Please review this explanation on the purpose for this section before reading the information here.
Modern mainstream scientific understanding goes something like this.
Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago, with beginnings of life forming shortly thereafter. Plants and animals came into existence about 500 million years ago. Various man-like species evolved from apes about a million years ago. Homo Sapiens (human beings) evolved at least 100,000 years ago, while the other human-like species like Neanderthals died out. Our species first emerged in Africa with black skin. Around 50,000 BC, we started to branch out of Africa into other locations, and race and language developed.
From then, up until the end of the stone age, circa 5-10,000 BC, humans were nomad hunter-gatherer societies, traveling in clans. We have evidence of things like toolmaking, art, mastery of fire, shipbuilding, use of clothing, and beginnings of language from this time period. The end of this age marked the age of agriculture where humans started growing their own food and from that came advancements such as domesticating animals, deforestation, and developing staple crops and foods, which lead to the formation of civilizations. By 4,000 BC the first civilization in Mesopotamia emerged. Civilization is where concepts such as division of duties, trade, commerce, government and religion began. The first writing came around 3,000 BC.
The details and the specific dates are highly contested. But the general picture is so commonly accepted today, that most LDS find a way to make this all fit with the creation story in Genesis. Most people are fine saying the Genesis story is figurative and that God created the world using evolution as a technique, ie something like intelligent design.
Literal interpretations of the Noah’s ark story and the Tower of Babel story are also anti-science. Scientists don’t believe there was a global flood. A literal interpretation of a global flood completely interrupts and resets all evolutionary and biological science. A literal interpretation of The Tower of Babel as explanation of human dispersement and language creation doesn’t work.
LDS teachings sometimes rely on these literal events. Joseph Smith said Adam lived in Missouri. The logic that flows is that man got from America to the Middle East through Noah’s ark during the global flood. The Book of Mormon refers to the Great Flood and Tower of Babel as literal events.
Lesson we learn about God through observation of scientific evolution
Whether or not we agree God was involved with creation, we agree on this:
If there is a God and he created the world, he did it in a way that his existence and involvement is essentially imperceptible to man. That is a concept every God believing and religious person should struggle with for a long time to make sense of what it means. This might be the only piece of absolute truth nearly ever person on earth could agree on. And it is one of the great mysteries of life.
My personal takeaway from this information is that God (assuming he exists, which I do) must want to remain hidden in some way. Many people believe and testify he is intimate and involved personally. But he remains hidden in a grand, public way. If he wanted to reveal himself, he could very easily, right? One appearance on CNN and all doubts would be cleared away. His choosing not to be easily found must be important and must give us clues into his nature and possibly about the purpose of life and truths about religion.
How do informed LDS members view this information?
churchistrue.com sacramental paradigm view:
Scripture is seen as metaphorical. Faith is an expression of loyalty, devotion, worship and doctrinal alignment but not necessarily a belief in the factual accuracy of scripture or historical religious origins. Challenges to scriptural historical events are not damaging to faith. I believe the facts of evolution as commonly defined by scientists, with perhaps some “intelligent design” led by God. I believe everything concerning Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden is symbolic. I don’t believe there was an actual Adam and Eve. But I believe the lessons we learn from these symbols are important and valid.
Literal believing LDS view:
Except for the very most extreme literalist Mormons, most all believe in some aspects of evolutionay science. There are a wide variety of specific beliefs, but the most common would be something like this. The days talked about in the Bible creation story might have referred to periods. Evolution has some validity, but not as it pertains specifically to the creation of man. Adam and Eve were real people. Noah’s flood might have been a local flood, but most of the elements of the story are literal.
Nuanced LDS view:
The actual reality lies somewhere in between the two above views. Some might believe man evolved, but then Adam was taken and placed in a Garden of Eden state when man became ready. Some might be OK with Adam and Eve as symbols and not real people. Some may have other theories, but don’t place importance in the literal aspects of all of the scriptural stories and doctrines involved.
Shared view by all LDS:
The Creation and the Fall of Adam are important doctrines that we have faith in, even though all may not believe they are 100% literal. These important doctrines teach us about the relationship of man with God and the importance of Jesus Christ as Savior.