Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » An Example of Anti-Intellectualism in the Church

An Example of Anti-Intellectualism in the Church

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 05, 2010

One of my personal articles of faith is that I believe God expects – requires, demands – His children to exercise the gifts that He has given us, including the intellect and reasoning powers that he has granted. Even while we must take many things on faith, we are not excused from the attempt to understand revelation and the coarser methods of learning, to the limits of our abilities. We have admonitions like those in D&C 88:

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 — that ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.

and statements like these from Brigham Young:

Intelligence, to a certain extent, was bestowed both upon Saint and sinner, to use independently, aside from whether they have the law of the Priesthood or not, whether they have ever heard of it or not


We believe in all good. 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.

With such encouragement to seek for truth wherever it may be, and not simply wait for it to fall from the lips of acknowledged prophets, I am too often puzzled and dismayed by calls to restrict inquiry, to ignore the thought of anyone who doesn’t bear the title “Elder,” to dismiss anything that doesn’t come “through channels.”

To be honest, I don’t often hear those calls from General Authorities; they most often come from the rank and file. That’s why I was doubly dismayed to find this article by George Q. Cannon, written in 1883.

In visiting one of our conferences recently I was greatly surprised to hear it stated that some of our Elders were discussing and believing in the theory of Darwin respecting the origin of man. How any man with any knowledge of the gospel can think it worth his while to spend time upon discussion of this questions, but more especially to believe in it, I can scarcely comprehend; for the whole faith of the Latter-day Saints from beginning to end disproves Darwin’s theory respecting man’s origin.

The Prophet Joseph in his boyhood sought the Lord with a faith that prevailed. He was a chosen instrument sent to the earth with a mission, and that mission was to lay the foundation, under the direction of the Almighty, of this latter-day work. The first manifestation that he had was the appearance of the Father and the Son. He saw them and they conversed with him. The Father introduced the son with the remark: “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” There were two personages, and like the brother of Jared, he saw that they were in the form of man, or in other words that man is the image of Deity.

Now, for the first time in very many generations a mortal man was found who had seen God and knew concerning His appearance. There was no longer room for speculation as to the character and attributes of Deity. The necessity for discussion upon this point ceased from this time forward with those who believed the testimony of the Prophet Joseph. The statements made by some of the religious sects that He was a Being without body, parts and passions, were to Joseph and to those who believed in his testimony, sheer nonsense and utterly devoid of truth. Jesus is the son of God, and the express image of His Father’s person, and the rest of the human family are His brothers and sisters and are like Him in bodily form. In other words, we are the children of God, not in a figurative sense, but truly and really His offspring and descended from Him. Every Latter-day Saint who is in truth entitled to the name must believe this, and if so, where is there room found for believing in Darwin’s theory?

Perhaps some of my readers may not be acquainted with the ideas that Darwin sets forth. His theory is, that man has ascended by successive steps through a long series of ages from a lower condition of existence up to his present perfection. This is what is called the doctrine of evolution. Believers in this theory indulge in the idea that there was a time when man occupied no higher position in creation than the monkey tribes now do, and that still farther back they were even lower than this.

But upon no point does the beauty and advantage of new revelation from God appear more clearly than in this case. Though the Christian world have the Bible, yet with all its writings many of them accept the doctrines of Darwin. Not long since I heard a man, who called himself a Christian minister, preach from the pulpit this doctrine, and speak about man in his present perfection as the product of ages of evolution. The Bible has not prevented such men, though they profess to be guided by the written word of God, from falling into such gross errors; but there is no room for Latter-day Saints who have faith, to indulge in such vagaries. God has revealed to us clearly that before we came here and occupied tabernacles, we had a spiritual existence with Him, just as Jesus did. When the veil was removed and the brother of Jared saw Jesus as he saw Him in a spiritual body, just as He appeared afterwards in His fleshly tabernacle on the earth. When the Lord showed Abraham a vision of the spirits of men, as we are told in this record He did, he showed them to him as they afterwards would appear in the fleshly tabernacles. All the teachings that we have heard form inspired men in our day are to the effect that in the resurrection we shall know each other again; that our bodies are in the likeness of our spirits. This being the case, how would it be possible for us to have progressed from a lower condition according to the theory of Darwin and his followers? One ray of light from the eternal world dispels such delusive ideas and gives men knowledge concerning themselves, their origin and the character and attributes of God their eternal Father.

There is no necessity for one moment being spent by any Elder in the Church in discussing the truth or falsity of these things. The truth, as God has revealed it, removes all doubt. He has revealed Himself. He has permitted His Son Jesus to reveal Himself. In his condescension and mercy He has declared to us that He is our Father. We know our relationship to Him. It is to God we look as our parent, and not to some lower order of creatures, such as monkeys or even lower creatures. And if I should hear of an elder of the Church lending credence to Darwin’s theories concerning the origin of man, I should want no better evidence than that fact that he had lost the Spirit of his calling and had fallen into darkness and unbelief.

I can already hear NDBF Gary and other anti-evolutionists firing up their keyboards to gloat “I told you so!” But don’t be so quick to do that – if you follow Pres. Cannon’s dictates, then it is just as much a waste of your time to spend one moment discussing the FALSITY of these things as it is to debate their truth. Far more than the specific point of whether or not Darwin was on to something with his theories [*] is the insistence that there is no point in even discussing those theories, either in support or in refutation. Don’t talk about them. Don’t debate them. Don’t use your reasoning faculties to understand why those theories are true or false. Don’t think. That’s anti-intellectualism at its rankest, and I’m surprised to find it in the writing of George Q. Cannon, who usually was as rational and thoughtful as he was spiritual.

[*] I most heartily agree with everything George Q. Cannon says about man being created in the image of God, and with his evidences from Joseph Smith and Abraham and the brother of Jared and other prophets, and for everything he says about our relation to Deity. But true as all those principles are, they are irrelevant to evolutionary theory.

Evolution addresses only the physical sphere and says nothing about the spiritual realm or about first causes. Even the most strict Bible fundamentalist believes that there was a distinction between man’s physical self and his spiritual self, and that until God put a human spirit into an existing form, that form was not human: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” That dust-of-the-ground body was not human, had no power over spirit, was not a child of God, until God joined it to the spirit of one of his children and made it a living soul.

I see no contradiction between that pre-human body of clay, and a theoretical physical body that was the result of evolutionary creation which had finally reached the state where it was a fit tabernacle for one of the sons of God. God put the spirit of man into a suitable vessel, one that had the appearance of God, one that had been prepared for man before body and spirit were joined. Who can be sure exactly how “God formed man of the dust of the ground”? That description fits evolutionary theory every bit as well as it fits the idea of God playing in a mud puddle and sculpting a man-shaped body with his bare hands.

I would prefer that comments be directed toward the problem of anti-intellectualism in the Church than in debating evolution, but since I’ve addressed my own theory of reconciling evolution with a literal reading of Genesis, I suppose I can’t complain if others do the same. Be polite.



  1. Ardis,

    Nibley argues that much of the opposition to “Darwin” in this era, and he focuses on Brigham Young, was not so much an opposition to evolutionary biology. Instead, it was a reaction against Social Darwinism, which in its many forms had become a dominant social force in the late 19th century. This twisted form of evolutionary thought praised inequality and poverty. It also promoted relativism and atheism. The Brethen oppose it for any number of these reasons.

    Now, I do not think this means that it should not be discussed. However, Brigham Young was frustrasted that the Saints had become comfortable discussing Darwin, Huxley, and Sumner, yet they dismissed and mocked the United Order and the ideals of Zion.

    Their are contemporary parallels.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — May 5, 2010 @ 7:26 am

  2. Last year my husband and I attended an orientation meeting for early morning seminary. One of the speakers said right up front, “We don’t care if your kids learn about the scriptures. We just want them to feel the spirit.” My jaw dropped.

    If it’s all sound bytes and cute little seminary movies and fluffy bunnies and fields of daisies — at least they won’t be discussing Zelph (I hope!), but they also won’t be armed with the knowledge to separate fact from error, truth from fiction, emotional manipulation from feeling the spirit.

    Comment by Researcher — May 5, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  3. George Q. Cannon is welcome to his opinion. As for me, I hope we Latter-day Saints can have a scientifically informed theology. For such I seek.

    If we accept quantum physics, then we must accept the earth as being approximately 4.5 billion years old.

    If we accept paleontology and fossils, then we must accept that species have dramatically changed over hundreds of millions of years.

    It would be anti-intellectual to deny gravity. No topic in science is more formally documented than evolution (every natural science verifies it). Thus, I can only assume that a person who denies the basic facts of evolution has never had an apple fall on his or her head.

    Comment by S.Faux — May 5, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  4. In my experience (which, after all, is all I have to go on) the problem of anti-intellectualism is a biggie. One of my continual bugbears is to compare and contrast the contents of the Ensign in the 70’s and 80’s, to today. But mention that, and I get shot down with ‘but it’s printed under the direction of the Prophet! Don’t you sustain him?’ Well, yes, but I’d like a little more brain fodder in my reading material please! And whenever I ask a question, not trying to disprove anything, but just out of interest to stimulate conversation, or get a discussion going, eventually someone will say ‘we don’t need to discuss these matters. Studying such things isn’t good for us. We should just trust what we are told’. That however, is not what Joseph Smith taught, and not what my conscience tells me, because why then does D&C 9 tell us to study things out in our own mind?

    I have a fear that eventually anyone interested in intellectual discussion within the Church will be labelled apostate; and that possibility frightens me more than anything Satan is supposed to throw at us in the last days.

    Just saying.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — May 5, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  5. I sometimes run into people in the Church telling me it is dangerous to look at Church history. “You don’t want to risk losing your testimony.”

    It is like the 4 year old my wife used to nanny for. When she would get into trouble she would raise he hand with her palm out and say “Let’s not talk about that.”

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 5, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  6. One of the root causes of anti-intellectualism is the attitude that if something isn’t known, we must not “need” to know it. Whether true or not, this attitude is used by some members of the church to shut down discussion. This seems at odds with Joseph Smith’s values regarding knowledge and learning.

    Comment by Anthony — May 5, 2010 @ 9:48 am

  7. I could write volumes on this subject, as you are well aware. I encounter this barrier on a daily basis, given my proclivity to publish on “intellectual” topics that seek to inform rather than draw out a tear or generate a warm fuzzy feeling in my readers. Oddly, I agree with Bro. Cannon in that we focus on spurious arguements, endlessly debating them to little avail, while neglecting the truly important issues, ideas and concepts. There is so much more in the gospel fullness than endlessly debating Darwin or Creationism or any of a dozen other “straw men” notions. (Yes, I said “staw men.” But then, I’m the guy who thinks that the Great and Abominable Church Nephi described is the scientific/academic community. What a horrific notion! Right?!) In that case, the really vital issues go begging. And whenever anyone brings up a truly vital topic such as understanding the appearance of the ancient heavens, the imagery of prophecy, the symbolism of temple ritual or the meaning of some archane scripture, they run away, crying, “heresy” or “apostacy.” The same crowd that delights in debating the same tired, old issues won’t step outside their comfort zone. Instead, the fangs come out, and they proceed to rip you to shreads with an ad hominum attack. So much for intellectualism. “How could you be so stupid,” they say, in effect, “as to not believe what is ‘scientific?'” So, while my entire approach is based on an intellectual approach to the Restored Gospel, I decry wasting time with dead issues. I believe that is what Bro. Cannon tried to say.

    Comment by Anthony E. Larson — May 5, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  8. This sense that reason and spirituality are incompatible is always puzzling to me. I suspect that there is a great fear on the part of many of our church members that that when reason and doctrine appear to come into conflict, that our spirituality is not what it should be.

    Which is not to say that it isn’t a real fear, as I have one adult son who has effectively reasoned himself out of church activity over the last 10 years. For me, however, reason and spirituality are two sides to the same coin, balancing and complementing each other. Just as often as I feel my spirituality might be lacking, I also recognize an intellectual laziness that keeps me from trying to really understand the world around me as deeply as I should.

    The fear about evolution often seems rooted in the idea that if people think they are descended from lower forms of life, a prodigiously gross oversimplification of organic evolution, they will behave like animals, using evolution as an excuse. I don’t know that I have ever seen that in real life, to be honest. The unifying principle in all of this is honesty and truth. 13th Article of Faith, anyone?

    Comment by kevinf — May 5, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  9. Kevinf: I agree that reason and spirituality are not incompatible and are really two sides of the same coin. It seems that in religious culture there is this notion that they are at odds with each other. I try to teach my children that it’s not one or the other. That’s where people can get confused and let “reason” lead them astray. I have no trouble teaching my children that God created the Heavens and the Earth and at the same time I have no trouble teaching them about Evolution. I explain that I believe that God used evolutionary means to accomplish his creative goals.

    There always seems to be those in callings who push anti-intellectualism. When my brother was in seminary he’d ask challenging questions. His teacher’s pat response was a dismissive “That’s inappropriate.” Several years ago a high councilman spoke in our unite. He railed on intellectualism. That was shortly after I got hired on by the university and was finishing up my Ph.D. I wasn’t a happy camper. And given that in our small unit we have several university professors and quite a number of individuals with graduate degrees, I felt his remarks were, shall I say, “inappropriate.”

    Comment by Steve C. — May 5, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  10. The thing is, in Pres Cannon’s time, science was not as established as it is now. And this included the area of evolution.
    He did not want people to spend/waste their time in speculation. We’ve had such problems in the Church in the near past, when many were so focused on Ezra Taft Benson’s political statements, or on Last Days events, no other items were being discussed as intensely.
    The Church’s main responsibility is to teach doctrine and save souls. For Pres Cannon, as with Pres Packer today, speculative discussions on evolution would be a major distraction for anyone who should be focusing on learning doctrine.
    I think we should study evolution and make a determination on how it may fit into gospel settings. However, to focus continually on it, tends to diminish the gospel’s force in a person’s life.

    Comment by Rameumptom — May 5, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  11. As I see it, the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1 was not an absolute beginning. It was the beginning of _our_ story on this planet. JS opened up, for us at least, a myriad of possibilities when he pointed out that the Hebrew word translated as “created” actually means “organized.”

    My reading of Genesis 1:1 and Abraham 3:24 is that the “beginning” referenced there was not the same point in time as the creation of the universe or the creation of the galaxy.

    I think all religious believers, including LDS, are in for a rude awakening when we finally get to learn the _full_ story behind the creation of the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets.

    And I think those who believe in evolution, in any sort, are also in for a rude awakening when many of the assumptions/postulates built into those theories are shown to be incorrect, or when the missing pieces are filled in.

    S. Faux made a pretty misleading statement about evolution being “verified.” Such things are still all theories based on interpretation of evidences. We have no direct observations or observers of the past available to us. There still is no conclusive proof that high order species evolve from lower orders. It may _look_ that way, when you line up a bunch of old bones next to each other, but it doesn’t _prove_ anything.

    And on the religious send, the Lord has not seen fit to reveal the hows and whys of species creation from His point of view.

    I’m still unclear how the cosmos are divided up by the generations and multiplicity of gods. Is our Heavenly Father the God of this galaxy or of this universe? If the universe is His dominion, then there must be other universes in an overall larger multiverse.

    Anyway, perhaps one reason to avoid even trying to reconcile such things, is that the origin and creation of our planet is not among those things that Heavenly Father has revealed, except to a few who were forbidden to describe it.

    In other words, look at it from a scientific viewpoint if you will, but from a religious/spiritual viewpoint, many things are “looking beyond the mark.”

    That’s one reason to keep such scientific arguments out of the religious domain. Not that religion can’t coexist, but you don’t want to be circumscribing, or limiting religious beliefs by scientific theories that your religion doesn’t even address.

    As I see it, the arrogance is not on the side of religious believers, but on the side of those who want to limit God by what they’ve concluded from observing physical evidence.

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 5, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  12. Well, we’re all over the board on this one, aren’t we?

    I’ve let comments out of the filter that ordinarily protects Keepa from some of the more questionable views, this time, because of the nature of the post. Please be polite to each other and tolerant of different views.

    Please recognize, too, that some commenters have expertise in this area that few of us share, and accord them the respect due to such experience.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 5, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  13. Just a little note to Bookslinger and others:

    I am sometimes accused of being “misleading” by the creationists. But here’s the scoop:

    Just as there is a difference between gravity and theories of gravity, there is a difference between the facts of evolution and the theories of evolution that attempt to explain the facts.

    Scientific truth is that set of propositions that produce repeatable, predictable, and converging outcomes when scrutinized by systematic observation and/or experimentation. Evolutionary facts meet that criterion. The facts have been verified and validated by physics, chemistry, biology, geology, psychology, and anthropology. What is misleading is to suggest that evolution is merely a “tall speculation.” It is NOT.

    Not all science requires experimental manipulation, but I will tell you this: we can manipulate evolution (by genetics, selective breeding, etc.) far better than we can manipulate gravity. We don’t doubt gravity because we cannot manipulate it very well.

    Who says we cannot look into the past. Historians do all the time with ancient documents. Astronomers who are looking at distant galaxies are examining the past. Scientific study of fossils is looking into the past. These studies seem pretty “direct” to me, shy of some “time machine” process.

    Latter-day theologians had best find a way to teach others that it is OK to believe in the Bible and dinosaurs, because I can tell you this: the science of dinosaurs is NOT going away.

    To me, it seems anti-intellectual (and anti-continuing-revelation) to insist that our precious LDS theology is incapable of adapting to modern science.

    True, we don’t know the meaning of all things. But, we do believe in continuing revelation because we do KNOW that there is MORE to learn.

    Sorry, I am JUST the messenger. Evolution is FACT. Indeed, “evolution” is a whole bunch of facts.

    Oh, and guess what: the gospel is still true.

    Comment by S.Faux — May 5, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  14. I’m willing to cut Cannon some slack. In 1883 evolution looked like a crazy idea that was obviously wrong–which makes it all the more amazing how right it has been. Things look very different in 2010.

    Comment by Jared* — May 5, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

  15. Bro Faux: You’re sounding like a global-warming acolyte who has been challenged: “The SCIENCE is settled! The SCIENCE is settled!”

    But not, it’s not. Evolution is not under the heading of “fact.” It’s a conclusion based on interpretation of physical evidence.

    What you are calling “facts” are merely evidences and observations, no matter how extensive and correlated they are. The _evidence_ has been verified, and the measurements done upon the evidence have been verified. The verification of those things are not called “Facts of Evolution”. They are merely reproducible observations.

    Facts can be the existence of tangible objects that can be recorded and described.

    Facts can be measurements and direct observations of those tangible objects. Facts can be descriptions of the observable characteristics on those objects. Facts may be a set of similarities and patterns and relationships in such characteristics, when comparing different pieces or sets of evidences.

    But they are mere _evidence_. And evolution is still a theory or a conclusion based on those facts. The idea that “Species X from #-million years ago is a biological descendent of Species Y from ##-million years ago” is still speculation, or a THEORY.

    Evolution has not been “verified” as you claim, because it has not been observed. Only “micro evolution” or mutations of DNA within a species has been observed.

    And the fact that scientists can re-arrange DNA like Tinker-Toys has no bearing on what happend a gazillion years ago.

    The arrogance of evolutionists is in thinking that evolution is a “done deal”. The arrogance of evolutionists is also in thinking that God could not have used any mystical/miraculous finger-snapping-and-it-was-so powers.

    There’s even a religiosity to the belief in evolution as fact, and I think it bears striking resemblance to the shout-down that global warming advocates have been doing to those who point out contrary evidence.

    The arrogance of religionists is in thinking that the scriptural record is exhaustive and complete, or 100% literal in describing creation, or in thinking that God used _exclusively_ mystical/miraculous means for all of creation.

    If there was a “slate-wiping do-over” just prior to Genesis 1:1, and if, as mentioned several times in the BoM and D&C, there are many things from the time of our pre-mortal existence that the Lord intentionally keeps away from us — THEN — there are myriad possibilities for RECONCILING the fossil and geological record with scriptural accounts of creation.

    Contrary to what NDBF Gary asserts, I believe the fossil record was laid down eons prior to Genesis 1:1, and probably even prior to Abraham 3:24.

    Perhaps Genesis 1:1 is a “do over” point, and actually a beginning point for _us_ on this planet, all scriptures which appear to be absolute in time sequence, _may_ only be absolute back to Genesis 1:1, as nothing prior to Genesis 1:1 “counts” in the scriptural record.

    IE, “Forever” for us may only go back to the point of Genesis 1:1. Therefore, “never before” _could_ essentially be “never since the point referenced in Genesis 1:1”.

    The current version/edition of earth may not be the original go-’round. Each of those pre-historic eras may have been Jehovah-and-Micheal-and-crew “practicing” building our planet. The intervening ice ages or other cataclysms may have been “do overs”, making way for subsequent beta versions. “Oh, and by the way, distribute the organic matter to make sure there’s enough oil and coal in the ground, because a few thousand years after Michael is placed on earth, they’re going to need it.”

    And the earth may not have always been around this sun. It may have been formed elsewhere, and got knocked here by a planetary collision as part of one of those cataclysms. (The bowl-shape of the Pacific ocean, and it being opposite the mid-atlantic ridge may be evidence of something.) If this space-ball used to orbit a different sun, then the differing solar and cosmic radiation throws carbon dating out the window for anything prior to the move.

    Oh well, that’s that I think about laying awake at night.

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 5, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

  16. Bookslinger:

    What we have in common is that we both lay awake at night and we worry about how the gospel fits into the larger world. I am sure we work out of the same Church manuals.

    Evidently, however, we work out of completely different science textbooks.

    In my textbooks, gravity is a fact that needs a theoretical account. It is NOT a mere interpretation. Evolution has a stronger scientific status than gravity.

    The basic fact of evolution is that life (based upon the same DNA code) has systematically and dramatically changed over hundreds of millions of years. The available DNA record, as an independent verification, aligns extremely well with the fossil record.

    But, feel free to play word games. Demote evolution to “mere interpretation.” If that wording makes you feel better, then fine with me.

    The good news is that Mormons can be full-fledged evolutionists who contribute to evolutionary science. And, yes, we evolutionists will not have the luxury of demoting “facts” as “opinions.” Instead, we have to be driven by the facts, and we have to be clear about what facts we are trying to explain.

    Fortunately, I do not go to Church to learn science.

    Comment by S.Faux — May 6, 2010 @ 2:01 am

  17. Enough, Bookslinger, please. You’ve stated your position (based on neither science nor religion, I think, but on some personal philosophy, the source of which I do not recognize). S.Faux has a basis for his claims with vastly more evidence than you credit — that evidence exists, whether you know it or not. It can’t be overcome by mere assertions, and I don’t want to host a debate that is becoming personal. I’m calling an end to it more for your sake than for EssDot’s.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2010 @ 7:28 am

  18. I’m sorry this topic appeared during a time in the semester I call Grading Ragnarök, because it is one which interests me very much. Whether one ultimately accepts the spiritual claims of Joseph Smith or not, his autodidactic ambitions and inventiveness are impressive (and of a distinctly American flavor as has, of course, been pointed out before). But the speculative intellectual passion of Smith, Orson Pratt and other early LDS leaders seemed quite at odds with the church I grew up in, something which disturbed me even then and which played no small part in my eventual disaffection.

    I found Anne’s remarks here interesting: they seem to mirror my own view of things, but of course I’ve been looking Mormon culture from quite a distance most of my adult life, so I’m aware that my perspective can lack important nuance and be subject to unconscious distortions. Trying to get a better grasp on the current terrain of Mormonism is one reason I read and participate in sites like this one: I have my criticisms, but I want them to be founded on as accurate an understanding as possible.

    Anyway, it’s always struck me that the various waves of anti-intellectualism in Mormonism are not just deplorable on their own terms, but in complete opposition to it’s very foundation. Such pronouncements are tools of constricting control, in league with stasis rather than the eternal progression of enlightenment. And yet, I wonder if such things are merely historical aberrations, by-products of the church’s corporatization? Given the hierarchical structure of the institution, perhaps regulation, nay, correlation, is inevitable?

    I don’t have time to fill these thoughts out more completely. I’m not even sure if that last paragraph makes a great deal of sense. But, I think this is an important issue and I’m happy to see Ardis open the door on it in this post because this gets at the heart of why the study of history is important: the value of history lies in its direct relevance not only to the present, but to the future.

    A historical perspective helps demonstrate that we don’t exist in an existential vacuum where things just happen for no perceivable reason and with no connection to anything else.

    Gaining a historical perspective reveals how the present in all its manifestations (not only the things that happen but also the ideas we have about them) have been produced by the past. Our own actions and choices, their possibilities and their limits, have been produced out of the previous actions and choices of others. The student of history asks not only HOW the world she currently inhabits came to be, but also WHY it did—who “decided” and who didn’t? Who benefits and who doesn’t? Ultimately, how these questions are answered, or whether they are even asked, creates the conditions of possibility for the future.

    That’s why I find attempts to curtail discussion, especially discussion of history, to be so destructive. In my opinion, the really interesting thing about Mormon history is the history of that history—now that’s a project worth devoting a lifetime to.

    Again, sorry, gotta run, but here’s to more exploration of all this in the future?

    Comment by Mina — May 6, 2010 @ 7:48 am

  19. Whenever random people start giving opinions on science, I like to find out what grades they got in science.

    (I know, that’s mean and probably counterproductive.)

    Look, science can often be wrong. We all know that. But it’s based on *observation* given the realm of what we can see. Faith does not allow for it (it assumes that maybe there are things we cannot see and have to take on … faith).

    Yes, faithless scientists may make inappropriate, far-reaching assumptions. But scientifically-minded people of faith just shouldn’t make these same mistakes or attempt to cancel out bad science with equally bad science in the other direction.

    Comment by queuno — May 7, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

  20. To S.Faux’s point in 16, people who ignore science generally don’t contribute to its advancement and find themselves further and further from the mainstream. The progress of knowledge will continue unimpeded by those who don’t believe in it.

    Comment by queuno — May 7, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

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