"We are grateful in the Church and in this great university
that the freedom, dignity and integrity of the individual is basic
in Church doctrine as well as in democracy. Here we are free to
think and express our opinions. Fear will not stifle thought, as
is the case in some areas which have not yet emerged from the dark
ages. God himself refuses to trammel man's free agency even though
its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science
and revealed religion find their fullest and truest expression in
the climate of freedom.
I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of
new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will
of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent
- if you are informed.
Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution
you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in
the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will
emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression.
Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least
three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that
thought in the form of a prayer. They said, 'From the cowardice
that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with
half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth - O
God of truth deliver us'."
Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958
Excerpts from "A Final Testimony" by Hugh B. Brown
from An Abundant Life
There seems today to be a tendency toward flippant thinking, a
lack of thought. There seems to be a tendency to belittle what our
fathers and mothers thought because we feel we have made some progress
scientifically. We are too ready to conclude that everything from
past generations is now folly and that our main duty today, as far
as the past is concerned, is to get away from it. There is not enough
of the attitude of the sincere investigator among us. When we come
into a new field of research that will challenge our due and honest
consideration, we should be warned against coming too quickly to
a conclusion, of forming a decision too hastily. We should be scientific
-- that is, open-minded, approaching new problems without prejudice,
deferring a decision until all the facts are in. Some say that the
open-minded leave room for doubt. But I believe we should doubt
some of the things we hear. Doubt has a place if it can stir in
one an interest to go out and find the truth for one's self.
I should like to awaken in everyone a desire to investigate, to
make an independent study of religion, and to know for themselves
whether or not the teachings of the Mormon church are true. I should
like to see everyone prepared to defend the religion of his or her
parents, not because it was the religion of our fathers and mothers
but because they have found it to be the true religion. If one approaches
it with an open mind, with a desire to know the truth, and if one
questions with a sincere heart what one hears from time to time,
he or she will be on the road to growth and service. There are altogether
too many people in the world who are willing to accept as true whatever
is printed in a book or delivered from a pulpit. Their faith never
goes below the surface soil of authority. I plead with everyone
I meet that they may drive their faith down through that soil and
get hold of the solid truth, that they may be able to withstand
the winds and storm of indecision and of doubt, of opposition and
persecution. Then, and only then, will we be able to defend our
religion successfully. When I speak of defending our religion, I
do not mean such defense as an army makes on the battlefield but
the defense of a clean and upright and virtuous life lived in harmony
with an intelligent belief and understanding of the gospel.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has this practical
view of religion: that religion should help us here and now; that
we should not have to wait until after we are dead to get any benefits;
that religion as understood and applied makes men and women more
successful, happier, more contented, gives them aspiration and hope;
that religion is the vitalizing force, religion is that which gives
men and women an ideal, an ideal so high that it may be seen from
both sides of the valley of life.
The religion of the Latter-day Saints teaches youth that as children
of God, they are expected to acquire experience as they go through
life and that experience will ripen into knowledge, that knowledge
will ripen into wisdom and intelligence, and that their greatness
will be in proportion to their intelligence. So the religion of
the Latter-day Saints is not just theory from a book or taught in
church. The gospel is a plan of which God is the author, a plan
of which we are all necessary parts. My religion sweetens my life.
My religion, if properly lived, helps me to be a better friend to
my associates, a better neighbor, a better citizen, a better father,
a better man. If I am sincere in it, my religion forbids me to do
to my neighbors what I would not want them to do to me, either in
word or act. My religion, in other words, is that which is the greatest
part of me.
I have been very grateful that the freedom, dignity, and integrity
of the individual are basic in church doctrine. We are free to think
and express our opinions in the church. Fear will not stifle thought.
God himself refuses to trammel free agency even though its exercise
sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science and revealed
religion find their fullest and truest expression in the climate
As we all proceed to make our individual "declarations of
independence," I hope we can distinguish between liberty and
license, that we can realize that freedom is only a blessing if
it is accompanied by wisdom and intelligence. At the same time,
we all need to resist the down-drag of mental laziness which sometimes
leads to the premature hardening of the intellectual arteries. And
I would especially urge all of us to avoid sluggishness of spirit,
which is the worst kind of lethargy. Some people are phlegmatic
to a degree that would make a turtle seem intolerably vivacious.
I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who
are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should,
of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be
unafraid to dissent -- if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions
compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth
emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression.
Both science and religion beget humility. Scientists and teachers
of religion disagree among themselves on theological and other subjects.
Even in our own church men and women take issue with one another
and contend for their own interpretations. This free exchange of
ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble
and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion
should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church.
People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid
to think without fear of ill consequences. We should all be interested
in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue
to explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning
in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet
of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation
may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking
mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer
We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands
for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape
recorders of other people's thoughts. We should be modest and teachable
and seek to know the truth by study and faith. There have been times
when progress was halted by thought control. Tolerance and truth
demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested against
each other so that the best, which might not always be our own,
Knowledge is the most complete and dependable when all points of
view are heard. We are in a world of restlessness and skepticism,
where old things are not only challenged but often disappear, but
also a world of miraculous achievement, undreamed of accomplishment,
and terrifying power. Science offers wonderful tools for helping
to create the brotherhood of humanity on earth, but the cement of
brotherhood does not come from any laboratory. It must come from
the heart and mind and spirit of men and women.
We should continue to become acquainted with human experience through
history and philosophy, science and poetry, art and religion...
One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the
mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily
dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of
thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for
the evils that spring from wrong thinking. More thinking is required,
and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid
to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we
talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings.
We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all
efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with
whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as
it is that they shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without
learning anything. In this age of speed there seems to be little
time for meditation.
And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings
of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement
and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until
he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and
worthwhile; then one's logical deductions may be confirmed by the
spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion
must come from within...