Part II, Q. 3, art. 13
It seems that the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is incompatible with the theory of organic evolution. Joseph Fielding Smith says, “The doctrine of pre-Adamites is not a doctrine of the Church and is not advocated or countenanced in the Church. There is no warrant for it in scripture, not an authentic word to sustain it.”1 (47) Adam is described in scripture as the “first flesh of all flesh” (Moses 3:7), negating the possibility of life on earth having existed before him.
On the contrary B.H. Roberts asserts that there is no conflict between Latter-day Saint theology and the existence of pre-Adamite man. Scriptures describing Adam as the first man necessarily refer to Adam being the first man of this dispensation. The wealth of the scientific evidence points to an ancient earth and to living beings having populated it for millions of years.
I answer that the answer to the question remains unsolved by theological and scientific methods, but that continued research has swayed the argument in the direction of B.H. Roberts’ conclusions. It must be remembered that both of these highly qualified brethren were speaking in the early 1900s, before the vast wealth of evolutionary evidence was created. The argument is not whether or not God had a hand in creation – the question simply addresses how He did it. Presidents Roberts and Smith were both faithful to the Church throughout their lives.
To definitively state the method of creation, specifically of the creation of man, is to overstep the boundaries of both available science and revealed truth. Scientific statements are forever tentative. Observe the upheaval of Newtonian physics in the wake of Quantum and Relativistic mechanics – though still useful in the normal realm of existence (we send people to the moon using nothing more than Newton’s laws), the anciently held assumptions break down in the realms of the very large and the very small. Current evolutionary theory only resembles in part Darwin’s original theory, due to continual advancements. Further changes are sure to occur. In regards to revealed truth, the scriptures and revelations are, as has been discussed elsewhere, “fraught with background.” Ancient and modern scriptures are content to describe the natural world only in outline, and often metaphorically, for their realm is the salvation of man, not scientific exegesis. We must hold loosely our scientific reading of sacred text. The assumption of many that “all truth is in the Word” is true, but only insomuch as truth is defined to be that which will give a person salvation. Isaiah, Paul, Moroni, and Joseph Smith all had no reason to delve into Schrodinger’s box, for that world of thought had not yet been created. What glimmers of scientific truth we find in scripture (eternity of matter and intelligences and the material nature of spirit as examples) should be cherished, but should not be pushed to extremes. It is irresponsible scientifically and religiously to close oneself or others off from the whole spectrum of truth, for as it is stated, “plan of salvation must . . . circumscribe [all] the knowledge that is upon the face of the earth or it is not from God.”
It is likely that B.H. Roberts came nearest the truth. Radiometric dating puts the age of the earth at billions of years – even allowing for the large degree of uncertainty inherent in the measurements, the earth is at least much older than the 6000 year model of Young Earth Creationists. The geological record points, again and again, to micro and macroevolution. The scriptures, especially in the book of Moses, affirm God’s scope of influence as encompassing the universe and all the worlds therein, which have both come into being and passed away. Creation and destruction are inextricably linked, and the method of God’s creation is to take matter unorganized and organize it. Combining these doctrinal and scientific ideas should inform one’s reading of other texts, including the creation accounts. It is possible that God utilized organic evolution to bring forth Man in his present state –in accordance with His other creative paradigm and the bulk of scientific evidence, primitive matter was progressively sophisticated over the course of time until the desired result arrived. Then was Adam the first Man, as distinguished from the first Cro-Magnon Man or any other type of man found in the fossil record. Homo sapiens is delineated in taxonomy from Homo erectus and all of the other Homo- species, and for this reason – something is different. Then the Fall brought spiritual death into the world, and we find ourselves here. The case for pre-Adamite man is tentative, but it finds no serious objectors in scripture, geology, or biology. Here we leave our exploration in the hands of further revelation and scientific exploration, and state emphatically that we do not yet know the whole truth.