As a young Mormon missionary, I remember seeing a Cro-Magnon man on the cover of National Geographic. It filled me with terrible doubt and dread, because at the time, I was under the misconception that Mormons could not embrace evolution and retain a testimony. Since I’ve discovered that many faithful Mormons, even some apostles and prophets accept the idea of evolution, and this gave me great comfort to know that true Mormonism embraces anything that can be demonstrated to be true, whether in science or religion.
But for a long time after I accepted the theory of Evolution, I found it impossible to accept the idea that Adam could have been formed by evolution. On my mission I had read about Brigham Young’s theory that Adam was the literal, physical offspring of God. I found this idea intoxicating. I would look at my hand, and think, “Wow, God is literally my grandfather! I’m related to him, I’m the son of a God, not only in spirit, but in flesh!”
Abandoning this beautiful theory was difficult for me, but I started realizing there could also be great beauty in the idea of being a child of evolution. There is a powerful feeling of romantic oneness with nature that comes from the realization that we are related to all living things. The idea of a physical God with parts and passions is something very few have experienced, like Joseph Smith and the Brother of Jared. But Nature, the expression of God’s creativity and greatness, is something everyone can relate to. Being a product of evolution makes us one with Nature, and thus one with this incredible expression of divinity fully manifest all around us, at all times. (And Brigham Young’s Adam-God Theory can be adapted to include evolution, and be used to explain the mechanism by which the God we worship, the one seen by Joseph Smith, is in the form of a man. Just speculation of course:)
I read this beautiful poem by William Blake the other day called “The Book of Thel.” In it a young girl named Thel talks with a character called “the clod of clay” and “the worm” about the meaning of life. Clod of Clay expresses a profound truth to Thel. I think it takes on special meaning if we believe that God “fashioned us” from the dust of the earth, and that we are literally are the offspring of worms.
“O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves;Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed;My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark,But he that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head,And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,And says: ‘Thou mother of my children, I have loved theeAnd I have given thee a crown that none can take away.’But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.”The daughter of beauty wip’d her pitying tears with her white veil,And said: “Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep.That God would love a Worm, I knew, and punish the evil footThat, wilful, bruis’d its helpless form; but that he cherish’d itWith milk and oil I never knew; and therefore did I weep,And I complaind in the mild air, because I fade away,And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot.”