Another Mormon deconverts, and we learn about the Church’s stand on evolution

May 1, 2015 • 8:45 am

A reader who doesn’t want to be identified wrote in with some information about how Mormons regard evolution (hint: not favorably). I’ll start with his/her “deconversion” story, which is short but emphasizes again the effectiveness of critiques of religion and paeans to reason on drawing people away from superstition.

I was raised a Mormon, but became an apostate at 17 and became an agnostic with religious yearnings until reading Harris, Dawkins and Pinker.  Your WEIT book has been the best reference for discussions I’ve had with both Mormon and God believing ex-Mormons who reject evolution.  The points you have made in the book makes their mental gears turn.
And now information about evolution (LDS stands for “Latter Day Saints,” part of the Church’s official name):

I thought you might be interested in an article published by the LDS Church’s newspaper:

The LDS Church has been saying there is no conflict between science and religion for years, yet there are few Mormons who accept evolution, and those who do reject speciation in favor of micro-evolution.  I have met only one Mormon who accepts that humans evolved from non-human animals.

The article describes the opening of a new Life Sciences Building at Brigham Young University (a Mormon college in Utah), and quotes Elder Russell M. Nelson, a former cardiothoracic surgeon and a member of one of the Church’s governing bodies, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Nelson is quoted in the Deseret News: “This university is committed to search for truth, and teach the truth,” said Elder Nelson. “All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from the Lord, it is compatible.”

Really? After all, the Book of Mormon says that Jesus not only visited North America, but that the Native Americans migrated here from the Middle East. The latter claim is completely refuted by the genetic evidence (Native Americans are genetically related to Siberians, as we expect since they came to the New World over the Bering Strait.) Of course Mormon theologians are busily trying to comport the genetic data with the book of Mormon, an amusing exercise I discuss in Faith vs. Fact.

And what about evolution? My ex-Mormon correspondent added this:

There’s a Pew article showing that only 22% of Mormons accept evolution.

In 1984, former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinkley wrote the following in the church magazine Ensign:
“I remember when I was a college student there were great discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it throw me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God. Since then I have become acquainted with what to me is a far more important and wonderful kind of evolution. It is the evolution of men and women as the sons and daughters of God, and of our marvelous potential for growth as children of our Creator.”
(The full article is here.) Hinkley was quoted in an article published in 2004 in the same church magazine.

A Mormon colleague told me that he took a human evolution class at BYU.  The professor spent some time trying to convince students that human evolution didn’t conflict with LDS beliefs and therefore wouldn’t harm faith.

Here’s the 2009 Pew graph showing acceptance of evolution among various faiths in America (the question asked is at the top). As usual, the question deals only with human evolution; I suspect that the numbers would be higher if people were asked about evolution of nonhuman life. But, as you see, Mormons, while above Jehovah’s Witnesses, who adamantly and explicitly reject evolution, are below Evangelical Protestants and have only half the evolution acceptance of Muslims. That’s pretty low for a faith in which religious truth is fully compatible with scientific truth!


There are 6.5 million Mormons in the U.S., and many of them are prosperous, upper-middle-class citizens. They are hardly the toothless Bible-thumping fundamentalists that come to mind when you think of creationists. The official position of the Mormon Church on evolution is that it takes no stand one way or the other on the process, but does affirm that humans came through Adam and Eve and did not evolve from other creatures. As far as I can see, the ongoing position of the Church, first articulated by the “First Presidency” in 1909, is still in force, and was reaffirmed as late as 1988 (my emphasis):

All [men] 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 … 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.

I wonder what the position of accommodationist organizations like the National Center for Science Education would be about churches that might accept evolution but not human evolution. At any rate, they’re going to have a hard slog convincing 5 million Mormons (the 78% that deny human evolution) that our own species evolved. (I wonder how successful that BYU biology professor was!) What they’ll have to do is to show those Mormons that the explicit statements about Adam and Even shown above are really just metaphors, and that humans evolved from earlier primates. Good luck!


112 thoughts on “Another Mormon deconverts, and we learn about the Church’s stand on evolution

  1. The LDS church is interesting in its approach to science, as while they maintain beliefs just about as crazy as creationism, they don’t generally perpetrate scientific fraud to support them. I’m sure they have their occasional frauds just as the broader scientific community does, but they’ve been big supporters of new world anthropology and archaeology for 100+ years and in general this has resulted in a lot of solid findings on the Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs, etc. This is in distinct contrast to the ID movement – which has produced no good science at all – or creationist attempts to fabricate evidence such as the Paluxy hoax.

    1. My understanding is that FARMS – the apologetic arm of the LDS church — has come out with a bizarre and twisted wealth of extraordinary claims on archaeology (ie ancient Mayan writings confirm the Book of Mormon’s history.) Walking the BOM back from a history of the Western hemisphere to a ‘smaller area’ is polishing a turd.

      If there have been solid discoveries by archaeologists who happen to be Mormon pursuing secular research, I’m not sure that this is the same thing as Mormons coming up with solid discoveries. I don’t grant that to the Catholic Church.

      1. I believe the LDS church organization plays a comparatively more active role as R&D funder and promoter than the RCC does (though the RCC is so much bigger, in absolute dollars spent on science they may still blow the Mormons out of the water). See the section on the “New World Archaeological Foundation” here. This is a foundation originally private but which BYU now funds and houses…and which does decent research.

        There’s no question that the LDS church wants to find confirmation of their book, and that they go to extremes to interpret what is found in a way consistent with their theology. The difference between them and creationists is, the Mormons tend to publish good science along the way.

        1. Well, you could have just stated that the mormons are just like the Templeton Foundation, instead of emphasizing that they do some good along the way. I should think the techniques of mormon deception aren’t much different than a used car salescritter. If you read Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, you will find that slight of hand has been in the mormon tool kit since its founding by way of the miscreant Joe Smith.

          Mormons are masters of deception.

  2. I have a number of relatives who are LDS. All the current generation are going to college (almost all to BYU, unfortunately). You’d figure it might change a few of them. Not so far as we can tell.

    I think the LDS church takes their indoctrination (and shunning) pretty seriously.

    1. I worked with a Mormon and he seemed quite normal and very liberal. I wonder if he accepted evolution.

      1. In the experience of my friends: Invite the Mormon to dinner, they come (but don’t drink).

        You never get a return invitation. Never.

  3. BTW, I know many liberal, godless people who settled in the inter-mountain west (of the USA) for the vast and spectacular recreational opportunities there (hiking, climbing, skiing, hunting, fishing, etc.)

    Essentially every one of them eventually fled (mostly to the west coast) — primarily because of the all-pervasive influence of the LDS church.

    Mormons are good neighbors — just don’t expect to ever be invited to dinner (or anything else).

    1. I may have told this one before. One of my former departmental colleagues (in microbial molecular evolution) had come to Pitt from U Utah. He told me that when they moved to Salt Lake City, his neighbors immediately came over inquiring as to whether they were perhaps Mormons. I figured the next thing I’d hear was how they tried to convert him. Nope! They were DELIGHTED to find that he wasn’t one of them, since now they had a trash can for their empty liquor bottles.

        1. I had my own company for 32 years in Alberta, where there were lots of Mormons. I had one particular Mormon client whom I used to “do lunch with” every so often. The first, and every subsequent time we “did lunch” he ordered
          at least 2 double Scotches. I happened to mention this to a colleague and I discovered that Mormons who order alcohol on someone else’s expense account are known as ‘jack-mormons”. Interesting !

  4. I would be careful of any LDS stats on their numbers. LDS make up 1.6% of the US population in 2007 (Pew information) which would yield about 5.1 million not 6.5 million people. This actually is fairly close by LDS standards (check out the discrepancy in numbers in some of the South American countries).

  5. Joseph Smith certainly evolved from crystalomancy to banking, land acquisition, politics, militaristic preoccupation, and polygamy. A nineteenth-century creative fraud who got ALL of his white guy needs met through theocratic injunctions while relentlessly capitalizing on the situational value of credulity.

  6. I think the Mormon church — like many other spiritual systems — plays a very sly game of When Anyone is Watching. When face to face with skeptics or scientists then the officials will reassure you that the LDS Church is just fine with evolution. They sound sincere because they are sincere. They’ll support it with quotes.

    When they turn around and become devout Mormons, they reject it… with other back-up quotes. And somehow they don’t see — avoid seeing — any contradiction.

    That’s what’s so awesome about Faith!

  7. Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.

    I sure would like to know what the Heavenly Father looked like so I could know which person looks like him; because, gosh, there sure are a lot of different looking people out there. I have this feeling that Our Heavenly Father might have been a hunchbacked gnome (no offense to you hunchbacked gnomes).

  8. I used to play basketball on Saturday mornings up at the local Mormon temple. Except for an opening prayer, this was about hoops and not proselytizing. While most of the players were LDS, a fair number of the others weren’t.

    Like other sports paraphernalia, basketballs have both their maker’s names on them (e.g., Spalding) and sometimes their model name. Oddly, one of them had the name “Evolution” on it. I remember one of the players looking at the name and snorting, “yeah, right.” LOL – I took that as an LDS-based dismissal of same.

    Over time, different people were asked to give the opening prayer. One of the elders asked if I’d want to do this. I demurred, and then spent some time wondering what I would do if asked again. I remember considering various ideas, ranging from something secular about the value of independence (this happened around July 4th, so something extolling our freedoms) to a brief line from Shakespeare: “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

    What I wanted to say, though, was this line from Wallace Stevens, one of my credos: “It may be that the ignorant man, alone/Has any chance to mate his life with life/That is the sensual, pearly spouse, the life/That is fluent in even the wintriest bronze.”

    Ultimately, though, I just stopped going. Because they were providing me with a service of some value to me, I started feeling as though I would be in their debt somehow. Maybe it was my imagination, but I sensed a sort of quid pro quo creeping up on me that made me uncomfortable.

    1. It was not your imagination: the Mormon quid pro quo really was creeping up on you. As an ex-Mormon, I can tell you that their basketball invitations were just hooks with which to present an opportunity to introduce you to the “fullness of the gospel.”

      1. The all white Alpine High School basketball team won the national championship a year or two ago. They got game. Basketball is a part of Mormon culture.

  9. Surprised they don’t have the stats on Seventh-Day Adventist, SDA. I would think they might be even lower from my limited knowledge.

    1. I would expect the same, although there has been a lot of controversy in the Adventist educational system on this.

      Interesting article on Panda’s Thumb a few years back:

      If you google La Sierra U. and evolution you’ll get lots of links to the more current situation. My sense is that the church is going backwards on this. The hinterland fundies finally started to catch on to how liberal the Adventist colleges were, and are crushing the thought out of them.

      1. Since I was raised sda (went through the school system for 13 years and got out as soon as I could) permit me to comment.

        Yes, the high officialdom of the sda church is going backwards on this. The ultra right wing has always gotten back control if they get booted out, for the whole history of the church backs them up. The church is very tied up in its “prophet” Ellen White and all the absurd myths about her.

        I remember “science” teachers (and others of course) in the school system carrying on about how carbon 14 dating wasn’t valid for verifying evolution b/c “it isn’t accurate enough”.

        Need I say more?

        There is a liberal wing in the church, but they have never have been able to make sustainable reforms to strip the ultra right wing of their influence. It’s a little bizarre why they feel its worth the effort and don’t just walk away instead, but family ties make it a little understandable.

        1. My parents, who I realized in retrospect were actually liberal SDA, eventually did quit attending. This largely due to the dickishness of the membership. In a way they ended up with the worst of both worlds: Retaining the guilt, but losing the fellowship.

          1. The church has some very sweethearted members, where compassion for others is paramount rather than religious ideology. But the stupid ones are EXTREMELY stupid! (and rigid as all hell)

  10. A study about opinions among Mormon members is not the same thing as an officially declared doctrinal stance from the Church’s leadership.

    1. Exactly! That has long been a main point among gnu atheists, religion is what people do. Not the polished PR the sectarian leadership tries to push.

      1. I think you went the wrong direction with my comment. My point is, regardless of what “some” Mormons might believe, the Church itself does not take a stance on evolution.

        1. They choose to not take a stance on the issue in order to avoid the fallout that would surely result if they take one side or the other. If they dispute that humans evolved from other species, they risk alienating the 22%, or losing some of them. The church doesn’t want to lose or alienate science types, for losing them amounts to a lost PR opportunity. If they state that humans evolved from other species, they would have to deal with the fallout of members who couldn’t reconcile a literal reading of Adam and Eve with the reality of having non-human anscestors.

          1. There’s a better explanation than PR. Heavenly Father reveals information to His prophets that is necessary for our salvation, like commandments we should obey and how to grow spiritually closer to Him, and not necessarily information that is controversial or interesting, like the process of the creation of spirits or evolution, etc. To me it seems fully logical that there are certain things the Church does not take an official stance on, so people are left to make their own opinions.

            1. “…not controversial or interesting…”

              Puts me in mind of Mark Twain’s “chloroform in print” review of the Book of Mormon.

            2. Really?

              We’re not talking about personal preferences like chocolate or vanilla; we’re discussing basic biology, directly analogous to Newtonian Mechanics.

              Should your Daddy also explicitly not take an official stance on gravity and instead leave it up to individuals as to whether or not a grape falls faster than a grapefruit?

              The only possible way your statements make sense is if you haven’t a clue about basic, introductory-level biology. That clearly being the case, may I suggest? There’s an eponymous book for this Web site. After reading it, you’ll have no more excuse for such ignorance.


  11. “and we are therefore in _duty bound_ to regard him as the primal parent of the race ”

    I just have such a hard time wrapping my head around anyone actually thinking like that. Something has been slammed into their heads without any basis, and that must – MUST! – override anything to the contrary, notwithstanding however tall the mountain of evidence is.

  12. On evolution for example, the Church has made no official stance on the subject. A lot of members probably don’t believe in it because of their interpretation of Adam and Eve, however there are many interpretations of the Adam and Eve story. Personally I think evolution is a very elegant explanation of the history of life on Earth, and though I know that there must be some spiritual difference between humans who are children of God and other animals, it’s even possible that human mortal bodies came about through evolution. I put this one in my “there’s a lot of possibilities that are intriguing to think about, and I’ll ask God when I get there” box.

    1. You “know” there are differences and they are “spiritual”, and you claim a magic agency that you label in a stuffy way.

      Please provide evidence for any of that, if you want to discuss the biology at hand.

      More problems re the science is when you claim that evolution is “a very elegant explanation”. It isn’t a social common sense explanation but but a scientific such. That means it is a theory, which is a fact of the existence of a process (and a description of its mechanisms, data et cetera).

      [Oh. I just saw below you are a mormon. That may explain your difficulties describing and understanding science.

      Well, the points stand.]

      1. Beliefs about spirits are inherently not biological and the fact that you are trying to start a scientific debate about a religious belief of this sort is illogical.

        I fully opened up to the idea of evolution and your response is that I don’t understand science?

  13. I. The good news. The more Mormons integrate into upper-middle class through avenues of science and higher education the more difficult it is to remain a cult.

    II. The bad news. Pew results confirm my anti theist bias that religion poisons the minds of anyone who wanders that road. At BEST 80% of a religious group considers evolution a fact (or the best possible theory).

    People need to be taught how to doubt. That is a very important measure of intelligence.

    A corollary to I. I have witnessed first hand Mornmons beginning to tarnish within their own ranks…prosperity and education come at a price and that is knowledge. There are many Mormons who are culturally becoming more like Jews, i.e., not really believing in holiness and hokyness, but retaining cultural and familial traditions only.

    1. That is absolutely my impression as well. I attended my grandfather’s funeral recently, and was pretty surprised to find how many of my cousins were drifting into the secular Mormon category. One of my cousins (who happens to have a PhD in Rhetoric) even referred to the Book of Mormon as “19th Century Literature” in a mixed group of ostensibly Mormon relatives, and no one seemed to bat an eye. These same people go to church every Sunday though, pray before meals, etc. It will be interesting to see where this goes in the future. It strikes me as very odd that you could stick with it in the absence of real conviction.

      1. Depends on the benefits accruing to sticking with it, vs the costs. The costs are pretty high, so the benefits need to match, obviously they do at the moment.

  14. I think there might be another bit of theology coming into play…Morons believe that, after they die, they’ll themselves become YHWH-like gods with their own Earth-like planets to govern over, and create their own Adams and Eves to populate their planets.

    I don’t think there’s any way to reconcile the Moron afterdeath with real-world biology. And, as you might guess, the afterdeath accommodations are a big part of the religion’s draw in the first place….


  15. As a lifelong Mormon, the criticisms you are all alleging against the Church clearing are coming from people who know nothing about the Church. It’s like we’re talking about two completely different entities. If you have any legitimate desire to know more, I’d be happy to answer questions. If you’re just looking to start a debate or criticize a people you’ve never actually had an objective experience with, have a nice day! 🙂

    1. The difference is that Mormons take serious a piece of third-rate fanfiction written by a well-known conman, with it being a sequel to an ancient anthology that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals an an angry wizard, features a talking plant on fire giving magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero, and ends with a bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy with the king of the undead getting his intestines fondled through a gaping chest wound.

      If you sincerely think anything in any of those texts has even the slightest bearing on reality…well, you really are living in another world, so why should you at all be surprised that nobody else takes you seriously? Those inside the fantasy world certainly don’t take the rest of us seriously, after all.



    2. I find this reply fairly typical from Mormons. “You don’t know us. Don’t think you know what we believe.” But then … nothing. No attempt to clarify the church’s position or doctrine.

      1. That is odd.

        Pew statistics say that mormons, along with jews, on average know more about their own religion than atheists do. That is very unusual, they are the only religious groups (in US) that sit in such a position, and you would think mormons would take the opportunity to likely learn skeptics something new!?

      2. The volume of replies I’m getting makes Bible bashing and Mormon apologetics a bit complicated in this setting, and I do have a family and 50 hour a week job.

    3. Have you found yourself criticizing or rejecting Scientology or any other faith? As an ex-Mormon, I’m assuming you have done so, even as you maintain that other religions have some truth, just not the fullness of the truth, as you would say. If you have criticized other faiths as an outsider to those faiths, have you considered that life long Scientologists reject your criticism for the same reason? The insider’s argument for understanding one’s faith is fallacious, for insider’s often ignore or rationalize their beliefs when they reject legitimate criticism of their religion.

      I recommend that you read John Loftus’ Outsider Test For Faith to learn more about why your point doesn’t fly.

      I would argue that being an insider makes you less capable of understanding many aspects of the your religion. After all, the LDS Church has told its members to avoid materials that challenges their faith and to focus instead on faith promoting knowledge. In other words, as an insider you are being asked to cherry pick and avoid free thought and criticism.

    4. @ME: I already posted a reply, but I simply want to add that someone who wants knowledge about any religion does not need to reply on insiders. I might help, but ultimately insiders are deeply biased, particularly when maintaining the faith is deeply ingrained. This should be obvious to everyone.

      1. Sorry, I wrote “reply” in my first sentence of my last post when I meant to write “rely.”

        1. I’m not familiar with Insiders. I was just linked here from a Flipboard article. Also for the sake of time I’ll limit my responses to being related to the LDS Church, which happens to be the subject of the article.

          1. Are you suggesting that you can’t find any moral objection to the behavior of the creator of the universe as depicted in the Bible?

          2. You are suggesting that a life long insider to the LDS Church trumps the knowledge of outsiders. May I suggest that many Mormons have recently learned from church authority what outsiders have been criticizing, namely the Church’s admission that Joseph Smith married women who were married, and also married at 14 year old. Prior to this admission, Mormons brushed this criticism aside as anti-Mormon. As it became increasingly clear that there is substance to the claims that Joseph Smith really performed secret wedding ceremonies with married women and a few underage girls, the LDS Church finally decided to end their silence.

            Unfortunately, the church authorities suggest that members take seriously Joseph Smith explanation: he didn’t want to, but an angel threatened him with a sword. This hasn’t been setting well for some Mormons, and some of them have already left.

            At any rate, my point is that before church authorities finally admitted what is obvious about Joseph Smith, you would have been better informed by outsider’s to your religion. In fact, I would suggest that outsiders also have the advantage of having a correct interpretation of Joseph Smith’s motives than life long insiders. How it possible that an insider can’t see that Smith’s secret marriages involved motives related to his libido? It takes an unquestioning admiration of Joseph Smith to pull off this kind of credulity.

    5. As a lifelong Mormon, the criticisms you are all alleging against the Church clearing are coming from people who know nothing about the Church.

      To which specific criticisms are you referring?

      The OP deals with the Mormon stance(s) on evolution — the official one, the most popular one, the minority one. According to the chart only 20% of Mormons agree that “evolution is the best explanation for the origin of human life on earth.” Do you dispute that figure because you’re okay with that statement?

      1. I’m not disputing the figure, because I haven’t done any research into how they did their study. My argument is that individual members of the Church can have beliefs above and beyond what the Church leadership has actually established as doctrine, and I am an example of a Mormon who is fully open to the idea of evolution, though to be absolutely certain how it all works out I’m happy waiting until I get to ask God directly.

        As far as certain criticisms go, Ben is a good example. He thinks the Book of Mormon is about zombies and wizards. There’s certain people who just want to debate and aren’t open to new ideas, and so I won’t take the time to rebut.

        1. As far as certain criticisms go, Ben is a good example. He thinks the Book of Mormon is about zombies and wizards.

          I thought Mormons were supposed to read the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon?

          Or have you never heard the stories of the Garden of Eden, Moses in Egypt, or Jesus’s Resurrection?

          You presumably see great majesty and dignity and what-not in those stories…but they really are just fourth-rate and very childish faery tales. An enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard. The reluctant hero who gets magic wand lessons from a talking plant. The zombie who got his intestines fondled by a dude named, “Thomas.”

          You see, that’s the fundamental problem with any and all of the Abrahamic faiths, no matter the branch. All y’all expect us to take that stuff seriously…but how on Earth are we supposed to?

          And how on Earth do you take it seriously?

          No, don’t bother answering. We know. “The mystery of faith,” or some similar such con-game schtick. You wouldn’t buy an used car on the amount of faith you need to believe that nonsense, so why on Earth do you buy an entire worldview with it? And pay so dearly, too — what is, it, 15% of gross income? That’s more than many pay in Federal taxes!

          And, really. Why should we waste time with some sort of esoterica about when Jesus started jizzing human souls into non-human ancestors when the foundational stories are so impossible to swallow?

          This might come across as me attempting to shut down discussion…but, again. What discussion are rational adults supposed to have about faery tales?


        2. My argument is that individual members of the Church can have beliefs above and beyond what the Church leadership has actually established as doctrine, and I am an example …

          I think that’s pretty much a truism for any group or organization though, religious or not — unless we’re dealing with a small and/or tightly controlled cult. People are gonna be people and they’re often inconsistent. Individual members may have beliefs above and beyond or below and behind all sorts of doctrines. There are Mormons who consider the Book of Mormon to be 19th century fiction. Catholics practically define themselves by their lack of concern for Church positions on multiple issues. There are Christians who think Jesus was just a good man. And whenever they poll atheists, there is invariably a small fraction who say they believe in God.

          Pointing out that there’s variation is true, but it doesn’t really address the main topic of the post, which is that

          1.) the majority of Mormons reject “evolution as the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.” The 2009 poll numbers here are dreadful — you’re just barely ahead of the JWs.

          2.) The official position is at best wishy-washy.

          Do you disagree with those 2 points?

          1. 1) I assume this to be true because that’s what the article is about.

            2) The official stance from the Church is that we have no official stance, which intentionally leaves us open to new ideas. You call that wishy washy. On the other hand, tomorrow the church could suddenly come out with a statement that the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency have unanimously voted that evolution is true, and all of the Mormons mentioned in the study would have to change opinions. It’s not likely though. The purpose of the Church is to reveal information that is important to our salvation, and the rest I plan on asking God when I meet Him.

    6. Is there a minimum acreage requirement for cricket ranches?

      I saw some Mormon’s crickets grazing on BLM land, are they regulated the same as other livestock? Because, from what I could see that Mormon cricket rancher was clearly overgrazing.

      Are Mormon cricket ranches still besieged by the predation of seagulls?

      Do Mormons still dress up as if they were Native Americans while massacring visitors in Utah?

  16. The Mormon church has no paid clergy (until you get to the very top). All local and middle management positions are fill with volunteer lay members. This is how Mitt Romney was a Bishop and Stake President. No formal training needed.

    If its not in official manuals produced by the church, the members are on their own to figure it out. Creation and evolution are one of those slippery topics the church skirts with vague statements like “There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both.” And then they fail to say “Yes, we believe the earth is billions of years old and life evolved.”

    So you will find pockets of Mormons who believe in an old earth and evolution, some who believe in evolution for everything except man — man being a special creation. And young earth creationists.

    In my experience, most I’ve talked to fit in the middle, with a belief in a special creation of man outside evolution.

    One of the hangups is a little known (or perhaps just talked about) doctrine:

    “Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48).”

    So, with no death before the fall of Adam — which they believe to be less than 6,000 years ago, how do you have evolution?

    1. I should add, that until the church went wishy-washy on the subject, the teaching of the early church leaders (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Joseph F. Smith) were clear:

      The earth was created in six 1,000 year days (a day is 1,000 years to the Lord or something from the Bible). It was created in orbit of, or in close proximity to Kolob — the planet (or sun closest to the planet) where God lives. It was created perfect with no disease or death. When Adam sinned, the earth fell — disease and death came into being and the planet was moved to its current location. The total life of the earth from fall to the end of the world will be 7,000 years. We are approaching the end of 6,000 years since the fall.

      Most LDS today have never heard this.

      1. The LDS Church compared to most Christian churches has actually been open to the idea of “creation art periods” for a long time. The rest of what you say (Kolob and 1 day in heaven = 1,000 days on earth) comes from a whole bother section of the standard works and is not discussed in context of the creation. So the fact that you are putting them together is your own doing and not necessarily doctrine.

        1. As I said, these were the teaching of the early leaders of the church. It’s been 30 years or so since I really looked into it. At the time I was reading a lot from Joseph F. Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Brigham Young. Pratt’s “A Voice of Warning” and “Key to the Science of Theology” come to mind, but I’ve long since rid myself of those tomes.

          But a statement from Brigham Young was easy to find:

          “When the earth was framed and brought into existence and man was placed upon it, it was near the throne of our Father in heaven. And when man fell—though that was designed in the economy, there was nothing about it mysterious or unknown to the Gods, they understood it all, it was all planned—but when man fell, the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system, and the sun became our light.”

          Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:143

          1. First of all, he could be talking about the “spiritual creation” and not the “physician creation,” so there’s no way to know how literally to take his words. Second, you are quoting the JoD which is not considered a part of the standard works.

            1. “but when man fell, the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system”

              Adam fell after the physical creation. So we are talking about moving the planet after it was created.

    2. (My wife’s side of the family is Mormon, and I’ve spent WAY too much time reading their literature. A perverse and morbid fascination I have for some reason.)

      My last contribution unless to reply to someone’s specific comment.

      Again, the church side steps the issue at every turn. The most complete answer you’ll get comes from the BYU course manual for their Old Testament course. It reads like something from Answers in Genesis and then fails to state an official positions of the church.

      For those interested:

    3. One frequent explanation I’ve heard is that animals have spirits, but humans have spirits that are children of God as opposed to being merely creations of God (don’t ask me what the difference is because I wouldn’t know). Therefore, evolution takes place until human bodies are fully evolved from Chimpanzees, and then Adam and Eve would be the first spirit children of God to have physical bodes, and thus the first spirit children of God to be subject to mortal death. To believe this, you also have to accept that the Garden of Eden story is somewhat metaphorical. For all I know the Garden of Eden isn’t even a physical place on Earth (someone is going to rebut that with an out of context Joseph Smith quote probably).

      I’m not advocating this theory. It’s just one of many explanations I have heard and am open to.

      1. Here, you say, “I’m not advocating this theory. It’s just one of many explanations I have heard and am open to.”

        Elsewhere, you said, “I fully opened up to the idea of evolution and your response is that I don’t understand science?”

        Well, it’s clear you’re very open to conflicting theories.

        But if you really do understand science, you’d understand that one of those theories – evolution – is supported by floods of evidence (as Daniel Dennett says, “not only from geology, paleontology, biogeography, and anatomy (Darwin’s chief sources), but from molecular biology and every other branch of the life sciences.”) And you’d understand that the other – Adam and Eve – is in conflict with the evidence, which indicates a minimum historical human population of O(10,000) people, not two!

        That you remain open to both strongly indicates that you !*don’t*! understand science.


        1. Excellent point.

          Biology is no different from any other the other sciences in this matter.

          You’d think somebody was barking mad if he suggested he was “open to the possibility” that Helios draws the Sun across the sky in his horse-drawn chariot, no?

          The story of Adam and Eve is every bit as barking mad.


        2. Well sure! We should all be open to new ideas and even conflicting theories on things that we don’t have all the information for, and that includes scientists. That’s sort of how the scientific method works. Which is why as I’ve mentioned, I’ll find out exactly how it all works when I get to ask God Himself.

          You’re trying really hard to find something to criticize me for and its not working 🙂 Have a nice day!

          1. You should keep an open mind, yes, but not so open your brains fall out.

            The idea that a wizard made a pair of golems from clay and that we all descend from that couple is not new. It is ancient, it is most thoroughly tested, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more soundly debunked idea. It’s right up there with the notion that you can control the weather with interpretive dancing, or heal people with magic invocations of selected deities, or that the Sun revolves around the Earth and the Moon shines of its own light, and so on.

            Purest primitive superstitious nonsense.

            There is to be found in the Bible, to paraphrase a certain comedic magician, equal parts science and pizza. If you’re turning to the Bible for understanding of anything other than an anthropological perspective of a certain Bronze Age cult, “ur doin it rong.”


      2. Therefore, evolution takes place until human bodies are fully evolved from Chimpanzees, and then Adam and Eve would be the first spirit children of God to have physical bodes, and thus the first spirit children of God to be subject to mortal death.

        In the theory of evolution there would be no specific moment or event which signaled that a species has “fully evolved.” No mother ever gives birth to a member of a different species — and that would include hominids. Any selection God made then would be completely arbitrary.

        You mention that this is a ‘theory.’ If so, what to you would count against it and falsify it?

        I think that attempts to combine science and theology are not going to stand up under any real analysis.

        (By the way, I’m wondering how a quote by Joseph Smith on this issue could be considered “out of context.” )

      3. Where do you get your hypothesis that humans evolved from chimpanzees? Why do you think people can’t take mormons seriously? Why do you think some people have dark skin pigmentation?

      4. It is firmly established that humans did not evolve from chimps. See WEIT for more.

      5. How do you square this kind of evolution with the Mormon doctrine that there was no death of any kind prior to the fall of Adam? How could anything evolve without death?

        1. That’s a great question. I sort of mentioned before that for such a theory to work, you have to be open to the idea that the Adam and Eve story is somewhat metaphorical. However I personally like the idea that the Garden of Eden was never a physical place on Earth, and perhaps is just a spiritual step that they or perhaps even all of us pass through to come into mortality, so where or how that takes place in comparison to the physical evolution of the Earth and life on it is a question I don’t have the power to answer. Again, the details of how Adam and Eve work with evolution sits in my “there’s a lot of intriguing ideas to think about, but I’ll find out from God when I get there” box.

          1. Before you’re allowed to post further here, please give us good reasons why you believe in God, and why you see your religion as true and the others false. What we’re looking here is evidence, not revelation, dogma or “just a feeling.” It’s customary to ask this question to theists when they start posting on this site.

            Evidence for God, please? And it has to be at least as convincing as the evidence for evolution.

            1. Let me start by asking why you wouldn’t consider “just a feeling” to be a legitimate reason to believe in God?

              1. I don’t want this to go on and on, so I’ll just answer this one question and then you can post your evidence. I don’t consider “just a feeling” because there are plenty of people who have “just a feeling”–in fact, more than a feeling–that they were kidnapped by aliens, that they hear voices from God, and all manner of delusions that don’t say anything about external reality. If you can’t fathom that, you should go over and post at those many websites where revelation is considered evidence. This is not one of them. I don’t want repeated posts on this: just one that answers my two questions.

              2. I’ll answer your question, but you won’t like the answer because the very reason you are asking this question is to goad me into trying to prove to you that God exists, which you can subsequently discredit by showing the lack of evidence for God, etc.

                So I’ll take a step back and say that yes I believe in God, but I’m not going to try to scientifically prove to you that God exists. Which you will take to mean that my belief is unscientific because it isn’t provable, or otherwise criticize my beliefs, which is fine.

                Where I planned to go from here is that it’s possible that someone can have a scientific knowledge of something true and yet not be able to prove it. What if someone actually was abducted by aliens and just no one believed them? Is their belief in aliens still unscientific or illogical? Are they inherently wrong just because they can’t prove it? What if God did appear to someone, who now has a perfect knowledge of the existence of God and yet can’t prove it?

                Since God infrequently as it would seem appears personally to people, what if a person over the course of a lifetime has enough spiritual experiences or “feelings” to leave him or her with conclusive albeit individualized evidence of God’s existence? I argue that under those circumstances, the belief is still scientific, and even replicable, though not debatable or provable on an Internet forum.

              3. YOU shouldn’t like that answer because it’s just an example of confirmation bias: you see experiences over and over again that confirm what you’ve always decided to believe. This isn’t replication, which depends on DIFFERENT people agreeing on observations. If you think your belief is “scientific,” then so is the belief that people are abducted by aliens, many of which see confirmation of that over and over again. And you misunderstand the meaning of the word “replicable.”

                I dont want to argue about this; you’ve given your “evidence.” And I’m not trying to goad you into proving to me that God exists; I’ve looked at tons of evidence and am not convinced, and the evidence that WOULD convince me haven’t appeared. Rather, I’m trying to show you–though you won’t like this–because your evidence is purely emotional and based on confirmation bias. There is no evidence you have that would convince others that there is your kind of God. What makes you any different from the schizophrenics who think the voices are real that talk to them repeatedly?

                This is a science-based site and not one in which revelations and emotional feelings are taken as good evidence.

              4. God appearing to you personally is not scientific proof. It could very well be a delusion brought about by illness or injury.

                The plural of anecdote is not data.

              5. From your perspective, there may be nothing that makes me different from a schizophrenic. Which is fine.

                At least do me the favor of recognizing the difference between me saying “You asked if and why I believe in God, and my answer is yes, though I recognize that I can’t prove God exists in this setting” and me saying “God is real and you should believe too because….” or trying to use my personal experiences as evidence (which I haven’t done). By not making a claim, I have no burden of proof.

                You do on the other hand sound like you are arguing “You can’t prove to ME that God is real, so you shouldn’t believe either.”

                Also I’ve given you no details of my personal spiritual experiences, so the fact that you already dismiss them as confirmation bias is conjecture.

              6. You said your claim was “scientific” because you had had “repeated” experiences. Now you implicitly admit that your claim was not scientific because nobody else but you could verify your experience or be convinced by it. That’s not replication, and it’s not “scientific.” As for not trying to convince others of God, you clearly have been defending the notion of God on this site. Since we’re scientifically oriented here, I’ve give you your say and you’ve touted revelation and experience. In that light, I urge you to go the the many other sites where you can argue about the existence or God. We deal with rational and empirical claims here.

          2. “the details of how Adam and Eve work with evolution”

            There are no “details” that can make any theologically solid interpretation of Adam and Eve comport with evolution. There never were only two “first” humans.


  17. In the group listed as ‘Unaffiliated’ on the chart above, I’m curious how many of the 28% that don’t accept evolution as the BEST explanation for the origins of human life are self-described atheist, agnostic or religious with no religious affiliation. Or am I just assuming that ‘Unaffiliated’ contains atheists and agnostics? Maybe I’m conflating unaffiliated with the nones.

    In any case, this leads me to question what these people would put forward as the BEST explanation if they don’t accept religious explanations.

    1. I think there is a small group of atheists who believe that alien visitors from other planets seeded the human race. They don’t seem to concern themselves much with how those beings got to be, though.

      As for other “best explanations” which aren’t religious, I’m going to guess that you and I would probably count them as “religious” but the people who opt for them think of them as “spiritual” — and imagine that it’s totally different. This would include versions of creation or ‘evolution’ which deeply involve Powers and Forces like vitalism, creative impulse, love, Consciousness, or the Will to Become guiding or manifesting human beings (and maybe other things.)

      Whenever I’ve run into someone who “wasn’t religious” but didn’t “buy into evolution 100%” it’s always turned out that they’re spiritual.

      1. Whenever I’ve run into someone who “wasn’t religious” but didn’t “buy into evolution 100%” it’s always turned out that they’re spiritual.

        To that I’d only add a footnote: a depressing number of Christians aren’t religious (and sometimes not even Christian) because they have a “personal relationship with Jesus,” and their church isn’t a church but a “family.” Some might even consider themselves atheists because gods are fictional and Jesus is real.

        Save for that single bit of rhetoric, there’s nothing to distinguish them from any other random small Protestant sect, including the hundreds of other sects who read from the same script. But it does have the potential to skew statistics….


        1. Good point. Among the “religion is man’s way … but I follow GOD” crowd you can find both the nontraditional and the extremely traditional.

          It’s always amusing when they proudly and hopefully trot that one out to atheists as if all our objections have now melted away and we’re going to be open and eager to hear about this wonderful new way of not being religious. I’m never quite sure if they’re really that clueless or they just think we are. Or a bit of both.

          1. Muslims like to do it, too. They say that atheists are already halfway to being Muslim, since Islam professes that “There is no god…” and “merely” finishes that with “…but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet.”

            I think all they’re really trying to do is win smug points from their fellow faithful.


            1. I think they’re also trying to play off the Stephen F. Roberts quote by flipping it around:

              “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    2. unaffiliated means christians or somethings, but who don’t consider themselves a member of any particular sect or group (from what I understand)

  18. I’m curious: do we have statistics on the level of acceptance (of evolution) among secular people?

    I suppose general statistics from “Mostly secular” nations could go toward answering the question, but I’d be most curious about polls in which people who self-identified as non-believer/secular/atheist answered whether they accept evolution.

  19. I always kill the Conversation with Mormons by asking the simple Question “If the Angel that came to Joe Smith was called Moroni ? why aren’t you called Morons ?” works for me.

  20. To Vaal:

    (and a correction to my previous comment — It looks like “unaffiliated” includes atheists, agnostics, and religious and secular unaffiliated)

    From page 99 of the main PDF that the chart in Jerry’s post comes from:

    Question: Now, as I read some statements on a few different topics, please tell me if you completely agree, mostly agree, mostly DISagree or completely disagree.

    (c) Evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

    Agree Disagree Don’t Know

    Unaffiliated 72 22 6 =100

    Atheist 87 9 3 =100
    Agnostic 87 11 2 =100
    Secular unaffiliated 77 16 6 =100
    Religious unaffiliated 55 37 8 =100

  21. I will share a related anecdote. When I was a member of the Mormon cult many decades ago, I served a mission to Argentina. The initial inauguration was to enter the “Mission Home” in SLC for a week of pep rallies with the other missionaries. As part of that training, we went through an endowment session in the temple, which consists of a drama of the creation, with Adam and Eve in the principal roles. Afterwards, we were taken to the Solemn Assembly Room on an upper floor of the temple to hear a sermon about the secret ritual by apostle Ezra Taft Benson –who later became prophet and president of the cult. He asked us if anyone had questions. One missionary, toward the back, raised his hand and asked:

    “But… what does this mean about evolution?”

    Benson lost it! In apoplectic rage, spittle flying, pounding on the pulpit, he bellowed at the missionary at the top of his lungs how evolution was merely an invention of men, contrary to god’s higher truth as revealed in the ceremony we had just performed. How dare that missionary even mention such blasphemy, let alone in the House of the Lord!

    I was shocked at Benson’s vehement reaction, and embarrassed for the poor young man. As a matter of fact, I had been pondering the very same question, and was relieved to have not risen my hand to ask it. Needless to say, nobody had any more questions after that.

    In hindsight, I can now see that the scene epitomized how the cult always heaps intense shame and humiliation on anyone who can’t see the Emperor’s New Clothes. Or in that particular case… Adam and Eve’s fig leaves.

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