A Ball of Mud or a Sea of Mud?

A critical perspective of the popular LDS view of organic evolution.

by Kim Siever

Despite the existence of little modern revelation in support of the Orthodox Christian view of the creation of Adam, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereunto referred to as "members" or "Latter-day Saints", still accept this view as a basic tenet of the LDS faith. Moreover, because a similar lack of revelation exists explicitly proclaiming evolution as the means by which Adam was created, many members interpret this as a denouncement of evolution.

This creates a belief system based on hand-me-down assumptions rather than one built on revealed truth or solid scientific evidence, and a people who base its beliefs on assumptions are carrying out a very dangerous activity.

The purpose of this paper is to show the fallacy of accepting the literal interpretation of Gen 2:7 as the only way Adam was created despite the lack of revealed truth supporting this.1 I will also outline how the doctrine of evolution is just as possible as the creationist explanation.

Of the Dust of the Ground

The most popular statement I receive when Latter-day Saints find out I believe in evolution is, "I cannot accept that we have evolved from apes." I do not find how anyone can view this as preposterous at all. From a scientific standpoint, it makes complete sense. What I find preposterous is the assumption that rather than take an established scientific theory such as evolution, many Latter-day Saints are more comfortable with God taking a lump of clay, molding it into the shape of a man, blowing into the clay nostrils and then somehow transforming the clay magically into a human being.

I am of the firm opinion that this verse is figurative. King Benjamin taught that all of us have been "created of the dust of the earth"2, but we all know that this is not the case. As mentioned by the First Presidency in 1909, "the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ or embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man."3

How can Latter-day Saints reconcile one occurrence of this phrase as being literal and yet the other as being figurative?

Interestingly enough, the same First Presidency statement goes on to say "there is nothing . . . to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man."

Is the dust of the earth less than a man, or less than the embryo that becomes a man? According to section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the dust of the earth is what makes up the embryo that becomes the man. In Gen 2:7, the word "dust" is accompanied by a footnote. One of the scriptures in this footnote compares the word "elements" with the word "dust" saying, "the elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God..."4

This suggests then that Adam was not literally formed from the dust of the earth, but was formed by the same elements that make up the earth.

Theories of Man

"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."5

This is another favourite defence for Latter-day Saints who do not understand the creation of Adam. They quickly point out that the First Presidency labels evolutionism as a theory of man, and thus is equated with being false.6 However, a theory of man is not always false. Does gravity then not exist because it is a theory of man? Was Einstein mistaken on the Theory of Relativity? Is the wave-particle duality of light an incorrect principle because quantum physics is but a theory of man? Was Christopher Columbus mistaken in his theory of the earth being round? Does the earth not revolve around the sun as a theory of Nicolas Copernicus once suggested?

No, I do not believe that because something is a theory of men that it is automatically false. I believe what it means is that it is automatically unproven. As long as something is unproven, it is then possible to be correct until it is proven to be incorrect. To automatically say it is wrong based on tradition only shows one's ignorance.

Then How?

So, then if creationism as it is taught in orthodox Christianity isn't how God formed man, is evolution the only way? In short, I do not know. God has not revealed the modus operandi that He used to create Adam;7 we only know that He created him.

I do not say that creationism is wrong and that evolutionism is right. Creationism seems right because that is what is in the scriptures and evolution seems right because it is more easily proven. Yet, why can it not be both? Why can it not be that God used and controlled evolutionary processes to create Adam, to manipulate the elements — the dust of the earth — over time (days to Him really). Why can it not be that He used complex processes to create a complex being?

In closing, I feel it appropriate to contemplate the words of President Spencer W. Kimball.

"The Creators breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and man and woman became living souls. We don't know exactly how their coming into this world happened, and when we're able to understand it the Lord will tell us."8


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  1. Gen 2:7 "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
  2. Mosiah 2:25 "Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you."
  3. Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund, Improvement Era, Vol. 8, November 1909, No. 1., "Editor's Table: The Origin of Man"
  4. Ibid., emphasis added D&C 93: 35 (33-35)
  5. Actually, they more specifically reference Joseph F. Smith on this quote because they have only ever come across it in the 2000/2001 Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual and have no idea a First Presidency statement even existed.
  6. D&C 93:35 (33-35)
  7. "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." (Improvement Era, Vol. 13, April 1910, No. 5(70), "Priesthood Quorum's Table")
  8. Ensign, March 1976, "The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood"
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