Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article by David M. Belnap originally appeared in Science & Mormonism Series 1: Cosmos, Earth, and Man (2016).
Abstract: David Belnap, professor of biochemistry and biology at the University of Utah, explains how the theory of evolution neither unequivocally commends atheism or belief in God — “faith (in God or atheism)” inevitably derives from “each person’s spiritual conviction and choice.” He describes how “an intelligent Creator” could use the evolutionary mechanisms of “random variation coupled to selection to produce and maintain life on earth.” He makes it clear why simple explanations can both be helpful and mislead at the same time.
To download this chapter in PDF format, click here.
About the Interpreter Foundation Book Chapter Reprint Series
The purpose of this reprint series is to make individual chapters from books published by The Interpreter Foundation more accessible to readers. Chapters from large format books will be made available as pdf files, while chapters from smaller format books will appear within the Interpreter journal, making this content available in a form suitable for many popular digital readers.
Although in some instances the formatting and pagination may have been changed, the content of this chapter, like others in this reprint series, is identical to what appeared in its original book publication. It has not been updated to incorporate research that has appeared subsequently nor to reflect the current practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use the full name of the Church and to avoid terms such as “Mormon” and “LDS.”
This is a response to the latest post by Dennis Horne in a previous thread. Something has prevented us from replying directly to a comment within the thread, so I have started a new one.
You seem unaware of the following three items (the first two are mentioned in more detail and referenced in the next chapter in this book by the Interpreter Foundation, “Questions and Comments about Evolution”):
-April 1910 Improvement Era follow-up to 1909 First Presidency Statement on Evolution: A statement attributed to the First Presidency emphasized that revelation does not say how the mortal bodies of Adam and Eve were created. They gave theistic evolution as one of three possibilities for how their bodies might have been created. They stated that their mortal bodies could have “evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God.” (See also note 17 in the next chapter: In a 1911 statement, Pres. Joseph F. Smith expressed his doubts about the theory of evolution and his worries that people who accepted evolution then “discarded the Bible.” However, he also said, “the church itself has no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in His creation of the world.”)
-1931 ruling by the First Presidency under Heber J. Grant: Elders Joseph Fielding Smith and B. H. Roberts debated the existence of pre-Adamites. Among other things, Elder Smith argued for no death before the Fall and Elder Roberts for death before the Fall. Neither brother’s view was accepted as official church doctrine. The brethren were told to worry about more important issues.
-2016 statements in the Feb and Oct New Era magazines: “What Does the Church Believe about Dinosaurs?” (Feb, p. 41) and “What Does the Church Believe about Evolution?” (Oct, p. 41). “The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution.”
Therefore, no opinion (mine included) on how life on earth came to be represents the view of the church. We all accept that God did it, which is the view of the church and is the most important message. Put another way, the mechanism of how it was done is not important, and our faith should not be based on the mechanism of creation. My colleagues and I are merely saying we do not see a conflict between the theory of evolution and our faith. Some secularists have pointed to evolution as “proof” of their atheistic view. They have taken the science beyond its bounds to say the creation was an “accident.” My colleagues and I believe they are wrong. We are also trying to counter their assertions. We are not trying to wrest scriptures or the statements of church leaders. We are only trying to make sense of the natural and scriptural records, which we believe are both true. (Interpretation of those records is where the conflict occurs.) My study of the issue has enhanced my faith and belief that God created the world. I love the scriptural and temple accounts of creation even more. I am more motivated to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sincerely and best wishes,
P.S. The chapter “LDS Statements on Evolution and the Origin of Man” (in this book) also has helpful references.
Actually I am very well aware of the items you mention. I think it speculative that the unsigned 1910 statement is from the First Presidency since it walks back a little of what they said the year before.
My real issue is with BYU biologists showing powerpoints to new students, and holding conferences, in which they try to dismiss or twist or wrest the plain meaning of the 1909 statement, which along with the later one from Pres. Grant’s administration, is the prevailing position of the Church. For that matter, the recent New Era statement is not signed by the First Presidency and therefore not issued by them. I have never heard of the New Era being the official voice of the Church; nor are unsigned articles in any of the Church magazines. Portions of the Conference issues are usually as close as you get to formal church doctrine (see my book Determining Doctrine for a thorough examination of this issue by Church leaders). The scriptures prevail in all matters of doctrine and practice, as interpreted by the First Presidency; hence the 1909 statement.
Be that as it may, my lengthy overview of the issue of theistic evolution is found here, from last September:
Perhaps overly blunt, but it deals with all the items you name in some detail, and much much more.
When all is said and done, I think five scripture passages that say exactly the same thing to be more then plain enough for me. Would ten or twenty be any more helpful to those who believe God used evolution to create Adam and Eve? I doubt it.
Stay uninfected 🙂
To me, D&C 124 means the opposite of the way it is here interpreted. To me it means that God speaks to us today in the way we understand language, so we can understand the revelations as we read them.
I don’t believe we all need to be biologists or anthropologists or historians or linguists to understand the scriptures, since God had them translated after the manner of our language and understanding.
For me, the key to understanding the scriptures is the Holy Spirit and the teachings of prophets and apostles. None of them have ever advanced a retroactive theory of the fall. This would mean that only a few folks who come up with that theory would know the truth, while all others remain in ignorance, unless they read and accept the theory.
One reason we have the Spirit and the teachings of the prophets and the temple account, is to give us understanding superior to such theories of science.
I would agree that we don’t need to be biologists, or anthropologists, or historians, or linguists, to understand how to apply the scriptures to our current situation. To extrapolate from there that the meaning that we apply to our own lives must necessarily be the right one means that we would all have to agree on which interpretation to give the scriptures. We don’t.
If we want to understand how the people to whom they were originally written understood them, then other disciplines are extremely helpful. If we want to understand how theology might intersect with biology, dismissing science might be the only way to do it–with the accompanying problems of deciding which science we accept and which we deny, based solely upon scriptures that probably weren’t written to answer those questions.
The nature of translation is also complex. Suggesting that God caused the translation to show up in particular ways is extremely problematic for both the Old and New Testaments (even dealing with what the original language text might have been). Assuming that the Book of Mormon’s English translation is divinely dictated creates its own problems. No matter who translated the text, they ended up with sentences in English that wander and loose their way, and are not grammatically correct. If the purpose of the purported God-driven translation was to give us a text that we understand, why not fix the sentences that are confusing? If the purpose of the purported God-driven translation was to give an 1830 mentality information they would understand, does that mean we need one retranslated to be relevant to a world that didn’t exist in 1830?
So, yes, we (as did Nephi) read the scriptures and read them into our lives. That is very different from saying that what we see as meaning is the only meaning they ever had, or even the one that existed when they were written.
“apply to our own lives” is one way the scriptures are effective and necessary, but the larger ultimate perspective is that they, the scriptures, give the Church its doctrine. This is why the scriptures can be of private (Spirit-given) interpretation to an individual, as the Spirit gives them private direction, yet to the church are not of private interpretation.
“we don’t” Yet we should and will in the Spirit World and Millennium.
“how the people to whom they were originally written understood them” The doctrine is the same whether given to Adam or to Enoch or to Abraham or Peter or Joseph. The circumstances vary in application sometimes, but the doctrine doesn’t. Should be the same for those to whom originally given as us and as those in the Millennium will have it revealed to them.
This is how the Lord takes the whole need to be “scientists” away from His people; instead they need to be followers of prophets who interpret the scriptures for all members. Hence, we just now have Pres. Nelson saying formally to the Church: “The earth will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new.” This is prophetic interpretation that science/evolution can’t fathom, but prophets can. Sweet and humbling and edifying eternal truth.
There is a huge difference between translation by the gift and power of God and that done by scholars of old or today; hence the article of faith that covers the Bible mistranslations. Also, Joseph gave what God constrained him to give, D&C 128:18.
Grammatical issues are covered by D&C 1:24.
The best unconfusing of modern revelation translation comes from the Holy Spirit and the prophets, and is far far far far better than the Bible translations.
The scriptures are the foundation of doctrine, but we believe in continuing revelation. That shapes doctrine in ways that keep the scriptures relevant. Sometimes that recasts them. Sometimes, it explains them. Sometimes, it creates new scripture relevant to the time that needs that scripture. Neither scripture nor doctrine have ever been static, nor should they be. I see that we disagree on whether doctrine has changed. God hasn’t, but what God has revealed clearly has changed. When more is revealed, or meaning expanded, one might say that God’s doctrine has not changed, but what we know of it (as declared in scripture) has rather clearly changed over the centuries–or millenia.
The scriptures are always subject to private interpretation, though you are correct that official declarations belong to those with authority. That has never meant that they were static, and that prophetic inspiration can see them in the contexts relevant to current needs. There is much in the Old Testament that can be applied, with value, to our lives. To do so, however, also requires that we don’t do other things (for example, the lessons of the purity laws are valuable, but we don’t practice the purity laws).
Returning to the question of translation, of course there is a difference between what scholars do and translation by the gift and power of God. However, suggesting that because it came through the gift and power of God means that it arrived without either error or need for understanding contradicts all scripture we have received. There is no suggestion that to understand scripture, it can only be done in the originally received language. The Book of Mormon came in English, but it wasn’t an English-speaker’s document. It is still valuable to read it in English, but Saints all over the world read it in different languages, where decisions had to be made about how words were to be translated. Those have been done carefully, and even prayerfully, but they have required some changes based on the people who will be reading the text. They still receive the benefit of the scriptures.
The meaning of the scriptures supersedes the language in which they are couched. That meaning may also change over time, and we have prophets to make certain that the scriptures stay relevant. That, however, requires interpretation.
I am not sure that word “static” is the best word to use. I like “eternal truth” better. And we only have as much of that as God has revealed in our day, whether descending form ancient times or given to Joseph or more modern prophets.
Right now, there is a sealed book, under Moroni’s care, that has the entire specifics of the creation of the earth and all life written on it in the Jaradite language, but it has not been given us. It is revealed eternal truth, just not yet translated for us today. Is that static?
What has been revealed regarding Adam, the first man:
“which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (Luke 3:38).
“this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God” (Moses 6:22).
“even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam” (Abraham 1:3).
“For the firstborn [Adam] holds the right of the presidency [under Christ] over this priesthood” (D&C 68:17).
“even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.” (Abraham 1:3)
“The Origin of Man by the First Presidency” (1909)
I see biologists interpret these scriptures and official statement different than myself and other church members and leaders. But that doesn’t mean they stop meaning what they say and must subjugate to a persons scientific theory.
You used the word “sometimes” a lot. I suggest that sometimes is the exception, not the rule.
I think the Church does a pretty good job of getting inspired translations of the BofM and so forth out to the Church, and that God has approved of them, even if they aren’t perfect. Yet we are told that the BofM is the most perfectly translated book there has ever been. Pretty good.
The definitive counsel we have on the restoration of doctrine (eternal truth) is Elder McConkie’s talk to CES found here in voice:
and here as text:
I think our basic positions are clear. However, I must take exception that “Yet we are told that the BofM is the most perfectly translated book there has ever been.” Joseph Smith never believed that, and if he didn’t (given that he knew the process better than anyone), I don’t see that I must. He did say that it was the most correct book–but that was in relation to how well it could lead us to Christ. As for translation, Joseph himself made changes to the text in 1837, so is idea of “perfectly translated” seems to differ from what you imply.
Thank you for your comments. I also thank Brant Gardner for his insightful followup comments.
Dennis, I’m not sure I fully understand the points you are trying to make, but here are four thoughts I had after reading your comments:
1. My comment that the Fall could have been retroactive is a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a proposed, unproven explanation based on limited evidence. Although this hypothesis is not my own and is considered plausible by others in and out of our faith, I am not claiming that idea is the final word. I am merely suggesting the idea as a possibility. If it is true, it would help reconcile the natural and scriptural records.
2. Continuing revelation is a foundation principle of our faith. Therefore, new interpretations will be part of new revelations. If the restoration of the gospel is still in process, as we believe and are taught, then new ways of thinking must be expected. For example, certainly old assumptions will be discarded and new ways of thinking will be embraced when we finally understand the atonement. Certainly we will have a change in mindset when we pass away and enter the spirit world. You mentioned Elder McConkie’s statements about restoration of truth. In another CES talk, given shortly after the priesthood and temple ban was lifted in 1978, he said, “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world” (https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/bruce-r-mcconkie/alike-unto-god/). So, if Elder McConkie’s, President Young’s, and President Cannon’s ideas can be overturned by new revelations, certainly other well set ideas may be too. If Elder McConkie can admit to having “limited understanding” about the priesthood and temple ban, you and I can not worry if our well-set ideas are overturned by new knowledge or revelation. Just to be clear, I repeat I am NOT saying the retroactive Fall is absolutely true. It is merely a hypothesis. I will not be offended if I learn later that the idea is wrong. But, I also do not see how a retroactive Fall changes any fundamental doctrine of our faith.
3. I have never heard that new, true inspiration must only come from prophets and apostles. I certainly agree that new principles binding on members of the church must be approved by prophets and apostles. But, I don’t think new principles have to originate with them.
4. Furthermore, I would agree with you and Brant that one does not have to be a scientist to understand scriptures. Throughout my life I have learned wonderful truths about the gospel and scriptures from people of all backgrounds. For example, some of the best and most inspired ideas have come from brothers and sisters with little education. In addition, I would certainly not listen to their ideas because they were not a prophet or apostle. I’m sure you do the same for speakers in your ward, for example. I, for example, can get great insights from farmers about Jesus’ parable of the sower, from fishermen and sailors on the stories of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, and from mothers about Mary and Elisabeth. I learned wonderful gospel insights from a cobbler, who employed me in my teenage years. Every member of the church can make an important contribution to helping others understand and live the gospel.
My hope is that the ideas in this chapter and the following chapter will help people who are struggling how to reconcile science and faith in God. Evolution is a very serious issue for many.
There is no button to reply to David’s comment, so I am commenting on it here.
As long as people understand a hypothesis is a hypothesis, that is fine; when some, especially students, begin to see such as fact, then trouble begins. Let us hope such does not happen.
“new interpretations will be part of new revelations. If the restoration of the gospel is still in process, as we believe and are taught, then new ways of thinking must be expected.”
This is a far more nuanced and expansive topic than there is room for here. In my book Determining Doctrine, I compile what the Brethren have taught about it over many decades.
As you know, inspiration to church members is great, especially for themselves personally, and can be insightful for others also, but is not church doctrine and not binding on the church. Therefore, those interpretations lose value when shared with a wide audience.
Most members won’t believe ‘some guy’s revelation/inspiration/insight’ (Denver Snuffer kind of stuff to most members)
To push a regular member’s allegedly inspired interpretation of scripture or science outside of a limited circle is dangerous and discouraged. New principles that the church accepts must indeed come from the presiding councils. That is fundamental procedure and process in the Church.
Having written a biography of Elder McConkie, and being very familiar with the example you cite, I get a little sensitive when people use it to discount or dismiss anything else he taught that they don’t like–evolution being the number one exhibit. The fact is that to the end of his days he wrote and spoke against evolution as the means God used to create man (Adam and Eve).
He just wasn’t wrong very often, and the reason is because he stayed with the scriptures. His interpretation of them might have been off once in a great while, but his doctrine is still solid and strong today, 35 years after his death.
Of course you are right that we will all one day find out that we were wrong about something. Even Elder McConkie wrote this, in a letter to my grandfather: “I suppose that Joseph Smith excepted, there isn’t anyone who hasn’t slipped and erred on some doctrinal point or another. All of us are in the learning process.”
Yet Elder McConkie was very clear and forthright when it came to what the revelations said and meant when it came to how man came to be, and creation and the fall.
Your final point is well taken. My current issue is that some few Latter-day Saint scientists, including some with chapters in the (reprinted) book, seem to me to be wresting the scriptures and the statements of the First Presidency to make them appear to support (at least) theistic evolution for the creation of Adam and Eve, something no scripture or prophet has ever done.
I think I pointed out in another comment that Pres. Nelson, speaking to and for the church, in his new April Liahona article, just laid to rest the fact that the entire earth will be returned to its paradisiacal state at the second coming. Close observers of Pres. Nelson’s teachings will find them in perfect harmony with Elder McConkie’s on the subject of (macro) evolution and the creation of man.
Thanks for your comments/reply.
Something has happened to this thread so that one cannot reply to specific comments. I have started a new comment thread.
Dr. Belnap, I appreciate your attempt at harmonizing a belief in God with the theory of the organic evolution of man. Nevertheless I must disagree with a number of concepts you put forth in your well written article. You summarize the theory of evolution in two simple principles: “First, changes occur in inherited traits. Second, changed traits are selected or rejected.” You omit, however, a most significant factor in the evolutionary process: changes in inherited traits and the selection or rejection of those traits takes time – lots of time. Evolutionists skirt this problem by simply attributing billions of years to the evolutionary process. Problem solved. Unfortunately the complexity of the human DNA belies the development of human DNA through evolutionary means by astronomical orders of magnitude.
In his book “Signature in the Cell, DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design”, [published by Harper One, 2009 and available through Amazon] Dr. Stephen C. Meyer has to resort to exponential mathematics to be able to discuss the complexity of DNA. In Exponential terms:
10^0 = 1 one 10^-0 = 1 one
10^1 – 10 ten 10^-1 = .1 a tenth
10^2 = 100 a hundred 10^-2 = .01 a hundredth
10^3 = 1,000 a thousand 10^-3 = .001 a thousandth
10^4 = 10,000 ten thousand 10^-4 = .0001 a ten thousandth
10^5 = 100,000 a hundred thousand 10^-5 = .00001 a hundred thousandth
10^6 = 1,000,000 a million 10^-6 = .000001 a millionth
10^7 = 10,000,000 ten million 10^-7 = .0000001 a ten millionth
10^8 = 100,000,000 a hundred million 10^-8 = .00000001 a hundred millionth
10^9 = 1,000,000000 a billion 10^-9 = .000000001 a billionth
So, five billion years is expressed as 5×10^9 and for comparison purpose Dr. Meyer notes that there have been 10^16 seconds since the big bang that created our galaxy, (p 216) and there are 10^65 individual atoms in our galaxy (p 208). DNA looks very much like a computer code (p 26) except that all of our computer codes are binary: sequences of zeros and ones. DNA code appears to be written by the placement of amino acids into its double helix structure and there are four different ways each amino acid can be attached. The DNA code is therefore quaternary instead of binary, and our scientists today are not yet able to comprehend the complexity of such a code.
Among other things, DNA has the amazing capability of replicating itself and appears in almost all cells of the human body, with the exception of nails, hair and red blood cells. It also has the capability of merging with another DNA to produce a unique third DNA. Additionally It would appear that all of the sequencing and processing information necessary for creating a human body over a period of about 20 years, including the ability to locate and repair minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, breaks and many other types of disorders are programmed within the DNA string. Dr. Meyer never estimates the number of nodes in the human genome, but it has been estimated that the odds of just producing the proteins necessary to service a simple one-celled organism by chance is 1 in 10^41,000. (p 213) That’s a 1 followed by forty one thousand zeros. That means in following the evolutionary process: first change, then selection or rejection of the new traits; if that evolutionary process had been followed a million times every second since the creation of our galaxy, there would still be 10^40,978 changes left to process. And that is for a minimally complex cell. If you are looking for how human DNA came into being, evolution is not it.
Thank you for your comments. I have four points I would like to make in response.
1. This argument is similar to the idea that an explosion in a printing shop produces a dictionary. That is not how evolution works. The evolutionary process is iterative. A beginning something is altered randomly then each successive generation is tested for fitness. This is not random guesses trying to make life. In the chapter, I give examples of how this solves real problems and how this process is used by engineers to make things.
2. Remember that the theory of evolution is about life developing into what we have today from primitive life forms, probably similar to bacteria. The theory of evolution is NOT about developing from the sterile earth. We do not know how the first life forms came to be. But, if there was a process that similarly allowed iterative rounds of change followed by selection, then evolution may have been involved.
3. None of this is a threat to our faith. The scriptural and temple accounts of the creation are our evidence that God is the creator. None of the accounts say HOW creation occurred. The accounts do not say God did not use natural processes–only that he did it. As I stated in my article, if human beings use the evolutionary process to make things, certainly God could have. The popular perception that evolution = godlessness is simply not true.
4. You can find other sources that deal with Meyer’s argument (and other similar arguments). I would like to make a different reason for leaving that argument alone. One conscious or inadvertent statement that is made by arguments like Meyers’ is that evolution must be disproved to save Christianity or faith in God. This means faith is dependent on the mechanism of creation. This is not necessary and is dangerous in my view. If arguments like Meyers’ are refuted, then faith in God suffers because people think this shows that the arguments for divine creation are silly. I’m not saying you have to accept evolution. I’m saying that the mechanism of creation (how God did it) is irrelevant.
The author is correct that there is no inherent contradiction between evolution and belief in God. Evolution is strictly mechanistic. The processes it describe could have occurred with or without divine direction. The issue for me however is that there is an inherent conflict between evolution and scripture. An old term for scripture is ‘standard works,’ the standard by which we measure all other truths.
Convincing arguments have been made for why we shouldn’t believe that Genesis really means what it says. When Joseph Smith came along we were blessed with several additional witnesses to *how* creation unfolded, they agree remarkably well (though not completely), and they were given at a time when understanding of metaphor, myth, and actual history were much closer to how we differentiate them today. These accounts are fairly consistent in saying that there was no death before the fall and that creatures pro-create after their own kind.
Saying that the scriptures don’t really mean what they say they mean, because they just weren’t as sophisticated back then as we are today, feels a little bit like people who try to gently, respectfully, even kindly, dismiss the testimony of the witnesses of the BoM. “Maybe they just saw with their spiritual eyes, kind of like a dream. They couldn’t possibly have meant that they saw them in real life. They were good men but that’s just not possible.”
I applaud the Interpreter Foundation for trying to help people wrestle with these difficult issues. Too many people throw out their religion when they are unable to reconcile it with their science. Respectful exploration of these ideas in faith-supporting environments is important.
Thank you very much for your comments. I love your statement that “respectful exploration of these ideas in faith-supporting environments is important.” We need space to explore, question, and even disagree without compromising our faith or demeaning each other. We are brothers and sisters, after all!
One’s audience matters. The audience in Moses’ and Abraham’s day was a completely different culture, of course, than ours today. One way we differ is in our mode of writing.
Today, our language is precise technically and legally. Many legal fights occur over the meaning of specific words. In an Ensign article in 1972, Latter-day Saint scholar Sidney B. Sperry noted Middle-Eastern (his term was “Oriental”) language was very different from our Western (“Occidental”) language:
“We ofttimes read our Bible as though its peoples were English or American and interpret their sayings in terms of our own background and psychology. But the Bible is actually an Oriental book. It was written centuries ago by Oriental people and primarily for Oriental people. . . . In thought and speech the Oriental is an artist; the Occidental, on the other hand, may be thought of as an architect. When speaking, the Oriental paints a scene whose total effect is true, but the details may be inaccurate; the Occidental tends to draw diagrams accurate in detail. When our Lord spoke of the mustard seed as “less than all the seeds that be in the earth,” and the plant as “greater than all herbs” (Mark 4:31–32), he was speaking as an Oriental. Any good botanist knows that the mustard seed (sinapi) of which Jesus spoke, though small, is not the smallest of all seeds, nor is the plant greater than all herbs.” (“Hebrew Manners and Customs,” Ensign 2 (May 1972), 29–30.)
So, we must be careful about our interpretation of ancient Middle-Eastern writings. The creation accounts are very simple stories about a very complex event. The Fall account is also likely incomplete.
The scriptures say the Lord speaks to us “in [our] weakness, after the manner of [our] language, that [we] might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). For example, anciently the Lord talked about going to the “four corners of the earth”. That doesn’t mean the earth has four corners, but means that the people understood that phrase. They would have really thought the prophets were crazy if the prophets said the gospel would go “all around the globe”.
This is much different from the Book of Mormon witnesses. Their witness statement is a precisely worded document, according to our Western culture. Subsequent interviews and writings from those men also clarified that. Other evidence also corroborates their testimony that they saw actual metal plates.
The scriptures, especially 2 Nephi 2:22, tell us that Adam and Eve brought death into the world. The fossil record says that death has occurred for millions of years–long before humans inhabited the earth. How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory things? If, for example, the Fall were retroactive, as I present in the following chapter and as Trent Stephens argues in the chapter after that, then death could have occurred before Adam and Eve were on the earth.
I believe the scriptures and the natural record are true. We will likely need much more information before we can reconcile the scriptural and natural records. Our assumptions also probably lead us in the wrong direction about some things.