LDS apostles sought truth in science and religion

By Trent Toone

Mormon Times

Published: Friday, April 29 2011 5:30 a.m. MDT

Elders James E. Talmage and John A. Widtsoe, two LDS apostles, knew a thing or two about science.

Before they were both ordained as special witnesses in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Widtsoe was a chemist and Elder Talmage was a geologist. Both men were considered scholars in their respective fields. Both served terms as president of the University of Utah. Both men also demonstrated it was possible to balance academic and scientific pursuits while progressing spiritually.

“The church supports and welcomes the growth of science. … The religion of the Latter-day Saints is not hostile to any truth, nor to scientific search for truth,” Elder Widtsoe said in his 1943 book “Evidences and Reconciliations.”

Elder Widtsoe said science and religion both seek truth.

“That they have occupied different fields of truth is a mere detail. The gospel accepts and embraces all truth; science is slowly expanding her arms, and reaching into the invisible domain, in search of truth. The two are meeting daily,” Elder Widtsoe wrote in his book "In Search of Truth: Comments on the Gospel and Modern Thought." “Religion has an equal right to try science. Either method, properly applied, leads to the same result: Truth is truth.”

Elder Talmage was a professor of chemistry and geology at Brigham Young Academy from 1888 to 1893 and was president of the University of Utah from 1894 to 1897. In 1907, he resigned as a professor of geology at Utah to pursue a private practice as a consulting mining geologist.

Given his interest in geology, one gospel topic that Elder Talmage studied extensively was the Creation as found in Genesis. He defended the scriptural account in his 1931 address titled “The Earth and Man.”

“Discrepancies that trouble us now will diminish as our knowledge of pertinent facts is extended. The creator has made a record in the rocks for man to decipher; but He has also spoken directly regarding the main stages of progress by which the earth has been brought to be what it is,” wrote Elder Talmage, also an accomplished author and educator.

“The opening chapters of Genesis … were never intended as a textbook of geology, archeology, earth-science or man-science. Holy scripture will endure, while the conceptions of men change with new discoveries.”

Email: ttoone@desnews.com

Twitter: tbtoone

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