Mormon Beliefs About Science

mormon-churchWhen the Mormons were driven out of Missouri by mobs, they built a city they named Nauvoo. It was in Illinois. The people were desperately poor, having been constantly forced to abandon everything in order to escape their tormentors, and yet, one of the first things they did was to establish schools and even a small university. The university offered chemistry and geology its first year.

Mormons accept science as part of God’s plan. God created the world and everything in it, which means He also created the laws of science. To Mormons, all worthwhile learning is spiritual, even if it is also secular. Mormons believe that we take true learning with us when we die, and so it is worth our effort to learn all we can.

Mormons do not consider science and history to be doctrinal. When a church leader speaks of something scientific, he is not delivering scientific prophecy or revelation. He is a product of his time. People in the Bible often used poor science but it was science that made sense to them based on current knowledge. This means a Mormon leader who talks about science is speaking based on his own knowledge or beliefs, not based on revelation from God. Everything a prophet says is not necessarily prophetic—prophets are people and have their own opinions about things. Mormons are taught to distinguish between opinion and revelation.

Dallin H. Oaks gave this explanation of the relationship between science and faith in matters of health:

Latter-day Saints believe in applying the best available scientific knowledge and techniques. We use nutrition, exercise, and other practices to preserve health, and we enlist the help of healing practitioners, such as physicians and surgeons, to restore health.

The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith and our reliance on priesthood blessings. When a person requested a priesthood blessing, Brigham Young would ask, “Have you used any remedies?” To those who said no because “we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed,” President Young replied: “That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.” (Of course we don’t wait until all other methods are exhausted before we pray in faith or give priesthood blessings for healing. In emergencies, prayers and blessings come first. Most often we pursue all efforts simultaneously. This follows the scriptural teachings that we should “pray always” (D&C 90:24) and that all things should be done in wisdom and order.” [1]

There are many Mormon scientists, and Henry B. Eyring, the second highest ranking Mormon leader, is the son of a scientist who was considered for a Nobel Prize and who taught at Princeton University.

There are times when science has to catch up with direct revelation that does have a scientific nature. For instance, Mormons live by a health code called the Word of Wisdom. In its time, its teachings were odd. No one yet suspected the inherent dangers of tobacco, for instance, and yet today, science has finally caught up with what God always knew.

Mormons do not require a particular view of how the world was created, as long as we acknowledge that God is the creator. Mormons don’t consider the Bible to be a science book. In the Old Testament Student Manual, used by Mormon college students, we learn:

“While it is interesting to note these various theories, officially the Church has not taken a stand on the age of the earth. For reasons best known to Himself, the Lord has not yet seen fit to formally reveal the details of the Creation. Therefore, while Latter-day Saints are commanded to learn truth from many different fields of study (see D&C 88:77–79), an attempt to establish any theory as the official position of the Church is not justifiable.”

Brigham Young University, owned by the Mormons, teaches evolution as a fact in its classes. A 2009 article reported that BYU students scored higher than the national average in evolution and ecology exams. They teach students that you can believe in both creation and evolution.

Mormons honor science as part of God’s creation. Science, however, is not doctrine and few scientific facts are considered unchangeable in the faith. Each Mormon decides for himself how he feels about evolution—as long as he keeps God in the story.

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