Creation and evolution

Frequently Asked Questions

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Please note that this is simply my personal understanding of scripture. There may be other interpretation that makes sense of all the scriptures and all the discoveries, but I have not heard them.

Did the creation take millions of years?

"Periods of time for the creation may have lasted... even millions of years" - Ensign, Jan 1998, p. 15, referring to the Old Testament Institute Manual.

"CREATION DID NOT TAKE MILLIONS OF YEARS." - Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.79

How can these two statements be reconciled? Quite easily - by looking at what they actually say.

What do we mean by "creation"?

Creation from our point of view

The creation is still taking place. Every time a child is born, or when a volcano changes the landscape (as President McKay observed regarding Mount Paricutin in Mexico), creation takes place. Indeed, all living things are constantly growing, in accordance with God's creative laws. So when we refer to God's acts of creation, we are only referring the the actual time he takes to give the instructions.

Creation from God's point of view

President Smith was simply commenting on the plain statements that the Lord did his work in six periods called "days." A busy but effective leader only needs to spend a little time on a project to ensure its success. Whether the leader does the work all at once, or sets aside a certain time each day or each month or each year, is not relevant. It only took the Lord six days to do his part.

When a working man says he has "done a day's work" he does not usually mean he has worked non-stop for 24 hours. He usually means 8 hours or even less. If the man is extremely efficient, or if his job involves simply checking some process that otherwise goes on without him, the "day's work" could be measured in just minutes. Hence, if my job was to supervise some automated plant, I might say "I have been working at the factory for a week," when in fact I only checked the machines for a few minutes each day but was otherwise there just for emergencies.

How long does it take to create a garden? We plant some seeds, then sit back and watch. Let us assume that it takes a year for the seeds to grow. It would be wrong to say that we have taken a year to create the garden when it actually took us just a few minutes to plant the seeds. God is the master gardener. He was able to create this earth in just six visits, each lasting just one day. It might have taken the world millions of years to settle down, but it did not take millions of years for God.

Was Adam the "first flesh" on the earth?

Genesis chapter 1 describes several days of creation, with Adam and Eve at the end. hence here was flesh (animal flesh) on the earth before Adam. Yet Moses 3:7 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; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word."

So, was Adam the first flesh or wasn't he?

What do we mean by "flesh"?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:39-45: we are so used to seeing this as just proof of different degrees of glory (which it is), that we sometimes forget that Paul was actually explaining the meaning of terms like "flesh" and "spiritual."

"All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit."

Note also that, throughout the scriptures, "flesh" is a code word for "sin." "Carnal" just means "fleshy." So "first flesh" refers to a particular quality of flesh: human, telestial, and able to sin. This is as distinguished from animal flesh (also telestial), or from spiritual flesh (not sinful).

Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.75-76:
"SPIRITUAL OR PHYSICAL, AND SPIRIT CREATIONS. The account of creation in Genesis was not a spirit creation, but it was in a particular sense, a spiritual creation. This, of course, needs some explanation. The account in Genesis, chapters one and two, is the account of the creation of the physical earth. The account of the placing of all life upon the earth, up and until the fall of Adam, is an account, in a sense, of the spiritual creation of all of these, but it was also a physical creation. When the Lord said he would create Adam, he had no reference to the creation of his spirit for that had taken place ages and ages before when he was in the world of spirits and known as Michael."

Was Adam the "first man" on the earth?

Adam is often referred to as the "first man." Yet archeologists discover bones of man-like creatures from before that time. How can this be?

What do we mean by "man"'?

The first appearance of the phrase 'man' is in JST 2:8 (Moses 3:7) refers to Adam as "the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also" so presumably it means "first man" in the same sense as "first flesh."

Interestingly, the only time the word "first man" appears in the KJV is in 1 Corinthians 15:47, where Jesus is called the "last man." Does that mean that no more people were born after Christ? No. The word "man" seems to have a more precise definition.

"What is man?"

That is the question in Psalms 8:4 (and referred to in Hebrews 2). The Hebrew word for 'man' in the Psalms is 'enowsh {en-oshe'}, and comes from the word 'anash {aw-nash'}which means "to be weak, sick, frail, desperate, incurable, desperately wicked, woeful, very sick."

This is also the connotation in the New Testament word for man, 'anthropos' {anth'-ro-pos) where the secondary meanings include "the added notion of weakness, by which man is led into a mistake or prompted to sin," "with the adjunct notion of contempt or disdainful pity," "with reference to the two fold nature of man, the corrupt and the truly Christian man, conformed to the nature of God." (See Strong's lexicon for details). The Greek word is intended "to distinguish man from beings of a different race or order from God, Christ and the angels."

Another word translated as "man" is the Hebrew word "Adam." It is mostly used for all the descendants of Adam, and only occasionally for Adam the individual. It actually means "red-colored." So, it would appear that "man" in the sense that we mean it, refers to reddish colored offspring of Adam, as distinct from "every other creature that looks like man," which would include God, Christ, angels, evil spirits, statues, some apes, Neanderthals, etc., etc.

In Latter-day revelation, we gain further insight into what is meant by "man:"

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.465 MAN:
"Commonly we are in the habit of considering man as a human being only and stopping there. Actually the gospel perspective is far broader. In the language of Adam, two of the names of God the Father are, Man of Holiness, and Man of Counsel (Moses 6:57; 7:35); that is, God is a holy Man, a Man who is perfect in counsel. All beings who are his offspring, who are members of his family, are also men. ... Even mortal man has a higher status than a finite perspective sometimes gives him. Speaking of such earth-bound creatures the scriptures say: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour." (Ps. 8:4-5.) The marginal reading, giving a more accurate translation, reads: "Thou hast made him but little lower than God [meaning Elohim]." Man and God are of the same race, and it is within the power of righteous man to become like his Father, that is to become a holy Man, a Man of Holiness."

Thus, when the scriptures speak of "man," they mean a particular sub-group of man-like beings, a sinful creature who is nevertheless the offspring of, and capable of becoming like, his Heavenly Father.

It appears that this description does not apply to those creatures who looked like men, but lived before Adam. As noted elsewhere, all the evidence suggests that, up until a few thousand years ago, mankind did not have free will or consciousness as we know it. They did not have the knowledge of good and evil, and so, could neither sin or choose righteousness. Thus, even though they may have looked exactly like Adam, lived at the same time, and done many things in their ignorance, they were not mankind.

There were no pre-Adamites

Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.78: "Since Adam was the first man on the earth, that does away with the false notion that there were pre-Adamites."

Obviously this is true. Adamites, by definition are descendants of Adam. This is just a re-statement of the point made earlier about being the "first man."

Does evolution deny the Fall of Adam?

Evolution - as commonly understood - does deny the Fall of Adam. See Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.119 and p. 142.

This is an important point, as without the Fall of Adam, there would be no purpose in the atonement of Christ.

The popular view of evolution (gradual change, random processes, apes progressing by gradual steps to become men) does indeed deny the Fall of Adam. But the more modest scientific view - that there were man-like creatures before Adam - does not in itself cause any problems.

What was the Fall of Adam?

The Fall of Adam refers to gaining of the knowledge of good and evil. This does not affect the body, but the mind. It therefore does not affect any physical theory such as evolution.

It is true that the fall also meant leaving the garden of Eden, and various other physical changes, but Eden was only a temporary and small part of the earth anyway, so probably would not show up to archeologists, even if they knew what to look for.

In summary, the popular view of evolution does deny the Fall. But the scientific view of evolution implies nothing about the Fall. It simply states that there were man-like beings before Adam.

But Adam was the parent of the whole human race?

Yes, that is true. But that does not mean that other creatures or lineages did not exist previously but have now died out. The mitochondrial eve hypothesis, for example, provides evidence that we can all trace our ancestry back to one person. But no scientist would claim that this person was alone at the time.

Was there no death before Adam?

This is often stated by prophets, and it is true. Yet archeologists continue to find the remains of creatures that have lived and died long before man came on the scene. What are we to conclude? That all archeologists are stupid, or liars? That God has planted these deceptive remains in order to test us? Let us look at what the scriptures actually say.

What do we mean by "death?"

When a robot is turned off, does it die? Not unless it is conscious. In the same way, until the fall of Adam, there could be no death as we know it, because there was no consciousness (e.g. no concept of "the self," no introspection, no ability to examine one's own actions and make rational judgements).

Before the fall of Adam, everything on this earth was organized (e.g. controlled) in heaven, even though it existed physically on the earth. It seems to have been a kind of dream-like state. Living things were effectively puppets. This is discussed in more detail elsewhere.

What we call "death" is when the spirit leaves the body and returns to the spirit world. Since the spirit of Adam (and any other creatures) was already in the spirit world, there could be no death. The creatures before the fall were already dead - or already alive - whatever, the words are meaningless. Before the Fall, life and death were the same.

If Adam had not been tempted and thus fallen, he would have lived forever, right? Technically, yes. He would have been able to move, breath, speak, etc., but the scriptures say he would actually have been dead:

2 Nephi 2:11-12
"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

When someone is not dead as we know it, they should not be described as dead. For example, when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from death, he said "She is not dead, but sleepeth."

So there was no death in any meaningful sense before the Fall of Adam. And, when they were in the vicinity of the tree of life (e.g. in Eden), there was no death of any kind whatsoever.

Was there no mortality before Adam?

In the same way as there was no death, there was no mortality before Adam. Mortality, as described in the scriptures, is a sinful state, a probationary state when we are separated from God and tested to see whether we will choose good from evil. None of these things apply to a spiritual creature, before the Fall of Adam. Although they passed through physical bodies, creatures before Adam would not experience mortality.

"Moses chapter says that these beings were created in heaven, not on the earth."

The word "created" simply means "organized." These beings, with bodies on earth, were controlled from heaven as if they were puppets. They did not have independent existence on the earth until after the Fall.

"Controlled from heaven?? Seems a bit unlikely..."

Why? Heaven is still able to control every atom, every decision, in this world. The only difference is, for this mortal probation, we have been given the freedom to do what we wish (including sinning and creating suffering and destruction). Heaven has just promised to hold back unless we specifically ask. See the discussion of randomness on the page about evolution.

What about the bold statements having spirit in their veins, living forever, etc.?

Most of the statements about Adam and Eve refer specifically to the garden of Eden, a small part of the world where, for a limited time only, nothing was born or died in any way at all. For example, Bruce R. McConkie in "Mormon Doctrine," says some very strong things about Eden and the fall.

It is also true that Adam - and presumably all animals in the garden - changed from a terrestrial condition to a telestial condition at that time. But they had only been raised to that condition a short time before. (Adam and Even were born - presumably as mortals - and were then placed in the garden. In the garden, they were unable to procreate, and also, because of the tree of life, they would live forever.) This was a temporary situation. For scriptural evidence, see the page on creation accounts and science.

Sometimes prophets use words like "all the earth," but we should be very cautious here:

What do we mean by "all the earth?"

In the Bible, the phrase "all the earth" seems to have been from a particular point of view.

Exodus 10:15: "For they [the Egyptian plague of locusts] covered the face of the whole earth"

Jeremiah 25:26: "And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them." Jeremiah 51:41: "How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!"

Isaiah 23:17: "And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth."

Luke 2:1: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."

etc., etc.

This seems to be confirmed by modern revelation:

Moses 1:27-29
"And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it ... And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not ... And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof."

"What is the scriptural evidence for death (of some kind) before Adam?"

1. Adam was given plants to eat. Therefore the plants died. If plants can die, why not animals?

2. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God made him clothes of skins. From where?

3. The animals were told to have offspring after their own kind. Genesis 1:20-25:

"And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

There is no indication that they changed. So, before the Fall and after the Fall they looked much the same. Most animals' bodies are designed around the fact of death. Hence, carnivores have sharp teeth, prey animals have eyes on opposite sides of their head to watch for predators, and so on. Even life spans are designed around death - hence some insects will only live for a matter of days or hours. Some of the fowls of the air rely on meat to eat or they cannot get enough energy to fly. For all this to change requires major miracles that are not mentioned.

4. There is evidence for procreation (see below). Procreation without any kind of death would lead to a very overcrowded world very quickly.

5. A piece of circumstantial evidence is that, according to the LDS view of the seven seals in revelation, the first thousand years after Adam was characterised by war. If there were pre-Adamic creatures, this first thousand years would have been the time when Adam's race gained control of the world from them.

"And also no procreation."

As with the case of "no death," this usually refers to the garden of Eden and not the world in general. However, since procreation after the Fall was very different from procreation before the Fall (it had more pain and an appreciation of that pain and of its significance, plus an appreciation of danger, pleasure, and so on) it is fair to say that there was not procreation as we experience it.

Animals live by instincts more than by choice. Animals know how to procreate. God had commanded them to multiply. (See Genesis 1:20-25.) For them to disobey, would require a very perverse set of counter-commands from God.

Note that, according to several prophets (not just Brigham Young), Adam and Eve were created in the same way that you and I were - they had parents. So there was procreation somewhere before the Fall.

"Why have the prophets not said this more clearly? I don't think that Elders McConkie or Smith meant it quite how you put it."

These details are not essential to our salvation. Hence they have not been revealed plainly. Those apostles who have suggested strongly anti-evolution positions have never claimed that they received a new revelation on the matter, only that, to them, the conclusions are inescapable. I agree with them! But perhaps not in the way that they intended. I have just tried to show that what they actually said - as guided by the spirit - is in harmony with other discoveries. We do not need to choose EITHER dinosaurs OR prophecy - we can accept both! The Holy Spirit does let us all have different opinions on unimportant matters, but no apostle will lead us astray.

"Other people have come up with other explanations of how creation happened."

And they might be right! This is just how I understand it. One recent theory, for example, is that creatures before Adam did not have spirits, and thus there was no death. But I think that this theory contradicts President Smith's statements about a spiritual creation, and Brigham Young's statements about all things having spirits, even inanimate matter. It seems to me that, far from having no spirits, creatures before Adam were so filled with the spirit (their own in harmony with God's) that this is the reason they did not experience mortality or death as we do. Maybe someone will come up with another explanation, but until then this is how it looks to me.


The bottom line:

Brigham Young, JD, Vol.9, p.316 - p.317
"My religion teaches me to embrace all truth in the heavens, on the earth, under the earth, and in the bottomless pit, if there is any there. My creed embraces all truth. If you have truth that I have not, let me know it, and it will come to where it belongs; and if I have truth which you have not you are welcome to it. There is no need of debate and contention in regard to truth and error, for debate tends to create a spirit of bitterness."


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