Reflecting on The Origin of Man

One hundred years ago this month, Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund published “The Origin of Man” in the Church’s magazine, Improvement Era. It was drafted by Elder Orson F. Whitney and the final paragraphs relied heavily on his previous writing. For a century this statement has been the touchstone of the Church’s position on evolution, yet the statement has little to say about evolution directly. The vast majority of text is an argument in support of the doctrine that God the Father has a body of human form, and that “Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.”

“The Origin of Man” has an authoritative tone and it is sometimes invoked as a definitive answer on questions of humans and evolution. Yet almost immediately after being issued, the statement was left out of discussions where it would seem most applicable. A mere five months after “The Origin of Man” was published, a column in the Improvement Era dealt with the question of how Adam and Eve’s mortal bodies were created. The answer:

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.
Read the rest of this story at
Comments and feedback can be sent to