What most anti-evolution supporters don’t realize is that to nearly anyone educated in biological sciences, an anti-evolution world view today is almost equal to holding a position that the Earth is flat, and the sun revolves around the Earth. Yet, from lack of education or interest, many people in general (certainly not limited to LDS members) lack a basic scientific understanding of evolution and just make the assumption (supported by many in our LDS culture) that the LDS church is 100% anti-evolution. And this is simply false.
The most ‘official’ information on evolution as a whole comes from the famous ‘BYU packet’ on evolution. For those attending BYU as a Biology major, they would have received this approved packet as part of their standard curriculum. The packet was approved by the BYU Board of Trustees, which includes senior general authorities and members of the First Presidency. The packet includes the following four articles covering past Church statements on evolution and the origin of man, all of which are available online with a quick search:
Excerpt from this article:
The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded,
“Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church ... .”
My guess is that the LDS Church most likely learned their lesson from the Catholic Church in that making definitive statements on scientific topics is a very bad idea that comes back to bite you. If the Earth being flat, the sun revolving around the Earth, or that evolution never happened becomes religious dogma, there’s a good chance that down the line you’ll have to do a lot of backpedalling. So, the semi-official LDS stance is to leave science to scientists, while we try to understand the salvation of man and not the specific process of how he came to be on the Earth.
My recommendation for Ward members troubled by science: educate yourselves. Our Church places a very high value on education, and this should not exclude scientific education. Read the books about evolution, starting with Charles Darwin’s, “On the Origin of Species,” and other books on the topic, so that the Ward member might have a solid base for understanding the principles of evolution by natural selection. Through education, the member will then be far more prepared to form an educated opinion of what to believe on a topic that the Church officially leaves very open – regardless of individual comments made by some leaders in the past.
Let’s face it, if we’re going to be expected to build our own worlds some day, we may as well learn something about this business while here on this Earth.