(by Dennis B. Horne)
are one or two who deliberately inject students with diseased ideas.
The test depends on whether they are teaching about false standards
or theories or philosophies or whether they are advocates of them.
You must discern whether you are being taught about an
ideology or proselyted to it.
— President Boyd K. Packer
Church leaders have had much to say, by way of caution and warning and rebuke, to those Latter-day Saints who defiantly teach evolution as fact and truth instead of as an hypothesis or scientific postulate. The reason is because by teaching evolution as something it isn’t—truth—a professor or instructor can damage the faith of a student who believes in the teachings of the scriptures and the apostles and prophets. Below are statements of counsel these prophets and apostles have given to help students and others navigate the problems that occur when evolution is wrongly taught as fact/truth to faithful, believing Saints. This apostolic counsel applies to students being taught by both atheistic/agnostic professors/teachers, and also by those partially believing professors who foolishly teach macro-evolution as truth at BYU or elsewhere:
President Ezra Taft Benson:
Today, Brigham Young University is the largest private school in the United States. Parents from far and near are looking to Brigham Young University as never before.
Now, whether your child attends this type of school or not, it is important that you stay close to your children, daily review, if possible, what they have learned in school, and go over their textbooks.
President Joseph Fielding Smith has stated that in public schools you cannot get a textbook, anywhere that he knows of, on the "ologies" that doesn't contain nonsense. (Take Heed to Yourselves, 32.)
I know one noble father who reviews with his children regularly what they have been taught; and if they have been taught any falsehoods, then the children and the father together research out the truth. If your children are required to put down on exams the falsehoods that have been taught, then perhaps they can follow President Joseph Fielding Smith's counsel of prefacing their answer with the words "teacher says," or they might say "you taught" or "the textbook states."
If your children are taught untruths on evolution in the public schools or even in our Church schools, provide them with a copy of President Joseph Fielding Smith's excellent rebuttal in his book Man, His Origin and Destiny.
The world worships the learning of man. They trust in the arm of flesh. To them, men's reasoning is greater than God's revelations. The precepts of man have gone so far in subverting our educational system that in many cases a higher degree today, in the so-called social sciences, can be tantamount to a major investment in error. Very few men build firmly enough on the rock of revelation to go through this kind of an indoctrination and come out untainted. Unfortunately, of those who succumb, some use their higher degree to get teaching positions even in our Church educational system, where they spread the falsehoods they have been taught.
As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children; and if they have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others.
There was inspiration in making the Book of Mormon a required religion class on this campus. The faculty and student body should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book. Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should also understand its teachings. If we really did our homework and approached the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we could expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men, including socialism, humanism, organic evolution, and others.
I have noted within the Church the difference in discernment, in insight, in conviction, and in spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. That book is a great sifter.
Today the world is full of alluring and attractive ideas that can lead even the best of our members into error and deception. Students at universities are sometimes so filled with the doctrines of the world they begin to question the doctrines of the gospel. How do you as a priesthood leader help fortify your membership against such deceptive teachings? The Savior gave the answer in His great discourse on the Mount of Olives when He promised, “And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.” (JS—M 1:37; italics added.)
Youth of the world, as you strive to increase in favor with man, be ever on your guard that you do not unwittingly in the name of tolerance, broadmindedness, and so-called liberalism, encourage foreign "isms" and unsound theories that strike at the very root of all we hold dear, including our faith in God. Proposals will be offered and programs will be sponsored that have wide, so-called "humanitarian" appeal. Attractive labels are usually attached to the most dangerous programs, often in the name of public welfare and personal security. . . .
Be not ashamed to believe and proclaim that God lives, that he is the Father of our spirits; that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world; that the resurrection is a reality; that we lived as spirits before mortal birth and will live again as immortal beings through the eternities to come. Blessed are you if you have a testimony of these things. These great spiritual truths have seen systems come and go, and so it will be in the future. These truths will, if you are wise, take precedence in your lives over all contrary theories, dogmas, or hypotheses from whatever source or by whomsoever advocated.
If one cannot accept and teach the program of the Church in an orthodox way without reservations, he should not teach. It would be the part of honor to resign his position. Not only would he be dishonest and deceitful, but he is also actually under condemnation, for the Savior said that it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he be cast into the sea than that he should lead astray doctrinally or betray the cause or give offense, destroying the faith of one of "these little ones" who believe in him. And remember that this means not only the small children, it includes even adults who believe and trust in God.
President Boyd K. Packer:
The very nature of the priesthood allows for a great variety in the gospel knowledge of members struggling to learn as they serve. Hence at any given time a member may not understand one point of doctrine, or another may have a misconception, or may even believe something is true that in fact is false.
There is not much danger in that. That is an inevitable part of learning the gospel. No member of the Church should be embarrassed at the need to repent of a false notion he or she might have believed. Such ideas are corrected as one grows in light and knowledge.
It is not the belief in a false notion that is the problem; it is the teaching of it to others. In the Church we have the agency to believe whatever we want to believe about whatever we want to believe. But we are not authorized to teach something to others as truth unless in fact it is true. (“From Such Turn Away,” in Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991], 133; emphasis in original.)
President Boyd K. Packer:
Reluctantly I alert you to the possibility that among your teachers are one or two who deliberately inject students with diseased ideas. The test depends on whether they are teaching about false standards or theories or philosophies or whether they are advocates of them. You must discern whether you are being taught about an ideology or proselyted to it.
A few teachers (and I remind you they are few) who advocate false philosophies or lower standards of conduct, supposing to prepare students for the realities of life, is as foolish as a woman I learned about in a junior high health class. Upon learning that the neighbor children had chicken pox, she sent her children to play with them to that she could get that out of the way. When one of the neighbor children died, she learned to her horror that it was small pox not chicken pox, to which she had exposed her children.
You probably will not meet such a teacher in Church schools. But, should that happen, do not be intimidated by one who advocates philosophies or behavior that are in opposition to the standards set by the Lord and entrusted to his servants—those who have established, who finance, and who are responsible to administer our schools and our institutes of religion.
Students in our schools have both the right and the responsibility to challenge such teachings. That may be part of your test. (“The Play and the Plan” Boyd K. Packer, CES Fireside for Young Adults, May 7, 1995, 6.)
Elder Mark E. Petersen:
I am always sorry when I hear about teachers in our public schools who try to destroy the faith of our young people. It always grieves me to hear of instances like this. I know that the great majority of the schoolteachers, themselves, are wonderful people; they are believers in God. Many of them are devoted students of the scriptures. But unfortunately, occasionally we find a teacher, whether in the field of philosophy or science, who seems to take it upon himself to destroy the faith of our young people.
I appeal to our young folk to realize that true science is not anti-religion, and that there is no unity among the scientists with respect to many things now being taught by some instructors who interpret them to mean that there is no God. Science has never come to a unity of understanding on that point, young people, so do not be disturbed by the godless teachings you may get in the classroom.
I would like you to know that some of the great scientists, many of them, in fact, are devoted believers in God, and some of them have declared that atheism has no place among the true scientists. (Conference Report, April 1952, 105.)
Elder Mark E. Petersen:
I do believe most positively that if we bring false teachings into our classes or sermons we do our people a great disservice, for we confuse their minds, we make them doubt the truth when it is given to them, and we "soften them up" for the attacks of apostate teachers who come among them.
I do believe that he expects our teachers and preachers to use the common sense he has given them to teach the simple truth which saves, rather than the speculations and theories of men, which only confuse the mind and lead some of our people right out of the Church.
There will be those who want to tamper with the doctrine, but you don’t listen to that because you stay anchored to the fundamental doctrine and gospel of Christ. (Provo, Utah, MTC, June 17, 2014)
President George Q. Cannon:
It ought to be the aim of our lives to preserve that truth, and to teach it to our children, that they may be the custodians of it and preserve it from the false ideas and vain philosophy that are being so industriously propagated at the present time in the highest institutions of learning in our land. This is one of the reasons why our young men who go away to college incur such risks of losing their faith. Nearly all the text books and the teachings of these institutions of learning, not excepting theological institutions, have a tendency to make the students accept as true the modern ideas concerning the antiquity of man and the age of the earth. Now, this Church is the repository of the truth. (“The False Theories of Man,” October 4, 1896.)
President George Q. Cannon (diary):
Sunday Jan. 28, 1883. With Bros. Caine, Hatch and Richards, I went to hear a Mr. Savage preach at All Souls Church (Unitarian). He is an iconoclast – a Bob Ingersoll kind of preacher; smart; but I never heard such doctrine from a preacher before. He called his sermon “Constructive Rationalism.” He did away with hell, heaven, God &c, elevated reason above revelation, and endorsed evolution. He said incidentally that man had been two hundred thousand years upon the earth.
President George Q. Cannon (diary):
Monday, Mar. 16/85. . . . In the evening attended with Bro. Caine a lecture by Henry Ward Beecher, “evolution and revolution.” I did not like the lecture. It was a weak affair, I thought, for a man of his reputation. He spoke of man as being on the earth at least 280,000 years. He expressed himself as being indifferent as to where he came from; it was where he was going to, what his destiny would be, that gave him concern. He did not care if he was descended from a monkey, if he was only descended far enough. He knew he was not a monkey now. He fully believes in evolution. He said it was all wrong to say that mankind had fallen from and through Adam; Adam, if he fell at all, had fallen upward; mankind had been going forward and upward. He appeared to ridicule the idea that man had fallen, and the story of the Garden of Eden and the prohibition to not eat of the fruit of two trees. He appeared to think the Bible to be a mere record of man’s experience—written honestly, and according to the best light of the writers and compilers, but containing many things which superior light would enable mankind to discard. His lecture was well adapted for the infidel and left very little for the so-called Christian to stand upon. While listening to it I thought of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to avoid “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so-called”. What a contrast between such theories—theories which trace man’s descent from the lowest forms of existence—and the truth as the Lord has revealed it! There is something grand and ennobling in the thought that our God whom we worship is our Father—that we are his literal descendants and that if we obey His laws we shall continue to grow and increase until we shall be like him.
Elder Quentin L. Cook:
In his introduction, Elder Harold B. Lee said that from his review of the writings of the Brethren, he had found five objectives that he felt teachers and administrators should emphasize at that time. Listen carefully to these and think about our own day. The first objective was “to teach truth … so effectively that students [would] be free from error, free from darkness, free from tradition, vain philosophies, and the untried, unproven theories of science.”
The second objective was “to educate youth not only for time but also for all eternity.”
The third objective was “to so teach the gospel that students [would] not be misled by the purveyors of false doctrine, vain speculations, and faulty interpretations.” (“Choices and Challenges,” Address to CES Religious Educators, February 27, 2009, 1.)
President Charles W. Penrose:
My brethren, it isn't your province nor mine to introduce theories into the Church that are not in accordance with the revelations that have been given. (Conference Report, April 1918, 21-22.)
Professor Hugh Nibley:
Actually there is an enormous accumulation of factual information refuting the claims of the evolutionists, or at least casting serious doubts upon them. Maybe the stuff is no good, but we will never find out by forbidding all mention of it. We may put the age-old controversy…in the form of a dialogue:
A. Why do you undermine the faith of these young people?
B. To make them think! To get them out of the grooves!
A. But there are millions of things to think about. Why do you always emphasize the same half-dozen shop-worn commonplaces?
B. Because they are true! Truth at any price! All things must yield to the facts.
A. Bully for you! I could not agree more. And here are some facts to which I would like to call to your attention. Let us tell them to the students, and then they will think harder than ever.
B. No, No! You can’t do that! That will merely make trouble.
A. But you said truth at any price—that includes the price of much trouble.
B. I see no point to undermining scientific reputations; these things are agreed on by many important scientists—it would be foolish to question them.
A. But isn’t that exactly how science has made progress in the past? Who is in a groove now?
And so on. Speaking of grooves, Lowell and Schiaparelli were great and devoted scientists in their day, easily the top experts in the world on the planet Mars. As a boy I thought they were wonderful. And yet today their life’s work has been effectively wiped out by a few photographs. Well, what’s the loss? Science moves on, and I am not too badly broken up about my heroes. But what if I had followed them to the point of rejecting the Gospel—the point of no return? I used to spend long hours listening to old Dr. Larkin talking about the wonders of astronomy and the absurdities of “ancient Jewish mythology.” Today his astronomy sounds pathetically old-fashioned—he was wrong on almost everything—and ancient Jewish “mythology” has received a new lease on life. What if I had become his disciple to the point of rejecting religion, as he often urged me to? THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE CHURCH TODAY BECAUSE OF SCIENTIFIC TEACHINGS WHICH HAVE NOW BEEN EXPLODED, ARE NOW BEING EXPLODED, AND ARE YET TO BE EXPLODED, while the gospel remains unscathed.