Brigham Young University
Gary James Bergera and Ronald Priddis
The Organic Evolution Controversy
[p. 131] In late November 1859, British naturalist Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, setting in motion one of the most controversial scientific revolutions since Galileo. Darwin’s postulates represented an alternative explanation to the commonly accepted ex nihilo creation of the earth 6,000 years earlier, the fixity of species, and the special creation of human beings. Not surprisingly, the response both in England and in Europe, especially among clerics, was immediate and hostile.1
News of Darwin’s theories spread across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually filtered to the Rocky Mountains, where the reception proved equally heated. For many Mormons, particularly ranking church officials, Darwin’s impressive concept of biological descent posed a serious threat to the church’s emerging theology (see articles in Juvenile Instructor and Daily Enquirer). Indeed, when explaining to his son why he was establishing an academy in Provo, church president Brigham Young wrote in 1875 that he was “resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed” to “the theories . . . of Darwin.” Brigham Young Academy principal Karl G. Maeser similarly concluded that the topic was “taboo” and reassured his pupils that “whenever any geological discoveries are made they verify the statements of the Bible” (Nelson to McKay; “Geography Notes”). Science textbooks at the academy were carefully screened for religious orthodoxy. One of Maeser’s favorite science readers, J. Dorman Steele’s Fourteen Weeks series, contained numerous references to the “work of the Creator” in physics, physiology, zoology, chemistry, astronomy, and geology. By 1901, Provo stake president and academy trustee David John could write to Maeser: “Inasmuch as the public schools are prohibited from teaching religion and a knowledge [p. 132] of God, and as modern education is based largely upon the doctrine of evolution, . . . there is no organization in the church that counteracts this influence to the extent that the church schools do.”2
Nineteen-year-old BYA instructor James E. Talmage and University of Utah president John R. Pack, two articulate Mormon intellectuals who did not share the prevailing sense of faith under siege, both played an important role during the second half of the nineteenth century in demonstrating the compatibility of Mormon and evolutionary thought. But for the most part throughout the 1880s and 1890s, those who felt a responsibility as shepherds over their ecclesiastical flock insisted that Darwin’s theories challenged the existence of God, diminished the status of humankind, and jeopardized the authority of the Bible. In 1891, for example, BYA professor of theology Joseph B. Keeler published a small pamphlet, Foundation Stones of the Earth and Other Essays, attacking “the fallacy of evolutionism.” Keeler hypothesized that the fossilized vestiges of extinct life forms were the remains of “other planets which were broken up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live.” He rejected the uniformitarian hypothesis, which asserted that the earth had been formed over periods lasting millions of years, and suggested instead that the earth was only 13,000 years old. The editor of the B.Y.A. Student enthusiastically predicted that Keeler’s critique “may result, ere long, in the complete overthrow of the gradual formation theory of geololgy.” Later that year, the church’s Contributor magazine labeled evolution “an absurd idea and one which will not bear the test of reason” (Sept., Nov. 1891). George Q. Cannon, an influential member of the church’s governing First Presidency, added two years later, “The kind of evolution we believe in . . . [is that] of man until he shall become a god; . . . not the evolution of man from some low type of animal life.”3
However, other BYA educators took a less critical view of evolution. Language and physical sciences professor George Phillips wrote in an 1892 academy newspaper, for example, that the theory possessed “some modicum of truth” (The Normal). Josiah Hickman, professor of psychology and biology, also hazarded public reconciliation of Mormon theology and evolutionary science. Most vocal was C. A. Whiting, who openly advocated evolution in lectures and in the pages of local magazines. “The philosophy of evolution [does] not conflict with the idea of God or of the creation by God,” Whiting argued in 1895. “[Where] once the thought was creation or evolution now the thought [is] creation by evolution.” Whiting also defended the mutability of species. Later that year, the school’s progressive principal and graduate of the University of Michigan, Benjamin Cluff, taught a “Seminary in Theology,” covering “Ethics, Psychology, and the Theory of Evolution,” defending many of the premises of evolutionary theory.4
[p. 133] For the academy’s fifth annual summer school teachers’ conference two years later, Cluff invited to campus the dean of American psychologists and president of Clark University, G. Stanley Hall. During Halls’s discussion of adolescent psychology in the Provo Tabernacle, according to BYA undergraduate John C. Swensen, Hall “very frankly [advocated] the point of view of evolution,” which predictably “seemed to be offensive to some of his conservative listeners.” Public criticisms of the academy soon surfaced in the local press “for bringing . . . a man holding such views.” N. L. Nelson, an instructor in the English department who had studied philosophy and biological science at Clark University, responded to the accusations by publicly defending both Hall and the academy. “Then followed a series of communications pro and con as to the value of evolution,” continued Swensen. Long suspicious of Cluff’s educational innovations, Maeser, at the time superintendent of church schools, wrote Cluff a personal complaint. While Maeser’s letter has evidently not survived, the thirty-nine-year-old Cluff admitted that “Dr. Hall is no doubt an evolutionist, as are all scientific men, but he does not believe in the Darwinian theory of the origin of man; neither does he believe, in my opinion, in the evolution of one species from another.” While Cluff thus upheld orthodoxy, his students, if Swensen is a measure, easily “adjust[ed] to new ideas without being under the suspicion of losing our faith.” The Hall episode, in Swensen’s mind, “contributed to the education of the public and resulted in greater tolerance toward the academy.” Others, however, saw in Hall’s visit and resultant debate the gradual encroachment of scientific atheism at the church school.5
One concerned father wrote to George H. Brimhall, acting principal and instructor of theology, in January 1901 that while his daughter “was home for the holidays [he] found there was something wrong in school in regards to Professor Edwin S. Hinckley’s geology class.” Hinckley, the father reported, “had mixed up evolution with geology, and my daughter . . . got [the] wrong idea [that] . . . man originated from the monkey or [that] all animals originated from the jelly fish.” The father asked Brimhall to talk with his daughter. “She can tell you all about those things,” he wrote. “I hope she has . . . a misunderstanding in regards to [this]. But, if not, I thought it was my duty to let you know about it.”6
Hinckley’s class, “Geological Biology,” was intended to give “special attention . . . to the study of fossil forms, their life history and the evolution of our earth and its organisms” (Brimhall to Cluff). Though sympathetic to evolutionary concepts, Hinckley contended that “part of the theory was erroneous. It rests with someone studying in the light of the gospel to unravel the mysteries and set people aright” (WB, 15 Oct. 1900). Brimhall discussed the letter with Hinckley, then wrote to the father, much as Cluff had earlier answered Maeser:
[p. 134] If Carrie got any wrong evolution ideas from her class work[,] . . . it was through her not understanding the subject properly. . . . I suppose that the teacher in explaining some of the lessons has called the attention of the class to what these scientists have to say, [but] it is strange that any of [the students] should understand that the theory of man evolving from lower animals was believed in by the teacher. . . . Neither the academy nor any of the teachers believe or accept the doctrine of man’s ancestors being the lower animals. Our doctrine is that “God created man in His own image; male and female created He them” as the scriptures say.7
One of the academy’s most enthusiastic advocates of evolutionary theory was English professor Nels Nelson. As early as 1895, he had argued in the church’s Contributor magazine that all Darwinism lacked was provision for the intelligent supervision and design of the universe. Viewing Nelson as able and committed to defend the church’s interests in such topics, the church helped subsidize in 1904 the publication of his Scientific Aspects of Mormonism, an elaborate, though occasionally confusing, reconciliation of LDS teachings and scientific thinking (Smith to Nelson; Nelson to Smith). Mormonism, Nelson wrote, is “able to organize the truths of evolution into a larger whole and supply intelligent motive . . . for the origin, trend and final destiny of the universe.” Though Nelson subsequently admitted to church president Joseph F. Smith in 1905 that many Mormons suspected his book was “not trustworthy in its exposition of Mormonism,” criticisms concentrated on his views of the Holy Ghost and the mission of Jesus, which contradicted Smith’s own interpretations, rather than on his discussion of evolution.8
1911: Evolution and “Higher Criticism”
Four years after assuming office in 1903 as Benjamin Cluff’s successor, George Brimhall hired the school’s first Ph.D., Joseph Peterson, to oversee the academy’s budding psychology department. The church had only recently upgraded its academy to university status and Brimhall was anxious “to include in [his] faculty . . . the best scholars of the church” (Chamberlin). Peterson had graduated from BYA in 1902, then taught LDS seminary in Oakley, Idaho. Within the next five years he earned both baccalaureate and doctorate degrees from the University of Chicago, where he studied under pioneer behaviorist John B. Watson. Brimhall also recruited Peterson’s brother, Henry, to help supervise the College of Education. Henry Peterson held a bachelor’s degree from Chicago and a master’s degree from Harvard. Shortly after his arrival in Provo, Henry was called to [p. 135] serve on the boards of the church’s religion classes and the Sunday school programs. He was later appointed a member of an ad hoc church committee to study the problems of church youth.9
In 1908, Brimhall convinced twenty-eight-year-old Ralph V. Chamberlin, at the time chair of the University of Utah’s biology department and dean of its infant medical school, to join the growing faculty. A graduate of the University of Utah, Chamberlin had taught math, science, language, and biology at the LDS College in Salt Lake City before continuing graduate studies, first at Stanford and then at Cornell, where he received a Ph.D. in 1905. Upon his arrival at BYU, Chamberlin was made head of the biology department. In 1909 his brother, William Henry, was also hired. William, who had studied at Harvard, the University of California, and the University of Utah, was trained in modern and ancient languages and theology. At BYU, he taught classes in psychology, philosophy, and languages. In addition to their regular assignments, the Peterson brothers and William Chamberlin were also appointed members of the part-time theology faculty.10
Countering persistent criticisms that the school was “lacking in genuine scholarship” on the part of its “farmer teachers,” both faculty and administrators made a vigorous attempt to upgrade academics (Peterson to Brimhall; Chamberlin to Brimhall). Subjects ranging from communism to eugenics were hotly debated both in and out of class. “I recall one occasion in which there had been a good informal talk in a little group,” Henry Peterson later wrote. President Brimhall “spoke up and said, ‘I too am an evolutionist.’ That viewpoint [was] unavoidable” (Educator). At services in 1909 commemorating the centennial of the birth of Charles Darwin and the semi-centennial of the publication of his Origin of the Species, Ralph Chamberlin spoke sympathetically of Darwin’s contributions, pronouncing him one of the greatest scientific minds of the era. The school’s White and Blue echoed, “Undoubtedly among the great men of the nineteenth century the foremost place should be given to the eminent scientist Charles Darwin” (16 Feb. 1909). For Chamberlin, evolution explained not only the origin of life but also the growth of man’s belief in God, while scriptural criticism unveiled “the constant growth, the constant evolution in the Bible–the progressive unfolding of the Divine.” He subsequently published two lengthy articles in the White and Blue illustrating the methods and aims of scriptural critics. The Petersons and Chamberlins quickly became articulate exponents of evolution and scriptural exegesis as well as popular speakers at local civic and church meetings. “How I enjoyed them!” remembered alumna Annie Clark Tanner. “I had been a teacher of the Bible in several of the organizations of the church and now for the first time in my life I was learning [p. 136] some truths which made reasonable explanations of Bible difficulties.” In the wake of such heady discoveries, the campus seemed ready to erupt.11
In late September 1909, seven months after the Darwin centennial, the First Presidency, consisting of Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund, instructed Apostle Orson F. Whitney to draft an official statement regarding the church’s position on the “origin of the physical man” (see Faculty Minutes). A special committee of apostles, which also included James Talmage, reviewed Whitney’s text, suggesting several major revisions (Talmage Journal; Richards Journal). The statement was eventually read to members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was “sanctioned by them” as “the official position of the church” on organic evolution, and appeared in the November issue of the church’s official organ, the Improvement Era (Richards Journal; Lund Journal). As published, the statement defended a spiritual as well as physical creation, the creation of man in the image of God, and Adam as the “primal parent of the race.” This declaration did not specifically address the uniformitarian hypothesis, the age of the earth, or, most importantly, the mutability of species. Still, however guarded, the anti-evolutionary sentiment was unmistakable, and many church members, perhaps a majority, no doubt interpreted it as a formal refutation of Darwinism.12
Sketchy reports of the Chamberlins’ and Petersons’ teachings had by this time reached church headquarters in Salt Lake City where they were referred to superintendent of church schools Horace Hall Cummings. Largely self-educated, Cummings had concluded from his own unsuccessful attempt to study in the East during the 1880s, from which he had been dissuaded by church leaders, “Previous faithfulness and good character [are] no assurance against” the loss of one’s faith. Cummings’s career in church education had been foretold by one of the widows of Apostle Orson Hyde who blessed him in tongues that he “should meet the great educators of this nation and of other nations, and should visit the stakes of Zion, establishing and setting in order educational institutions in them” (“Autobiography”). As a protege of Karl Maeser, Cummings had remained within the ranks of the church school system and had not received college training until shortly before his appointment as superintendent in 1906, when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Utah. Like Maeser, he firmly believed that the value of church education lay in spiritual and moral rather than intellectual development. Openly skeptical of secular teachings, he had instructed President Brimhall in 1908: “The use of any text book on the New or Old Testament written by a non-member of our church [is] expressly forbidden, and the use of the outlines prepared for that purpose enjoined.” Cummings viewed the growing popularity of evolution and scriptural criticism among [p. 137] church educators with considerable alarm. Indeed, the theories of the Petersons and the Chamberlins seemed to portend a move away from the religious simplicity and gospel purity he felt duty bound to uphold and protect.13
Responding to complaints from as far away as northern Mexico, Cummings visited BYU in late November 1910 to evaluate the situation. He subsequently reported to the Church Board of Education that a number of teachers were “applying the evolutionary theory and other philosophical hypotheses to principles of the gospel and to the teachings of the church in such a way as to disturb, if not destroy the faith of the pupils.” The board, “thunderstruck” at this report, instructed him to “make a thorough investigation of conditions there and bring them a written report of [his] findings.” Cummings returned to Provo within the week and toured the school for nine days, “visiting classes, talking with teachers and students, and in the evenings visit[ing] some of the parents to see what they thought of the situation.” Fearing a general condemnation of his faculty, Brimhall wrote a cautiously worded explanation a few days after Cummings’s arrival to church president Joseph F. Smith, who also served as president of the Church Board of Education. “While I believe [the Petersons and Chamberlins] are from their point of view perfectly right,” Brimhall wrote, “still I think they are a little over-zealous in their desires to bring people to their point of view. As they look at it their teachings are in perfect harmony with the principles of the gospel, but there are certainly many who cannot perceive that harmony, and, therefore, it seems to me that a little [patience] will be in keeping with greater wisdom on their part.”14
When news of Cummings’s visit spread across campus, “the friendly, respectful spirit heretofore always shown me changed to one of opposition and fault-finding,” he noted. Faculty and students “said I wanted to destroy the ‘academic liberty’ of some of their best teachers, and would kill the school.” These defenders argued, accurately, that “theological work had never been so interesting and well patronized. The ‘new thought’ was making a new school of the B.Y.U.” Indeed, Provo native Mark K. Allen, later chair of the school’s psychology department, observed that the teachings of the Petersons and the Chamberlins “seemed to meet a strong need in many students, as well as [in] some of the other faculty members.” Their theology classes especially “were among the most popular on the campus and their status as well trained and highly competent men in their specialties attracted large followings” (Tanner). Thus, among many upperclassmen, Cummings promptly acquired the image of a “blue-nose kill-joy whose office was to detect and ferret out inrectitude [sic], waywardness and sin. . . . By reason of these prejudices against him he was merely [tolerated], except by college graduates seeking teaching [p. 138] positions in church schools” (Johnson). Students soon struck back with “semi-ribald yarns” regarding Cummings’s “ultra piety and purity.” For instance, one tale claimed that while traveling, Cummings had been unable to sleep in his hotel room after noticing a bathroom door from which two letters were missing, which read, “Women To let” (Johnson). Hoping to avoid “needless antagonisms,” Cummings hedged when he appeared before the faculty in early December and was asked what he would relay to the board. He reported evasively that “he was glad to learn through conversation with the [university] presidency that matters [had] been misrepresented.”15
The report Cummings submitted to the General Board of Education six weeks later on 21 January 1911 did not mention any misrepresentations. Cummings wrote that “when some of the most radical changes in theological views were first introduced” two years previously, “it caused great disturbance in the minds of both pupils and the old style teachers,” many of whom had since come to accept the new theories. Most agreed that “interest in theological work had never been more universal or more intense in the school . . . [and] none seem[ed] to shirk the work;” none expressed doubt “in the living oracles[,] . . . tithing, missionary work, and the ordinances of the gospel.” Still, Cummings reported, “There is a pronounced difference of opinion among both students and teachers upon many important points of doctrine and belief.” Without mentioning names, he accused “four or five of the teachers” of championing organic evolution and higher biblical criticism. The theory of evolution, he alleged, was “treated as a demonstrated law and their applications of it to gospel truths [had given] rise to many curious and conflicting explanations of scripture. Its relations to the fall, the atonement and the resurrection,” he wrote, “are, perhaps, the most important and damaging to the faith of the students.” He described “the struggle [of] both teacher and student . . . when the new thought was being presented to them. . . . It was like the sorrow of the little child when first told there is no Santa Claus.” “Conditions in Provo are unfavorable for . . . a solution [to this] difficulty,” Cummings concluded. The number of teachers defending the new teachings
is sufficient to form a coterie having similar views, and the opposition they receive from others keeps them drawn together and determined to defend their views. If they were distributed and given other lines of work to do where their theories would not be continually called into activity, I think their attitude might change much for the better, in time, but I feel sure the conditions in [BYU’s] Teacher’s College, in this respect, need changing as soon as practicable.
These teachers have been warned by the presidency of the school and by myself, and even pleaded with, for the sake of the school, not to press their views with so much vigor. Even if they [p. 139] were right, conditions are not suitable; but their zeal overcomes all counsel and they seem even more determined, if not defiant, in pushing their beliefs upon the students. They seem to feel they have a mission to protect the young from the errors of their parents.16
One week later on 28 January, Cummings appeared before the faculty to summarize the main points of his report. President Brimhall then warned the teachers that “criticism of leaders should be kept in the background” and urged them to be loyal to “the heroes of Mormondom.” “A general discussion” followed “in which a goodly number of teachers participated.” Amos Merrill, instructor of education, called for a resolution “invit[ing] the authorities of the church to appoint a committee to investigate the points of doctrine upon which [they had been] criticised.” Brimhall, however, tabled the resolution and said that it would be considered later at a “meeting called by the president for that purpose.” Frustrated at the lack of administrative support, Ralph Chamberlin alluded to Cummings’s report in an article that appeared four days later in the White and Blue. “When we see men so unhappily bound with prejudice and tradition,” he wrote, “that they are blind to the beauties and light of the grandest conception that science has yet won for man, we sorrow, and in sympathy again recall the plea that the unhappy Castelli made to the pope who was about to inflict punishment upon Galileo for his demonstration of the movements of the earth: ‘Your Holiness, nothing that can be done can now hinder the earth from moving.'” Chamberlin concluded, “Ultimate cause and meaning . . . remain untouched and as impenetrable as before. Evolution leaves the theistic argument from causality in its essence untouched.”17
Although members of the Board of Education had received copies of Cummings’s report nearly two weeks earlier, they did not meet to discuss its contents until 3 February. In his oral presentation to the board, the superintendent named the offending teachers as Henry and Joseph Peterson and Ralph Chamberlin, “who, from an educational standpoint,” he conceded, were “perhaps the strongest men in the institution, and they have a potent influence with the students, thus making their theological teachings the more dangerous to the faith of the students.” In the brewing confrontation, President Brimhall cautiously aligned himself with Cummings and reluctantly told board members that “the only thing he could see to do was to get rid of these teachers.” Brimhall reported that he had “patiently labored with them in the hope that they would change their attitude and abstain from thrusting their objectionable views before the classes, but it seemed that they were more determined than ever to teach theology according to their own ideas and theories, instead of according to the revealed [p. 140] truth, and he therefore saw no alternative but to dispense with their services.” The board concluded from the testimonies of Cummings and Brimhall that “the condition was too serious to admit of any delay,” and “agreed that immediate steps should be taken [to investigate further] the three teachers named, and [to proceed with] their removal if necessary.” They also ruled that “other teachers who may entertain the same ideas should be talked to very plainly and given to understand that the teaching of such theories could not be tolerated in the church schools.” Upon a motion by Elder John Henry Smith, a special committee was appointed to meet with Chamberlin and the Petersons. Chaired by Francis M. Lyman, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, the committee included Elders Heber J. Grant, Hyrum M. Smith, Charles W. Penrose, George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, President Brimhall, and Superintendent Cummings. Elder Ivins, though suspicious of evolution, later resigned from the committee. “I will not . . . judge those men,” he protested. “We are not qualified” (in Chamberlin).18
One week later to the day, the three professors were summoned to Salt Lake City. “We never had the slightest intimation that we had been singled out,” Ralph Chamberlin later recalled. “We didn’t know as we rode up on the train . . . and we couldn’t figure out why we were being summoned up to headquarters. We suddenly were brought out into a room . . . with six of the top dignitaries of the church there to try us. We were, as they say, flabbergasted.” Chamberlin was charged with “teaching evolution,” which he did not deny. The three men asked for a copy of the charges against them but were refused. They were, however, at least aware of the substance of Cummings’s report and the broad issues under discussion. All “frankly acknowledged” belief in higher biblical criticism and “absolute certainty as to the truth of evolution.” While recognizing the “general inspiration” of the Bible, they admitted they did not believe literally “many biblical statements” (Penrose Journal). More seriously, they refused to recognize the authority of the university president or Board of Trustees in determining lecture content in their areas of academic expertise. The committee remained in session with the professors nearly five hours. “Many questions [were] asked” and answered, Elder Charles Penrose recorded, “some directly, others evasively.” But, Elder Heber Grant added, the three men “manifested a very good spirit.” The committee met again the following morning and, according to Penrose, “all agreed that the ideas and belief expressed by the professors under fire ought not to be taught in church schools but that the men were sincere and good.” The General Authorities resolved to “report accordingly and to recommend that their service be dispensed with unless they conform[ed] to the decisions and instructions of the Board of Education.” Grant’s account, however, was less generously [p. 141] phrased: “We were of a unanimous opinion that it would be unsafe for them to continue teaching at the Brigham Young University.” In their report to President Smith and the Board of Trustees, submitted later that day, committee members recommended that “the services of those three teachers in the B. Y. University be dispensed with unless they change their teachings to conform to the decision and instructions of the Board of Trustees of the Brigham Young University and the General Church Board of Education.” BYU board members adopted a resolution nearly identical to that passed the previous week by the general board. The following Tuesday, William Chamberlin, whose teachings had not come under board review, published a four-page defense of evolution as an “Aid to Faith in God and Belief in the Resurrection” in the student White and Blue.19
Again, according to his statements, Brimhall pleaded with the unrepentant professors to conform to the board’s decisions. Ralph Chamberlin responded bitterly, “If you can bring me one student whose faith I have injured in Mormonism, I will bring you five that you, through your narrowness, have driven out of the church. . . . I never gave a public lecture on evolution until I had consulted you as to whether it would be all right. You urged me to do it. Now, why have you changed suddenly?” Brimhall could only feebly joke, “Well, I’ll tell you, Brother Chamberlin, I know which side my bread’s buttered on.”20
BYU trustees had intended to communicate their charges to the three professors on 21 February. Rather than read the text of their official statement, they handed Henry Peterson what they thought was a copy of a news release prepared by the special committee of apostles. “We thought it better to not seem hasty in the matter and give him a little time to deliberate on the question,” they subsequently contended. Unfortunately, the document given to Peterson was not the news release and he did not learn of the board’s accusations until he read an editorial attacking higher criticism in that evening’s church-owned Deseret News. Two days later, Peterson responded publicly in the Salt Lake Tribune, denying that he had taught anything contrary to the gospel and adding that, in view of the accusations, he doubted there was much he or the others could do. On February 24, the board issued its ultimatum to Peterson that he modify his teachings or be dismissed from his university post. Again, board members stressed that “from their point of view” he “was out of harmony with his brethren” (Trustees to Smith).21
Conditions deteriorated rapidly at the university. When Joseph Peterson received a similar ultimatum, he promptly resigned. News of the development spread throughout the faculty and students. Brimhall, troubled by not having disciplined his faculty sooner, sent a lengthy letter to BYU trustee and U.S. senator Reed Smoot in early [p. 142] March. With forced optimism, Brimhall wrote of probable repercussions to the school and of his resolve to protect the university as best he could:
We are having some little out-of-harmony conditions here. I do not look for a safe reconciliation. I have been hoping for a year or two past that harmony could be secured by waiting, but the delays have been [fraught] with increased danger. There is a possibility yet, but not a probability of adjustment. The school cannot go off and leave the church in any line of activity without perishing in the desert. . . . I recognize now that a more vigorous course of action on my part might have been better, but I was lenient, and patiently hopeful that men would change gradually as they have in other cases, but the storm, instead of dying out, increased in its fury. I feel now that nothing short of a public retraction should be accepted as a guarantee that these men will preserve an attitude of being in harmony with the spirit of the school and the doctrines of the church as preached by the living oracles. . . . There are some people who predict the death of the college if these men go. I am ready to say that if the life of the college depends upon any number of men out of harmony with the brethren who preside over the church, then it is time for the college to die. I would rather the Maeser Memorial remain a sealed tomb containing our college hopes and ambitions until the day of a new educational resurrection than to have its doors thrown open to influences antagonistic to the heroism, inspiration and revelation of those who have made the school and who have the right to say, “Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.” The school follows the church, or it ought to stop.22
On 11 March, the Deseret News, attempting to answer criticisms that it had been less than objective in its coverage of the controversy, published a letter by William Chamberlin defending evolution together with an editorial attacking Chamberlin’s position. The next morning the Tribune carried a detailed account of the controversy, claiming that as many as four-fifths of the faculty were sympathetic to the Petersons and Chamberlin. When President Joseph F. Smith was told that “a number of [Provo] merchants and others favoring the . . . teachers had withdrawn their patronage from the [White and Blue],” he “spoke up immediately and said that the First Presidency wanted no change in the paper’s [neutral] policy and . . . [said] he would instruct [Zion’s Saving Bank] to keep the paper out of financial difficulties” (Hicks). Smith also admonished his son, Andrew, a student at the high school adjoining BYU: “For my sake, my son, as well as your own[,] eschew the Petersons’ and Chamberlin’s evolution and all such things.” On 13 March over one hundred undergraduates assembled on campus in [p. 143] a mass rally to “stand by their teachers.” The angry students distributed a petition “ratifying and endorsing the teaching of the professors, and praying for their retention by the Board of Trustees.” Of a total college enrollment of 114 undergraduates, as well as a handful of professors, over ninety students and faculty signed the statement, which both the Tribune and the Herald-Republican printed. Among the more prominent signers were Arthur L. Beeley, Carl F. Eyring, B. F. Larsen, Hyrum Manwaring, Thomas L. Martin, M. Wilford Poulson, Charles Redd, Heber C. Snell, Hugh M. Woodward, and Kimball Young. Predictably, perhaps, the Deseret News later chastised the students for airing their criticisms in print, especially in the Tribune, while Brimhall publicly scolded them for “dictating” to the “prophets.”23
The following afternoon Brimhall met privately with Henry Peterson. Brimhall reported to President Joseph F. Smith that they talked “for hours . . . and until away long in the night, but to no avail.” “All that I needed to do,” Peterson later wrote, “was to be a good boy, teach the permitted doctrine only, and I could stay with them. Think of it! I was invited to stay as a hypocrite teaching one thing to my students and believing and feeling another!” The next day, Brimhall wrote Peterson that he was being dismissed: “Under existing conditions, we cannot see our way clear to recommend you to the Board of Trustees as a member of the faculty of the Brigham Young University for the academic year 1911-12″ (Peterson). Brimhall also forwarded a copy of the letter to President Smith, informing him, “This is the first time during our administration that we have had occasion to handle a teacher and the necessity is very, very painful to us.” Brimhall reminded Smith that Peterson’s brother, Joseph, had “tendered his resignation some time ago.” That evening, an open letter from Henry Peterson appeared in the Provo Herald, advising readers: “Don’t let people tell you from the pulpit or otherwise that to accept evolution means to foresake your faith or deny God.” Within the week, Brimhall faced a stunned BYU faculty and “gave a brief history of recent events pertaining to the criticism of the work of the school, and impressed upon the teachers the necessity of all members heartily supporting the school and the church.” Two days later he warned prospective teacher Ephraim E. Erickson, “While the church does not presume to decide scientific questions, it does claim the right to decide as to what of science, or of anything else, is suited to the schools under its creation, and under its direction.” “Your only safety,” Apostle/Senator Smoot counseled Brimhall the next day, “lies in having the school follow strictly the policy mapped out by the teachers of the church.”24
Previously silent in public on the issue, Joseph F. Smith published statements in the April issues of both the Juvenile Instructor and Improvement Era. In the Instructor, then serving primarily the church’s Sunday school teachers, he wrote:
[p. 144] Some of our teachers are anxious to explain how much of the theory of evolution, in their judgment, is true, and what is false, but that only leaves their students in an unsettled frame of mind. They are not old enough and learned enough to discriminate, or put proper limitations upon a theory which we believe is more or less a fallacy. In reaching the conclusion that evolution would be best left out of discussions in our church schools we are deciding a question of propriety and are not undertaking to say how much of evolution is true, or how much is false.
In an earlier draft of the editorial, Smith had added, “Without undertaking to say who has the best of the argument, the school authorities have thought it wise to ask our church school teachers to modify their instructions so as to eliminate dissension. If prudence had characterized these discussions, and our teachers who know the doctrines of the church had been more conservative, much of the sensation which has been created might have been avoided.” The Improvement Era carried a statement expressing much the same sentiment, with an appended overview of the preceding three months’ events.25
Also in April the Utah Educational Review printed a thoughtful dissenting critique of the controversy. Milton Bennion, Review editor and professor of philosophy and education at the University of Utah, argued that while church leaders emphasized their commitment to an absolute truth, the ability to understand that truth could be hampered by unchecked dogmatism. While agreeing that church leaders enjoy the right to supervise–even restrict–certain teachings, Bennion reminded readers that earlier scientific theories such as the Copernican system of planetary rotation had once been branded heretical by the governing church. He urged church educational administrators to “grant the utmost liberty of belief in respect to the non-essentials [of faith] without questioning the fellowship of members who exercise this liberty. . . . Any serious attempt on the part of church officials to dictate the methods and results of science in church schools,” he suggested, could “mean the death of higher education” in the church school system.26
In early April, Henry Peterson petitioned President Joseph F. Smith to reconsider the three professors’ case. “I have found on direct statements from some members of the board,” he wrote, “that they voted for the resolution that puts us out of the church school service on a misunderstanding. I thought I should like to have such corrected.” Peterson evidently believed that their espousal of evolution and higher criticism had been taken as evidence of apostasy, and he assured President Smith of their belief “in God and inspiration.” In order that “the cause of education may be saved from further misunderstanding,” he also asked that the church issue an official statement [p. 145] which “would quiet the fears of people instead of . . . further arousing them.” He alleged that many “are already so fearful and supersensitive that [they] hardly dare to send their children to their own town schools for fear they will hear of evolution.” Yet “every text book is written [with evolution] as the basic principle. Contrary to what some people say, the general principles of evolution are almost universally accepted.”27
Throughout the following weeks, President Brimhall was left to deal as best he could with dissatisfied faculty and students. In mid-May, Brimhall wrote to Reed Smoot, “I would be in perfect misery if I were not in harmony with those over me–I can stand it to be out of harmony with others. My policy has been to follow the interests of our faculty and also follow the interests of the student body, [but] I cannot be expected to follow either of the latter unless they are in perfect harmony with those above me.” Smoot replied supportively, “If the time ever comes that it is impossible for me to be in harmony with my presiding officer, I will quickly resign, if it involves any great principle affecting my conscience or my religious beliefs.”28
About this time, Ralph Chamberlin, who had been contemplating resigning for several weeks, was asked to meet with Susa Young Gates, a member of the Board of Trustees. She told Chamberlin that she understood he had “recanted on the things [he] had been teaching.” Chamberlin immediately denied this and told her he would also be resigning. “I have an obligation to the students, and I’ll teach them what I honestly believe can be supported by evidence.” Joseph Keeler (a counselor to Brimhall in the BYU presidency) later asked, “Brother Chamberlin, why can’t you teach this subject the way we want it taught, [instead of] the way you’re teaching it?” Chamberlin replied, “I’m so constituted that I can’t teach what I don’t believe.” Despite the Board of Education’s ultimatum, Brimhall promised Chamberlin he would not be required to modify his teaching if he remained. According to Chamberlin, Brimhall pleaded, “We want you to stay. . . . If you’ll stay and work with us there isn’t anything in the gifts of the church you can’t have.” Chamberlin refused the offer, “when these other men [had been] compelled to leave.” Brimhall dutifully informed church president Joseph F. Smith of Chamberlin’s resignation on 12 June.29
On 25 May, Christen Jensen, professor of history and political science, and his wife, Juliaetta, hosted a party honoring Joseph Peterson and his wife. Also in attendance were the Henry Petersons, the Chamberlins, and eleven other faculty and their wives. “The company was much of the ‘insurgent’ type,” Mrs. Jensen wrote in her journal, “but we cared to have only those who are in sympathy with the three men who are to be dismissed at the close of school.” Obviously hurt, she continued, “This fight has been extremely bitter in many ways. [p. 146] President Brimhall has talked to his faculty in the most insulting, uncultured manner such as no truly educated president would do to his faculty, many of whom are far, far superior to him in scholarship, and in everything else. I have lost all my respect for him. . . . If the school is not injured I shall miss my guess.” Within two weeks, Brimhall, working hard at ameliorating the situation, assured the faculty that “matters have been rectified. These particular difficulties will not recur.”30
Ralph Chamberlin remained in Provo for one year before returning to the University of Utah and later to Harvard. In early 1922, shortly after Franklin S. Harris’s appointment as BYU president, Chamberlin applied to teach again at the church school but was told that “our funds will be very restricted this year.” He reapplied the following year without success. Harris explained that while he hoped Chamberlin could become “affiliated with the faculty here,” he doubted that the school could offer a suitable salary for “a man of his training” and admitted that there was still “a little prejudice that needs to be overcome among some of the board.”31
Henry Peterson had planned to run for Utah State Inspector of High Schools but was opposed by church authorities because of his “mode of thinking and causing doubt in the hearts of the children” (Lund Journal). He later moved to northern Utah where he taught in the Box Elder County School System and eventually transferred to Utah State Agricultural College. As an ironic footnote, when Peterson left BYU he sold his home, which he had built on Temple Hill in 1911; twelve years later, the house was sold to the university. In 1927, the executive committee of the Board of Trustees voted to renovate the structure, which has since served as the official residence of the university president (Hatch).32
When Joseph Peterson left BYU he transferred to the psychology department of the University of Utah. In 1915, together with fourteen other faculty members, he resigned in protest when four professors were dismissed during a struggle over church influence at the school. He then taught at the University of Minnesota, where he was appointed chair of the psychology department in 1918. He later moved to the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1934, he was named president of the American Psychological Association. He died the following year.33
The impact upon the university of the three men’s departure was profound. Although some of the school’s patrons were reassured at the realignment of church and school, feeling that a difficult decision had been correctly made even though the price had been the rejection of BYU’s most prominent scholars, others feared that the price involved the nature of the university itself. One student sadly remembered: “It seems tragic that these men had to go. I am satisfied they [p. 147] were undermining no one’s faith in God as he is defined in Mormon thought. They were good men in every sense of the word and had the students’ best interests at heart” (Johnson). Thomas L. Martin, BYU dean of applied sciences, later wrote to former classmate Heber C. Snell, “We lost much when [they] left us. If some of the narrowness which caused the upheaval in 1911 could have been prevented from exercising its power, I believe the vision that George Brimhall had in mind would have been accomplished; and if we could have had a free hand in dealing with these men and their associates, people would be singing our praises all over the country at the present time.”34
Following the conclusion of the controversy, many faculty and students predictably became reluctant to discuss some “matters of scientific and sociological value for fear of losing their positions and receiving the boycott of the church” (Erickson). Others began asking if there were “any [other] doctrines of the church which [were] inconsistent with the commonly accepted conclusions of science” (Tanner). A new teaching contract approved by trustees in October 1911 required loyalty to church authorities as a condition of employment. Brimhall gradually eliminated classes in such areas as philosophy, ethics, and psychology, in favor of additional courses in religion, theology, and a renewed emphasis on teacher training. Special summer school conferences stressed the importance of revelation, “which the ‘evolution’ and ‘higher criticism’ wave tends to obliterate” (Daily Herald, 6 Oct. 1913). “I am more and more convinced,” Brimhall later wrote to fledgling apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, “that while philosophy is valuable, there are so many more things of more importance to our young men and women that we shall be justified in eliminating some of our courses in philosophy and instituting other things that bear more directly on our practical lives, because I believe that a course in our theology and religion is wider and deeper than any course of ethics within our reach.”35
In September 1911, Harvey Fletcher returned to the faculty with a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago. According to his oral history, “they wouldn’t let me teach theology the first year that I came back because I had a Ph.D.” Accustomed to teaching “college and graduate courses at Chicago,” he was discouraged that “nearly all of the subjects that I was asked to teach were high school subjects.” And when William Chamberlin learned in mid-1916 that “most of [his crowded] courses had been cut out for [the] next year and that what [was] left had been put in the Department of Education,” he resigned (Chamberlin). Presenting him a gold pocket watch, the undergraduates wrote, “From the depths of our hearts we feel to thank God, the church, and our institution here that such a man as you [has] been permitted to come into our lives” (WB, 31 May 1916). One student, Russel B. Swensen, later explained, “William H. Chamberlin was a [p. 148] meek, humble, gentle, non-assertive man. . . . By force of his thinking and ideas . . . he had a tremendous influence with the upper classmen of the university.” Another added, “He helped many students whose faith was disturbed by the impact of scientific and philosophical thought to achieve a more mature religious and intellectual perspective.” William died five years later in Logan, Utah; a biography, authored by his brother, Ralph, appeared in 1925.36
Other faculty losses after 1911 included James L. Barker, Edwin S. Hinckley, Earl Glade, Christen Jensen, and Harvey Fletcher. When Fletcher accepted a position at Western Electric, Brimhall told him that he was “being disloyal to the church” by leaving and asked him to talk with President Joseph F. Smith. President Smith gave Fletcher his approval to work for Western Electric on Fletcher’s promise that he would “keep [his] testimony strong and keep up [his] church activities.” Other faculty members, Fletcher wrote, warned him that “all of [his] children would gradually drift away from” the church. From 1911 until 1921, when Brimhall retired, the number of full-time faculty decreased some 30 percent, mostly by attrition. During this same period, however, the number of undergraduates jumped nearly three fold, baccalaureate degrees declined over 63 percent, and only two master’s degrees were conferred. In efforts to counter predictions that the school could not weather the faculty losses, church appropriations rose significantly, with a 50 percent increase beginning in 1912, the largest annual increase up to that time, accounting for more than three-fourths of total receipts.37
Debate among Church Leaders
Among many church members, the 1911 incident served to solidify their distrust of organic evolution. While President Joseph F. Smith insisted in 1911 that the church had “no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in his creation of the world,” he also denounced Darwin’s “hypotheses” and “the many vagaries and unproved theories that less able men have tried to add to his teachings.” George Brimhall apologized to parents whose children had ostensibly been exposed to evolutionary ideas at BYU, and Superintendent Cummings reminded teachers “to select such books as were freest from error concerning evolution, higher criticism and philosophy . . . contrary to the principles of the gospel” (Cummings Journal). When Frederick Pack, professor of geology at the University of Utah, voiced his alarm at the anti-evolutionary position of articles appearing in the Improvement Era, Apostle George F. Richards met privately with Pack to discuss his faith. Other General Authorities, particularly Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, publicly condemned the theory of evolution. “There are . . . theories founded upon [p. 149] science that are not yet fully established,” Elder Melvin J. Ballard cautioned graduating BYU seniors in 1923, “which may appear to the untutored mind perfectly logical. Lay these aside until tested out. Suspend judgement until further light and knowledge shall eliminate the dross.” In late 1924, Elder James E. Talmage, heading a program of lectures at BYU by leading church authorities, added a modicum of balance by suggesting that there may have been a special creation of man, independent of other animal life which may have evolved.38
The following year, in a highly publicized trial, Tennessee high school teacher John Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law withholding funds from schools which “teach any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and . . . teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” In Utah, the general reaction to the Scopes decision was “calm,” even “unemotional” (Hart). The church issued a second official statement on the “`Mormon’ View of Evolution” in September 1925–an abridged version of the 1909 statement. However, some General Authorities used the occasion to denounce many of the postulates of evolution. Unfortunately, they often misstated the fundamentals of evolutionary theory, further obfuscating the issue. Apostle Orson F. Whitney, for example, noted during the church’s October General Conference, “I believe that when God made man in his own image he made a man, not a monkey or any other animal out of which man has evolved. I do not believe that the first of our race was a savage or a cave man.” Whitney’s remarks were echoed by other church leaders. Both the Improvement Era and Juvenile Instructor published articles written by William Jennings Bryan, who had assisted Tennessee prosecutors in their case against Scopes; the Era carried the final speech Bryan was to have delivered at the Scopes trial. Significantly, however, neither organ exploited the occasion to editorialize in favor of obtaining a similiar statute for Utah. (Only Elder Joseph Fielding Smith ever publicly endorsed such an initiative.)39
Spurred by changes in church leadership, including the succession of Heber J. Grant as church president, 1925 also saw the beginning of an atmosphere less hostile to organic evolution. Geologist Frederick Pack pleaded with church teachers in October 1925 during a gathering of church school system employees not to be “drawn into sectarian protest against all science and scholarly pursuits,” asking instead that “we might stand on the high ground of promoting honest inquiry.” In early 1927, BYU’s Y News termed Charles Darwin “a man possibly as great in his chosen field [as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were in theirs],” adding, “throughout his long life the only thing he feared and shunned were hate and prejudice.” Later that year, Superintendent of Church Schools Adam S. Bennion conducted an outdoor institute for church educators, where church [p. 150] commissioner of education John A. Widtsoe, who had been trained as a scientist and had served as president of Utah State Agricultural College, was the featured lecturer. “Brother John A. Widtsoe had courses,” participant Russel Swensen recalled, “trying to provide these seminary men with a rational perspective on the relation of science and religion. . . . [Widtsoe] converted me to the biological theory of evolution. . . . I thought . . . that the theory of evolution was cut and dried. But Brother Widtsoe in his very tentative and very cautious way didn’t openly advocate it, but presented the theory so basically and so logically that, in part, it lead to my accepting [it].” Widtsoe himself later wrote to the son of fellow apostle James Talmage, “As for the origin of man, or the origin of animals, or the origin of anything, I do not see that science has given us any satisfactory answer so far. . . . It should not hurt my feelings at all if in the wisdom of the Almighty the body of man was prepared [according to the principles of evolution], and then that the spirit of man, the eternal ego, was placed within the body so prepared.” In early 1929, BYU’s library was converted into a museum for the school’s Paleontological Society fossil collection. Perhaps in reaction, Horace Cummings lamented, in an unvarying echo of his 1911 theme, “The theory of evolution is so generally accepted, that it undermines the principles of the Fall, the Redemption, and the Resurrection.”40
Still, at least publicly, the taboo against explicit endorsement of evolution stood firmly in place. One concerned father wrote to Brimhall, then president emeritus, that his son, who had been studying at BYU,
paid us a visit home and I find that his views as to evolution are very much at variance to the views I understand are taken by the church. . . . He makes the statement to me that all of the professors in the university believe in the principle of evolution as expounded by the world today, and in answer to my question why . . . the church and the church schools [do not] come out openly in the so-called evolutionary theories, his answer is that they are afraid to do so because it would destroy faith in the Bible of the young people of the church.
Perhaps oblivious to events around him, Brimhall responded, “There is not a teacher in this institution who would be so foolish as to declare evolution as applied to the origin of man as anything more than a theory.” Twenty-fours years later, during the dedication of the Eyring Science Center, Harvey Fletcher, then on the faculty of Columbia University, observed to the audience, “I think in most scientific societies this would be considered a most unusual thing, to dedicate to the Lord a building of science.” But, he continued, God-fearing [p. 151] scientists “will eventually be saviors of our culture and civilization” (DU, 10 Oct. 1940).41
The gradual, begrudging acceptance of Darwinian theory at the university suffered setbacks from a few entrenched anti-evolutionists. In the late 1920s, B. H. Roberts, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, the third highest governing quorum in the church, submitted a proposed priesthood lesson manual, “The Truth, The Way, The Life,” for official approval. Roberts’s ambitious manuscript included his belief in the existence of human races before the advent of Adam. A committee of apostles appointed to review his work recommended against publication because of its speculative treatment of such topics. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who had sat on the Roberts reading committee and was the most forceful anti-evolution crusader among the twelve apostles, subsequently criticized Roberts’s views publicly. Always ready to defend his position, the feisty Roberts immediately registered an official complaint with the First Presidency. But church president Heber Grant recorded in his journal, “I think no good can be accomplished by dealing in mysteries, and that is what I feel in my heart of hearts these brethren are both doing.” A hearing scheduled before the twelve resulted in a stalemate, and the controversy was referred to the First Presidency. Lacking an authoritative statement on the existence of pre-Adamic races, the First Presidency ruled that the topic was not to be raised again by church authorities, though Elder James Talmage evidently received permission to publicly counter Smith’s denunciations in a special August 1931 address delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Talmage argued both for the existence of death before the fall of Adam and for the accepted geological age of the earth. A transcript of Talmage’s speech, entitled “The Earth and Man,” was later published with official church approval and was widely distributed.42
The ban against further public speculation did not end discussion by all General Authorities. In April 1933, for example, Elder George F. Richards announced that “the doctrine of evolution, that man originated from animal and progressed to his present state, is a parody. We rejoice in the gospel that we are of noble ancestry and are born of God.” And other church leaders privately championed the publication of both pro- and anti-evolution articles in official church organs. Between 1936 and 1948, Elder John Widtsoe began a gospel question-and-answer series in the Improvement Era, including his analysis of some of the arguments against evolutionary theory. He contended, as had Talmage, that the earth was very old and that the seven days of creation were of indeterminable length. Evolution, he wrote, was a plausible theory deduced from a number of observable facts but could be revised in light of new scientific discoveries. Twenty years after B. H. Roberts, Widtsoe acknowledged the existence of “human-like [p. 152] beings before the coming of Adam,” adding, “The mystery of the creation of Adam has not yet been revealed.” To one reader, Widtsoe privately explained in 1948, “If [the Lord] chose to place man-like beings upon the earth before the days of Adam, I really have no right to find fault with that. . . . There is so much connected with these matters that we do not understand that I am willing to take what little we know of a factual nature without offering any interpretations that may mislead others.”43
Distressed by such tolerance for evolution, Joseph Fielding Smith hazarded a public refutation in a BYU devotional address, entitled “The Origin of Man,” in 1953. By then, Roberts, Talmage, Widtsoe, and Grant were all dead. Smith’s cautious sermon relied heavily on the First Presidency’s 1909 official statement. Two days later, Assistant Professor of Zoology Henry J. Nicholes suggested to BYU administrators that while “the theory of organic evolution might have been a significant motivation for research in times now past, it does not need to be taught any more.” Nicholes explained that “among the many avenues of research [that] do not need an understanding of the theory of organic evolution in the least” were bacteriology, human anatomy, structural geology, general animal anatomy, plant anatomy and physiology, general agriculture, and taxonomy. In conclusion, he asked, “How can this university ever become the university of the Kingdom of God as long as some of the faculty persist in their ignoring the words of our prophets and frustrate their students by unnecessary and damaging teachings? The very [existence] of [an] uncooperative attitude is apostacy-producing.” Officials responded sympathetically to Nicholes but did not directly address his recommendation that the topic be dropped from class discussions and textbooks.44
Elder Smith continued to refine his views on evolution and in early 1954 published a 600-page distillation of his more than thirty years of reflection on the topic: Man: His Origin and Destiny. Church News editor Henry A. Smith immediately hailed it as “one of the most important works in its field–the harmonizing of scientific truths and revealed religious teachings.” BYU zoologist Duane E. Jeffery later ruefully noted that Smith’s book also marked “the first time in Mormon history [that] Mormonism had a book that was openly antagonistic to much of science.” “So far as the philosophy and wisdom of the world are concerned,” Smith’s book read, “they mean nothing unless they conform to the revealed word of God. . . . You will find that every doctrine, every principle, no matter how universally believed, if it is not in accord with the divine word of the Lord to his servants, will fail.” Referring specifically to organic evolution, Elder Smith added, “Why is it that thousands of intelligent looking human beings are willing to accept these stupid teachings? Frankly it is because Satan has deceived [p. 153] them and they love darkness rather than the light.” The Deseret News observed, “This welcome . . . volume will be a boon to college students who are constantly plagued with the problem of accepting man-made scientific theories as facts. For some of these students such teachings have seriously damaged their faith.” Smith recognized, however, that the book would not be well-received by all of its readers. When he presented BYU President Ernest Wilkinson with a copy, it contained the small presentation note: “I hope you will not feel to condemn me for this book. I am sure you have some teachers who will at the ‘Y.'”45
When the church held a six-week summer institute for seminary and institute teachers in June 1954 at BYU, under the direction of Apostle Harold B. Lee, Elder Smith took advantage of his teaching assignment to promote his new book. In an address entitled “Organic Evolution Opposed to Divine Revelation,” he told his audience of more than 200 church educators that scientists themselves were beginning to recognize the fallacies of evolutionary theory. He also gave church teachers reading assignments from Man: His Origin and Destiny. Just over a week later, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., second counselor in the First Presidency, delivered an address at the summer institute apparently in response to Elder Smith’s presentations, entitled “When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” President Clark stated, “When any man, except the president of the church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines, in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the church, we may know that he is not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ unless he is acting under the direction and by authority of the president.” Although Clark was known to demand adherence to church doctrine where an official policy had been enunciated, he was unwilling, at least in this instance, to allow others to speak authoritatively on issues where revelation appeared ambiguous.46
After the summer institute, Elder Smith delivered a third lecture to church teachers in late August on the “Origin of Man.” “I’ve examined quite a number of textbooks recently,” he reported, and “every one of them starts with the evolutionary theory–every one of them. . . . We can’t afford to have that sort of thing in the church.” While most present were sympathetic to Elder Smith’s rigid position, some found it difficult to agree with his polarization of religion and science. Lowell Bennion, director of the Salt Lake City Institute of Religion, asked Smith, “Am I justified in teaching . . . my students to keep an open mind in those things [where we] are not wholly unified or absolutely sure . . . [in order] to hold those young people who may believe in the geological age of the earth in the church, rather than [have them] think that they cannot believe in the geological age of the earth . . . and be good Latter-day Saints?” Smith answered, “I know we have members of the church who prefer to believe the doctrines of science. [p. 154] I’m sorry they do, and I’m not one of them.” BYU English professor Thomas Cheney questioned the propriety of insisting “‘The Lord says this’ and quot[ing] passages because we should have some allowances, should we not, for differences in interpretation in regard to [the] scriptures.” But Smith disagreed that church members had “any right to a difference of interpretation on things that are taught in the church that are revealed to the prophets and have been interpreted by them.” Finally, President Wilkinson informed the group that “as long as [he] was administrator [of the church school system, he] intended to enforce the policies laid down by the Board of Education, . . . in accordance with instructions to see that the real gospel was taught.”47
Several weeks later, Salt Lake institute of religion teachers Lowell Bennion, T. Edgar Lyon, and George Boyd met privately with church president David O. McKay. President McKay told the group “very emphatically” that Elder Smith’s work “had not been authorized or approved, and that it did not represent the position of the church . . . on such matters as the age of the earth and the theory of evolution.” He added that, had he known in advance, “the book never would have been used as a text at the B.Y.U. summer session” (Boyd Notes; McMurrin; Boyd). McKay subsequently asked Apostle Adam S. Bennion, former superintendent of church schools, to solicit responses to Elder Smith’s book from qualified LDS scientists. Elder Bennion enlisted the cooperation of Henry Eyring, dean of the Graduate School at the University of Utah, who invited geologist William Lee Stokes and chemist Richard P. Smith to join him. “I can understand Man: His Origin and Destiny as the work of a great man who is fallible,” Eyring wrote to Bennion. “It contains many serious scientific errors and much ill humor, which mar the many beautiful things in it. Since the gospel is only that which is true, this book cannot be more than the private opinion of one of our great men.” Both Stokes and Smith responded much the same way. Stokes added, “In order to square with [Elder] Smith, I would have to discard much of my subject material and refer the student to Man: His Origin and Destiny as a better source of scientific information,” an approach Stokes considered ludicrous. When word of their project, especially Erying’s critique, reached other church and university educators, some drafted their own reviews, which they sent to President McKay or to Elder Bennion. A few, asking if Man: His Origin and Destiny was an official church publication, were informed: “This book is not an approved publication of the church. The author alone is responsible for the theories therein expressed” (McKay to Stephens).48
Four months later, Elder Smith, who had only recently been given a copy of Eyring’s review, complained in a strongly worded letter to Eyring,
[p. 155] We who believe in the mission of Jesus Christ have been designated as “curs,” [and have had] our doctrines . . . ridiculed. We have been designated as ignorant, harking back to the days of “primitive savagery and ignorance,” for believing the foolish doctrine of an anthropomorphic God! Surely these advocates are not immune from some harsh words when we consider their arrogance and claim to superior wisdom. . . . It is a great regret to me that our scientific brethren at times take a contrary view which is [that] . . . science is right and the revelations are wrong! This attitude certainly gets some of our brethren in trouble.
Eyring’s response was brief and carefully worded: “I think it is fine to discuss these questions and for each individual to try to convert the other to what he thinks is right, but in matters where apparently equally reliable authorities disagree, I prefer to make haste slowly.” Though the two men subsequently met to discuss their beliefs, neither retreated from his original position.49
In mid-November 1954, members of a loosely organized group of Utah college and LDS institute teachers met at the University of Utah to debate publicly Smith’s work. The group, known as the Mormon Seminar, or “Swearing Elders,” was headed by William Mulder and chaired by Sterling McMurrin, who also acted as moderator at the November gathering. Both Mulder and McMurrin were on the faculty of the University of Utah. November’s guest speaker, Melvin A. Cook, an explosives expert and professor of metallurgy at the University of Utah, defended Smith’s book, for which he had written the introduction. Speaking against the work was Jennings Olsen, professor of anthropology at Weber State College. In addition to the regular members, Apostle Mark E. Petersen and two members of the First Council of the Seventy, Milton R. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie, also attended the debate. During the discussion that followed, it became apparent that most present did not agree with Smith’s position. One member of the seminar, BYU history professor Richard D. Poll, commented, “The tragedy of the book, for in my opinion it is a tragedy, is that it will only strengthen the faith of the strong, while making belief more difficult for those who are weak” (Poll to Smith). Hunter, who found the meeting “very unpleasant [and] tense,” countered during the interchange that fossil evidence did not necessarily support the claims of biological evolution. He found Jennings Olsen a “smartalecky young professor who had a lot to learn.” McConkie, a son-in-law of Smith, insisted that “acceptance of the book’s account of history is obligatory on all who regard themselves as real Latter-day Saints.” When McConkie later informed his father-in-law of the discussion, Smith wrote Poll asking if he had been properly quoted. Poll repeated [p. 156] his objections. In reply, Smith wrote, “If you had seen the number of letters and had witnessed the conversations [I have had], . . . perhaps you would not think that the book was a tragedy so far as the young people are concerned.” He added, “You must realize that [the Mormon Seminar] is not in harmony either with the authorities or the doctrines of the church.”50
When Poll learned that Smith had informed President Wilkinson of his position, he arranged to meet with President McKay to discuss the issue. McKay agreed that “the book [had] created a problem,” and told Poll he was “authorized” to inform others that the “work had not been approved by the church; [that] it represent[ed] the opinions of one man on the scriptures, even though that man [had] been described as the outstanding scriptorian of the church by one of his relatives.” Poll met the same day with Elder Smith, who remarked that he “would be happy to retreat from any position taken in the book which could be shown to be contrary to scripture.” Poll then asked if obedience to the gospel required a literal interpretation of the scriptures. Elder Smith answered that it did; that “these scriptures are unequivocal, and sufficient; . . . that insofar as he [was] concerned, where the Lord [had] spoken through the scriptures, there [was] the truth.” Poll later spoke in his Sunday sacrament meeting, discussing the differences of opinion among church authorities on evolution. The following morning, a member of Poll’s stake high council wrote to Apostle Marion G. Romney, complaining that Poll’s remarks had been “most unfortunate, especially in view of the fact that Dr. Poll wields so much influence in this area.” Asked his own views “regarding the fall of Adam and his position before the Fall,” Elder Romney responded that from his study of the scriptures there was neither death nor human reproduction before the fall of Adam.51
When Wilkinson later learned of Poll’s address, he instructed his executive assistant, Harvey L. Taylor, to discuss the incident with Poll. Taylor dutifully complied after about seven weeks. Poll confessed that he may have been “unwise in the statements he made, [but had] no thought of belittling anyone or creating any conflict in the minds of people.” He reported that “in the future he certainly would be constantly on his guard to say nothing that would in any way injure the faith of the ‘weakest’ of Saints.” The next day Poll wrote Taylor that he had appreciated their discussion, promised to be more patient, but added, “For my maverick ideas I feel no remorse and intend no recantation. For I am sure that in entertaining them I have excellent–even august–company.”52
By June 1955, some three months after the above events, rumors of a rift between President McKay and Elder Smith had become widespread. President McKay asked to meet with Wilkinson and William E. Berrett, BYU vice-president over religious instruction and [p. 157] assistant church administrator over seminaries and institutes. Discussing his reaction to Smith’s book, McKay voiced his “deep concern lest we drive some of the deep-thinkers of the church out of the church.” Afterwards, Wilkinson observed, “Try as best the brethren do to resolve their difference, there still are individual differences in judgment and I suppose always will be.”53
Aware of President McKay’s position, Elder Smith grew increasingly defensive. When one reader asked if the views expressed in his book were “accepted as church doctrine,” Smith replied, “I have quoted from several presidents of the church and former apostles[,] which you can plainly see if you read the book. I can add other expressions from other presidents if need be” (Smith to Snow). To a second inquirer, he wrote, “Since I believe in modern revelation, I cannot accept these so-called scientific teachings [i.e., life before Adam and the geological age of the earth] for I believe them to be in conflict with the simple and direct word of the Lord that has come to us by divine revelation” (Smith to Allred). To a third, he insisted that if the “teachings of organic evolution . . . are beyond reasonable doubt . . . then the revelations of the Lord, as proclaimed in the history of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants, . . . are not to be believed” (Smith to Perry). Obviously, General Authorities who were willing to take a public position, as Smith was, exercised an advantage in promoting their teachings over those who were not. Despite his personal distress, President McKay apparently made neither public nor private attempts to silence Smith; the list of quotations from contemporary church officials that could be marshalled on both sides of the question became increasingly lopsided (see Petersen). Thus it was with relief that pro-science academicians listened to Elder Hugh B. Brown, an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who suggested to BYU students and faculty in 1958, “Both religionists and scientists must avoid arrogant dogmatism. . . . Scientists and teachers of religion disagree among themselves on theological and other subjects. . . . Even in our own church men take issue with one another and contend for their own interpretations. But this free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men remain humble and teachable.”54
Four months after Brown’s conciliatory address, Elder Bruce McConkie announced the publication of his 800-page “compendium of the gospel,” Mormon Doctrine. McConkie’s debt to Joseph Fielding Smith was at once apparent: nearly one-third of his references were to ten books his father-in-law had authored. The most lengthy of its more than 1,100 topical entries dealt with “evolution” which, he wrote, had been “spawned and sponsored by Satan.” “So-called cave men and the like,” he suggested, “were all degenerate descendants of the highly civilized men who peopled the earth beginning with [p. 158] Adam, the father of civilization.” “How scrubby and groveling the intellectuality which . . . finds comfort in the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state,” Elder McConkie concluded his ten-page discussion of evolution. “Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite creator of worlds without number would operate in this way? . . . There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.”55
Predictably, the publication of Mormon Doctrine reignited the debate surrounding the church’s position on evolutionary theory. The “number of inquiries we receive concerning our attitudes on the teaching . . . that death came into the world with the fall of Adam . . . has intensified,” wrote Armin J. Hill, dean of BYU’s College of Physical and Engineering Sciences, to President McKay in early 1959. While “we accept the Fall as initiating physical death among human beings,” Hill explained, McConkie’s assertion that there was no death for “all living things” prior to the Fall “cannot be referring to the world we now live in because there is altogether too much evidence that plants and animals lived and died prior to the time we usually ascribe to Adam’s mortal life.” Concerned with the apparent contradiction between “religious teachings” and “easily observable physical facts,” Hill asked McKay if McConkie’s view that mortality began with the fall of Adam could be considered doctrine, or if the church would consider issuing an official statement clarifying the matter. Nearly two months later, the First Presidency directed secretary Joseph Anderson to answer, “Until either the Lord speaks directly upon the matter, or until the scientists are able to say that they have the ultimate truth concerning these matters, it would only be confusing for the First Presidency to make any statement regarding such things.” Two weeks after receiving Hill’s letter, President McKay was asked specifically if Mormon Doctrine represented the church’s position on evolution and responded that, like Man: His Origin and Destiny, Mormon Doctrine was not an “official publication of the church,” adding, “The church has issued no official statement on the subject of the theory of evolution” (McKay to Christensen).56
Almost a full year later, the First Presidency met with Apostles Petersen and Romney, who had been asked to carefully review Mormon Doctrine. Both reported that the book had not been cleared for publication by the church’s reading committee. Elder Petersen remarked that he had located more than 1,000 doctrinal “errors,” while Elder Romney reported that he had identified nearly forty problem areas, including the treatment of “evolution,” “evolutionists,” “pre-Adamites,” “status of animals and plants in the Garden of Eden,” and the “meaning of the various accounts of creation” (McKay Journal; Romney to McKay). The First Presidency [p. 159] concluded that the book “[was] full of errors and misstatements, and [that] it [was] most unfortunate that it [had] received such wide circulation.” They ruled that in view of the number of revisions required, publication of a “corrected” edition would “destroy the credit of the author,” and therefore decided that the book could be “repudiated in such a way as to save the career of the author as one of the General Authorities” (McKay Journal). President McKay subsequently announced the decision to Elder McConkie before meeting with the twelve apostles. Elder McConkie answered, “I am amenable to whatever you brethren want. I will do exactly what you want. I will be as discreet and as wise as I can” (McKay Journal). The following year McConkie was appointed head of the church’s Australian mission (Church News, 18 Feb. 1961). A second, revised edition of Mormon Doctrine appeared several years later, although almost no changes were made to mitigate the book’s views on evolution.57
At Brigham Young University, the debate over evolution continued unabated. Commemorating the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of Darwin in the fall of 1960, Professor of Zoology Vasco M. Tanner wrote in BYU’s alumni magazine that Darwin had both “established evolution as a fact” and “advanced natural selection as an important factor in the process.” Tanner reported that Darwin’s ideas had “been supported by additional evidence from several disciplines, such as comparative anatomy, embryology, classification, paleontology, geographical distribution of animals, genetics, geology, physiology, and psychology.” A number of readers were critical of the university for printing Tanner’s review, but in February 1961, Henry Eyring, speaking at a campus devotional, suggested that students “accept the gospel as true and not be concerned with such problems as the age of the earth [or] whether Adam had parents.” Eyring “claimed that he had no problems in regard to these questions; they do not matter because they are not essential parts of the gospel.” Apostle Hugh B. Brown added at baccalaureate services the following year, “Science and religion are partners in man’s constant effort to learn the truth about himself, his universe, and God.”58
In October 1964 the church’s Improvement Era printed an article on the age of the earth which concluded that the earth was 13,000 years old, “roughly the age chronicled for it in the Bible.” In response to a number of criticisms, Bertrand F. Harrison, chair of BYU’s botany department, was asked the following year to write an article for the church’s Sunday school teachers’ magazine, the Instructor, on organic evolution. David Lawrence McKay, a son of President David McKay and a member of the general church Sunday school superintendency, read Harrison’s article to his father, who approved it for publication. Harrison’s essay, “The Relatedness of Living Things,” was printed in the July 1965 Instructor and was the most pro-evolution article ever [p. 160] to have appeared in an official church periodical. Reader response was generally favorable. Five months later in December, the Instructor reprinted Elder James Talmage’s 1931 response to Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Earth and Man.”59
In the same month as Harrison’s article, BYU professors Hyrum Andrus (religion) and A. Lester Allen (zoology) met on campus to publicly debate evolutionary theory. Allen had previously written, “We . . . know that evolution has occurred in some forms and is now occurring. We can see it before our very eyes; so the rational scientist upon reading Joseph Fielding Smith’s works is inclined to discredit Elder Smith as a quack. This is unfortunate because it not only gives the church (for whom Smith speaks) a bad name but it also discredits his religious views. . . . I find no quarrel with scientific theories of the evolution of life, including man, on the earth.” During the debate, Allen was more conciliatory, evidently hoping to avoid a heated confrontation with Andrus, a fervent anti-evolutionist. Dismissing the scientific argument as antithetical to revealed religion, Andrus relied heavily on scriptural interpretation and supporting declarations from church authorities. “My attitude,” Allen countered in conclusion, “is that we have not been given the final word through revelation or through scientific discovery. Therefore, let us be patient.”60
The following April, BYU’s Issues and Controversy Committee brought controversial University of Utah metallurgist Melvin Cook to campus to argue against the prevailing geological view of the age of the earth. Cook contended that the earth “in its present form” was only 10,000 years old, and attacked attempts to establish the earth’s age “by measuring tree rings, erosion, or the decomposition of radioactive carbon or uranium.” Daily Universe student editors responded favorably to Cook’s geological revisionism.
It is indeed very refreshing to see a man of high expertise in several fields advance new and revolutionary theories and insights with such courage and disregard for criticism. . . . All too often the undergraduate student is exposed only to the predominant theories in his field with little or no indication given that these are only guesses and that they could be disproven any day. . . . Many students found [Cook’s] views “disturbingly” consistent with scripture, much more so than much of what they are now being taught.
But one geology undergraduate publicly countered, “Dr. Cook has no right, as an explosives expert, to consider himself an authority on geology. This sort of thing can only be considered a waste of student funds and should not be repeated.” Another Daily Universe reader asked, “Should the university give the student the academic background to understand the relationship between science and [p. 161] religion, . . . or should it give each student a handy-dandy, ready-made assortment of ‘Corny Arguments to Defend the Faith’? We’ve been doing far too much of the latter.”61
Among the more eloquent responses to Cook’s address was that of John Gardner, chair of the physics department. Gardner explained:
As a Latter-day Saint, I am a theologian as well as a scientist. But I find myself an alien among those of my colleagues who would teach fear of human reason, suspicion of science, and slavish adherence to the world view of . . . Old World prophets. . . . The physicist has learned to hold his views tentatively, rather than absolutely, with the realization that further, more penetrating experiments may force a revision. Perhaps in this he differs most radically from those theologians who claim to espouse absolute truths. But the LDS physicist, as both scientist and theologian, . . . [considers it] presumptuous . . . to pretend to comprehend divine truth in its purity and perfection. . . . [He is] willing to accept religious precepts which come to him through human media as tentative and subject to revision as his limited experience and capacity for understanding are enlarged.
Biology professor Howard C. Stutz, who taught BYU’s first graduate couse in evolutionary biology, asserted, “Not only is the concept of organic evolution completely compatible with the gospel as found in the scriptures, but it is the very heart of it.”62
When Dallin Oaks replaced Ernest Wilkinson as BYU president in August 1971, he soon learned of serious problems on campus regarding the role of evolution at the university. In his first address to the faculty in September he asked that guilty parties, particularly among members of the religion faculty, “stop casting aspersions on [the] testimony and devotion of their colleagues” in the sciences. But shortly afterwards, religion professor Reid Bankhead began distributing on campus a small pamphlet he had compiled on the fall of Adam, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and organic evolution, suggesting an ideological link between evolution and communism. Addressing a church meeting off-campus, Bankhead shortly afterwards alleged, “Evolution is of the devil; those who work with it are, consciously or otherwise, engaged in the devil’s work” (in Jeffery to Thomas). A second handout, “Organic Evolution–Satan’s Time Bomb,” distributed by some religion faculty, also surfaced on campus about this time. “Is it possible,” one BYU zoologist asked academic vice-president Robert K. Thomas in early 1972, “that this matter has grown beyond BYU’s ability to handle?” (Jeffery to Thomas). Following several conferences with Oaks, Thomas, and the deans and p. 162] department chairs of biological and agricultural sciences and religious instruction, BYU officials inaugurated in February 1972 the school’s first science/religion seminar for faculty members in three colleges–biological and agricultural sciences, physical and engineering sciences, and religious instruction. With attendance officially encouraged, the group of some thirty interested participants first met on campus in late February to discuss “some principles of uniformitarianism, catastrophism [and] cosmic and stellar evolution.” Later sessions included informal presentations, followed by group discussions, on biochemical evolution, thermodynamics, mutation and natural selection, paleontology, embryology, and comparative anatomy.63
In mid-May, Lester Allen, dean of the College of Biological and Agricultural Sciences, led a discussion on “the history of evolutionary concepts among Latter-day Saints.” Allen encouraged his colleagues not “to get hung up on where Adam and Eve fit except that they are the ‘parents of the race,’ [and] I don’t even understand that.” But Allen hoped that “we will [all come to understand it], if [it is] important.” During the last seminar of the semester, Roy Doxey, dean of the College of Religious Instruction, admitted that while he “had once thought of majoring in geology, [and had been] infatuated with organic evolution,” he had since become “inured to simple faith [in the] scriptures . . . [and allegiance to] the apostles and prophets, seers, and revelators, who have a special endowment to teach the doctrines of the church.” Doxey remarked, “We know presently what the First Presidency believes on evolution—[they] do not accept it.” While he appreciated the exposure to scientific thought, he was “still not converted to the concept of vertical evolution.” The seminar had “opened up his eyes to much,” he agreed, but he would “personally stand on the counsel of the brethren.” He concluded, “All knowledge is not of equal value, and I feel that I have all the knowledge [about evolution] I desire.” Seminars continued throughout the summer and fall semesters, but support, especially from the College of Religious Instruction, diminished, and formal sessions were discontinued in early 1973. “The results [were] not . . . as widespread as we would have desired,” Dean Allen later confessed. However, the zoology department began offering a three-hour undergraduate course in “Comparative Evolutionary Theory” as a supplement to Howard Stutz’s graduate course in evolution. Doxey rejected a suggestion that his college offer a similar course in evolution for religion credit (Doxey to Allen).64
During this critical period, the work of BYU paleontologist and curator of the school’s earth sciences museum James (“Dinosaur Jim”) Jensen was gaining national and international attention. Jensen’s discoveries since 1963 included one of the largest dinosaur skulls ever unearthed, the fossil remains of an intermediate species of reptile-mammal, and the remains of the world’s largest and smallest [p. 163] dinosaurs. Sensing anxiety from a few church authorities about the ramifications of Jensen’s work, Oaks asked members of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees in November 1972 to “give more explicit directions concerning the work already underway . . . in this academic area.” Oaks explained that “Brother Jensen has been extraordinarily careful to avoid controversies about the possible theological implications of his work. He is a devout member of the church and is determined to see that exploration of the earth’s history . . . not become a problem for the church.” Jensen, Oaks reported,
points out . . . that the bones are there and cannot really be ignored by a major university that is almost literally sitting on top of them. . . . The interpretation of fossils should not go by default to those who are aggressively atheistic in their conclusions. Students in elementary and secondary schools in this state and throughout the country are being subjected to teachings which do not make dinosaurs compatible with the revealed word of God.
Oaks suggested that the board “give controlled but expanding support to research in Rocky Mountain paleontology and pursue the private funding of a museum to exhibit findings.” He noted that by adopting this third alternative “we demonstrate that the church has nothing to fear from any legitimate research; in fact, the church university fosters it.” Oaks added that the university “needs at least the tacit acquiescence of the board . . . to assure prospective donors that the board was interested in such efforts and did not disapprove of them.” Before the board formally met, however, an editorial written by church president Harold B. Lee appeared in the December issue of the church’s official Ensign magazine. Though ambiguous, Lee’s article hinted that belief in pre-Adamic races was inconsistent with church scriptures. Consequently, when board members heard Oaks’s request two weeks later on 6 December, they refused to rule either for or against his proposal.65
As the next school year opened, Elder Mark E. Petersen addressed students during a Sunday evening fireside in September 1973. Petersen’s strong anti-evolution position had already been aired in his recently published essay, “Charles Darwin & Co.” His remarks repeated the kinds of stereotyped images two generations old that made more informed listeners uncomfortable. He told his audience:
There has developed in recent years what almost amounts to a cult in certain fields. . . . It teaches that God is not our father, but that our first progenitors were microscopic forms which came into existence spontaneously, without cause, without reason, and without purpose. According to this theory of primordial life, man at one time developed from an ancestor which, as one writer described him, was “a hairy, four-legged beast which had a tail and pointed ears and lived in trees.”
[p. 164] Eight months later in May 1974, religion professor Keith Meservy gave some of his classes copies of a parody attacking not only evolutionary theory but biologists in particular. Written by Kent Peterson and entitled “The First Book of Moses Called Genesis,” Meservy’s handout read, in part:
But God did look down from his heaven, and did speak with anger; saying: “Is this the man to rule the earth? A monkey’s brother? A half ape? Lucifer, Son of the Morning, what mischief thou hast wrought upon my world!” . . . And he spake a curse upon the ape-man, and upon all his seed forever, “Behold, upon thee shall I set a mark, and all men shall know thee by thy speech, and ye shall use great words for small things, great Latin words for tiny creatures, and this is thy mark and thy curse. And ye shall be called biologists, which is to say, those who know much, and understand nothing.”
Immediately, botanist Jack Brotherson wrote to Vice-President Thomas, “This kind of material can do nothing but breed intolerance in the L.D.S. student [to] whom we are attempting in every way to teach tolerance. If a university education does not foster tolerance of other attitudes and ideas then it would appear to me that it is failing in its expressed role.” Thomas replied, “We simply do not intend to have such gratuitous insults bandied about, and I made it clear to [the dean of Religious Instruction] that he needed to explain this to [his faculty] in words of one syllable.” Thomas, an academic with administrative responsibilities, found the handout “offensive,” and the fact that it had been distributed on campus “disheartening” (Thomas to Allen).66
Over the next two years, variously worded statements regarding evolution surfaced both at BYU and throughout the church. In virtually every case, they represented already confirmed positions, instead of expanded understanding. Religion professor Hyrum Andrus wrote in the Daily Universe in November 1974 of a future idealistic BYU where the “godless and materialistic theory called ‘evolution'” would no longer be taught. At a Christmas devotional two weeks later Apostle Ezra Taft Benson promised students and faculty, “If we really did our homework and approached the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we could expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men, including . . . organic evolution.” That spring, when a student asked now-apostle Bruce R. McConkie if the church had taken a stand on evolution, he answered, “The church is not in the habit of issuing doctrinal proclamations saying that this or that is the official stand of the church on any subject,” but, “as far as I am concerned, I will believe the revelations and reject the evolutionary theories.” But early in October 1975, church president Spencer W. Kimball, speaking at an all-[p. 165]women’s fireside, said, “Man became a living soul–mankind, male and female. . . . We don’t know exactly how their coming into this world happened, and when we’re able to understand it the Lord will tell us.”67
Concurrent with these events, in late July 1974, “Seers, Savants and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface,” an article by Duane E. Jeffery, BYU assistant professor of zoology, appeared in the independent church magazine Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Observing that the church had never issued an authoritative dictum regarding the specific mechanics involved in the Creation, Jeffery concluded his seminal historical essay, “There are too many devout religious evolutionists to argue defensibly that a belief in evolution . . . leads to religious deterioration; indeed, there are many both within the church and without who will argue from personal experience that the concept of evolution can have precisely the opposite effect: a deepening of religious sentiment and spirituality due to the recognition that God is a God of law, of order, of rational behavior, rather than a deity of mystery, of transcendent and capricious whims.” Without referring to Jeffery by name, Elder Ezra Taft Benson spoke at a BYU Sunday evening devotional two years later commemorating America’s bicentennial and took the occasion to inform students that “one of our church educators [has] published what he purports to be a history of the church’s stand on the question of organic evolution. . . . To hold to a private opinion on such matters is one thing,” he announced, “but when one undertakes to publish his views to discredit the work of a prophet [i.e., Joseph Fielding Smith], it is a very serious matter.”68
Jeffery promptly wrote to Oaks, emphatically denying that he was on a “campaign to disparage the reputation of anyone.” While he had decided not to respond publicly, he explained, his “silence should not be construed as a concession” to Benson’s criticisms. Sympathetic, Oaks replied, “I am hopeful and confident that with a little love and understanding and patience and patience and patience that these things will work out.” Jeffery contemplated sending a personal response to Elder Benson, but was dissuaded by his college dean. “At the present time, Brother Benson probably wishes that you were not employed by the university,” Lester Allen spelled out. “He would regard any correspondence from you on the topic of evolution as a goad that would probably only serve to further strengthen his negative feelings. . . . I do not see that the letter could be anything but divisive.”69
Throughout the coming year, the need for dialogue between church leaders and academics on evolution remained generally unsatisfied. In mid-September 1977, the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, with the cooperation of Religious Instruction, began offering a series of one-hour science and religion seminars for “all [p. 166] upperclassmen, graduate students, and faculty.” After the first two sessions, William O. Nelson, secretary to the Quorum of the Twelve, complained to Elder Benson, “The program is heavily weighted in favor of a pro-evolutionary approach.” Nelson, who had attended neither of the classes, was upset at the number of participants from the sciences, particularly Duane Jeffery. “Why he would be permitted to be a speaker at such a seminar is beyond my understanding,” Nelson wrote. “What you usually get from the BYU is a compromise position, [and] this Science and Religion Seminar is a good case in point.” Benson shared Nelson’s memorandum with Elder Mark Petersen, who forwarded a copy to President Oaks, with the comment: “Some of the brethren have been very concerned about [this topic] . . . and, of course, hope that no evolution will be taught at the BYU under any circumstance.” Ellis T. Rasmussen, dean of Religious Instruction, who had attended both seminars, reported to Robert Thomas that “there was nothing . . . said to which the most conservative Latter-day Saint would have objected.” Rasmussen added, “Students need to be able to study the theories of science and prepare themselves for professions in the various fields of pure and applied science while being strengthened in the faith to build up the Kingdom of God.”70
Oaks supported his science faculty and defended the seminar during an executive committee meeting of the Board of Trustees about two weeks later. After the meeting, he wrote to executive committee chair Gordon B. Hinckley that he had investigated Nelson’s complaints, and concluded that they were “distorted, misleading and unfair.” Of course, Oaks wrote, “there is no excuse for any BYU teacher to teach the theory of evolution as truth or to use it to contradict any doctrine of the restored church or to weaken the faith of any of its members . . . [but],” he added, “I believe that these special courses . . . should be encouraged rather than discouraged.” Elder Hinckley gave a copy of Oaks’s response to Benson who, in turn, passed it on to Nelson. Nelson then forwarded a revised version of his initial memo to Oaks in late October, explaining that he had “toned it down somewhat.” Oaks recorded indignantly, “It may be, but not much. This business of having two different memos is pretty funny.” Nelson later reiterated to Oaks that “many teachers at BYU [are] teaching evolution with the effect of destroying or questioning faith.” Oaks responded again that the university could not “ignore the theory of evolution as an organizing principle for scientific data and current observation in a good many fields,” and said he regretted that “so much misunderstanding existed over the role of evolution in the BYU science curriculum.”71
Still, the most vocal, if not dominant, position of many church authorities remained anti-evolutionary. The church’s 1980 Melchezidek Priesthood lesson manual, for example, quoted approvingly Elder [p. 167] Joseph Fielding Smith’s contention that “men who have had faith in God, when they have become converted to that theory forsake him.” Speaking to church educators at BYU in mid-August 1979, Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency, explained that if “there are some things in the strata of the earth indicating there were men before Adam, . . . they were not the ancestors of Adam.” During this same seminar, BYU associate professor of ancient scripture Keith Meservy asserted that “the church [has] a doctrine on man and his origin that is based on the scriptures as interpreted by the living prophets.” That doctrine, he insisted, evidently unaware–like many of the church’s evolution critics–of the ramifications of a creationist approach, “teach[es] of man’s origin by special creation.”72
By late August, self-appointed critics had again initiated a campaign to rid the church and BYU of all vestiges of Darwinism. For example, Julian R. Durham, a resident of Ogden, Utah, wrote to a sympathetic Ezra Taft Benson, that “organic evolutionary views . . are taught and believed by many professors . . . [and] numerous students at the B.Y.U., . . . [and] that the stench of apostasy is permeating many departments on campus.” Elder Benson forwarded Durham’s letter to Elder Hinckley, adding in a cover note, “The problem seems to be increasing, not diminishing. Some of the latest complaints which have come to me have been from individual students.” Convinced by this time of the need for a stronger statement, Oaks responded decisively to Hinckley:
There is a clear issue here: Should the board continue or should it revise its policy that permits Brigham Young University faculty to teach the theory of organic evolution–teaching it as a theory and not as a proven fact?
We are all aware of the scriptural and scientific deficiencies of the theory of evolution. There are many. But the problem with ignoring this theory is that the theory of evolution currently explains more phenomena that are observed in the physical world than any other theory. Numerous fields of science use this theory and its corollaries, and will continue to do so until a better empirically based theory is propounded. . . . If we stopped teaching this theory, within a few years students from BYU would not be admitted to . . . graduate schools. At that point we would cease to function as a recognized university and would, in the eyes of the world (especially the world of higher education), be little more than a seminary with added courses in the humanities. I have no doubt whatever that our accreditation as an institution of higher education would be lost. The issue is that loaded.
. . .
There are thousands of our faith who feel threatened by that openness, and while I have sympathy with that as a personal [p. 168] point of view, in my judgment that kind of narrowness should never be allowed to impose the darkening hand of censorship on this university.
While criticisms evidently abated, Oaks afterwards confided to colleagues Robert Thomas and Jae R. Ballif, “I suppose this matter will be solved for the present, but I expect to pay a price for the resolution of this one.”73
Unaware of the foregoing exchange, Professor of Botany and Range Science Howard Stutz publicly commented several weeks later in a December Daily Universe, “There is absolutely nothing in the scriptures which is incompatible with the concepts of organic evolution as now understood by trained biologists. … The concept of evolution is at the very heart of the gospel. . . . It is God’s method of accomplishing His purposes.” Religion professor and critic of evolution Rodney Turner countered that the “church [had] officially stated that man did not evolve from lower forms of life.” Turner added, “Not only does [the theory of organic evolution] threaten religion, [it] threatens morality and the self-worth of man.”74
The above events coincided with the publication of a two-volume collection of essays written by leading LDS educators and scientists, entitled Science and Religion: Toward a More Useful Dialogue, edited by BYU faculty members Wilford M. Hess and Raymond T. Matheny. When first presented to the Board of Trustees’ executive committee seven years earlier, Hess’s and Matheny’s proposal had been tentatively approved. Committee members LeGrand Richards, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Marion D. Hanks “saw real merit in what was being attempted,” but instructed Hess and Matheny to “avoid discussions on controversial L.D.S. doctrine,” because their “purpose [should be] to enlighten, not to cause conflict.” The completed manuscript was subsequently rejected by both Deseret Book Company and the BYU Press for financial and political reasons, and was eventually published as a two-volume set out-of-state. In late October 1979, Oaks forwarded to executive committee chair Gordon Hinckley, at his request, a copy of the second, more controversial volume and a review by BYU physicist and administrative vice-president Jae R. Ballif. Ballif wrote that while the volume represented a “sincere attempt to reduce friction and encourage understanding,” he was not convinced that the work would have any lasting impact. Ballif’s observations were not shared by all board members, however, some of whom also felt that the authors had ignored their counsel to avoid the discussion of evolution.75
In conjunction with the church’s sesquicentennial anniversary in April 1980, several ranking General Authorities had hoped that the First Presidency would issue an official statement on the origin of man [p. 169] which could guide students in their academic studies. By mid-1979, Elder Bruce McConkie had compiled for the First Presidency a forty-two page manuscript entitled, “Man–His Origin, Fall, and Redemption,” characterizing evolution as one of several “speculative theories of the world.” Eight months later, in February 1980, Jae Ballif, acting on instructions from the executive committee of the board and President Oaks, drafted three alternate statements on evolution tentatively entitled “On Dealing With Sensitive Issues,” for possible inclusion in the First Presidency message. Each of Ballif’s drafts stressed the compatibility of true science and religion, while emphasizing the spiritual aspects of God’s creations. Ballif wrote that reliance on the Spirit would help divert confusion over evolution that might otherwise affect “countless people in and out of the church.”76
When the First Presidency elected not to issue a public statement, Elder McConkie concluded that the burden of addressing the issue rested with individual church leaders. Less than three months later at a BYU Sunday evening devotional, McConkie delivered the harshest denunciation of organic evolution to date. Speaking on “Seven Deadly Heresies” infecting the church, he contended:
There are those who say that revealed religion and organic evolution can be harmonized. This is both false and devilish. . . . There is no way to harmonize the revealed religion which has come to us with the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and the diverse speculations descending therefrom. . . . The saving doctrine is that Adam . . . was placed on this earth as an immortal being, that there was no death in the world for him or for any form of life until after the Fall, that the fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, that this temporal death passed upon all forms of life, upon man and animal and fish and fowl and plant life. . . . Try as you may, you cannot harmonize these things with the evolutionary postulate that death existed and that the various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomically long periods of time.
When published the following year, McConkie’s address was considerably less definitive in its pronouncements. The pronoun “we” had been changed to “I;” the statement, “Every person must choose for himself what he will believe,” had been inserted at crucial intervals. Furthermore, the text now read, “My reasoning causes me to conclude” that if death existed before Adam, then there could not have been a Fall. McConkie retreated even further from his rigid stance when he addressed BYU students the next fall. “The Lord has revealed enough about the Creation so that we can understand the Fall and he has revealed enough about the Fall so that we can understand the Atonement,” he said. “Beyond this, we don’t know. We do know that Adam was the first man upon this earth and that he was created by God and is in the image of God; he did not descend from an inferior being.”77
[p. 170] In mid-February 1982, BYU zoologist Duane Jeffery appeared on the University of Utah’s public television program, “Civic Dialogue,” to debate evolution with Duane Gish, associate director of the California-based Institute for Creation Research. The Daily Universe‘s front-page story the following week, headlined “Evolution, Creation?” quoted Jeffery as saying that he had “spen[t] time [in his classes] demonstrating from the First Presidency’s statements that [students did] not have to adopt the very strained anti-science stance that so many have been indoctrinated with.” Hal Black, BYU associate professor of biology, was quoted in the same report as alleging that if the church prohibited BYU from teaching evolution, he “could name professors who [have said that they would] quit teaching [altogether] because evolution is the unifying principle that runs through” their disciplines. One week later, President Jeffery Holland asked to meet with all College of Biological and Agricultural Sciences department chairs. Both Holland and Vice-President Ballif expressed their concern over the harm they believed had been done to the mission of the university as well as its standing in the eyes of several ranking General Authorities by professors who broached the topic of evolution in public. Zoology chair Ferron L. Andersen was assigned to ask Jeffery for “proposals as to how he could handle matters of science in ways that would be supportive and not additionally inflammatory.” Jeffery responded on 5 March with a statement, signed by both department chair Andersen and college dean Bruce N. Smith, that concluded: “We really can’t avoid the topic [of evolution] as it is central to our discipline. We sincerely hope and pray that the day may come when we can speak freely without fear of being misunderstood.”78
Five months later in August 1982, BYU zoologist William Bradshaw addressed BYU students on “Our Strange Ambivalence About Science.” Without referring directly to past events, Bradshaw argued strongly against the notion that “science is an enemy to faith.” He observed, “I find it very hypocritical for us as members of the church to sift through the concepts of science selectively, identifying friends and enemies as best fits our narrow purposes. . . . For me,” he admitted, “there are no notions in biological science which violate the principles, both spiritual and practical, which I hold dear as a committed Latter-day Saint.” The following April, former dean Lester Allen was asked to submit to the church an informed, albeit unofficial response to criticisms that the church was anti-science. Allen wrote, “We accept the truths in the geological story of the rocks, the paleontological story of the fossils and the anthropological story of ancient cultures.” While “we may have to wait until the Millennium for a complete understanding,” he continued, “the theory of organic evolution is a product of good science. It is a powerful, well-substantiated tool for explaining many facts and [observations] in nature. Numerous LDS [p. 171] scholars find [the theory of evolution] both scientifically sound and not in conflict with God’s revelations. . . . To the LDS scientist,” he concluded, evolution “is an expression of God’s omnipotent control of nature–not beyond law but fully in accord with it.” During the church’s next General Conference in October 1984, however, both Elders Packer and McConkie delivered separate anti-evolution addresses “to point out at least that there are those who have another viewpoint” (Packer to Strobel). And that December, Elder Benson reiterated virtually verbatim his eight-year-old public attack on BYU zoologist Duane Jeffery and implicit condemnation of organic evolution.79
The continuing tension at Brigham Young University and within the church over the topic of organic evolution has demonstrated both the complexity of the issues involved and the broader questions regarding the compatibility of science and religion generally. Certainly, loyal Mormons have disagreed on the specific mechanisms of the origin of life, from the perspectives of science and theology, as well as on the need for maintaining an intellectual climate that, at the very least, tolerates a diversity of thought. Yet the creation of such an atmosphere has been far more easily expressed as an institutional objective than as a recognizable policy. Since the church’s General Authorites do not engage in open debate, many authority-conscious BYU faculty and students have only the accumulated public condemnations of Elders McConkie, Packer, Benson, and others to consult. When either religious leaders or scientists have attempted to end the debate over evolution through a dogmatic appeal to authority, the result has lead to alienation, antagonism, and a decrease in status of one group in the eyes of the other. For students, it has also meant either a deficiency in academic training or a nagging uncertainty about the pronoucements of their religious leaders. “Religion without science is blind,” Albert Einstein once observed, and “science without religion is lame.” Veteran BYU geologist George Hansen has echoed: “Science and religion have to go hand in hand–that’s part of the greatness of BYU. . . . Kids who come through [the university] are endowed with a feeling of uniformity of [truth], . . . but you can’t memorize one passage of scripture and know all the answers to all the problems of the universe.”80
2. See, for example, the statements in Juvenile Instructor, 15 June 1883, p. 191, and Daily Enquirer, 16 Oct. 1896. Young to Willard Young, 19 Oct. 1876, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., “My Dear Son”: Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), p. 199. Brigham Young and other contemporary General Authorities may have opposed evolution because it ostensibly competed as an explanation for the origin of human life with the equally controversial Adam-God doctrine (see David John Buerger, “The Adam-God Doctrine,” Dialogue, Spring 1982, pp. 14-58). N. L. Nelson to David O. McKay, 27 July 1919, McKay Papers, Church Archives; James E. Talmage, “Geography Notes,” Talmage Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU; Karl G. Maeser, School and Fireside (Provo: Skelton & Co., 1898), pp. 28-31; J. Dorman Steele, Fourteen Weeks in Physics (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1878); John to Maeser, 2 Feb. 1901, Maeser Papers.
The terms evolution, organic evolution, and evolutionary thought, as used throughout this chapter, refer to the biological theory that living organisms developed, over immensely long periods of time, by successive differentiations from a single or several primordial organisms. For an instructive overview of nineteenth-century Mormon responses to Darwinism, see Duane E. Jeffery, “Seers, Savants, and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface,” Dialogue, Fall/Winter 1973, pp. 41-75.
3. For Talmage’s early views on science, evolution, and religion, see Talmage Journal, 17 June 1882, 16 March 1884, 4 May 1884, Talmage Papers; Faculty Minutes, 16 Sept. 1884, BYUA; Talmage, “The Birth and Growth of the Earth,” The B.Y.A. Academic Review, Dec. 1884, p. 19; Talmage, The Theory of Evolution (Provo, Utah: Utah County Teachers’ Association, 1890); as well as Dennis Rowley, “Inner Dialogue: James Talmage’s Choice of Science as a Career, 1876-84,” Dialogue, Summer 1984, pp. 112-32, and Jeffrey E. Keller, “Discussion Continued: The Sequel to the Roberts/Smith/Talmage Affair,” Dialogue, Spring, 1982, pp. 81-82. For Pack’s views, see Daily Herald, 16, 18 June 1886, and Deseret Evening News, 22 to 26 June 1886. Keeler, Foundation Stones of the Earth and Other Essays (Provo, Utah: n.p., 1891); “A Unique Production,” B.Y.A. Student, 17 March 1891; Joseph Stanford, “Evolution and Creation,” The Contributor, Sept., Nov. 1891; “Remarks by President George Q. Cannon,” Deseret Evening News, 8 Oct. 1893. See also A. Ramseyer, “The Ancestor of Man,” The Contributor, Nov. 1892, pp. 45-46, and Elijah Farr, “The Origin of Man,” The Contributor, Aug. 1894, pp. 632-38.
5. Swensen, “Autobiography,” 6 Feb. 1956, p. 50, BYUA; Swensen, “Founder’s Day Speech,” 16 Oct. 1951, p. 6, BYUA (see also N. L. Nelson, What Truth Is [Salt Lake City: Steven & Wallis, 1947], pp. 60-68); Cluff to Maeser, 10 Sept. 1897, Cluff Papers.
8. Nelson, “Evolution of Man and the Physical Universe,” The Contributor, Aug. 1895, pp. 617-25; Nelson, Scientific Aspects of Mormonism (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), pp. 9, 77; Joseph F. Smith to Nelson, 11 May, 9 July 1904, and Nelson to Smith, 9, 12 May, 8 June 1904, and 3 Jan. 1905, Smith Papers, Church Archives. See also Richard Sherlock, “A Turbulent Spectrum: Mormon Reactions to the Darwinist Legacy,” Journal of Mormon History, 1978, pp. 49-54, and Davis Bitton, “N. L. Nelson and The Mormon Point of View,” BYU Studies, Winter 1973, pp. 157-71, but cf. Cally N. Thomas, “Life History of Nels Lars Nelson, 1862-1946,” 1980, Nelson file, BYUA. Earlier in 1904, LDS agricultural scientist John Widtsoe had authored a landmark series of articles entitled, “Joseph Smith as Scientist,” in which the church’s founding prophet was characterized as an inspired forerunner of twentieth century scientific thought (see especially “Joseph Smith as Scientist, Part VI: The Law of Evolution,” Improvement Era, April 1904, pp. 401-08).
9. Ralph V. Chamberlin, Life and Philosophy of W. H. Chamberlin (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1925), p. 137; Swensen, “Autobiography,” p. 34; Ralph V. Chamberlin, Oral History, 1963, p. 8, BYUA; Henry Peterson: Educator, 1868-1957 (n.p., 1982); Sunday School General Board Minutes, 26 June 1907, 19 July 1909, Church Archives; Religion Class General Board Minutes, 22 June 1910, 4 April 1908, Church Archives; BYU 1:409-10; Richard Sherlock, “Campus in Crisis–BYU, 1911,” Sunstone, Jan./ Feb. 1979, p. 11.
11. Joseph Peterson to Brimhall, 30 Aug. 1910, Brimhall Papers; Ralph V. Chamberlin to Brimhall, 3 Sept. 1910, Brimhall Papers; Ralph V. Chamberlin, “Darwin Centennial Speech,” 12 Feb. 1909, Chamberlin Papers, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah; see the articles in WB, 16 Feb., 12 Nov., 24 Dec. 1909, 29 April 1910, 31 Jan. 1911; Henry Peterson: Educator, pp. 118-19; Annie Clark Tanner, A Mormon Mother (Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund, University of Utah, 1976), pp. 216-17. See Edward J. Johnson, “George H. Brimhall Biography,” BYUA.
12. Faculty Minutes, 25 Sept. 1909; George F. Richards Journal, 27 Sept. 1909, 22, 30 Oct. 1921, Richards Papers, Church Archives; Talmage Journal, 27, 30 Sept. 1909; Anthon H. Lund Journal, 14, 15, 20 Oct. 1909, Lund Papers, Church Archives; “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, pp. 75-81; Divine Mission of the Savior, Course of Study for the Priests (2nd Year), Prepared and Issued under the Direction of the General Authorities of the Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910), p. 35; Jeffery, “Seers, Savants and Evolution,” p. 61. Cf. John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist, A Contribution to Mormon Philosophy (General Church Board, Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Associations, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1908); “Editor’s Table,” Improvement Era, April 1909, pp. 489-94, and May 1909, pp. 505-09. For Whitney’s earlier views on evolution, see “Man’s Origin and Destiny,” The Contributor, June 1882, pp. 268-70.
15. Cummings, “Autobiography,” Chapter 41, p. 5; Mark K. Allen, “The History of Psychology at Brigham Young University,” p. 63, BYUA; Tanner, A Mormon Mother, pp. 216-17; Johnson, “George Brimhall Biography;” Faculty Minutes, 7 Dec. 1910.
17. WB, 31 Jan. 1911; Faculty Minutes, 28 Jan. 1911; Ralph V. Chamberlin, “Evolution and Theological Belief,” WB, 31 Jan. 1911, a four-page supplement, reprinted in Chamberlin, The Meaning of Organic Evolution (Provo, Utah: Published by the Author, 1911), Chapter 4.
19. Chamberlin, Oral History, pp. 6, 9-11; Penrose Journal, 10, 11 Feb. 1911, Utah State Historical Society; Grant Journal, 10, 11 Feb. 1911, Grant Papers, Church Archives. Grant reported that Joseph B. Keeler also attended the first of the two meetings. Richards Journal, 10, 11 Feb. 1911; Francis M. Lyman et al. to Smith and Members of the Board of Trustees of the Brigham Young University, 11 Feb. 1911, BYUA (cf. Board of Trustees Minutes, 11 Feb. 1911); William H. Chamberlin, “The Theory of Evolution as an Aid to Faith in God and Belief in the Resurrection,” WB, 14 Feb. 1911, a four-page supplement.
23. Deseret News, 11 March 1911; Salt Lake Tribune, 12 March 1911 (cf. Chamberlin, Oral History, p. 8, and Edwin S. Hinckley to Brimhall, 24 Feb. 1911, Brimhall Papers); Heber Charles Hicks, “The Life Story of Heber Charles Hicks,” pp. 40-41, BYUA; Smith to Andrew K. Smith, 25 Feb. 1911, Smith Papers (Smith evidently left school because of poor grades and excessive absences); Daily Herald, 14 March 1911; Salt Lake Tribune, 15, 16 March 1911; Salt Lake Herald Republican, 15 March 1911; Deseret News, 16 March 1911. For copies of the student petition, see Brimhall Papers and Chamberlin, W. H. Chamberlin, pp. 149-51. Brimhall, in “Devotional Remarks,” 16 March 1911, Brimhall file, BYUA, reprinted in Deseret News, 16 March 1911.
24. Brimhall to Smith, 17 March 1911, Brimhall Papers; Brimhall to Peterson, 16 March 1911, Brimhall Papers (cf. Henry Peterson: Educator, pp. 131-32); Daily Herald, 17 March 1911; Faculty Minutes, 23 March 1911; Brimhall to Erickson, 25 March 1911, Brimhall Papers; Smoot to Brimhall, 26 March 1911, Brimhall Papers.
25. Smith, “Philosophy and the Church Schools,” Juvenile Instructor, April 1911, pp. 208-09; Smith, “The Church and Science,” Smith Papers; Smith, “Theory and Divine Revelation,” Improvement Era, April 1911, pp. 548-51.
26. Bennion, “The ‘Evolution’ and ‘Higher Criticism’ Controversy at the Brigham Young University,” Utah Educational Review, April 1911 (cf. Joseph Peterson, “The Blessings of Science and Evils of Pseudo Science,” Utah Educational Review, May 1911). Nine years later, the First Presidency considered Bennion as Cummings’s replacement as superintendent of church schools and also as Brimhall’s successor as BYU president. They decided, however, that the church needed a “Mormon spokesman” at the University of Utah, and instead called his brother, Adam, as superintendent, and Franklin Harris as president (see BYU, pp. 233-34.)
31. BYU 1:428; Allen, “History of Psychology,” pp. 72-74; Chamberlin to Franklin S. Harris, 3 Jan. 1922, Harris Papers; Harris to Chamberlin, 14 March 1922, Harris Papers; Chamberlin to Harris, 29 Sept. 1923, Harris Papers; Harris to Chamberlin, 10 Oct. 1923, Harris Papers; Harris to Richard R. Lyman, 1 Oct. 1923, Harris Papers.
32. Anthon H. Lund Journal, 23 April 1912; Ephraim Hatch, “History of the Brigham Young University Campus and the Department of the Physical Plant,” 1975, vol. 4, pp. 8-9; BYU 1:428; Allen, “History of Psychology,” pp. 72-74.
33. For the 1915 controversy at the University of Utah, see Joseph H. Jeppson, “The Secularization of the University of Utah, to 1920,” Ph.D. diss., University of California, 1973, p. 180. For Peterson’s later work, see Lyle Lanier, ed., Psychological Monographs, 1938, pp. i-v, 1-237; and Peterson, “Completeness of Response as an Explanation Principle in Learning,” Psychological Review, 1916, pp. 153-62, “Aspects of Learning,” Psychological Review, 1935, pp. 1-27, Early Conceptions and Tests of Intelligence (Yonkers: World Book Company, 1924), and “The Scientific Study of Human Behavior,” Alumnus, 1927, pp. 4-5.
35. E. E. Erickson, The Psychological and Ethical Aspects of Mormon Group Life (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1975 [reprint]), p. 65; Tanner, A Mormon Mother, p. 216; Board of Trustees Minutes, 25 Oct. 1911; Daily Herald, 6 Oct. 1913 (cf. Board of Education Minutes, 29 Dec. 1913); Brimhall to Joseph Fielding Smith, 11 March 1916, Brimhall Papers.
36. Fletcher, Oral History, 19 Sept. 1968, p. 43, BYUA; Fletcher, “Autobiography,” pp. 38, 42-43, in Fletcher file, BYUA; Chamberlin, W. H. Chamberlin, p. 211; “A Sentiment,” WB, 31 May 1916; Russel B. Swensen, “Mormons at the University of Chicago Divinity School: A Personal Reminiscence,” Dialogue, Summer 1972, p. 38. See also Sherlock, “A Turbulent Spectrum,” pp. 54-58. The continuing controversy over the place of higher criticism in the religion curriculum at BYU is discussed in Chapter 2.
37. Fletcher, “Autobiography,” pp. 42-43; “A Brief Survey of the Work of Brigham Young University from the Beginning of the School Year 1906-07 to the Close of the School Year 1913-14—Eight Years,” Printed Material 34, e-2, BYUA.
38. Smith, “Philosophy and the Church Schools,” Juvenile Instructor, April 1911, p. 209; Smith to Elmer Kneale, 9 March 1912, Smith Papers (cf. Smith, “The Creation of Adam,” 7 Dec. 1913, Church News, 19 Sept. 1936); Brimhall to F. D. Stout, 29 July 1913, Brimhall Papers; Cummings Journal, 22 Sept. 1917, 19 March 1918; George F. Richards Journal, 20-21 Jan. 1915. See, for example, the series of Robert C. Webb (pseudonym for J. C. Homans) in the Improvement Era: “Science Falsely So-Called,” Aug. 1914, pp. 901-09, “The Evolution Hypothesis: What It Is,” Sept. 1914, pp. 1040-47, “Fatal Objections to the Evolution Hypothesis,” Oct. 1914, pp. 1130-38, “Evolution Arguments Analyzed,” Nov. 1914, pp. 24-33, “The Evolution Hypothesis and the Geological Record,” Dec. 1914, pp. 127-34, “Evolution Not Supported by Embryology,” Jan. 1915, pp. 247-52, and “Thoughts on the Orign of Life,” Feb. 1915, pp. 402-16. Sherlock, “A Turbulent Spectrum,” pp. 33-59; see, for example, Anthony W. Ivins, “A Study of Evolution,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1917, pp. 161-66 (Ivins was more opposed to what he perceived as the notion of chance in Darwin’s theories); Smith, “The Word of the Lord Superior to the Theories of Men,” in Liahona, 9 April 1918, pp. 641-44; Smith, “The Origin and Destiny of Man,” Improvement Era, March 1920, pp. 376-93; “Ballard Delivers Impressive Talk to Y Graduates,” YN, 6 June 1923; “Dr. Talmage First Special Lecturer,” YN, 1 Oct. 1924.
39. For coverage of the Scopes trial, see “Protest-Law,” Time, 6 April 1925, p. 16; “Tennessee’s Viper,” Time, 18 May 1925, p. 16; “Rappelyea’s Razzberry,” Time, 1 June 1925, p. 18; and “The Great Trial,” Time, 3 Aug. 1925, p. 18. Upon appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court found the anti-evolution statute constitutional but declared Scopes not guilty because of a technical error at his initial trial (“Bizarre,” Time, 24 Jan. 1927, p. 16). See also L. S. deCamp, The Great Monkey Trial (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1968). Ann Weaver Hart, “Religion and Education: The Scopes Controversy in Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, Spring 1983, pp. 183-98; “‘Mormon’ View of Evolution,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1925, pp. 1090- 91; Whitney, in Conference Reports, Oct. 1925, p. 101. See also Samuel Bennion, in Conference Reports, Oct. 1925, and Juvenile Instructor, Aug. 1925, pp. 414-15. William Jennings Bryan, “The Undeveloped Argument on the Anti-Evolution Law,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1925, pp. 1109-31; Smith, “Word of the Lord,” p. 641 (cf. “Entangle Not Yourselves in Sin,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1953).
40. “The Twentieth Annual Convention of Teachers in the Schools and Seminaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” 21-22 Oct. 1925, Brimhall Papers; “Birthdays of Many Great Americans in February,” YN, 9 Feb. 1927 (that Darwin was British seems not to have distracted the student writer); Russel B. Swensen, Oral History, 13 Sept. 1978, p. 9, BYUA; Widtsoe to Sterling B. Talmage, 20 April, 17 July 1934, copies in authors’ possession. The significance of the BYU summer school, as well as the administrations of Commissioners Widtsoe and Merrill, in the development of BYU’s religion curriculum is discussed in Chapter 2. “Paleontological Society Display Set Up in Room D,” YN, 8 Feb. 1929; “Dead Fossils for Live Ones–Lovers Give Way to Bones,” YN, 12 Feb. 1929 (the library had been a favorite place for school romances); “The Passing of Old Room ‘D,'” YN, 21 Jan. 1930; Cummings Journal, summary for 1929.
42. Grant Journal, 25 Jan. 1931; Jeffery, “Seers, Savants and Evolution,” pp. 63-65; Sherlock, “A Turbulent Spectrum,” pp. 33-43; Richard Sherlock, “‘We Can See No Advantage to a Continuation of the Discussion': The Roberts/Smith/Talmage Affair,” Dialogue, Fall 1980, pp. 63-78. While contemporary sources indicate that Talmage’s response was approved by the First Presidency, later documents suggest that subsequent church authorities may have been unwilling to extend the church’s official imprimatur to the writings of individual church leaders, including Talmage’s. See Keller, “Discussion Continued,” pp. 79-98, for as thorough an analysis as available documents allow.
43. Richards Journal, 7 April 1933 (cf. Conference Reports, April 1933, p. 46). See, for example, Howard S. Bennion, “Is the Earth Millions of Years Old?” Church News, 17, 24 March 1934 (cf. Sterling Talmage, “Can We Dictate God’s Times and Methods?” Church News, 14, 21 April 1934); Bennion, “Further Observations on the Age of the Earth,” Church News, 19 May 1934 (cf. Talmage, “Some Lessons Involved in the Age of the Earth,” Church News, 16 June 1934); Sidney Sperry, “What Shall We Then Believe?” Church News, 16 June 1934; Dudley J. Whitney, “The Fiat Creation of the Earth,” Deseret News, 16 June 1934 (cf. W. W. Henderson to Editor, Deseret News, 26 June 1934); Floyd Day, “Can Scripture Be Relied On?” Church News, 16 Nov. 1935; Sidney Sperry, “Challenge to Scientists in the Church: Harmonize Learning, Faith,” Church News, 4 April 1936; “Was the Hero’s Death So Bad?” Church News, 31 Oct. 1936. Widtsoe’s relevant articles include “How Old is the Earth,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1938; “How Did the Earth Come into Being,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1939; “What is the Origin of Life on Earth,” Improvement Era, March 1939; “To What Extent Should the Doctrine of Evolution Be Accepted,” Improvement Era, July 1939; and “Were There Pre-Adamites?” Improvement Era, May 1948. All of these essays, except the last, are also in Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, G. Homer Durham, ed. and comp. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960). Widtsoe to Albert R. Lyman, 14 June 1948, Church Archives.
44. Jeffery, “Seers, Savants and Evolution,” pp. 65-66; Smith, “The Origin of Man,” 22 April 1953, in Speeches, 1952-53, pp. 385-91. BYU psychologist Robert J. Howell reported in 1971 that Smith had told him in 1952 that if he believed evolution was important to his field, he should teach it “as effectively and thoroughly as I possibly could” (Howell to Editor, DU, 19 May 1971). Nicholes to Harvey L. Taylor, 24 April 1953, and Taylor to Nicholes, 28 April 1953, Wilkinson Papers (see also Nicholes to Editor, DU, 30 April 1953). The following year, at the request of BYU’s Division of Religion, Nicholes prepared a “Compilation [on Evolution] Consisting Largely of Quotations from Qualified Biologists” (1954), UA 584. Nicholes wrote to President Ernest Wilkinson that he hoped his compilation would demonstrate that “evolution is a remarkable product of the imaginative interpolations and extrapolations of the minds of men–nevertheless, according to the fact of science, not necessarily true” (Nicholes to Wilkinson, 2 June 1954, Wilkinson Papers).
45. Henry A. Smith, “Pres. Smith Writes Revealing Volume,” Church News, 3 April 1954; Jeffery, “Seers, Savants and Evolution,” pp. 65-66; Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954), p. 9, 138; Smith to Wilkinson, April 1954, copy in authors’ possesion.
46. “Elder Lee Conducts Course for Teachers,” Church News, 26 June 1954; Smith, in “Our Relationship to God–Theme of BYU Lecture,” Church News, 17 July 1954; Smith, “Organic Evolution Opposed to Divine Revelation,” Church News, 24 July 1954; Clark, “When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” Church News, 31 July 1954; Clark, “Evolution,” 29 Nov. 1915, Clark Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, BYU; Clark, “Science Truths–Theory vs. Fact,” 7 Sept. 1924, Clark Papers; Clark, correspondence, 2 Oct. 1946, Clark Papers. See also D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 1983), pp. 167-68.
48. George T. Boyd, “Notes from an Interview with President David O. McKay,” March 1955; Sterling M. McMurrin, interview with Jeffrey E. Keller, 19 Nov. 1980; George T. Boyd, interview with Jeffrey E. Keller, 20 Nov. 1980. Copies in authors’ possession. Eyring to Bennion, 16 Dec. 1954, in Steven H. Heath, “The Reconciliation of Faith and Science: Henry Eyring’s Achievement,” Dialogue, Autumn 1982, pp. 89-90; Stokes to Eyring, 14 Dec. 1954, copy in authors’ possession; Smith, “Some Impressions on Reading ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny’ by Joseph Fielding Smith, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, 1954,” Dec. 1954; Lowell Bennion to Eyring, 15 Jan. 1955, in Heath, “Henry Eyring’s Achievement,” p. 90; Richard D. Poll to George T. Boyd, 19 Jan. 1955; LeRoy Eyring to McKay, 2 Feb. 1955; Boyer Jarvis to Bennion, 7 Feb. 1955; George M. Bateman to McKay, 3 March 1955; Joel E. Fletcher to McKay, 15 March 1955; LaRele J. Stephens to McKay, 5 March 1955; Thornton Y. Booth to McKay, 18 March 1955; Don Carl Duke to McKay, 15 March 1955; Clyde D. Tidwell to McKay, 16 March 1955; L. B. Curtis to McKay, 17 March 1955; McKay to LaRele J. Stephens, 11 March 1955. Copies of the preceding eleven letters are in authors’ possession.
49. Smith to Eyring, 15 April 1955, and Eyring to Smith, 18 April 1955, in Heath, “Henry Eyring’s Achievement,” pp. 91-94. Smith found Eyring’s letter “very different [in] spirit” from his earlier correspondence to Bennion but felt that it “failed to answer any of the challenging questions which I sent to him” (Smith to Melvin A. Cook, 21 April 1955, copy in authors’ possession). See Eyring, “A Tribute to President Joseph Fielding Smith,” Dialogue, Spring 1972, pp. 15-16. For a less sympathetic appraisal of Eyring, see Julian R. Durham to Editor, Dialogue, Autumn 1983, pp. 5-6.
50. Sterling M. McMurrin, interview with Jeffrey E. Keller, 19 Nov. 1980, copy in authors’ possession; Richard D. Poll to Wilkinson, 15 Dec. 1954, Wilkinson Papers; George T. Boyd, “notes of a telephone conversation with Milton R. Hunter,” Feb. 1955, copy in authors’ possession; Smith to Poll, 1, 7 Dec. 1954, and Poll to Smith, 3 Dec. 1954, Sterling M. McMurrin Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, University of Utah. See also The Autobiography of Melvin A. Cook–Volume Two: Reflections on Academia (Salt Lake City: Author, 1977), pp. 31-43.
51. Poll to Wilkinson, 15 Dec. 1954 (cf. Wilkinson to William E. Berrett, 21 Dec. 1954); Poll, “Notes on a Conversation with President David O. McKay in His Office,” 29 Dec. 1954; Poll, “Notes on a Conversation with President Joseph Fielding Smith in His Office,” 29 Dec. 1954 (cf. Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., and John J. Stewart, The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith: Tenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], p. 319). Copies in authors’ possession. Less than two weeks later on 10 January, Poll met with Wilkinson who advised him to present both positions to his classes, but to “make it plain . . . that the acceptance of either view was not incompatible with the gospel and that, in any event, it should be handled in such a way that the faith of the students should be built up rather than destroyed.” Wilkinson also reviewed the situation with Elder Harold B. Lee (Wilkinson Journal, 10 and 13 Jan. 1955). Poll remained troubled, however, by the quasi-official reception of Elder Smith’s book among some BYU faculty members (Poll to Wilkinson, 31 Jan. 1955, and Poll to William F. Edwards, 17 Feb. 1955, Wilkinson Papers). Joseph T. Bentley, “Statement Regarding Dr. Richard D. Poll,” Feb. 1955; Bentley to Romney, 1 March 1955; Romney to Bentley, 24 March 1955, all in Wilkinson Papers. Romney, correspondence, 18 Feb. 1955, typed excerpts in authors’ possession.
52. Wilkinson, “Memorandum: Re: Richard Poll,” 9 March 1955; Taylor, “Memorandum Re: Conference with Dr. Richard Poll, April 26, 1955,” 27 April 1955; Poll to Taylor, 27 April 1955. All in Wilkinson Papers.
53. Wilkinson, “Re: Conference with President David O. McKay, Held in his Office at His Request, with President Ernest L. Wilkinson and Vice-President William E. Berrett, June 10, 1955;” Wilkinson Journal, 10 June 1955. Both in Wilkinson Papers.
54. Smith to Donald R. Snow, 8 July 1958; Smith to Rex L. Allred, 30 Nov. 1959; Smith to “Miss Perry,” 8 Oct. 1955. Copies in authors’ possession. See, for example, Mark E. Petersen, “We Believe in Being Honest,” 1 Nov. 1955, in Speeches, 1955-56, pp. 61-66 (cf. “Investigation, Honesty Stressed,” DU, 2 Nov. 1955), and Petersen, Toward a Better Life (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1960), pp. 63, 175, 178. Smith reportedly lamented in mid-1961 that President McKay “won’t talk with me about it” (Robert F. Bohn to Editor, Dialogue, Autumn 1983, pp. 7-8). Brown, “What Is Man and What He May Become,” 24 March 1958, in Speeches, 1957-58 (see also Brown to Thornton Y. Booth, 24 March 1955, copy in authors’ possession).
55. See the announcement in Improvement Era, July 1958, p. 493; David John Buerger, “‘Handy Theology': An Historical and Doctrinal Review of Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine,” p. 19, copy in authors’ possession; McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1958), pp. 229-38 (cf. p. 158) and 180-82. In the second edition (p. 256) “scrubby” and “groveling” were altered to “weak” and “puerile.” For an opposing view, see David O. McKay, “Gospel Ideals–Life’s Surest Anchor,” 30 Oct. 1956, in Speeches, 1956-57, p. 6, repeated on 16 May 1967, in Speeches, 1966-67, p. 5. See also Brown, “What Is Man and What He May Become,” p. 7.
56. Hill to McKay, 8 Jan. 1959; Joseph Anderson to Hill, 25 Feb. 1959 (cf. Anderson to Harold J. Bissell, 3 May 1960, where similiar wording and reluctance to commit the church to an official position on evolution appear); A. Kent Christensen to Mckay, 25 Jan. 1959, and McKay to Christensen, 3 Feb. 1959 (cf. A. Hamer Reiser, assistant secretary to the First Presidency, to Robert C. Stones, 21 April 1960, and Clare Middlemiss, secretary to McKay, to Pertti Felin, 8 May 1964). Copies in authors’ possession.
57. McKay Journal, 7 Jan. 1960; Romney to McKay, 28 Jan. 1959, McKay Papers. Some anxiety was also voiced over McConkie’s treatment of the Catholic church (Mormon Doctrine [1st Ed.], pp. 129, see also pp. 108, 245, 346, 511, 697, 730-31). McKay Journal, 8, 27-28 Jan. 1960; Church News, 18 Feb. 1961, p. 7. Eight sections were added while twenty-five were deleted from the second edition. Of the nearly 500 corrections made, slightly more than 10 percent dealt with Catholicism (Buerger, “‘Handy Theology,'” p. 18). In view of the First Presidency’s decision in 1960 not to allow further editions of Mormon Doctrine, the appearance of a second edition in 1966 is surprising. Changes in the composition of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, including the appointment of McConkie’s father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith as a counselor in the First Presidency, together with McKay’s failing health, may have resulted in a more receptive atmosphere for a second edition.
58. Tanner, “Charles Darwin After One Hundred Years,” Alumnus, Autumn 1960, pp. 8-11 (see Raymond E. Beckham, “On Dr. Tanner’s Article on Darwin,” Alumnus, Jan. 1961, p. 25); “LDS Scientist Voices Views,” DU, 23 Feb. 1961; Brown, “Be Aware and Beware,” 24 May 1962, p. 9, BYUA.
59. Paul Cracroft, “How Old is the Earth?” Improvement Era, Oct. 1964. For examples of criticisms, see Philip J. Hart to Doyle L. Green, 7 Nov. 1964, and Theodore M. Burton to Philip H. Hart, 2 Dec. 1964, copies in authors’ possession. For background on the Instructor article, see Bertrand F. Harrison, interview with Duane E. Jeffery, 16 May 1969; Bertrand F. Harrison, interview with Jeffrey E. Keller, 20 Nov. 1980; Bertrand F. Harrison, Oral History, 15 March 1983, pp. 33-35, BYUA; David Lawrence McKay, interview with Jeffrey E. Keller, 9 Dec. 1980. Copies in authors’ possession. Harrison, “The Relatedness of Living Things,” Instructor, July 1965, pp. 272-76; Talmage, “The Earth and Man,” Instructor, Dec. 1965, pp. 474-77, and Jan. 1966, pp. 9-11, 15. For further details, see The Autobiography of Melvin A. Cook, pp. 240-44.
60. “The Theory of Evolution is Topic of Discussion,” DU, 20 July 1965; Allen to Kent Farnsworth, 25 Feb. 1965, copy in authors’ possession; Allen, “A Discussion on Evolution and Religion with Hyrum Andrus,” 22 July 1965, BYUA.
61. “Geology Lecture Rocks Campus,” DU, 14 April 1966; “‘U’ Professor Stirs Thinking,” DU, 15 April 1966; Grant Nielsen to Editor, DU, 15 April 1966; D. Stanley Moulton to Editor, DU, 18 April 1966. For other responses, see Jess R. Bushman to Editor, and B. Kent Harrison to Editor, DU, 19 April 1966; William E. Dibble to Editor, DU, 21 April 1966. For an in-depth discussion of Cook’s anti-evolution stance, see Melvin A. Cook and M. Garfield Cook, Science and Mormonism: Correlations, Conflicts, and Conciliations (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973).
62. “Scientists Explain Viewpoints,” DU, 2 May 1966; “Botany Professor Gives Views,” DU, 3 May 1966. See also Henry Nicholes, who had apparently retreated from his hard-line stance of fifteen years earlier, in “Scripture and the Creation,” 1 May 1968, and “Evolution and the L.D.S. Religion,” 1969, copies in authors’ possession. Many church authorities remained antagonistic, including Apostle Delbert L. Stapley, chair of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees, who reminded Wilkinson in October 1969 that evolution was not to be taught at BYU because it “is contrary to the teachings of scripture” (Stapley to Wilkinson, 9 Oct. 1969, UA 567b). See also Joseph Fielding Smith, “That the Fullness of My Gospel Might Be Proclaimed,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, p. 2, and A. Theodore Tuttle, “Who Am I?” 16 Feb. 1971, in Speeches, 1970-71, p. 2. For further information, see The Autobiography of Melvin A. Cook, pp. 249-62.
63. Oaks, handwritten notes of speech to the BYU faculty, Sept. 1971, copy in authors’ possession; Bankhead, comp., The Fall of Adam, the Atonement of Christ, and Organic Evolution (Levan, Utah: RAM Books, 1978 Edition); Duane E. Jeffery to Robert K. Thomas, 4 Jan. 1972; “Notes of a meeting with A. Lester Allen,” Dec. 1971; “Notes of a meeting with Kent Brown,” 14 Dec. 1971; “‘Minutes’ of meeting with Dean Lester Allen,” 6 Jan. 1972; Ellis T. Rasmussen to Members of the Science/Religion Seminar, memos from 18 Feb. through 22 May 1972. Copies of the last five references are in authors’ possession.
64. “Notes of the Religion-Science Seminar,” 17 May 1972; “Notes of the Religion-Science Seminar,” 24 May 1972; Allen to Steven Richardson, 16 Feb. 1973 (cf. Jeffery to Robert K. Thomas, 2 May 1972: “The very people who should be present have been conspicously absent”); Ellis T. Rasmussen to Members of the Science/Religion Seminar, memos from 23 June 1972 through 26 March 1973. Copies in authors’ possession. Catalog, 1972-73, p. 538; Doxey to A. Lester Allen, 14 Aug. 1973, copy in authors’ possession.
65. “Y Natural Science Museum Gets Largest Dinosaur Skull,” DU, 22 Aug. 1963; “Y Geology Curator Finds Huge Bones,” DU, 5 Aug. 1966; “Monster Commandeers Science Center Home,” DU, 1 July 1969; “Jensen Makes Important Discovery,” DU, 20 Jan. 1970; “Fossils Found,” DU, 13 July 1971; “Team Uncovers Largest Dinosaur,” DU, 8 Aug. 1972; “Scientists Study Newfound Bones of Huge Dinosaur,” National Observer, 19 Aug. 1972; “Two Superlatives,” Time, 21 Aug. 1972; Board of Trustees, Executive Committee Minutes, 16 Nov. 1972; Lee, “Find the Answers in the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec. 1972, p. 2; Board of Trustees Minutes, 6 Dec. 1972. Jensen continued his work with some notable successes. When he retired in 1983, geology department officials obtained funding, primarily from the National Science Foundation, to catalog, collate, and describe Jensen’s collections–a project eventually requiring at least two full-time employees (“‘Supersaurus’ On Display,” DU, 28 Sept. 1976; “Dinosaur Jim Finds Fossils of World’s First Bird,” DU, 12 Sept. 1977; “Dinosaur Jim Shares Discovery,” DU, 19 July 1979; “Dinosaur Bones Won’t be Moved,” DU, 30 March 1982; “Campus Chatter,” SEP, 11 Jan. 1983; “Ultrasaurus Leg Stretches 26 Feet,” BYU Today, March 1983, p. 40; “Good-bye Dinosaur Jim,” BYU Today, Dec. 1983, pp. 15-16; “BYU Scientists Study 100-Ton Fossil Collection,” Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Jan. 1984).
66. Mark E. Petersen and Emma Marr Petersen, Virtue Makes Sense! (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1973), pp. 9-16; Petersen, “We Believe in God,” a BYU Ten-Stake Fireside Address, 2 Sept. 1973, BYUA (see also “On Darwin’s Setback,” Church News, 7 April 1973). Kent Peterson, “The First Book of Moses Called Genesis” (1974); Brotherson to Thomas, 13 May 1974; Thomas to Brotherson, 15 May 1974; Thomas to A. Lester Allen, 15 May 1974. Copies in authors’ possession.
67. Andrus, “Y Destiny to Coordinate Disciplines,” DU, 25 Nov. 1974; Benson, “Jesus Christ–Gifts and Expectations,” 10 Dec. 1974, in Speeches, 1974, pp. 307; McConkie to Majorie Dunaway, 28 May 1975; Kimball, “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” 1 Oct. 1975, in Ensign, March 1976, p. 72.
68. Jeffery, “Seers, Savants and Evolution,” p. 68; Benson, “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History,” 28 March 1976, in Speeches, 1976. See also Benson to David John Buerger, 23 June 1978, copy in authors’ possession: “The article is historically inaccurate and doctrinely unsound. The author interpreted his ‘facts’ in a way to support his pro-evolutionary stands and to discredit President Joseph Fielding Smith.”
70. Nelson to Benson, 28 Sept. 1977; Petersen to Oaks, 30 Sept. 1977; Rasmussen to Thomas, 3 Oct. 1977. Copies in authors’ possession. Benson’s concerns with the teaching of evolution at BYU were representative of his general discomfort with much of the university’s curricula, especially in the political sciences and history (see Chapters 2 and 5).
71. Gordon B. Hinckley to Oaks, 18 Oct. 1977; Oaks to Hinckley, 24 Oct. 1977. A copy of this was also sent to Petersen (see Oaks to Petersen, 31 Oct. 1977). Oaks, “Evolution Matter,” 3 Nov. 1977; Nelson to Benson, 4 Oct. 1977. Copies in authors’ possession. Oaks was also quick to squelch rumors several weeks later that Duane Jeffery’s and Lester Allen’s seminars on evolution and creation were critical of either the church or President Joseph Fielding Smith (Oaks to Thomas, 17 Nov. 1977, copy in authors’ possession).
72. Choose You This Day (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979), p. 39. As originally drafted, this priesthood manual had advocated a much stronger anti-evolutionary position. My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979), pp. 84, 126. Though written in 1978-79 and copyrighted in 1979, these two manuals were not generally distributed until the fall of 1980. Hoyt W. Brewster, Manager, Adult Curriculum, Curriculum Planning and Development, wrote in response to criticisms of the priesthood manual that the lessons had been “fully approved by the correlation committee of the church; that is not to say that a future correlation committee might not desire changes in [their] content” (Brewster to R. H. Crapo, 4 May 1982, copy in authors’ possession). Romney, “‘Records of Great Worth,'” an address at the Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium, Brigham Young University, 17 Aug. 1979, in Ensign, Sept. 1980, p. 5. Romney later told an inquirer that his address “was made strictly and only as my personal opinion” (Romney to John Davidson, 8 Oct. 1980, copy in authors’ possession). Meservy, “Evolution and the Origin of Adam,” p. 219, and Meservy, “Science and Religion, the So-Called Modernist Controversy,” p. 228, in Church Educational System, The Third Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium, A Symposium on the Old Testament, August 16, 17, 18, 1979, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979).
73. Julian R. Durham to Benson, 20 Aug. 1979, copy in authors’ possession. Durham added: “I have no right to counsel or admonish the prophet, but with all my heart I pray that President Kimball will plead with the Lord concerning the situation at the B.Y.U. and obtain an answer.” Benson to Hinckley, 22 Aug. 1979; Oaks to Hinckley, 6 Sept. 1979; Oaks to Robert K. Thomas and Jae R. Ballif, 21 Sept. 1979. Copies in authors’ possession.
75. Hess and Matheny, eds., Science and Religion: Toward a More Useful Dialogue (Geneva, Illinois: Paladin House, 1979), vol. 1, and Hess, Matheny, and Donlu D. Thayer, eds., Science and Religion: Toward a More Useful Dialogue (Geneva, Illinois: Paladin House, 1979), vol. 2; Oaks to Hess, 24 April 1972, copy in authors’ possession. Because the book proposal was “not an appropriate matter for action,” it did not figure in the official minutes. Hess to Janet Calder, 19 June 1980; “Proposed Book Latter-day Scientists Speak” (the working title of Hess’s and Matheny’s book), 1976; Oaks to Hinckley, 30 Oct. 1979; Ballif to Oaks, 29 Oct. 1979. Copies in authors’ possession. For specific essays coming under board scrutiny, see Duane E. Jeffery, “`We Don’t Know': A Survey of Mormon Responses to Evolutionary Biology,” Science and Religion, vol. 2, pp. 23-37, and A. Lester Allen, “Divinely Directed Development of the Earth and Its Biota: A Dynamic Scenerio,” Science and Religion, vol. 2, pp. 9-22. Allen to Boyd K. Packer, 4 Feb. 1980, copy in authors’ possession.
77. McConkie, “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” 1 June 1980, transcribed from an audio recording (cf. “Apostle Warns of Heresies,” DU, 3 June 1980). The First Presidency continued to respond that its position on evolution had not changed since 1909 (First Presidency to Ivan W. Nelson, 3 July 1980, copy in authors’ possession). McConkie, “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” in Speeches, 1980, pp. 74-80; “Elder McConkie Addresses BYU Stakes,” SEP, 18 Nov. 1981. See Chapter 2 for McConkie’s involvement in other university issues. In view of the controversy surrounding the topic of evolution, Religious Instruction administrators decided in August 1981 not to sponsor student clubs which would “study evidences for the creation” from a primarily religious perspective (Religious Instruction, Administrative Council Minutes, 6 Aug. 1981, BYUA 553).
78. “Beyond ‘Big Bang': Man’s Wondrous Origin Debated,” Deseret News, 13 Feb. 1982; “Evolution, Creation?” DU, 22 Feb. 1982; Jeffery, memo dated 1 March 1982; Jeffery, letter draft to Holland, 2 March 1982; Jeffery to Anderson and Smith, 3 March 1982; Jeffery, Anderson, and Smith to Holland, 5 March 1982. Copies in authors’ possession. Earlier, in October 1980, Ballif had asked Jeffery to meet with him and gave him thirteen pages of reportedly verbatim quotations that Jeffery was alleged to have made during an informal gathering of young married church members the previous April. Each page represented what his anonymous critic believed to have been an attack on the church. Ballif asked Jeffery to give him a letter reaffirming his commitment to the church that Ballif could forward to the church officials who had raised the issue. Jeffery delivered his final version to Ballif in early January 1981. Jeffery, memo, 23 Oct., and Jeffery to Ballif, 16, 30 Dec. 1980, copies in authors’ possession.
79. “Our Strange Ambivalence about Science,” a forum address to the BYU student body, Aug. 1982, in BYU Today, Nov. 1982, p. 35; Allen, “Evolution,” 1983, copy in authors’ possession; Packer, “The Pattern of Our Parentage,” and McConkie, “The Caravan Moves On,” both in Ensign, Nov. 1984, pp. 67, 82; Packer to Gary A. Strobel, 16 Oct. 1984, copy in authors’ possession; Benson, “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History,” 30 Dec. 1984, an address to the Canyon Road Ward, Salt Lake Ensign Stake, p. 11, copy in authors’ possession.
80. Suggested from Richard F. Haglund, Jr., “Science and Religion: A Symbiosis,” Dialogue, Autumn/Winter 1974, pp. 23-40; Einstein, in Stanley L. Jaki, The Relevance of Physics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), p. 345; George H. Hansen, Oral History, 19 Feb. 1980, pp. 7-8, BYUA.