President Hugh B. Brown
(center) with President David O. McKay (left) and BYU President
Ernest L. Wilkinson (right) at a Church College of Hawaii (now BYU
Hawaii) commencement. Courtesy BYU Archives.
An Eternal Quest--
Freedom of the Mind
the Nixon cabinet there are two fellows. Tip your hats. David Kennedy
and George Romney are Mormons. They are strict. They don't smoke or
drink. They give ten percent of all they earn to the Mormon Church.
They have earned a lot of money. Romney gave a year of his life to spreading
the Mormon faith in England.
Respect the Mormons. Their
theology is out of this world. Fantastic. Incredible. But they make
men who deserve our respect. In spite of the fact that there are only
a few million Mormons . . . maybe it is good that Nixon put these
men in positions of power.1
That is a
nice compliment coming from our Catholic friends. And this is from the
As the dust settles at some
campuses and others prepare to meet their own unmakers, it is refreshing
to take a look at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. . . .
It is a religious school run by
the Mormon church and has a long tradition of discipline. We're not
saying that every college can or should adopt its rigid rules against
drinking and even smoking; but the fact that these rules are adhered
to without riotous protests suggests a respect for authority and tradition
that is rapidly disappearing at other institutions with vastly more
years and tradition behind them.2
also like to read some words by the Honorable John Gardner, former secretary
of health, education, and welfare under Lyndon B. Johnson, having to
do with current problems:
possibility of coherent community action is diminished today by the
deep mutual suspicions and antagonisms among various groups in our national
As these antagonisms become
more intense, the pathology is much the same. . . . The ingredients
are, first, a deep conviction on the part of the group as to its own
limitless virtue or the overriding sanctity of its cause; second,
grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others; third,
a chronically aggrieved feeling that power has fallen into the hands
of the unworthy (that is, the hands of others). . . .
Political extremism involves two
prime ingredients: An excessively simple diagnosis of the world's
ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of
it all. . . . Blind belief in one's cause and a low view of the morality
of other Americans--these seem mild failings. But they are the soil
in which ranker weeds take root . . . terrorism, and the deep, destructive
cleavages that paralyze a society.3
James Reston gives us a summary of the situation as it appears today
in the United States and other countries: "Almost everywhere we look
these days, authority is under challenge: the authority of the family,
the church, the university, the community, and the state."
has been said on this campus, from this rostrum, and throughout the
United States about sustaining authority, upholding elected officials,
believing in our own country, and emphasizing the good as against the
evil. [President Brown here quotes a lengthy statement from the First
Presidency on true patriotism and honoring the law, including serving
in the armed forces, dated May 12, 1969. He then quotes Abraham Lincoln
on reverence for the law and Dwight D. Eisenhower and other presidents
on the United Nations.]
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.
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
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.
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,
us to improve ourselves. Maturity implies the ability to walk alone
and not be ashamed within ourselves of the things we do and say.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
a human being finds a dead end, it is tempting to turn to that last
desperate resource of muddled humankind: lawlessness. People do not
realize the unprofitableness in delinquency and the low standard of
living to which it condemns them. They may even imagine themselves as
martyrs in some trivial or irrelevant cause. This hooliganism brings
discredit to the peaceful, legitimate, and often courageous protests
by young people on great moral issues.
is indulgent toward young people, but there are limits to permissibility.
Youth is right to repudiate sham and hypocrisy, but to assume that disorder
and chaos have merit in themselves is to assume that we are no longer
capable of reasoning together in search of the right solution of problems.
students have strong desires. You are not content to live a merely miscellaneous
life, however pleasurable it may be. You dream beyond the actual and
think beyond your fingertips.
In doing so, you are living up to the great law of culture: that people
shall become all that they are created capable of becoming.
we speak of independence and the right to think, to agree or to disagree,
to examine and to question, we must not forget that fixed and unchanging
laws govern all God's creations, whether it be in the vastness of the
starry heavens, in the minute revolving universe of the atom, or in
human relationships. All is law. All is cause and effect, and God's
laws are universal. God has no favorites; no one is immune from either
life's temptations or the consequences of personal deeds. God is not
reactions to the ever-changing impacts of life will depend upon our
goals, our ideals. "The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal
that you enthrone in your heart, this you will build your life by, this
you will become." Every life coheres around certain fundamental core
ideas, whether we realize it or not, and herein lies the chief value
of revealed religion. But while I believe all that God has revealed,
I am not quite sure that I understand what he has revealed. The fact
that he has promised further revelation is to me a challenge to keep
an open mind and to be prepared to follow wherever my search for truth
may lead. You young people have been attending a school presided over
by the President of the Church, a school established by a prophet of
God, a school where your eternal welfare is ever foremost in the minds
of your professors, your administration, the faculty, and others. Our
reactions to the ever-changing impacts of life will depend upon our
goals and our ideals. And I would like to leave that thought with you
I emphasize, there is no final goal. Life must continue to expand, to
unfold, and to grow, if it is to continue to be a good life. These things
are indispensable, and in this connection age makes little difference.
There is opportunity for all to expand and to grow and to be and to
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. Forces in this country and
in other countries are known and grappled with, but they are making
headway. The know-nothings of the last century in this country could
be cited as but one example. Germany in the thirties saw the burning
of books and the glorification of barbaric emotion as part of the tragedy
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.
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.
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.
today not only enjoy many advantages and comforts unknown to former
generations, but we suffer many trials and cope with many problems which
did not plague our forefathers. We are puzzled by the frictions and
the deficiencies of our society.
think the expression "Keep it cool" is peculiar to your age, but it
means in reality "Do not be impatient." Too many young people are so
impatient that when they press an electric button, they can't wait for
the answer. They think there is a gap somewhere, and they think it is
because of the old folks that don't know enough to press the button.
philosophers, and scientists all agree that life on this earth has been
and is one continuous, never-ceasing process of readjustment.
generation is maturing in body and mind at an earlier age than did preceding
generations, and as you become aware of that fact, you are inclined
to become critical of the older generation--sometimes with justification.
We are not here to defend ourselves against you; we are here to let
you know some things we have learned the hard way--sometimes by sad
almost all young people, adolescence means one thing above all else:
they must prove that they are no longer children. They are fighting
to establish themselves as a person. When choice is to be made of a
course of action or a deed, choose that which has significance. Every
youth is forced to answer the question in dialogue with himself: "What
are the things that I ultimately value?" The answer must come with this
thought in mind: "I will have to live with myself all my life, and what
I decide now will influence my happiness."
you go forward in your search for truth and as you espouse principles
and establish ideals toward which to work, pray for courage to be true
to your loyalties, to your ideals, and to yourself. It has been said
that those who know the precepts and neglect to obey them are like those
who light a candle in the darkness and then close their eyes. Remember,
there is a power greater than yourselves upon which you may call. It
is the gospel that Paul declared to be the power of God unto salvation.
There is a power available to all which, when understood and utilized,
will lead to salvation.
am going to have to shorten what I had thought of saying, because I
want to leave with you at the end a statement from my heart. You are
going home shortly, many of you. This, I understand, is the final devotional
assembly to be held on the campus this spring. I want you to take with
you to your homes and to your families the spirit of the gospel of Christ.
It makes it possible for you to participate in the things around you.
The organization of stakes and wards on this campus has enabled thousands
of young people to become active in the Church and, thereby, to open
their eyes and their understanding. This question of participation was
impressed upon my own mind years ago, when I was acting as coordinator
want to tell you this story to emphasize the value of participation.
I was acting as servicemen's coordinator, I was in London, England.
I sent the following telegram to the senior chaplain of a large camp
near Liverpool: "I'll be in your camp tomorrow morning at 10:00. Kindly
notify all Mormon boys in your camp that we'll hold a meeting."
I arrived the next morning, I met seventy-five young men, all in uniform.
They were delighted to see me, although I knew none of them. They were
glad to see someone from home.
stepped out from the crowd a man who, after shaking hands, said, "I'm
the one to whom you sent your telegram. I'm the chaplain of this camp.
I didn't get your telegram until this morning [that is, Sunday morning].
Upon receipt of it, I made an inquiry--a careful inquiry. I found there
were seventy-six Mormon boys in this camp. Seventy-five of them are
here; one is in the hospital."
said, "I wish you'd tell me, Mr. Brown, how you do it. I have six hundred
men in my church in this camp, and if I gave them six months' notice
they couldn't meet that record. Tell me how you do it."
I said, "if you come into our meeting, we'll show you how we do it."
And so he accompanied me into the quonset hut, and before us sat these
seventy-five young men. I had the minister sit next to me.
said, "How many of you fellows have been on missions?" Fully 50 percent
of them raised their hands. I pointed to six of them and said, "Come
here and administer the sacrament."
I pointed to six others and said, "Come here and be prepared to speak."
I looked at my friend, the minister, and he had his mouth open. He had
never seen such a thing.
then I said, "Fellows, what shall we sing this morning?" And with one
voice they said, "Come, Come, Ye Saints!" And I said, "Who can lead
the music?" and most of them raised their hands. I selected one. "Who
can play this portable organ?" And again there was a fine showing, and
one was selected.
didn't have any books, but the man at the organ sounded a chord, and
those young men stood, shoulders back and chins pulled in, and they
sang all the verses of "Come, Come, Ye Saints." I have heard that sung
all over the Church many times, even by the Tabernacle Choir, to whom
I apologize for what I am going to say. I have never heard "Come, Come,
Ye Saints" sung with such fervor, such conviction, such power as those
young men sang it. When they came to that last verse, "And should we
die before our journey's through, happy day, all is well," I tell you
it was thrilling. And as I looked at my friend again, I found him weeping.
the prayer, one of the boys knelt at the sacrament table and said, "O
God, the Eternal Father," and then he paused for what seemed to be a
full minute before proceeding. At the close of the meeting, I went and
looked him up. I put my arm across his shoulder and said, "What's the
you seemed to have difficulty in asking a blessing on the bread. Has
sir," he said, "a few hours ago I was over Germany and France on a bombing
mission. We had made our run, left our calling cards [meaning the bombs],
and when we gained altitude and were about to return across the channel,
we ran into heavy flak. My tail assembly was pretty well shot away,
one of my engines was out, a number of my crew were wounded, and it
looked like a hopeless situation. It seemed like no power in heaven
or earth could get us back across the channel to a landing field. But,"
he said, "Brother Brown, up there I remembered what my mother had said
to me. [And this I want to say to this vast audience, both those that
are here and those that are listening in.] This is what my mother said,
'If ever you find yourself in a situation where man can't help you,
call on God.'
I had been told that same thing in Primary,
in the seminaries, in Sunday School: 'If ever you need help and man
can't help you, call on God.' Although it seemed hopeless and impossible,
I said, 'O God, the Eternal Father, please sustain this ship until we
get back into England.' . . . Brother Brown, he did just that.
I heard of this meeting I ran all the way to get here, and when I knelt
at the table and named his name again, I remembered shamefully that
I had not stopped to say 'thank you.' And that's the reason I paused,
to express my gratitude for the goodness of God."
we went on with our meeting, and these young men spoke, and they spoke
with power and conviction. Every one who heard them was thrilled by
the evidence of their faith, and my friend, the chaplain, continued
to weep. When they had finished talking, I said, "Fellows, we'll have
to dismiss." (That meeting was not like this; it had to be dismissed
on time.) I said, "We'll have to dismiss, or you won't get any chow."
said, "We can have chow any time. Let's have a testimony meeting."
I said, "if you have a testimony meeting, you'll be here another two
repeated with one voice, "Please let us have a testimony meeting."
turned to my friend, the minister, and said, "Now I know this is unusual
for you. We've been here two hours, and we're going to be here another
two hours. We'll excuse you if you prefer to withdraw."
put his hand on my knee and said, "Please, Sir, may I remain?" And of
course I encouraged him to stay, and then for two solid hours those
young men, one after another, stood up and bore witness of the truth
of the gospel. My only job was to say, "You're next, and then you, and
then you," because all of them wanted to get up at once. It was a glorious
there came an end. We dismissed, and this minister turned to me and
said, "Mr. Brown, I have been a minister of the gospel for twenty-one
years, but this has been the greatest spiritual experience of my life."
And again he said, "How do you do it? How did you know which of those
fellows to call on?"
replied, "It didn't make any difference which one I called on. They
are all prepared. And this could happen in any camp anywhere in the
world where there are seventy-five young Mormon boys."
relate this to you, my dear students, that you may realize the value
of participation, the value of a conviction of the truth, and that you
may take advantage of every opportunity to bear witness to that truth.
bear my witness to you now, as you leave for home and as time goes on;
I do not know that I will be here again, and that doesn't matter much
as far as you are concerned. But I want to leave this witness with you.
I am too old to try to deceive you--I have one foot in the grave and
am waiting to kick the bucket with the other. But this I want to say
to you before I leave, and I say it with apologies for holding you a
all the fervor of my soul, I know that God lives, that he is a reality,
that he is a personality; that Jesus of Nazareth is and was and will
ever be the Son of God, the Redeemer, and the Savior of the world. I
know that better than I know anything else, and I say with Peter of
old who was asked, "Whom say ye that I am?" He replied, as I reply.
He replied with the same authority with which I speak, "Thou art the
Christ, the Son of the living God." And he was told by the Master what
I have been told by him as well, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed
it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:1517).
God bless you, my dear fellow students.
This address was given to the BYU
student body on May 13, 1969, when Hugh B. Brown was First Counselor
in the First Presidency.
Aidan's Bulletin, March 2, 1969.
Tribune, Sunday, May 4, 1969.
Gardner, No Easy Victories
(New York: Harper and Row, 1969),