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.
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Rees, Robert A.
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44 I Dialogue ing to ever-new and more subtle gaps. Perception of the self-destructive properties of this approach seems to travel slowly, however, and it still remains the foundation stone of virtually every anti-evolution argument currently in vogue.9 The basic question of underlying and fundamental causes remains. If everything proceeds in a stochastic manner governed by the basic laws of chemistry, physics, and genetics, from whence come those laws? They appear to many to be orderly; does this indicate a purposeful design and a Designer?10 At this point the decision becomes largely a leap of faith; there is no demonstrated answer. Darwin confessed himself unable to decide,11 and his successors, whatever their persuasion, have been able to demonstrate no better solution. President David O. McKay summed up his views on the matter for teachers in the Church as follows: There is a perpetual design permeating all purposes of creation. On these thoughts, science again leads the student up to a certain point and sometimes leads him with his soul unan-chored. Millikan is right when he says "Science without religion obviously may become a curse rather than a blessing to mankind." But, science dominated by the spirit of religion is the key [to] progress and the hope of the future. For example, evolution's beautiful theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists there is no intelligent purpose in it, will infest the student with the thought that all may be chance. I say, that no youth should be so led without a counterbalancing thought. Even the skeptic teacher should be fair enough to see that even Charles Darwin, when he faced this great question of annihilation, that the creation is dominated only by chance wrote: "It is an intolerable thought that man and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long, continued slow progress." . . . The public school teacher will probably, even if he says that much, ... go no farther. In the Church school the teacher is unhampered. In the Brigham Young University and every other Church school the teacher can say God is at the helm.12 Considerations as to God's possible role in evolutionary processes have not been characteristic of Mormon literature, especially not during the past two decades or so. The shift has been to an attack on evolution itself, fighting not "Godless evolution," but evolution per se. The question of whether this latter approach is legitimate brings us squarely back to our original task: a search for a Church position. The researcher soon faces an interesting problem: the available utterances on the subject are widely scattered and remarkably few. Compared with the output of other religious groups, Mormonism has produced a rather tiny body of literature that really deals directly with the matter of evolution.13 At first this is rather frustrating. Commentaries on marriage systems, political involvement, and matters of church and state are extensive, and there is a sizeable literature on other social issues of the day. But there are very few direct confrontations with the questions raised by evolution. Why? Is it solely that the other items were more pressing? There can be no doubt that involvement with these other problems was contributory, but it is clear also that that is not alone a sufficient answer. The most likely further explanation appears to be that LDS doctrines central to the evolution issue were not well developed; they were still in a sufficient state of flux that no direct confrontation was really possible or necessary. Simply put, the Church had no defined basic doctrines directly under attack. On some matters, Mormonism was clearly on the side of "science" in the first place. In no real way could the Church be classed as party to the literalistic views of the more orthodox Christian groups of the day. Indeed, Mormonism was a theologic maverick to nineteenth-century Christian orthodoxy. The differences were deep and profound, and on several issues, Mormonism was much more closely aligned with the prevailing concepts of science.14 Why then should the Mormon