It is discouraging to see many Mormons in our day and age following some fundamentalist creedal Christians in taking an anti-science stance relating to organic evolution or other matters in which fundamentalist creedal Christians, based on their own unnecessary inferences from the Bible, have chosen to see faith at war with science.
The doctrines of the Restored Gospel are what should govern our worldview as Mormons, not the convoluted inferences drawn by fundamentalist creedal Christians from their bibliolatry. Our doctrines of the Restored Gospel do not share the baggage that encumbers fundamentalist creedal Christians’ chosen understanding and rejection of the voluminous evidence produced by rigorous application of the scientific process in multiple fields of learning and discovery, from numerous biological sciences to archaeology, anthropology and many others. Such encumbrances include, but are not limited to, the unnecessary and damaging theories of Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency; a fundamental misunderstanding of the process by which the Bible came into existence and of its maintenance over the centuries; and unnecessary and speculative assumptions about the creation of the earth and the processes by which God brought this to pass. Year by year we seem to see more Mormons joining fundamentalist creedal Christians in their assumptions on these issues; it is an unfortunate abdication of a divine birthright and noble inheritance.
We Mormons need to be self confident in our own understanding of the Restored Gospel and recognize that it is not incompatible with every wonderful advancement that people have been inspired to discover through hard work, persistence and methodical mastery of the scientific process. This straightforwardly includes organic evolution. Given the amazing advances that have become possible in applied sciences and technology due to the reliability of organic evolution as a scientific principle, it is no stretch to see the hand of Providence in allowing such advances and discoveries to occur.
The Restored Gospel, in fact, provides no obstacle for seeing God’s hand in the exponential increases in scientific knowledge the world has experienced in recent centuries. We do not share ground with fundamentalist creedal Christians on doctrinal points about the creation of the world and God’s purposes in the Plan of Salvation. Our understanding of these two points, as limited as it might be in the broader scheme of things, derives from the further light and knowledge that has been revealed to us through restored scripture and through revelation in this dispensation of time, the “Latter-days”. Let us not be tempted by the allure of creedal Christians’ seemingly higher level of acceptance and respectability in mainstream religious society such that we abandon the unique and refreshing possibilities that the Restored Gospel opens to us in gracefully circumscribing knowledge gained from science and truth gained from our faith into one great whole. Joining fundamentalist creedal Christians in their various anti-science campaigns — in their shuttered biblical inerrancy and irrationality (i.e. “bibliolatry”, the worship of the Bible itself), both of which are completely unnecessary for Mormons — would be to shun the true illumination promised by the Restored Gospel in favor of darkness.
Our nineteenth-century Mormon ancestors boarded the ship Amazon and emigrated away from the Dickensian nightmare of their impoverished lives in a Victorian England that believed, based on its tortured creedal Christian understanding of the Bible at the time, that the lower classes in England (and the impoverished the world over) were consigned to their miserable and wretched fate and class by the predestination of God. They argued in favor of the perpetuation and maintenance of such artificial class designations on this basis. In their new homeland, the early Latter-day Saints hoped to live in a community free from the encumbrances of such a dark theology and the resulting abusive, oppressive and evil institutionalization of grinding the face of the poor. Although life in what they believed to be Zion contained its own challenges and disappointments, they were able to become their own men and women free from such encumbrances and obstacles of the prevailing creedal Christian biblical inferences of the time. They were free to live according to principles revealed through the Plan of Salvation.
Generations later, we have inherited the wonderful religious truths of the Plan of Salvation as restored in part from ancient times and revealed in part for the first time ever in the history of the world through true messengers in the Latter-days. Through these truths, we 21st Century Mormons are or should be grateful heirs to a worldview that in no way requires hostility between the enlightening advancements in knowledge available through science and the illuminating truths of the restored Christian faith that guided every aspect of those early Mormons’ lives in the Church. Our Mormon understanding of God’s involvement in the world of human affairs should leave little doubt of his capacity and desire to influence and inspire the minds of even the most atheistic of scientists in order to bring to pass many great and important things pertaining to our understanding of the world around us — and that can be used to further God’s Kingdom.
The atheism of some scientists (though by no means are all scientists in any given field atheists) might tempt Latter-day Saints to be defensive and gravitate toward fundamentalist creedal Christian bunkers in this artificial war between science and faith. The war is artificial because it need not exist in the first place. Instead of succumbing to such temptation, Mormons should resist the urge to bunker down and subsist, under siege by the evidence of science, on a diet of bibliolatry and scientific ignorance. This is one of the many strengths of the Latter-day Saint position — the Restored Gospel should give us a much broader vision of the wonders God has prepared and created for us and that he has in store for us as we live our lives in his service as disciples of Jesus Christ who are active in all fields of scientific inquiry and discovery. This position should actually allow us to hover above the fray in the contrived “culture wars” of our day rather than require us to be the foot soldiers for various questionable causes stemming from a fundamentalist creedal Christian interpretation of the Bible. As one example, we do not need to join fundamentalist creedal Christians in claiming that humans and dinosaurs co-existed or that the earth is 6,000 years old because we simply do not share the assumptions that have caused fundamentalist creedal Christians to need to believe those things in the first place. As such, our course as Mormons should be either to stand on the sidelines of fundamentalist creedal Christians’ ridiculous battles on this front or to try to broker a peace as objective observers, neither sharing the atheism and amorality nor the religious assumptions and inferences of either side in this unnecessary battle. Obviously, brokering a peace would be more consistent with Christ’s New Testament injunction for us to be peacemakers.
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If the politicized atheism of some scientists aboard the bright ship Humana repulses us as Latter-day Saints as it sails far away, let us not therefore join the fundamentalist creedal Christian Armada, constructed from the last trees of a once-green country and sailing with the vain ambition of conquering some foreign shore. Let us rather board the Amazon anew in our day and, like our Mormon forebears, emigrate away from these crumbling shores, burdened as they are with the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. Crossing “sprung longitudes of the mind” we will make our home in a new country where the religious truths about the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we celebrate through the Restored Gospel and the wonderful knowledge about the natural world with which God has blessed us through the exponential advances of science coexist in productive harmony, enriching every facet of every life.