Mormon intellectualism is sometimes half-humorously dismissed as an oxymoron. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Although the relationship can be rocky, Mormonism has always championed critical thinking. “We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts,” a member of the LDS Church’s First Presidency stated in 1969.
At the turn of the 20th century, university-trained LDS Church general authorities James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe and Joseph F. Merrill, among others, were held up as examples of the church’s support of education. Starting in the 1920s, a growing number of young Mormons began pursuing graduate studies at prestigious universities outside Utah, occasionally with the church’s blessing.