In LDS Doctrine, God has a body of flesh and bone and we are created in His image. Our bodily form is therefore divine, transcendent, and ultimately, not of this world. However, this idea is strongly contradicted by the science of evolution, which states that the peculiarities of human anatomy came about through natural selection and its unique manifestation on this particular planet. Why would a God, a divine extraterrestrial being, happen to be in the form of a highly specialized earthly homo sapien, a bearded white man no less? This contradiction represents a serious theological problem for those LDS members who also accept the science of evolution. However, Brigham Young’s Adam-God Theory offers a possible solution! But first, let me explain why I believe evolution should to be reconciled with LDS theology:
Evolution: a Great Addition to LDS Theology
Many Mormons have accepted the science of evolution, almost from the time it was first presented by Charles Darwin. In general, we are more “science friendly” than other conservative religions. We believe all truth can be circumscribed into a whole, and that there is no contradiction between religion and science. Contradictions arise from incomplete understanding, not from any fundamental incompatibility. General Authorities as far back as James E. Talmage and B. H. Roberts were sympathetic to evolution.
In many ways, evolution is extremely compatible with LDS doctrine. It explains how God created all of us “from the dust of the earth” through evolution. The geological epochs of the earth roughly correspond to the creation narrative, which we believe happened in six creative periods, not six earthly days.
Evolution, when added to an understanding of the Fall of Adam, helps explain why humans are both similar, and different from animals. Like all animals, our bodies were created by evolution and thus is filled with fleshy desires, appetites, and passions. But unlike animals, man partook of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, thus separating himself from the innocence of animals in the Garden of Eden. Thus Evolution adds a new dimension to the understanding of “flesh and spirit.” The flesh is the evolved, animal side of man. The spirit is the moral knowledge coming from the fruit of the tree.
All of this is to say is that the science of Evolution has a rich theological potential within the context of LDS doctrine, and I think it is a shame that so many members are still antagonistic to Evolution. However I believe that it will eventually find widespread acceptance, and with this will come a more powerful understanding of our dual nature as both animal and God.
The Contradiction Between Evolution and a Human-Form God
In spite of the theological potential of Evolution, it does have one serious drawback: The idea that the humans are created in the image of God, is strongly contradicted by the many anatomical flaws and quirks present in homo sapien design. For example, there is the crowding of human teeth, particularly “wisdom teeth,” and the poorly designed birthing canal which makes pregnancy dangerous and extremely painful. President Monson has a special talent for ear wiggling, a faculty that has little use for modern man. But the extra ear muscles are still extremely useful to our feline relatives, who use them to turn their ears around when stalking prey, when creating as little motion as possible is essential. These and other anatomical flaws are relics of our evolutionary history, and many of them are slowly being eliminated. Some human populations have stopped growing wisdom teeth altogether.
Why would a perfect God happen to be housed in such peculiar imperfection? Additionally, why would we want to be resurrected in this evolution-created compromise? Surely, a being as perfect as a god would have something better than this? And if a human-form God did in fact create man through evolution, why would it happen to have so many flaws and markers so uniquely terrestrial, like the branchial arches, “gills” in human embryos? And even if we grant that the human form is pretty amazing, why this, among an infinite variety of life form manifestations? And why would the God-form happen to correspond to our species particular manifestation within the modern Holocene era, and not the Pleistocene or Pliocene eras, or in eras yet to come, as the human form is constantly evolving?
The Adam-God Theory Resolution
The Adam-God Theory as taught by Brigham Young was a complicated and somewhat convoluted doctrine: Adam came down from another planet with Eve, one of his many celestial wives. He was the real father of Jesus, and “the only God with whom we have anything to do.”
But setting aside the strange idea that Adam is an extra-terrestrial, if Adam is really our God, then that explains why God just so happens to be in the form of an earthly human. When Joseph Smith saw a God of flesh and bone, he was seeing a member of our species, a vision of a being who once lived and died on this planet, and who thus appeared to be in our strange, homo sapian form. He saw Adam, as God.
The Adam-God theory makes God local. He is of this earth, and represents our potential. Of course, there would be other Gods. Adam-God must have had a God to worship himself. But this other, extraterrestrial God would not be in the form of an earthly homo sapian. Perhaps this Uber-God is more of a spiritual life-force, like so many other religions believe, rather than a married God who procreates like us.
If this is true, the contradiction with Evolution is resolved. We recognize that God’s human side, His “Adam-identity” is an important element that teaches us about our own potential to become gods within our earthly state. It celebrates just how incredible and important our earthly form really is, that it is something to rejoice with throughout eternity. It ties our destination eternally to this planet, as it is here that our form was created, and it is here that we will live out its potential. But it also teaches us that God is in fact also a transcendent Spirit who may take on other forms in other spheres.
- Do you see “theological potential” in the science of Evolution?
- Do you agree that the Adam God Theory reconciles Evolution with God’s human form?
- Is our human-form God “local” or extra-terrestrial?
- Are there other ways of reconciling Evolution with a human-form God?