In my association with scholars and academics, there is no straighter road to personal apostasy than embracing tents of a theory that contradicts the teachings of the gospel. I am not suggesting that everyone who embraces contradictory theories is in the throes of personal apostasy. I do think, however, that the road to apostasy lies open before them. If they chose not to go down the path and keep the commandments of God, then all is well. Unfortunately, too many choose to walk down the path and end up questioning gospel beliefs.
Personal enticements to apostasy are everywhere. Interestingly, things that lead to apostasy are not necessarily bad. Sometimes they are good. Take, for example, the internet, television, and other modern technologies. Doing family history work on the New Family Search website in the comfort of our own homes is a blessing, as is watching general conference on television in our pajamas on Sunday morning. But when people misuse the blessings of television and the internet, those blessings become a curse in their lives.
Education is a great blessing, but it can also be a curse. When does secular learning become a curse? When it leads Christians to question teachings of the gospel. The Lord’s counsel is as follows: to be learned is good, if one hearkens unto the counsels of God. So study the theories of mankind. Acquire as much secular knowledge as you can. Do personal research into a secular hypothesis. Those are good things, as long as you hearken unto the counsels of God while acquiring knowledge.
Let’s take evolution, for example. Now there’s an important theory. I’ve been told that it is a fundamental theory underlying most of biology, so it must be a good thing to learn. I can think of a healthcare application. Given the rate at which pathogens like viruses and bacteria are mutating and circumventing our ability to prevent and fight off diseases, it is really important that we have a good understanding of evolution.
For some people it is important to study evolution in order to have a better understanding of the origins of species, you know, how we descended from ape ancestors. Although I find such endeavors meaningless, it is important to others. Even a Mormon can research the origins of species; that’s fine, as long as he or she hearkens unto the counsels of God.
So, what are the counsels of the Lord on the theory of common descent? Let’s take a look at what the living prophets say.
Here is counsel from a living apostle, Elder Nelson.
“Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species or organic evolution from one form to another. . . . To me, such theories are unbelievable. . . . It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of those who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved.” Source: The Power Within Us
I find it interesting that Elder Nelson encourages informed and spiritually attuned members to help overcome beliefs that contradict divine creation.
And here is a comment from the current president of the quorum of twelve apostles, Elder Packer.
"The rules and principles [of creation] are in the scriptures. The revelations make it very clear that mankind is the offspring of Heavenly Parents. We have in God our Father and a Heavenly Mother the pattern of our parentage. . . . No lesson is more manifest in nature than that all living things do as the Lord commanded them in the Creation. They reproduce after their own kind. They follow the pattern of their parentage. Everyone knows that. Every four-year-old knows that! A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget a reptile. . . . Each is a child of God. He is not a monkey; neither were his ancestors."
Source: Children of God. www.byub.org/talks/Download.aspx?id=1774&md=pdf
In my opinion, those who embrace common descent but do not follow the counsels of the Lord fall prey to godless notions about creation and morality and end up in the atheistic camp. On the other hand, those who embrace common descent while following the counsels of the Lord often end up in the theistic evolutionary camp. And finally, those who of us who reject common descent while following the counsels of the Lord end up in the “we really don’t understand science” camp, or at least that is what I’ve been told by ardent evolutionists.
Now I realize that many of you readers fall into the “I couldn’t care less”, “It doesn’t matter to me”, or the “I wasted my time reading this blog post” camps. (Apologies sent.) Whatever camp you fall into, just remember to follow the counsels of the Lord - if you do, you won’t go astray, regardless of your evolutionary beliefs.