Embracing Evolution With the Help of William Blake

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 thee
And 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 foot
That, wilful, bruis’d its helpless form; but that he cherish’d it
With 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.”
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