Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Great Example of Respectfully Agreeing to Disagree

Letter from Henry Eyring to Joseph Fielding Smith on page 94 here:
Dear President Smith:

Thanks for your letter of April 15, 1955.  I am happy that you read my letter, which you refer to, as it expresses accurately my point of view.  Considering the difference in training of the members of the Church, I never cease to marvel at the degree of agreement found among believing Latter-Day-Saints.  So far from being disturbed to find that Brother Talmage, Brother Widtsoe and yourself didn't always see scientific matters alike, this situation seems natural and as it should be.  It will be a sad day for the Church and its members when the degree of disagreement you brethren expressed is not allowed.

I am convinced that if the Lord required that His children understand His works before they could be saved that no one would be saved.  It seems to me that to struggle for agreement on scientific matters in view of the disparity in background which the members of the Church have is to put emphasis in the wrong place.  In my judgment there is room in the Church for people who think that the periods of creation were (a) 24 hours, (b) 1000 years, or (c) millions of years.  I think it is fine to discuss these questions and for each individual to try to convert the other to what he thinks is right, but in matters where apparently equally reliable authorities disagree, I prefer to make haste slowly.

Since we agree on so many things, I trust we can amicably disagree on a few.  I have never liked, for example, the idea that many of the horizontally lying layers with their fossils are wreckage from earlier worlds.  In any case, the Lord created the world and my faith does not hinge on the detailed procedures.  Thanks again for your kindly, thoughtful letter.

Sincerely your brother,
Henry Eyring


Papa D said...


Aaron said...

I feel bad that I never got to take a class from Prof. Eyring. But I did get to meet him at one of his famous 50-yard races against his students. What a wonderful person! and his son isn't too bad, either.

Paul said...

"I prefer to make haste slowly."

Good advice.

I think I remember reading this letter also in Brother Eyring's biography (though I don't have my copy with me, so I can't be sure.

In any case, you're right: this is a terrific way to agree to disagree.

ji said...

That was an excellent letter by Brother Eyring, perhaps written of necessity as a precautionary or preemptive defense. Elder Smith's letter to Brother Eyring (the pre-cursor to this letter) is scary to me!

But let's be honest -- Joseph Fielding Smith's dogmatism (I'm right and everyone else is wrong) might seem more prevalent today that Henry Eyring's candor (This is how it seems to me but others can have their own thoughts).

Thanks for sharing this...