Primary sources/Evolution

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Statements made by Church leaders regarding evolution


This page is a chronology of statements from primary and secondary sources. Sources may be viewed by following the citation links.

This page collects the text of various statements about evolution made by a variety of Church leaders and members. These are unofficial statements, but serve to show the variety of opinions that have been expressed on the topic.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Ensign

Henry Eyring

(LDS chemist)

Improvement Era

Juvenille Instructor

Harold B. Lee

Perhaps if we had the full story of the creation of the earth and man told to us in great detail, it would be more of a mystery than the simple few statements that we have contained in the Bible, because of our lack of ability to comprehend. Therefore, for reasons best known to the Lord, He has kept us in darkness. Wait until the Lord speaks, or wait until that day when He shall come, and when we shall be among the privileged either to come up out of our graves and be caught up into the clouds of heaven or shall be living upon the earth likewise to be so translated before Him. Then we shall know all things pertaining to this earth, how it was made, and all things that now as children we are groping for and trying to understand.
Let's reserve judgment as to the facts concerning the Creation until we know these things for sure. [1]
The first great scientists were themselves devout Christians, who believed that in their scientific investigations they were but rethinking the thoughts of God. As blind as the atheist—or as the Bible calls him, the fool—is the religious man who makes his faith rest upon the question of how God created the world and how long it took. Man's major concern should not be an understanding of the ground from which he is brought forth, but the discovery of the will and purpose of the Creator. In other words, his major thoughts should not be in geology, but in theology, if he would be saved. [2]

Bruce R. McConkie

(apostle)

David O. McKay

(apostle and President of the Church)

Dallin H. Oaks

(apostle, former president of BYU)

Religious persons who pursue scientific disciplines sometimes encounter what seem to be conflicts between the respective teachings of science and religion and must work through how to handle these apparent conflicts. Others, such as I in my pursuit of business and law, can be less troubled. For me, that detachment ended when I was appointed president of Brigham Young University. This new position required me to search out, learn, and articulate answers to questions I had previously been privileged to ignore....
Colleges and universities must of course teach science--facts and theories--but Church educators, like the BYU faculty, refrain from substituting science for God and continue to rely on the truths of religion. IN the study of science, teachers and students with religious faith have the challenge to define the relationship of science and religion in their thinking. They have the special advantage of seeing countless scientific evidences of the Divine Creator. In those exceptional circumstances where science and religion seem to conflict, they have the wisdom to wait patiently in the assurance that truth will eventually prevail. In doing so, most conclude that religion does not have the answers to all questions and that some of what science "knows" is tentative and theoretical and will be replaced in time by new discoveries and new theories.
Some try to deal with apparent conflicts by compartmentalizing science and religion--one in one category, such as Monday through Saturday, and the other in another category, such as Sunday. That was my initial approach, but I came to learn its inadequacy. We are supposed to learn by both reason and revelation, and that does not happen when we compartmentalize science and religion. Our searchings should be disciplined by human reason and also enlightened by divine revelation. IN the end, truth has only one content and one source, and it encompasses both science and religion....
Latter-day Saints should strive to use both science and religion to extend knowledge and to build faith. But those who do so must guard against the significant risk that efforts to end the separation between scientific scholarship and religious faith will only promote a substandard level of performance, where religion and science dilute one another instead of strengthening both.
For some, an attempt to mingle reason and faith can result in irrational scholarship or phony religion, either condition demonstrably worse than the described separation. This danger is illustrated by the case of an international scholar who was known as an expert in English law when he was in America and as an expert in American law when he was in England. Not fully distinguished in either field, he nevertheless managed to slip back and forth between the two so that his expertise was never properly subjected to qualified review in either. As a result, he provided a poor imitation in both. A genuine mingling of the insights of reason and revelation is infinitely more difficult....
Each of us should pursue...truth by reason and by faith. And each of us should increase our ability to communicate that truth by an inspired combination of the language of scholarship and the language of faith.
I am confident that when we progress to the point where we know all things, we will find a harmony of all truth. Until that time, it is wise for us to admit that our understanding--in religion and in science--is incomplete and that the resolution of most seeming conflicts is best postponed. In the meantime, we do the best we can to act upon our scientific knowledge, where that is required, and always upon our religious faith, placing our ultimate reliance for the big questions and expectations of life on the eternal truths revealed by our Creator, which transcend human reason, "for with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). — Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 55–60.

Boyd K. Packer

(apostle, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President of the Quorum of the Twelve)

President Packer's views on the subject are available in:

Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," in Jacob through Words of Mormon: to Learn with Joy: papers from the Fourth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium, edited by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, distributed by Bookcraft, 1990), 1-31 [1–31]. ISBN 0884947343. ISBN 978-0884947349. GL direct link

Then-Elder Packer expresses the strong view that evolutionary processes do not apply to human beings, while being relatively unconcerned about the application of evolutionary concepts to other living things. He argues that accepting an evolutionary model for the creation of humans leads to the conclusion that the moral law can have no legitimate claim on human action.

Elder Packer notes:

Disclaimer: Only the Standard Works and statements written under assignment of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles are considered official declarations by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The talk which follows was given without such assignment and no such approval has been sought or given. The author alone is responsible for the views set forth therein. They do not necessarily represent the Church. (p. 1)

He also notes at the beginning of the essay that:

The article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author.

Out of deference to Elder Packer's request, no quotation from this article is included here, but the reader is encouraged to consult it in print form.

Stephen L Richards

(apostle and counselor in the First Presidency)

Joseph Fielding Smith

(apostle and later President of the Church)

  • Man, His Origin and Destiny, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954).GospeLink (requires subscrip.)

James E. Talmage

(apostle)


Mormonism and the theory of evolution

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Notes

  1. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 29. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  2. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 3434. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) Original source is Be Ye Not Deceived, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Provo (4 May 1965), 5.