The Salt Lake Tribune/B. Y. U. Students Destroy Reply of the Presidency and Make Public the Protest They Formulated

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Salt Lake Tribune/B. Y. U. Students Destroy Reply of the Presidency and Make Public the Protest They Formulated (1911)

In 1911, three professors at Brigham Young University (BYU) were charged with promoting evolution and higher criticism. The student body of BYU overwhelmingly supported the teachers, and submitted their letter of support to school officials. Unsatisfied with the response, the students submitted their letter to The Salt Lake Tribune. See 1911 Brigham Young University modernism controversy on Wikipedia.

1903713The Salt Lake Tribune/B. Y. U. Students Destroy Reply of the Presidency and Make Public the Protest They Formulated1911


Diplomatically but Firmly They Warn the Faculty That if Modern Teachings Are Excluded They Must Look Elsewhere for Their Education; Demand Freedom of Investigation


Evolution, Petition Declares, Gives New View of Mormon Religion, but Accounts for More Facts Than Any Other Hypothesis; Retention of Professors Asked

B. Y. U . students, asking for the retention of three teachers of evolution and the higher criticism, present the following arguments:

No church is big enough to ignore science.

Freedom of investigation requisite to progress.

If the Mormon gospel is true it will triumph over error without artificial aid.

Theology, not science, is the church's metier.

Evolution, although causing students to view Mormon doctrine in different light, nevertheless accounts for more actual facts than any other hypothesis.

If these professors go none other of like scholarship and like sympathy with Mormonism can be found.

Their removal will hurt school's credit in eastern universities.

Students would be compelled to look elsewhere for a complete education.

Missionaries to do effective work must be educated to cope with scientific arguments leveled at their church. Without a knowledge of evolution they would be useless. Toleration of others' beliefs also is part of missionaries' creed.

The very existence of school as a progressive institution is involved. Mormon church, too, will suffer if those professors go.

Special to The Tribune.

PROVO, March 15.—After receiving from the presidency of the Brigham Young university today an answer to their protest against the contemplated dismissal of three professors who have been teaching evolution and the higher criticism, the students decided to give to the public the full text of the protest.

The students assembled in mass meeting this morning to receive the answer to their protest, which they arc pleased to designate by the mild term "petition." The answer, which was in the form of a private communication to the students, was destroyed as soon as the meeting adjourned. This remarkable action led to the report that, the students were deeply offended by the tone of the presidency's reply, but students who were questioned declared that tho answer, while not altogether satisfactory, was couched in the most considerate terms, it made no specific reference to evolution, psychology, the higher criticism or even to Professors Joseph and Henry Peterson or Professor Chamberlin.

Answer Softly Worded

"The faculty fully appreciates the attitude of the students and their friendship expressed for the school," is one of tho sentences quoted from the answer.

In spite of their temperate and diplomatic conduct, the students determined to give their side of the controversy to the public. In doing so they addressed the following note to The Tribune:

Editor Salt. Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah" Dear Sir— The inclosed statement of the attitude of the college students was ratified and signed by 95 out of 114 students enrolled. The original purpose was to make the statement only to the presidency of the school, but since numerous garbled accounts have already been published we thought best to give the article to the public in the exact form, confident that the statement would speak for itself.

Text of Petition

The complete text of the "petition" is as follows:

We believe that we have sincerely at heart the interests of the Church, the interests of the Brigham Young University, and perhaps our own selfish interests as college students, and we respectfully ask that our voice be considered in a matter that is of vital concern to the school and to every individual connected therewith, viz. the question as to whether some of the subjects of science being taught from the modern scientific viewpoint are to be excluded. We take it for granted that the question at issue is mutually understood without detailed explanation and will proceed at once with our reasons for asking that Dr. Joseph Peterson, Dr. Ralph V. Chamberlin, and Professor Henry Peterson should be retained by the faculty.

In the first place we believe that freedom of investigation is a fundamental necessity for all scientific, religious, or any other kind of progress, and that we, of all people can least afford to take any stand against it, or do anything that will be interpreted as such a stand.

We believe that the great problems of modern science are worthy of our most respectful consideration, and we realize the folly of attempting to solve them independently and alone by ignoring the findings of the past and the work that is being done at present by others who are striving with honesty and sincerity equal to our own and with better facilities.

Hint and Warning

Even if it were desirable for a Church school to maintain an attitude contrary to the generally accepted stand of the scientific world, it is absolutely impossible for the reason that, except in theology, the Church does not furnish adequate material for college work, and we must necessarily look elsewhere.

From some of the printed statements of The First Presidency we take it that it is not the function of the Church to pass upon scientific questions, but rather to furnish theological direction. The general theory of evolution is not put forth as a theological doctrine, but is held to simply a working hypothesis, because of the great number of observable facts in Nature which it explains and to which it gives meaning. It will be discarded without a tear just as soon as another hypothesis is brought forth which explains a larger number of facts, but we believe that we ought not to condemn this valuable theory until we are able to examine the evidence upon which it is based more carefully and more completely than it has ever been examined before and produce a better explanation of the workings of Nature with which to condemn the old one. No other sort of condemnation can ever be effective. Shall we acquire the power to do this by excluding the subject from our schools?

Freedom of Inquiry

In view of the face that the best modern educational thought takes as a basis the theory of evolution, we feel that it should be taught here. This does not mean that we thereby assume the theory is true or false, but simply that because it is commanding the attention of the greatest thinkers, it should be open to investigation.

As college men and women we have confidence that if the evidences which tend to support the theory of evolution be presented simply for what they are worth we will have sufficient discretion to determine whether or not we wish to accept them. In so far as we have studied the subjects in question we feel that we have broadened in that we have seen both sides of a mooted question. We believe that it is not the proper attitude to fight a proposition by ruling it completely out of consideration. We feel that if our gospel is true it will triumph over error without any artificial protection. We understand that it invites us to investigate anything that is ‘praiseworthy or of good report;’ hence to prohibit the investigation of a scientific theory so well established as the theory of evolution is scarcely living up to our understanding of the gospel. Would it not be better to throw the question open to study and investigation, if for no other reason than we stand for fair play and toleration of the beliefs of all men? Is not this our missionary watchword?

We are convinced that nothing can be gained by excluding these subjects from our college, since every man or woman who goes east or west to colleges of high rank must face the questions. We believe that we should provide for him to meet them here under circumstances that will assist him in making for sane, conservative, and logical adjustment.

We have just reached the point in our educational career as a college where our work is being recognized by up-to-date universities. This recognition means considerable to us educationally and to our hopes as a church of wielding an influence among humanity. If the proposed restrictions are adopted, it needs only common foresight to foretell the effect upon our credit abroad.

Those of us who have had work under the men who are being criticised are unanimous in denying the alleged evil effects of their teachings.

They are all leaders in their respective lines. They are eminently successful as teachers, and for our present needs we consider them to be without peers. Aside from our appreciation of their scholarship, we have the highest respect for their integrity as men and as loyal members of the Church.

Need of Such Courses

Those of us who have had missionary experience realize the need of just such a course as we are now getting now to enable us to defend the truth against all comers. While we are free to admit that in the new light some points of doctrine, as we have understood them, lose their former color, we see a deeper meaning in life than before, additional evidence of an all-wise God, and a new and holier significance in the message of Mormonism and all other revelations of God to man.

It is not simply a question of dropping the professors who have been criticised, but we believe that the proposed policy, if persisted in, can amount to nothing else than a death-blow to our college work, because it is impossible to secure men equal in scholarship to the ones we have, who are so thoroughly in sympathy with the Church, who do not give credence to the same objectionable theories.

We have great faith in the Church and we can hardly imagine that any policy contrary to its best needs will be adopted, but we ask you to consider what the proposed restriction would mean for us educationally, and what it would mean to our critics, and what it would mean to our standing in the educational world. Some of our fondest hopes have been for the future of the ‘dear old B. Y. U.’- that it would continue to grow and continue to adapt itself to the growing needs of humanity and demonstrate to the world, as only that can demonstrate, that Mormonism is a real, vitalized divine institution.

C. H. Carroll James Clove. Jr. G. L. Luke Joseph D. Foster C. W. Whitaker Hyrum Harris Heber C Snell Charles Ilafen Fred Buss A. L. Kolly Andrew Gibbons llan.. Peterson II M. Woodward I.. IL Nelson Uyrlng Thompson Juantta Johnson J. 13 . Storrs Klvu Kelly Anna Ollorlon Archie Tliunnan C. P. Olson Kenneth Uorg M. O. Paulson S. W. Williams S. 13. Hlgby Bessie Flndlov J. Morrill George Aubrey Andclin Lola Ollorlon J. It. Tlppctts Alma Esplln F. Wm. Hacking J. W . Nixon, Jr. Arthur L. Bceslcy Reuben Hill Odeen Luke CIkis. Scbwcnckc Virgo L. Johnson Kimbnll Young Dottle Deal Charles Redd Goo. Wort hen Ray Oberhansley Kraslux S. P.omney M. W, Poulson Margaret Crook D. R . Mitchell Cliarlottu Grcen-13- 1 F. Taylor wood Samuel Hugh IMdaway Harrison Hurst G. Ray Hales Carl F. ISyring G. G. Meld rum Emily Woodward Laura Hickman Leroy Nelson Emily Wnnlass George Haws Sadie Lloyd F. L . Hickman Dora Day J. M. Pond- Pearl Holdaway Paul Miner J. L . Lybhcrt James Jensen Hyrum Mnnwarlng Ray Monson W. L. Wnnlass Marie Clark Laura Bird Zlna Johnson Preal Kolse.v J. H. Tucker Samantha Thorno H. L. Rood I'earl Kelsey Harold Finch llerschel Pearson William Baker I A. W. Tracy Carlos Woodward Arthur Hnfcn Thomas L. Martin Ivy Hall David Gourley LaPreal Straw A. It. Ovcrlade jAlmlc Taylor Mary Kill A. T . Itasmussen B. F . Larson