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Friday, September 2, 2016

Why My Son Said He Didn’t Believe in Evolution — and Why That Troubled Me

by Rob T:

“Some people believe in evolution, that we came from apes. But I think they’re wrong because it’s not in the scriptures.”

Those words came from the mouth of my 5-year-old son recently. They took me by surprise, not because of his opinion, but because he was thinking of this issue and forming a personal stance. Was I underestimating his intelligence and awareness of such profound matters? That’s likely.

Impressed as I was that he could articulate this thought, I also was troubled by what he said.

Shouldn’t I have rejoiced, as an LDS parent, that my child took a firm stand with what I believe to be the word of God?

We’ll come back to that.

The same week that my son said this, I was walking home from work when I saw a license plate frame that said, “Book-readin’, science-lovin’, evolved ATHEIST.”

That troubled me just as much as what my son said, probably more so because this was something carefully sought out, purchased and displayed by an adult—yet reflected a similar binary attitude that my 5-year-old son exhibited.

And the binary is what troubled me about his declaration.

I realized, long before I had children, that I can’t control what my children ultimately believe. Influence, yes. Control, no. I know this simply because I was raised in one religion and converted to another. My kids will believe what they believe and that will be their prerogative.

But I want my son to know that his mind can be a place where stories and lessons from the scriptures can co-exist with ideas like evolution. The scriptures are not science books, and they were never intended to be such. The story of the creation is a neatly packaged narrative we have that explains the unexplainable. When I read that story, I’m more concerned with learning about God’s love for us and our stewardship over Earth than with how certain reptiles or mammals came to be in their current form.

I’m content to let biology explain events for its purpose and holy writ to do likewise.

As for the aforementioned license plate frame, I also want my son to know that he can read books, love science, and be “evolved” — I’m not sure what “evolved” means in that context but let’s assume it’s that you can change your opinions and positions on things* — and believe in God. Again, what he believes — or doesn’t believe — will ultimately be his choice, but I hope he realizes that there’s more room for seemingly different ideas than he might think.

I’ve been thinking of this ever since we first watched a film called Exploding Universe at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City — if you find yourself in or near SLC, I recommend it. It illustrates how planets, stars, and galaxies were formed, complete with a scene that Earth got its water from a barrage of icy comets hitting it, which is THE COOLEST, in my opinion.

The film says nothing about God, Jesus, Adam or Eve. Is it anti-religion?

In my view, it is not. For one, it follows the same order of creation — light, land, water, vegetation, animal life. And it leaves room for everyone. An atheist can watch it and say, “This is how it works. Science, not God.” A believer in the deity of his or her choice can watch it and say, “Yeah, I can see this being how God(s) did all of that.”

I care about this because I find binary approaches to this and other matters of belief to be unhealthy, dangerous and contentious. Rigid ideologies more often lead to un-Christlike bickering than progress.

In short, I take these words I heard from a Missionary Training Center leader: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”

*Not that I expect the person who owned the car with that license plate frame to read a blog called “Modern Mormon Men,” but in the spirit of this post about entertaining different ideas, if you are indeed reading this blog, feel free to explain what “evolved” means to you.

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Rob T is a native of northeast Pennsylvania and a convert to the LDS Church. He works as a copy editor in Salt Lake City, where he lives with his wife and three sons. Twitter: @RobTmanJr.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: Wilfried Joh.

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