Can You Be Really Smart and Be a Mormon, Too?

einsteinSometimes, not always, but sometimes some of the “opponents” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claim that the more education you receive, the less likely you are to stay a faithful Mormon. In fact, the claim may go along the lines that the more you know about the universe, the less you need to rely on religion generally, and Mormonism specifically. The only people that stay with Mormonism just don’t know any better because they’re dullards and lazy-minded, or at the very least, not smart enough to reason themselves out of the religion. Education leads to freedom from religion, etc.

In other words: You cannot be an intellectual, reasoning, thinking person while being a faithful, believing, God-fearing person at the same time.

Well my friends: Not so. Really, really, not so. Some thoughts on the subject:

1. Not only can you be both intellectual and faithful, but I think being one strengthens the other. An intellectual, deep-thinking mind is enhanced and focused by a believing and inspired spirit.

2. God communicates to our minds and our hearts, not just our hearts. It would be unwise to ignore the importance of either. In the Doctrine and Covenants we find the following:

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…Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation… (D&C 8:2-3, emphasis added)

3. One of my favorite ideas is that you can know the details of LDS Church history (on any intellectual level) and remain a faithful Latter-Day Saint. Davis Bitton, in his well-known talk, “I Don’t Have a Testimony of Church History” (one of my favorite talks, by the way) shares the following:

Let’s get one thing clear. There is nothing in church history that leads inevitably to the conclusion that the church is false. There is nothing that requires the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fraud. How can I say this with such confidence? For the simple reason that the Latter-day Saint historians who know the most about our church history have been and are faithful, committed members of the church. More precisely, there are faithful Latter-day Saint historians who know as much about this subject as any anti-Mormon or anyone who writes on the subject from an outside perspective. In fact, with few exceptions, they know much, much more. They have not been blown away. They have not gnashed their teeth and abandoned their faith.

4. The scriptures allude to the fact that a person can be very bright, learned, and intellectual and still follow the Savior. The Book of Mormon shares the following:

But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 9:29)

It looks as though the Book of Mormon is teaching that being “learned” and following God do not have be with either/or opponents.eyring

5. Typically, LDS members obtain more education than the average US citizen. That in and of itself doesn’t mean anything if these Mormons are leaving the religion once they’re “smart”. On the contrary, the opposite seems to be true: the more education a member of the LDS church receives, the more likely they are to be believers.

There’s more, I suppose. The premise that an intellectual person will eventually think themselves out of faith is not globally true. In fact, there is one other thing I’d like to introduce. It isn’t new, but you may not be familiar with it. There is a website titled, “Mormon Scholars Testify” that I’ve spent some time on recently. The site is a collection of testimonies, thoughts, etc., from highly educated Mormons. You’ll find the thoughts of professors of quantum mechanics, historians, doctors, and a number of other disciplines. Once you’re at the site, click on “testimonies” to read their thoughts. Over the next few weeks/months I will be highlighting a few of my favorites.

I think you’ll find that the most intellectual people can be faithful followers of Jesus Christ…

Be encouraging,

BJM

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...
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4 thoughts on “Can You Be Really Smart and Be a Mormon, Too?

  1. Robyn Esplin

    Just read “I Don’t Have a Testimony of Church History.” Loved it! ALL church members should read it! Thank you for your inspiring message!

    Reply
  2. Brian H

    The question I’ve been working on is not so much “whether” intellectuals can stay Mormon, but “how” we can do it. I’d love to understand the process of how someone with doubts can come to the conclusion that they do believe after all. I know that some people get completely blown away by inconvenient bits of Church history, but others end up stronger afterward. What is the difference that puts someone on one trajectory instead of the other? I agree with your conclusion that most intellectuals can be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, but it sure is hard to stay convinced sometimes.

    Reply
    1. BJM Post author

      Thanks Brian. I agree…this is the hard part! For me, the parts of the Gospel that I have received a witness of have settled into my heart and aren’t dislodged by questionable moments in church history that are, for sure, hard to understand. But slowly, over time, the things that I know are outnumbering the things that I don’t. I think everyone arrives there through a different path.

      Reply

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