President Joseph Fielding Smith, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who later became the tenth President and “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” of the LDS Church, wrote the following that was published in 1954, in all CAPS:
IF EVOLUTION IS TRUE, THE CHURCH IS FALSE.
President Smith continued:
If life began on the earth, as advocated by Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel (who has been caught openhanded perpetrating a fraud), and others of this school, whether by chance or by some designing hand, then the doctrines of the Church are false. Then there was no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, and no fall. If there was no fall; if death did not come into the world as the scriptures declared that it did-and to be consistent, if you are an evolutionist, this view you must assume-then there was no need for a redemption, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, and he did not die for the transgression of Adam, nor for the sins of the world. Then there has been no resurrection from the dead! Consistently, logically, there is no other view, no alternative that can be taken. Now, my brethren and sisters, are you prepared to take this view?
(Source: Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, page 89, link to source)
This was not an aberration or divergence from Church teachings. Thirty-four years later in 1988, Elder Boyd K. Packer, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who six years later became Acting President of that quorum, repeated much the same thing:
Many Church members are entirely unaware that fundamental doctrines cannot co-exist with a belief that man evolved from lower forms of life….
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If man is but an animal, then logic favors freedom without accountability or consequence. Had man evolved from animals, there could have been no fall, no law broken, no penalty, no need for a mediator.
The ordinance of baptism would be an empty gesture since it is for a remission of sins. Many who perceive organic evolution to be law rather than theory do not realize they forsake the Atonement in the process…. If the theory of evolution applies to man, there was no Fall and therefore no need for an atonement, nor a gospel of redemption, nor a redeemer.
(Source: “The Law and the Light,” Book of Mormon Symposium, BYU, 30 October 1988)
As recently as 2007, just ten years ago, leaders of the Church, specifically Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (who is also next in line to become President and Prophet of the Church after President Thomas S. Monson passes away), answered direct questions about evolution in an interview by the Pew Forum:
Interviewer: Conservative denominations tend to have more trouble with Darwinian evolution. Does the church have an official position on this topic?
Elder Nelson: We believe that God is our creator and that he has created other forms of life. It’s interesting to me, drawing on my 40 years experience as a medical doctor, how similar those species are. We developed open-heart surgery, for example, experimenting on lower animals simply because the same creator made the human being. We owe a lot to those lower species. But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Elder Nelson: Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It’s just the way genetics works.
(Source: “In Focus: Mormonism in Modern America,” Pew Forum interview.)
Some members of the Church might think that repeating such quotations is wrong, that we’ve moved past these, but I don’t think it is that simple. I’m aware that several other prophets and apostles have shared much more favorable views towards evolution, but it seems to me that each of these statements need to be considered on their own terms.
For there are many many members of the Church who read them or listened to them, and who were led to believe that evolution was wholly mistaken and incompatible with the Church’s teachings. These statements from Apostles and Prophets need to be taken seriously, rather than written off as simply wrong, old-fashioned, or out-of-date. These men held (or currently hold, as in the case of President Nelson) positions of real authority in the Church, the same as all the Prophets and Apostles do today, and what they say is often taken very seriously. So let’s take them seriously.
Have we considered that maybe President Smith and Elder Packer were actually right? Perhaps they were, indeed, telling the truth that if evolution is true, then the doctrines as taught by the modern LDS Church cannot possibly be correct as we have come to understand them. Have we considered that? They saw a deep and fundamental incompatibility between human organic evolution and the teachings of the Church. Perhaps that incompatibility really does exist, and we should take these “prophets, seers, and revelators” seriously in what they said.
As Darwinian evolution has become much more widely accepted throughout the world as explaining very well the evolution of species over time, including humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, then perhaps we need to consider the alternative, the only other alternative that President Smith gave us: we need to return to the doctrines and teachings of the Church to see what is fundamentally wrong with them, and why they are not compatible with truth. If we have not been “prepared to take this view” as President Smith warned, then maybe now is the time to prepare and take it.
(Evolution) general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.
The Eastern Orthodox Christian and evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky agreed with de Chardin and wrote an essay on this theme:
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution…
I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way…
Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts…. the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
I perceive that the mythologies of Christianity are not literally true, in the way we have come to think of them, to “mean something that they were not intended to mean,” but they are deeply absolutely universally Real. As I noted in my post on literalism, belief in mythologies usually progresses from absolute acceptance of them just as they are told to us, to a literal belief in their historicity trying to fit them into a scientific worldview, to a deeper metaphorical symbolic meaning that is nonetheless extremely meaningful to us as humans, perhaps far more meaningful than a literal historical belief in them ever could be.
Some strongly believe that if the religious mythologies did not happen in the past exactly as we think they happened, then they are worthless and should be destroyed. I strongly disagree. Our interpretations should be destroyed, but not the mythologies. Humans have used mythologies for many millennia to give meaning to their lives. It is not because the mythologies are literally true that gives them such deep meaning to us, it is because they contain much deeper truth, far beyond a superficial reading, that applies to humanity at the deepest level of the human condition and human experience of life. They help us to understand who we are at a very very deep level. In this way, they are not literally historical, but they can yet be absolutely Real.
Let’s take each one of the doctrines as recounted by President Smith and Elder Packer, and briefly see if we can see how a literal belief in them is most likely false (as they implied), but how if we peel back the layers of symbolism that these can yet be absolutely Real and valuable mythologies to us as human beings in life.
Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve, and the Fall
Our modern scientific understanding of the age of the Earth (4.54 billion years), and of the progression of life over the last 3.8 billion years on it, including the evolution of the human species from the branch of mammals beginning about 225 million years ago, precludes the remote possibility of a literal Garden of Eden or a literal Adam and Eve. There simply cannot have been a literal perfect paradise in a single location on Earth where two human beings began everything. A male and female didn’t suddenly spring into existence, either organically or by divine design.
I perceive that the “Garden of Eden” is a place that humanity emerges from, each and every one, when we are born. It is a symbol of innocence, of perfection, when we are born as infants. We live in perfect harmony with our surroundings, with everything taken care of by our parents. There are no needs that are not taken care of. Life is bliss.
“Adam and Eve” are symbols of each and every human being who has ever been born on Earth into this blissful infancy. We come into the world naked, and we are not ashamed of it at all. We smile and play and explore. We eat from the “Tree of Life” that is the breast milk of our mother, and eat the bread provided by our father. Life is paradise, without ego or self-awareness, we go with the flow of life and are mostly overjoyed in the Presence of this Love of Life.
But gradually, as I’ve described further elsewhere, as we develop into childhood, we begin to be self-aware. We gain self-recognition, as a separate, independent, “self” in the world. We essentially develop an ego, a sense of self, this psychological self that we know ourselves to be. This happens gradually over time, as we interact with the world, as we experience the world. The Wikipedia page about “Self-awareness” notes that this begins to happen in the first two years of life:
By the time an average toddler reaches 18 months they will discover themselves and recognize their own reflection in the mirror. By the age of 24 months the toddler will observe and relate their own actions to those actions of other people and the surrounding environment. In what has come to be known as The Shopping Cart Task, “Children were asked to push a shopping cart to their mothers but in attempting to do so they had to step on the mat and in consequence, their body weight prevented the cart from moving.”
So we begin to know ourselves as a “self,” to recognize ourselves. We look in the mirror and say, “Look, there I am! That’s me!”
Around school age a child’s awareness of personal memory transitions into a sense of one’s own self. At this stage, a child begins to develop interests along with likes and dislikes. This transition enables the awareness of an individual’s past, present, and future to grow as conscious experiences are remembered more often.
As we age, we begin to discover things that we like and don’t like. Some things make us feel good (knowledge of good), and some things make us feel bad (knowledge of evil). We begin to eat from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” We seek the Good (desires), and try to avoid the Bad (aversions). We also begin to be cognizant of our own past, the present, and the future, as our memories develop and we can remember things.
As a child’s self-awareness increases they tend to separate and become their own person. Their cognitive and social development allows “the taking of another’s perspective and the accepting of inconsistencies.” By adolescence, a coherent and integrated self-perception normally emerges. This very personal emerging perspective continues to direct and advance an individual’s self-awareness throughout their adult life.
As we continue to grow up into a person, we separate ourselves from our lifegivers. We become our own person, independent in the world. This process is our “Fall,” from the perfect paradisaical Presence of Love and Life and Joy. We begin to feel ashamed and feel guilt for our actions, our transgressions:
One becomes conscious of their emotions during adolescence. Most children are aware of emotions such as shame, guilt, pride and embarrassment by the age of two, but do not fully understand how those emotions affect their life. By age 13, children become more in touch with these emotions and begin to apply them to their own lives.
We eventually become an adult person out in the “lone and dreary world,” aware of our selves, and having to protect and defend ourselves to survive and thrive in the world, working hard by the “sweat of our face” to eat our bread for the rest of our lives, realizing that one day we will die and return to the dust of the ground.
The “Garden,” “Adam & Eve,” and the “Fall” are not literal histories of the past. They are our own history, each and every one of us!
Death has been present on planet Earth since 3.8 billion years ago when life emerged. We do not know how life emerged, but there are many very interesting theories that scientists are investigating. Death is just as necessary as life is. You cannot have evolution without death. Life emerges, reproduces, and dies. This is the cycle of Life, and is a constant everywhere on Earth. As mutations occur in the lifeform, these changes are passed down to its offspring that inherits them. If they are beneficial, the life will thrive, reproduce, and those mutations will become dominant. If they are not beneficial, the life will die, and the mutations will not be passed on. This is how life adapts to its environment. Death has been a part of this process for a very long time.
But we don’t become aware of death for quite some time. Early in infancy and early childhood we believe we are immortal, and will live forever. “Spirit” runs through our veins, and we simply enjoy this thing called Life, believing it will never end. But as noted above, as we gradually develop, we begin to have a sense of self, a separate self, likes and dislikes, memories, a past and future, emotions, guilt, shame, success, rewards. We come to realize that we are life too, and one day “we will surely die.” This is unavoidable. We will die. We look in the mirror and repeat, “I will die one day.” I am mortal. I have red blood running through my veins, I bleed, I get sick, and I will someday expire, shuffle off this mortal coil, and return to the “dust of the ground,” which is where I came from to being with, and come from continually throughout life. This body will return fully to it. The worms will eat our flesh, the body will decompose, and we will turn into dust once again. Death has come into the world, for us!
Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Son of God
What about a Redeemer? Who was Jesus? Who or what is Christ? What is a Son of God? What could any of these possibly mean if the mythologies are not literally historically true?
I believe there have been many people who have lived their lives on this Earth who have come to a much deeper and richer understanding of their life on it. This understanding goes so far beyond typical human understanding that it cannot even be fully understood in our typical intellectual state of consciousness. It is only in deeper communion, contemplation, and meditation that people have become aware of this deeper reality of the human condition. And through becoming aware of their human condition at a very deep level, they were able to transcend the conscious suffering and harsh realities of life to have joy, freedom, liberation, salvation while they lived.
Jesus was one of those people. He was a mortal human being, born just as most babies are born—naked. He was “Adam” too, the “breath of life” was breathed into him and he became a living soul. He passed through all the same stages of life that you and me pass through, as described above. He passed through the “Garden of Eden” of joy and ease in infancy where all his cares were attended to, through the “Fall” of recognizing his self as separate and independent in the world, and realizing that he was going to have to take care of himself in order to survive, perhaps by becoming a carpenter like his father, who may have actually been Joseph. He suffered as we all suffer in life, working by the “sweat of his face” to eat his daily bread.
But something else happened that radically changed things for him, changed his conscious perspective. Sometime around the age of thirty, Jesus began having deeper thoughts, and no “thoughts” at all. He began to spend more time in solitude and communion. He began to meditate and to contemplate. He began to change his consciousness to perceive deeper realities that are veiled by our typical everyday selfish consciousness. He began to look very deep within himself to understand who he was, at a fundamental level. He realized that the psychological self, this egoic self that is constructed from early childhood and develops throughout life, is not fundamental. It is a construction, an amalgamation and synthesis of all our experiences in the world, but it is not fundamentally who we are. For we existed before that self-construction ever did, even in our own infancy. Jesus realized this. As his egoic consciousness fell away in contemplation, he perceived his self as much much more than that. Without an egoic self, he realized that he was One with all that is. Everything that existed was his Self, his True Self. This was his radical realization and recognition. This was an awakening to his Self. This was an enlightenment to the truth of his deepest Being. He was spiritually reborn. He came to know who he really was, and it was not his constructed egoic psychological self. He was one and the same with all things that exist, even the very dust of the ground from which we come. That was him. He was It. It was all the same substance, the same essence. It all becomes our localized being, and falls away from our localized being, continually. He realized that his consciousness was aware. That he was the Life of this consciousness itself. He came to know the Truth about his absolute fundamental existence in the world and cosmos. That he was that world and cosmos, One with it all! And he has proceeded from it, from this Source, from this true Father. For the rest of his mortal life, he went about his true Father’s business, the business of Life, Love, Joy, Being. He was “resurrected” to Life so he could live his Life in the fullest way possible. He returned fully to the Presence of his “Father” in the Pure Innocence of the “Garden of Eden.” When his perception of his self fell away, that is naturally where his consciousness returned.
Atonement of Christ
We often equate the Atonement with the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, but there may be a deeper meaning that we usually do not recognize. It is the meaning that can be found in the word itself: at-one-ment. At-one-ment are those acts that help us to become at-one again with God, to become reconciled with our Source, with true Father, with Universe, with Cosmos, with Life. We begin life in perfect at-one-ment with Life in our infancy. It is Joy. It is Love. There are no cares or concerns. But, as described above, we Fall out of that state of consciousness. We recognize our “self” as a separate being in the world, and this separates us from being at-one with that Presence of Life and Love. The goal of the at-one-ment is to bring us back into that Presence of God, of our Source, of Life, and Love, and Being (the Great I AM THAT I AM).
We tend to think that Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, and suffered tremendously for each and every one of us, once and for all, so that we would not have to suffer. But have you ever noticed how you still suffer? Each and every one of us still suffers. We still break our arms, slip on our hips, lose our jobs, divorce from our spouses, get cancer, and often die a slow tortuous death. This is real suffering. Don’t think for a minute that it isn’t. You are really suffering. In fact, it is your psychological self that is suffering. Your ego feels pain, something that is Bad, that it dislikes (aversion), that it Knows is Bad for it, and so it tries to escape. It tries to flee. It tries to find the Good again, feelings that it likes (desires), that are enjoyable, that make it feel Good. If our ego cannot escape the pain, if it cannot find relief, it suffers. It moans. It groans. It sheds many tears. It feels the pain, the hurt, the despair, the brokenness of itself.
Why is this? Why do we still suffer? Didn’t Jesus take care of that? No. Jesus didn’t suffer for you. You suffer for you. Your ego suffers as you cannot escape the pain or find relief. You suffer when your ego does not accept pain as a natural part of Life, as a natural consequence of Living in Reality of being a Human Being. You suffer when you do not realize that you are not the pain; you are the awareness of that pain. You identify with the pain, this “son of perdition,” and this causes your suffering. You think you are the pain. But no, actually, the pain is an object in your consciousness, a perception in consciousness. It hurts, no doubt, and consciousness can be strongly aware of that hurting, but it is not the hurting itself. You are not your pain. You are not the hurting. It is a feeling, an emotion in consciousness, and you are not that.
As I have described throughout my website, we are each and every one of us Christ. This is our fundamental Self and Being. We are the Incarnation of the Universe in matter, in flesh and bones. We are the consciousness that arises in this tremendously complex pattern of atoms, molecules, cells, and physiological structures. Our biology is a wonder to behold, and not only our own, but all of Life throughout the Earth. It is Wonderful! We, like Jesus, will suffer the pains of the ego, even until the death of the ego. This is when the psychological self in consciousness is “taken out of the way,” it subsides, it surrenders, it arrests, it falls away, it steps back, it becomes mute, it becomes inferior, it dies, it is crucified, it is seen from outside itself, it is brought low, to the sides of the pit, and we look narrowly on it by Awareness itself. Then we see it for what it is. Then we wonder how our identification with ego made our “earth to tremble,” and “shook [our] kingdoms,” that made the world seem like a “lone and dreary wilderness,” “destroyed our cities,” and for so long did not release us as its prisoner. We find our Self in Glory, Kings and Queens to the God of Creation, the Source of the World and the Cosmos. But the ego is cast out of our Heaven, once and for all.
And this can be a very painful process. Realizing that you are not your egoic self can tear you to shreds, which is, of course what it is doing. The ego must fall away. This is the “falling away” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2 that must come before Christ is revealed to us. Sometimes this is associated with all kinds of hell fire and brimstone, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. All the signs of the Second Coming, these happen within our own egoic psychological self. They are not literal future happenings around the world, but they happen within our mind and heart. The ego is laid waste, and suffers more as long as it tries to hang on, like fingernails on a chalkboard, as long as it doesn’t step out of the way. The ego may cause us to bleed at every pore. But it will step out of the way, one way or another. It has no choice in the end. Our ego will perish, whether it is during our mortal life through contemplative practices and other means, or at the end of our mortal life. Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Life is the Christ.
This is At-one-ment. This is our own realization that we are not our ego, our psychological self. We are our Life. We are our Biology. We are Matter. We are Creation. We are the Dust of the Earth. We are the Universe looking back and being conscious of its own Self. Mirrors reflecting mirrors for time and all Eternity. We are that! We have once again returned, in our consciousness, to Oneness with God, and we are redeemed from the Fall of our humanity in our early childhood. We are brought fully back into the Presence of the Lord, which is our very own Self! We come to perceive this directly and intuitively in our own consciousness, in Power and Glory.
And Christianity is not the only one that teaches this. It can be found in nearly all the religions and spiritual traditions of the world, in all the mythologies, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. The mythologies are not literal history, but they are very Real, pointing to real Realities.
Baptism for a Remission of Sins
So what is baptism for? Why was Jesus baptized?
First of all, purification rituals were a part of the Judaism that Jesus was a member of. Jesus was a Jew, and so he participated in those customary rituals. And there is deep symbolism in purification rituals. Judaism didn’t make them out of whole cloth. We don’t become clean by the ritual itself. It is pointing towards another cleansing, a deeper cleansing.
You may have already realized what this “cleansing” is from what I’ve previously written. We are cleansed from the preconceptions of our ego, our psychological “self,” from its false beliefs, from its errors, from its delusions, from its false understandings, from its identification with pain, from its lies being the “father of all lies,” from its selfishness, from its pride, from its me me me, from its endless unrealized desires, from its distractions, from its harming our biological body, from its harming the Earth, from its pining to “climb the highest heavens and be like the Most High,” its desires to be just like the “Son” and “redeem all mankind,” its powergrabbing to take all glory and honor unto itself.
We are cleansed from that. This is the purification. This is what is washed away when the ego falls away. When we are baptized in the “name of Christ,” when we are immersed in that name, we realize that we are Christ. We recognize that we are what Christ is, fully and completely. We are Perfect, Pure, Holy, Clean, Complete, Whole, Precious, Innocent, Sinless, even the very Beloved Son or Daughter of God, this Universe and the Law that proceeds from it. This is the “remission of sins.” It is a realization that we are fundamentally Perfect, just the way we are, underneath our ego. We are Christ, underneath our ego. When the ego falls away, all that is left is Christ. This is sometimes called Christ Consciousness, or Cosmic Consciousness, or Pure Consciousness. It is Pure because there is no defilement of the ego in it. It is perfectly clean, every wit.
And what’s more, we have always been that Perfectly clean underneath our ego. Our ego blinds us to this Perfection. Baptism is pointing to this realization of our Infinite and Eternal Cleanliness as a Living Breathing Being in the world. It was there all along, but the veil of our ego blinded our vision of it.
Resurrection of the Dead
I have written elsewhere some thoughts about the resurrection. In short, as in Adam, we will all inevitably die. But in Christ consciousness we are all made Alive!
When we come to realize that we are Christ, the Life and Light of the World, this is the moment of resurrection, of spiritual rebirth, of awakening, of enlightenment, of liberation, of salvation. This is when we come to know what we are, truly, in reality, scientifically even. Our consciousness is brought into the Reality of Reality, the Real of the Real, the Actual of the Actual. We are no longer blinded by our ego. We can finally see clearly. And this is Joy, and Love, and Life, and Light forever and ever and ever!
Yes, this mortal body will die, but the elements, atoms, molecules, and structures will arise again, for billions of years to come! This is the eternal cycle of Life! We are that Life, that continues eternally. That is what we are. We are not even this body that we inhabit. We are the Spirit of God that inhabits this physical body, the Life and Consciousness and Breath that animates it. We are the Universe come to Life, come to be Aware of Itself, in its Self. This is resurrection, and our ascent into heaven. It is to come to a full realization of Reality, what we truly deeply are at the very foundation of our Being. It is a realization of that Being that is Life.
What we are so scared of in death is the annihilation of our ego. That is why we fear death. We identify with our ego, our psychological self constructed in our minds over a lifetime, and we fear more than anything to see our “self” perish, to become no more. But once we realize that we are not that, that we are far more fundamental and enduring than that, then we are reborn to Life, and we can live the rest of our Life in that Life, knowing that we are Life helping others to have as full of a Life as is possible for them to have. We rejoice in Life all around us, and in the Life that others have. We spend our Lives bringing Life into even more full and joyous and loving Light and Living expression.
This is the Resurrection of the Dead. We are the ones who are dead, spiritually dead. We don’t know who we really are. But when our ego dies, we are reborn, resurrected into an understanding of what we really are, what Reality is. We are brought to Life as Life itself, and as Life will continually spring up for billions of years to come on this planet, and throughout the universe and cosmos. This is the Law of the Universe, and we are One with it.
Our posterity, the posterity of Life, is endless. As the sands on the seashore…
So have the teachings and doctrines of the LDS Church been “false”? I think the interpretation of them has been false, yes. This is what happens when humanity loses the mystical perspective, the perspective beyond the egoic logical rational selfish mind and “normal” state of consciousness. When we lose the mystical vision of union, “the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). It has been that way since the beginning of time, time and time and time again. The people are gradually “perishing” in the LDS Church, as even the most die-hard conservative apologists seem to have recognized. There seems to be very little mystical vision left, anywhere in the Church, even at the very top in the “prophets, seers, and revelators” that guide the Church (which are all mystical visionary intuitive capacities and qualities). And unless we regain that vision, the mystical contemplative vision that takes us beyond our egoic intellectual psychological consciousness, we will continue to perish.
We together with the rest of Christianity, and all superstitious magical religions, and even secular atheistic society as well. We will all perish, trapped as prisoners in the cave of our egoic consciousness, watching the shadows on the wall, “knowing not what we do,” or even who we are. My hope is that God, the Universe, will forgive us this “sin,” and that we may be able to “repent,” the Greek metanoia meaning a “change of mind,” and that we will actually deeply change our consciousness in contemplation and meditation and other means so as to be able to perceive the Truth of our Selves and Reality more clearly.
This is my hope, and prayer, and meditation.