Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
075-077: Steven L. Peck — On Evolution and Mormonism, Creation, Climate Change and Stewardship, A Short Stay in Hell

075-077: Steven L. Peck — On Evolution and Mormonism, Creation, Climate Change and Stewardship, A Short Stay in Hell

Could be the one.  MEB

Steven L. Peck is a BYU biology professor and an evolutionary biologist, ecologist, and a writer. He is an active, faithful Latter-Day Saint. His books include The Scholar of Moab, which won 2011 Best Novel by the Association for Mormon letters and was a 2011 Finalist for the Montaigne Medal Eric Hoffer Award, and A Short Stay in Hell, which is being made into a movie.  You can learn more about Steven and his different projects at

There are two separate interviews in this three part series. Part three was conducted most recently and focuses on Steven’s book A Short Stay in Hell, which is both entertaining and thought provoking. It is a fascinating look at ideas that we often take for granted as Mormons. Part one and two were co-hosted by Jay Griffith and Sarah Collett and were originally posted on Exploring Sainthood in July of 2013. This interview is a must listen.

Part 3 includes:

  • a brief review of some points from the first interview
  • a discussion about space and time and how Mormonism influenced some of the themes of the book.
  • thoughts on Eternity, heaven, and hell.
  • details about how it came to be that A Short Stay in Hell is being made into a movie.

Part 1 and 2 addresses:

  • faith in Mormonism and how it interacts with science.
  • the position of Mormon Church on evolution.
  • Steven’s feelings on how Mormon doctrine encourages Scientific thought.
  • the scriptural accounts of the creation and historical statements of the Brethren regarding scripture and science.
  • the New Atheist movement as a new kind of orthodoxy
  • how devotion to science increases faith and can shape understanding of God’s character.
  • climate change
  • our responsibility as stewards of the earth.

For more on these ideas and a great discussion on writing and Steven’s other projects look forward to an up-coming interview by Brian Dillman at Rational Faiths.


  1. I just got done listening to the first part. I enjoyed it very much. I really like how Dr. Peck’s scientific, theological, and philosophical perspectives inform a reverence for all life. I would like to say that I don’t like the idea that humans are the unique ones with spirits that are offspring of God. I think one of the greatest strengths of Mormonism is that it throws out the idea of an ontological difference between God and human. Similarly, one of the most beautiful parts of evolution is that it throws out the idea of an ontological distinction between humans and other life. I prefer to fully embrace both of those ideas. So, while I like to see myself as a child of God, with potential to become a god, I like to see trees as the same: literal spirit offspring of God, with a potential to become gods (and the same for fungi, archaea, animals, etc).

    On the subject of ontological materialism, D&C 131:7 seems to point us at that, not that I think we should take any scriptures to have the final word in anything. I’m just saying there is some tradition of ontological materialism in Mormonism.

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  4. A Happy Hubby

    I really enjoyed parts 1 and 2 (and part 3 has me looking into getting the book).

    There was a point where it was asked what we could be doing to help “save the planet” and some ideas were thrown around. I do have one question about this. I am not a professional scientist, but I do read quite a bit and love learning everything I can. It seems to me that if Global Warming is being created by man’s CO2 output, then even if a bunch of people took some of the suggestions, it is just an absolute drop in the bucket. It seems it is the equivalent of spitting at a bonfire. It seems to me that we are already on a path that, short of some significant scientific breakthroughs, we are ‘doomed’. I actually have faith in science that something will be found – and hopefully in time. Don’t take this as someone that isn’t trying. I got a smaller car, carpool whenever I can, pushed my family to where the recycle can is almost as full each week as the trashcan. But I can’t help but feel this isn’t doing much more than making me “feel” like I am helping – but in the end it is futile. Any comments?

    I am almost worried my next comment will be taken in a negative way, but I am going to say it anyway. It was so refreshing and exciting to have Sarah do the interview. It is a shame that it actually is rare to see a woman with such intellect that it actually caught my attention. BTW – I don’t have a profile on OW, but even this 50+ year old white guy calls himself a feminist.


      Happy Hubby, I appreciate your candid thoughts and understand your concerns. I hope you’ll also listen to the George Handley interview that Sarah and I did. There, the theology behind being a good steward of the earth is discussed with more depth—if I remember right.

      There are things I do and have done for a long time because they feel like they are intrinsically right. I became a vegetarian many years ago after reading the autobiography of Gandhi. I restudied the WoW. I thought about the phrase in the endowment session where on the 5th day God commands all the life up to that point (everything but us) to “fulfill the measure of their creation and have joy therein.” It wasn’t for health. It was because I perceived that animals have a right to live well and happily and if I can help that happen then I will. And I have. My little dent is small but to me and the animals I don’t eat, it matters. Living a life with respect and awe and care of the grand creation we live on is simply a better way to live. It encourages better behavior to all around us. You and I may not save the planet by doing those things you mention you are doing but it can help save our souls as well as others. And whatever small difference we make, in my mind, is worth it.

      You may also want to check out the facebook site, The Mormon Stewards:

  5. C Brown

    Loved this podcast and his book! Peck mentions a book called “Genesis 1” by he believes the author is Watson. It discusses the creation story as a temple story. Can you point me in the right direction to find this book? Is it called “Myths and Miracles” by David C.C. Watson? Thank you!

  6. Steven Peck’s reluctance to talk about a historical Adam and the nuts and bolts of the “Fall” as TAUGHT in Mormonism leaves him less than able to address the concerns of those who see conflict between science and faith. You cannot honestly pretend to address the topic without acknowledging the core problem. Why will he not address the “Fall” and a historical Adam? I suspect because he does not believe it. Peck has said that God could have placed the spirits of his preexistent children into the bodies of those creatures that evolved to manhood at some point along the chain of human evolution but that hypothesis generates all kinds of questions.

    If Adam and Eve as the FIRST spirit children of God on earth obtained their physical bodies through being born in the line of human evolution then where did the spirits come from that animated those mortal parents of Adam and Eve? They could not be of the spiritual posterity of God by virtue of the fact that Adam and Eve were first.

    That is a conversation you cannot have with Peck because he is unwilling to go there, he says it is not part of his project.

    Joseph Smith in embellishing the creation story in The Book of Abraham and The Book of Moses shows his ignorance. He clearly had a view of the fixity of species. This idea shaped his doctrine. Thankfully God rose up another at the same time, Charles Darwin who brought forth another book which helped guide man towards the truth about his origin and that of all life on earth.

    Peck creates a falsehood that there is no conflict between science and faith.

    There is NO way to fit a historical Adam and the “Fall” as TAUGHT in Mormonism into the facts and evidence for human evolution from science. Peck knows this but is constrained because of his position as a teacher at BYU. Should he come out against a core teaching of Mormonism “the Fall” he would jeopardize his livelihood. He is like a bird in a cage with a song that has the notes dictated.

    Saying something is better than nothing, it is such a shame that he is on such a short leash and cannot be truly honest on this topic.

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