Speaking to the annual Stanford University Convocation Tuesday, October 27, Elder Quentin L. Cook, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stressed the importance and essential roles of faith and moral values in the quest for knowledge.
In the address to a capacity audience at the Stanford Memorial Chapel in California, Elder Cook recognized the importance of technology and knowledge, while emphasizing the need for a moral compass. “Knowledge has always been important, and today we are at the threshold of so many new and exciting scientific and technological advancements,” he said. “Knowledge, whether old or new, is important.”
Elder Cook, a Stanford Law alumnus, praised technology developed in Silicon Valley but said, “There is not an app that will replace basic morality.”
“I am deeply concerned that faith, accountability to God, and the religious impulse are so often seen as antithetical to serious academic pursuits,” he said. “I am equally concerned that the foundations which have historically supported faith, accountability to God, and the religious impulse are increasingly being marginalized in a secular world and derided and even banished from the public square.”
The apostle quoted New York Times columnist David Brooks, from one of his recent op-ed pieces titled “The Big University.”
“Many American universities were founded as religious institutions, explicitly designed to cultivate their students’ spiritual and moral natures,” said Elder Cook, quoting Brooks. “But over the course of the 20th century they became officially or effectively secular.”
“I believe many institutions have lost their way,” Elder Cook said. “They have abandoned the basic moral high ground that gives meaning to this life and has guided civilizations for centuries.”
Elder Cook praised Standford’s history and said its co-founder, Jane Lathrop Stanford, would be very pleased that the university’s law school is at the forefront of defending religious liberty. “The Stanford Religious Liberty Clinic, headed by Professor James A. Sonne,” he added, “is helping to train and instill in the minds of young lawyers the importance of protecting those who feel accountable to God because of its overwhelming significance to the well-being of society.”
Elder Cook stressed that the entire burden for training and teaching young adults is not the responsibility of academia, particularly in areas of moral values, faith and accountability to God.
“In looking at society at large, the teaching and training of the younger generation — the rising generation — is a primary responsibility of the family.” Elder Cook encouraged students to be a voice and a moral compass for both “light and truth.’’
“The pursuit of light and truth has never been easy. It was not meant to be easy. The quest for both faith and knowledge must be an eternal commitment,” Elder Cook said. “We must be at the forefront of both promulgating and defending light and truth.”
Earlier in the day Tuesday, Elder Cook also spoke to a forum of students and faculty at the Stanford Law School.