So far in my #MormonPositive series I have written about experiences in my life that were stressful specifically because of my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but how experiencing that stress made me a better person. I’m going to break from that pattern a little bit today and focus on how my membership in the church prevented me from experiencing a stress that impacts some religious people.
I have never to my recollection felt any conflict been my religious beliefs and science, and I attribute that entirely to the doctrines of my church. For me:
Evolution, not a problem.
Physics is fascinating, has never made me question God.
The age of Earth/Universe, sure 4.5 & 13.5 billion years respectively, again not a problem.
At one time during my freshman year of college I thought about being a physics major. I didn’t pursue it because I didn’t have confidence I could learn that math, but I blame that on my public schooling education, not my religion.
For some reason there seem to be people in other Christian denominations (and occasionally some individuals in my own church) who seem to think that science is a threat to their faith. Also, there are scientists who seem to think that religion in general is a threat to further learning in science. I find myself comfortably outside of both camps.
There is such a fascinating legacy of scientific thought within the Mormon community. Some intriguing quotes worth pondering:
“The origin of life whether human or inferior, must be lodged in some character whom I have not seen! Follow it back, no matter whether it be for six thousand years, six millions, six million millions, or billions of years, the figures and numbers are immaterial, I must have come from some source, my natural philosophy teaches me this. But, leaving the natural philosophy of the child free from false tradition, let us inquire. What does the philosophy of the Christian sects, or many of them, not all, teach? “God made the world in six days, out of nothing!” This is very wrong; no child should be taught any such dogma. God never did make a world out of nothing; He never will, He never can!” [Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 248, 25 Sep 1870].
“Miracles are commonly regarded as occurrences in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best but imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto. The entire constitution of nature is founded on system and order.” [James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, Deseret Book, SLC, 1966, originally published 1899, pg. 220.]”
“Truth is truth forever. Scientific truth cannot be theological lie. To the sane mind, theology and philosophy must harmonize. They have the common ground of truth on which to meet.” [John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist, originally published in 1908, Bookcraft, 1964, pg. 156].
“Since the gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion… I am obliged, as a latter-day saint, to believe whatever is true, regardless of the source.” [Henry Eyring, Faith of a Scientist, p. 12, 31]
This perspective has been very helpful for me. It means that I can watch Neil deGrasse Tyson’s documentaries or TV shows and thoroughly enjoy them. I meant that I could work as the academic advisor in the Biology department for a major university in Texas, and never feel even the slightest bit of conflict. Now, I find myself working for Brigham Young University and I see around me so many scientists in the top of their fields with no conflict between the experiments they conduct, the lessons they teach, and the peace they have found through the practice of our religion.
I know that conflict occasionally erupts and a person will claim that they are being torn between his/her scientific principles and religion, and much attention is focused on those events, but I think that is more the exception than the rule. So many of us in the LDS Faith find comfort, knowledge, and synchrony between both science and religion and experience no internal conflict. For any out there who do, please take the time to understand that truth is truth and that it is the limits of our minds’ that might prevent us from seeing the ties between religious truth and scientific truth, not the lack of ties between the two.