1. Death Before the Fall & 2. Multiple Hominid Species & 3. Neanderthal NA
Death Before the Fall
2 Nephi 2:22 and Alma 12:23-24 state there was no death of any kind (humans, all animals, birds, fish, dinosaurs, etc.) on this earth until the “Fall of Adam,” which according to D&C 77:6-7occurred about 7,000 years ago. It is scientifically established that there has been life and death on this planet for billions of years. How does the Church reconcile this?
How do we explain the massive fossil evidence showing not only animal deaths but also the extinctions of over a dozen different Hominid species over the span of 250,000 years prior to Adam?
Multiple Hominid Species
If Adam and Eve are the first humans, how do we explain the dozen or so other Hominid specieswho lived and died 35,000 – 2.4 million years before Adam? When did those guys stop being human?
Neanderthal DNA Present in Adam's Descendants
Genetic science and testing has advanced significantly the past few decades. I was surprised to learn from results of my own genetic test that 1.6% of my DNA is Neanderthal. How does this fact fit with Mormon theology and doctrine that I am a literal descendant of a literal Adam and Eve from about 7,000 years ago? Where do the Neanderthals fit in? How do I have pre-Adamic Neanderthal DNA and Neanderthal blood circulating my veins when this species died off about 33,000 years before Adam and Eve?
CES Letter, Page 111
The CES Letter consistently creates straw man arguments by misrepresenting Church teachings. The LDS Church has no official position regarding the age of the earth or the process through which Adam's body was created. Scientific findings are unimportant to these questions.
In 1910, the Improvement Era explained the official belief of the Church by addressing the question: “In just what manner did the mortal bodies of Adam and Eve come into existence on this earth?” The editorial responded:
“Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.” (Improvement Era, August, 1908, 778.)
Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains, “The scriptures do not say how old the earth is, and the Church has taken no official stand on this question. . . . Nor does the Church consider it to be a central issue for salvation.”
President Joseph F. Smith explained in 1911: "The Church itself has no philosophy about the modus operandi employed by the Lord in His creation of the world" (Juvenile Instructor 46 (April 1911): 208-09).
In 1931 the First Presidency wrote: 'The statement. . .that the existence of pre-Adamintes is not a doctrine of the Church is true. It is just as true that the statement 'There were not pre-Adamintes upon the earth,' is not a doctrine of the Church. Neither side of the controversy has been accepted as a doctrine at all.
In 1956, Church President David O. Mckay instructed regarding teachers at BYU:
"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 [at BYU] 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 principle of the gospel."
In the Ensign in 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball observed: "Man became a living soul-mankind, male and female. The Creators breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and man and woman became living souls. 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."
Elder James E. Talmage taught in 1931:
“Geologists say that these very simple forms of plant and animal bodies were succeeded by others more complicated; and in the indestructible record of the rocks they read the story of advancing life from the simple to the more complex, from the single-celled protozoan to the highest animals, from the marine algae to the advanced types of flowering plant—to the apple-tree, the rose, and the oak. . . . What a fascinating story is inscribed upon the stony pages of the earth’s crust!” (James E. Talmage, “The Earth and Man,” The Instructor 100, no. 12 (December 1965): 474–77.)
In 1931,the First Presidency sent a letter to all Church leaders that concluded: “Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world. Leave Geology, Biology, Archaeology and Anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church" (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 478).
While discussions of evolution, astronomy, physics, and cosmology may be engaging and even inspiring, it is not clear that they relate in a substantive way with what most religious people experience. Religious beliefs cannot be either proven or disproven by science.