Brigham Young on Science and Religion

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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).

BYU Devotionals, the Friend Magazine, and Internet Safety

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Yesterday my 6 year old and I were watching a recent BYU Devotional address by Parris Egbert, a BYU professor. I was surprised my daughter wanted to watch the devotional (“This seems interesting; I want to watch it.”). During the talk he spoke about technology and how it can further the work of the Lord. Near the end of the address my daughter started looking bored so I asked if she understood what he was talking about.

“Not really.”

So I explained that part of what the speaker was saying was that technology is a blessing from the Lord so that His work might be better accomplished. So technology can be used for good. Then my daughter chimed up and said, “It can also be bad. There are some bad websites with bad pictures.”

“Yes, there are. Where did you learn about that?”

She then showed me the most recent Friend magazine, which had an article about what one boy did when he came across a bad website. She had just read that article earlier. I was happy that she remembered and understood what she read.

This led to a nice teaching moment where I taught her how to turn off the computer screen, or the computer if necessary, if she couldn’t close the bad website. Then I made sure that she knew what the most important thing to do was: tell Mom or Dad.

I thought that this was a great teaching experience for me, thanks to a BYU Devotional and an article in the Friend magazine. It was more powerful because she brought the issue of bad websites up as a counter to some of the positive uses of technology I was teaching her about.

I have to echo Bro. Egbert’s most important point from his BYU Devotional address – that as great as technology is, the best thing is reliance on the Spirit of the Lord. We need to live so that we are sensitive to His promptings. I’m grateful for a sweet daughter who is learning to listen to what the Spirit teaches.

Exploring the New LDS Website

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I’ve had some time to explore the new LDS website (new.lds.org for the time being). I love the look and the overall layout. It is more image-heavy, which is a positive move that follows the general Web trend. Most people have access to high speed internet now, which allows for higher quality and more elegant websites. Navigation of the site is simple with the main destinations within a few clicks.

Here are screenshots demonstrating a few of the features:

Here is the new homepage. It is a “magazine layout” design with a rotating set of featured news stories. In the upper right is the link to take you to your LDS account sign-in. If you do not have an account you will need to create one, which requires your membership record number (ask your ward membership clerk) and your date of birth. However, people who are not members of the LDS Church can also create an LDS Account that will provide them a way to utilize a few of the tools of the site (scripture notes, highlighting, and so forth). Once you are logged in to the site, you will have access to some of the tools. I’ll briefly discuss options.

First, don’t forget to look at the footer for popular content as well as some other resources. Everything is self-explanatory.

Let’s move on to one great feature: instant search results. As you search you get some results instantly; there is the option to do a more advanced search but the recommended (instant) results should be a great place to start.

Here is a screenshot of the Menu toolbar; it is the main navigation center of the site:

Then, under Tools LDS Church members see the following:

One thing to note is the link to order you a copy of your Patriarchal Blessing. You can also order a copy (sent via postal service) of any blessings of deceased direct line ancestors (grandparents, great-grandparents, etc). This is something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I found out the Church was planning on this feature.

Another Tools feature I like is the updated maps and church directories sites. You can see an outline of your ward (and stake plus other wards in your stake) boundary. Here is an example of my stake (with LDS church buildings designated by markers on the map).

The other feature I’m excited about is the online gospel notebook. You can highlight, underline, and add comments as you read the scriptures or other other gospel resources online. See the following screenshots. You can add notes and tags as well as store your notes in different folders.

There are many new features. All these advances in technology allow the Church and Church members to have greater access to the words of the Lord through His prophets. The Church’s technology team has also included social media aspects – sharing verses on Facebook or Twitter or via email. Some of the Church’s missionary efforts have been through technology already but they are continuing to be even more technology-heavy. This is because many of us are around computers a lot, whether they are in front of us as laptops or desktops or in our pockets as smartphones or iPods or internet tablet devices (which do not necessarily all fit in pockets). We can watch General Conference just about anywhere now. Audio and video recordings of sessions are posted within hours. Text is posted within days (it is posted online on the Thursday following Conference).

Technology is a means to an end. The end in this case is the eternal life of all humankind. The Church embraces all technological advances that the Lord gives unto us if they help the message of the Restoration reach more people in more meaningful ways. The Church for the most part uses existing technologies; there is no need to recreate the wheel, so to speak. Sites like YouTube already exist so the Church uses YouTube. All science and technology are inspired by the Lord and all are given to advance His work. They can also be used for evil purposes as well, which Satan is quick to tempt people to do, but Satan always tries to distort everything good. He delights in twisting truth and purveying perniciousness and unhappiness. We need to flood the earth with that which is good and positive and godly. The new LDS website and the new Mormon.org site are part of that goal.

Tools for Gospel Students and Teachers

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I hold the opinion that the most important tools for teachers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the scriptures and the Holy Ghost. Sensitivity to the Spirit and knowledge of the scriptures will allow a teacher to teach powerful lessons that help those being taught have a stronger desire to live the gospel. “Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C; 50:21-22). Having the Spirit of the Lord is vital in gospel teaching.

There are other tools that can benefit gospel teaching and learning. The LDS Church recently released their Gospel Library iPhone app. While there were other LDS library apps out previously, none were official apps of the Church. I use this app on my iPod to both prepare lessons and to teach my lessons. In the app you can annotate the scriptures or lesson manuals by adding your own cross-references and notes. The other boon for my lessons is the fact that most of the Teachers in our quorum (okay, 2 out of the 3 active young men) have either an iPhone or an iPod Touch. This means that not only do they always have their scriptures with them, they also have the Aaronic Priesthood manual that we use for the lesson. This allows them to follow along with the lesson (at the portions of the lesson when I’m using the manual) and find the scriptures quickly. For the one youth who does not have an iPod or iPhone to use, the lack of the device has not been an issue because I never make it one.

If everyone had an iPod Touch or iPhone or iPad then I would make the app a little bit bigger portion of my lessons but for now I’m just glad that some of the Teachers can follow along with the lesson. This will help them remain a little more focused on the lesson, or at least the gospel if they are browsing through the app during the lesson.

One thing I like about having the LDS Gospel Library app on my iPod is having scriptures and lesson manuals and conference addresses with me at all times. If I have some down time I can read the scriptures or prepare a lesson or listen to General Conference whenever I want to and wherever I am (within reason, of course!). Many times I’ve been riding the bus to or from the campus where I attend school when I had a gospel insight – or rather, when one came to me through the Holy Ghost – that I jotted down in my iPod note app. Now I can also jot down these thoughts right in the LDS Library app near an appropriate scripture. Soon these notes or highlights or cross-references will sync with the new LDS Gospel Library website. Or, if I annotate my scriptures online, it will sync with my iPod app. I’m looking forward to these tools.

Most of my gospel study and reading is done on a computer (iPod included). This has been the case for nearly two years now. While I occasionally pick up my hard copy scriptures and read them (something that I miss but not enough to make it my primary method of study), I mainly use electronic forms of scriptures. I do this in part because this blog is a large part of my gospel study. Having tools that allow me to better consolidate and correlate my study is a step forward in adding consistency to my study. Being able to sync my mobile study with my at home (or school) study allows me to transfer information to this blog better. It also allows me to have all my notes for my Sunday lessons in multiple places but synchronized between those places. This will also allow the young men that I teach to highlight scriptures on their iPods or iPhones in class or in Seminary and have that information also available online.

One issue I can see is when they go on missions but I think it is a good idea to have a new set of scriptures just for a mission that get read and annotated and cross-referenced with things that are most meaningful to the missionary at the time. I have to admit that I have not added much in the way of notes or cross references in my scriptures since I returned home from my mission almost 9 years ago. I added some notes but I haven’t generally been able to devote hours per day to scripture study like I could as a full time missionary. I figure that between studying in the mornings before we went out, studying sometimes at lunch time, and studying and reading at night before bed or at other random times, I got in a good 2-3 hours of gospel studying every day. I did not have to learn a new language (something that is both fortunate and unfortunate) so I could devote much time to studying the gospel. I cannot often devote that much time to gospel study now due to family, school, and church responsibilities. However, what having this LDS Gospel Library app on my iPod does is allow me to make better use of my ‘downtime’ (such as when I ride the bus or walk across campus). As a related note, that is also why I enjoy having the General Conference podcast on my iPod – I can listen to talks as I walk across campus or ride the bus. On weekdays I typically get through at least two talks. They are great sources of knowledge and Spirit, especially because I often miss talks the first time around due to dealing with young children.

These are all tools the Lord is helping make available so gospel study and hearing and reading the words of His prophets are more accessible than ever. While we should never let technology overwhelm our lives (not that I’m one to preach much about that because I am almost never away from a computer or my iPod – due in part to what I do as a student but also due to my preferences for leisure time), technology is a part of our lives. It can be used for both good and evil. If we spend our time with the good we will not have time for the evil (not that that is sufficient reason to not do evil – “I’m only not sinning because I do not have time to” – rather, our reasons to not sin should be because we are sanctified and have no more disposition to do evil; however, crowding out the evil with the good is certainly a start). If you are going to spend the bulk of your time using technology (e.g., computers), at least make it productive and worthwhile and do good.

Whether we are teachers at church or home or simply studying for ourselves, there are new tools that allow for easier and more frequent gospel study. I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to have access to God’s words wherever I am.

On Time

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One night Wilford Woodruff had a vision of Joseph Smith and others in heaven. Joseph was at the door of the temple in heaven. He was in a hurry and could not stop to talk with Wilford. Many people were in a hurry. After a bit, Joseph passed by Wilford again. Wilford stopped him and asked why he and everyone were hurried. Joseph replied, “I will tell you Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the Priesthood on the earth and has gone into the Celestial Kingdom has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation and so much work has to be done [that] we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it!”

In other words, we do not have much time before the Second Coming. We must be anxiously engaged in the work of the Lord. We must not waste time! We have so much to do and so little time. Those who have already passed on are engaged in the work from the other side of the veil. They continue their work with all the energy they have.

General Conference was one week ago. I marvel at the wonderful technology that allows us to watch Conference as it happens, even though we might be across the globe. Mp3s of the sessions were up hours after each was over. As soon as each session ended, we could watch it (again) via streaming video. Shortly later each talk and song were available to download as videos or audio. On Thursday the full text of the talks was posted.

The Church is constantly working on new ways to reach more people more quickly and with less effort. We can watch church videos on YouTube, we can listen to an LDS radio station – online and over the air in some locations, we can read scriptures online or on our iPods or iPhones, we can send out emails to the whole ward announcing activities, we can report home teaching via email, we can share the gospel using Twitter or Facebook or blogs. The Lord has blessed us with technological advances so that we might have more time to devote to fulfilling His work. We need to take advantage of these advances and labor and time-saving inventions by making sure we fulfill our gospel responsibilities and our duties to God.

We have little time to do the Lord’s work; let’s not squander what time we have. Those like the Prophet Joseph or Pres. Hinckley or many of our ancestors on the other side of the veil are working with all diligence to do the Lord’s work. They need willing and active hearts and hands from us to fulfill our duties. We need to remember the words of Amulek who said, “Behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). We have much work to accomplish in this life – there are things we can only do here. We have work enough to do ere the sun goes down. How are you spending your time?