Have you ever been taught in an Sunday School class that the theory of evolution is outright falsehood? Have you felt on a high school or college science exam about evolution that you would have to choose between your faith and science?
If you're a Latter-Day Saint, you don't have to worry about these issues. Because your church's doctrine on this subject just might not be what you think it is.
I've been rereading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, a book which fascinates me. While I don't think his understanding of early Christian history is anything to write home about, I have been impressed by his explanation of evolution--particularly Natural Selection. During reading, I have found myself--especially when I discovered that Natural Selection and Chance are two completely different things--seeing the plausibility of Dawkins' explanations.
But what if I start to believe it? Does that go against what my church teaches? If I believe in evolution, will I be banned from LDS Church membership? Does a belief in evolution detract from my belief in God?
In a word to answer these three questions--no.
Here, in a nutshell, is the doctrine of the LDS Church on the subject of organic evolution:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. . . . Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes.In the April 1910 issue of the LDS Improvement Era appeared a statement about Adam and Eve and evolution.
Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church ... .
Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection..." or were formed by some other means is "not fully answered in the revealed word of God."Richard Dawkins said
It's rather like a detective coming on the scene of a crime, obviously after the crime has been committed, and working out what must have happened by looking at the clues that remain. [As evidence] of evolution, the clues are a billionfold.The more I read Dawkins, the more I agree--it makes some sense. But also from what I've read so far, I don't think Richard Dawkins is so absolutely 100% positive about evolution that he would cling to that certainty if it were proven false. I also think that if he were to be faced with the evidence of God that he would begin believing that God exists.
I believe that God exists. For me that's doctrinal (but not dogmatic). I also believe in the plausibility of natural selection. That, however is a personal belief (but not doctrinal).
I like how Henry Eyring (the late father of LDS Church First Presidency member Henry B. Eyring), who as a scientist had a profound belief in God, felt about it:
[Henry Eyring] enthusiastically studied the possibilities and even the probabilities of evolution. He even published a paper saying that, given the chemistry involved, it would have taken about one billion years for the first life to form from nonliving elements. Yet, notwithstanding the scientifically rigorous speculation, in the end he wouldn't take a stand on how God did it. One of Henry's colleagues, a member of the [LDS] Church, wrote once to thank him for his unequivocally equivocal position on evolution:Me, too.
When I was in Salt Lake one time, I was discussing some problems of early man with you in your office. I then asked: "Which way do you believe it was?" You replied, "I believe whichever way it turns out to have actually been."
Links to discussion on Mormonism and Evolution