Many years ago a great pioneer Apostle, Hever C. Kimball, said: “To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of the work for yourselves. … If you do not you will not stand. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself.” (In Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945, p. 450.)
I began to evaluate my testimony in my late teens, when I enrolled at the University of Utah as a science student. I didn’t want to believe the gospel just because my mother and father said it was true. I wanted to know for myself. I needed my own light. I didn’t set out to challenge the gospel, but rather to discover its truth for myself.
I was a science student at the university, and I had heard some people say that science and religion are not compatible, that no one who is well educated can also have a testimony of the gospel. But I found out that this is not true. As a youth striving to get my own testimony and also as an aspiring scientist, I was overjoyed to find how comfortably science and religion fit together. I would like to share several insights that show how they fit.
Religious Truth and the “Scientific Method”
Some people point out that science deals only with tangible, observable quantities: we can measure them on scales, or read them on ammeters, or count them electronically. These critics charge that religion is less reliable because it deals with faith and revelation, which we cannot touch or measure. But this distinction is not really accurate.
For example, I wrote my dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley on pion-nucleon interactions. I never saw a pion or a nucleon. I couldn’t touch them. And yet I published a scientific article on them.
We learn about inductance or magnetic field lines or capacitance. Has anyone seen or felt inductance or a magnetic field or capacitance? No; we can only measure their effects. So scientists sometimes also deal with the intangible, and they do this without intellectual embarrassment.
The scientific method of discovering truth is to forget one’s prejudices and make decisions in terms of the available data. This method also applies to gospel learning. The Lord gives us several examples of using this method. Concerning tithing, he said: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, … and prove me now herewith … if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10.) That is an experiment. Many people have testified that they’ve tried the experiment and that it works.
Alma also says, “Experiment upon my words.” (Alma 32:27.) He then goes on to compare the word to a seed that, if we will water and feed and nurture with faith, will let us know whether the message is good.
The Savior gave us another example. He said that if we want to know whether his doctrine is true and comes from the Father, we must “do his will.” Then, he promised, we “shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17.) This is like the scientific method—simply judging on the basis of the data.
Science and Faith
Some say that science has nothing to do with faith. But that is obviously not true. In the seventeenth century, the Italian astronomer Galileo invented telescopes that let him see farther into the heavens than man had seen before. He observed that the moon was not a smooth sphere shining by its own light. Instead, it has mountains and valleys, and its light is reflected. Galileo agreed with Copernicus that the earth moves around the sun, rather than being the center of the universe with everything turning around it.
Because these observations did not agree with the teachings of Aristotle and the Catholic Church, Galileo was subjected to a long trial and was punished for his beliefs. But he never lost faith in his discovery. His confident belief in what he had discovered was much like that confidence we call faith.
Pieces of the Puzzle
Of course, science and religion are not in perfect harmony. There is some disagreement over evolution, for example. Genesis, the Book of Moses, and the Book of Abraham tell us that God created the world, that he had a purpose in doing it, and that man is very important in that purpose. But these scriptures are not a handbook on how God created the worlds. They just say that he did it. Someday he will let us know how he did it. Science is theorizing on the how, but there need be no conflict when we remember what the Lord has told us and what he hasn’t.
I have faith that in due time the Lord will fulfill all the prophecies and predictions he has made and that these things will come about just as he has told us they will. Actually, if we have eyes to see, we have seen many of these fulfillments taking place in our day.
When I was a child, my family would put together a huge jigsaw puzzle each Christmas, one that would take a week to finish, with thousands of small, look-alike pieces. Each piece fit in only one place, and we could complete the picture only by placing each piece correctly. When the Lord allows the scientists to discover all their parts, and he sees fit to reveal his part, the “picture” of what scientists have learned and the “picture” of what God has done will be the same.
This is how I have come to look at the plan of the Lord. We need to stop worrying about each small piece and try to fit the whole picture together by keeping in mind the end result. The Lord knows where each piece goes and how it fits into his plan. Each of us should help by putting ourself, an intricate and important piece of that puzzle, in the proper place.