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William (Bill) Dargan) graduated from UCLA in Zoology and is a retired Clinical Laboratory Scientist in Immunology.
Over 25 years ago, when my children asked me where the dinosaurs came from and several more questions about the Creation, I spent over a thousand hours in research and wrote a 250-page book in the course of providing them some answers. 10 years later, I condensed the main points of that book into this brief paper. However, with the exposure of our youth to more critical questions online, I have thought it a good time to share my findings.
By way of disclaimers, this is by no means an official publication of the Church or any other person or group. The views herein expressed are my sole responsibility, and it is still a work-in-progress. You will find some of my references to be imprecise, because I do not now have all of my original sources, but you should find more than a modicum of accurate reporting here. Some of my own speculations are also found here, but I have adopted virtually all of them from what others have written.
The paper, itself, treads naturally in the territory of opinions – and will until the Savior’s great revelation on earth history that is coming in the Millennium. Prophets can have their opinions, too, of course – and you will definitely find some here. True science will never conflict with true religion. I hope you enjoy this sometimes out-of-the-ordinary paper.
Introduction – Creationism Vs. Evolution
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine’ (Psalms 50:10-11).
Darwin and The Origin of Species
In 1859, Charles Darwin speculated that life began with a single-celled creature which spontaneously generated from the right combination of nutrients, energy, and organic chemicals in a primordial tide pool. Through the processes of reproduction, genetic mutation by random chance, and natural selection (also known as “survival of the fittest”), this cell supposedly evolved into more complex organisms, eventually giving rise to the trillions of types of plants and animals in the world, including man.
Although Darwin is reputed to have believed at first that this theory could be compatible with belief in God, his “origin of species” has, itself, evolved into a largely atheistic worldview. In this vision of history, there is no Supreme Being, no purpose to life, no soul, and no afterlife – only oblivion. Obviously, believing these things can put a whole new slant on life and behavior for both young and old. This focus might be exemplified by the words of a popular beer commercial: “You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can.”
The Theory of Evolution by Chance is Poor Science
The classical theory of organic evolution by chance is really a very poor scientific theory, and many scientists acknowledge this fact. Evidences against evolution include:
(1) By postulating that random chaotic things become more and more organized, it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics;
(2) Mathematically, the time required for such multiplicity of complexity to occur would be impossibly long;
(3) There is very little convincing evidence of missing links in the fossil records (if there were, the hybrid-species would be everywhere; instead, we seem to be looking at radical and rapid genetic transition);
(4) Experiments involving the bombardment of fruit flies with mutagens over the equivalent of millions and millions of years duration have never produced even one new species;
(5) The complexity of such organs as the vertebrate eye (where hundreds of parts would have had to simultaneously evolve for vision to occur) shows how truly impossible the theory is;
(6) It cannot account for the complexity of intracellular enzyme interactions; and,
(7) Symbiotic interrelationships among many species are often infinitely more complex than chance would allow.
And there are many more arguments against any proposed system that leaves the Lord out of it (see the Old Testament Institute Manual [Religion 301], pp. 34-36 for more information). The irony is: Only God could make organic evolution a workable process, because it really is such atrocious science without a Master Planner. Nevertheless, the theories of men do serve a purpose – by providing an alternative (logical or not) to belief in God. Thus, the principle of “opposites in all things” is preserved.
We Have the Big Picture, But Not the Details
In contrast to the ideas of men, the Scriptures tell us that God the Father created the universe through his Son, Jesus Christ and that nothing happened by accident (Moses 1:30-38). It was all for a wise and glorious purpose in Deity, whose goal was “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Unfortunately, God has not yet revealed many of the details of the Creation (those particulars will be divulged in the Millennium; D&C 101:32-34). But neither have we been totally left in the dark. The bottom line is: However he accomplished it, God was behind it. It was all by intelligent design.
Latter-day Saints are often asked what the official position of the Church is on such questions as (1) How old is the earth?; (2) Was there death before the Fall?; (3) Is there any truth to organic evolution?; (4) Where did the dinosaurs come from?; (5) By what means were the bodies of Adam and Eve created?; and, (6) Were there pre-Adamites (that is, men in the world before Adam), and, if so, where do they fit into the Gospel plan?
Some of the answers (make that proposed answers) will surprise you.
1 – How Old is the Earth?
SOME COMMON BELIEFS IN THE CHURCH:
(1) The earth is 6,000 years old (seven 24-hour days + 6,000 years);
(2) It is 13,000 years old (seven 1,000-year days [one day to God equaling 1,000 earth years; 2 Peter 3:8] + 6,000 years);
(3) It is hundreds of millions or even billions of years old (seven long time periods of unknown and not necessarily equal duration + 6,000 years).
OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE CHURCH: There is NO official position on the age of the earth.
“While it is interesting to note (the various theories), officially the Church has not taken a stand on the age of the earth…The Lord has not yet seen fit to formally reveal the details of the Creation…An attempt to establish any theory as the official position of the Church is not justifiable” (Religion 301 Manual, p.
POSSIBLE UNOFFICIAL POSITION? The earth is very old.
“(If)…Moses used the word day’ (Hebrew: “period of time”) (to refer to an undetermined length of time), then the apparent conflict between the scriptures and much of the evidence seen by science as supporting a very old age for the earth is easily resolved. Each era or day of creation could have lasted for millions or even hundreds of millions of our years…” (Religion 301 Manual, pp. 28-29).
2 – Was There Death Before the Fall?
SOME COMMON BELIEFS IN THE CHURCH:
(1) There was no death before the Fall. Adam was the “first flesh,” meaning the first to become mortal (Moses 3:7);
(2) There was death before the Fall. Prehistoric plants and animals were living and dying for millions of years before the traditional Biblical time of Adam. There were no men and few animals on earth when the Godhead came to the planet to place Adam on it, and everything was immortalized at that time. Adam then became the “first flesh” of all then-living things when he fell.
OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE CHURCH: There is NO official position on whether or not there was death before Adam came to the earth.
In Apr. 1930, the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, Anthony Ivins, & Charles Nibley) stated: “That there was no death on earth prior to Adam’s Fall is…declared to be no doctrine of the Church” (James E. Talmage, Personal Journal, 29:42). It is, however, an official doctrine that immortality existed on the earth at the time of Eden, and that Adam was the “first flesh” (Moses 3:7), meaning the first to become mortal after that.
POSSIBLE UNOFFICIAL POSITION? There was death before the Fall (in order to prepare the earth for man), but there was no death in Eden until the Fall.
The View of a Geologist-Apostle
In an August, 1931 address in the Tabernacle, discussing the Church’s reactions to geologists’ findings, Elder James E. Talmage of the Twelve, himself a geologist, concluded: “…By the scriptural record itself, we learn of stage after stage, age after age, of earth processes. By which eventually this planet became capable of supporting life – vegetable, animal, and human in due course…The oldest…rocks, thus far identified in the land masses, reveal the fossilized remains of once-living organisms, plant and animal…These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation” (Juvenile Instructor, DEC 1965, pp. 474-477).
In the Sep 1987 Ensign, Morris Peterson, BYU Geology Professor, quoted Elder Talmage in “I Have a Question: Do we know how the earth’s history, as indicated from fossils, fits with the earth’s history as the scriptures present it?” Bro. Peterson added: “Among the life forms God created were apparently many species now extinct. Fossil-bearing rocks are common on the earth, and these fossils represent once-living organisms, preserved now as part of the earth’s rocky crust.”
3 – Is There Any Truth to Organic Evolution?
SOME COMMON BELIEFS IN THE CHURCH:
(1) God made the animals from the dust of the ground, like molding clay (spontaneous morphogenesis);
(2) God transplanted all plant and animal life to earth from other planets;
(3) Evolution of lower to higher forms of life, including man (just like science teaches) is a fact, but it is divinely-guided;
(4) While plants may come from God and/or the other participants in creation planting seeds in the earth, divinely-guided evolution of animals is a fact, but not that of man!
OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE CHURCH: There is NO official position on evolution.
“…the Church, itself, has no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in his creation of the world; and much of the talk therefore about the philosophy of Mormonism is altogether misleading…” (Pres. Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, 46(4): 208-209, APR 1911).
Also: “…regarding certain theories which are being announced… regarding the earth, its age, creation, etc…until…the Lord speaks directly upon the matter…it would only be confusing for the First Presidency to make any statement regarding such things” (The First Presidency of David O. McKay, Stephen L. Richards, and J. Reuben Clark, Form letter dated 25 FEB 1959).
POSSIBLE UNOFFICIAL POSITION? Life may have been transplanted here from other mortal worlds, or it may have evolved through divine operation, or a combination of the two processes may be involved.
Evolution May Have Many Forms of Expression’
Animal transplantation is a fairly viable LDS thought. It is possible that participants in the creation placed parent stock of fauna upon the earth. Prof. Hyrum Andrus opined: “When it comes to the question of how spirit forms of life were given a physical organization on earth…the parent life from which the initial earth forms came existed on another sphere” (God, Man, and the Universe, pp. 350-353).
The Church takes no stand on evolution, except to say that, if it is a fact, there was no chance to it. John A. Widtsoe stated: “Latter-day Saints…do not deny that an evolutionary process, a reflection of the gospel law of progression, may be one of the methods of the Lord’s labor in the universe…The great law of evolution may have many forms of expression, far beyond man’s present comprehension…” (Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 159-165, 1960).
They Organized the Waters and the Earth to Bring Forth Life’
LDS thought may not be hostile to organic evolution, especially in the case of animals. Expressions in the scriptures that pertain to the creation of animal life have been considered by many to favor evolution more so than transplantation. To wit:
1)Let the earth bring forth the living creature’ (Moses 2:21).
2)Out of the ground, God formed every beast of the field…’ (Moses 3:19; Abraham 5:20).
3)Let us prepare the waters and the earth to bring forth life; so they organized them to bring forth life and saw that they would obey’ (Abraham 4:24-25,31).
Such wording might easily be construed to pertain to the manipulation of elemental physical particles, such as atoms and molecules, through the laws of molecular biology, genetics, and cell physiology.
Micro-Evolution May Evidence Macro-Evolution
Also: In the case of Noah’s Ark, the question is often asked: How could the limited number of animals on the ship account for all the many species today? Even Joseph Fielding Smith, who was opposed to the theory of evolution, conceded that the Lord must have used “micro-evolution” on selected representatives of families (such as cat-like animals, dog-like animals, etc.
) to account for species proliferation after the flood (Source: Man: His Origin & Destiny? [not sure]) . Commenting on this train of thought, Prof. Rodney Taylor wrote: “…the many varieties known today comprise the posterity of those animals preserved by Noah. The assumption that he gathered literally every creature from the merest insect to the largest mammoths need not have been the case. Within the micro-evolutionary bounds set by the Almighty, the surviving species have doubtlessly proliferated into a number of subspecies via genetic variation, cross-breeding, and environmental modification” (The Footstool of God, 1983, p. 117). This “micro-evolution” was no small matter, evidencing that macro-evolution is also within the Lord’s purview.
If It is God’s Way…’
In 1904, BYU Professor Nels Nelson wrote a book that so impressed Pres. Joseph F. Smith that he financed the publication. In it, we find this statement: “Ask me how God created the world, and I shall answer: In the way it could be created and not in the way it couldn’t.’ Ask me how long it took him, and I shall say: As long as it needed to take.’ That is the only commentary of Mormonism on the first chapter of Genesis…Surely (organic evolution / species mutability) is a sensible, an economical, a beautiful way of introducing variety into the flora and fauna of the earth; and if it is God’s way…let us accept it as a truth with all reverence and humility…” (The Scientific Aspects of Mormonism, pp. 66-71).
Part II of this article will be published on Wednesday, April 2.