I grew up in an active LDS family in a small LDS community in southern Idaho. My father was a political conservative, and served as an LDS bishop. In looking at my genealogy, it appears that almost any way you go back through my family line my ancestors have been members of the LDS Church pretty much since the restoration. I even had a lot of ancestors cross the plains as pioneers. After leaving Oakley, Idaho, I went on an LDS mission, got married in an LDS temple, and graduated from BYU. Thus, I’m about as LDS as they come in terms of my background.
But, for some reason I decided to go into psychology. I liked how it was sort of a mix of philosophy and science. I also liked the many real-world applications. However, psychology is a field primarily made up of liberal atheists. In fact, almost all psychological theories assume that God does not exist, as do most methods for studying psychology. Thus, the reality of God is denied or, at best, ignored. Most people in the field, even people who study religion, think religion is an evolutionary accident, an evolutionary adaptation, or a social construction. There is no reality behind it. Besides, psychology is grounded in naturalism, which assumes that everything can be explained in terms of natural laws. So, everything happens due to natural forces, which means there is no need for “supernatural” beings or forces. All of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can ultimately be traced back to two sources: our genes and our environments.
So here I am—a conservative believer in a field of liberal atheists. I obviously think the field of psychology has value. I also think there are a lot of great psychological theories out there, and a lot of good psychological research is being conducted. Nevertheless, it is unsatisfactory because there is a disconnect between what is happening in the field and what I truly believe. I believe I am a son of a loving Father in Heaven. I believe I lived with Him before this life. I hope to live with Him and my family after this life. I know that we are not simply constrained to our short existence on this earth, as most in the field of psychology believe.
I also believe agency is important to God’s plan, and thus an important part of our lives. We have the ability to choose—we are not simply products of our genes and environments. Obviously our genes and environment play an important role, and we cannot escape them; but, they do not determine who we are. We do. This goes starkly against what most people in psychology think.
I also believe that there are forces of good and evil that are present in our lives that are not of this world. God, Christ, the Holy Ghost, and angels in heaven can have a positive influence on us. In particular, the Holy Ghost can change us—it can change our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and even our physiology. The Atonement of Christ can also not only comfort and heal us, but make us better people. On the other hand, Satan and his helpers can try to lead us off the path. They are a reality and not just a figment of our imagination. Thus, a lot more goes into who we are than just genes and environment.
Lastly, not only do I have a testimony of the gospel, but, I support the church. This church and the doctrines therein are true, and are from God, regardless of any blemishes in the history books, limitations of the leaders, or failings of the church members. Further, I believe in supporting church leaders regardless of the trends of the day, the philosophies of man, or the winds of political thought. We are asked to bend our life to fit the gospel, not bend the gospel to fit our life.
Sam Hardy is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Brigham Young University. He grew up in a farm town in southern Idaho and served an LDS mission in San Bernardino, California. He completed his B.S. in Human Development at BYU, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Following graduate school he worked for two years as a postdoctoral research fellow in Longitudinal Data Analysis and Lifespan Development at the University of Virginia. His research overlaps developmental and personality psychology, and is specifically focused on investigating the ways in which morality, identity, and religiosity develop, interrelate, and predict behaviors in adolescents and adults. Additionally, he is interested in theory and philosophy, particularly issues related to agency, ethics, and religion. He regularly teaches classes on psychological statistics, adolescent development, personality, and moral development. Sam is married with two children and lives in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Posted September 2012