FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Question: Why is evolution allowed to be taught at BYU?
Question: Why is evolution allowed to be taught at BYU?
The Church is not hostile to science, and teaches standard scientific facts and theories at its colleges and universities
When criticized for omitting material from scientific studies which did not support his ideas about a restricted (<10,000 year) timeframe for some genetic data, the head of the FIRM Foundation was asked, "Why do you think that BYU teaches evolution and an “old earth” in their courses?" He replied:
For accreditation compliance.
....that is a really good question. Please see the following quote by the founder of the Brigham Young Academy himself, Brigham Young:
“We have enough and to spare, at present in these mountains, of schools where young infidels are made because the teachers are so tender-footed that they dare not mention the principles of the gospel to their pupils, but have no hesitancy in introducing into the classroom the theories of Huxley, of Darwin, or of Mill…this course I am resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to, and I hope to see the day when the doctrines of the gospel will be taught in all our schools, when the revelation of the Lord will be our texts, and our books will be written and manufactured by ourselves and in our own midst.” (Brigham Young, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, p. 200.)
Maybe you can tell me why we are teaching Evolution and an ‘old earth’ at the very university he founded.
The quote from Brigham Young, of course, complains that Huxley and Darwin are taught without hesitation while teachers will not mention the principles of the gospel. The material provided does not say that Darwin et al. should not be taught, only that the gospel should also be taught.
It is also clear that Brigham was not a young earth creationist, despite this claim's insinuation.
Role of Church leaders at BYU
One respondent noted the problems with this criticism of BYU's curriculum:
Given that the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University includes The First Presidency, seven members of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles,and other General Authorities Rodney is truth and essence asking the Brethren themselves why “we are teaching Evolution (sic) and an ‘old earth’” at the University. The question is rhetorical but definite: Rod is questioning the trusteeship of the University by the entire First Presidency and seven members of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles. This demonstrates as clearly as anything could be demonstrated why FAIR became concerned with Rodney’s public teachings–the issue there was a root the same as the issue he demonstrates now.
Rodney, by quoting President Young, and then later writing “”Maybe you can tell me why we are teaching Evolution and an ‘old earth’ at the very university he founded.” you are calling the governance of the University by the Brethren into question, and showing disrespect to those Brethren, which I for one consider intolerable....
With respect to the evolution matter: In 1992 the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University authorized the publication of a packet of materials on “Evolution And The Origin Of Man”, by a letter dated in June of that year....
First, it was not BYU that approved it. Through its Provost, Bruce C. Haffen (now of the Seventy) the Board of Trustees was asked for guidance. That came under cover of their letter of June, 1992, identifying a packet of materials to be made available for faculty and students on the subject of Evolution and The Origin of Man....
The 1909 letter from the First Presidency is included in the Packet which the Brethren authorized to be made available to faculty and students at Brigham Young University. In addition to the 1909 letter the Brethren included the following: 1) Their June 1992 cover letter; 2) the Context of the 1909 First Presidency Statement–the one set out in the Ensign; 3) An excerpt from a First Presidency Message in 1910; 4) the Context of the First Presidency Statement “Mormon View of Evolution” in 1925; 5) The First Presidency Statement of 1925; 6) the Conext of the article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism on evolution published in 1992; 7) The article from the encyclopedia.
[Editor's note: These materials are available on-line here.]
The Brethren obviously are of the view that all of these documents, and the context in which they were written, are of value.
The article in the Encyclopedia includes this statement: “The scripture tell us why man was created, but they do not tell us how, though the Lord has told us that he will tell us that when he comes again. (DC 101:32,22) A fuller version of the article was presented to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, from which the existing article was developed. Final approval was given to it by Gordon B. Hinckley. This information is included in the authorized Packet.
From this it will be clear that any actions taken by the Brethren with respect to these subject, and the teaching of them, are taken with great care, deliberation, moderation and inspiration. It is offensive, and disrespectful to the Brethren, for Rodney to challenge a Latter-day Saint to “…tell me why we are teaching Evolution and an ‘old earth’ at the very university [Brigham Young] founded.”
Another author took issue with the claim that Church leaders would allow falsehood to be taught merely to ensure the university's accreditation:
That might explain the teaching on the subject in the classrooms, though personally I think that the Church leaders would be more willing to shut down the university than allow false teachings to be taught to faithful LDS youth as truth, thus intentionally leading them away from belief in what the prophets and scriptures have taught according to Mr. Meldrum. This intentionally allowed deception (according to Mr. Meldrum) must have the ultimate effect of causing them to doubt the credibility of the prophets and the scriptures and ultimately weaken their faith in the Gospel, which is directly contrary to the stated mission of BYU as clearly stated: “The mission of Brigham Young University–founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” and includes the observation “[t]o succeed in this mission the university must provide an environment enlightened by living prophets and sustained by those moral virtues which characterize the life and teachings of the Son of God”.
Accreditation is desirable when trying to establish a recognizably high quality university, but in the minds of our Church leadership that takes second place (if not way down on the list) to the Church’s three fold mission that includes perfecting the Saints, though perhaps Mr. Meldrum justifies his disbelief in this proclaimed mission of BYU by believing that the Church leadership are quite comfortable in lying about their actual priorities for the Saints.
BYU has not been reluctant in the past to dismiss professors who have taught socially acceptable theories which happened to be contrary to the teachings of the prophets and scriptures in the field of science and other areas. Why would they be so willing to give in on this one issue of evolution and the old earth when they have not in others?
Mr. Meldrum apparently thinks the First Presidency and other church leaders place more value on the approval of the world than on the Word of the Lord when it comes to educating our youth or so this answer of his would lead me to believe. I don’t see much evidence myself for his claim and a lot of evidence in contradiction in the actual practices of BYU as well as the mission statement (which can be read here: http://unicomm.byu.edu/president/missionstatement.aspx)
It should also be obvious that there is nothing in “accreditation compliance” that requires that placement of the packet on evolution whose contents have been detailed above in the H[arold] B. L[ee] Library accessible to all students and anyone else interested.
Therefore I ask the question to Mr. Meldrum why has the Church leadership through BYU made available to the faculty and students of BYU this packet of materials, vetted and approved by the highest members in our leadership, on Evolution and the Origin of Man?
“For acceditation compliance” will not suffice as an logical answer here so I hope you will take the time to explain your reasoning on this as I am very curious as to your position.
There was no response to this request.
- Rod Meldrum, comment on FAIR blog, (8 Sept 2008, 18h37) off-site. Obvious typographical errors in these posts have been silently edited, with paragraphing added or altered for clarity.
- Rod Meldrum, comment on FAIR blog, (8 Sept 2008, 18h57) off-site
- Robert White, comment on FAIR blog, (8 Sept 2008, 21h28) off-site and (8 Sept 2008, 23h36) off-site.
- Cal Robinson, comment on FAIR blog, (9 Sept 2008, 14h53} off-site