What is the Latter-day Saint view on science?
As a Christian my atheist friends usually say to me things like “how can you believe in religion,” and “I can’t believe you don’t believe in evolution and you think the earth is only a few thousand years old.” In fact there is absolutely nothing in the holy scriptures that claim the earth is young or that there is no evolution. The Book of Genesis was not written as a scientific fact book on the creation, it is not a book on science, rather it was to teach the Jews that there is a God, and they’re the chosen people to bring down the Torah (Laws) of God. My atheist friends couldn’t be more wrong. As a devout Christian and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I absolutely do believe in science, and evolution. I also believe the earth is billions of years old. If you read The Bible and especially the Pearl of Great Price properly, you will find out that the earth is extremely old, and there is guided evolution. Here are a few quotes from our modern day Prophets, Apostles and scholars on science, religion and evolution:
“In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular… whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant.” President (Prophet) Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:166, May 14, 1871.)
“… for by the scriptural record itself we learn of stage after stage, age after age of earth processes by which eventually this planet became capable of supporting life — vegetable, animal and human in due course…
But this we know, for both revealed and discovered truth, that is to say both scripture and science, so affirm — that plant life antedated animal existence and that animals preceded man as tenants of earth.
According to the conception of geologists the earth passed through ages of preparation, to us unmeasured and immeasurable, during which countless generations of plants and animals existed in great variety and profusion and gave in part the very substance of their bodies to help form certain strata which are still existent as such. [This was written before the introduction of radioactive isotope dating techniques.]
The oldest, that is to say the earliest, rocks thus far identified in land masses reveal the fossilized remains of once living organisms, plant and animal. The coal strata, upon which the world of industry so largely depends, are essentially but highly compressed and chemically changed vegetable substance. The whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.” (Elder James E. Talmage)
“In due course came the crowning work of this creative sequence, the advent of man! Concerning this all-important event we are told that scientists and theologians are at hopeless and irreconcilable variance. I regard the assumption or claim, whichever it be, as an exaggeration. Discrepancies that trouble us now will diminish as our knowledge of pertinent facts is extended. The creator has made record in the rocks for man to decipher; but He has also spoken directly regarding the main stages of progress by which the earth has been brought to be what it is. The accounts can not be fundamentally opposed; one can not contradict the other; though man’s interpretation of either may be seriously at fault.” (Elder James E. Talmage)
“Let us not try to wrest the scriptures in an attempt to explain away what we can not explain. The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a text-book of geology, archaeology, earth-science or man-science.” (Elder James E. Talmage)
“I cannot agree with your conception that there was no death of plants and animals anywhere upon this earth prior to the transgression of Adam, unless we assume that the history of Adam and Eve dates back many hundreds of thousands of years. The trouble with some theologians—even including many of our own good people—is that they undertake to fix the date of Adam’s transgression as being approximately 4000 years before Christ and therefore about 5932 years ago. If Adam was placed upon the earth only that comparatively short time ago the rocks clearly demonstrated that life and death have been in existence and operative in this earth for ages prior to that time.” (Elder James E. Talmage)
“not begrudge existence to creatures that looked like men long, long ago, nor deny them a place in God’s affection or even a right to exaltation — for our scriptures allow them such. Nor am I overly concerned as to just when they might have lived, for their world is not our world. They have all gone away long before our people ever appeared. God assigned them their proper times and functions, as he has given me mine — a full-time job that admonishes me to remember his words to the overly eager Moses: “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.” (Moses 1:31.) It is Adam as my own parent who concerns me. When he walks onto the stage, then and only then the play begins.” (Professor Hugh Nibley)
And the last quote I’ll post today is from a devout Latter-day Saint Christian friend, who responded to a question he was asked about weather he likes Charles Darwin’s work or not. This was his answer:
“Yes I like Darwin’s work. There is no doubt in it. It explains every thing that we observe in biology.
If someone can come up with a different explanation that better explains all the observations and all the data, and everything that we observe in every aspect of biology, then that person will win a Nobel Prize and will be as famous through the ages, along side the greats like Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Galileo, and Keppler.”