On Creation vs. Evolution
Thoughts from various authors
in a Church & Science e-mail list
Out of the Dust of the Ground
Genesis 2:7 says that the "Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground."
Of the dust of the ground. Every "beast of the field, and every fowl of the air," in fact, was formed "out of the ground." (Genesis 2:19) Out of the ground. That particular phrase, which says that man was formed of the dust of the ground, is mentioned twice in the same chapter. Why? It emphasizes the point that mankind was formed out of the ground, like all other forms of life. What does it mean, though?
Besides evolution, what other process might have transformed the "dust of the ground" into a nearly infinite variety of living organisms? Is it really so hard to ponder the possibility that God oversaw man's physical creation as the crowning glory of the same process by which he caused the earth to bring about all other forms of life on earth?
From the Improvement Era, 13:570, April 1910, Joseph F. Smith & Edward H. Anderson editors:
Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.
Sorenson suggests that in Abraham 5:9,20 and Moses 3:7,19-20 the word "earth" refers not to the entire globe but specifically to the Garden of Eden (which he interprets as not covering the whole earth). Thus, man was not the first flesh upon the globe, but the first flesh in the Garden of Eden. (Note that it is very common in the scriptures for the word "earth" to refer to a local land, or to quote Sorenson again "In Hebrew one word, 'eretz, is translated either "land" or "earth" depending on the context.")
Here's another possible way to look at some of these narratives: treat them as attempts of prophets not versed in science to explain something which can only be explained scientifically. The writers did the best they could to describe things they saw but did not understand; they had neither the background nor vocabulary to do the subject justice. Further, even it they could have explained things correctly, their immediate audience was not prepared to understand.
If this sounds a little far-fetched, try explaining the basics of quantum mechanics to a 4th-grader sometime. It's not that the writers lacked a high degree of intelligence, but simply that their background was insufficient to the task at hand.
Spoken at a spring convocation at Brigham Young University, Church News, 24 May, 1969
You young people live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve it in the church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it. Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition.
Home / For Latter-day Saints