In Your Mind and in Your Heart

By Rodney J. Brown

Rodney J. Brown, “In Your Mind and in Your Heart,” in Converging Paths to Truth, ed. Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2011), 17–36.

In Your Mind and in Your Heart

Rodney J. Brown

Rodney J. Brown was dean of the College of Life Sciences at Brigham Young University when this book was published.


About ten years ago, a man named Gyula Palyi, whom I had never met, contacted me. He explained that in celebration of a jubilee year of the Roman Catholic Church, a series of weeklong seminars on many topics would be held simultaneously throughout Italy. He was organizing a meeting at the University of Modena on the topic “What is life? What is the origin of life? Having answered the first two questions, what are the implications?” He had been looking for a Mormon who was a scientist. I explained that I could not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that some of my ideas would not match those of all Mormon scientists. These two disclaimers still apply.

My wife, Sandy, and I had an enjoyable week in Modena. All day long we listened to people of every scientific and religious persuasion present their thoughts on life. We heard many interesting ideas. In the evenings, we enjoyed dinners, entertainment, and discussions with people who saw things from perspectives that were often very different from ours. Sandy and I looked during that week at what I had prepared to say and refined it to become what I ended up saying, which was primarily a discussion of the plan of salvation and how we see it in relation to science.

Though I had thought about science and religion for many years, the necessity of writing and presenting my ideas focused my thoughts. Since the experience in Italy, I have had an ongoing interest in the relationship between science and religion, especially science and our religion.

What Is Truth?

We can begin by recognizing that facts do not change. A correct answer exists for every question we could ask. We sometimes refer to eternal truths in a religious context, but eternal truths are not limited to topics generally recognized as belonging to religion. These truths are facts that are what they are and will not change. They are things as they really happened regardless of how we think they happened—things as they really are regardless of how we think they are. They do not change over time, with changing circumstances, or in any other way. They are not affected by popularity or lack of popularity. They are reality. “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). President Brigham Young explained it this way: “Truth is calculated to sustain itself; it is based upon eternal facts and will endure, while all else will, sooner or later, perish.” [1]

It is easy to convince ourselves that what we think to be true matches this definition of truth. However, no matter how carefully we try to get it right, our personal versions of what is true contain mistruths, half-truths, untruths, and so on. Things we have thought for a long time to be true are hard to discard, even when they are shown to be untrue. [2] To find the real truth requires a lot of work and it requires a level of humility that most of us find very difficult to achieve.

Another fundamental principle that we can rely on is the knowledge that God is omniscient, that he knows everything. God knows the unchangeable facts that are the ultimate answers to all our questions. He taught, “All things are present with me, for I know them all” (Moses 1:6). Furthermore, we are taught that “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). This gives us not only a solid foundation but also a clear perspective. The more we can look at things the way God looks at them, the better our chances are of understanding what we see. The Prophet Joseph Smith said in 1844, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork; and a moment’s reflection is sufficient to teach every man of common intelligence, that all these are not the mere productions of chance, nor could they be supported by any power less than an Almighty hand.” [3] Likewise, the following verses remind us that we have only a minute portion of the knowledge of God’s creations. “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by my Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. . . . But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them” (Moses 1:33, 35). The worlds are innumerable unto man, but our best estimates are now up to around four hundred billion galaxies in the universe. This would be as a famous astronomer used to say, “billions and billions” of stars, not to mention the associated planets.

We are also told in the above verses that God’s many creations were for his purposes (which we only vaguely understand), and that his Only Begotten Son created them. Humility concerning our position, wonder at the magnitude of God’s creations, and awareness of the central role of Christ in all creation are essential if we are to stand on solid footing as we search for truth.

The Breadth of Our Religion

Our religion makes it easy to balance the theories of science with religious faith. On different occasions President Young explained the relationship of revealed religion and science this way:

Our religion is simply the truth. It is all said in this one expression—it embraces all truth, wherever found, in all the works of God and man that are visible or invisible to mortal eye. [4]

If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it. [5]

“Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the gospel. [6]

It embraces every fact there is in the heavens and in the heaven of heavens—every fact there is upon the surface of the earth, in the bowels of the earth, and in the starry heavens; in fine, it embraces all truth there is in all the eternities of the Gods. [7]

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. [8]

In responding to a request to speak on our leading doctrines, John Taylor began by saying,

In regard to our religion, I will say that it embraces every principle of truth and intelligence pertaining to us as moral, intellectual, mortal and immortal beings, pertaining to this world and the world that is to come. We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word “all,” comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity; and it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or pre-conceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be. [9]

To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the search for truth and understanding is a wide-open field. We need not ever worry that we will find some truth that will clash with the gospel. No truth clashes with the gospel. But our responsibility goes beyond simple curiosity. Our desire to emulate God motivates us to understand Him and all His creations.

Since its beginning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has put a high premium on knowledge and learning. Our scriptures point out the importance of knowledge and the necessity of obtaining it by both spiritual and secular means: “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one. . . . But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth” (D&C 93:36–37, 40). The scriptures go on to say, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And 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 130:18–19).

In the Doctrine and Covenants we further read:

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms. (D&C 88:78–79)

As we approach truth from the direction of science and from the direction of religion, sometimes people feel caught in an uncomfortable void between faith in science and faith in religion. This leads some to think that they must abandon either science or religion to deal with apparent conflicts. President Boyd K. Packer has pointed out the necessity of balance: “Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits but requires it. An individual who concentrates on either side solely and alone will lose both balance and perspective.” [10] As we learn more, and approach the truth from the directions of both religion and science, the apparent void will disappear. The destination is the same, independent of the route taken to get there. When science and religion arrive at the truth, they are at the same place and in perfect agreement with each other.

We cannot immediately know everything we would like to know. Sometimes this is very frustrating. Even partial answers can be frustrating. This presents a great temptation to jump for simple, easy explanations of things that cannot be simply or easily explained. This sometimes tempts us to avoid difficult things and instead talk about things that are not so hard to understand, or at least to explain. The world in which we live is not black and white. It is full of color and is sometimes a bit blurry. It is much clearer and more beautiful, though, if we humbly and patiently try to fit together all the pieces available from all the possible sources.

While we wait for all the pieces to come together, it is good to remember a thought attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” [11] Some find it impossible, however, to hold two differing views in their own minds and find it almost as difficult to allow differing views in the minds of others. A corollary to this thought is the observation that people tend to be most critical of those things about which they know least.

With All Your Might

Finding the truth is not an easy thing. We might ask, “Since God knows everything, why does He not just tell us?” God could easily tell us everything we want to know and much more. Instead, he helps us learn gradually, similarly to how we try to help our children learn what we know. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). There is an order to acquiring knowledge that cannot be ignored. Arithmetic comes before algebra, algebra comes before calculus, and so on. Spiritual knowledge also has prerequisites. The main prerequisites for spiritual knowledge are faith and obedience.

Learning is most effective when responsibility rests more on the learner than on the teacher. Finding things out for ourselves works better than being given the answers. Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “It is not in harmony with the Gospel spirit that God, except in special cases, should reveal things that man by the aid of his natural powers may gain for himself.” [12] He then cited the following verses: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (D&C 9:7–8). He went on to say, “So well established is this principle that in all probability many of the deepest truths contained in the writings of Joseph Smith will not be clearly understood, even by his followers, until, by the laborious methods of mortality, the same truths are established.” [13] If we are to understand life and the universe in which we live, we have to work hard, using every method available to us to find the truth.

With All Your Mind

Science has little interest in why things are as they are, but rather in how they are and how they came to be that way. [14] Scientists like to be able to understand a thing well enough to predict what would happen under given circumstances. There is much to be learned by observing God’s creations. “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee” (Job 12:7–8).

We can learn more from studying God’s creations than we can from studying the creations of other people, as good as they might be. Elder Widtsoe made some interesting comments on the wealth of knowledge God has provided for our learning. He said:

God speaks in various ways to men. The stars, the clouds, the mountains, the grass and the soil, are all, to him who reads aright, forms of divine revelation. . . . Nowhere is this principle more beautifully illustrated and confirmed than in the rocks that constitute the crust of the earth. On them is written in simple plainness the history of the earth almost from the beginning, when the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Yet, for centuries, men saw the rocks, their forms and their adaptations to each other, without understanding the message written in them. [15]

Elder Widtsoe then went on to describe the history of the earth as read from the geological record.

Today, we could add a long list of writings to Elder Widtsoe’s items. We find information and history in the genetic material of every living thing on earth. We look deep into the inside of matter to the material that forms the nucleus of atoms. We see far into space and millions of years into the past. This treasure trove of material is illuminating much of what was difficult to understand when hinted at by Joseph Smith and other prophets. This all means that there is more for us to learn than we are possibly capable of learning. It takes years for a person to gain the ability to understand even one field, let alone many fields. We therefore need to learn from and rely on each other.

Our understanding of how science works has matured over time. What was called science long ago only vaguely resembled today’s science. The great philosophers—Socrates, Plato, and others—employed a simple way of discovering knowledge: they thought about things and came to conclusions. The idea was that the mind could deduce truths on its own. [16] This method, called rationalism, led to some valuable insights, but has some serious weaknesses when used to describe the physical world. Thinking about whether the Earth is flat or round will never get to the answer without looking at the Earth.

Endless discussions and arguments intent on persuasion more than on discovery eventually led people to do what seems obvious to us today—look for evidence. At the urging of Robert Hooke, experience was proposed as being critical to the discovery of truth. [17] It then became popular to make large numbers of observations from which conclusions could be deduced. This came to be called empiricism because it is based on the use of empirical evidence. Valuable discoveries were made using this method and observation was established as the core of scientific research. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the early adopters of this new experimental philosophy.

When Albert Einstein’s new ideas challenged those of Newton, and proved them wrong in some respects, a new view of how science works was emerging. Karl Popper became the spokesperson for critical rationalism. [18] The main idea behind critical rationalism is that theories about how things are can be proven false or not proven false, but can never be proven true. This realization has propelled the great surge of scientific progress in the past one hundred years.

The method used by science to find truth is appropriately called the scientific method. [19] It is based on observations and follows Popper’s premise that a thing cannot be proven to be true, but can be proven to be not true. Here is how it works:

1. A theory that seems to explain all that has been observed is developed.

2. An experiment is designed to test the theory; i.e., to try to prove the theory wrong.

3. The experiment is conducted.

4. If the experiment is unable to prove the theory wrong, more experiments are designed and conducted, always trying to disprove the theory.

5. If an experiment succeeds in disproving the theory, a new theory is developed and the process begins again.

This method exposes much that is not true by slowly eliminating theories and thus causing them to be refined. It brings us incrementally closer to the truth, but never quite to it. Some theories are quickly discredited; others survive for much longer. A hierarchy of theories develops, with those that have withstood challenges for the longest time as the foundation of the pile and the newer, less tested ones exposed on the surface. All are theories that have not been proven wrong rather than facts that have been proven true. [20]

The greatest, most important asset that a scientist can have is humility. To find truth, we have to understand that we do not have the final answers, that we really do not know. [21] I will mention only a few examples of the many scientific theories that served as the best available explanation for what was observed until a better replacement was found. From our vantage point today, some of these may even look ridiculous. However, if we had lived when they were extant, they would have seemed as reasonable to us as do our present ideas. Thinking of what the explanations we accept today will look like in the future should be humbling to us.

Astronomical theories

The Ptolemaic system, favored by Aristotle and Ptolemy, had the Earth at the center of the universe with everything else rotating around it. Copernicus replaced this theory with the heliocentric system, with the planets rotating around the sun. [22] Newton’s universal gravitation, with everything attracting everything else, changed the celestial logic again. Finally, for now, Einstein’s ideas about general relativity has changed it all again. [23]

Aristotle’s physics

Aristotle had a theory of gravity to explain why some things, like cannonballs, fall downward and other things, like steam, fall upward. He also taught that the elements that make up the Earth (earth, air, water, and fire) are different than those that make up the heavens. A system of relationships among these elements explained much that can be observed. This theory lasted for over two thousand years, but was gradually supplanted by more robust theories proposed by Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and others.


Aristotle’s earth, air, water, and fire ideas were the foundation of the long-accepted concepts of alchemy. Aristotle taught that there is only one kind of matter, but that it can take many forms. The four fundamental forms are earth, air, water, and fire. Since all elements are of the same kind of matter, but in different forms, they should be able to be transformed into each other. Hence, great efforts were made for many years to perform transformations such as lead into gold.

Atomic theory

The concept that matter is composed of discrete units and cannot be divided into smaller units is thousands of years old. Democritus (approx. 460–370 BC) pictured such particles as the constituents of matter. They were named atoms from the Greek word for indivisible. [24] These ideas were founded on philosophical reasoning rather than experimentation and empirical observation.

Starting with the discovery of electrons by the English physicist J. J. Thompson (1856–1940), atoms began to be viewed as something other than homogeneous particles. The idea of a sun and planet relational model gradually gave way to other constructs until a model with clouds of electrons surrounding a nucleus of protons and neutrons was proposed. This model has been modified further to account for subunits of the subunits within atoms. Each of these changes was caused by the inability of a theory to withstand experimental challenges. Through all these versions of the atom, scientists explained observations in physics and chemistry based upon the theory current at their time.

Spontaneous generation

The theory of spontaneous generation said that living things appear spontaneously. This explained everything from mice appearing in a pile of dirty rags thrown in a corner to maggots on meat. It was a theory that was believed by almost everyone, including Aristotle, for hundreds of years. Then in the nineteenth century, Louis Pasteur designed and ran a simple experiment that easily proved it wrong. The current theory, which has held its own since Pasteur, is referred to as “all life from the living.” Mice come from other mice, bacteria from bacteria, and so on. [25]

Miasma theory of disease

This theory started in the Middle Ages. It blamed diseases on miasma, a kind of smelly mist or vapor in the air that contained decomposed matter. During the mid-1800s, cholera outbreaks in London and Paris were blamed on miasmas. Among others, Florence Nightingale was a proponent of this theory. The miasma theory was consistent with the observations that disease was associated with poor sanitation and that sanitary improvements reduced disease. It is not consistent with the observations of microbiology that led to the current germ theory of disease. [26]

Some of these examples look almost humorous to us today. A hundred years from now, some of the things we think are true will look the same way to our descendants. However, using this strange, backward method of guessing and trying to prove our guesses wrong, we have made great progress.

Several opportunities to misuse the scientific method present themselves. Most of these are the result of forgetting or ignoring the basis of the method. For example, long accepted theories become like facts to us so we rarely see the need to test them. We need to remember, however, that the whole compilation of scientific knowledge is based on theories that continue to be tested. Some of the pieces in this pyramid will be found to be wrong and will need to be replaced.

Practicing scientists can easily fall into error by forgetting that experiments are to disprove theories, not to prove them. It is relatively easy to design experiments that fail to disprove a theory. It is a grave error to accept such failure as proof that the theory is true. This pitfall is particularly tempting to those testing theories they hope are true. The result of this error is a return to the pre–sixteenth century way of trying to explain the universe.

Another challenge we face is the limited scope of our ability to observe. We have access to only a small percentage of the spectrum. There is a limit beyond which, even with the best instruments, things are too small to see. As we look into the sky, because of the time light takes to travel, we see what far away objects looked like in the past. We can see the present only of things close to us. This makes it particularly difficult to formulate theories based on observations. Experimental science does very well considering the view we have through our small window. If we could see more, our theories would be better and science would make faster progress.

Some theories are harder to test and therefore inherently more difficult to disprove, even if they are not true. Devising tests for theories that are impossible to observe with our physical senses requires great ingenuity. Such difficult theories often require us to use evidence left from the past rather than doing controlled experiments.

Some things are completely out of range for science. [27] For example, science cannot prove the existence of God. First, science does not prove things true. It either proves them false or fails to prove them false. Second, science has a very narrow window through which to view the universe. Scientific conclusions must be based on observation. Our five senses are the only receptors available to science. We can enhance them to some extent with instruments and tools, but we are still limited to a small spectrum of physical measurements and not to any spiritual measurements.

We can, however, find the existence of God in other ways. Plenty of evidence has been given to us for this very purpose. “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). We also read, “Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

Revealed religion can prove the existence of God with certainty to anyone who wants to know. Christ’s answer to Peter’s testimony tells us that our Father in Heaven will give us this assurance.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13–17)

Scientists who believe in God do not believe because of scientific experiments. They believe because of the same evidence Peter received. As sure as this knowledge is to those who have it, some are not receptive to it. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

With All Your Heart

Religion approaches an understanding of life and the universe by asking, “Why?” Though interested in how, where, when, and related questions, the greater curiosity for religion is purpose. From a religious point of view, why things are as they are is more important than how they came to be that way. [28] Even when prophets have asked for details, like Moses did, the answers are usually about purpose.

The source of information in religion is revelation. Answers are not found by trial and error, speculation, and so on, but only by communication from God. God—not man—decides what to reveal and when and to whom to reveal it. Information received by revelation has the solid attribute of being true.

The ability to separate revealed truth from less reliable information is given to everyone. Christ said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

This is both a formula for recognizing truth and for detecting untruth. Elder Bruce R. McConkie described this process as personal revelation:

Would you like the formula to tell you how to get personal revelation? It might be written in many ways. My formula is simply this:

1. Search the scriptures.

2. Keep the commandments.

3. Ask in faith.

Any person who will do this will get his heart so in tune with the Infinite that there will come into his being from the “still small voice,” the eternal realities of religion. And as he progresses and advances and comes nearer to God, there will be a day when he will entertain angels, when he will see visions, and the final end is to view the face of God. [29]

Enos in the Book of Mormon, for one, tried this formula:

And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith." (Enos 1:4–8)

Alma gave an example of the same process.

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. (Alma 32:27–33)

The use of the word experiment makes it too easy to mistake the kind of experiment described here for a scientific experiment. These experiments are designed to discover the truth of something while scientific experiments are designed to disprove things.

Because much remains unrevealed and humankind has an insatiable desire to know things, some unnecessary problems arise. Revealed information can be endlessly reformulated and elaborated upon. Such activities do not uncover additional truth, but they do generate misinformation. Hence, we hear arguments on many topics credited to God that are extrapolated beyond what he has revealed. It is at least as easy to extrapolate revealed truth beyond what is known as it is to do the same with scientific data.


People have an innate urge to know everything. God knows the unchangeable truths that are the answers to our questions. We have only a minute portion of the knowledge of what he, through his Only Begotten Son, has created for his own purposes. We are promised, however, that we can find the truth. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (D&C 8:2). Humility is invaluable as we strive to learn and discover all we can. My father’s favorite scripture was: “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10).

To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the search for truth and understanding is a wide-open field. Mormonism embraces all truth, whatever the source or the method used to find it. We need to be careful that we do not settle too comfortably on things that we think are true without trying our very best to make sure that they are true. Science and religion both contribute in different ways to our understanding. We can see things more clearly and the world is a much more beautiful place if we use the input from both sides. When we are frustrated with partial answers, we should be very careful not to jump for easy explanations to hard questions.

In conclusion, President Howard W. Hunter said:

It is inappropriate, especially at this university, to divide learning into secular education and religious education. Truth is, or ought to be, the object of our endeavors throughout the university, and truth is not two things; it is one. Our concern is with true science and true religion. Certainly the laws that govern the behavior of both molecules and men are part of the laws known and used by our Heavenly Father. God is the perfect scientist. We must not forget that our knowledge is not yet perfect. Everyone in this life must often look at matters through a glass, darkly. [30]


Much of this chapter comes from Rodney J. Brown, Setting the Record Straight: Mormons & Science (Orem, UT: Millennial Press, 2008).

[1] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter Day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 14:115.

[2] John Grant, Discarded Science: Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time (London: Facts, Figures & Fun, 2006), 8.

[3] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 56.

[4] Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. John A. Widstoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954), 2.

[5] Young, in Journal of Discourses, 13:335.

[6] Young, in Journal of Discourses, 11:375.

[7] Young, in Journal of Discourses, 9:149.

[8] Young, in Journal of Discourses, 14:115.

[9] John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 16:369.

[10] Boyd K. Packer, “I Say unto You, Be One,” in Brigham Young University 1990–91 Devotional and Fireside Speeches (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1991), 81–92.

[11] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up (New York: New Directions Books, 1956), 69.

[12] Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist (Salt Lake City: The General Board Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Associations, 1908), 7.

[13] Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist, 7.

[14] Rodney J. Brown, “A Scientist’s View of Life from a ‘Mormon’ Perspective,” in Fundamentals of Life, ed. Gyula Palyi, Claudia Zucchi, and Luciano Caglioti (New York: Elsevier, 2002), 517–19.

[15] Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist, 50.

[16] Daniel J. Boorstin, The Seekers: The Story of Man’s Continuing Quest to Understand His World (New York: Random House, 1998), 21.

[17] James Gleick, Isaac Newton (New York: Pantheon Books, 2003), 62–63.

[18] Karl R. Popper, Realism and the Aim of Science (London: Hutchinson, 1983); Herbert Keuth, The Philosophy of Karl Popper (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

[19] Brown, “Scientist’s View of Life,” 517–19.

[20] Grant, Discarded Science, 8.

[21] Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All (Reading, MA: Perseus Books, 1998), 35.

[22] Jack Repchek, Copernicus’ Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 8–9.

[23] James Gleick, Isaac Newton (New York: Pantheon Books, 2003), 185–86.

[24] Maitland Jones Jr., Organic Chemistry, 3rd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), 1–2.

[25] Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself (New York: Randon House, 1983), 430.

[26] Alexander Hellemans and Bryan Bunch, The Timetables of Science: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in the History of Science (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 278.

[27] Albert Einstein, “Science and Religion,” in The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics, ed. Timothy Ferris (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1991), 828–35.

[28] Brown, “Scientist’s View of Life,” 517–19.

[29] Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, ed. Mark L. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 157.

[30] The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 183.