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In response to the recent article, “Why have the Presidents of the Church consistently taught against Darwinism?” a reader suggested that a supposed 1910 First Presidency Message overrules other statements from Presidents of the Church.  Many LDS promoters of evolution inaccurately claim this statement was given by the First Presidency.  However, a simple overview of the evidence reveals this rumor to be inaccurate.

In 1910, the following statement appeared in the “Priesthood Quorums’ Table” with no attribution and it has never been known who the author was.

“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.”

The Priesthood Quorums’ Table was the method by which the General Priesthood Committee communicated with the local quorums. One thing we know for certain is that the article was not written by Joseph F. Smith or the First Presidency as claimed by Evenson and Jeffery. 1 The first evidence is that, as I mentioned above, there was no signature on the article. Realize that the Improvement Era contained numerous anonymous comments and articles on various religious and secular topics. The articles that were written by the First Presidency, by President Joseph F. Smith or by other leaders such as “The Origin of Man” published in 1909 and “The Father and The Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by The First Presidency and The Twelve” published in 1916 are clearly distinguishable as to who the author or authors are. Some believe that the article cited above was written by someone on the General Priesthood Committee, but we will probably never know in this life as articles were published by many who were not members of the General Committee. It could have been written by any member of the Church. The articles that President Smith or others wrote always bore their names, where this 1910 message was unidentified.

President Joseph F. Smith
President Joseph F. Smith

The next evidence that President Joseph F. Smith did not write the statement as is often indicated is that at that very time, the years 1910 and 1911, President Smith removed three BYU faculty members for their persistent teaching of organic evolution and higher criticism. It would be very inconsistent to make the statement you have attributed to him while acting in this way. This history has been documented by various sources. Another evidence that President Smith did not write the statement is that it is inconsistent with everything that President Smith ever taught on the subject. President Smith taught repeatedly that Adam was the physical son of God as taught in Luke 3:38 and Moses 6:22. Note this statement made by President Smith and the First Presidency in 1912:

Our father Adam—that is our earthly father—the progenitor of the human race of man, stands at the head being ‘Michael the Archangel, the Ancient of Days,’ and…was not fashioned from earth like an adobe but begotten by his Father in Heaven. 2

President Smith taught consistently that Adam was the literal son of God (as clearly stated in the scriptures) as did Presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Fielding Smith and others. This is probably why the First Presidency in 1909 said:

Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself, or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam’s race—God alone can reveal them. Some of these facts, however, are already known, and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain. 3

President Smith also taught:

We did not spring from spawn. Our spirits existed from the beginning, have existed always, and will continue forever. We did not pass through the ordeals of embodiment in the lesser animals in order to reach the perfection to which we have attained in manhood and womanhood, in the image and likeness of God. God was and is our Father, and his children were begotten in the flesh of his own image and likeness, male and female. 4

This doctrine that Adam was the literal son of God through his physical body was consistently taught by Joseph F. Smith and other of the Presidents of the Church, and it is spelled out in the standard works of the Church. In fact, Joseph Fielding Smith unmistakably taught that it was a fundamental doctrine of our Church.

“GOD: FIRST OF THE HUMAN FAMILY. Let me comment first upon the expression that God is the “first of the human family.” This same doctrine was taught by Joseph Smith. It is a fundamental doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the teachings of Joseph Smith, he beheld the Father and the Son in his glorious vision, and he taught that each had a body of flesh and bones. He also taught that, literally, God is our Father; that men are of the same race—the race called humans; and that God, the Progenitor, or Creator, is the Father of the human race. “In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God. It is a doctrine common to the Latter-day Saints, that God, the Great Elohim, is the First, or Creator, of the human family.” 5

Note that this “fundamental doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is in direct conflict with believing that man came from lower forms of life.

There is still more evidence that this 1910 statement is not authentic as indicated. Remember that 1910 was long before Church Correlation. That same year in the Course of Study For Priests, the following statement was published:

Man has descended from God: In fact, he is of the same race as the Gods. His descent has not been from a lower form of life, but from the Highest Form of Life; in other words, man is, in the most literal sense, a child of God. This is not only true of the spirit of man, but of his body also. 6

This statement is in harmony with the numerous other writings of President Joseph F. Smith, but was probably no more written by him than the other statement made in 1910. Please see a copy of the reported First Presidency Message from the 1910 Improvement Era and recognize that, as mentioned above, it is not signed by the First Presidency. It is also not signed by President Joseph F. Smith. Also, please see a copy of a message from Joseph F. Smith from the Improvement Era that is signed, enabling anyone to contrast the two. Finally, see an additional link to a copy of an article signed by the First Presidency. This should clarify any misunderstanding regarding the supposed First Presidency Message of 1910.

Origin of Man – April 1910

Origin of Man Priesthood Quorums' Table - 1910

Signature 1 – Same Issue

First Presidency Signature - Same Issue 1

Signature 2 – Same Issue

First Presidency Signature - Same Issue 2

Notes:

  1. Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, p. 42-44
  2. President Joseph F. Smith, President Anthon H. Lund, and President Charles W. Penrose. The First Presidency, Letter to Samuel O. Bennion, February 26, 1912
  3. First Presidency of the Church, The Origin of Man, Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, 75–81, see also Ensign, February 2002, p. 26
  4. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 25
  5. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, volume 1, p. 102.
  6. Course of Study For Priests, 1910, under the subject, “The Creation of Man”

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2 Comments on "A Response to the Erroneously Attributed “1910 First Presidency Message”"

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Cameron
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To believe or think that God created us through the process of evolution is demeaning and completely contrary to the scriptures. Some scholars of the biology community seem to be held captive to the idea of evolution, while attempting to mingle it with creation. But the philosophies of man, mingled with scripture are falsehoods all the same!

Kani
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I’ve come across a thought I had about the big bang theory and evolution. I was thinking that if teachers speak of evolution as the theory of man would it not be possible according to their philosophy for that same theory to have existed on another earth wich may have been thousands or millions of years ahead of us and that a race on that earth could have become advanced enough to plant man here on this earth. And that that earth the Being came from may have been a different atmosphere and possibly speed up the process of evolution… Read more »
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