Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article by Trent D. Stephens originally appeared in Science & Mormonism Series 1: Cosmos, Earth, and Man (2016).
Abstract:Trent Stephens, retired professor at Idaho State University, describes his personal views on pre-Adamic people. After a review of the plan of salvation, he wonders whether the Fall could have been “both anticipatory and retroactive? In other words, could it be the case that not only those who lived after Adam and Eve but also that there were many who lived before Adam and Eve who partook of the Fall as well as the Atonement.”SM1Chap16
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As I commented in another thread, I take these five scriptural passages as my guide to how Adam and Eve were created, and therefore who they are:
“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)
Fine article, brother Stephens. My only comment is that our scriptures deal almost exclusively with “the seven thousand years of [the earth’s] continuance, or its temporal existence,” beginning with Adam and Eve’s being placed on earth. As to the lives and nature of those who went before, who can say? But Hugh Nibley had this to say on the subject:
“Do 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. He opens a book and starts calling out names. They are the sons of Adam, who also qualify as sons of God, Adam himself being a son of God.” (“Before Adam,” in Old Testament and Related Studies, 82-83.)
Good advice, I think.
Dr. Stephens: I read your article with interest, because I have a dilemma very similar to the one you express: “how does his [Adam’s] proposed presence 6,000 years ago square with the presence of artistic, spiritually minded humans 35,000 years ago?” Or in a similar vein, years ago I was impressed with the following statement made by Dr. Henry Eyring, “The radioactive clocks, together with the orderly way many sediments containing fossils are laid down, result in agreement by most scientists on an age for the earth of about four-and-one-half billion years.” [Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist , p. 56] So, our problems are almost identical. However, your “outside the box” solution is totally inadequate to meet my needs because although you never specifically state it, your solution implies that Adam had a father and the only way for you to get there is through human evolution. My studies of human DNA force me to completely reject the concept of the organic evolution of man.
I am not undecided as to whether to side with science or religion. I am in full accord with the explanations of religion. I recognize that I am still unable to reconcile the findings of science relative to the age of the earth and the origin of man. In my personal “outside the box” opinion, evolution is a red herring specifically designed to keep men from understanding the true nature of God.
You state that scripture says “man was made ‘from the dust of the ground’ which we understand to be figurative.” Not so. The scriptures explain what it means to be made from the dust of the ground: “Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: . . . and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul . . .” [Moses 6:58-59] So we become of dust living souls by being born and our bodies being composed of dust, the materials of the earth, is more literal than figurative. This also means that Adam was born, but before the fall Adam and Eve were not mortal: they would have lived forever. That is because their parents were not mortal – their parents were divine resurrected beings. In Moses 6:10-21 the descendancy of Adam is given in seven generations, down to Enoch concluding with verse 22 “And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed.” Adam did not evolve from any lower order of being, he devolved from the highest being in the universe, God himself. This explains the incomprehensible complexity of human DNA and completely removes human evolution from the arena.
Joseph Smith said that this earth is composed of the broken up fragments of other earths [Joseph Smith Papers, Documents 7:492; Orson F. Whitney, Collected Discourses 1:167] but I have always envisioned those fragments to be microscopic in size rather than chunks large enough to contain a cave of pictographs or rock strata holding complete dinosaur skeletons, so my dilemma remains. Your proposal of the Fall of Adam being anticipatory and retroactive becomes moot when the only pre-Adamites were divine resurrected beings, but thank you for your thoughts.
This is an interesting idea. But I wonder how the author understands such statements as the following from the Bible Dictionary “Restitution, restoration – These terms denote a return of something that was once present but that has been taken away or lost. It involves, for example, the renewal of the earth to its paradisaical glory as it was before the Fall of Adam (A of F 1:10; compare D&C 133:23–24 with Gen. 10:25).”
My understanding is we currently live in a telestial world. During the millennium the earth will return to be a terrestrial or paradisaical world as it was prior to the Fall (and then subsequently become a celestial world). It appears that a terrestrial world has different laws of biology such as no death until people reach 100 years old and instantly resurrect, animals no longer acting as predators and prey, etc. (are there also different laws of physics and the other sciences in a terrestrial or celestial world?).
In other words, the issue of the Fall is not only concerning what happened with people, but what happened with the entire planet – just as it will be after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.