July, 12, 2012

The Similar Visions of Brigham Young and the Founding Fathers

Statue of Brigham Young outside the ASB at BYU

The Education in Zion Gallery’s permanent exhibition highlights the importance of educating the entire soul. In gallery tours we often discuss the rather unique nature of Brigham Young University’s aim of combining religious education with secular education. Although this aspect distinguishes BYU from a majority of other universities, the concept of religious education’s importance to general learning was recognized not only by Brigham Young and the other early establishers of Brigham Young Academy, but also by many of the United States’ Founding Fathers.

At this time of year as we remember the sacrifices and principles that aided in laying the foundation for the United States of America, let us also remember that one of these principles included the importance of remembering God in all aspects of our lives, even our education.

The ensuing quotations from some of the Founding Fathers commemorate the great value and importance of religious education to the growth of individuals and to a nation as a whole:

  •     “[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.  Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.” –Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
  •   “I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. [T]herefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.” –Gouverneur Morris, Penman and Signer of the Constitution
  •     “You have . . . received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country. . . . Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer. Let these be ever present to your minds, and exemplified in your lives and conduct.” –William Samuel Johnson, Signer of the Constitution
  •     “As piety, religion and morality have a happy influence on the minds of men, in their public as well as private transactions, you will not think it unseasonable, although I have frequently done it, to bring to your remembrance the great importance of encouraging our University, town schools, and other seminaries of education, that our children and youth while they are engaged in the pursuit of useful science, may have their minds impressed with a strong sense of the duties they owe to their God.” –Samuel Adams


“U.S. Founding Fathers on Education, in Their Own Words.” National Association of Scholars. National Association of Scholars, 02 Jul 2010. Web. 5 Jul 2012. <>.

Beardsley, Edwards. Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886), pp. 141-142.

The Founders’ Constitution. University of Chicago Press, 2000. Web. <>.

The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908), Vol. IV, p. 401, to the Legislature of Massachusetts on January 27, 1797.