(by Dennis B. Horne)
When certain scientists start pontificating on their alleged great knowledge of how God used organic evolution to create human-kind, or, how there is no God and it all happened by chance and the laws of nature, and they want to show off their great learning from their field and call it immutable truth, we can cultivate an increased gratitude for the standard works of the church and the teachings of the prophets—including their inspired interpretations of scripture. Thankfully, the truth is that all church members do not need to know biology or anthropology or geology or evolutionary science in order to be saved or exalted, and even to know some of how the true creation took place. In fact, much scientific learning may be more of a hinderance than help, depending on how far people take it. Many a professor of some science has forsaken God because of his allegedly great learning. And the scriptures predicted such would happen because of their pride and vanity.
Help those with questions to realize that the Lord does not require His Saints to have advanced degrees in history and doctrine. [This applies to other fields and types of advanced education as well, such as biology and anthropology and geology. These are not the sources we are sent to for truth and understanding of the creation, fall, and atonement.]
Another common aspect of higher learning that has caused some to stumble is the theory of evolution. Some have felt they could not reconcile geological or biological evidence with the little we know about the Creation from the scriptures and the teachings of our modern prophets. I recall having had some of these questions in my early 20s. However, I distinctly recall an experience in a biochemistry class during my first year of graduate school. During a weekday lecture about the enzymatic steps involved in glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose to lactic acid), an overwhelming sense of peace came upon me with an impression from the Spirit that someday I would understand how our world came to be. The beauty and perfection of how living things operate left me little doubt of the divine origin of life. Everything I learned that semester strengthened my testimony of how beautiful (and complex) life is and how divine the Creation had to be. I have been satisfied since then that the dozens of questions I continue to have will someday be answered when I pass from this life and no longer “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12). Until then, I am content to walk by faith so that the plethora of interesting and fascinating data does not cause me to doubt my faith or think I am “learned” and “wise” and need not “hearken unto the counsels of God.”
Elder Mark E. Petersen:
I shall never forget when I was in a sociology class I saw the professor, a short, bald-headed, bewhiskered man stand there in front of our class and actually defy us to believe in God. He defied us to believe in a special creation or that man is a child of God.
I have always understood that it was against the law to discuss religion in the schools. But these men apparently claim academic privilege or some kind of academic freedom, I think they call it in taking the right to destroy the very faith which the law prohibits us from teaching in the public schools. And when they do it, I think they are in violation of the spirit of the law, just as much as if they were teaching religion. Young people, remember the great men of the world believe in God.
We do not get our faith from science, however, and I hope you will never take the position that we must even seriously regard what science says about religion. Faith comes by revelation. No matter what science might do to promote religious faith, it can never save a man. Salvation comes through revelation and the power of God restored to men in these last days. And that revelation is available. That revelation has come. The power of God and his priesthood are now here among men and salvation comes through them. (Conference Report, April 1952, 106.)
Elder Alma Sonne:
In London one day, a fine-looking young man from Utah came into my office. He said, "I am losing my faith."
I asked, "Why should you lose your faith?"
He replied, "I am a student at Oxford, and many things come up every day that challenge my religious beliefs. Can you help me?"
I answered, "I don't know anything about science and the things which you study, but I can give you some advice. I believe you have been neglecting your faith and your religion. I will promise you this: if you will give as much attention to your religion and to your faith as you do to your studies in science, you will not lose faith."
He left me, and I didn't see him for six months; when I did, I was standing on the platform of a train in the Waterloo Station in London. As I stood gazing over the tremendous crowd, I saw a tall, young man elbowing his way toward me. He seemed very anxious to reach me, and just as the train started, he was close enough to clasp my hand. "Brother Sonne," he said, "I want you to know before you go home that I have not lost my faith. My testimony is stronger than ever." I shall never forget that experience.
Doubt, skepticism and unbelief are weapons of the adversary. They are enemies of progress, and are barriers that stand in the way of growth and development.
(“The Priceless Gift of Faith,” BYU Speeches, December 7, 1960)
President Joseph Fielding Smith:
It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." We have heard this so many times; I wonder if we have not, very frequently, misapplied this expression, that a man cannot be saved in ignorance. In ignorance of what? Does that mean that a man must come to school and learn everything that can be known in regard to science in all its branches? That he must learn everything that is taught in regard to social matters, in relation to history, to all these teachings that can be obtained in the public schools and universities? No, it does not mean that. It means that he cannot be saved in ignorance of the saving principles of the gospel, things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Address delivered at BYU Leadership Week assembly, Jan. 26, 1940; in Take Heed to Yourselves)
Joseph Fielding McConkie:
Is a mastery of the laws of mathematics and science necessary to the process of obtaining exaltation?
If they are, we are yet to receive the revelation that tells us so. Rather, the revelations state that "to him who overcometh, and keepeth my commandments unto the end, will I give power over many kingdoms; and he shall rule them with the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter; and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father" (JST Rev. 2:26-27).
Many passages of scripture exalt learning: "The glory of God is intelligence" (D&C 93:36). "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance" (D&C 131:6). "If a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come" (D&C 130:19).
Properly understood, such texts center our attention on things of the spirit rather than the intellect. It is not to the learning of the classroom to which these passages of scripture refer but rather to those things that can only be learned in the service of others. It is good doctrine to say that "the glory of God is intelligence" if it is understood that the "intelligence" being described is "light and truth" which can be obtained only by forsaking the "evil one" and, conversely, is lost by "disobedience" and an allegiance to the "tradition of their fathers" or the learning of men (D&C 93:36-39). Similarly, the revelation states that we cannot be saved in ignorance, meaning that we cannot be saved in ignorance of the saving principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or more particularly to the revelation, our calling and election must have been made sure (see D&C 131:5-6). Again, the word of the Lord that whatever degree of intelligence we obtain in this life will be so much to our advantage in the world to come refers to that knowledge obtained by "diligence" and "obedience" to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, not to book learning.
With the exception of false theories and practices, nothing in such declarations is intended to demean the learning that comes from schools. Rather, their purpose is to help us focus on the learning of greatest worth (learning that can often be enhanced by the understanding that comes from the study of such things as mathematics and science). Of importance here is the idea that schooling is not a requisite for baptism, whereas faith and repentance are, and that our mentors in obtaining the knowledge of most worth are apostles and prophets, not college professors or those learned in the things of the world.