Faculty Leaving Bryan College Over Evolution Dispute

Photo courtesy of the TimesFreePress.com. Photo by Dan Henry.

May 7, 2014

A few days ago The Tennessean reported that Bryan College, a Christian school in Tennessee, is losing faculty members over a recent clarification of the school’s belief. The college’s statement reads:

We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.

This clarification was made in February 2014, and since then one of the school’s trustee’s has resigned, the majority of the faculty has cast a vote of “no confidence” in the school’s president, Stephen Livesay, and both teachers and students have petitioned and spoken out about what they claim is a fundamental change in belief. English Professor Whit Jones said:

I think he’s clearly lost his mandate to lead. He cannot lead the college effectively with the faculty so distrustful of him and so in doubt about his abilities.

The redefinition clearly states that Adam and Eve are created by God and not by evolution. This has been the subject of much discussion in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well.

What do Mormons believe?

While Mormons believe in the Bible’s account of the creation, Mormons also believe that the Prophet Joseph Smith restored much of what was lost in the Bible account through many generations and translations. This account is now included in the Pearl of Great Price as the book of Moses. Moses 2:26-27 reads,

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. …

And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.

Following this revelation, the early Saints were still confused about how the scientific community fit in with the Church’s theology. To help clarify the position, the First Presidency released a statement in the November 1909 Ensign that said,

It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declared that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race.

It is interesting to note that this declaration does not refute the basic principle of evolution, but gives God credit for our existence. One thing is made clear by the statement though—We are the children of God and our mission is to share the gospel.

Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the soul of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church. (First Presidency Minutes, April 7, 1931)

For further research into the church’s opinion on evolution, look at BYU’s evolution packet.

How to Approach This Discussion

Many of our members have entered into a discussion about evolution and found themselves without solid answers to all of the questions posed about our beliefs. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to the members saying that we don’t need to fear these situations. We must press forward with faith.

How have you dealt with difficult gospel discussions? What do you think about people leaving their jobs to defend their belief in evolution?

Scott is a True Blue Mormon thru and thru. He served a mission in Brisbane, Australia from 2006 to 2008 and would give a puppy to go back again. Scott is studying broadcast journalism at BYU and will graduate in December, 2014. He spends his free time playing games and chilling with his friends.