that it does not run counter to other known principles. This is what makes scripture study fascinating and challenging. The more you learn the more you are able to learn, and whole areas of understanding open up to you that before were hidden.
However in all of this we need to exercise caution. Our judgment must be guided by the known truths. The Prophet Joseph Smith warned: ''A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful, and ponderous, and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity--thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.''
Theistic Evolution Not Consistent With Revelation
Speaking more specifically now, What is wrong with a belief in theistic evolution as an explanation for the origin of man? That is what is erroneous about believing that God created Adam, or mankind, by the evolutionary process? I do not know of any passage of scripture that says categorically: ''Organic evolution is wrong.'' But we can work out an answer by examining the principles involved. A verse from the book of Isaiah can serve as a kind of formula: ''To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them'' (Isaiah 8:20).
Probably the first signal we get that something might be wrong with the idea of organic evolution is that it omits the need for a fall of the kind described in the scriptures. The scriptures say that the fall of Adam introduced death and also reproduction (Moses 5:11; 6:48: 2 Nephi 2:22-25).
Furthermore, 2 Nephi 9:6-9 plainly says that the fall of Adam introduced two kinds of death--the spiritual kind and the physical kind--and thus laid the groundwork for a Savior who would need to atone for these two deaths. Several scriptures connect the mission of Jesus Christ directly to the fall of Adam. Consider the following:
Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. (2 Nephi 2:25-26.)
For as death hath passed upon all men to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Wherefore it must needs be an infinite atonement.... . . . For behold he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. (2 Nephi 9:6-7, 21.)
Behold he created Adam and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man. (Mormon 9:12.)
Because that Adam fell we are; and by his fall came death: and we are made partakers of misery and woe.... Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten. (Moses 6:48, 58-59; see also vv. 49-54.)
Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.
On the basis of the foregoing scriptures it appears that any theory or concept that lessens the importance of the fall of Adam or omits it from the plan of salvation, also lessens or omits, to the same extent, the redeeming mission of Jesus Christ. Hence to erase or ignore the fall of Adam and its effects is to remove the need for the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
Organic Evolution Is a Moral Issue
Let us examine what a person gives up if he denies or omits the fall of Adam from the plan. First of all, such a person says, in effect, that Adam did not introduce physical death or reproduction into this world, since these two processes, or conditions, would have been here on the earth and been operative before Adam was here; these processes would have been the means by which he got here. Taking this theoretical position is tantamount to disposing of the fall of Adam. The theory of evolution thus requires a reversal of the scriptures regarding physical death and also reproduction, and those who believe in evolution seem to accept this reversal without a whimper.
Second (and this seems very important), if one omits the Fall, it is but a short step to begin to deny man's spiritual, as well as his physical, fall. The scriptures teach that the fall of Adam not only brought physical death but also was the means of introducing sin and the consequent spiritual death--an alienation from the things of God--into the world. What happens when we omit the Fall? We also say that it was not Adam who introduced spiritual death! From a moral standpoint, if one omits the Fall as the source of sin, it is easy to rationalize sin right out of the picture and say that what the scriptures call sin, or transgression, really doesn't involve a moral infraction. Why? Because, according to this philosophy, sin has always been here and did not involve the breaking of a commandment of God.
It appears that, to be consistent, the evolutionist must deny not only that Adam brought about physical death and reproduction but also that he introduced sin and spiritual death. Even if an individual teacher who advocates this theory is willing to forgo the Fall as the source of physical death, is he also prepared to accept the moral responsibility of saying that sin is not sin? or of saying that man is not responsible and accountable for his own actions?
Such teachings sound very much like the doctrine of Korihor. Someone who professes atheism would perhaps be willing to advocate this kind of philosophy, but how can a so-called believer do so? Although probably only a ''believer'' would be interested in the seeming compromise offered by theistic evolution, his acceptance of it would necessarily force him to deny what God has said about the origin of sin. Such a denial, it seems to me, creates an untenable position for a theistic evolutionist. It may be that the believer who accepts this theory has simply never thought it out to its logical, moral conclusions.
Are there other aspects of organic evolution that are incompatible with the plan of salvation? Yes, I believe there are. For instance, evolution functions on the concept of survival of the fittest and natural selection. It is jungle law. As such it is basically materialistic, animalistic, and earthy, and does not have its roots in mercy, justice, agency, or love. Since mercy, justice, agency, and love are attributes of God, it seems simply inconsistent with God's character that he would originate and implement a particular plan for the placement of man on this earth that did not have His attributes as its most prominent features. As I see it, organic evolution is therefore inconsistent with the character of God.
Sometimes we espouse a doctrine or belief not realizing what the full consequences or implications of that concept might be. If we begin with right and true principles--that is, the proper doctrinal framework--we will not collide with other right and true principles. But if we espouse a false concept, even if it seems at first to ease the tension between science and religion, we will find upon examining its broader implications that it comes into conflict with or contradicts some other known true principle. ''If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it be a hard matter to get right.'' Because it is inconsistent with the latter-day scriptures, theistic evolution as an explanation for the origin of man seems to me to be founded on a false premise, and thus I feel this theory will, in the end, be an embarrassment and a millstone around the necks of those who espouse it.
Why the Lord Did Not Simply Create Man Mortal
Other questions that arise in association with theistic evolution include the following: Why didn't the Lord simply create man in a mortal, fallen state? Why cause him the trauma and difficulty of facing conflicting commandments? Did Adam obey God's will when he partook of the fruit? If so, why was he punished?
We do not yet have the complete story of the fall of Adam, nor do we know all of the elements and circumstances that were operative in that event--that is, in the process of Adam and Eve's becoming mortal. If we had more of the facts, I believe we would see that it was all accomplished in a very orderly way and according to eternal principles and procedures. Hidden behind the story of the rib and the forbidden fruit are some deeper meanings.
Consider these words from President Joseph Fielding Smith:
"Why did Adam come here? Not subject to death when he was placed upon this earth, there had to come a change in his body through the partaking of this element--whatever you want to call it, fruit that brought blood into his body; and blood became the life of the body instead of spirit. And blood has in it the seeds of death, some mortal element. Mortality was created through the eating of the forbidden fruit, if you want to call it forbidden, but I think the Lord has made it clear that it was not forbidden. He merely said to Adam, if you want to stay here [in the garden] this is the situation. If so, don't eat it."
One can tell that President Smith did not view the Fall as a tragic miscarriage of, or impediment to, the purposes of God. It was just the opposite--the Lord wanted Adam to fall. Mortality was an essential step in the progress of the human family. President Smith said he understood the Lord's words to Adam to mean that Adam was forbidden to stay in the garden if he ate a particular fruit--not that he was absolutely forbidden to eat the fruit in the first place. That clarifies a vital point.. and I appreciate the spiritual insight of this great latter-day prophet and theologian.
Now let us consider the query, Why didn't God just create man mortal and thus save him the trauma and experience of a fall brought to pass through transgression and seemingly conflicting commandments? There are in the scriptures no one-sentence answers to this question, but we have been given enough knowledge concerning God's plan to think through a possible response. In the plan of salvation God does for human beings only what they cannot do for themselves. Man must do all he can for himself. The doctrine is that we are saved by grace, ''after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). If Adam and Eve had been created mortal, they would have been denied one of the steps in the process that they were capable of performing themselves. As we read ill the Book of Mormon, man ''brought upon himself'' his own fall (Alma 42: 12). Since the Fall was a necessary part of the plan of salvation, and since man was capable of bringing about the fallen condition himself, he was required--or rather it was his privilege--to take the necessary steps.
Furthermore, the Lord has told us that he does not create temporal or mortal conditions nor function on a mortal level. Notice this interesting statement:
As the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit. For by the power of my Spirit created I them: yea, all things both spiritual and temporal--
First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work--
Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning: but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.
Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal: neither any man, nor the children of men: neither Adam, your father, whom I created.
Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual. (D&C 29:30-35.)
I take this statement and explanation by the Lord to be another of those universal fixed principles of eternity. Since the Lord works by law, I take it that he could not create Adam and Eve as mortals because in so doing he would have been creating man by a temporal, mortal law, an area in which he says he is not engaged. God did not need to create our first parents in a fallen condition anyway, because Adam and Eve, by their agency, were capable of bringing about the Fall quite effectively.
If God had created man mortal, then death, sin, and all the circumstances of mortality would be God's doing and would be eternal and permanent in their nature (see Ecclesiastes 3:14); whereas if man brings the Fall upon himself, he is the responsible moral agent. and Cod is able to rescue and redeem him from his fallen state. Moreover, Adam and Eve's having brought about the Fall themselves made them subject to punishment or reward for their actions. A little reflection upon these matters leads one to conclude that the Fall was accomplished in the very best possible way. As Lehi said about the Fall and the Atonement, ''All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things'' (2 Nephi 2:24).
We can benefit from the observation of Elder Orson F. Whitney, who said, ''The fall had a twofold direction--downward, yet forward.'' It is as the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "Adam was made to open the way of the world.'''' Adam and Eve had the privilege of getting things under way by their own actions.
This is far better than their being created mortal and sinful. Here we might also observe that, since Adam opened the way of the world, it follows that there could not have been such worldly things as death, birth, sin, and reproduction going on before Adam's transgression--that is before he opened the way.
I am in no position to speak for the Church or for the Brethren, but I want to express my personal belief on the subject of the creation of Adam. I believe that Adam's physical body was the offspring of God literally (Moses 6:22); that he was begotten as a baby with a physical body not subject to death, in a world without sin or blood; and that he grew to manhood in that condition and then became mortal through his own actions. I believe that Adam's physical body was begotten by our immortal celestial Father and an immortal celestial Mother and thus not into a condition of mortality a condition which would have precluded Jesus from being the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh (D&C 93:11)--flesh meaning mortality. Jesus' physical body was also begotten of the same celestial Father but through a mortal woman and hence into mortality.
Commenting on Luke 3:38 (''Adam which was the son of God'') Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: ''This statement found also in Moses 6:22 has a deep and profound significance and also means what it says. Father Adam came, as indicated, to this sphere gaining an immortal body because death had not yet entered the world. (2 Ne. 2:22.) Jesus, on the other hand was the Only Begotten in the flesh meaning into a world of mortality where death already reigned.''
Evolution would place Adam's body as the offspring of animals, each generation having gradually evolved and improved in structure and in intelligence until a creature came into being that was more man-like than animal-like. This seems to me such a time-wasting process. We know that God can beget children: he is the Father of Jesus' body and has also begotten innumerable spirit children in his own likeness and image. Why would the Father resort to animal evolution to bring his very own family into the new world that he had created rather than he and the heavenly mother doing it in just one generation by begetting Adam themselves?
Surely we would not deny the heavenly parents the privilege of begetting their own children. If our heavenly parents were but spirits only, there might be some cause for expecting they would need an alternate way to produce Adam's body. But since they are tangible resurrected beings of flesh and bone, there seems to be no necessity to resort to the animals to produce bodies for Adam and Eve. How could Adam be called the son of God (Moses 6:22) if he were the offspring of animals?
Furthermore if Adam were the product of animal evolution it could hardly be said that he was created in the physical image of God; yet we know that the scriptures say man was created in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27). There is a very compelling passage in Mosiah that speaks of this same matter: ''He [Abinadi] said unto them [the Nephites] that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words he said that man was created after the image of God" (Mosiah 7:27). It is easy to see the thrust of that passage: The image of man in which Christ appeared was the same image in which man was created in the beginning, the image of God. The particular wording of this verse calls for a single and standardized image for man all along from the beginning--a Godlike image, not an image barely removed from that of a brute.
Before leaving this subject, I would like to address one other related issue. There are those among the advocates of theistic evolution who do believe in a version of the fall of man. The scenario goes something like this: In the physical creation God used the evolutionary process of natural selection and generation until an apelike animal was produced that was sufficiently advanced physically that God could place a man's spirit--namely Adam's--info the body instead of an animal spirit the latter having been used in all previous generations. This was the first man these theorists claim, and he was immortal at this point: hence, when Adam subsequently fell the effects of his transgression--death and the ability to produce children--applied only to man and not to the animals, those processes being already present in the animal kingdom.
Now, as I see it, a problem with this position is that it asks its adherents to accept the premise that advanced, wholly-mortal apelike beings (themselves subject to death and capable of reproducing) produced a man Adam who was not subject to death and who could not reproduce unless he transgressed in the garden. Thus, ironically, Adam had to transgress to become mortal like his apelike parents. This scenario seems to be an illogical situation from the standpoint of an evolutionist, whose emphasis is on the natural processes of reproduction and selection; the idea that Adam's mortal animal parents produced an immortal child seems to override, if not nullify, the natural evolutionary process.
These ideas thus raise more questions than they answer. How does the theistic evolutionist account for Adam's unique deathless situation, if his body was completely the product of mortal animals? Why did Adam not inherit death and reproduction from his parents? Would a theistic evolutionist who advocates the above scenario be willing to suggest that the scriptural statements about Adam's deathless and childless state do not really apply to our first parents? To so state would be tantamount to rejecting the plain declarations of the scriptures; and if a person does that, what has happened to the ''theistic'' part of his theory? How many scriptures can one neglect and still have theistic evolution? Moreover, the scriptures that relate to this subject cannot be dismissed on the grounds that they are archaic or translated incorrectly: the scriptures that speak of the Fall and its effects upon mankind are latter-day scriptures found in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Eternal Progression Not the Same as Organic Evolution
We frequently hear it said that the couplet "As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may become'' is an expression of evolution on such a grand scale that anyone believing in this statement should have no difficulty in accepting organic evolution. I agree that eternal progression is a kind of evolutionary process, but a little serious reflection will show that there is no parallel between that concept and organic evolution. Organic evolution is the change from a lower life-form to a higher life-form in a series of generations, involving a long line of different individuals. Eternal progression, on the other hand, is the process by which the same individual progresses from mortality to godhood. Organic evolution involves a change of species; eternal progression is change within the same species, for a spirit, a man, an angel, and a god are all of the same species, albeit in different stages of progression.
The Need for an Atonement
If we correctly view the creation of man and the fall of man according to the plan of God, the atonement of Jesus Christ falls right into place. The Fall and the Atonement are like two halves of a circle. Neither is complete without the other, nor can we understand the significance of one unless we can see it in relation to the other. Together they make a wholeness or completeness that is not available if they are only viewed separately.
The first matt, Adam, was created in an immortal, or deathless. condition, and by his transgression he fell. The Fall brought two deaths upon all mankind, neither of which man was able to pay for himself. ''As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive'' ( I Corinthians I5:22). The redemption is as broad in its influence as the Fall. Every person will die a physical death--none escape. Every person is shut out from the presence of God--none escape. Even little children who die would be shut out from the presence of God if no atonement had been made (Mosiah 3:16). Every person suffers two deaths, and every person is redeemed from both deaths. All will be raised from the grave; all will be brought back into the presence of God for the Judgment. (See Helaman 14:15-18: Mormon 9:12-13.)
Since the effects of the Fall dominate every mortal human being, redemption for mankind requires payment from One not dominated by the Fall, a condition which would enable this being to rescue man from what Jacob calls the ''awful monster . . . death and hell''--the two deaths (2 Nephi 9:10). The unusual circumstances of the birth of Jesus Christ were the means by which a spirit being, a God (namely, Jehovah). could come into the world and obtain a physical body not dominated by death, yet capable of dying. That is, God the Father was the father of Jesus' physical body, making Jesus the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh and the only one able to conquer death.
Because of his parentage, Jesus could have lived forever on this earth. He would never have had to die--so he literally gave his life for us. Had he been dominated by death, his giving up his life at age thirty-three would only have meant his giving up time. But he actually gave his life to pay a debt contracted by Adam's transgression and the sins of all people. He shed his blood and gave his life in payment.
According to the scriptures, the fall of Adam placed us all in a position in which we cannot save ourselves. A Redeemer, a Savior, is absolutely necessary.
Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer (2 Nephi 10:6).
The way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.... Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can, dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. (2 Nephi 2:4, 8.)
And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord: and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will....
Since death, blood, and obedience were the mediums of exchange used in Christ's atonement, it follows that there is a one-to-one relationship between the fall of Adam and the atonement of Jesus Christ. According to the scriptures, Adam's transgression brought the Fall, and the Fall brought death, blood, and sin. Jesus paid the penalty and satisfied justice with his own death (the payment of his life) and his own blood and his own obedience. The effects of the Fall had no complete hold on him, either physically or morally, because he was sinless and genetically the Son of God.
He overcame both kinds of death, bringing to pass the resurrection from physical death and the restoration of all people to the presence of God for judgment. It was in every sense a freewill offering, a ransom, a rescue, a redemption, performed by the only being capable of making such a payment. It was the sacrifice of a God, an infinite being (see Mosiah 13:28, 32; Alma 34:10-13; 42:15). This is what one of our Church hymns calls ''redemption's grand design."
If, as evolutionists seem to propose, mortality and death were original and perpetual conditions in the world, and if organic evolution was the process by which man came into being (without a fall in the scriptural sense), it seems illogical that eternal justice would require the sacrifice of a God for mankind's redemption. (For further discussions on the Atonement, see chapters 17 and 18 in this book.)
Summary and Conclusion
For the foregoing reasons, all of them taken from the teachings of the scriptures and the Brethren, I see the theory of organic evolution as contrary to the nature of God, insulting to the original status of man, and a subtle attack upon the mission of Jesus Christ. It may not seem so at first glance, but in terms of doctrine the theory of organic evolution is a concept that, if believed, would undercut the entire plan of salvation and our faith in the divinity and accomplishments of the Messiah.
There must be a simple, straightforward way to make this situation evident to honest believers who espouse so-called theistic evolution, believers who may not realize they harbor a philosophy that is not only contradictory but also destructive. I do not think it is harmless. The end result is disaster, because the tenets of organic evolution are contrary to the plan of God.
In review, then, what are the universal truths that are given to us in the scriptures that would have bearing on this subject?
First, there is an eternal, perfect plan. Accepting this concept enables us to see the larger picture and prepares our minds against any false doctrine. This is especially so when one accepts the whole plan, with all of its parts extending from the premortal existence to the final judgment. To pick and choose, to alter and adapt, are not acceptable intellectual options when one is dealing with the plan of redemption. In other words, we should not ''monkey'' with the plan of salvation. The provisions of the plan are not negotiable.
Second, there is order in God's plan; there are certain fixed principles that were in place before the world was formed. Therefore, the plan does not change. This concept can be another major stabilizing influence in our gospel studies.
Third, what sin is and how it got into the world are moral issues. If a person accepts organic evolution as the explanation for the origin of man on this earth, it seems he has to reject the explanation for the origin of sin that is given in every one of the standard works. Because of the moral implications of such a course, it seems to me that most ''believers'' would not be eager to do this.
We are able to turn to the scriptures for a statement of the principles related to man's origin, but in some ways, with regard to this particular matter, we who live today are in a situation more critical than that of any other people. The high degree of scientific progress today, the sophisticated methods of gaining knowledge and formulating hypotheses, and the current advances in tests and measurements have all tended toward more complex hypotheses about man's origin than those with which Lehi, Jacob, Abinadi, Alma, or even Joseph Smith had to deal. Matters are complicated also because the scientific method is regarded so highly in our society.
Therefore, we have to diligently search to understand the revelations well enough to find adequate explanations. The doctrinal framework has been given to us in the scriptures and by the prophets of this dispensation for our guidance and use. It takes considerable effort to comprehend it, but if we ignore it, we are left to our own limited understanding. We cannot be content with a mediocre acquaintance with the plan of God. What we are challenged to do is to find a way, a simple way, to put the doctrinal issues so clearly before our hearers that those with faith in the revelations and in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ will not unwillingly forsake the faith of our fathers--or of Elijah, Enoch, Nephi, and Joseph Smith--in order to try to be in harmony with what the world accepts.
Probably never before have believers in the scriptures had as great a need as they do now to grasp the iron rod of Lehi's dream to guide them through the subtle mists of darkness lest they wander in strange paths and become lost (see I Nephi 8: 19-21, 24,30). On scientific grounds, I cannot effectively answer the evolutionist, whether he be in or out of the Church; but I can see what the theological and moral issues are, and I can see that the theory of evolution is deeply entrenched in almost every discipline and field of study in which modern man is engaged.
It is a very popular philosophy, but it is capable of eroding men's faith because it undercuts what God has revealed about the doctrine of Christ. The erosive effects of this theory are subtle, and it may not appear harmful to many at first. However, because of evolution's inherent opposition to the mission of the Messiah, it may possibly be that in connection with this subject, more than with any other, everyone must eventually and individually answer Pilate's question, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" / (Matthew 27:22.).
Robert J. Matthews, "Origin of Man: The Doctrinal Framework," A Bible! A Bible! (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1990)