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Like other Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."(Genesis 2) Mormons believe that God created the world, everything on it, and everything in space beyond the earth.
There are differences, however, in the specifics of the process of the creation as believed by Mormons and as believed by most Christians and other Creationists.
Ex Nihilo Creation and Mormonism
- For more information, see Creation.
Ex Nihilo is a Latin term meaning "out of nothing." It is used by most creationists to mean that the world was created by God out of nothingness. Mormons, on the other hand, usually believe that create is simply a synonym for organize (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine). Essentially, Mormons are process theologians. Joseph Smith said, "Now the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos--chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end."
Mormons and Evolution
Today, more and more members of the LDS church are accepting aspects of evolutionary theory as one means by which God created all things. In 1909, a letter, seen by some as an official pronouncement, was made by then-prophet Joseph F. Smith titled "The Origin of Man" which stated that Adam was the first man on the earth, and was not the result of development from lower orders of life, and that God created every form of life (Joseph F. Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny). After lengthy discussion with members of the twelve apostles, including geologist, Elder James E. Talmage, one year later, in 1910, the First Presidency rescinded the anti-evolutionary paragraphs and re-issued the letter. To date, there are no recent official statements of church doctrine on this topic. Replacing the paragraphs was an article by the prophet, Joseph F. Smith in 1910, printed in the Improvement Era stating, "Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether they were born here in mortality as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God."
Elder James E. Talmage's pro-evolution stance was not unknown, and in 1931 he was asked to speak to the Church. He delivered his famous talk, "The Earth and Man" which was published and reproduced by the church many times in the 20th century. In the talk, Talmage asserted that death existed before the fall, creating the fossil record.
Many practicing Mormons and leaders, like other Christians, attempt to reconcile part or all of evolutionary theory with official religious doctrine and scripture. In particular, many Mormons believe in micro-evolution and in the process of natural selection. Mormons are generally science-friendly when scientific theory does not directly conflict with scripture. However, scripture has often been used by members on both sides of the issue.
Various mailing lists and websites have been created promoting the support of evolutionary theory among Mormons. These include a listserv and its Evolution FAQ, which discusses the teachings of famous LDS scientist and pro-evolutionist Henry Eyring, father of Elder Henry B. Eyring. Another is a personal web site Evolution and Mormonism where people can read official statements, letters and comments by church leaders on the subject, and also read numerous well-known articles by church members on the history of the subject in the church.
Mormons and Big Bang Theory
Mormon beliefs coincide well with the present Big Bang Theory and Mormon scriptures are supportive of the subject, in that they uphold the idea that matter (and spirit) has always existed and cannot be created nor destroyed. The big bang alludes to existing matter exploding all at once. The long-standing belief in a single creation moment at the beginning of time has, at times (namely in the early 20th century), conflicted with commonly held scientific theory. Modern theory predicts the number and behavior of galaxies, stars, and planets in the visible universe, echoing scriptures from all of the Standard Works.
"And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words." (Moses 1:33, 37-38.)