Answer: There is none.
Concerning evolution (and many other things we will eventually get around to covering), there have been varied opinions from high-level Church leaders as well as lay members. If you want some quotes to support evolution, they’re there. If you want some quotes denying evolution as a trick of Satan, they are there too. In reality, the First Presidency has not officially released anything concerning evolution since 1925, and even that didn’t really say much. The more recent Proclamation on the Family also doesn’t actually address this either, and as per the recent edit to Elder Packer’s conference talk, may or may not even be an “official” revelation. When President Hinckley was asked his thoughts, he replied, “People ask me every now and again if I believe in evolution. I tell them I am not concerned with organic evolution. I do not worry about it. I passed through that argument long ago.” Kind of a non-answer.
So, it begs the question: Why are we even talking about science and religion? Shouldn’t we be talking about faith-promoting experiences? Are we just distracting each other from Christ and other things that are our real purpose for mortality? And if we are talking about science and religion, where will those answers come from? Some random people posting some ideas and comments on a website? President Kimball stated: “we don’t know exactly how [Adam and Eve’s] coming into this world happened, and when we’re able to understand it the Lord will tell us.” But when we are “supposed” to know, will it come as revelation from a prophet? Will it come through scientists? Will we actually never know in mortality?
As I mentioned in a reply to the first post, I have thought a lot about this over the years. Why do I persist in coming back to this topic? I briefly mentioned 3 things that have kept me going forward:
- I can’t help myself. I love science. I love thinking about these types of questions and my mind always twists back to them. Like the early members of the Church, I am optimistic that there is a “truth” that makes sense. The search keeps me going.
- We are in good company. From the time of Joseph Smith and the Restoration, learning has been actively encouraged. From the Institute manual: The Doctrine and Covenants makes it very clear that the Lord intends for His people to be well educated: “Seek not for riches but for wisdom” ( D&C 6:7 ; 11:7 ). “Teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” ( D&C 88:77 ). “Teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” ( D&C 88:118 ). “Study and learn and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues and people” ( D&C 90:15 ). “Obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man” ( D&C 93:53 ). “Let every man learn his duty” ( D&C 107:99 ). “Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom” ( D&C 136:32 ). Church leaders have always taught the importance of obtaining knowledge and the great effect it has on one’s progression. President Brigham Young said that “the religion embraced by the Latter-day Saints, if only slightly understood, prompts them to search diligently after knowledge. There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn, and understand truth.” ( Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 247.) He also said: “It is the duty of the Latter-day Saints according to the revelations, to give their children the best education that can be procured, both from the books of the world and the revelations of the Lord” (in Journal of Discourses, 17:45).
- But most importantly for me, there are many religious “traditions” about science taught as “truth” to our children. These are taught in Primary and Sunday School and Seminary. Where science might disagree with what someone thinks is “truth”, our children are taught that it is a “trick of Satan” or else that there is a “godless scientist” behind it. At some point, when they go to high school or college or some web site, they are going to encounter scientific facts that perhaps run counter to some of the things they have learned. I worry that any resulting cognitive dissonance will cause them to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Therefore, we need to address these things straight on. We need to show people it is possible to embrace science yet still have faith. We need to wrestle with the hard questions. That is a big motivation for me.
So that’s the why.
As we go forward through this series, there are a few assumptions I will make:
- Truth Exists. I have faith that there is a reality, although our perceptions of it may change. There may be quirks that are currently past our understanding. But “it” is out there somewhere. If there is no “truth” to discover, than the whole point of trying to discover it is meaningless (unless we discover the “emptiness” underlying reality – but that’s a whole different tangent).
- God is NOT Trying to Trick Us. Our ways are not God’s ways, but at the same time, I assume He doesn’t do things to trick us. If there are dinosaur bones there, they weren’t placed there to “test our faith”. Our understanding regarding them may change, but they are echoes of what actually happened in the past.
- As we progress, we are getting CLOSER to the truth. We are told that knowledge will flood the earth in ALL subjects – not just religion. There may always be temporary detours, which ultimately get corrected, but I assume that we are generally getting closer to discovering reality as opposed to going in the wrong direction. Look at our understanding of the sun: Pulled by a god in a chariot -> glowing light revolving around earth -> star around which earth revolves -> burning fire which would exhaust fuel -> mysterious star sustained by nuclear fusion -> orbiting satellites watching the “weather” on the sun to warn operators of power grids if a “storm” is headed our way.
So, discussing science in the context of religion is very important. There are controversial areas, but it is still important to discuss these areas. And as knowledge has progressed over the millennia at an ever increasing rate, we are getting further along in our understanding of the world and universe.
- Should we be discussing science and religion, or is it distracting us from “things of God”?
- If there is revelation about these areas, through what “conduit” will we receive it? Will we receive knowledge about science/religion through a prophet or a scientist?
- Is there a danger in teaching “traditional” interpretations that might be at odds with modern scientific views?
- Has anyone encountered a blow to their faith from things they learned in a classroom? How have you balanced that?
- Are these assumptions valid as we go forward?
(NOTE: This is #2 in a multi-part series which starts here. Parts 3 and 4 are going to discuss the Scientific Search for Truth and the Religious Search for Truth)