Mormonism and Science

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The study of the relationship between religion and science is as old as the sands of time. The subject has been addressed by philosophers, theologians, scientists, and many others. “Science and religion generally pursue knowledge of the universe using different methodologies. Science acknowledges reason, empiricism, and evidence, while religions include revelation, faith and sacredness.” [1]

Mormonism and Science

Henry J. Eyring, son of Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) has taught,

There isn't anything to worry about between science and religion, because the contradictions are just in your own mind. Of course they are there, but they are not in the Lord's mind because He made the whole thing, so there is a way, if we are smart enough, to understand them so that we will not have any contradictions.

Are There Conflicts with Science?

Many theologians, philosophers and scientists in history have found no conflict between their faith and science. However, critics of Mormonism (doctrines taught by The Church of Jesus Christ) claim that Latter-day Saints believe that if a conflict exists between science and religion, then science (which is continually being updated) is in error. They further attest that Mormonism reserves the right to identify scientific truth. Neither of their assertions are true. Latter-day Saints are not asked to reject science in favor of religion. In fact, there are many members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are actively engaged in scientific research who maintain their faith and beliefs. They firmly believe that not only is science being continually updated, but knowledge of the Gospel will also be increased. The 9th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ states:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ has taught,

Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: “I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it. [1]

Warning against Placing Man’s Wisdom over Divine Direction

In an April 1993 General Conference address, Bishop Richard C. Edgley, then a member of the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ, commented, “We must guard against letting our worldly successes or earthly learning become a substitution for spiritual wisdom and divine direction given through the prophets.” During the course of his remarks he further commented:

In the Book of Mormon, Mormon explains the deteriorating condition of the Nephites resulting from their misplaced sense of achievement in earthly matters: 'For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure' (Alma 4:8).
The Lord further warns us against relying solely upon man's strength and wisdom. He said, “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 28:31).
There are the so-called “learned” that have let their intellect undermine their spiritual moorings and who would also attempt to lead the faithful away from those who are appointed by the Lord to lead. There are those who feel that our leaders are out of touch with the realities of the day. They would attempt to lead members by substituting their own knowledge for the revelations from God to His prophets. And, unfortunately, there are those who would so follow. Christ warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15).

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ affirm that they “do not understand everything regarding the manner in which God created the earth, but they have been assured through revelation that at some future time they will be allowed to understand these things.” [2] They further attest to the fact that “Neither religion nor science knows everything, but revelation provides us with sufficient knowledge to obtain salvation. In religion, as in science, all should be constantly seeking for the "further light and knowledge" that comes from God” [3].

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second highest governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ) has taught,

Latter-day Saints should strive to use both science and religion to extend knowledge and to build faith. But those who do so must guard against the significant risk that efforts to end the separation between scientific scholarship and religious faith will only promote a substandard level of performance, where religion and science dilute one another instead of strengthening both.
For some, an attempt to mingle reason and faith can result in irrational scholarship or phony religion, either condition demonstrably worse than the described separation. [2]

The late James E. Talmage who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1911 until his death on 27 July 1933, once asked the rhetorical question, “What is the field of science?” His answer serves as an exclamation point on this discussion. His answer:

Everything. Science is the discourse of nature and nature is the visible declaration of Divine Will…. There is naught so small, so vast that science takes no cognizance thereof…. Nature is the scientist's copy and truth his chief aim" (c. 1895). "Among our young people," Talmage wrote elsewhere, "I consider scientific knowledge as second in importance only to that knowledge that pertains to the Church and Kingdom of God…. Nature, as we study it, is but the temple of the Almighty" (c. 1900). [4]

And the late John A. Widtsoe who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1921 until his death on 29 November 1952, put the period in place, when he wrote in his widely known book Evidences and Reconciliations, "The Church supports and welcomes the growth of science…. The religion of the Latter-day Saints is not hostile to any truth, nor to scientific search for truth" (Vol. 1, p. 129) [5].

This means the biggest argument — that between Creationists and Evolutionists — need not bother Mormons. When all knowledge is had, both in science and religion, the gospel and the rock record of ancient earth will perfectly agree.

References

  1. President Thomas S. Monson, "The Lighthouse of the Lord: A Message to the Youth of the Church," New Era, Feb. 2001.
  2. Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 58-59.

Additional Resources