According to a recent Pew research poll about Evolution and Religion, Mormons are among the least likely to believe in Evolution as the best explanation for the origins of human life on Earth. Just like any poll, there are serious problems. How the question is asked doesn't leave much room for alternatives and the elusive nuances to the answers. The word "best" automatically contradicts core Mormon theology about human origins. It doesn't give the respondents a way to explain themselves. As a self-described "Theo-Evolutionist" I can think of other better explanations without denying the huge discoveries of the fossil record. Another problem pointed out was, "The dotted line puts the US population at 48%, yet only five groups, which make up perhaps a third of the US population, are shown below 48%. Some piece of the puzzle is missing." The "science" of poll taking has always been suspicious. Who is giving, who is responding, and how to interpret can be troubling no matter how careful the research. Mormons who are anti-Evolutionists do exist in large numbers, but that doesn't have to be and probably is shrinking.
Probably the biggest hurdle for Evolution is the position held by leadership of the LDS Church who are more likely to be negative. The LDS Church might have “no official” position on Evolution, but the more I study the issue the more ambiguous such a statement comes across. What does it mean to have “no official” position in the LDS Church? That isn’t to say I disagree with that fact, but it is a very slim non-position. It is true that there have been LDS leaders, like Pres. David O. McKay and Stephen L. Richards, who spoke positively in public. In General Conference where it does count theologically and officially, statements about Evolution have been overwhelmingly negative. That translates to members who believe what is spoken there is scripture into an official position; and rightly so for the significant value of General Conference talks. Only slight room for disagreement remains.
There is a reason anti-Evolution remains in Mormonism even if Creationism is seen as unattainable. Despite all the witnesses (evidence) to Evolution, many Mormons hold on to anti-Evolution positions because there isn’t anything to fill the void. The unsaid argument for Mormon Creationists is “if there is no position on Evolution, than what exactly are modern Prophets and Scriptures saying?” I have my own answers to that, but there has been little discussion on the theological implications. Keeping the questions of Evolution vs. The Creation on “a shelf to ask when I am dead” might be a good personal approach, but it will fail to convince other LDS members. And that means more than dismissing McConkie, Smith, Benson, et el. as wrong. It means the very difficult, but I believe possible, work of explaining how they are correct in their own message (such as explaining what they are really going against is the atheist use of the theory). Then, moving past that, explaining how Evolution fits into Mormon theology and Scriptures.
Religious Evolutionists must confront theological concerns to make any lasting headway. To simply say that science and religion ask and answer two different questions is the real “God in the gaps.” Exactly what questions do they ask and what kind of answers are to be found? Scientists should understand there has to be interpretive frameworks to make sense of desperate evidence. The “don’t take it literally” is still NOT an answer or even a discussion. There has to be interpretive discussion of even non-literal meanings. You don’t read a book if you can’t understand the words.
I have my own tentative theory of the relationship between Evolution and the Garden of Eden, the sticking point. Many questions remain such as the idea of pre-Adam-ites and no death before the fall. Still, it is better than leaving it alone or dismissing one or the other. Even Elder McConkie didn’t believe in the Young Earth theory. That is a starting point.
I believe Mormonism is a "literalist" religion. After all, there were angels, miracles, gold plates and visions that are at the center of its founding. Joseph Smith did more than talk about Biblical events, but proclaimed that he conversed with many of the participants - including Adam. There just isn’t room enough in Mormon doctrine (if you take its divine founding and founder seriously) to make the scriptural stories just metaphor or symbolic. Yet, there is plenty of room for a re-interpretation of the scriptural stories. Because Mormons believe in the Scriptures as spiritually inspired, but human produced, the written word isn’t set in perfection. Just as Mormon acted as editor and Joseph Smith made editorial changes to the Book of Mormon, other writers wrote from their prospective. That means that the Scriptures are malleable to both new revelations and new understandings. I think the idea that we have to believe all the stories as written or none of them is spiritually harmful. The Scriptures, like history, are multi-faceted and full of missing pieces or even hyperbole.
Joseph Smith said that by two contraries we come to the truth. When it comes to Evolution and the Creation that has been my guiding principle. Puzzles can be fun. Puzzles can be frustrating. Some can fall apart, but that doesn't mean we should not try to put them together and see if we can see a bigger picture.