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Mississippi Baptists, Darwin’s theory and a confession of faith

Copyright by Robert C. Rogers and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.

     The hottest topic among Baptists in the 1920s was alarm over the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution; this concern resulted in the adoption, in 1925, of the very first confession of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mississippi Baptists were directly involved in these events.

     The controversy heated up in 1921 when J. Frank Norris, the outspoken conservative pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, accused Baylor University of supporting Darwinism. Mississippi Baptists expressed concern over the teaching of the theory of evolution as early as 1922. On October 24, 1922, the Simpson County Baptist Association appealed to the State Convention to appoint a committee “to investigate the character of text-books used in the free schools and colleges of our state… especially if in these schools any teaching is discovered that contradicts the unmistakable teachings of the Word of God.” The State Convention president appointed a committee made up of Baptist educators, to investigate the matter. The committee failed to report in 1923, but that year, Mississippi Baptist evangelist Thomas T. Martin published an anti-evolution book entitled Hell and the High Schools: Christ or Evolution, Which? Martin criticized the educational elite, “a lot of high brows supported by your taxes,” and called on parents to take control of their children’s education.1    

    In 1924, J. W. Provine asked that the committee be relieved of its responsibility, “since the Committee is composed of those connected with the schools.” The Committee on Committees appointed a new committee at the 1924 State Convention, which reported a resolution the very next day, decrying that public school textbooks “almost universally teach Evolution,” and saying “the teaching of this hypothesis is both a perversion of science and a violation of the religious freedom of our people.” The resolution protested the use of tax dollars to oppose Christian doctrine, warned schools not to employ books or teachers that taught evolution, and petitioned the legislature of Mississippi to instruct the Text Book Commission “to adopt no books for use in our schools that teach the unproven hypothesis of Evolution.”2

     In 1925, the state superintendent of schools responded by banning the teaching of evolution in the state’s classrooms, although the Mississippi legislature rejected a law against teaching evolution. However, Tennessee did pass an anti-evolution law in 1925, which sparked a controversy that was literally heard around the nation. John Scopes, a teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was put on trial for violating the law. The famous lawyer Clarence Darrow defended Scopes, and the prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic nominee for president. The Scopes “Monkey Trial,” as it was nicknamed, turned into a media circus, as it was aired live on the radio and heard by millions. The following year, Mississippi also passed a law against teaching evolution. The American Civil Liberties Union offered to represent any teacher willing to challenge the Mississippi bill in the courts, but no one took them up on the offer.3  

     It was in this environment that the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its very first doctrinal statement in 1925. Although local churches and associations had published statements of faith for years, larger Baptist organizations had resisted doing so, believing their only creed should be the Bible. In response to concerns raised by J. Frank Norris and others about liberalism, particularly evolution, Baptists began discussing the possibility of having an official statement of faith. This feeling was strong in Mississippi, as in 1924, Mississippi Baptists adopted a resolution that requested that the trustees and faculties of Mississippi Baptist schools prepare a statement of beliefs to which each teacher would be required to subscribe. Similar discussions were happening in other states and at the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1924, the Southern Baptist Convention rejected a call to make a doctrinal statement binding, but it did elect a committee to write a confession of faith, chaired by SBC president and Mississippi native, E. Y. Mullins. With the national attention of the Scopes trial, Southern Baptists were ready to adopt the Baptist Faith and Message, a statement of faith recommended by Mullins’s committee in 1925.4

     Mullins chose to model the Baptist Faith and Message after the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which modified some of the strong Calvinist language of other Baptist confessions. Regarding God’s work of grace, the new faith statement said, “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners. It is perfectly consistent with the free agency of man…” Instead of saying that Baptists were the only true church, as Landmark Baptists would have it, it simply said, “A church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel…” While the statement did not mention evolution, it affirmed that “Man was created by the special act of God, as recorded in Genesis.” The next year, in 1926, George W. McDaniel explicitly stated in his presidential address that Southern Baptists rejected evolution. A resolution was adopted making this “McDaniel Statement” binding on all those working for Southern Baptist institutions. Likewise, in November 1926 the Mississippi Baptist Convention adopted a statement of faith that all college faculty were required to sign. In the first sentence, it affirmed belief in “God the creator of all things.”5


1 O. S. Hawkins, In the Name of God: The Colliding Lives, Legends, and Legacies of J. Frank Norris and George W. Truett (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2021), 95; Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1922, 28; Randy J. Sparks, Religion in Mississippi (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), 182.

2 Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1924, 20, 26-28.

3 Sparks, 182; Thomas S. Kidd, American History, vol. 2 (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2019), 130-131.

4 Jesse C. Fletcher, The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 141-142; Robert A. Baker, The Southern Baptist Convention and Its People, 1607-1972 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1974), 398-399; Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1924, 28.

5 Fletcher, 142-143; Baker, 398-399; Annual, Southern Baptist Convention, 1925, 72-73, Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1926, 21-22.

Questions for Mormons to consider

(This is the fourth and final installment in a series of posts about Mormonism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Scroll down to earlier posts to read about Mormon history, sources of authority, and beliefs.)

Do you believe that God was once a man?
Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Mormon Church, said, “As man is, God once was.”

Do you believe that you can become a god?
Lorenzo Snow went on to say, “As God is, man may become.” And it says in Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20 that if a good Mormon gets married in the temple and dies, he will be exalted and then shall they be gods.”

Do you believe that our Heavenly Father has a body of flesh and bones like you and me?
Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 says, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s.”

Do you believe that the Heavenly Father had a sexual relationship with a heavenly mother to give birth to Jesus and to our pre-existent spirits?
Gospel Principles (1995 edition, p. 11), says, “All men and women are literally the sons and daughters of Deity . . . The first spirit born of our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ, so he is literally our elder brother.”

Do you believe that dark skin is a curse of God?
The Book of Mormon says in 2 Nephi 5:21 and Alma 3:6 that the Lamanites, the ancestors of the American Indians, were cursed with dark skin because of their wickedness. Although the Mormon church now allows Indians and Negroes into their priesthood, this curse on dark skinned people in the Book of Mormon has never been denied or rejected.

If you do not believe these things, why do you remain in an organization that teaches so many things that you do not believe?

If you do believe these things,why does the Book of Mormon not teach these things? The Book of Mormon teaches the existence of one God (Alma 11:22, 27-29; Mosiah 15:1-5). The Book of Mormon teaches God is unchanging, not an exalted man (Mormon 9:9-11; Moroni 8:18). The Book of Mormon teaches that God is a Spirit, not a body of flesh and bones (Alma 18:24-28; 22:9-11).
Something is wrong! Mormonism and the Book of Mormon do not agree.
The way to truth is by Jesus Christ (John 14:6), who died on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8). and rose from the grave to to give us eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). This is the “gospel,” the truths about Jesus, not any particular church. If we trust in Jesus’ sacrificial death, we can be declared “not guilty” before God the Judge by His gift of grace (Romans 3:24). Salvation by grace is not a resurrection, it is a life-changing experience of spiritual renewal (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we truly receive salvation by grace, that grace gives us the motivation to live godly lives (Titus 2:11-14). Then our bodies will be raised at the end of time, and we will live forever with God in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). The Bible says that if even an angel (like Moroni) brings a latter-day gospel different from this gospel, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:8).
If you wish to know more about a relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, email me at

If you still believe these things taught by the LDS church, then please explain this: Mormonism says all gods were once men. So where did the first man come from?

Mormonism: A Snapshot of Its Beliefs

(This is the third installment in a series of studies on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons.)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or Mormons, often use the same terms as orthodox Christians, but they have a different meaning. “Saved by grace” to a Mormon refers to being raised in the afterlife. “Exaltation” is the term Mormons use that is nearer to what Christians mean by “salvation.” The “gospel” is used by Mormons to mean the Mormon system of belief and practice, and “Israel” or “Zion” is often used to refer to Utah. Although Mormons are famous for polygamy, the main branch of Mormonism discontinued this practice in 1890. With this in mind, let us look at three key doctrines of the LDS church:
1) The doctrine of God. Mormons believe in the existence of many gods (Book of Abraham chapters 4 & 5). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate gods, and the Father and Son each have bodies of flesh and bone today. The illustration above of the Father and Son as separate bodies comes from Mormon literature. (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22). They believe that God was once a man and progressed to become God, and that men can also progress to become gods. Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the LDS church, said, “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.”
2) The doctrine of humanity. Mormons believe that all humans pre-existed in the spirit world, the result of a sexual relationship between our Heaven Father and a Heavenly Mother. (Doctrine & Covenants 93:23, 29-33; Gospel Principles, p. 351). They believe that men can progress to “exaltation” and become gods (Doctrine & Covenants 132:19-20). However, keep in mind that the Book of Mormon teaches that dark skin is a curse (2 Nephi 5:21).
3) Doctrine of exaltation. Joseph Smith taught that there are three levels of heaven. The highest heaven is the “celestial kingdom,” the second level is the “terrestrial kingdom,” and the lowest level is the “telestial kingdom.” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:43, 70-112). Faithful Mormons who repent, are baptized, ordained into the priesthood, go through the Mormon temple ceremonies, get married in the temple, and observe the “Word of Wisdom” (Doctrine & Covenants 89) to abstain from tobacco and strong drinks, tithe, attend weekly worship services, and are obedient, can get into the celestial kingdom and can progress in their exaltation to become gods. Only about 20% of Mormons get a “temple recommend” through faithful service, so the majority of Mormons do not attain this level, and will go to the “terrestrial kingdom,” where they also expect to see most Christians and other good moral people. Wicked people may have to endure a temporary hell (Doctrine & Covenants 19:16-18), and then will go to the “telestial kingdom.” Those who become Mormons and then leave (“denied the Holy Spirit after having received it”) will go to an eternal hell (Gospel Principles, p. 298; Doctrine & Covenants 76:28-45). See the chart below that illustrates this system of heavens.
There are many other beliefs and practices of Mormonism, including baptism by proxy for the dead, two levels of priesthood, etc., but the three major doctrines above are enough to reveal that Mormonism is a completely different religion from orthodox Christianity. The fourth and final installment of this series of studies will include a Christian reply to Mormon belief and questions for Mormons to consider.