Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, July 20

Book of Mormon: Did Korihor Preach Evolution?

Book of Mormon: Did Korihor Preach Evolution?

From wikipedia.org:
“The theory of evolution by natural selection was proposed at about the same time by both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, and was set out in detail in Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species.[5] It encountered initial resistance from religious authorities who believed humans were divinely set apart from the animal kingdom…Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838.”

So how far (or not) was Joseph Smith ahead of his times?

Korihor never stated evolution or any such thing.

Korihor starts out saying no one can know things that can’t be seen, that no one can know Christ will come:

Alma 30:15 How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.

It isn’t until later that we know that he says he preaches there is no God:
Alma 30:28 Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God–a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.
Alma 30:37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
Alma 30:38 And he answered, Nay.

Alma makes it a point to talk about a Supreme Creator:
Alma 30:44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
Alma 30:45 And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses? And he said: Yea, I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign.

(BTW, John Pratt the astronomer has a very interesting article on the motions of the planets witnessing a Supreme Creator–see http://www.johnpratt.com.)

In other words, ordered, created things testify of a creator.

So if there was no creator, where did man come from?

Putting this together with what else Korihor says:
Alma 30:17 And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.

It seems to me a great possibility that he was going for evolution.

Interestingly, Alma replies:
Alma 30:40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

No matter how much evidence/ proof there is of evolution, it’s not evidence that there is no God, nor that there is no Christ. However, if religious statements can be shown (however correct or not) to be wrong in the face of evolution (“science”), such as a 6,000 year-old earth, or such—though evolution doesn’t prove anything of its own—it can be used as a weapon to show that religion is wrong; and if religion is wrong on one point, by golly, then it must be wrong on other points, too. And the biggest one is the creation of Adam and Eve.

And, interestingly, one point in Korihor’s doctrine is:
Alma 30:25 Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.

Whether Korihor was preaching no Fall, or no Fall because no Creation, or what, I don’t really know; but personally, I have an inkling of an idea…

It’s pretty interesting to me that the Book of Mormon came out just a bit before Darwin and Marx, and included similar, if not the same, arguments that their thoughts would be used to create shortly afterwards.

Once more, to me it’s either scripture that God prepared for our day, or Joseph Smith sure was a genius and prophet/ foreteller.

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10 Comments »

  1. For what it’s worth, Darwin didn’t create the idea of evolution, he is merely remembered for popularizing it.

    It is quite possible that Joseph had been exposed to the idea of evolution before writing the book of Mormon, though, before Darwin, it would likely not have the label “evolution”, and merely be a set of ideas of how the earth could exist with no God. Sound familiar?

    Comment by measure76 — 2008, July 21 @ 1:12 pm

  2. Notwithstanding the quote from Wiki that seems to say otherwise, I’m open; but, any references?

    Comment by grego — 2008, July 22 @ 12:12 am

  3. Well, my source was Carl Zimmer’s book “evolution”, but a look at the wikipdia article on evolution yields this quote:

    “Evolutionary biology documents the fact that evolution occurs, and also develops and tests theories that explain why it occurs. Studies of the fossil record and the diversity of living organisms had convinced most scientists by the mid-nineteenth century that species changed over time.[5][6] However, the mechanism driving these changes remained unclear until the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, detailing the theory of evolution by natural selection.[7] Darwin’s work soon led to overwhelming acceptance of evolution within the scientific community.[8][9][10][11] In the 1930s, Darwinian natural selection was combined with Mendelian inheritance to form the modern evolutionary synthesis,[12] in which the connection between the units of evolution (genes) and the mechanism of evolution (natural selection) was made. This powerful explanatory and predictive theory directs research by constantly raising new questions, and it has become the central organizing principle of modern biology, providing a unifying explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.[9][10][13]”

    So basically, wiki says evolution was recognized before Darwin, and Darwin’s contribution was the idea of “Natural Selection”

    Comment by measure76 — 2008, July 22 @ 4:46 am

  4. I don’t see that it shows it came before Darwin, and while it’s possible I’m ignorant, I am unaware of someone with this thinking, especially a publication, before Darwin–

    From wiki: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin)
    “Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838.[4] Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority.[5] He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay which described a similar theory, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories.[6]
    His 1859 book On the Origin of Species established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature.”
    Mendel’s work was in the 1850’s and 1860’s and came out in 1865–still late. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendel).

    So, with the Book of Mormon being translated being printed in 1829 and published in early 1830, it seems Joseph Smith was still ahead of everyone–including Darwin, by at least 10 years for natural selection, and by about 30 years for man’s coming from evolution.

    Is there any source that mentions the same type of thinking, even by a different name, before 1828-9?

    If not, it seems Joseph Smith:
    1. thought of it on his own,
    2. borrowed it from an unknown genius,
    3. or–perhaps even more impossible for some–a man in the ancient Americas thought of something similar a long, long time ago.

    Comment by grego — 2008, July 22 @ 5:42 am

  5. Your problem is twofold. First, you’re looking at the Darwin article, which focuses on him, instead of the evolution article, that covers the history of the theory.

    Secondly, if Wiki is your primary source, then you have some level of ignorance about the subject matter. I will post non-wiki sources later if you’d like.

    Comment by measure76 — 2008, July 22 @ 11:00 pm

  6. My problem is actually one-fold: I’m missing sources that support your POV. ;)

    One reason I stopped debating on the debate board because of time and this type of thing.

    So yes, sources would be cool.

    Comment by grego — 2008, July 23 @ 12:59 pm

  7. I don’t see evolution here. First of all, the last verse you quoted doesn’t imply no fall. Rather, it implies no original sin. In other words, it denies that we are held accountable for Adam’s sin (as was taught by Paul, Augustine, and most Protestants of Joseph Smith’s day). The verse about every man faring according to his strength is a denial of Divine Providence. Korihor is saying that you are what you make yourself, not what God makes you. And he is denying that our actions have ethical value.

    Comment by Christopher Smith — 2008, August 28 @ 3:20 am

  8. Nowhere in this do I see any mention of evolution–change of species over time from simple to complex (which was known before Darwin)–much less the idea of natural selection (which was Darwin’s contribution). If you look up into the sky and see a cloud shaped like a Sherman Tank it’s YOU who is supplying the “Sherman Tank” explanation. It wouldn’t have been thought of by someone in the 1400s for example.

    To give Joseph Smith prophetic abilities because YOU are able to fit a later theory (however tenuously) into Book of Mormon passages is very unconvincing.

    Comment by Anonymous — 2011, September 20 @ 3:25 am

  9. Christopher,

    You wrote: “I don’t see evolution here.”

    That’s why I wrote: “Korihor never stated evolution or any such thing. ”

    -=
    “First of all, the last verse you quoted doesn’t imply no fall. Rather, it implies no original sin. In other words, it denies that we are held accountable for Adam’s sin (as was taught by Paul, Augustine, and most Protestants of Joseph Smith’s day).”

    Alma 30:25 Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.
    Even though you seem pretty sure about what someone meant, I don’t, which is why I wrote::”Whether Korihor was preaching no Fall, or no Fall because no Creation, or what, I don’t really know; but personally, I have an inkling of an idea…”

    Nevertheless, “guilty and fallen” could very well have to do with no Fall. There is no logical basis that your implied interpretation holds.
    Look at it this in context: Korihor “denies that we are held accountable for Adam’s sin”; so Alma and Joseph Smith did? No!

    -=
    “The verse about every man faring according to his strength is a denial of Divine Providence. Korihor is saying that you are what you make yourself, not what God makes you. And he is denying that our actions have ethical value.”

    I believe so, too. I believe atheists would believe so, too. I believe many, perhaps most evolutionists would say so, too.

    Comment by grego — 2011, September 21 @ 2:11 am

  10. Anonymous,
    “Nowhere in this do I see any mention of evolution–change of species over time from simple to complex (which was known before Darwin)…”

    Neither do I.
    Do you have a source for the knowing before Darwin of the change of species over time from simple to comlex?

    -=
    “–much less the idea of natural selection (which was Darwin’s contribution). If you look up into the sky and see a cloud shaped like a Sherman Tank it’s YOU who is supplying the “Sherman Tank” explanation. It wouldn’t have been thought of by someone in the 1400s for example.”

    Oh, I see some natural selection in Korihor’s teachings.

    When is it possible for someone to think of something? Are you limiting someone from thinking something because they aren’t modern enough? (Have you seen the Joseph Smith and NLP thread, for example?) Or what?

    Let me ask you, if someone in the 1400’s saw spaceships, how would they think of them?

    Comment by grego — 2011, September 21 @ 2:23 am


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