Church's stance on the theory of organic evolution

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The Church's stance on the theory of organic evolution

The Church has no official position on most matters that involve evolutionary theory, and each member is entitled to his or her own personal views on the subject

In the evolution debate, difficulties have arisen when readers assume that statements by certain leaders represent an official position beyond that expressed by the First Presidency as a body. As expressed by David H. Bailey, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and author of numerous articles on the relationship between Mormonism and science,

The LDS Church has a great scientific tradition, including notable, respected researchers in virtually every field of modern science. Indeed, our motto is “The glory of God is intelligence.” Why not just acknowledge that science and religion address two very different sets of questions, and that the methodology in one arena cannot settle controversies in the other?[1]

More recently, the Church's official magazine for youth, the New Era said this in 2016:

The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study. Nothing has been revealed concerning evolution. Though the details of what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created, have not been revealed, our teachings regarding man’s origin are clear and come from revelation.

Before we were born on earth, we were spirit children of heavenly parents, with bodies in their image. God directed the creation of Adam and Eve and placed their spirits in their bodies. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, our first parents, who were created in God’s image. There were no spirit children of Heavenly Father on the earth before Adam and Eve were created. In addition, “for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family.” They fell from that state, and this Fall was an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us to become like Him. (See Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Apr. 2015 general conference.)

For further reference, see “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, 78; Ensign, Feb. 2002, 29. See also Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (1992), “Evolution,” 2:478. [2]

Harold B. Lee's plea may be the wisest stance:

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.[3]

The Church's response: Official statements regarding organic evolution

Some general authorities and lay members have considered evolution to be at variance with scriptural teaching

Despite the fact that the Church has no official position on evolution beyond those expressed by the First Presidency (above), some general authorities and lay members have considered evolution to be at variance with scriptural teaching. This view is well summarized by Elder Bruce R. McConkie's statement, "There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution."[4] Other authors, including Joseph Fielding Smith, held similar views.

Other Church authorities and members have seen much of value in evolutionary theory, even if they have not endorsed every aspect of it. Examples include James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, and LDS chemist Henry Eyring.

Gordon B. Hinckley:

What the church requires is only belief 'that Adam was the first man of what we would call the human race.' Scientists can speculate on the rest.[5]

Learn more about evolution and creation
Key sources
Church—official stance
FAIR links
  • Trent Stephens, "Evolution and Latter-day Saint Theology: The Tree of Life and DNA," Proceedings of the 2003 FAIR Conference (August 2003). link
  • Ugo Perego, "What does the Church believe about evolution?," Proceedings of the 2017 FAIR Conference (August 2017). link
  • Ben Spackman, "'Through a Glass, Less Darkly: The 20th Century History of Genesis and Evolution'," Proceedings of the 2021 FAIR Conference (August 2021). link
  • Ben Spackman, "'Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation: Some Precursors to Reading Genesis'," Proceedings of the 2017 FAIR Conference (August 2017). link
  • Ben Spackman, "A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation," Proceedings of the 2019 FAIR Conference (August 2019). link
  • A. Kent Christiansen, webpage with letter to and from David O. McKay on subject of Church's official position. off-site
  • Eyring-L FAQ: Evolution off-site
  • Robert R. Bennett, "'Science vs. Mormonism: The Dangers of Dogmatism and Sloppy Reading, Review of Farewell to Eden: Coming to Terms with Mormonism and Science by Duwayne R. Anderson'," FARMS Review 18/2 (2006). [1–43] link
  • Clayton M. White and Mark D. Thomas, "On Balancing Faith in Mormonism with Traditional Biblical Stories: The Noachian Flood," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 40 no. 3 (Fall 2007), 85–110. PDF link
  • Duane E. Jeffery [Jeffrey in original], "Seers, Savants and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8 no. 3–4 (Autumn/Winter 1973), 41– PDF link
  • Edward L. Kimball, "A Dialogue with Henry Eyring," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8 no. 3–4 (Autumn/Winter 1973), 99–
  • Jeffrey E. Keller, "Discussion Continued: The Sequel to the Roberts/Smith/Talmage Affair," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 no. 1 (Spring 1982), 79–
  • Michael R. Ash, "The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 35 no. 4 (Winter 2002), 19–38. PDF link
  • Richard E. Sherlock and Jeffrey E. Keller, "'We Can See No Advantage to a Continuation of the Discussion': The Roberts/Smith/Talmage Affair," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 13 no. 3 (Fall 1980), 63–
  • Richard F. Haglund, Jr., "Science and Religion: A Symbiosis," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8 no. 3–4 (Autumn/Winter 1973), 23–
  • William Lee Stokes, "An Official Position," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 12 no. 3 (Winter 1979), 90–
  • Morris S. Petersen, "Do we know how the earth’s history as indicated from fossils fits with the earth’s history as the scriptures present it?," Ensign (September 1987):
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • James L. Farmer, "'The Clockmaker Returns, A Review of The Case for Divine Design: Cells, Complexity, and Creation by Frank Salisbury'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [139–146] link
  • David M. Belnap, "The Theory of Evolution is Compatible with Both Belief and Unbelief in a Supreme Being," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16/12 (4 September 2015). [261–282] link
  • David H. Bailey and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "Science and Mormonism," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 19/2 (4 March 2016). [17–38] link
  • Gregory L. Smith, "'Endless Forms Most Beautiful': The uses and abuses of evolutionary biology in six works," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 6/9 (23 August 2013). [105–164] link
  • Gregory L. Smith, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful”: The uses and abuses of evolutionary biology in six works," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship6(2013): 105-163.
  • Richard Sherlock, "A Turbulent Spectrum: Mormon Reactions to the Darwinist Legacy," Journal of Mormon History 5:1 (1978): 19–
  • Frank B. Salisbury, "Creation by Evolution? Review of Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding by Trent D. Stephens," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006). [313–319] link
  • Frank B. Salisbury, "'The Church and Evolution: A Brief History of Official Statements, Review of Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements by William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffery'," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006). [307–311] link
  • Richard Sherlock, "Mormonism and Intelligent Design," FARMS Review 18/2 (2006). [45–81] link
  • Michael F. Whiting, "'Lamarck, Giraffes, and the Sermon on the Mount (Review of Using the Book of Mormon to Combat Falsehoods in Organic Evolution by Clark A. Peterson)'," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5/1 (1993). [209–222] link

  • "The great flood," BH Roberts Foundation print-link.
  • Steven Peck, Why the Lamanite-DNA Question is Irrelevant (and why this means you should believe in evolution) (Blog entry)
  • 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), {{{pages}}} [1–31]. ISBN 0884947343. ISBN 978-0884947349. GL direct link
  • Trent D. Stephens, D. Jeffrey Meldrum, Forrest B. Peterson, Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2001), 1. ISBN 1560851422.
  • William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffrey, Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements (Draper, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2006), 1. ISBN 1589580931. off-site
  • Duane E. Jeffery, "Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions," Sunstone no. (Issue #134) (October 2004), 27–45. off-site
Sub categories


  1. David H. Bailey, Latter-day Creationism–A guest post by David H. Bailey!, Mormon Organon (28 October 2008).
  2. "What does the Church believe about evolution?," New Era (October 2016).
  3. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 29.
  4. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 256. GL direct link (read quote in context).
  5. Gordon B. Hinckley in 2002; cited in Elaine Jarvik, "Beliefs on Darwin's evolution vary from religion to religion," Deseret Morning News (19 January 2006).