Have you experienced a reconciliation between the theory of evolution and your faith? Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear from you. And we hope that your story will inspire others to explore a reconciliatory approach to science and faith. If you have a story to share, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line "RecoEvo Share Your Story".
During a quiet Sunday Sacrament service, I looked over to find my seven-year-old building a book out of torn pieces of the program. On one side he titled it "The Book of God" and had me copy a scriptural verse on the inside. On the other side, he titled it "The Book of Plants" and had me list out all of his favorite plants. In his mind, the Book of Nature and the Book of God go seamlessly hand-in-hand. May we all find such beautiful and simple reconciliation!
Below is a list of stories submitted by site visitors. We hope they inspire you!
* NOTE: These stories are solely the ideas and thoughts of the authors who wrote them. They do not necessarily represent the views of the RecoEvo team, Biology Department, Brigham Young University, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sarah Jane Johnson
I grew up in a family full of scientists. It created very interesting, intelligent conversation at the dinner table! I may have been a nerd in any other setting in life, but in my family, I was known as the airhead. Yes, I have been laughed at for forgetting the distinction between chlorophyll and chloroform. Despite being surrounded by academia, book smarts, and science, I never thought there was any conflict between science and religion. I felt like all of the information that we gained from science helped us appreciate the great creativity, order, and love of a creator. I also believed all of the knowledge we could gain is this life will help us progress and become more like the God we worship. Like Elder Neil L. Andersen teaches, “The scriptures teach, ‘Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come’ D&C 93:24. Truth looks backward and forward, expanding the perspective of our small point in time” (“The Eye of Faith” Ensign May 2019).
It came as a surprise to me as I got into high school and college that some people see a conflict between science and religion. Even though my family was very religious, I still enjoyed every one of the science classes I took. The first I remember was an amazing, impressive chemistry teacher in middle school. She helped me understand and enjoy so many things about the scientific method, research, and chemistry. Next, I remember a friendly biology teacher that tried to be every student's favorite. After that came a line of impressive chemistry teachers who demonstrated the order and simplicity of the world around me, explaining how it works, down to the molecular level.
By the time I was a freshman in college, I looked forward to my 100-level biology class. This class in particular brought to the forefront the conflict some have between science and faith. It was interesting because I attended a religious university: Brigham Young University (Provo). The majority of the teachers and the students subscribe to the same faith that I do. However, I soon learned that some teachers and students had very different perspectives on science and faith. This biology class was a very basic class, required by many majors. We literally filled an auditorium full of students. One very patient and extremely knowledgeable professor taught everyone. I was impressed that this teacher would know and remember my name in the midst of a sea of students. I think his name was Dr. Bradshaw, or as I called him, Brother Bradshaw. I was impressed that he did his very best to cater the class to different learning styles, and help each student show if s/he understood the material correctly. Despite the size, this was a very fun class! The professor taught us what scientists have found and hypothesized about the origin of the species, and evolution. For me, there were very few shocking discoveries. I had learned most of it in high school. However, the professor, his teaching assistants, and my fellow students soon engaged in a hot debate. Many students felt like the professor was teaching false doctrine or was showing the lack of faith in some other way. He was brave, patient, and kind as he boldly attested, “this is the information that the scientists have gathered so far and the theories that they have proposed.” The professor and his teaching assistants encouraged each and every student to discover truth for ourselves. They encouraged us repeatedly to look at the research, be open minded to the information presented, and turn to God in faith for answers. I remember them quoting scriptures like:
“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;...”
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation;...”
I knew I could seek for revelation, but I did not feel a strong thirst for answers. However, I was a goody two shoes teacher's pet, and I wanted to fulfill the assignment. I’m so grateful I did! I was on campus for most of the day, so I needed to find a quiet place to pray. I walked around the Joseph Smith building for a while, searching for a place where I could be alone. At last I found it on the second floor. In the Joseph Smith building at that time there was an atrium in the center of the building. Windows looked out onto a garden. Students and teachers could enjoy the beauty of the atrium from the hallways and rooms inside. I chose a spot, facing one of these windows. I had to wait a little while until any foot traffic or third parties left. I wanted to be alone in my prayer and in my conversation with God. I knelt down, closed my eyes, and I prayed. I told my Heavenly Father how I felt about the scientific information I learned in my biology class. I told him I did not feel it was at odds with my faith that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father were the creators of the world. I also knew that God created us in His image. I knew that I was a daughter of God, no matter how exactly the world was created or how God used the plants, animals and world to bring our physical bodies into reality. However, I wanted to get a clear answer from God about what I should believe. I wanted to know the truth.
After I had expressed all of my feelings and asked my question, I waited in silence. Surprised that I did not receive an answer right away, I kept listening. I was not alarmed. I stayed there pondering. I eventually opened my eyes and enjoyed the beauty of nature in the atrium. My eyes wandered up to the sky. The sky was beautiful, clear, and blue. It was a lovely, sunny winter day in Provo Utah. However, I eventually noticed small snowflakes falling from the sky. It took a moment for the image to register. Eventually, I asked myself how can there be snowflakes falling from the sky, when the sky is clearly blue, and free of clouds? Snow does not fall from a cloudless sky. From my perspective, looking out the windows of that atrium, the two real facts that I saw did not seem to align. Both of them could not be true! However, I could not deny the reality that my eyes perceived! I observed these two truths for a few minutes. Eventually, I realized the wind was blowing. I knew there was snow that had settled on the top of the roof of that building. The wind was blowing the snow off of the roof and down into the atrium. This gave the appearance that the snow was actually falling from the cloudless sky. The snow was really there! It was in reality falling! The sky was in reality blue! There were not any clouds overhead at all. However, snow had fallen from clouds that had been suspended over the building much earlier. The Holy Ghost taught me as I tried to find peace and reconciliation between the facts that lead to the theories of evolution and the truth of creation. At last, the truth was revealed to my mind and heart. I knew that right now in this mortal life I am looking through the window of an atrium. There are many things that in reality are true and right. They may even appear to be contradictory. However, I can’t come to terms with all of them with my current perspective. As I get an eternal perspective and learn more outside of this mortal life, I will see the truth of all things. I will see how the things that I’m learning in this life are all for my knowledge and good. I might not understand, from my view, how they all work. However, I can have faith that someday, maybe in the next life with a larger perspective, it will all make sense. Truth is still truth.