Science vs. Religion? The Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQs
Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQs
James F. Stoddard III
Why science FAQs? The Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQs contain 40 Frequently Asked Questions which are often asked and widely debated regarding the theories of organic evolution and the age of the earth as they pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism are subjects that cause dispute and often uneasiness, but typically are poorly understood. Some research done in the past has attempted to create harmony between evolutionary scientific speculations and the teachings of the Gospel, often making doctrinal assertions not sufficiently supported. At times gospel research has comprised a few statements, typically made out of context, leaving the reader to draw faulty conclusions. In contrast, the Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQs consist of several hundred pages of statements made by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, particularly those who became president of the Church.
Should science be discussed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Often current scientific philosophies are portrayed as “science” while those drawing conflicting conclusions are viewed as unscientific. Some advance the notion that debate on evolution among the educated has ceased and that Darwinian ideas are established fact. They conclude that the myriad of anti-evolution statements from LDS Church leaders were uneducated and out of date, as are the references in the standard works. Better to keep “science” and religion in their separate domains to avoid this inevitable conflict, they contend. There is often an attempt to misconstrue the conflict, portraying the issue as misalignment between “science” and religion. Those working on Joseph Smith Foundation projects believe that true science supports the scriptures and will always be in harmony with the revealed word of God. The Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQ compilation consists primarily of scriptural and prophetic statements as these are unchanging. We understand that many in the current scientific establishment reject the literal Creation, literal Fall, literal Flood and literal miracles as taught in the scriptures. In contrast, we feel that it is unwise to follow the current fads of the scientific community in rejecting the word of God. There is, however, “science” (or better scientists) on both sides of this issue, although one side seems to be more in vogue at this time.
Can the Gospel of Jesus Christ be harmonized with Neo-Darwinism? The Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQs present statements from two opposing sides, demonstrating the complete disharmony which exists between the fundamental ideas of those who are classified as “macroevolutionists” and the writings of both latter-day and ancient prophets. Each section begins with the question and then provides contrasting viewpoints. Any comments expressed by the compilers are set off by blue text, most often appearing in the commentary sections. Underlining has been added for quick reference.
Can the revelations of God be trusted? In our exploration of the truth the first question that we must ask could be phrased, “Can the Revelations be trusted?” The Prophet Joseph Smith testified that the Revelations of God were given by God, and do not contain human errors:
“I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” 1
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord himself testified:
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful . . . What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; . . . whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” 2
In recent years, it has become fashionable to dismiss statements contained in the Holy Scriptures as uneducated or perhaps made by individuals who were deficient in scientific understanding. The word of the Lord in this testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith challenges these ideas.
“When I speak as a man it is Joseph only that speaks. But when the Lord speaks through me, it is no longer Joseph Smith who speaks; but it is God, and let all Israel hear.” 3
What should be our ultimate source of truth? The scriptures and revelations of God must remain our constant source of truth. The Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQs were created for individuals who have faith in the revelations as contained in the scriptures and a testimony of latter-day prophets. These FAQs were not prepared for others who are embarrassed by statements made by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ both anciently and in modern times. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the seriousness of trifling with the word of God.
“O ye Twelve! and all Saints! profit by this important Key—that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it, that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray Jesus Christ; that you do not betray the brethren; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world or that which is to come. Yea, in all your kicking and flounderings, see to it that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell.” 4
President Harold B. Lee Additionally testified that when the teachings of the world conflict with the revelations of God, we must remain true to the Revelations.
“We [must] measure every teaching to be found in the world of book learning by the teachings of revealed truth, as contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we find in a school text claims that contradict the word of the Lord as pertaining to the creation of the world, the origin of man, or the determination of what is right or wrong in the conduct of human souls, we may be certain that such teachings are but the theories of men.” 5
What about the contention caused by discussing Neo-Darwinism? We have no desire to irritate those who hold to the current scientific philosophy in contrast to the revelations of God and hope that the words of the prophets of God will not cause disharmony and contention. The Presidents of the Church from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith until today have upheld and supported the witness found in scripture of the true origin of man. Some have sought to discredit these prophetic witnesses. President Benson taught that while subjects like Darwinian Evolution may cause some to become upset with the revelations and prophets of God, we must remain faithful.
“But it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. ‘Even in the Church,’ . . . . Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. . . . Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. . . . How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.” 6
Are the scriptures and statements of Latter-day prophets consistent? It will become clear to anyone who reads through the Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQ compilation that those who have held the position of President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have consistently and unanimously opposed the theories of organic evolution. President Harold B. Lee in a First Presidency Message signified that those who are “fully grounded in the faith” will not attempt to reconcile false scientific principles regarding the Creation and Fall with the word of God:
“I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a church family, ask, “What about the pre-Adamic people?” Here was someone who I thought wasfully grounded in the faith. I asked, “What about the pre-Adamic people?” She replied, “Well, aren’t there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?” I said, “Have you forgotten the scripture that says, ‘And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also….’” (Moses 3:7) I asked, “Do you believe that?” She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error.” 7
What of the discord caused by this issue? Do these statements appear harsh or naïve to those who doubt the revelations and desire to mingle the philosophies of men with scripture? We, the compilers, believe they were spoken in love in hope that the followers of Christ would not be led astray in these days of deception. In this work we have attempted to lay forth the facts on this vital subject in a systematic fashion without making accusations. It is hoped that this work will help those who are struggling for understanding on this subject. It is additionally hoped that more scientifically minded individuals, with faith in God, will begin to find the true evidence that supports these prophetic witnesses. To those who disagree with this work we hope that a disagreement in opinion will not embitter and lead to contention. The same First Presidency who denounced evolution in these words:
“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.”
“Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. The Christ taught kindness, patience and charity.” 8
The Joseph Smith Forum Science FAQ compilation is a resource which helps to inform interested individuals of the doctrinal teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the subject of Darwinian Evolution.
- History of the Church 6:366 ↩
- Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38 ↩
- Andrus, Hyrum L. and Helen Mae Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, pg. 84 ↩
- Andrus, Hyrum L. and Helen Mae Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, pg. 84 ↩
- Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1975. p. 73 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 140 ↩
- Harold B. Lee, “First Presidency Message: Find the Answers in the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec. 1972, 2 ↩
- First Presidency, Dec. 17, 1910 ↩