21) AMORAL: Is education amoral? Is atheism a religion? Is humanism a religion?

Prophetic Statements

Joseph F. Smith

There are three dangers that threaten the church from within, and the authorities need to awaken to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them. As I see them, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false educational ideas, and sexual impurity. [1]

David O. McKay

When you speak of peace, the Communists mean the cessation of all opposition to Communism, the acceptance of a Communist world. Then, and only then, can there be peace. This alone is what peace means in Communist language. Once this is understood the utter falsity and hypocrisy of Communist references to peace becomes at once obvious. I have mentioned these things simply to emphasize one dominant force which has as its ultimate achievement and victory-the destruction of capitalism, the destruction of the free agency of man which God has given him, and that destruction may be brought about-as advocated by Marx himself-in a brutal way. What is the other force? It is just the opposite. Jesus said to the man who came and asked him which is the greatest law, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve, and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ When Marx was asked one time what was his object, he answered, ‘To dethrone God.’ [2]

Joseph Fielding Smith

Parents are commanded by revelation to teach their children these principles of the gospel… Then they go to school and find these glorious principles ridiculed and denied by the doctrines of men founded on foolish theories which deny that man is the offspring of God… These theories so dominate the secular education of our youth. They are constantly published in our newspapers, in magazines and other periodicals, and those who believe in God and his divine revelations frequently sit supinely by without raising a voice of protest. Under these conditions, is it any wonder the student is confused? He does not know whether to believe what his parents and the Church have taught him, or to believe what the teacher says and is written in the textbook. Naturally, students have confidence in their teachers and as confidence increases, there comes a lack of confidence in the doctrines of the Church and the parental instruction. [3]

There is no knowledge, no learning that can compensate the individual for the loss of his belief in heaven and in the saving principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. An education that leads a man from these central truths cannot compensate him for the great loss of spiritual things. [4]

Harold B. Lee

Humanism is a threat to the work of the Lord. One of the greatest threats to the work of the Lord today comes from false educational ideas. There is a growing tendency of teachers within and without the church to make academic interpretations of gospel teachings – to read, as a prophet leader has said, ‘by the lamp of their own conceit.’ Unfortunately, much in the sciences, the arts, politics and the entertainment field, as has been well said by an eminent scholar, ‘all dominated by this humanistic approach which ignores God and his word as revealed through the prophets.’ This kind of worldly system apparently hopes to draw men away from God by making man the ‘measure of all things’ as some worldly philosophers have said. [5]

One of the greatest threats to the work of the Lord today comes from false educational ideas.
The Church educations system has five major objectives:

  1. To each the truth
  2. To education our youth not only for time but for all eternity
  3. Teach students to not be misled by purveyors of false doctrines, vain speculations and faulty interpretations
  4. Prepare students to live well rounded lives

To set the stage for students to acquire a testimony of the reality of God and the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and his work. [6]

Ezra Taft Benson

I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children, and if they become alerted and informed, these parents can help expose the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, John Keynes and others. There are much worse things today that can happen to a child than not getting a full education. In fact, some of the worst things have happened to our children while attending colleges led by administrators who wink at subversion and amorality. Said Karl G. Maeser, “I would rather have my child exposed to smallpox, typhus fever, cholera or other malignant and deadly diseases than to the degrading influence of a corrupt teacher. [7]

As a nation, we have become self-sufficient. This has given birth to a new religion in America which some have called secularism. This is a view of life with the idea that God is not in the picture and that He has nothing to do with the picture in the first place. [8]

Under the guise of academic freedom-which some apparently feel is freedom to destroy freedom-some teachers reserve to themselves the privilege of teaching error, destroying faith in God, debunking morality, and depreciating our free economic system. [9]

The world worships the learning of man. They trust in the arm of flesh [10]. To them, men’s reasoning is greater than God’s revelations. The precepts of man have gone so far in subverting our educational system that in many cases a higher degree today, in the so-called social sciences, can be tantamount to a major investment in error. Very few men build firmly enough on the rock of revelation to go through this kind of indoctrination and come out untainted. Unfortunately, of those who succumb, some use their higher degree to get teaching positions even in our Church Educational System, where they spread the falsehoods they have been taught. [11] [12]

From the 5th grade through the 4th year of college, our young people are being indoctrinated with a Marxist philosophy and I am fearful of the harvest. The younger generation is further to the left than most adults realize. The old concepts of our Founding Fathers are scoffed and jeered at by young moderns whose goals appear to be the destruction of integrity and virtue, and the glorification of pleasure, thrills, and self-indulgence. [13]

In the first century of our nation’s history, the university was the guardian and preserver of faith in God. In this present century, the university has become ethically neutral, by and large agnostic. Our country is now reaping the effects of this agnostic influence. It has cost us an inestimable price. [14]

The old concepts of our Founding Fathers are scoffed and jeered at by young moderns whose goals appear to be the destruction of integrity and virtue and the glorification of pleasure, thrills, and self-indulgence. [15]

It is not the search for knowledge—or knowledge itself-that costs a man his faith. It is rather the conceit of small minds proving anew that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It is intellectual pride that leads one to think he is self-sufficient in matters of mind and of spirit. [16]

I became alarmed as I reviewed what has happened in our schools under so-called “progressive education.” What about the loss of patriotism, faith in God, and the teachings of character building principles once so much a part of our education? We have all but “forced Americanism out of the classroom to make way for temporary trivialities.” [17] I remembered President Joseph F. Smith’s warning of the three dangers to the Church from within, viz., the flattery of prominent men sexual impurity, and false educational ideas. [18] [19]

People cannot think in a vacuum. Without facts, public discussion is but the pooling of ignorance. But without character—without faith in enduring verities-learning is the devil’s tool. [20]

Youth of the world, as you strive to increase in favor with man, be ever on your guard that you do not unwittingly, in the name of tolerance, broadmindedness, and so-called liberalism, encourage foreign “isms” and unsound theories that strike at the very root of all we hold dear, including our faith in God. Proposals will be offered and programs will be sponsored that have wide, so-called “humanitarian” appeal. Attractive labels are usually attached to the most dangerous programs, often in the name of public welfare and personal security. Have the courage to apply this standard of truth. Determine what the effect of the various issues at stake is upon the character, the integrity, and the freedom of man. [21]

A problem occurs on occasion when, in the pursuit of higher degrees, one becomes so imbued with the terminology and methodology of a secular discipline that, almost without realizing it, he compromises the gospel message. The simple principles of the gospel, not the disciplines of men, should always be our basis for truth. [22]

With the abundance of books available, it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. “Of making many books there is no end” [23]. In your reading you would do well to follow the counsel of John Wesley’s mother: Avoid “whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, [and] increases the authority of the body over the mind.”

The fact that a book or publication is popular does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of your reading. Do not make your mind a dumping ground for other people’s garbage. It is harder to purge the mind of rotten reading than to purge the body of rotten food, and it is more damaging to the soul. [24]

We must be wise as serpents [25]; for as the Apostle Paul said, “We wrestle against the rulers of darkness against spiritual wickedness in high places” [26]. We are going through what J. Reuben Clark, Jr., once termed the greatest propaganda campaign of all time. We cannot believe all we read, and what we can believe is not all of the same value. We must sift. We must learn by study and prayer. [27]

Gordon B. Hinckley

What has happened to our schools? There are still many that are excellent, but there are very many that are failing. What has become of the teaching of values? We are told that educators must be neutral in these matters. Neutrality in the teaching of values can only lead to an absence of values. Is it less important to learn something of honesty than to learn something of computer science?. . . . Where today are the heroes from whose lives we learned honesty and integrity and the meaning of work? The debunkers of Washington and Lincoln have done their job and we all are the poorer for it. [28]

There is promise, given under inspiration from the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” [29] The humanists who criticize us, the so-called intellectuals who demean us, speak only from ignorance of this manifestation… They have not heard it because they have not sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. … Do not be trapped by the sophistry of the world which for the most part is negative and which seldom, if ever, bears good fruit. … Rather, “look to God and live.” [30] [31]

…tragically, we are experiencing a moral and ethical disaster. We cannot continue the trend that we are presently experiencing without catastrophe overtaking us. [32]

Opposing Statements

Chester M. Pierce

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future. [33]

Bertrand Russell

Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished . . . [34]

John Goodlad

The curriculum of the future will be what one might call the humanistic curriculum. [35]

…the state we should strive for is better described in Deweyan terms as a social democracy. [36]

Charles Potter

Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching? [37]

Scriptures

Supporting Statements

Boyd K. Packer

Moral values are being neglected and prayer expelled from public schools on the pretext that moral teaching belongs to religion. At the same time, atheism, the secular religion, is admitted to class, and our youngsters are proselyted to a conduct without morality…..we are caught in a current so strong that unless we correct our course, civilization as we know it will surely be wrecked to pieces…The distance between the church and a world set on a course which we cannot follow will steadily increase. [38]

We are very particular to forbid anyone from preaching Catholicism, or Protestantism, or Mormonism, or Judaism, in a public school classroom, but for some reason we are very patient with those who teach the negative expression of religion.

In the separation of church and state we ought to demand more protection from the agnostic, from the atheist, from the communist, from the skeptic, from the humanist and the pragmatist, than we have yet been given… I submit that the atheist has no more right to teach the fundamentals of his sect in the public school than does the theist. Any system in the schools or in society that protects the destruction of faith and forbids, in turn, the defense of it must ultimately destroy the moral fiber of the people. [39]

Mark E. Petersen

A week ago a young man told me about the trial that came to him in school. Some of the teachings he received from an instructor who had no faith appeared to have weakened the faith of this young man. I am always sorry when I hear about teachers in our public schools who try to destroy the faith of our young people. It always grieves me to hear of instances like this. . . . I appeal to our young folk to realize that true science is not anti-religion, and that there is no unity among the scientists with respect to many things now being taught by some instructors who interpret them to mean that there is no God. Science has never come to a unity of understanding on that point, young people, so do not be disturbed by the godless teachings you may get in the classroom.

I would like you to know that some of the great scientists, many of them, in fact, are devoted believers in God, and some of them have declared that atheism has no place among the true scientists. I tell you there is nothing outmoded about faith in God, and when you go to school, you do not need to believe everything that is told you by these faithless men, whether in philosophy or science classes. You do not need to accept their evidence alone. And if you are disturbed by their persistence in teaching you these false things, just ask yourself the question: Which is the greater scientist, your instructor or Dr. Robert A. Millikan? Ask yourself, who is the greater scholar, your instructor or Lord Kelvin? Ask yourself, who is the greater authority, your instructor or Dr. Arthur H. Compton, or some of the other scientists who give the lie to the teachings of these men who say there is no God.

I shall never forget when I was in a sociology class I saw the professor, a short, bald-headed, bewhiskered man stand there in front of our class and actually defy us to believe in God. He defied us to believe in a special creation or that man is a child of God. I have always understood that it was against the law to discuss religion in the schools. But these men apparently claim academic privilege of some kind academic freedom, I think they call it in taking the right to destroy the very faith which the law prohibits us from teaching in the public schools. And when they do it, I think they are in violation of the spirit of the law, just as much as if they were teaching religion. Young people, remember the great men of the world believe in God.

We do not get our faith from science, however, and I hope you will never take the position that we must even seriously regard what science says about religion. Faith comes by revelation. No matter what science might do to promote religious faith, it can never save a man. Salvation comes through revelation and the power of God restored to men in these last days. And that revelation is available. That revelation has come. The power of God and his priesthood are now here among men and salvation comes through them.

When you go to school, you study mathematics or chemistry or some foreign language. You do not just take the teacher’s word for what is given there. When you study mathematics, you actually work out the equations and know by working them out that they are true. And when you study chemistry, you learn about the truths of that subject by actually performing the experiments that are given to you, and by performing them you discover the truth of the principles you are taught. But if you went to school all your life and did not study mathematics you would never know anything about that subject, would you? You might go to school all your life and never learn one thing about chemistry, unless you studied chemistry. And you can be in this Church all your life, and never know what this Church teaches unless you study it.

Will you not take the advice of Brother Kirkham and study your own religion? Open the pages of the Bible; read there of the hand dealings of God to man. Read there of the life of the Savior. Learn of his teachings. He actually was here on the earth, and he taught men the principles about which you have heard today and in the preceding days of this conference. [40]

C.S. Lewis

If they embark on this course the difference between the old and the new education will be an important one. Where the old initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds- making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation-men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda. [41]


  1. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine p. 312-313
  2. David O. McKay, Two Contending Forces, BYU Speech, May 18, 1960
  3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny, p.2-3.
  4. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:321-322.
  5. Harold B. Lee, Conference Report October 1968, p. 59
  6. Harold B. Lee
  7. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 307
  8. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 319; “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History,” Sons of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah, 23 August 1986
  9. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 303; Conference Report, October 1964, Improvement Era 67 [December 1964]: 1068
  10. see D&C 1:19
  11. See Gospel Doctrine, pp. 312-13
  12. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 319; God, Family, Country, p. 258
  13. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p 321
  14. Ezra Taft Benson
  15. Ezra Taft Benson, Improvement Era Jan. 1967
  16. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 304; So Shall Ye Reap, p. 93
  17. DeLove.
  18. Gospel Doctrine, p. 312.
  19. Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1963, p.110
  20. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 305; American Association of School Administrators, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 14 February 1960
  21. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 321; God, Family, Country, p. 7
  22. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 320; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976
  23. Ecclesiastes 12:12
  24. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 304-305; “In His Steps,” Church Educational System Devotional, Anaheim, California, 8 February 1987
  25. D&C 111:11
  26. Ephesians 6:12
  27. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 302; An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 58-59
  28. Gordon B. Hinckley, Speech given at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Salt Lake City, Utah, September 25, 1998
  29. D&C 121:26
  30. Alma 37:47
  31. Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference October 1983, “Be Not Deceived”
  32. Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, March 12, 1994
  33. Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor of Education and Psychiatry, in an address to the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973
  34. Bertrand Russell, quoting Gottlieb Fichte the head of psychology that influenced Hegel and others
  35. John Goodlad / Directions of Curriculum Change, The NEA Journal, March 1966
  36. John Goodlad, Developing Democratic Character in the Young, 2001, pg. 153
  37. Charles Potter, co-signer with John Dewey of the Humanist Manifesto, “Humanism: a New Religion”, pg. 128
  38. Boyd K. Packer, LDS General Conference, April 1994
  39. Boyd K. Packer, What Every Freshman Should Know, Ensign, September 1973
  40. Mark E. Petersen, Conference Report, April 1952, p.104-107
  41. C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man, Pg. 22

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