Brigham Young on Science and Religion

I have two Brigham Young quotes about science and religion. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in general feel no hostility towards science, in fact, most embrace it. That does not mean we accept everything science seems to tell us as Truth but we believe that God blesses us with scientific knowledge and technological progress.

Brigham Young said, “There is no ingenious mind that has ever invented anything beneficial to the human family but what he obtained it from the one Source, whether he knows or believes it or not. There is only one Source whence men obtain wisdom, and that is God, the Fountain of all wisdom.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, Edited by John A. Widtsoe, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1998, p. 259).

It is also important to understand when these quotes were given – in the mid to late 1800s. Just as there are many religionists who are hostile to science today, there were many religionists then who were hostile towards science. Mormons do not exhibit this hostility because we believe that scientific knowledge comes from God.

Brigham Young said, “I am not astonished that infidelity prevails to a great extent among the inhabitants of the earth, for the religious teachers of the people advance many ideas and notions for truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood. You take, for instance, our geologists, and they tell us that this earth had been in existence for thousands and millions of years. They think, and they have good reason for their faith, that their researches and investigations enable them to demonstrate that this earth has been in existence as long as they assert it has; and they say, ‘If the Lord, as religionists declare, made the earth out of nothing in six days, six thousand years ago, our studies are all in vain; but by what we can learn from nature and the immutable laws of the Creator as revealed therein, we know that your theories are incorrect and consequently we must reject your religions as false and vain; we must be what you call infidels, with the demonstrated truths of science in our possession; or, rejecting those truths, become enthusiasts in, what you call, Christianity.’ In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its processors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts – they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. God never made something out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law by which the worlds were, are, or will exist. There is an eternity before us, and it is full of matter; and if we but understand enough of the Lord and his ways we would say that he took of this matter and organized this earth from it. How long it has been organized it is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant. This we know by what we have learned naturally since we have had a being on the earth. We can now take a hymn book and read its contacts; but is we had never learned letters and knew nothing about type or paper or their uses, and should take up a book and look at it, it would be a great mystery…. But this is no mystery to us now, because we have learned our letters.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, Edited by John A. Widtsoe, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1998, pp. 258-259).

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