Seeking Truth


So about once every eight years or so I'm asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting. Today was my Sunday to do that. Being lazy, I thought I'd make it my blogpost for the evening. The topic I was given was "Seeking Truth." Here it is:

What is truth? D&C 93 is an eloquent treatise on the nature of truth. We learn from that section that truth is “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” But that is not all. We learn that truth is independent in the sphere it is assigned by God, and that it is the foundation of all existence. We learn also that truth is light and is enlightening, and that the light of truth cannot be created, even by God. We also learn that truth is power, and the power of truth is contingent on keeping God’s commands. The power and the glory of God are light and truth. Other scriptures add to our understanding; we learn from Alma 32 that light and truth are real, and from the D&C 88 that light cleaveth to light, and truth cleaveth to truth. Truth is also the basis of all virtue--there cannot be good without truth; for example, love is only love when rooted in truth. We are also told that light and truth forsake evil and the evil one. When truth is welcomed, its nature is to grow and grow until the perfect day.

Think of the words that go together here: truth, light, reality, existence, independence, obedience, power, good, growth, eternity. Truth is integral to all these things.

Now, in mortality, we humans have a troubled relationship with truth. First of all, we have limited intelligence due to the fallen nature of our bodies. To only a very few mortals, such as Moses, has God been able to show all truth, and that was only all the truth pertaining to this earth. As Paul said, in this life “we see through a glass darkly.” Hugh Nibley once wrote of God’s perennial problem of trying to pour one-gallon-sized revelations into one-cup minds. We have a natural handicap, then.

Second, there cannot be light without its opposite, dark, and there cannot be truth without lies. Satan, the father of lies, attempts to take away light and truth from us by outright lies, by long traditions of lies that have caused ignorance, as well as by tempting us into disobedience, which causes us to lose light. Our own natural man helps in this, because pride and fear and ambition and rebellion in our hearts always bar the way to truth, even when truth is as plain as the nose on our face. The human capacity for self-deception and denial of plain and obvious truth is, unfortunately and sometimes amazingly, enormous. As Isaiah has informed us, there will be those who call evil good, and good evil, who will call white black and black white—and who will become popular and gain many followers for it! Or as Sheri Dew put it more pithily, “Sin makes you stupid.”

On the other hand, we are not left naked and defenseless in the face of these challenges. Our very souls are comprised of light and truth, and so our very souls have a deep desire to find truth and cleave to it. We are even given an extra measure of that Liahona-like power through the Light of Christ, given to us as a special gift as we entered mortality. We are given the commandments, which, if we are obedient to them, will cause light to grow within us. We are given the Holy Ghost to tell us the truth of all things. We are given personal revelation to enlighten our minds and hearts. We have institutions meant to encourage the light within us—loving families, the Church, educational institutions, and so forth. But it will still be a challenge to cling to truth, especially when we live in a culture that considers itself a “post-truth” culture, where the worst crime is to believe that there is a truth that stands independent of human beings. As a former faculty member at BYU once said, maybe this is what Paul had in mind when he said people would be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Indeed, continuing his thought, “What becomes accepted as true, from this perspective, is influenced by who has power, so that truth not only varies by society, but it is political.”

And that means we will always, but increasingly as our culture darkens, be seen as strange, even bizarre. And worse—we will be seen as stupid and evil. There will be people who will feel very good about themselves for silencing and even hurting stupid, evil, bizarre people like members of our Church. And members of our Church will even be tempted to temper their cleaving to truth to appear less stupid, less evil, and less bizarre in the eyes of the world. But as Bruce R. McConkie once said,

—Truth, diamond truth, truth unmixed with error, truth alone leads to salvation. —We are called upon to reject all heresies and cleave unto all truth. Only then can we progress.

As members of the Church, we believe that there is an absolute truth that stands above and independent of human perspectives. This has been boldly taught by our General Authorities, and I will quote only two here:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “We believe in absolute truth, including the existence of God and the right and wrong established by His commandments. In the words of President Joseph F. Smith, “We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.” . . . [T]he existence of God and the existence of absolute truth are fundamental to life on this earth, whether they are believed or not. We also know that evil exists, and that some things are simply, seriously, and everlastingly wrong . . . [and] certain behavior is absolutely right and true . . . We who believe in God and the corollary truth of absolute right and wrong . . . have a duty to stand up and speak up to affirm that God exists and that there are absolute truths. . . . [D]iversities in cultures and values also challenge us to identify what can be embraced as consistent with our gospel culture and values and what cannot . . . Our tolerance and respect for others and their beliefs does not cause us to abandon our commitment to the truths we understand and the covenants we have made. . . . We are cast as combatants in the war between truth and error. There is no middle ground. We must stand up for truth, even while we practice tolerance and respect for beliefs and ideas different from out own and for the people who hold them . . . [Even so, w]e are not required to respect and tolerate wrong behavior. Our duty to truth requires us to seek relief from some behavior that is wrong, such as murder, terrorism, violence, and thievery. . . . [Furthermore, W]e should not be tolerant with ourselves. We should be ruled by the demands of truth. We should be strong in keeping the commandments and our covenants, and we should repent and improve when we fall short. . . . Similarly, with our children and others we have a duty to teach, such as in our Church callings, our duty to truth is paramount.” (Truth and Tolerance, 2011,

And here is Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “The thing about truth is that is exists beyond belief. It is true even if nobody believes it. . . . There is indeed such as thing as absolute truth—unassailable, unchangeable truth. This truth is different from belief. It is different from hope. Absolute truth is not dependent on public opinion or popularity. Polls cannot sway it. Not even the inexhaustible authority of celebrity endorsement can change it. . . . [I]n this age of information, there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place. You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat, that the moon is a hologram, and that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. [J]ust because something is printed on paper, appears on the internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true. [W[hen you are confronted with information that is in conflict with the revealed word of God . . . we have to trust the Lord, who sees all things clearly. . . . I ask you to spare no efforts in your search to know this truth for yourself—because this truth will make you free.” (What is Truth? 2013,

Consider some of the truths President Oaks has listed as absolute—There is a God. Maleness and femaleness are real and eternal. God has a plan of progression for Their children, which includes mortality and the freedom to choose for ourselves. Because we would all sin, the Atonement of Jesus Christ was necessary to balance justice and mercy, and allow for resurrection and for effective repentance. Mortal life is sacred. Family relationships are eternal, and marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children are essential to the Plan of Happiness. The ordinances of salvation and exaltation are true and meaningful, and necessary for our progression. (Truth and the Plan)

As a result of these absolute truths, President Oaks states there are certain things that the Church must and will always stand up against, such as abortion, euthanasia, the erasure of sexual distinction, retreat from marriage and childbearing. You can see why we are now, and will increasingly be, out of step with our culture. (Truth and the Plan)

So how to face the challenges of seeking and cleaving to truth along with our efforts to be obedient and to seek truth from heaven? I offer here two tips, though there are many more we could discuss. The most important attitude adjustment we can make, in my opinion, is to square our shoulders. As President Oaks says, “Our Savior taught that His followers will have tribulation in the world, that their numbers and dominions will be small, and that they will be hated “because they are not of the world.” But that is our role.” Ponder that for a moment. It is our role as disciples of Christ to be less powerful in a worldly sense and to be hated. We often don’t think about that foreordained role when we get baptized, but that is what we are signing up for. Let us face that role squarely, take it upon ourselves, and adjust our expectations and attitudes accordingly.

The second important attitude adjustment is, to use the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, to “live not by lies.” Against a “post-truth” culture determined to impose evil upon us, possibly even by coercion and force, Solzhenitsyn advises us to “recoil from its most vulnerable point. From lies. [Evil] demands of us only a submission to lies, a daily participation in deceit—and this suffices as our fealty. And therein we find, neglected by us, the simplest, most accessible key to our liberation: a personal nonparticipation in lies! . . . For when people renounce lies, lies simply cease to exist. . . . they can only survive when attached to a person. We are not called upon to step out into the square and shout out the truth—this is scary, we are not ready. But let us at least refuse to say what we do not think! . . . [The choice before us is either] in favor of spiritual independence or spiritual servility. . . . Not an easy choice for the body, but the only one for the soul.” What Solzhenitsyn is saying is something quite profound: if we find ourselves in a situation where we fear affirming the truth, then at least refuse to affirm lies until we are brave enough to affirm truth. Do not write lies, do not utter lies, do not repeat lies, do not raise your hand to support lies. My dear brothers and sisters, this is a pro tip, indeed.

While I have run out of time, and would say more if I could, may I simply conclude by exhorting you to take these two pieces of advice to heart and ponder them? Spiritually square your shoulders to what surely lies ahead for faithful members of the Church who cleave to truth, and if it’s too hot to openly affirm the truth, refuse—utterly refuse—to affirm what you know by the light of the Restored Gospel to be lies. By even this small act of courage, you will embolden others, you will spread light, and the kingdom of the devil will be shaken to its very core. Let us undertake our roles as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ with steadfastness, trusting in Him who assigned us this part in the Great Plan of Happiness.