House Editorial: Faith and Reason


“Why can’t you dance?”

“When are you going on your Mormon vacation?”

“How many wives do you have?”

We’ve heard it before, from friends, co-workers, random, people on the street: Why are Mormons so different?

The acceptance of once widely held traditional moral views is on the decline. In a society where most campuses’ dating scenes are dominated by hookup culture, a simple look at the Honor Code highlights BYU’s uniqueness. We don’t drink, smoke or have premarital sex, just to name a few. However, explaining these ideas and beliefs to others can be awkward. Often the person can view the explanation as outdated and archaic or simply dismiss it as a religious argument of no value. In other words, the defense is all faith and no reason.

When confronted with questions, students can often feel like they are gasping for straws, trying to find any support for their beliefs that others not of their faith can easily relate to.

In 2007, a group at Princeton University decided to do just that. The Love and Fidelity Network began seeking out research that supported traditional moral values and challenge the dominant voice. As stated on their website, “Our mission is to educate, train, and equip college students with the arguments, resources, and direction they need to uphold the institution of marriage, the unique role of the family, and sexual integrity on their campuses.” And they found it. Lots of it.

Our faith does not have to stand alone. The reason and research is there to support it in the public square. However, reason should not replace faith. Both are necessary to discover truth.

In 1998, Pope John Paul II gave his famous “Fides et Ratio” or Faith and Reason.  He began the speech by saying, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves.”

Faith and reason are not opposites, but can and do work together harmoniously. By pairing reason with our faith-based beliefs, we can feel more comfortable in sharing our beliefs by finding better ways to relate to people not of our faith.

Many students will soon be leaving BYU and moving to areas where the LDS population is far below BYU’s 98 percent. There, the often-used defense of saying “well, my church believes [insert a belief]” will not be accepted so easily. People will ask us why and will want to hear our thoughts rather than just our faith’s doctrine.

We are members of a church that asks us to pray personally to know what is true and not simply rely on the words of others.  We have been given agency. We have been blessed with the wonderful ability to think, reason and make decisions. We also have been asked to use these abilities.

Last fall, Elder Dallin H. Oaks stressed the role of students in changing the current state of moral relativism. In that discourse, he said, “Their methods and their advocacy should always be tolerant of the opinions and positions of others who do not share their beliefs. We should not add to the extremism that divides our society….As believers, we should also frame our arguments and positions in ways that contribute to the reasoned discussion and accommodation that are essential to democratic government in a pluralistic society.”

We will be asked to speak out. Now is the time to learn the vocabulary and skills necessary to successfully articulate your beliefs in the public sphere. Now, before we are asked, before we are put on the spot.

Further resources about supporting faith-based beliefs:

The Love and Fidelity Network:

“Dare to Stand Alone,” President Thomas S. Monson, October Conference 2011

“Fides et Ratio,” Pope John Paul II, 1998

“Truth and Tolerance,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, C.E.S. Broadcast, September 2011

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