1. Alece

    Thanks for this great post. Up until this week I had no idea that people were losing their testimonies over this dichotomy. I find that to be so sad, especially when nothing in this dichotomy is worth even worrying about — in comparison to life altering problems and doctrine — let alone worth leaving the Church over!

    I long ago came to the realization that there are things which are necessary to know and things which would be nice to know, and things which I can live a long time without knowing. This concern — at least to me — falls in the last category — especially when there are so many divergent views from so many gospel scholars, leaders and prophets — not to mention scientists, etc., about it!

    I do believe that when it is necessary for us to know the answers to these questions, we will know them. Until then, I’d rather focus my energies on things that eternally matter! However, if your post helps even one soul who is struggling with this dichotomy to find a way to salvage his or her testimony, it was a necessary post to write, so thank you, again, for your dilligence and love for your fellow gospel travelers and seekers.

  2. Jared

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. This is a difficult subject inasmuch as individuals make it difficult. People need to be comfortable in ignorance, which does not mean we are content or complacent in ignorance, merely comfortable with not knowing all the answers at this junction in our existence. Scientists do not have all the answers and church leaders do not have all the answers. As a scientist early in my career, already I’ve seen what amount to seismic shifts in my field – changes that are orthogonal to past (mis)conceptions of “the way things work.” In reality, we know little about things as they really are. I think a lot of people, including myself, are going to have to unlearn a lot of falsehoods when we enter the spirit world and start to have access to unfettered truth.

  3. Alece


    My husband, who is both an engineer and a scientist, would agree with you 100%. Science is pretty much never completely settled about anything; so it’s pretty sad to lose you faith over a dichotomy between science and religion.

    I also agree with you that Church leaders don’t have all the answers — even in the areas where faith doesn’t cross science. In some cases, we don’t even know the correct questions to ask yet; and we never get answers from God before we ask questions!

  4. ben

    1. It should also be noted that Elder James E. Talmage is the only individual to my knowledge who was granted to write a book while inside a temple, even Jesus the Christ, while working in a study room in the Salt Lake Temple, a book which is still seen as one of the best studies into the life of Jesus Christ.

    I wanted to comment on the above quote.

    There have been many books written inside temples. It is just not habitually stated when they are. However, I can tell you of a surety that there is one book right now being reviewed by the church written by LDS author Blaine Yorgason and co authored by Elder Bruce C Hafen emeritus member of the First Quorum of Seventy which was written inside the St. George Utah temple in a small room just off of the priesthood Room (Solemn Assembly Room). Not sure when it will be published though, but very excited to read it.

    Not quite sure everything you said in this article is quite right, however Ive believed since my mission that the world was billions of years old and has gone through a series of creative and cataclysmic events in order to make the world suitable for man, thus the creation spoken of in the temple and the scriptures are not the full story of creation, only the creation as pertaining to the final steps of preparation for mans habitation. Meaning, the creation that pertains to us. I do not believe however that there needed to be death during Adams garden state, which didn’t need to last long any way. I believe that Christ atoned for everything that Adam caused to die, which includes the entire earth of which he was the Lord over all of it, Not just the garden in which he happened to reside. All things on the planet fell into a death like state after the fall and not before that point (note: except before Elohim placed all things on the earth for Adams use, there was plenty of death then.). Also, telestial plants do die in our telestial bodies when eaten. That doesn’t mean that terrestrial plants die in terrestrial bodies. Think of it more as changing from and becoming a part of something else that is living.
    These are my views that are still very much in line with the views of this article. well done.

  5. Mike Martin

    Once again you have done a great job of exploring what I consider to be a very important subject. It is a subject the requires much deeper thought than most people are willing to give it. One question I would add to your list is: What was The Garden of Eden?

  6. Paolo

    Interesting post, and a topic that has caused me some consternation. By way of disclosure, I am a member of the church, but have many questions about many aspects of the gospel which give a great deal of dissonance. To those that wonder how this issue could cause someone to leave the church; If you will just put yourself into a position to try and look at both sides of an issue without confirmation bias, then the question of death, Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden is basically the essential hinge of the church.

    Let me explain. The gospel hinges on Jesus Christ, whose mission was to save us (physically and spiritually) from the “Fall” of Adam and Eve. If there were no “first” parents (Adam & Eve) created by God, who lived in said Garden, then there was no need for a “Savior”, no truth to the temple ceremony, and no church. This is why this issue is so important. The whole story, then, of the creation of man, evolution and death is absolutely germain to the discussion.

    The problem I have with much of this discussion (BTW, this is a well thought-out and well researched piece) is that os, that there is no “firm” doctrine from the church on the creation, evolution, death before the fall, etc., especially due to how important the need is to believe in the whole creation mythos.

    As is so well pointed out in the OP, basically, there is no “official” position of these things, since you can clearly read conflicting points of view from prophets, seers, and revelators. So my question then boils down to “how do you know?”, then, what one of the pivotal doctrines is? Clearly, one can make a case for either point of view, and as is pointed out in the OP, the answer must be purely for us to try and discern for ourselves, since there doesn’t seem to be lighted sign on the pulpit of the conference center that lights up, “Opinion of man” or “Revealed word of God”.

    My disagreement is that I feel that Prophets, Seers, and Revelators should prophesy, see and reveal important truths that really do affect a persons belief in salvation. It seems that on so many points of “doctrine”, that there really isn’t any “doctrine”; just silence. I think that there are so many important issues in the world, that I would love to hear Pres. Monson stand up and say, “Thus saith the Lord, GOD, …..”

    Before you start piling on, remember that Joseph Smith gave revelation in the form of “…thus saith the LORD”, on everything from grand principles to having someone build a store. I believe that it is and would be important for the church to have an actual “doctrine” that they would stand behind as doctrine as to this whole issue of creation, death, etc. The arguments presented, although eloquent and thoughtful, are still, well…wishy washy, since the burden still lies on me to discern at my own level of understanding and based on feedback above, needing to basically just say, “well, it just isn’t that important” and put it on a shelf. This IS an important doctrine as I already mentioned before.

    I will continue to read, and hope that there will be some thoughtful ideas on this topic.

    Cordiali Saluti

  7. Alece

    The difference, I guess, between how you (Paolo) and Me (Alece) define the importance of this dichotomy to our faith life is that what is important to YOU, may not be as important to ME; whereas, other things which are important to Me, may not be important to You. (If you get my drift.)

    I didn’t mean to marginalize the question, except that, to ME, it really isn’t a question worth losing your faith over, as I don’t see the conflict between evolution and the 6000 year time frame and death before or after the fall that many others do. I believe that our creative (or organizational) God uses laws which we know nothing about and laws about which we know at least a bit (like gravity, etc., to create.) I believe that evolution is a law that God uses. I also believe that we truly don’t understand God’s creative process — which leads to questions such as yours. Finally, I also believe that the Lord isn’t going to give us ALL the answers we desire during our sojourn on this earth. AND — I wonder if we even completely understand how God uses the word “death” in these scriptures, beyond all the other problems inherent in this overall question.

    I feel that there may be answers we simply aren’t ready to understand yet, and which might actually harm our faith to receive in our current spiritual state — even collectively — let alone individually. Thus, my comment about knowing that there are some things I probably don’t need to understand right now. (And this is from a person who really likes to KNOW stuff!)

  8. Phil

    What hasn’t been discussed more fully is the implications of the resurrection and the fossils. Every dinosaur, cave man, trilobite etc will be resurrected and be restored to this earth again, So those creatures must have fallen when adam fell to be included in the resurrection. If they have died millions of years ago – why have they had to wait so long for their resurrection. It doesn’t make sense.

    The evangelical Christians have alot to say on the matter which I have studied for years. Marsupial fossils discovered with dinosaur fossils, the cambrian explosion, fossilized mans foot prints discovered alongside dinosaur prints, fossilized pre-historic amphibians giving birth the list goes on.

  9. The entire question you pose is based on the assumption that God is beholden to temporality. If the Atonement is infinite, perhaps it is also atemporal (or without time)…perhaps, as well, the Fall is infinite and atemporal. In other words, even if the historic evidence suggests the possibility that “death” could have happened, in time, before the Fall, it is really inconsequential if the ramifications of the Fall are atemporal or without our conception of time. In other words, in our conception of time, the atonement can work “backwards” but, perhaps the Fall can work “backwards” as well. Again, the entire argument is based on the assumption of temporality.

  10. Alece

    Great comment, Phil, especially when we remember that ALL time is before God at once — i.e., his world IS atemporal — or without time as we know it. (At least this is what I think I remember understanding about how God sees time!)

  11. Alistair Rae

    Hi a few years ago I decided to check out any scientific books published by LDS scientists to see what the current thinking was on evolution. Here is the short list:
    1.Evolution and a Quest for Understanding Mormonism Trent D Stephens & Jeffrey Meldrum
    2.Relics of Eden – Daniel J Fairbanks ( great DNA evidence)
    That was it.
    Non LDS books recommended by LDS bloggers.
    1. Evolution- Donald R Prothero ( excellent chapters on the Creationist&Intelligent Design movement)
    2. Evolution The first Four billion years Michael Ruse & Joseph Travis – 16 selected experts.
    I live in Scotland and was influenced by Man His Origin and Destiny but confused when our kids came home from school having been taught “contradictory science”. The author has a lot to answer for as does his relations
    in the church who are very dogmatic, one having declared that we were “evil” to accept evolution.Sad.

  12. Great exploration of this topic. I loved the materials you pulled together and analyzed. Perhaps you have heard about a recent interview with Trent Stephens, wherein he talks a lot about this very issue. I think you would love it. I found it in the podcast series entitled “A Thoughtful Faith.”

  13. I haven’t heard of the interview with Trent Stephens. I hear that he has coauthored a great book on evolution that I need to pick up. I read a FAIR address by him he gave a few years ago on evolution, and I’m writing an article on evolution right now about some of my first impressions on that topic. Do you have a link to his podcast?

  14. You said:

    “Here is the kicker: “and all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.” That’s quite a mouthful. But what does it mean? Well, as we’ve seen, many have taken it to believe that there was no death before the Fall of Adam.”

    Brigham Young said:

    “It is very true, had not sin entered into the world, and opposition been introduced, death would not have entered.”

    Source: http://www.josephsmithforum.org/research/faqs/05-death-before-fall-was-there-death-on-earth-prior-to-the-fall-has-the-church-changed-its-position-on-this/

  15. Thank you D. Rolling. That’s a good quote from Brigham, however, it doesn’t specifically refer to the scripture in 2 Nephi 2:22, and it leaves many questions unanswered. Death would not have entered where? With whom? Adam and Eve? All things? What does it mean that “all things” would have remained in the “same state”? The scripture doesn’t mention “death.”

    In connection with this topic, it is interesting to note the changes that have been made in the new 2013 edition of the scriptures, which was just announced a couple weeks ago, specifically the entries on the Fall and Death in the Bible Dictionary. Here are some select quotations that were changed:

    Fall of Adam (now “and Eve”) – Before the fall (now “Fall”), Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There (there) was (were) no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the “forbidden fruit,” Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life.

    Death – Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall (Fall) of Adam.

    Both of these changes open up the possibility for adjustments in our understanding of the Adam and Eve, the Fall, death, mortality, evolution, the history of the Earth, flesh and blood, the physical body, life, the Garden of Eden, and our understanding of the scriptures.

  16. Richard McFadden

    This is a question that has created a lot of discussion and even caused some to leave the church. I would think the answer would be very important and yet there is none. Is there no one with sufficient faith to follow the advice of James and get an answer?

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