Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
Dialogue Foundation, 900 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90024
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Rees, Robert A.
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42 I Dialogue the fact that a great deal about evolutionary processes is known and is demonstrable; anyone who chooses to ignore the subject surely jeopardizes the development of an accurate view of the world around him. Most Mormons, it would appear, have addressed the question only perfunctorily. The same weakness exists in the vast majority of our published literature on the subject; the level of discussion, unfortunately, is far from sophisticated. Available works are usually the product of individuals who labor under the apparent belief that the concept of evolution per se is a threat to the survival or vitality of Mormonism, and that by attacking evolution they become defenders of the faith. Not only do such authors perceive evolution as a deep and fundamental threat to their personal religious convictions, but by various devices they try to convince us that their bias is also the official, or at least necessary, doctrine of the Church. Statements to the effect that one cannot harbor any belief whatsoever in any version of evolution and still be a real Latter-day Saint, or that evolution is the deliberate doctrine of Satan and a counterfeit to the gospel, that it is atheistic, communistic, etc., are not at all rare in the Mormon culture and popular literature. We do not propose here to consider the validity of the above positions, though readers should be fairly warned of the dangers inherent in a prima facie acceptance thereof. We direct ourselves instead to a more immediate concern: What is the doctrine of the Church on the subject of evolution, if any? We assert immediately that, among mortals, only the President of the Church can articulate a Church position—on anything. We have no desire to assume that role; the responsibility is awesome. But there is a glaring lack, in all published Mormon literature, of analysis of what the response to evolution by "the Church" really has been. To be sure, many publications bring together copious strings of quotes from general authorities, all carefully selected to fit the author's personal point of view. In a certain sense the present development will suffer from the same weakness; we make no attempt to catalogue and analyze every statement by every general authority on the subject. We do claim, however, to try for the first time to document another, broader, point of view fundamentally different from those which have been most ardently presented in the past twenty years, and to examine in as complete a context as is currently sufficiently documented the statements of the prophets of the Church on the matter. Our account may be disturbing to some. It is not designed to be. But the nature and history of the subject make it virtually impossible to avoid affront to someone. We have gone to considerable lengths to circumvent unnecessary conflict—we hope that any who find the review offensive will extend themselves sufficiently to appreciate why this investigation is necessary in the first place. And since the footnotes supply additional discussion, we urge their consultation on critical points. For statements on Church doctrine, we are traditionally referred to the four Standard Works.3 But the standard works are not of themselves always sufficient, and it is recognized that essentially authoritative statements can also be originated by the presiding Prophet (the President) of the Church.4 In addition, other priesthood holders may declare the mind of the Lord whenever they are "moved upon by the Holy Ghost."5 This latter criterion introduces a high degree of subjectivity into the matter: how does an audience know when a speaker or writer is so moved? President J. Reuben Clark Jr., of the First Presidency, concluded that one knows