Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"An Eternal Quest--Freedom of the Mind"

The following is from Hugh B. Brown's "An Eternal Quest--Freedom of the Mind", a speech delivered to the BYU student body on May 13, 1969, when Hugh B. Brown was First Counselor in the First Presidency:

One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking. More thinking is required, and we call upon you students to exercise your God-given right to think through every proposition that is submitted to you and to be unafraid to express your opinions, with proper respect for those to whom you talk and proper acknowledgment of your own shortcomings.

We live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve this freedom in the Church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it, for when it is suppressed, we might lose the liberties vouchsafed in the Constitution of the United States.

Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In this age of speed, there seems to be little time for meditation.

Dissatisfaction with what is around us is not a bad thing if it prompts us to seek betterment, but the best sort of dissatisfaction in the long run is self-dissatisfaction, which leads us to improve ourselves. Maturity implies the ability to walk alone and not be ashamed within ourselves of the things we do and say.

Progress in maturity may be measured by our acceptance of increased self-responsibility and an increased sagacity in decision making. This transition is not a time of calm enjoyment, but of growth and adaptation.

One matures as a person by responding differently today from the way in which one responded yesterday. We observe restraint so that restraints do not have to be imposed upon us; we do our best to think clearly so that we avoid chasing after false doctrines; we use deliberation so as to see through nonsense; we realize our social duty to the honest opinions of others while maintaining our own principles.

Self-discipline--and that is a subject on which I think I have some right to speak because of my military training and experience--means doing things you would rather not do but having the courage to do them if they are right. When a course of action shows itself to be unprofitable, it is sensible and valorous to drop it.

There is no personal value in making a show of maturity if you do not have it. Affectation of any sort borders on vulgarity, and at the least, it is ridiculous to pretend to feelings and beliefs that do not appeal to your intelligence.

On the other hand, no mature person will be content to sit by the side of the road and watch the world go by. One cannot be merely a bystander, doing nothing but criticize...

There are forces at work in our society today which degrade an intellectual quest for knowledge. These forces are nothing new. They have always been powerful. They are anti-intellectual. ... The Know-Nothings of the last century in this country could be cited as one example. Germany in the thirties saw the burning of books and the glorification of barbaric emotion as part of the tragedy of Hitlerism.

We have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which, in some part, the world lacks. But there is an incomprehensibly greater part of truth which we must yet discover. Our revealed truth should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers--that we in fact have a corner on truth, for we do not.

Whether you are in the field of economics or political science, history or the behavioral sciences, continue your search for truth. And maintain humility sufficient to be able to revise your hypotheses as new truth comes to you by means of the spirit or the mind. Salvation, like education, is an ongoing process.

One may not attain salvation by merely acknowledging allegiance, nor is it available in ready-to-wear stores or in supermarkets where it may be bought and paid for. That it is an eternal quest must be obvious to all. Education is involved in salvation and may be had only by evolution or the unfolding or developing into our potential. It is in large measure a problem of awareness, of reaching out and looking up, of aspiring and becoming, of pushing back our horizons, of seeking for answers, and of searching for God. In other words, it is not merely a matter of conforming to rituals, climbing sacred stairs, bathing in sacred pools, or making pilgrimages to ancient shrines. The depth and height and quality of life depend upon awareness, and awareness is a process of being saved from ignorance. Human beings cannot be saved in ignorance.

1 comment:

Clean Cut said...

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” — Hugh B. Brown