Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes erroneously called Mormons) have a Christian view of the creation of the earth and mankind. They believe that God and His son Jesus Christ created the earth we live on. While this may be a somewhat traditional view of the creation, that which distinguishes Latter-day Saint theology is the belief regarding what led up to the creation and the eternal significance of the creation.
A Council in Heaven
Latter-day Saints believe the creation was carefully planned by God and that there was an important purpose in His creation of mortal humans, and also of the earth. Detailed study on the creation.
Latter-day Saints believe through reading the Holy Bible account written in Genesis, and also through accounts given in Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, that before the earth was created, there was a great council, or meeting, in heaven.
The grand council was an opportunity for God to gather his spirit children around Him and present a plan for their salvation. Latter-day Saints believe that each human being on the earth lived before this life as a spirit, in the presence of God. Latter-day Saints believe that in this pre-earth life people were given opportunities to learn and make choices. At the grand council in heaven premortal spirits gave their "common consent" to the Plan of Salvation.
The Purpose of Earth Life
There came a point where God's children had learned all they could in their existence as spirits. A wise and loving God wanted them to progress further. He knew that the only way was for them to be separated from His presence and be tested and trained. So it was that in the council in Heaven, God told them about the plan for their progression. He told them that he would create a place-–the earth--where they could go down and receive a mortal body and learn to have faith in Him. The purpose of their going to earth would be to prove their allegiance to God and their desires to serve Him, even under very difficult circumstances.
God explained that life on earth would be trying, but that He would not leave them without help. He also warned that no unclean thing (3 Nephi 27:19) would be allowed to return to His presence. By natural course God's children would all become unclean through their sins, but God promised to send a Savior; He would be called Jesus Christ, and He would pay the price for the sins of mankind. Men and women would be eligible to be cleansed of their sins, if they would be sincere in their hearts and do all they could to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings.
And so, the creation of the earth and of men's physical bodies was performed for their benefit. As men experience trials in life, they have the opportunity to become more like God. He tries to teach them patience, love, charity, humility, brotherly kindness, service to others, and control over their physical bodies and appetites. God wants them to return to His presence, and if they are sincere in their desires to follow Him and the teachings of His Son Jesus Christ, they will be cleansed of their sins through the blood of Christ and ultimately be admitted into God's presence eternally.
The Creation of This Earth
Brigham Young made this very interesting statement in 1874 about the history of the earth, “This earth is our home, it was framed expressly for the habitation of those who are faithful to God, and who prove themselves worthy to inherit the earth when the Lord shall have sanctified, purified and glorified it and brought it back into his presence, from which it fell far into space. . . . When the earth was framed and brought into existence and man was placed upon it, it was near the throne of our Father in heaven. And when man fell . . . the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system, and the sun became our light. When the Lord said-”Let there be light,” there was light, for the earth was brought near the sun that it might reflect upon it so as to give us light by day, and the moon to give us light by night. This is the glory the earth came from, and when it is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father, and it will dwell there, and these intelligent beings that I am looking at, if they live worthy of it, will dwell upon this earth” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, p. 144).
The above statement by Brigham Young reveals the majesty and even the advanced science of the revealed gospel. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that He has created worlds without number. He also revealed that He dwells in "eternal burnings" near huge stars. Our earth's position relative to God's abode is what determines the glory of the earth. The Lord said to Abraham:
- And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;
- And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.
- And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob. (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:2–4 )
Spiritual and Temporal Creations
The Lord told His prophets that just as men were created spiritually before they were created "temporally" (or physically, into a temporary world), so was the earth and everything in it:
- And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
- And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.
- And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it. And it became also a living soul. For it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it, yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man; and man saw that it was good for food. And I, the Lord God, planted the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and also the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:5, 7, 9 )
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the Lord, through His Word (Christ) created this earth out of "matter unorganized," and not "ex nihilo," from nothing:
- And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
- And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
- And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Abraham 3:23–25 )
Creationism vs. Evolution
The Church teaches that the earth was created in six creative "periods." Many have speculated as to the duration and activities of each period, but no doctrine or prophetic utterance describes in detail what transpired. Bruce R. McConkie preached against the idea of the evolution of one species to another, while other leaders of the Church, such as Henry Eyring espoused the theory of evolution. All, however, believe in our first parents, Adam and Eve, in their special standing before God, and that men and women have been created in God's image "from the dust of the earth." President Joseph F. Smith stated that it is inconsequential how the Lord created Adam and Eve. No one knows whether beings finally evolved to the point where they could be of the quality to be the literal vessels of God's spirit children, or whether God originally created human beings in their spirit-ready state. There is no official Church doctrine regarding the age of the earth, or the function or pattern of evolutionary processes.
Many scholars of the Church see problems with evolutionary theory:
- Life is unique—Scientist Homer Jacobson reports in American Scientist, January, 1955, "From the probability standpoint, the ordering of the present environment into a single amino acid molecule would be utterly improbable in all the time and space available for the origin of terrestrial life."
- Complex animals appeared suddenly—Harold G. Coffin, in Creation, states, "On the basis of the facts alone, on the basis of what is actually found in the earth, the theory of a sudden creative act in which the major forms of life were established fits best (p. 4).
- Change in the past has been limited—"[there is an] absence of change from one major type into another. . . . A number of scientists have commented in recent years about the lack of change and the absence of connecting links for specific kinds of animals" (Coffin, Creation, p. 6).
- Change in the present is limited—"Modern animals and plants can change, but the amount of change is limited. The laboratories of science have been unable to demonstrate change from one major kind to another (Coffin, p. 13).
One idea that reconciles Christian belief with the fossil record is that it took millions of years to prepare the earth for modern animal and human life. The organisms that lived during these ancient times all had a purpose, not only to live out their own lives and to fill the measure of their creation, but to change the very atmosphere, land, and seas of the earth. There were a series of great destructions wherein ancient life forms were destroyed, but the effects of their existence have made possible our own survival on the planet. In Doctrine and Covenants, section 77, verse 12, it says --
- We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power, when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things; and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years—the preparing of the way before the time of his coming."
Notice that this verse says something different than does the creation account in Genesis: "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" (Genesis 2:3). In Genesis God is sanctifying the seventh day. In the Doctrine and Covenants, He is sanctifying the earth. He placed Adam and Eve and modern animal life on the earth in its sanctified state, the state of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve transgressed, they fell, and the entire earth fell, though this time with the Lord's protection, into its place in our solar system, where death became part of our fallen, unsanctified state. However, birth and death could have been taking place for thousands or millions of years (dinosaurs and primitive life forms evolving) before the earth was sanctified and modern man (Adam and Eve) was placed upon it.
The earth will fulfill the measure of its creation and will again be sanctified.
- A Latter-day Saint Scientist Discusses Creation in Religion and Science
- The Fallacy of Fundamentalist Assumptions—FAIRlds
- Henry Eyring:"Reflections of a Scientist--Age of the Earth"
- Evolution and Creationism are compatible, as are science and religion: Teaching Evolution at BYU
- Not that many people think religion and science conflict