Book Review: Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam

Many years ago, the son of a good friend was preparing for a mission. He was offered a scholarship to a major university, and so decided to attend for a year before leaving on his mission. By the end of the year, he was no longer an active, believing member. His parents raised him believing in a 6000 year old earth, with a Creation that occurred over a very short period of time.  After several science classes that included biology and evolution, he was forced to choose between the incontrovertible evidence of science and the claims made by church leaders and his parents on the age of the earth.  Such is a great danger to many of our kids today, and so various scholars and others are seeking methods to be able to resolve the conflict, and hopefully save some of our people.

Recently, my friend Ben Spackman recommended a book by Protestant Bible scholar Peter Enns, entitled: “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins”.

It is an interesting book, with the following chapters:

  1. Genesis and the Challenges of the 19th Century: Science, Biblical Criticism, and Biblical Archaeology
  2. When Was Genesis Written?
  3. Stories of Origins from Israel’s Neighbors
  4. Israel and Primordial Time
  5. Paul’s Adam and the Old Testament
  6. Paul as an Ancient Interpreter of the Old Testament
  7. Paul’s Adam

Enns briefly covers the science behind evolution and the evidence of a 4.5 billion year old earth and millions of years of existence of man-like beings. He quickly delves into the Bible’s origins, discussing the history of the Documentary Hypothesis (you can read more about it from a Mormon angle here at my personal blog),

He states that there are three major ways we can view Adam and evolution: Accept a 6000 year old earth and a perfectly correct Genesis story; reject Adam and accept only evolution; or accept a hybrid theory that ties Adam and evolution together.

Enns talks about early beliefs of Israelites: flat earth with 4 corners, a 3 level system (heaven, earth, hell/underworld). Genesis 1 has the lights created AFTER plant life is created, making us wonder how such things could survive and grow without the heat and light from the Sun. Clearly, the ancient beliefs do not match with our modern scientific understandings. Nor should they, if God deals with mankind within the understanding of men.

He explains that the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), as we have them today, were not written by Moses, but written by a variety of authors centuries later from their own political/religious perspectives. We see this in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, which give us two different versions of the Creation.

In the chapter on Primordial Time (what Adam S. Miller has elsewhere called “Messianic Time”), we find that ancient Israel did not write about modern science. Israel did not understand linear time, as we do today. Instead, they followed cyclical time. Time went in cycles, repeating itself. So, we see that Israel sought to develop a history that repeated itself, placing Israel in its center of creation, and establishing Jehovah as God.

In this way, the Creation and Adam are representative of God’s creation of Israel under Moses. The plagues of Egypt represent the battle God had with Chaos, or the gods of Chaos (Darkness and Water) to create the earth. As God separated the waters from the land, he separated the waters for Israel to cross over.  Adam became the first man of God, as Israel was the nation of God.

Interestingly, Enns notes that Adam is only mentioned twice in the Old Testament: in Genesis and In 1 Chronicles, where he is included in a genealogy that establishes Israel’s divine place as God’s people. It is not until we get to Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians 15, that we ever get the concept of the Fall of Adam.

For this reason, we see several chapters on Paul, as he gives us the first inkling of the Fall of mankind. Paul uses the ancient Israel’s primordial timeframe to establish why there must be a Messiah, even Jesus Christ. He ties them together, as Moses (or the later authors) tied Israel to the Creation and Adam. Jesus becomes the 2nd Adam, freeing us from the effects of the Fall.

Many of his arguments are very compelling, and well thought out. However, he quickly tosses out the hybrid option of trying to tie Adam and evolution together, because there isn’t enough evidence for him to accept such hybrids and he feels they require too much wrangling of what little evidence there is. Enns believes that Paul believed Adam to be a historic person, and so the apostle wrote accordingly. In doing so, Enns believes it is okay to believe the Adam and Creation stories to be non-historical.

From a traditional Christian view, his arguments are well crafted. I do not think they will convince hardliner Protestants, who believe in a God-breathed sola scriptura. Perhaps it will help some of their children.

From a LDS Chistian viewpoint, we have an extra dimension to consider: what do we do with Joseph Smith?  Like Paul, Joseph believed in a historic Adam. However, Joseph also claimed to have seen Adam and Eve in vision, such as in D&C 137, where he saw them in heaven. If they are historic individuals, then we cannot accept Enns’ final premise that they were historic fiction. We have to find a hybrid solution, where Adam and Eve were literal, historic beings, but not the only individuals upon the earth at the time.

My personal preference for a hybrid solution comes from Paul and the Book of Mormon. Paul talks about the adoption into the lineage of Abraham, while the Book of Mormon speaks of the cultural adoption of various groups and individuals into the Nephite line (Mulekites, Sam’s family, converted Lamanites, etc). This gives us a pattern to use. I would suggest that Adam was a historical figure, but that others also existed, perhaps in areas far off from Eden. Having forgotten his past, it may be that Adam thought he was the only person around, or the oral history was twisted a lot by the time it reached Moses and the later authors (Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie believed Eve being made from Adam’s rib as figurative, not literal, for example).  In the Book of Moses, we find that Adam and Eve were out of the Garden for decades/centuries, before hearing the fullness of the gospel and received baptism (Book of Moses, chapter 5). It may be that as with the Abrahamic Covenant, all may be children of Abraham, that through a similar covenant, all become the children of Adam and Eve (who is the mother of all living).  Evolution is satisfied, in it is allowed its time to develop an earth compatible for human life, and scripture is satisfied in that it provides us the “First man and woman” within the covenant, as culturally/spiritually adoptive parents of all peoples.

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

28 thoughts on “Book Review: Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam

  1. I’ve come, independently, to a similar understanding with respect to reconciling several factors:
    1) an historical Adam and Eve
    2) the reality of biological evolution
    3) an ancient earth, and an ancient process by which human bodies were created
    4) the latter-day understanding of the physical location of Eden (which I comfortably accept, fwiw)

    When we consider the principle of adoption, and how we can define “life” or the “living”, these pieces fall into a coherent whole. I find it acceptable to believe that the process of creation of the earth and biological evolution took place over billions of years, and that Adam and Eve became living souls at such time as God put into them their spirits and placed them into the Garden, which was in a transfigured state until the Fall. At some time concurrent with this, or after the Fall, other bodies throughout the world received spirits as well, and became living souls — adopted into the family of Adam and Eve by virtue of their ensoulment.

    This also addresses the issue raised by 2 Nephi 2:22 by clarifying what is meant by “death” — the separation of spirit and body. If prior to Adam and Eve bodies did not contain spirits, can we say that – scripturally – these bodies were capable of death? Succinctly: there cannot be death without spirit, and the introduction of ensouled bodies with Adam and Eve would, following the Fall, introduce death into the world.

  2. My brain’s not working so well, so please be my memory for a moment. There was a long entry in Interpreter recently, which I think was extracted from an actual dead tree book. Was this it?

    If not, at least I don’t have to read the book now. Can’t imagine it having more useful data than your review. Thank you!

  3. Chet, there’s a lot of very good stuff in the book, which I didn’t include. I didn’t want to rewrite the book. I highly recommend the book for many of its arguments and evidences. It delves into lots of very interesting areas that I did not discuss.

    Observer, I believe all animals, plants and humans have souls/spirits. I believe that those prior to Adam also had spirits. However, being adopted into the family of Adam brings them all under Adam and Eve. In this way, Eve becomes the “mother of all living” creatures and living things, not just of humans she bore.

    God creates life with spirit. There is no evidence of non-living plants and animals roaming the earth as if alive. There is no discussion in any scripture in regards to such an idea. There IS discussion in scripture and by early prophets about pre-Adamites and evolution and adoption.

  4. Thank you for even addressing this. I think that every LDS attempt at addressing Genesis 1 and science, that I have seen, has talked exclusively about the age of the earth and evolution, with no discussion of the implications regarding Adam, Eve, and Joseph Smith. (The recent article “The Theory of Evolution is Compatible with Both Belief and Unbelief in a Supreme Being” from Mormon Interpreter is an example.) Joseph Smith himself said that “day” in Genesis 1 should probably be interpreted as “a period of time”, and I don’t see why it really matters in the end how God created our physical bodies or the animals. (Though it’s interesting.)

    However, what Joseph Smith has gifted us makes it very difficult, from my perspective at least, to understand Adam and Eve as merely figurative. (I suppose Elder Holland said the same thing in last General Conference: “Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.”) You mentioned D&C 137. There’s also D&C 84:6-17 and the Pearl of Great Price, off the top of my head.

  5. “I would suggest that Adam was a historical figure, but that others also existed, perhaps in areas far off from Eden.”

    Rame, I really like this idea, which has been rattling around in my brain for years now, but seems more and more likely the more I think about it. During the temple endowment ceremony, there is the key moment when Lucifer says that his teachings are well-received by most people, but that Adam does not believe his teachings. So, this would support the idea that Adam existed at the same time as other beings (I admit there are other explanations for this as well).

    The key thing that convinces me to take the idea seriously that Adam existed at the same time as other people is the pattern that exists in scripture and even in the latter days of a small group of covenant people following Jehovah while the larger society does not. Think of Enoch, Abraham, Moses, most of the Biblical prophets, and even Joseph Smith. I personally believe that Lehi and Nephi traveled to an Americas that was already populated with other people, and that they were unique as the covenant believers of Jehovah.

    So, this pattern seems to be prevalent in the gospel story. It would not be that unusual for Adam, then, to be an historical person who existed at the same time as other people. As you say, these other people could be adopted into the Adamic covenant just as we are adopted into the Abrahamic covenant.

    This provides a solution for firm believers in macro evolution: Adam was just one of many people who existed on Earth at the time. (The story of Adam and Eve’s children also begins to make more sense as well).

  6. I think it comes down to realizing that “begat” means ancestor (physical, spiritual, or otherwise), not necessarily parent. And that lots of things could exist and have spirits without there being *human* spirits in anything. So what if it took 4,499,900,000 plus years to get this earth ready for human habitation – that’s what it took. I don’t see any problem with that. What counts as a human? How long ago did the Fall take place? No idea. But if Gods and priesthood are real, and if the LDS understanding of them is correct, then a Fall had to happen sometime after *human* spirits had been placed in physical bodies on this earth. It doesn’t matter to me one whit whether that was 10,000 years ago, 100,000, a million, or a billion.

  7. I’m not particularly bothered by the issue; my testimony isn’t based on when (or if) Adam lived but on spiritual witnesses of the reality of God and Christ, and that They did in fact restore Christ’s church to the earth through Joseph Smith. I have a lot of unanswered questions — and some speculations of my own — but they mostly sit up on a shelf, to be taken down and reviewed in the next life, when I can get some definitive answers.

    That said, geologic-age evolution as a creation tool used by God makes plenty of sense to me (cf. a post I wrote several years ago: I do believe Adam & Eve were historical people, placed here on Earth in a special environment (and in a special state of their own), and the Fall did in fact occur to kick things off for them, so to speak. My personal suspicion is that the time and place was likely on the North American continent after the end of the last ice age, but before the Younger Dryas event, which I suspect later became the basis for the stories of the Flood in multiple cultures (cf. But I could be (and likely am) wrong; my point is that, for me, it doesn’t matter.

    It is worth noting that LDS teachings on evolution in the 20th century were heavily shaped by two unauthorized books: “Man, His Origin & Destiny” by Joseph Fielding Smith (1954), and “Mormon Doctrine” by Bruce R. McConkie (1958). Apostles who were senior to Elder Smith — notably James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, and Joseph A. Merrill, all trained scientists — strongly disagreed with Elder Smith’s young-Earth creationism; Elder Smith didn’t publish his book until all three had died (cf. The ideas on this topic put forth by both men became heavily embedded in LDS Institute and Seminary materials, and it has been a long, slow process getting them weeded out, even though official Church statements on evolution all say, in effect, “We don’t know how God did it.”

  8. I never thought Mormon thought supported the idea that the earth was 6000 years old, but rather this rigid creationist framework was brought into Mormonism by Christian converts who didn’t care to question that part of their worldview, Joseph’s comments about “period of time” notwithstanding.

    The Mormonism I was raised to believe in was necessarily consistent with all truth, even at times when the plebian interpretation of some scriptures appeared to contradict truth.

    Mormonism challenges individuals to rise above the level of plebe and approach the throne of God, where truth reigns.

  9. I think there have been a lot of writing on Adam and Eve in these issues. Even Nibley who sometimes had some problematic views on hard science, also had his “Before Adam”. FAIR has up a page on pre-Adamites as well. That said I think you’re right that the issue of Adam should be dealt with more in popular treatments of evolution. I think that is the big issue these days more than a belief in a young earth.

  10. “I never thought Mormon thought supported the idea that the earth was 6000 years old, but rather this rigid creationist framework was brought into Mormonism by Christian converts who didn’t care to question that part of their worldview, Joseph’s comments about “period of time” notwithstanding.”

    The only young-Earth creationist of any stature I’ve known of among LDS is Cleon Skousen, who proposed 13,000-year-old Earth (if I have the math right.) And I find his stature questionable.

    Even Joseph Fielding Smith, so far as I recall, rejected a young Earth. For him, the sticking points were death before the Fall and pre-Adamites.

  11. Great review and insights. I also like Enns’ book The Bible Tells Me So. I think he has a gift (as does Ben Spackman) for conveying the substance of Biblical Scholarship in the tone of a friendly conversation, and this is a gift that is very much needed. My first reaction to Biblical scholarship was to basically lose all faith in the Bible and question my LDS faith, but Enns and others helped redirect my understanding to appreciate the Bible for what it is (complex, multi-genre, etc.) and now I love and study it more than ever. And, to paraphrase Enns, I believe we can meet God within the Bible’s humanity-drenched pages.

  12. Could multiple Adam’s be on the earth? If we believe that which was done on other worlds why not that which was done on other continents?

    I still think that life is to much of a miracle and the way science presents it while it may make sense in the micro, it becomes just as unbelievable as Adam when you consider the macro. Just the sheer fact that the earth is moving through space at 67,000mph is mind boggling.

    Tell me I’m moving that fast on a giant orb in an infinite abyss and 6000 years + Adam is frankly more believable.

  13. I may actually read this book. I’m not much of a fan of Enns, mostly due to reasons outlined in this article:
    “Enns’s critics are pre-classified as immature, fearful abusers of Scripture who want to press the Bible into their own modern molds. At that point, it’s difficult to know how a debate can continue.”

    This article is also a good parody of Enns’ approach:

    (and a follow up to that is here: “Let’s not confuse facts or data with extrapolations from data or theorizing from facts. Most especially, let’s not confuse facts with the latest scholarly fashions. A fad is not a fact; a trend is not a settled truth . . . . Enns shows much more confidence in the latest findings and theorizings that he has warrant to do.” )

    I admit I went to college fully convinced of a 6000 (or at most 13000) year old Earth. However, I took a class in “Historical Geology” at Ricks (aka BYU-Idaho), which I think was the best way for someone like me to be exposed to these ideas. Since the prof was a temple recommend holding member in good standing etc. etc., it moved to, at that time, to at least be agnostic on the issue. I’ve since moved pretty solidly to the evolution (still with God in the picture, of course) side.

  14. I am about halfway through this fascinating book, and so far have found that the Adam/Evolution issue is of lesser importance to me than how Enns talks about the writing and compilation of the Old Testament. Even in the temple ceremony, we are taught that the creation of Adam and Eve is figurative (or symbolic, I forget the exact word). I have no problems reconciling evolution and our creation stories, and the insight into what the writers of the Pentateuch were doing and thinking helps me to understand all of the Old Testament much better than reading it as an exact, historical record. I guess I would say that I believe that Adam, Eve, Moses, Enoch, and so on, are all, actual historical individuals, but what we know about them is really pretty limited, and the Old Testament is a good look at the culture of post-exile Israel, but not a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly thesis. Good review, covering the key points of Enns’ book for as far as I have gotten in it.

  15. Meg, young earth creationist Mormons are slightly different from Evangelicals. They don’t believe in a young earth but young mortality. That is there’s no death before the fall and that the fall happened only around 6000 – 7000 years ago.

  16. Note that the GAs are not fully in alignment on this one. While Elder Nelson seems to believe in a young earth and no evolution; in recent Conference talks, both Elders Holland and Christofferson have noted that while they did not know how God created the world, we know there was an Adam who fell.

  17. I take comfort in my supreme lack of knowledge. I have no problems with reading scientific journals or scholastic biblical teachings because I profess that I do not know.

    I believe in a god that works by science, but as we can increasingly see in modern medicine where organs are stripped of blood and DNA tissue to become ghost organs or even grown, that science may not be beholden to all the previous limitations we have set on it.

    This doesn’t mean that I am a young earth creationist; I believe in a hybrid theory of sorts. But I feel that a hard-line stance on either side can be boastful hubris.
    The god I believe in has the power to heal, to move mountains and organize matter – yet he also has allowed us to suffer trials to grow that our weakness may be made strength, provides a path for progression and provided a Savior for our inevitable failure. The former power is a creationist premise and the latter an evolutionist stance and yet he exhibits all those traits.

  18. rameumptom: I have a question regarding your comment last night about Elders Holland and Christofferson.

    For nearly four decades, Gospel Principles has been the manual for the Gospel Essentials Sunday School class for new members, investigators, and members returning to activity. During 2010 and 2011, the revised and updated Gospel Principles manual was used as the course of study for second- and third-Sunday Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes. Chapter 38 of this basic gospel resource says:

    “Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world.”

    In your comment, you juxtapose Russell M. Nelson (whose teachings support the above statement) with Holland and Christofferson, apparently for contrasting effect. Are you implying that Holland and/or Christofferson have disagreed in print with the above Gospel Principles statement?

  19. In April 2015 General Conference, Elder Holland said, “In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.

    “I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before that, but I do know these two were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death.”

    While he insists there is a Fall and an actual Adam and Eve (which I agree with), he leaves open the door on evolution, by stating that there was no death in their “paradisiacal setting”, which could have only been within the Garden of Eden.

    In the same Conference, Elder Christofferson said, “First was the Creation of the earth as our dwelling place. Whatever the details of the creation process, we know that it was not accidental but that it was directed by God the Father and implemented by Jesus Christ—“all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

    If Genesis 1 is an actual historical/scientific creation story, then there would be no reason for either to say they aren’t certain about that process of creation.

    What all agree upon, along with Elder Nelson, is that there was a Creation directed by God, and that Adam and Eve “fell that men might be” (2 Nephi 2).

    Gospel Principles is a manual with the most recent understanding of the gospel. It is not a perfect book, just as scripture is not perfect (the prophets frequently note their imperfections in the BoM). Just as it went through major changes a decade ago, because it needed it, so there will be future changes as we receive new revelation and additional understanding on various things.

    As it is, most of the prophets and apostles 50 years ago were reticent to accept any version of evolution or a 4.5 billion year earth. Today, more are willing to accept the idea of an ancient earth, and perhaps some form of evolution. They do not know exactly how it fits with a historic Adam, which is fine. It is refreshing to hear apostles admit that they do not know the process or details. I do not expect them to give any details or theories (as I have done here), unless it is revealed to them.

  20. rameumptom: I don’t see how “I don’t know” is an endorsement of anything. Nothing in current LDS media suggests that any living apostle disagrees with what the Church says in Gospel Principles about death before the Fall.

    Another example: The Church’s official missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are to study and teach. In Lesson 2, Preach My Gospel instructs missionaries to study several references from the standard works alongside the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for “Death.” It says:

    “Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48).”

    I appreciate the eagerness of some Church members to harmonize evolution with creation narratives. But is it still harmony when we modify Church teachings in the process?

    Neither Preach My Gospel, the Bible Dictionary, nor the Gospel Principles manual is scripture. But each was approved and published by the authorized leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and each concludes there was no death on earth before the Fall of Adam. That may not be what some members believe, but it is what the LDS Church teaches.

  21. R. Gary,

    Brigham Young, James Talmage, John Widstoe, BH Roberts and other GAs had no problem with evolution or Pre-Adamites.

    For much of the 20th century, GAs were involved in a lot of speculation in their teachings and writings. Since 1978 and the priesthood revelation, such speculation by GAs has been curtailed. They only speak doctrine. The teachings in the Bible show a flat earth with 4 corners that is circled by the Sun. For many centuries, Jews and Christians accepted that view, until science incontrovertibly showed otherwise.

    We are now getting to the point where several GAs, while not speculating, are opening the door with statements of “I do not know” regarding the Creation. Unless and until there is a clear revelation explaining it, they will continue with the statements made, because that is all that has been revealed. Chances are that the Lord will not reveal more, because the Lord often does not explain the how/why, just gives the command.

    There is much left unsaid in the term, “I do not know”, when it comes to the GAs, opening the door for an ancient earth (which would make Joseph Fielding Smith turn over in his grave). Some, like Elder Nelson, still hold closer to the JFS view, but many are opening the door for other views that are not doctrinal, as no new revelation has been revealed to clarify any of it.

    The reality is, as I mentioned in the OP, is we are losing young people who attend college and find out that the earth is not 6000 years old. They feel that God would not deceive modern prophets like that, and so perhaps they are not real prophets. We’ve seen the Church provide new views in the Newsroom on issues like: polygamy, race, priesthood ban, Mountain Meadows Massacre, the seer stone, etc. When JFS was Church historian, he hid up many of these issues, choosing to provide a pristine view of the prophet Joseph and the Church. Today’s leaders are choosing to give us a full view of the issues in as faithful of a rendition as possible (which is a very good thing). Evolution is one additional thing they will someday also have to work out, so that we do not lose our kids.

    My speculation seeks to find a possible hybrid that allows an ancient earth, a historical Adam, and Pre-Adamites, which would allow our youth and others to accept the Church as true, and not leave it.

    For most of our 200+ existence as a Church, members and leaders believed that Lehi was the ancestor of all native Americans. Today, the Church has rescinded that statement, noting that Lehi is just one of many biological ancestors, but can be viewed as the cultural ancestor of all Native Americans through adoption. There is a pattern in scripture for such a cultural adoption, and perhaps we should begin to consider it in conjunction with Adam.

    We do not know if the entire earth was in a paradisiacal state, or if it just seemed that way to Adam. Tradition sometimes clouds our view of what true doctrine really is. Was Eve really created from Adam’s rib? Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie would tell us “no.” Yet it is what we are taught in scripture. If this is figurative, then what else might be figurative or assumed by ancient writers, who did not view things historically and linear as we do.

    From the writings of Joseph Smith, we know that Adam was a historical figure and that there was a Fall. Anything else is presumptive, including whether others also lived/died prior to Adam, whether all the earth was in a paradisiacal state or just the Garden, whether /Adam is the biological or cultural parent of all mankind.

    You will not hear the prophets of today delve into speculation. Past speculation has hurt us time and again (such as speculation on the priesthood ban, which invented stories of skin curses, and premortal apathy). However, we often discover new truth and receive new revelation by having questions regarding current traditional beliefs. Pres Kimball received the revelation on the priesthood because he chose to research and question the validity of the curse. We have GAs today acknowledging an uncertainty in regards to the Creation, even though we received a view of the traditional Creation in Genesis 1. That is a huge step towards a better understanding of the Creation and the Fall.

  22. rameumptom,

    Two apostles in this dispensation, James E. Talmage (1862–1933) and John A. Widtsoe (1872–1952), interpreted fossils to mean there was life and death before Adam. But the views of those two apostles are now muffled by 45 years of official LDS media, approved and published by the Church’s authorized leaders, teaching that the Creation was paradisiacal with no death before the Fall of Adam. We are not following God’s servants when we quote dead prophets in opposition to living prophets.

    As far as Brigham Young is concerned, it is probably a stretch to claim that Brigham Young was publicly open to evolution or Pre-Adamites. But you may have evidence I should consider.


    James E. Talmage and John A. Widtsoe, both of the Twelve, and B.H. Roberts of the Seventy, did see problems with evolution. Consider the following:

    JAMES E. TALMAGE: “Man is the child of God…. He is born in the lineage of Deity, not in the posterity of the brute creation.” (The Earth and Man, 1931.)

    JOHN A. WIDTSOE: “Clearly the theory of evolution has added nothing to our understanding of the beginning of things. The ancient view that God is the creator of all things is still the best, because it is true.” (Improvement Era, July 1951.)

    B.H. ROBERTS: “The theory of evolution as advocated by many modern scientists lies stranded upon the shore of idle speculation…. it is destructive of the grand, central truth of all revelation.” (The Gospel and Man’s Relationship to Deity, 7th edition, 1928.)


    The Teachings of Presidents of the Church series is a current collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. As stated in the Introduction to several volumes, one purpose of this series is to help members answer questions about Church doctrine.

    Here are three answers to the question of death before the Fall, as found in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series:

    WILFORD WOODRUFF: “We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned.” (p.81.)

    HAROLD B. LEE: “Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death…. How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state.” (p.20.)

    JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH: “Temporal and spiritual death [was] brought into the world by the fall of Adam.” (p.51.)

    “It was appointed … that Adam our father should … partake of the forbidden fruit and fall, thus bringing suffering and death into the world…. Had Adam and Eve not partaken, the great gift of mortality would not have come to them….. The fall of Adam brought to pass all of the vicissitudes of mortality. It brought pain, it brought sorrow, it brought death.” (p.61.)

    “Marriage [was] instituted on this earth before death came into it…. It naturally follows that the family organization was also intended to be eternal.” (p.77.)


    Church publications available at go back to January 1971, providing nearly 45 years of official Church media. There is no disagreement about evolution or death before the fall in the teachings of apostles and prophets at

  23. No desire to rehash this with you Gary, but I think it’s widely acknowledged that Brigham believed in cataclysmic dispensations. So he thought this creation was made on the back and pieces of prior creation. Thus to he and those who followed him fossils were animals from these prior creations. As such his view entails pre-adamites although not for this creation.

    I think he’s wrong in that, but it’s not hard to find his view.

    As for your other claim, there have been discussions in the Ensign before addressing fossils and thus life before the fall. i.e. this one from 9/87. If you’re going to play the “official LDS media” card let’s at least do it honestly. Lots of perspectives can be found. It seems safe to say that for a long period the dominate position was one skeptical of evolution and life before the fall but that’s now becoming more a more common a position.

    I also note you commonly ignore The Encyclopedia of Mormonism despite Dr. Evenson noting many times he met with the first presidency when writing the entry on evolution.

  24. Clark,

    The BY view you describe was outlined on my blog ten years ago. I’m familiar with it. See my article here:

    My comment this afternoon about BY was unrelated to his views on cataclysmic dispensations. Instead, it was in response to the claim of rameumptom that, “Brigham Young … had no problem with evolution or Pre-Adamites.” I wasn’t thinking that rameumptom may have meant life on any number of worlds without number that preceded ours.

    My statement that there is no disagreement during the past 45 years “about evolution or death before the fall in the teachings of apostles and prophets at” is true no matter how many “I Have a Question” answers are provided by professors of geology. Note the words “apostles and prophets” in my statement.

    My feelings about Evenson’s article remain as they were outlined more than a decade ago. See numbers 1. and 3. here:

  25. I think I’ll agree with Clark on this issue. That said, R Gary, your discussion is taking the OP into other directions that I am not interested in having it go. Please do not hijack the thread to push your own agenda.

    This was a book review, and if you have something to add regarding the book, we’ll be glad to hear it.

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