I want to speak for my perspective on the Theory of Evolution and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am not a spokesman for the church. I don’t pretend that this is an official pronouncement of the official stance of the church. I am stating my perception of the official stance.
If you want the official stance, you can go visit http://lds.org/ and look it up for yourself. My summary is that it doesn’t matter. Believe what you want.
Let me tell you the few things that are important and that we do teach and that do matter.
There is a God. God created Man. Adam as the first man. All living humans on planet earth are descendants of Adam.
That’s pretty much it.
There is nothing about how God created Man. We have in front of us 3 accounts in the books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham (the latter two are in the Pearl of Great Price.) If you are an endowed member, you get a 4th account in the temple endowment ceremony. (Feel free to attend often and memorize what is said.) But in none of these accounts are any scientific statements made that we can test. I can think of ten thousand ways that each of the statements can conform to what we observe in nature.
I believe our generation is in the dark in this topic. This is partly due to the fact that we aren’t ready for the truth, and partly due to the fact that if we knew, the Plan of Salvation might be spoiled.
Why might we not be ready for the truth? One of the doctrines we teach is that God judges us based on what we know. If we are ignorant of a law, we can’t be expected to obey it. And so, if we are ignorant of the creation (which we are), we can’t be expected to believe it, and disbelief cannot be counted as a sin. Perhaps God has the truth ready to give us, but because so few of us would accept it, he doesn’t give it to use for fear of our rejection of it. I have found this to be universally the case. God gives us knowledge line upon line, precept upon precept. He gives us a little, expects us to conform, and then gives us some more, bit by bit. Within the church, each member is given a certain amount of knowledge which they are required to live by. This knowledge comes directly from God through the Spirit, so it’s not like President Monson has any say in who gets what. So if we’re not ready to accept it, he probably won’t give it to us, because he doesn’t want to force us into a position where we would be disobedient and rebellious.
I don’t know why we might not be ready. I will tell you this: The subject of science is so horribly political and vindictive that there are entire branches of science I treat with similar contempt to witchcraft. Maybe the political pressure and retaliation would be more than the church and its members could bear. I don’t know. It’s just a possibility.
Why would revealing the truth spoil the plan of salvation? I’ve answered part of this with the previous answer, but let me elaborate on a separate point. The point of earth-life is not to make good choices and show God how righteous you are.
On the one hand, we really can’t do anything well. We can’t even understand what it would mean to be good. Case in point: There are a lot of things God and Christ did in the past that we still question and think to be morally questionable. In short, we are literally incapable of being good. But suppose we were good. If we ever do anything right, God rewards us, often with much more than we deserve. And so we would end up in greater debt even if we did well.
These two points combined point to the fact that if you intend to impress God with your righteousness, you’re going to be very disappointed.
The point of earth-life, as God has repeatedly explained in scriptures and through the living prophets and apostles, is to live by faith. Faith is a key principle in LDS theology that is at the heart of everything we are and do. To us, faith is belief plus action. Or rather, action according to correct beliefs. When we hear something, we can choose to reject it or believe it. If we believe it, that is not enough. We must act according to it.
Faith in what? Faith in Jesus Christ. That is the real test: Will you live by faith in Jesus Christ?
If God were to give all the answers, and show the world what Jesus Christ has done, is doing, and will do for the world, then there would be no more need of faith. We would know that Christ has our best interests at heart, and we would happily comply with everything he asks us to do. It’s only because there are great big question marks surrounding who Christ really is and what he has done and is doing and will do that we get to test our faith.
So that’s the bottom line. The church doesn’t have “no position” on evolution, they just say, “You can believe what you like.” The scriptures don’t give us anything to run on scientifically, thus, no one can say they “know” how the world was created or where the animals and humans came from.
That said, when I look at nature, when I honestly evaluate the evidence before me, I conclude that not only was the world created by miraculous means, but there was a world-wide flood (evidence is literally everywhere!) and that it’s clear the Theory of Evolution is pseudo-science. Now, I can’t explain how God did it or what processes he used, but I can tell you what processes he didn’t use.
If you disagree with me, I’m okay with that and I’m happy to welcome you as a member of the church. We can have discussions, either theological or scientific, about this topic, and I would be more than happy to have you over for dinner to do so, time permitting.
One day, God will tell us everything, and it will all make sense. That day isn’t today, and we’re never going to get the full truth through scientific inquiry. But science is a lot of fun, and it’s useful, and I prefer we do more of it, not less.