Can we be both faithful in the Church and strong analytical thinkers? Here is what I see as the crux of the dilemma for me: I desire more than anything to be faithful to the Lord, the Church, and its leaders. As such, I am prepared to disavow any school of thought, abandon any premise or conclusion, if the Lord, through his prophet, informs me that it should be abandoned. This, of course, is anathema to a good analytical thinker. As a good analytical thinker I should follow the line of reasoning where ever it takes me. In fact, I simply don’t trust academics who have any agenda (any held belief that strongly dissuades them from following the evidence to any destination): it skews their work. They miraculously always arrive at the conclusion that fits their world view.
Perhaps this is simply inevitable and no one is capable of being a really strong analytical thinker–none of us can really be objective. However, there is also a spectrum. I do not trust numbers and conclusions that come from, for example, extremely biased think tanks on either side of the political aisle. And so, the question reemerges: will Mormons ever become, en masse, great scientists, great intellectuals. Will we ever, as a group, have a large population of thinkers who are respected in their fields as some of the greatest minds? And can large numbers of LDS thinkers pull this off while remaining faithful. I have staked my flag: (granted I will never be considered a great mind in any field, except perhaps movie trivia–where I rock…), from a theoretical stance, I would much rather be faithful than smart (or anything else for that matter). Does this fact (and I think it is shared by many of us here) relegate Mormons to fields that won’t lead to asking questions and finding answers that contradict the gospel? And do such fields really exist? It seems to me that most fields of intellectual/scientific/analytic pursuit will lead us to conclusions that at least appear incongruous with the gospel.
My answer is that if we really believe the gospel, we will have the faith to follow any analytic pursuit in whatever direction it takes us, knowing that ultimately it will not lead to "truths" that contradict the gospel, because there are no such "truths". However, it will require that we leave many conclusions "on the shelf" until more information is available or better analytic tools. This fact, I think, keeps Mormons away from certain fields. They think: how can I be competitive in this field if I will have to sit on certain conclusions until they are perfected enough that they fall in line with the gospel. And thus, I do not think we will ever have a large group of Mormons dominating their analytical fields. In fact, I think the halcyon days of having a large number of Mormons who are considered to be great minds in their fields is not ahead of us but behind.