Field of Science

Mormons on science: we like if we like

Mormons are apparently not directly hostile against evolution and science in general, like so many other Christian denominations. They accept both if they harmonize with their faith.

Here are words from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. the mormons [two m's]).

Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. The Christ taught kindness, patience, and charity.

Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense. But everything that tends to right conduct, that harmonizes with sound morality and increases faith in Deity, finds favor with us no matter where it may be found. (My emphasis.)
Great, so as long as science keeps in line we're fine. But then...

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. . . . Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes.
Damn. Direct offspring of God himself does seem to be a little on the side of the kind of creationism that would not accept what we have learned about evolution. But then again, what do you expect from people believing all humans have the potential to become gods, and who wear magic underwear.

The Mormon garments. Click for up-close-and-personal view.


  1. This might be a fairly straightforward question and something you have posted on before, but what about Muslims? What is their take on science and evolution? Is evolution taught in schools?

  2. Islam is way, way more hostile to evolution than Christianity. Turkey is the most secular of all Muslim countries, and yet they have a lower acceptance of evolution than the United States, which has the lowest acceptance of most western countries.

    But good question. I might find out about schools etc. for a little post.

  3. Mormons (N=2) I have spoken to claim to accept "microevolution" but not "macroevolution". By macroevolution, I think they really mean common descent of humans and all other organisms.

    Bjorn, you might remember (I can't remember her chronology relative to yours) that Anna was housemates with a Mormon who taught evolution at SB City College, even though she did not "believe" in "macroevolution" (the Mormon, Anna is on board with all of evolution).

  4. This Mormon deserves some credit for being able to teach something she doesn't believe. I'm not sure I could do that with fervor, e.g. if I had to teach theology.

  5. Stumbled across your blog, thought I'd chime in...

    I think you're right that Mormons are more progressive than many other Christian faiths in terms of science and evolution, which was not only progressive but radical in the early historical context of Mormonism. You link to official and semi-official statements of the Church which is great but the official publications will always be more silent than everything that is going on. If you're really interested in the topic I would recommend a book called "Evolution and Mormonism: a quest for understanding" which I think is the most recent and mainstream thinking among scientists in the LDS community or a section of the book People of Paradox which has sections exploring the intellectual culture of Mormons and their unique blend of fundamentalism and radical openness to science.

    In regards to your one photo for this post being the LDS garments, I can understand why they intrigue people but isn't it all a little childish, is it respectable to call the head scarves of Muslim women "magic handkerchiefs" or the prayer shawls of Jews "magic blankets." I think we should err on the side of good taste and respect no matter our personal agreement with someone's beliefs.

  6. Dave, I agree that we should treat religious garments somewhat similarly, in terms of humor. And yes, I think it's childish humor. Which is cool. I'll do my best to think jokes about the burqa or yamulke.

    As for respect, I will give it where I think it's due. In the case of Mormons not a whole lot is due, I my opinion.

  7. As a former Mormon, I can tell you that what the membership believes individually is often out of sync with the official doctrine (or lack thereof).

    The biggest problem, as I pointed out in PZ's blog, is that the LDS Church tends to follow the conservative religious Zeitgeist in an accretive fashion, insofar as it doesn't ride roughshod over its own core doctrines.

    As an example, when genetics helps them, as in when it bolsters genealogy for the purposes of baptizing their dead relatives, it counts as good. When it contradicts them, e.g. disproving Hebrew origins of Native Americans, it's bad.

    Disbelief in evolution is somewhat contradictory with the foundational Mormon belief in exaltation, but again, most individual Mormons probably are unaware that the Church is not opposed to evolution.

    An example of doctrinal syncretization: a few years ago I was attending Sunday School in a single adults congregation, when the question was raised as to whether Mormons believed in the Rapture - a belief from the Darbyist tradition that worthy Christians will rise to meet Jesus in the clouds at his Second Coming. Several folks in the room, obviously tuned in more to the Left Behind series than to Mormon scripture said that indeed Mormons do believe it.

    Naturally, I took the opportunity to raise my hand and explain that the Rapture was based on a non-LDS exegesis (a word I'm sure most of them had never heard) of the scripture, and Mormons assuredly do not accept the Rapture as part of the end times. I can only say that there were a lot of angry rebuffed faces among that room of young devout LDS that morning.

    But that's the way popular beliefs, like the anti-evolution sentiment, get grafted into popular LDS beliefs. Eventually, if the belief is not in contradiction with the leadership's policy aims, they may choose to adopt it on high or to trample it, depending largely on their mood.

  8. Well... We love science. Check it

  9. I love when people talk about things they dont know anything about. You all are ignorant. If you dont know something about someone's faith, don't comment on it. It makes you look like an idiot. I especially like the comment on "magic underwear". Youre an idiot.

  10. I love when people talk about things they dont know anything about.

    May I recommend joining a church, then?

    You all are ignorant. If you dont know something about someone's faith, don't comment on it.

    But, we do know something. I do know, for example, that some Mormons wear special underwear. They told me. Also, sometimes very young men in black ties come unsolicited knocking on my door to tell me to join their church.

    It makes you look like an idiot. I especially like the comment on "magic underwear". Youre an idiot.

    That's okay. I don't mind it when the crazies think I'm an idiot. It just makes sense.

  11. Bjorn,

    So, because someone told you that Mormons wear magic underwear, and because some missionaries knocked on your door, now you're an expert on Mormons? I have studied this religion my entire life, and you've given it careless thought and decided to bash it. Your opinion means less than nothing to those who really know what the Mormon religion is about. I'd like to say that you really ARE an idiot, but then I'd be doing the same thing you're doing. Judging you from a small portion of what I see. You may actually be a decent human being, for all I know. And if you actually learned about the Mormon religion (not from an ex Mormon,) you may discover that this religion actually does deserve some respect.

  12. Aftonlodging, no, I am of course not an expert, and nor did I claim to be one. Why is learning about Mormons from an ex-Mormon not good enough for you?

    Sure, I may discover that it deserves respect. Tentatively I conclude that it's a complete hoax, just like all other religions.


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