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David O. McKay Diaries – “Science”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Science.” You can view other subjects here.

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Wed., 3 Dec., 1952:

“[First Presidency meeting]  I reported that Francis W. Kirkham recommends that Dr. Harvey Fletcher or Dr. Henry Eyring be commissioned by the Church to write a book on the place of science and religion in human life.  The brethren felt that there are so many fundamental advances being made in science that it was questionable wisdom to have a book of that kind.  I said that I had heard very fine reports of the good work Dr. Eyring is doing with young people in fireside and group meetings.”

Fri., 9 July, 1954:

“8:30 a.m. – Elder Joy Dunyan of the Department of Education came in by appointment at his request.  He reported that Brother Harold B. Lee had asked them to write a paper giving their estimate of value of Joseph Fielding Smith’s new book on ‘Man’.

I said that I was of the opinion that Brother Lee had no right to do this, but that I would look into the matter and find out more about it.

I asked Brother Dunyon to ask Brother Lee whether or not this book has been authorized by the Committee; that he was to do this on his own and was not to quote me – that it is his responsibility to find out whether or not it is approved.  If the book has not been approved, then it should not be used as a text book, or considered in the class, more than any other private book.

(see July 14, for Brother Dunyan’s report)

9 to 12 noon – First Presidency’s meeting – see over 

12 noon – left the office

Wed., 14 July, 1954:

Telephone Calls

5.  Brother Joy Dunyan of the Board of Education called to report on two things:  1.  Was asked to bring in some of the writings of our teachers.  He has been unable to obtain them as yet, as they are in the hands of Roy West and Harold B. Lee, for reading.  (2)  He asked Harold B. Lee about the book recently published by Pres. Smith, as to whether or not it has been passed by the Reading Committee, and Brother Lee said that it had not been passed.”

Wed., 18 Aug., 1954:

9 to 10:30 a.m. – Attended the First Presidency’s meeting.

Among items considered were:

1.  The number of letters that I had received from seminary and institute teachers regarding President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book, ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny.’  The Brethren were agreed that inasmuch as this book has not been passed upon by the Church that it should not be used as a study course in the seminaries and institutes.  They felt that the matter therein discussed is really not essential to the advancement of the cardinal principles of  the Church.”

Mon., 13 Sept., 1954:

“At 8:30 a.m., met by appointment at their request the following Seminary Supervisors and teachers:  Elders Joy Dunyan, Lowell L. Bennion, Edgar T. Lyon, and George Boyd.

They said that they were concerned about what their attitude should be regarding the recent work of President Joseph Fielding Smith on ‘Man His Origin and Destiny.’

I told them that that book should be treated as merely as the views of one man.  It is true that one man is President of the Twelve, and makes it more or less authoritative, but it is no more to be taken as the word of the Church than any other unauthorized book.”

Wed., 29 Dec., 1954:

“Returned to the office at 2 p.m. at which time I met, at his request, Dr. Richard D. Poll, Chairman, Department of History and Political Science, Brigham Young University.  He came in regarding the book written by President Joseph Fielding Smith on ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny’.  He wanted to know if seminaries and church schools are obligated to teach this book.

I told Dr. Poll that the Church has not approved of the book; and that so far as evolution is concerned, the Church has not made any ruling regarding it, and that no man has been authorized to speak for the Church on it.”

Mon., 13 June, 1955:

“8:30 to 9:30 a.m.  Conference with Brother Joy Dunyon, Supervisor of Seminaries of the Church, just recently released.

Brother Joy Dunyon called at the office and asked my advice regarding his future relationship with the educational system of the Church.  He said he has enjoyed his positions as seminary teacher and supervisor of the seminaries.  He has looked upon these positions more as Calls than as jobs, and now he has reached the point where he must decide whether to accept the position offered him as an instructor in the School of Religion of the Brigham Young University, or whether to choose a business career.  He explained that if he accepts this proffered position as an instructor at the B.Y.U., it means that he accepts teaching as his life’s profession, and must go on and win higher degrees.

There are reasons why he hesitates to accept this proffered position at the Brigham Young University.

He has promising prospects before him in the business world, which will enable him to work in the Church, to remain with his family in their lovely home which they own, and, to a satisfactory degree, succeed in the business world.

After a confidential interview, I said:  ‘I deeply regret to see a man of your strength, ability, and leadership withdraw from the educational system of the Church; we need just such leadership as you possess, but under the circumstances, I believe that I would not accept the proffered position at the Brigham Young University, but would spend the next year or two in completing your business affairs with this understanding that during the Winter months you get your Master’s Degree whether you ever teach or not – you are so near that accomplishment that you cannot afford to not get your Master’s Degree, and you can get that either at the Brigham Young University or the University of Utah as you wish.'”

Mon., 5 Mar., 1956:

L.A. Temple – and Incident of Resentment

At 9:30 a.m.  Met by appointment Brother and Sister Henry Peterson of Logan, Utah.

I invited these people in at the request by letter of Ervine F. Smith, 15313 Via de Los Olas, Pacific Palisades, California, son-in-law of the Petersons, who said that Brother Peterson is planning to visit with him in the near future in Los Angeles, and that ‘if possible an invitation for him to attend the Los Angeles Dedicatory Services, will be a fitting tribute for the service he has rendered to the Church and the people of Utah and California through his long life of unselfish service.  He also feels his presence would bridge a long period of church history since he was present also at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple.’  And then he made the request that I invite him to my office for a consultation, which would ‘help to make his remaining years happier.’

Professor Peterson, a life-long friend and former member of the Sunday School Board, in his conversation with me, referred to the difficulty he had while teaching at the Brigham Young University in 1911 when he, Dr. Chamberlain, and Dr. Joseph Peterson resigned from their positions at the Brigham Young University.

He said it is true that he had resentment in his heart because of the actions taken by the President of the Brigham Young University and by the General Superintendent of Schools, and that because of his harboring that resentment he had injured himself; that he is sorry that he had caused it to affect his life, for he is the one who had been injured by holding this resentment in his heart.  But now, he said, ‘I hold no resentment whatever.’

Brother and Sister Peterson had with them their Temple recommends from the Bishop of the Logan 8th Ward, so I gave them admittance tickets to the first session of the Los Angeles Temple dedicatory services to be held Sunday, March 11.

I think their visit to the office, and permission given to attend the dedicatory services made them very happy indeed, and that it will result in much good.  I was happy to have the opportunity of talking to Brother and Sister Peterson.

Fri., 25 Jan., 1957:

“3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The First Presidency met representatives of the Polio Foundation, the State Director, Brother Bruce Hanks, a brother of President Marion D. Hanks of the First Council of Seventy; Brother Richard C. Andrew, vice president of the J.A. Hogle Company, who is contributing of his time in the interest of the Polio Organization in this County and surrounding states.  Had a very interesting and instructive conference with these men.  What they have done in helping our polio victims is most commendable, financially as well as emotionally and socially.  Thousands of dollars have been spent in helping Brother I. Daniel Stewart, and one of our young sisters who took polio in the New England Mission; also in assisting Ross Eagar in Leeds, Utah.

(Since this consultation I have learned that some of our stake presidents and bishops are advising members of the Church not to take the polio Vaccine injection, but to rely wholly upon faith.  I feel that they are wrong in taking this attitude because the Lord expects us to do everything we can to make use of all the improvements and inventions and discoveries that come through his inspiration, and when we have done all we can, then we can go to the Lord and rely upon His help.  So far the Vaccine seems to be helpful, and it should be administered under the direction of physicians who know something about it.)”

Tues., 25 Feb., 1958:

“This evening Sister McKay and I attended the 108th University of Utah Founders Day Banquet held in the University of Utah Union Ballroom at 7 p.m.

Dr. Edward Teller, ‘father of the hydrogen bomb and associate director of the radiation laboratory at the University of California.

Dr. Teller, one of the world’s greatest scientists, talked on the subject ‘Can America win the race for survival?’

*Dr. Edward Teller – Scientist

Dr. Teller, who has had much to do with the discovery of the hydrogen bomb, delivered a very interesting lecture on radiation and the necessity of our changing our system of education.

I think he made a very good point when he urged that we get better teachers who will inspire the youth to want to take these advanced scientific studies.  The Russians are forcing their young people to take these studies, and it is our duty to teach the youth to love mathematics and engineering as we learn to love music.  Dr. Teller gave a good talk on the subject ‘Can America Win the Race for Survival?’  He is not very optimistic about it.”

Fri., 28 Oct., 1960:

“3:15 p.m.

Took Sister McKay to see a special showing of the movie ‘Inherit the Wind’, as guests of the manager of the Lyric Theatre.  This movie portrayed the story of the great ‘Monkey Trial’ when William Jennings Bryan was the prosecuting attorney at the time the legality of teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in the schools was taken to the courts.  I was especially interested because I had personally met William Jennings Bryan on three occasions, and had followed the real court trial.  When I was Principal of Weber College, William Jennings Bryan, at my invitation, came to Ogden and addressed the students of the College.  Frederick March portrayed William Jennings Bryan in the movie.”

Mon., 18 Dec. 1961:

B.Y.U. Science and Religion Film

Following Brother Williams’ report on Nigeria, we viewed a film bearing the title ‘Search for Truth,’ produced by the Brigham Young University Studio under the direction of W.O. ‘Judge’ Whitaker.

The film commences with a statement by me on true religion and true science.

We were very much impressed with the excellence of the entire production.  All present gave hearty approval of its being shown in the 1962 Stake Conferences of the Church.  (See newspaper clipping regarding B.Y.U. film)

Wed., 1 May, 1968:

10:15 a. m. 

My secretary Clare Middlemiss came over for the purpose of giving me notes on the visit at 10:30 a. m. of Dr. Philo T. Farnsworth of Maine and other places in the East where he lives from time to time. I was very tired following the meeting of the First Presidency, but was glad to see my secretary who has not been over to my office for several days because the nurses had informed her not to come. Clare explained to me that Dr. Farnsworth has been ill for several months; that it seems as though he has suffered a slight stroke.

10:30 a. m. — Visit of Dr. Philo T. Farnsworth – World Famous Electronic Scientist and Mrs. Farnsworth

Dr. and Mrs. Farnsworth arrived promptly at the appointed hour in company with Brother Arch Madsen of KSL. Dr. Farnsworth seemed very frail, and his arm was in a sling; he having broken his wrist yesterday while visiting the canyons in Southern Utah. He has been ill for about a year, but is still active on some of his projects.

I tried to rise to greet Dr. and Mrs. Farnsworth, to which Dr. Farnsworth protested , but I finally was able to get to my feet to greet them and shake their hands.

Arch Madsen then said: “President McKay, this man has brought television to the whole world — his plans are followed everywhere. When he was sixteen years of age, he drew plans for both black and white and color television. He envisioned and invented it all. “

Dr. Farnsworth spoke up, and said: “I invented nothing — the ideas I had, and talent I had in electronics are a gift from a higher source. I have worked hard, but it was through inspiration. Without humbleness, my work would cease!”

Dr. Farnsworth then said his work is not confined to electronics; that this summer he is attending a symposium at Stanford University where they are working on a cure for cancer. “The cure is coming – not leukemia as yet, but it will come.”

He then said it is his desire to teach the youth of the Church that Science and Religion do not conflict. He said: “I believe that some higher power has guided me; I have felt it, and it guides all inventors.”

He said he was a personal friend of Albert Eienstein, the great scientist, and that he had great admiration for him, and commented that although he was not a member of our faith, that he thought he “would have been a member if it had not been for the death of his wife.” He repeated that there is no apparent conflict between science and religion, and said: “I want to teach the world that, and I believe it will answer some of the problems facing our young people.”

I said: “That is true, and I wish you would do that.”

Dr. Farnsworth stated that Mark E. Petersen has asked him to write something on this.

Mention was made of the doctorate that the Brigham Young University will confer on Dr. Farnsworth this June, and he said: “This will be the highlight of my life; Brigham Young University is my Alma Mater, and I have always wanted to come back to this school and give credit to them.” Then he said: “I have studied for two doctorates, and have received many honors, but each one makes me more humble, and when I have received the highest honor, the first thing I have felt is ‘Now I have to go back to the humble position I occupied before I started my studies for my doctorate and start anew.'” He said his two doctorates were “pretty hard to earn”, and that the third “will be the honorary doctorate from the Brigham Young University. “

Dr. Farnsworth also talked about the Negro problem, and said he had many “fine friends who are Negroes”; that they are good and are hard working. He said he feels that most Negroes do not understand our position on the Priesthood; that a lot of people in our own Church have not earned the Priesthood. At this point my secretary, Clare, told Dr. Farnsworth of the letter I sent sometime ago to Dr. Lowell Bennion on my feelings regarding the Negro. Dr. Farnsworth said that he would like a copy, and she promised to send him one through Arch Madsen who also asked for a copy. Dr. Farnsworth is planning to work with Arch Madsen in getting some material for television on the Negro question and said that he himself will appear on Television and talk about this subject.

Dr. Farnsworth turned to me and said, “I want to compliment you on your efficient secretary.” He asked how long she had worked for me, and was told that it is now over thirty years. He turned to Clare and said, “You are a lucky girl — the most lucky in the world — all that you have missed in life will come to you.” I spoke up and said: “She is wonderful — the best in the world; there is no better.” Sister Farnsworth commented: “I agree; I can tell!” Clare said: “All this makes me very thankful and humble.”

When Dr. and Mrs. Farnsworth arose to go, I insisted upon standing in honor of this great man, and said: “I am delighted we have had this visit. I am honored to meet you and Sister Farnsworth, and am glad that we have had this talk, and have been deeply interested in what you have told me. The Lord bless you both!”

Dr. and Sister Farnsworth thanked me, and seemed reluctant to leave as they slowly made their way to the door, with my secretary Clare accompanying them.”

Mon., 14 May, 1968:

“Brigham Young University — Decision of the Board of Trustees to Discontinue Institute of Cell Research

Clare reported that minutes had come to me as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the BYU that President Wilkinson informed the Board that Dr. Jack Trunnell had been serving as Director for the BYU  Institute of Nutrition, and that said Institute had received a disproportionate part of the total amount of research funds provided by the University. He said in the interest of economy, among other things, the Executive Committee recommended that the Institute of Cell Research be discontinued.

I said, “Dr. Trunnell is not to be hurt.” President Wilkinson brought Dr. Trunnell from Texas where he was presiding over a Stake of the Church there, and was also associated with a hospital in Texas andwas doing research work on Cancer. His desire was to continue this research, and if and when he was able to discover any cure for cancer or make any other medical discovery, his desire was to give all the credit to the BYU, from which school he graduated. President Henry D. Moyle, who knew him while he was in Texas as a Stake President, encouraged him and even stated that he would like to build a laboratory for Dr. Trunnell. It is reported that Dr. Trunnell has rendered a great deal of service as an Internal Specialist to several of the General Authorities. I personally like Dr. Trunnell and was pleased with the medical service he rendered me for several months. I told Clare to keep me informed on this matter. (See Minutes of Board of Trustees – May 1, 1968 – in BYU File.)