In wise counsel, the apostle Paul spoke to his beloved Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim. 4:16.) But then he said: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8.)
I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a church family, ask, “What about the pre-Adamic people?” Here was someone who I thought was fully grounded in the faith.
I asked. “What about the pre-Adamic people?”
She replied, “Well, aren’t there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?”
I said, “Have you forgotten the scripture that says, ‘And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also. …’” (Moses 3:7.) I asked, “Do you believe that?”
She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error.
Missionaries going out into the field often ask how we reconcile the teachings of the scriptures with the teachings of the scientists in accordance with the temple ordinances. In reply I occasionally refer to the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland in 1833, concerning the great event that is to take place at the commencement of the millennial reign when the Lord shall come; the Lord said:
“Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
“Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
“Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.” (D&C 101:32–34.)
Then I say, “If you and I are there when the Lord reveals all this, then I’ll answer your questions—how the earth was made, how man came to be placed upon the earth. Until that time till we have is the support and security that we have in the scriptures, and we must accept the rest by faith.”
President Joseph F. Smith said: “Our young people are diligent students. They reach out for truth and knowledge with commendable zeal, and in so doing they must necessarily adopt for temporary use, the theories of men. As long, however, as they recognize them as scaffolding useful for research purposes, there can be no special harm in them. It is when these theories are settled upon as basic truth that trouble appears, and the searcher then stands in grave danger of being led hopelessly from the right way.” (Gospel Doctrine [Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 38.)
Dr. Henry Eyring, one of our great scientists, in a class that I was privileged to attend some years ago, was asked, “Dr. Eyring, why hasn’t the Lord explained how these things came about?” And he said something to the effect, as I remember—“Well, I suppose it would be like trying to explain the theory of atomic energy to an eight-year-old child. The eight-year-old child couldn’t understand it. Until we come to an understanding, we will have to depend solely upon what the Lord has said.”
Dr. Eyring has written: “I have often met this question: ‘Dr. Eyring, as a scientist, how can you accept revealed religion?’ The answer is simple. The Gospel commits us only to the truth. The same pragmatic tests that apply in science apply to religion. Try it. Does it work? The conception of a God ruling in the universe and concerned with how it works is impossible for me without the corollary that He should be interested in man, the most remarkable phenomenon in the world. Being interested in man, it is natural that He would provide a plan for man’s development and welfare. This plan is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“… The Gospel is indeed the plan which the Creator of the universe has devised to guide His children and bring them back to Him. Through the ages, He has chosen from among His worthy sons prophets to act as guides to His children. Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is presided over by good and wise men who instruct and counsel those who have the wisdom to listen.” (The Faith of a Scientist [Bookcraft, 1967], pp. 103–104.)
Some years ago the president of the Sweden Mission related an experience when he was on a boat going out through a number of small islands toward Finland. As he watched the boat plow out into the sea, he noticed the meandering course of the pilot among the various islands. He wondered, Why doesn’t he take us to that more interesting island over there instead of this dismal place over here?
He said, “As I sat there watching and wondering, I noticed what appeared to be broomsticks bobbing up and down in the water ahead. I then realized that someone had mapped out the safest course in these waters and had put out these guidelines to guide us safely.”
Then he brought out this lesson: “Just so, God’s engineers have charted the safest way to us, and that safe way is written in the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as unmistakably as our ship was guided through those dangerous seas out into the safety beyond.”
If we were to teach our people this principle and follow this counsel ourselves so as to not be led into devious paths or try to explore and plant doubts within our minds and questions—if we were content with what the Lord has revealed and taught our own families to accept by faith what the Lord has revealed I think we would come closer to keeping in line in these days of uncertainty.
Some time ago the secretary of a well-known philosophical society, deploring the lack of inspiration in our day, described the present age as “an age of the government of the uninspired.” There is on all sides much evidence to support his contention. In the realm of art, generally speaking, as he explained, the bizarre tendencies in modern painting, the grotesque figures of modern sculpture, the cacophonies of modern music, and the eccentricities of modern poetry witness the fact that this is an age lacking inspiration. One might add that modern religion, with its readiness either “to be carried about with every wind of doctrine” or to content itself with ritualism in place of spirituality, is another symptom of the same fact.
The man, as nearly as I recall, went on to explain that the trouble undoubtedly lies in the fact that today the source of the needed inspiration, the Bible, is no longer considered by much of the world as reliable, with the result that the Christ of the Bible has become to many a vague, shadowy personality who may or may not have spoken the words attributed to him.
It is only as we forsake the traditions of men and recover faith in the Bible, the truth of which has been fully established by recent discovery and fulfillment of prophecy, that we shall once again receive that inspiration which is needed by rulers and people alike.
The Lord has said to us, “But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.” (D&C 46:7.)
I say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures. If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren’t able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false—it is as simple as that. But the unfortunate thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves. I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today.
When I meet with our missionaries and they ask questions about things pertaining to the temple, I say to them, as I close the discussion, “I don’t dare answer any of your questions unless I can find an answer in the standard works or in the authentic declarations of presidents of the Church.”
The Lord has given us in the standard works the means by which we should measure truth and untruth. May we all heed his word: “Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church.” (D&C 42:59.)