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Becoming: Pres. Hugh B. Brown on “The Questing Spirit”

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Hugh B. Brown, when he spoke at BYU in 1958, just two weeks before being ordained an apostle. My mother loved Pres. Brown when she was a secretary in President McKay’s office and Elder Brown was one of Pres. McKay’s Counselors. She always said he was a wonderfully humble and kind man.

The speech is entitled “The Questing Spirit.” I have been unable to find a full copy, but there is an excerpt in the April 2002 Issue of Sunstone, and my favorite quote is in that excerpt. President Brown said the following:

I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent if you are informed.

?Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that ? in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ?From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth O God of truth deliver us ?.

What think ye?

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • jennycherie September 12, 2008, 4:44 am

    I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent if you are informed.”

    Great thoughts, Ray. I love this quote above simply because it gives encouragement for continuing education (both temporal and spiritual) and improvement of our minds and our selves.

    “The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ?From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth O God of truth deliver us ?. ?

    Okay I REALLY love the last quote. I think I may print it to post in my office!!!! Very appropriate in the season of political campaigns where we sometimes wonder WHEREin lies truth!

  • facethemusic September 12, 2008, 7:55 am

    Ditto!!! Love that last quote!!

    As for what I think about the general idea of “new ideas” and being unafraid to dissent– I thoroughly agree with Elder Brown. Fresh, new approaches can be so enlightening. I can’t tell you how many times a “new idea” that I hadn’t considered before has helped me solve a problem, more fully understand a concept, etc
    Certianly, the Saviors teachings among the Jews were “new ideas”–

    “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
    But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also…..
    Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    That whole passage in Matthew is full of “new” doctrine.

    Or think of investigators hearing this “new idea” about eternal families; about God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit being 3 distinct and separate beings; about living prophets, about a Heavenly Mother, about the pre-existence.
    Those are generally “new ideas” to people. And they’re certainly ones we’d hope they’d embrace.
    BUT, just like anything else that is “good”– the idea of not being afraid of new ideas, them being the stepping stones of progress and not being afraid to dissent is EXACTLY the same notion used by those who dissent against the Church, who try to influence change in teachings, accepting ho mo se xual relationships/marriage as an “equal” to marriage between a man and a woman, the whole “Women Who Know” protest, members dabbling in apostate forms of worship, conjuring spirits, combining the philosophies of men with scripture, etc– as well as things OUTSIDE of the Church– there are millions of Americans, who, in their attempt to show compassion, are accepting the “new idea” (to the American system of government anyway) of what is essentially Socialism– even members of the Church are embracing it and it’s completely against the teachings of the Church.
    Truth is truth. And truth never changes. “New Ideas” don’t change “truth”, they don’t supercede it, and they certainly aren’t “stepping stones of progress” where “truth” has already been set from the beginning.
    So like anything else, this “good” teaching can be twisted or used in such away that it’s harmful, rather than helpful.

  • davidson September 12, 2008, 9:28 am

    Exactly what I was thinking. You don’t want to be so open-minded that your brains fall out. New doctrine isn’t necessarily true doctrine.

    Help me, Face. You said, “. . .Socialism–even members of the Church are embracing it. . . .” Can you explain further? I’m interested in your idea. What do you mean?

  • davidson September 12, 2008, 10:24 am

    I guess I feel uneasy because I’ve known too many good people who developed the “questing spirit” without the attendant sure foundation. Their minds are so busy soaring to new heights that they forget to plant their feet firmly on gospel sod, and they become ungrounded. I think it’s significant that religion classes are REQUIRED at Church schools, coupled with all the excellent learning to be had in the other disciplines. Unbalanced growth isn’t safe. I have known people who had beautiful testimonies and simple faith, and in their quest for knowledge, they “outgrew” their first faith because they neglected to nourish it. It is astonishing and painful to me that people who had once KNOWN simple truth can drift away from it, or substitute other more complicated things for it. There is danger there. I think Neal Maxwell and the Eyrings are perfect examples of the questing spirit welded to simple faith.

    Pride enters in too easily. It is tempting to believe that you belong among the “informed” and lose the information that is most important.
    Didn’t we all memorize it in our seminary days? “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned, they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. BUT TO BE LEARNED IS GOOD IF THEY HEARKEN UNTO THE COUNSELS OF GOD.”

    That is a pretty significant IF.

    P.S.–After writing these last sentences, I decided that I’d best do my studying for the day myself, lest I be a hypocrite. It seems God was reading over my shoulder. I am currently reading in the book of Mosiah, chapter 23, verse 14, which says, “And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keepings his commandments.” The Book of Mormon Study Guide I’m reading along with it had this to say: “This teaches an important principle that all Saints would do well to remember. There are times when, as students in schools, one must sit before teachers who are not men of God. Sometimes one cannot refuse to stay in such classes, for circumstances are such that there is no other option. But when one has a knowledge of the gospel he can (and should!) weigh what is being taught and compare it to those standards found in the scriptures and in the counsel of the living prophets. Thus he can determine for himself what is true and whether those who are not men of God (while they may formally be one’s teachers) are teaching that which is not true.”

    I think that applies to informal students as well.

    We served in a singles branch, and we often heard students who were not attending church-sponsored schools say that they were called upon daily in their classes to filter what they were learning through a gospel net. Some of them were students of avid Mormon-haters, even at schools like Utah State University. I think the Brethren’s direction for LDS youth to attend other universities presupposes a trust that those youth are grounded in truth and will automatically do the filtering. It can be dangerous for those who won’t make the effort. Constant exposure to twisted truth can dim one’s view, even when they aren’t aware they are becoming myopic, and especially when they aren’t doing anything specific to shield themselves.

  • facethemusic September 12, 2008, 4:08 pm

    Help me, Face. You said, “. . .Socialism–even members of the Church are embracing it. . . .” Can you explain further? I’m interested in your idea. What do you mean?

    I know members of the Church who have bought into the idea that the rich should be heavily taxed by the government and their money given to the poor– one of the main tenets of Socialism and Marxism. Rather than letting the wealthy CHOOSE to use their a part of their wealth to help the less fortunate, they want the rich to be forced to do it through higher taxes. The whole idea is completely contrary to the teachings of the Church and exactly the opposite of what the prophets have said.
    I remember a few years ago, I was teaching a Relief Society lesson about self-reliance, and was reading right from the lesson material about this very idea, and our RS president– who I LOVED dearly, but who had some personal ideas that were contrary to the gospel, spoke up and said how she has “a really hard time accepting that”.

  • jennycherie September 13, 2008, 11:38 pm

    Posted By: davidsonI think the Brethren’s direction for LDS youth to attend other universities presupposes a trust that those youth are grounded in truth and will automatically do the filtering. It can be dangerous for those who won’t make the effort.

    I’m afraid that EVERYwhere, even BYU, is dangerous for one who is not grounded in truth. The problem is not the location, but the state of heart and mind.

  • mlinford September 13, 2008, 11:46 pm

    I think like anything else, it’s all about balance. I have seen this kind of quote used too often in a way that ends up feeling sort of out of order to me. Not everything is up for grabs in the Church. There’s a fine line between positively sharing new ideas and dissent driven by deception.

    But finding balance is part of our journey, so….

  • nanacarol September 14, 2008, 8:02 am

    I am glad this has come up as I heard a comment years ago that really has bothered me and maybe this is helping me to understand and then again it goes againist all that I believe. When our daughter first was married and living in El Salvador they had major elections in March of 2003. It looked as if the Communists were going to take control. In the middle of Feb. the major American Companies like Xerox pulled out in the middle of the night and returned to America. It looked like we were going to have to pull our dd out of the country for being American too. The Stake President was visiting our Ward that Sunday and asked how she was doing and I told him of the struggle of El Salvador. He too had served his mission in Honduras so he knew the country too. He said, “That Communism was going to be the best for that country!” I was taken back because I knew that missionionaries could not be there and every person deserves to be free. Look at the way we have been so concerned with China and some countries in Africa. What would make him say a comment like that. I was so taken back that I did not seek an explantion. I have always wondered why he said that.

  • nanacarol September 14, 2008, 8:04 am

    I guess I should ask-is the study of communism a study of a questioning spirit and what do I learn from this?

  • mlinford September 15, 2008, 4:33 pm

    Maybe he meant that the opposition that communism provides could lead people to really WANT to be free, and to want something more. ???

  • nanacarol September 15, 2008, 9:30 pm

    Good point. Will ponder on that one!

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