Primary sources regarding Church leaders' statements about organic evolution/Mormon Doctrine


Of the several theories, postulated in one age or another to explain (without the aid of revelation) the origin of man and the various forms of life, none has taken such hold or found such widespread acceptance as the relatively modern so-called theory of organic evolution. Stated generally, this theory assumes that over long periods of times, and through a series of changes, all present living organisms or groups of organisms have acquired the morphological and physiological characters which distinguish them. The theory assumes that all present animals and plants have their origin in other pre-existing types, the distinguishable differences being due to modifications in successive generations. One or more common origins for all forms of life are assumed.

From the day of their first announcement, these theories of organic evolution found themselves in conflict with the principles of revealed religion as such are found recorded in the scriptures and expounded by inspired teachers. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 139-151.)

President John Taylor wrote as follows: "The animal and vegetable creations are governed by certain laws, and are composed of certain elements peculiar to themselves. This applies to man, to the beasts, fowls, fish and creeping things, to the insects and to all animated nature; each one possessing its own distinctive features, each requiring a specific sustenance, each having an organism and faculties governed by prescribed laws to perpetuate its own kind. So accurate is the formation of the various living creatures that an intelligent student of nature can tell by any particular bone of the skeleton of an animal to what class or order it belongs.

"These principles do not change, as represented by evolutionists of the Darwinian school, but the primitive organisms of all living beings exist in the same form as when they first received their impress from their Maker. . . . If we take man, he is said to have been made in the image of God, for the simple reason that he is a son of God; and being his son, he is, of course, his offspring, an emanation from God, in whose likeness, we are told, he is made. He did not originate from a chaotic mass of matter, moving or inert, but came forth possessing, in an embryotic state, all the faculties and powers of a God. And when he shall be perfected, and have progressed to maturity, he will be like his Father — a God; being indeed his offspring. As the horse, the ox, the sheep, and every living creature, including man, propagates its own species and perpetuates its own kind, so does God perpetuate his.

"Paul, in speaking on the resurrection, refers to the different qualities of flesh as follows: `But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, and another of fishes, and another of birds.' (1 Cor. 15:38-39.)

"These different qualities seem to be inherent in the several species, as much so as the properties of silver, gold, copper, iron, and other minerals are inherent in the matter in which they are contained, whilst herbs, according to their kind, possess their specific properties, or as the leading properties of earth, air, and water, are distinct from one another; and hence, on physiological grounds, this principle being admitted, and it cannot be controverted, it would be impossible to take the tissues of the lower, or, indeed, of any order of fishes, and make of them an ox, a bird, or a man; as impossible as it would be to take iron and make it into gold, silver, or copper, or to produce any other changes in the laws which govern any kind of matter. And when the resurrection and exaltation of man shall be consummated, although more pure, refined and glorious, yet will he still be in the same image, and have the same likeness, without variation or change in any of his parts or faculties, except the substitution of spirit for blood." (Mediation and Atonement, pp. 160-161.)

This aptly expressed and plainly worded statement from President John Taylor expresses the same views and perspective found in the writings and sermons of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, Charles W. Penrose, and many of our early day inspired writers. (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 1-563.)

The First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund), in November, 1909, issued a formal pronouncement under the title, "The Origin of Man," in which, as they expressed it, is set forth "the position held by the Church" upon the subject of evolution. After explaining the scriptural passages relative to the creation and pre-existence, this document concludes:

"Adam, our great progenitor, `the first man,' was, like Christ, a pre-existent spirit, and like Christ, he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a `living soul.' The doctrine of the pre-existence, revealed so plainly, particularly in latter-days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man's origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality. It teaches that all men existed in the spirit before any man existed in the flesh, and that all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner.

"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' (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of the race. 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.

"True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ or embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.

"Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal himself or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam's race — God alone can reveal them. Some of these facts, however, are already known, and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain.

"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 `destined order or sphere.' and will enjoy `eternal felicity.' That fact has been made plain in this dispensation. (D. & C. 77:3.)

"Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God." (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 354-355.)

Obviously there never will be a conflict between truths revealed in the realm of religion and those discovered by scientific research. Truth is ever in harmony with itself. But if false doctrines creep into revealed religion, these will run counter to the discovered truths of science; and if false scientific theories are postulated, these ultimately will be overthrown by the truths revealed from Him who knows all things.

Sometimes persons having a knowledge of the revealed truths of salvation and of the evolutionistic theories of the day keep these two branches of knowledge divided between separate mental compartments. Their purpose seems to be to avoid resolving the obvious conflicts which otherwise would arise. Truth, however, is truth, and ultimately every believing person must channel his mental processes so that proper choices are made as between the truths of salvation and the theories of men. Perhaps it will be profitable to list a few of the basic, revealed truths concerning the origin and destiny of man and of all life — truths which are not taken into consideration by evolutionists in their theorizing and which, in most instances, are diametrically opposed to the speculative conclusions reached by them.


— While it is true that evolutionists may be divided between theistic and atheistic groups, yet most of those professing belief in God consider him to be an indefinable force, essence, or power of an incomprehensible nature. According to revelation, however, he is a personal Being, a holy and exalted Man, a glorified, resurrected Personage having a tangible body of flesh and bones, an anthropomorphic Entity, the personal Father of the spirits of all men. (D. & C. 130:22-23; Moses 6:51, 57; Abra. 3:22-24; Jos. Smith 2:16-19.)

This Person, in whose image and likeness man is created, has ordained the same plan of creation and salvation for this earth, and all the varieties of life on its face, that he has ordained with reference to the infinite number of worlds elsewhere created by him. (Moses 1; D. & C. 76:22-24.) Obviously the eternal truths concerning the nature of the true God and his creative enterprises have received no consideration in the formulation of the theory of organic evolution.


— Life did not originate on this earth; it was transplanted from other and older spheres. Men are the literal spirit children, spirit offspring, of the Eternal Father; they were born to him as his spirit progeny, as spirit entities having bodies made of a more pure and refined substance than that comprising these mortal tabernacles.

Further, every form of life had a spirit existence in that eternal world before it came to dwell naturally upon the face of the earth; and that prior existence, for all forms of life, was one in which the spirit entity had the exact form and likeness of its present temporal body. Animals, plants, fowls, fishes, all forms of life existed as spirit entities in pre-existence; their number, extent, variety, and form were known with exactitude before ever the foundations of this earth were laid. They were all destined to live in their time and season upon this particular globe. (Moses 3:1-9; D. & C. 77:1-2.) There was no chance whatever connected with the creative enterprises. All things were foreknown to that God who fathered man in his own image and who created all other forms of life for the benefit and blessing of man. Evolutionary speculation takes no account of any such revealed knowledge as this.


— This earth, when first it rolled forth from the Creator's hand, was in a paradisiacal or terrestrial state. This condition, which does not now prevail, will be restored when the earth is "renewed" (made new again) and receives its paradisiacal glory. (Tenth Article of Faith.)

In its primeval, edenic state all of the earth's surface was in one place (Moses 2:9); thorns, thistles, briars and noxious weeds had not yet begun to grow on it; rather, all plant and animal life was desirable, congenial, and designed to provide for man (earth's crowning inhabitant) a fruitful, peaceful garden in which to dwell. It was not a condition attained by progressive, creative evolvement from less propitious situations; it was creation in its glory, beauty, and perfection; hence, the Lord God pronounced it "very good." The fall to present conditions was to come later. (Parley P. Pratt, Voice of Warning, chapter 5.)

Bearing on this general theme that the earth was created in its glory and perfection, in a higher type of existence than it now enjoys, is the revealed fact that, as is the case with man, the earth itself is passing through a plan of salvation. It was created (the equivalent of birth); it fell to its present mortal or telestial state; it was baptized by immersion, when the universal flood swept over its entire surface (Ether 13:2-11); it will be baptized by fire (the equivalent of baptism of the Spirit) in the day when it is renewed and receives its paradisiacal glory; it will die; and finally it will be quickened (or resurrected) and become a celestial sphere. Evolutionary theories take no account of any of this.


— Adam and Eve and all forms of life, both animal and plant, were created in immortality, that is, when first placed on this earth, all forms of life were in a state of immortality. There was no death in the world; death entered after the fall. All things existed in a state of primeval innocence. If conditions had not changed, death would not have entered the picture. Instead, as the revelations express it, "All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end." (2 Ne. 2:22.)

The recorded teachings of many of the early brethren of the Church bear this same testimony. Orson Pratt, for instance, has left us such apt expressions as these: "When the Lord made the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, to people the atmospheric heavens, or the watery elements, these fowls and fishes were so constructed in their nature as to be capable of eternal existence. . . . Man, when he was first placed upon this earth, was an immortal being, capable of eternal endurance; his flesh and bones, as well as his spirit, were immortal and eternal in their nature; and it was just so with all the inferior creation — the lion, the leopard, the kid and the cow; it was so with the feathered tribes of creation, as well as those that swim in the vast ocean of waters; all were immortal and eternal in their nature; and the earth itself as a living being, was immortal and eternal in its nature. . . . The earth was so constructed that it was capable of existing as a living being to all eternity, with all the swarms of animals, fowls, and fishes that were first placed upon the face thereof. . . . If there had been no sin, our father Adam would at this day have been in the Garden of Eden, as bright and as blooming, as fresh and as fair, as ever, together with his lovely consort Eve, dwelling in all the beauty of youth." (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 388-396.)

After this temporal creation, this creation of all forms of life in a state of immortality, the Lord God issued the decree that all created life should remain in the sphere in which it was after it was created. Further, having in mind the coming fall and consequent entrance of death and mortality into the world, the Lord in that first primeval day commanded that all forms of life, after mortality entered the picture, should bring forth posterity, each after its own kind. (Moses 2; 3.) These principles accord with the one announced by Paul that "All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." (1 Cor. 15:39.)

If the revelations are true which say that all life was created in immortality, then evolutionary theories which necessarily assume there was always death in the world are false.


— Before the fall there was neither death nor procreation. Plants, animals, and man would have continued living forever unless a change of condition overtook them; and in their then immortal condition they could not have reproduced, each after its own kind. Death and procreation pertain to mortality, that is, to the status and type of existence attained by all forms of life subsequent to the fall.

Lehi said: "If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 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 Ne. 2:22-26.)

Eve expressed the same truth in this language: "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." (Moses 5:11.)

Adam's fall brought temporal (natural) and spiritual death into the world. The temporal or natural death means that body and spirit separate, the spirit going to a world of waiting spirits to await the day of the resurrection, the body returning to the dust, the primal element, from which it was taken. The effects of this fall passed upon all created things. "Adam was appointed Lord of this creation," Orson Pratt says, "a great governor, swaying the scepter of power over the whole earth. When the governor, the person who was placed to reign over this fair creation, had transgressed, all in his dominion had to feel the effects of it, the same as a father or a mother, who transgresses certain laws, frequently transmits the effects thereof to the latest generations." (Man: His Origin and Destiny, p. 395.)

Thus when man fell the earth fell together with all forms of life on its face. Death entered; procreation began; the probationary experiences of mortality had their start. Before this fall there was neither mortality, nor birth, nor death, nor — for that matter — did Adam so much as have blood in his veins (and the same would be true for other forms of life), for blood is an element pertaining only to mortality. (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 362-365; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 76-77.)

Obviously, the whole doctrine of the fall, and all that pertains to it, is diametrically opposed to the evolutionary assumptions relative to the origin of species.


— Our Lord's atoning sacrifice is the cornerstone on which the whole gospel of salvation rests. For this atonement to come to pass, two things were necessary: 1. Christ had to come into the world as the literal Son of an immortal, personal Father, a Father who had life in himself and from whom his offspring in mortality would inherit power over death (John 10:7-18); 2. The fall of Adam had to introduce temporal and spiritual death into the world, for the atonement in its very nature was designed to ransom all things that fell from the effects of that fall. All forms of life are ransomed from the temporal effects of the fall in that they are resurrected and become immortal.

Now if Adam did not fall and bring death into the world, there would be no need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ. If there were no atonement to ransom fallen beings and creatures from the effects of the fall, there would be no resurrection, no immortality, no salvation, no eternal life; and if all these things should vanish away, we could discard God himself and our faith would be vain.


— Father Adam was the mightiest and most intelligent spirit son of God, save Jesus (Jehovah) only, among all the pre-existent hosts destined to come to this earth. (D. & C. 78:15-16.) When there was war in heaven following Lucifer's rebellion, Adam led the armies of the righteous in casting out the rebels. (Rev. 12:7-10.) When the populating of the earth was to commence, Adam came to fill his foreordained mission and stand as the first man of all men. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, fell in due course from his state of immortality and innocence, and became the first mortal flesh on earth. (Moses 2; 3.) There were no pre-Adamites. Any assumption to the contrary runs counter to the whole plan and scheme of the Almighty in creating and peopling this earth.

As a mortal man, Adam held the priesthood, had the fulness of the gospel, heard the voice of God and saw his face, received the ministration of angels, held the keys of the kingdom, enjoyed the gifts of the Spirit, was an intelligent and wise as any man (save Jesus only) who has ever lived; and, finally, having filled the full measure of his creation, he has gone on to his exaltation and glory in all things, and he will reign as a prince and ruler over his posterity forever. He and other men of his day enjoyed abundant spiritual endowments and possessed physical bodies superior to those of any men now on earth. Many, including Adam, lived nearly a thousand years on earth. (Moses 6; D. & C. 107:40-52.)

It is vain to belittle Adam and attempt to place him but a step ahead of some lower form of creature. Revelation speaks to the contrary. And, of course, the reasoning that concerns us here is: No Adam, no fall; no fall, no atonement; no atonement, no true religion, no purpose in life.


— Evolutionary theories assume that hundreds of millions of years were involved, first in the creation of the earth as a habitable globe, and again in the evolution of spontaneously generated, single celled forms of life into the complex and multitudinous forms of life now found on its face. We have rather specific scriptural indications that the creative period was of relatively short duration. The record says: "It was after the Lord's time, which was after the time of Kolob" (one day on which planet is equal to a thousand years of our time); "for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning." (Abra. 5:13.)

However, for our present purposes, it is sufficient to know that the time element since mortal life began on earth is specifically and pointedly made known. We are now nearing the end of the 6th thousand years of this earth's "continuance, or its temporal existence," and the millennial era will commence "in the beginning of the seventh thousand years." (D. & C. 77.) That is, we are approaching the end of the 6th of the periods of one thousand years each, all of which periods have occurred since the fall, since the earth became temporal, since it gained its telestial status, since it became the natural earth that we know, since death and mortality entered the scene. Thus the period during which birth, and life, and death have been occurring on this earth is less than 6,000 years.


— According to evolutionary theories, life will continue on this sphere with such changes, mutations, and developments as circumstances and environments require. Actually, however, future events involving the earth and all living things thereon will be as dramatic and divergent from what finite intellects might assume as past events have been. Our knowledge of these future events — events in no sense harmonious with progressive evolutionary development — gives us an entirely different perspective relative to the origin and development of species than the one assumed by evolutionists.

For instance: Evolutionary theories have no place in them for the imminent Second Advent of our Lord, a coming which will usher in the millennial era of peace. These theories give no consideration to the revealed facts that the elements are to melt with fervent heat when Christ comes; that "every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed" (D. & C. 101:24); that the earth will then be renewed, returning again to that paradisiacal state which prevailed before the fall; that the enmity of man and of beasts will cease; and that there will be no more death as we know it, men living instead (freed from disease and sickness) until they are an hundred years old when they will be changed to immortality in the twinkling of an eye. (D. & C. 101:23-32.)

Further: These theories take no account of the resurrection from the dead, that eventual status when all men (and all forms of life, every living thing that has ever breathed the breath of life, every animal, fish, fowl, or what have you!) will come forth as immortal, resurrected beings and creatures. (D. & C. 29:22-26; 77:1-3.) Nor do these theories give consideration to the fact that this earth itself is to pass through changes equivalent to death and resurrection, finally becoming a celestial sphere which will burn like the sun in the firmament, a planet on whose surface only celestial beings will then be able to live. (D. & C. 88:14-28; 130:7-9.)

How weak and puerile the intellectuality which, knowing that the Lord's plan takes all forms of life from a pre-existent spirit state, through mortality, and on to an ultimate resurrected state of immortality, yet finds comfort in the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state! Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?


— Merely to list the basic doctrines of the gospel is to point out the revealed truths which are inharmonious with the theories of organic evolution and which were to taken into account by those who postulated those theories. In addition to the considerations so far mentioned attention might be given to revelation, visions, and angelic ministrations; to miracles, signs, and gifts of the Spirit; to the enjoyment of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the faithful; to the truths comprising the plan of salvation; to the decreed judgment according to works, and the ultimate assignment of all resurrected men to kingdoms or degrees of glory hereafter.

There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966): 247-256