This page is a part of a three section paper. The sections include:
This compilation of quotes by LDS Apostles on the age of the earth is, to our knowledge, the most exhaustive one yet compiled. While the Church has never taken an official standpoint on this matter, many of its leaders have expressed their views. We have attempted to be unbiased by including quotes from all sides of the argument, yet we are sure that some bias has shown through. We encourage everyone to form his or her own opinions. We simply provide this page to help people follow the "majority of the twelve" (see Joseph Smith quoted in Young Woman's Journal, XVII (December 1906), pp. 542-543.; Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989], 39.; Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997])
Table of Contents
- Joseph Smith
- W. W. Phelps
- Brigham Young
- Orson Pratt
- George Q. Cannon
- John Taylor
- Wilford Woodruff
- Orson F. Whitney
- Stephen L. Richards
- David O. McKay
- Joseph Fielding Smith
- Harold B. Lee
- Bruce R. McConkie
The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand Himself.
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43 p.252)
W. W. Phelps
We recognize that W. W. Phelps was never a prominent Church leader, but we have included his quote here because it is often attributed to Joseph Smith. Bruce R. McConkie wrote commentary on this quote specifically; see the Bruce R. McConkie section of this paper.
Well, now, Brother William, when the house of Israel begin to come into the glorious mysteries of the kingdom, and find that Jesus Christ, whose goings forth, as the prophets said, have been from of old, from eternity; and that eternity, agreeably to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system, (not this world) almost two thousand five hundred and fifty five millions of years: and to know at the same time, that deists, geologists and others are trying to prove that matter must have existed hundreds of thousands of years;—it almost tempts the flesh to fly to God, or muster faith like Enoch to be translated and see and know as we are seen and known!
(The Answer., Times and Seasons, vol. 5 (January 1844-January 1, 1845), No. 24. Nauvoo, Illinois, Jan. 1, 1844. Whole No. 108 758. W.W. Phelps writing to William Smith after the Prophet’s death)
It was observed here just now that we differ from the Christian world in our religious faith and belief; and so we do very materially. I am not astonished that infidelity prevails to a great extent among the inhabitants of the earth, for the religious teachers of the people advance many ideas and notions for truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood. Says the scientific man, "I do not see your religion to be true; I do not understand the law, light, rules, religion, or whatever you call it, which you say God has revealed; it is confusion to me, and if I submit to and embrace your views and theories I must reject the facts which science demonstrates to me." This is the position, and the line of demarcation has been plainly drawn, by those who profess Christianity, between the sciences and revealed religion. You take, for instance, our geologists, and they tell us that this earth has been in existence for thousands and millions of years. They think, and they have good reason for their faith, that their researches and investigations enable them to demonstrate that this earth has been in existence as long as they assert it has; and they say, "If the Lord, as religionists declare, made the earth out of nothing in six days, six thousand years ago, our studies are all vain; but by what we can learn from nature and the immutable laws of the Creator as revealed therein, we know that your theories are incorrect and consequently we must reject your religions as false and vain; we must be what you call infidels, with the demonstrated truths of science in our possession; or, rejecting those truths, become enthusiasts in, what you call, Christianity."
In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is a true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts—they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. God never made something out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law by which the worlds were, are, or will exist. There is an eternity before us, and it is full of matter; and if we but understand enough of the Lord and his ways, we would say that he took of this matter and organized this earth from it. How long it has been organized it is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from these picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant. This we know by what we have learned naturally since we have had a being on the earth. We can now take a hymn book and read its contents; but if we had never learned our letters and knew nothing about type or paper or their uses, and should take up a book and look at it, it would be a great mystery; and still more so would it be to see a person read line after line, and give expression therefrom to the sentiments of himself or others. But this is no mystery to us now, because we have learned our letters, and then learned to place those letters into syllables, the syllables into words, and the words into sentences.
(Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886] 14: 116 – 117.)
After passing over the ages and generations of the children of men for about six thousand years, we will come to the present congregation and say the right of heirship is the same now that it was in the beginning. It is as it was and as it ever will be, worlds without end. This I wish the Latter-day Saints to understand a little better than they have heretofore. I will give you my reason.
(Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 6: 307.)
We know the root and foundation of this hatred. It comes from the pulpit, from corrupt priests. Say they, "These people possess a union and a power that we do not possess, and if we let them alone, they will come and take away our place and nation, and we shall lose our fat livings." There is where it originated—with priests and deacons, with hounds professing to be Christians, but who are no better than the devils in hell. From the pulpit it has spread into political society, and they all hate us. Why? Because the priesthood of the Son of God is among this people, and they know that if we are let alone we shall convert the world and bring it into subjection to the law of Christ. The devil says, "I have had power over the earth for six thousand years, and do you think I am going to loose my grasp upon it? No, I will hold it, and before ever the Latter-day Saints obtain one foot of inheritance upon it they will have to contest it inch by inch." But we will contend with him until we gain power and influence sufficient to convert the world.
(Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 12: 273.)
We know, according to the declaration of the Scriptures, that our earth was made some few thousands years ago. How long the progress of formation lasted we do not know. It is called in the Scriptures six days; but we do not know the meaning of the scriptural term day. It evidently does not mean such days as we are now acquainted with—days governed by the rotation of the earth on its axis, and by the shining of the great central luminary of our solar system. A day of twenty-four hours is not the kind of day referred to in the scriptural account of the creation; the word days, in the Scriptures, seems oftentimes to refer to some indefinite period of time. The Lord, in speaking to Adam in the garden, says, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" yet he did not die within twenty-four hours after he had eaten the forbidden fruit, but he lived to be almost a thousand years old, from which we learn that the word day, in this passage, had no reference to days of the same duration as ours. Again, it is written, in the second chapter of Genesis, "In the day that He created the heavens and the earth;" not six days, but, "in the day" that he did it, incorporating all the six days into one, and calling that period "the day" that He created the heavens and the earth.
When this world was formed, no doubt, it was a very beautiful creation, for God is not the author of anything imperfect. If we have imperfections in our world God has had nothing to do with their introduction or origin, man has brought them upon himself and upon the earth he inhabits. But however long or short may have been the period of the construction of this earth, we find that some six thousand years ago it seems to have been formed, something after the fashion and in the manner in which it now exists, with the exception of the imperfections, evils, and curses that exist on the face of it. Six thousand years, according to the best idea that we have of chronology, are now about completed; we are living almost on the eve of the last of the six millenniums—a thousand years are called a millennium—and to-morrow, we may say, will be the seventh; that is the seventh period, the seventh age or seventh time; or we can call it a day—the seventh day, the great day of rest wherein our globe will rest from all wickedness, when there will be no sin or transgression upon the whole face of it, the curses that have been brought upon it being removed, and all things being restored as they were before the Fall.
(Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 14: 235.)
As there is one day out of seven set apart, sanctified and ordained as a day of rest, so there is one thousand years set apart as a day of rest out of the seven thousand which will constitute the temporal existence of our earth.
(Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 14: 351 - 352.)
Now, if I have not already occupied too much time, I desire to dwell a little upon the subject of the chronology of our world. We have no dates on which we can depend as to the period or history of our globe from the creation down to the present time. Chronologists differ in regard to the history and age of the world. Some make the age of the world, from the creation to the coming of Christ, to be four thousand years. Archbishop Usher has introduced this chronology into King James' Bible; and in that you will find all the dates adapted to that particular reckoning; and according to his reckoning you will find that Christ came in the year of the world 4004. Is this to be depended upon? Not at all. Many chronologists equally as learned, and who have made deeper researches than he has on this subject, differ with him materially. There are many who place the birth of Christ at 5500 years from the creation; others place it at 5490, others at 5508 or 9 years. There are about two hundred chronologists who all differ in regard to this matter. Many Jewish chronologists make it over six thousand years from the creation till the birth of Christ, so that you see when we attempt to take up the subject on the learning of the world, we are in the midst of confusion—no person knows anything about it. It is not really necessary that we should know, but we have some little light on this subject.
We know that it was not six thousand years from the creation to the birth of Christ. How do we know this? God has told us in new revelation that this earth is destined to continue its temporal existence for seven thousand years, and that at the commencement of the seventh thousand, he will cause seven angels to sound their trumpets. In other words, we may call it the Millennium, for the meaning of the word millennium is a thousand years. Six thousand years must pass away from the creation till the time that Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven, and he will not come exactly at the expiration of six thousand years. When the Prophet Joseph asked the Lord what was meant by the sounding of the seven trumpets, he was told, "That as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth; even so in the beginning of the seventh thousand years, will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power when he shall have sealed all things unto the end of all things, and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels is the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years; to prepare the way before the time of his coming." This quotation will be found in the Pearl of Great Price, p. 34.
Neither of these trumpets have sounded yet, but they shortly will; and this gives us a little clue to the period and age of our world. We know that six thousand years have not yet elapsed since the creation, but we know that they have very nearly expired. We know that God set up and established this kingdom 1800 years from the date of his crucifixion, preparatory to his coming in the clouds of heaven to receive the kingdom that he sets up here on the earth, and to rule and reign over all people, nations and tongues that are spared alive. Perhaps this is sufficient on the history and chronology of the world; but for the benefit of the Saints, and it will not hurt the strangers, although they do not believe in our revelations, I will refer to some further evidence and testimony on this subject.
In the new translation which Joseph Smith was commanded to make of the Old and New Testament, we find that some of the dates given in King James' translation of events before the flood are incorrect, but they are corrected in the new translation. For instance, the age of Enoch, as given in King James' Bible, is incorrect. The new translation gives a lengthy prophecy which was delivered to him before the flood, and this prophecy relates to generations in the future as well as to things that were past. Enoch, in his vision, saw the great work that he was destined to perform on the earth, in preaching the Gospel among the nations, and gathering out a people and building up a city called Zion. He saw that in process of time the people of Zion would become sanctified before the Lord, that the Lord would come and dwell in their midst and that by and by, after the city had existed 365 years, it with all its people, would be taken up to heaven. And all the days of Zion in the days of Enoch, says the new translation, was 365 years, making Enoch 420 years old when he and his people were translated, which is older than the age given him in the uninspired translation.
In this new translation we have also a much greater history of the creation of the world than is given in the uninspired translation made by the forty-seven men employed by King James. In that book we have a very short history of that great event; but the inspired translation shows that the periods of time called days, in which the several portions of the work of creation were performed, were not by any means of such limited duration as the days we speak of, but from what is revealed in the Book of Abraham, they were probably periods of one thousand years each. God might have been for the space of a thousand years in organizing a certain portion of this creation, and that was called the evening and the morning of the first day, according to the Lord's reckoning, one day being with him as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. By and by another day's work was performed, which I do not suppose was a day of twenty-four hours, but an indefinite period of time, called the second day—the evening and the morning of the second day. By and by the third day's work was done, and then there was the evening and the morning of the third day. Three thousand years probably, passed away in the performance of these three days' work. In the fourth day the Lord permitted the sun and moon to shine to give light to the earth. What regulated the evening and the morning the first three days we do not know, for neither sun nor moon were permitted to shine until the fourth day. I have no doubt the Lord has a variety of methods of producing light? [sic] The new translation gives us some information on this subject, for there we read that, "I the Lord created darkness on the face of the "great deep." In King James' translation it says darkness was on the face of the great deep, and I, the Lord, said, "let there be light, and there was light." Now how did the Lord create this darkness? He has a power, the same as he had in causing darkness three days and nights over this American land. But before that darkness was created what produced light? It must have been light here on this earth, and probably was so thousands of years before the Lord created darkness; and then he had the means of producing darkness, and afterwards of clearing it away, and then called it morning. But how long that morning had existed we do not know, unless we appeal to the Book of Abraham, translated by Joseph Smith from Egyptian papyrus. That tells us in plainness that the way the Lord and the celestial host reckoned time, was by the revolutions of a certain great central body called Kolob, which had one revolution on its axis in a thousand of our years, and that was one day with the Lord, and when the Lord said to Adam, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." the Book of Abraham says it was not yet given unto man the true reckoning of time, and that it was reckoned after the Lord's time that is one thousand years with us was a day with him, and that Adam, if he partook of the forbidden fruit, was to die before that day of a thousand years should expire. Hence when we go back to the history of the creation, we find that the Lord was not in such a great hurry as many suppose, but that he took indefinite periods of long duration to construct this world, and to gather together the elements by the laws of gravitation to lay the foundation and form the nucleus thereof, and when he saw that all things were ready and properly prepared, he then placed the man in the Garden of Eden to rule over all animals, fish and fowls, and to have dominion over the whole face of the earth.
(Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 15: 262 - 265.)
I do not know but what I am occupying too much time, I will briefly say, however, before closing, that certain records which God has promised to bring to light in his own due time, will far exceed anything that has been revealed through the Book of Mormon or the Bible, or that which has come to us through the Abrahamic record taken from Egyptian papyrus, or that which is contained in the vision of Moses, revealing to him the history of the creation of the world. All these will be as a drop in the bucket in comparison with the eternal knowledge that will yet flow down from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints before this generation shall pass away. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the great deep, and the things of all nations will be revealed. The records of old that were kept by the people of Asia, who have since dwindled into savages by reason of the transgressions of their fathers; and those that have been kept by the ten tribes of the north countries, where they have lived for over 25 centuries; and those records that have been kept by the people of the City of Enoch, giving an account of the dealings of God with ancient Zion, will all come forth to help fill the earth with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the great deep. And John, when upon the Isle of Patmos, saw things in vision, which were commanded to be sealed up, and they are yet to be unsealed; and in this way we shall receive knowledge upon knowledge, revelation upon revelation, concerning not only the six or seven thousand years of the earth's temporal existence, but concerning the materials of the earth before it was made, and the elements and materials, and all things pertaining to the future earth that is to be created when the elements of this earth shall be dissolved and pass away into space.
(Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 20: 76 - 77.)
How different was the second or temporal work, that existed in the beginning of the great work of creation, from the present order of things! Now we see, and according to history we learn, that all creation are at enmity one with another in their natural state. Hence we find the lions with teeth, probably constructed since the fall, and adapted to devour their prey. I do not believe they had such teeth in the beginning. They had teeth with which they ate "straw like the ox." But everything was changed in a great measure, in this beautiful temporal creation; and the beasts began to fight, and quarrel and devour each other; and man began to be ferocious, like the beasts, desirous to kill his fellow man. We see him at this early stage in our race, seeking the blood of his fellows, and entering into secret combinations to kill, and destroy, and rob one another of their position and property, and to be at enmity one against another. The Lord in the midst of this fallen condition of his temporal work, has permitted it to continue for about 6,000 years. But mankind have been devising a multitude of measures, by which they reform one another; but after they get pretty well reformed they rise up again and devour one another by wholesale. While they are engaged in reforming each other, they are making weapons of destruction to destroy one another. Enmity prevails, and has prevailed, for the last 6,000 years, with the exception of now and then a dispensation, being introduced, wherein this fallen nature of ours becomes, in a great measure, changed through obedience to the plan of salvation which God has revealed; and then we begin to love our fellow-men, are filled with love and kindness like, in some measure, our heavenly Father, going forth and proclaiming to them the Gospel of peace, and trying to do them good, and redeem them, and reclaim them; and we succeed, now and then, in bringing some to a higher state; they are born of God, and become new creatures in Christ, being filled with that superior power, that exists in that celestial world, where we formerly resided. It comes down from the Father, and from the Son, and enters into the hearts of the sons and daughters of God, and they are made new creatures; they begin to love that which is good, and hate that which is evil, and begin to perfect themselves in their various dispensations, according to the light and knowledge sent down from heaven for their perfection.
Notwithstanding so many dispensations, and the world has continued so long under the power of Satan, now is the time when the Lord our God has begun to send forth a proclamation of redemption, to lift us up out of this low fallen condition in which we have been placed, and our fathers before us, for so long a time; and it so happens that we are living very near the period when the earth will be restored from its fallen condition to that same temporal condition in which it existed before the fall, when there was no enmity existing between mankind. I say, the day is now almost at hand when the Lord is going to begin the last of his work, which will be to make this earth again temporal—or in other words, to remove, in some measure, the curse—to restore it back to the temporal condition in which it was when he first organized it and before sin contaminated it.
In order to accomplish this work, he is working, according to his own will and pleasure, among the nations, raising up a kingdom, a nucleus, by taken them "one of a city and two of a family," gathering them out from every nation to the land of Zion and planting the truth in their hearts; they become more and more instructed and learn more and more of the ways of the Lord, preparatory to the organization of this world again in its temporal beauty and perfection as it was when it first issued forth in its temporal form from the hands of the Almighty.
There is one thing connected with the temporal form of the earth which I did not mention; I will refer to it now. While this earth existed in its more perfect temporal form, Adam and Eve were placed upon it, and they were immortal, just like all the beasts and just like the fishes of the sea; death had not yet come upon any of them; all things were immortal so far as this creation was concerned. The first pairs, the beginning of his temporal work, were not subject to death. And another thing, they were not to be shut out from the presence of the Almighty. They could behold his countenance, they could hear his voice. Those who then existed—could converse with him freely. There was no veil between them and the Lord. Now, when the more perfect temporal condition shall be restored again, in the last of his work, and the Lord shall begin to remodel this earth, to transfigure it, and get it prepared for the righteous, the veil will be taken away, in a measure; we shall behold the face of the Lord again; we shall be able to associate with immortal beings again; and we shall be able to enjoy a great many blessings that were introduced in the beginning, which were lost through the fall. The Lord Jesus Christ will be here, a part of the time, to instruct us, and those ancient patriarchs, Adam included, will come down out of their ancient celestial world, where they were first made spiritual. They are coming upon this creation; and they will have their homesteads here; and they will frequently, no doubt, take great joy in gathering together their faithful children, from the day of their own probation to the one hundredth generation. It will be some pleasure for one of our ancestors that was born a hundred generations ago to say, "Come, my children, you that are here in the flesh that have not as yet become immortal, you that dwell upon the face of this earth, partially redeemed—come, I have some glorious tidings to communicate to you. I have something that you are not in possession of, knowledge you have not gained, because we have been up in yonder celestial world; we have been dwelling in the presence of our Father and God. We were restored there in the dispensation in which we died and in which we were translated, and we have learned a great many things that the children of mortality do not know anything about. Come, gather yourselves together, that you may behold your former fathers, your fathers' fathers and so on, until you extend back for a hundred generations. Hear the instructions that they shall impart to you. They will tell you about the celestial kingdom, and the higher glory thereof, and the blessings that are to be enjoyed by those that attain to the fulness of that kingdom." Will not this be encouraging to those that are yet mortal, during the millennium? I think it will. Then will the knowledge of the fathers, the knowledge of the earth, and of the things of God, and the knowledge of that which is celestial, and great, and glorious, and far beyond the comprehension of imperfect beings as we now are in our fallen state—then that knowledge will be opened up to the minds of the children of men, during their respective generations here upon the earth, during the great sabbath of creation. What is all this for? It is to prepare their children, during the millennium that they may have this earth made celestial, like unto the more ancient one, that they, with this creation, may be crowned with the presence of God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. We gain this knowledge and information by degrees. Our children are educated and taught, until the heavens become familiar with them; the Lord becomes familiar with them; his countenance becomes familiar to all the righteous of the earth. Before we can fully understand the nature of a still greater change than that which has been wrought upon the temporal creation, during the millennium, we begin to expect it, and look for it, and bye and bye, when evil fruit again appears in the Lord's vineyard, and the earth is corrupted by the sons of perdition, and some of his people begin to reject the heavenly light and deny their God,—when this period of time shall come the earth will be spared only for a little season, and the end will come, and the great white throne will appear, and God will sit upon the throne, and utter forth his voice and our temporal heaven will flee away; and this earth although it will be so greatly blessed, although it is so far redeemed, although it is inhabited by the righteous for a thousand years, yet, because it will become contaminated, and because it has been so corrupted in the past, in consequence of the fall of man, it will have to die and undergo a greater change, than all those changes of which I have spoken.
But what says the revelation, called the "Olive Leaf," given Dec. 27th, 1832, on this subject? We are told in this that the earth shall die, and pass away, but it shall be quickened again, for God shall quicken the earth upon which we live. It will become a new earth; but will be prepared more perfectly than it was under the three other conditions in which it was placed; first its spiritual creation, secondly its temporal, in which its spiritual and temporal were combined. The next condition is that of restoring it from the fall back to a temporal condition, and then a still greater change, like unto the death of our bodies, when our bodies crumble back to mother earth and pass themselves among the elements. So it will be with this earth. It will crumble, or in other words, the elements will be separated asunder, and the world will pass away from his presence. What next? Another great change to be wrought. The same elements, constituting the earth, and the atmosphere will be brought together again, in such a manner and way, that the new earth will look like unto a sea of glass, and those who are worthy of the celestial glory will inhabit it forever. What will be the condition of the people who dwell upon that glorious celestial world? They will have the presence of God the Father with them. They will be permitted to dwell where he is. He will light up that world; they will have no need of the rays of the sun, as we now have, neither of the moon, nor stars, so far as light is concerned, for the Lord God will be their light and their glory from that time henceforth and forever. In this new creation the tree of life will flourish and grow. All beings that partake of the fruit of the tree of life will be constituted, so that they will live for ever and ever.
These are the different conditions of this creation given in a general outline. We are now living near the close of 6000 years during which time evil and wickedness have prevailed.
(Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 21: 205.)
George Q. Cannon
When we cannot hear their words, we should read them; for they are the words of the authorized servants of God. I feel that there is a great neglect among us in this respect. I notice it in my own family, I notice it in other families, and still in my own family I do the best I can in these matters. But you will find that, among certain classes, scientific works are more read, magazines are more read, novels are more read, publications that do not contribute to faith are more read, and the result is that we are in danger of a wave of infidelity and unbelief sweeping through our land, to the injury of the faith of the rising generation. It is a thing that fills me with more fear than almost any thing else concerning ourselves and our children. You cannot take a magazine up the best and most popular magazines without finding articles in it that are I was going to say designed but their purport and the drift of their arguments are opposed to the truths that are contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Talk with young men who go to universities and colleges, and you will find that many are more or less imbued with these ideas. I need only refer to a few the age of the earth, prehistoric man, the creation of man, man's entrance upon the earth, the nature of man's descent. The truth concerning these principles, is being undermined and weakened so that at the present time, if it were not for the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, we ourselves would be at sea. But those who do not receive the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants as divine are in a deplorable condition; they do not know what is true. Many of the clergy are in the same position as the rest of the world; they have adopted the new ideas concerning these scientific discoveries. Hundreds of clergymen, who call themselves ministers of the Gospel, do not believe in Adam and Eve and their creation; do not believe in the Mosaic account of creation; do not believe that man is a son of God, descended from God; but they believe that the earth has been in existence and peopled by man ages before the period given in the Mosaic account. There is no doubt that the earth is much older than many of us think it is. But they mingle truth with error, and they build up fallacies, and they are propagating them; and the Latter-day Saints, who read this literature, and do not read the word of God, are in danger of losing their faith.
(George Q. Cannon, Conference Report, October 1897, Second Day—Morning Session)
You can see, my brethren and sisters, the advantage that we possess in having the truth revealed to us. It ought to be the aim of our lives to preserve that truth, and to teach it to our children, that they may be the custodians of it and preserve it from the false ideas and vain philosophy that are being so industriously propagated at the present time in the highest institutions of learning in our land. This is one of the reasons why our young men who go away to college incur such risks of losing their faith. Nearly all the text books and the teachings of these institutions of learning, not excepting theological institutions, have a tendency to make the students accept as true the modern ideas concerning the antiquity of man and the age of the earth.
(George Q. Cannon in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols., 5:)
Let us ask what the nations of the earth have accomplished for the last six or seven thousand years. What great work have they achieved? What have the greatest warriors and statesmen that have existed from the beginning done? What good have they accomplished for the world? What boon have they handed down to posterity, and how much better are we off because they lived, because they moved upon the earth, and because they possessed a certain power upon it? They have accomplished a solemn nothing. Where are those mighty conquerors and bright geniuses now? Where are some of the mightiest men? and what has become of the nations and cities where they flourished? It has become a matter of doubt where even the foundations of Babylon and Nineveh were laid. Egypt, it is true, has preserved some of its ancient monuments, kings, and princes unto the present day. What are those men? Loathsome mummies. What are they doing with them? The great Potiphars, Ptolemies, and Pharaohs are now being used for fuel to make steam to drive railway cars.
(John Taylor in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 8: 2.)
We are living in the dispensation and generation to which Jesus referred—the time appointed by God for the last six thousand years, through the mouths of all the prophets and inspired men who have lived and left their sayings on record, in which his Zion should be built up and continue upon the earth. These prophecies will have their fulfilment [sic] before the world; and all who will not repent will be engulphed [sic] in the destructions which are in store for the wicked. If men do not cease from their murders, whoredoms, and all the wickedness and abominations which fill the black catalogue of the crimes of the world, judgment will overtake them; and whether we are believed or not, these sayings are true, and I bear my testimony as a servant of God and as an Elder in Israel to the truth of the events which are going to follow very fast on each other.
(Wilford Woodruff in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 14: 5 - 6.)
I know we are engaged in the work of the Lord. I know this is His Church. He has organized it with Prophets and Apostles in fulfillment of predictions made thousands of years ago. This is a work which was ordained before the world was. The Lord Almighty never created a world like this and peopled it for 6,000 years, as he has done, without having some motive in view. That motive was, that we might come here and exercise our agency. The probation we are called upon to pass through, is intended to elevate us so that we can dwell in the presence of God our Father. And that eternal variety of character which existed in the heavens among the spirits—from God upon his throne down to Lucifer the son of the morning—exists here upon the earth. That variety will remain upon the earth in the creations of God, and for what I know, throughout the endless ages of eternity. Men will occupy different glories and positions according to their lives—according to the law they keep in the flesh.
(Wilford Woodruff in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 25: 9 - 10.)
Orson F. Whitney
I might occupy your time citing evidences almost innumerable to show how the Christian world have departed from the teachings of this sacred Book. I might appeal to it, also, to confirm the teachings of the Latter-day Saints. It is an old story, many times told, and perhaps I had better not dilate upon it this afternoon. Suffice it that we claim that God has spoken from heaven; that He has re-opened the long-closed portals of eternity, and has raised up a people to usher in the dispensation of Gospel grace as He has headed every dispensation which has preceded it; raising up inspired men to do His bidding; to preach to the world the principles of everlasting life; to establish upon the earth a system which will foreshadow and usher in the millennial reign of universal peace and righteousness. We believe that we are living in the last days; that these are the days when God said He would perform a marvelous work and a wonder; that He would set His hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people; that He would gather them from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west, and would bring them to Zion, and give them pastors after His own heart, to teach them the law of the Lord, and that the law should go forth from Zion to the inhabitants of the earth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
We believe that we are living in the evening of history, that we are closing the Saturday of the great week, each day of which is a thousand years, the period preordained in which this earth should accomplish the purpose appointed by its creator. We believe that when God spake to Adam and told Him he should die in the day that He partook of the forbidden fruit, that He kept His word, and that Adam did die within the day; but it was not a day of twenty-four hours, one revolution of our little earth; the day of which He spake was based upon a revolution of the planet upon which God dwells, which we are taught revolves once in a thousand years. This world was appointed a probation through which to pass, six working days, before it should have a rest, or sabbath. We believe we are living in the Saturday night of this world's history, that we are closing the six thousand years of its mortal probation, and that the dawn of the seventh day, or the seventh thousand years, now nearly upon us, will be the millennium, the reign of peace, when Christ the Ruler and Lord of this world, who labored and suffered and died to redeem its inhabitants from death, will be here in His glory to reign upon the earth King over His people and over the human race.
These simple truths, most of which are plainly spoken of in this holy word of God, the Bible, are distorted by the enemies of the Saints to indicate that they are treasonable to the government under which they live. They say we are traitors because we speak of the Kingdom of God; that a kingdom cannot exist within a republic; that it is imperium in imperio; that there is no room in this broad land for the Kingdom of our God. They might as well say there is no room in Christianity for the love of God. Why, this great government was established for the very purpose of introducing this work. Inspired men like Washington and Jefferson were raised up to frame a Constitution liberal in its provisions, extending the utmost freedom to all men, Christian or heathen, who desired to make this glorious land their home; that they might have the unrestricted right to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. We believe that God raised up George Washington, that He raised up Thomas Jefferson, that He raised up Benjamin Franklin and those other patriots who carved out with their swords and with their pens the character and stability of this great government which they hoped would stand forever, an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, where no man's religion would be questioned, no man would be limited in his honest service to his Maker, so long as he did not infringe upon the rights of his fellow men. We believe those men were inspired to do their work, as we do that Joseph Smith was inspired to begin this work; just as Galileo, Columbus, and other mighty men of old, whom I have no time to mention, were inspired to gradually pave the way leading to this dispensation; sentinels, standing at different periods down the centuries, playing their parts as they were inspired of God; gradually freeing the human mind from error, gradually dispelling the darkness as they were empowered by their Creator so to do, that in culmination of the grand scheme of schemes, this great nation, the Republic of the United States, might be established upon this land as an asylum for the oppressed; a resting place, it might be said, for the Ark of the covenant, where the temple of our God might be built; where the plan of salvation might be introduced and practiced in freedom, and not a dog would wag his tongue in opposition to the purposes of the Almighty.
(Orson F. Whitney Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 26: 200-201.)
Stephen L Richards
Sometimes thoughts are like unruly children—difficult to control. I have persuaded myself, however, that they can be disciplined and often they must be if we are to preserve our faith. Let me illustrate again with a fanciful character. He may be a student or even a professor, because, after all, good professors are always students. This academic man begins to ponder. He has studied and he has done a good deal of scientific thinking. He comes on to a number of perplexing questions with apparent incompatibility between his former conceptions of faith and the new things which he learns. What about the age of the earth? Was Adam really the first man? In the light of what he has learned can he still believe in the miracles as reported in the scriptures, and coming down to later days, can the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith be true? Was he really visited by heavenly beings? Did he translate the Book of Mormon by the power of the Lord? Was the holy Priesthood actually bestowed by divine messengers?
It is while he is contemplating such things, even though he is loath to let go of his once simple faith, that his thoughts spring up unbidden, almost belligerently, to fight down his erstwhile convictions. They heckle him and they challenge him. "What do you know? How much proof have you?" they say. "Why don't you acknowledge, in the face of what you have learned, that you have been the victim of a delusion?" And he says to himself in answer to these taunts, "I do want to be intellectually honest, I want to be true to myself."
Now here is where I want to break into this conversation with himself. I want to ask this scholar who has a thinking complex of the kind which I have mentioned, this question, when he says, "I want to be true to myself": "What part of yourself is it to which you want to be true? Is it your spiritual self or this new man of science? Is it that fellow who was yourself throughout your boyhood and your youth; whom your mother and your father nurtured so carefully and loved so much; who was so confident in the goodness of things and so happy in his confidence; whose pure faith held such high promise for his people and those who loved him?" Now if this is the part of yourself to whom you wish to be true, I think I can tell you what to do. Just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts, "I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God's word. I wasn't with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science and I will not permit science to destroy it. When I change my mind about God and his work, only the inspiration of God will change it."
You may think all this evasive. I urge you to try it before deciding. I am as proud of science and reason and their marvelous development as I think I should be. I love education. It is the promise of universal peace and progress. In the presence of a master mind, penetrating, logical, and luminous, I stand with an admiration that almost approaches reverence. I want to think, I want everyone to think, for thinking is the better part of study. I believe, however, our thoughts may be disciplined without stultification of our intelligences and with infinite peace and happiness to ourselves.
(Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, October 1937, Afternoon Meeting 37.)
David O. McKay
Whatever the subject may be, the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ may be elaborated upon without fear of anyone’s objecting, and the teacher can be free to express his honest conviction regarding it, whether that subject be in geology, the history of the world, the millions of years that it took to prepare the physical world, whether it be in engineering, literature, art—any principles of the gospel may be briefly or extensively touched upon for the anchoring of the student who is seeking to know the truth.
(David O. McKay, Oct 30, 1956 BYU Speeches of the Year, 6)
Joseph Fielding Smith
I will state frankly and positively that I am opposed to the present biological theories and the doctrine that man has been on the earth for millions of years. I am opposed to the present teachings in relation to the age of the earth which declare that the earth is millions of years old. Some modern scientists even claim that it is a billion years old. Naturally, since I believe in modern revelation, I cannot accept these so-called scientific teachings, 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.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., 5: 112.)
We have evidence beyond dispute that Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden about 6,000 years ago, or perhaps a short time less. It is possible for us, by using the Bible chronology and that given by the Lord in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants to figure this almost accurately.
In the Book of Revelation, chapters five to 10, we have the story of the opening of the seven seals by the Lamb, each seal representing 1,000 years of the temporal existence of this earth. In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 88:92-116, we have the confirmation of this with other detail in regard to the opening of the seals. In section 77:6-15, we have more information in relation to the opening of these seals, with the following significant detail:
Verse 6: "Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?
"A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence."
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie, 1: 79.)
In fairness, let me say that there are many teachers who have faith and who are able to guide their students correctly through the rapids of doubt and unbelief, but these instructors are, today, numbered among the minority, and the odds are against the student who is taking a high school or college course. I know of no history published today dealing with ancient peoples that does not start out with a false conception in relation to the origin of man, the age of the earth, and the historical development of the human race. Under these conditions it takes a strong will and a secure faith to weather the storms while passing through these adolescent and early years of manhood and not be influenced by these unstable and unproved doctrines of men. It is well for our young people to have the experience of a mission where they can be grounded in the truth before they finish college courses; however, because of the wickedness of the world at this time, it is impossible for this to be accomplished, for our youth are taken into military camps and to other military duties where all the finer things of life are forgotten and where they are left face to face with the most insidious and unwholesome trials and temptations. In these activities they are furnished tobacco and other harmful things and where virtue too frequently is laughed at with contempt.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, 10.)
The contaminating influence of organic evolution has found its way into every branch of education. Naturally history cannot escape because history has to deal with man and his civilization. Historical facts, however, cannot go back of written records, therefore it is customary for scientists to deal with ancient peoples through the study of geology, biology, anthropology and archaeology. These studies are young and full of surmises and guesses, and thus are based on many uncertain deductions. The first great error made by these researchers is in relation to the age of the earth. Evolution demands great periods of time for its purpose, and the advocates in the imagination of their hearts have chosen a time far beyond the knowledge and the power of research to fathom. Sociology has followed in their footsteps and these studies cannot, and rightfully should not, be considered authentic. There are many who have accepted these theoretical conclusions and thus we find the blind leading the blind and all have fallen into the ditch. It is not the purpose here to consider the age of the earth, or to enter into a discussion of this so-called scientific research. At this point it is sufficient to discuss the origin of man from the scriptural point of view. It is nevertheless necessary to refer to these theories in relation to early man for they have been published in nearly every historical textbook on ancient history since the middle of the nineteenth century. At the present day in the public schools ancient history begins with "prehistoric man," and places him many thousands of years before there were any written records. The "primitive man" according to these texts was a savage without culture, crude in his appearance, and worshiping his shadow, the sun, moon, stars, the forces of nature, animals that awed him and objects or forces which he did not understand. According to the theory he became an idol worshiper when he had advanced enough in experience to carve himself gods of wood or stone. Thus he was polytheistic in his worship. Much of this nonsense has been refuted by better research.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, 259 - 260.)
Harold B. Lee
I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a Church family, ask, "What about the pre-Adamic people?" Here was someone who I thought was fully grounded in the faith.
I asked, "What about the pre-Adamic people?"
She replied, "Well, aren't there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?"
I said, "Have you forgotten the scripture that says, 'And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also'? (Moses 3:7.)" I asked, "Do you believe that?"
She wondered about the Creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error.
Missionaries going out into the field often ask how we reconcile the teachings of the scriptures with the teachings of the scientists in accordance with the temple ordinances. In reply I occasionally refer to the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland in 1833, concerning the great event that is to take place at the commencement of the millennial reign when the Lord shall come; the Lord said: "Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven" (D&C 101:32-34). Then I say, "If you and I are there when the Lord reveals all this, then I'll answer your questions—how the earth was made, how man came to be placed upon the earth. Until that time all we have is the support and security that we have in the scriptures, and we must accept the rest by faith."
President Joseph F. Smith said: "Our young people are diligent students. They reach out after truth and knowledge with commendable zeal, and in so doing they must necessarily adopt for temporary use, many theories of men. As long, however, as they recognize them as scaffolding useful for research purposes, there can be no special harm in them. It is when these theories are settled upon as basic truth that trouble appears, and the searcher then stands in grave danger of being led hopelessly from the right way." (Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 38.)
(Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 346.)
Bruce R. McConkie
How long did Adam and Abraham and Jeremiah (and all men!) spend in preparing to take the test of a mortal probation? What ages and eons and eternities passed away while Christ dwelt in the Eternal Presence and did the work then assigned him? How can we measure infinite duration in finite terms? To such questions we have no definitive answers. Suffice it to say, the passage of time was infinite from man's viewpoint. We have an authentic account, which can be accepted as true, that life has been going on in this system for almost 2,555,000,000 years. (All of the prophets who have seen within the veil have known many things that were never preserved and passed on to their posterity and to the residue of men. Joseph Smith and the early brethren in this dispensation knew much that we do not know and will not know until we attain the same spiritual stature that was theirs. This matter of how long eternity has been going on in our portion of created things is one of these matters. The sliver of information that has been preserved for us is found in an epistle of W. W. Phelps, written on Christmas day, 1844, and published to the Church in the Times and Seasons. Brother Phelps speaks of "Jesus Christ, whose goings forth, as the prophets said, have been from of old, from eternity," in what is a clear allusion to Micah's prophecy that Bethlehem shall be the birthplace of our Lord. "Out of thee [Bethlehem Ephratah] shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." the Lord said through that ancient prophet. (Micah 5:2.) Then, in an interpolative explanation of what is meant by "from eternity," or "from everlasting," Brother Phelps says, "And that eternity [the one during which Christ's doings have been known], agreeable to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system [not this world], almost two thousand five hundred and fifty-five millions of years." (Times and Seasons 5:758.) That is to say, the papyrus from which the Prophet Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, to whom the Lord gave a knowledge of his infinite creations, also contained this expression relative to what apparently is the universe in which we live, which universe has been created by the Father through the instrumentality of the Son. The time mentioned has no reference, as some have falsely supposed, to the period of this earth's existence.) Presumably this system is the universe (or whatever scientific term is applicable) created by the Father through the instrumentality of the Son.
(Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 29.)