Christian Foundations of American Universities

The evidence of Christianity can be found in the early universities.  The original institutions and colleges openly acknowledged and encouraged the Bible and Christianity in their education and culture whereas today, our universities do not permit any mention or promotion of Christianity.  Our early heritage is being eliminated and concealed.  Here are several universities which reflect their early Christian roots in their seals, mottos, etc.


Original Harvard University Seal

Harvard was founded in 1636 by Puritan, John Harvard.  It’s motto was “Truth for Christ and the Church ”1 and the intention was training Christian ministers.2  According to the Harvard GSAS Christian Community, the top two books on the shield face up while the bottom book is facing down symbolizing the limitation of reason and intellect and the need for God’s revelation.  3

In 1847, Louis Agassiz established the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard and was later given a professorship there.  You may remember Agassiz as one of the eminent spirits appearing to Wilford Woodruff in 1877 in the St. George temple when these spirits called for their temple work to be done.  Agassiz believed in Creation by God and strongly opposed materialistic Darwinian Evolution.  At the time he was considered the world’s greatest natural scientist and his work proclaimed the glory of God.  His fame at Harvard reflects their focus on Christianity.

During the late 1800’s, Harvard’s Christian foundation was eroded and the curriculum was secularized by president Charles W. Eliot.  His motivations were relativist and anti-Christian.  He believed each person should perceive individual truth without reference to the the absolute authority of God.  In addition to Harvard’s focus shift, at some point in the school’s history, the motto was changed from “Truth for Christ and the Church ” to “Truth” and the books, once face down in reverence to God’s wisdom were altered to all face up.  The references to Christ and the Church were removed and reliance on revelation was rejected.

This secular shift flew in the face of everything the founders of Harvard stood for.  A stained glass window located at Emmanuel college depicts John Harvard, the namesake and first benefactor of Harvard, holding a scroll with the words, “a people which shall be created shall praise the Lord” Psalm 18. To his right are the words “salt of the nations” or “the salt of the earth”, a phrase Cotton Mather used in reference to Harvard College.


Yale University Seal

Harvard is not the only university with distinct Christian roots.  Judeo-Christian connections can be found at Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College and Columbia University.   “Light and Truth” is the motto of Yale University with the logo depicting the Hebrew words “Urim and Thummim”.  The phrase, “Urim and Thummim” while found in the Bible, was a phrase not fully understood until the Prophet Joseph Smith.  It’s interesting that the founders of this nation recognized the importance of spiritual light and revealed truth to education, well over 100 years before the birth of the Prophet.  These early colonizers understood principles that are distinctively LDS.

Mottos of Other Universities

  • Columbia University: “In thy Light shall we see Light”4 (Psalm 36:9)
  • Princeton University: “Under God’s power she flourishes”5
  • University of Pennsylvania: “Laws without morals are in vain”
  • Dartmouth College: “A voice crying in the wilderness”
  • Rutgers University: “Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also”
  2.  An early brochure, published in 1643, described the founding of the college as a response to the desire “to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches”. ( Wright, Louis B. (2002). The Cultural Life of the American ) from &
  4. Columbia University (2012). “Columbia University at a Glance“. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  5.  “Princeton University Fun Facts“. Retrieved  January 6, 2013.
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