Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Test of Truth

As the values and intents of people in the world change, it becomes harder and harder for some to determine what is true. For every scripture in the Bible, there can be heard many different interpretations. Truth is eternal, but how can we identify it? The best professors of our day can logically convince us that there is no right and wrong, that there is no God. They are well learned and eloquent. They are very convincing, as evidenced by the number of students who turn from religion after attending college. So what are some traits of truth, and how can we discern it?

Truth will be consistent with God's word

One of the reasons God gives us scriptures is to help us identify truth. Some of the basic truths found in the scriptures are that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that He atoned for our sins, and was resurrected. We also learn that we too can be resurrected. If a popular theory isn't compatible with these teachings, that we can know that it isn't truth.

The Holy Ghost will lead us in to all truth

The mission of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth. When we pray to God about a thing, the Holy Ghost can witness to us the truthfulness of it. If we do not have that spiritual witness, we can know that the thing isn't true. I remember when I was a missionary in Taiwan, and was teaching a teenager whose family worshipped their ancestors. In wanting to explain the influence of the Holy Ghost to them, I asked him how he felt when burning incense at the altar. I asked if he felt a warm, peaceful feeling, or a weird, scared feeling. He confirmed that he felt scared and uneasy. I explained that we pray to God, not our ancestors, and I testified to him that if he would pray to God, he could feel those peaceful feelings of surety that come to us from the Holy Ghost. Likewise, the Holy Ghost can confirm to us the truthfulness of any thing. I have often encouraged people to pay attention, as they read the Book of Mormon, to the feelings that they have. It is a common experience that they have felt the spirit confirm to them that the Book of Mormon is of God. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read this counsel about how to receive a witness of the Holy Ghost: "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;" Doctrine and Covenants 9:8,9 In my life, I have often had that "stupor of thought" that confirmed to me that the direction I was taking was not right. I have also had that same feeling when studying some of the popular teachings of the day. Conversely, I have often had the confirmation of the Holy Ghost that a certain decision I had made was the right one.

Truth comes by study and prayer

One of the important steps listed in the scripture above is to "study it out in your mind". God gives us free agency so that we can use the gift of intelligence and spirit that He has given us in order to find truth. He expects us to reason things out in our own mind. When we think about a theory, then come to our own decision, it is easy for the Holy Ghost to either confirm our decision, or to leave us without that confirmation. But if we have not studied it out in our mind, then we are asking God to make the decision for us. That takes away our free agency. This life is a test to see if we will obey God's commandments. Part of the learning we receive in this life comes from the inner strugglings of our search for truth. It is in our yearning, study, and pondering that we develop faith. If God gave us the answers to our prayers without requiring us to ponder, He would be depriving us of the learning process. Therefore we must use our minds and hearts to meditate and ponder upon the teachings that are presented to us. Then we must pray in faith, believing that God can reveal the truth of it to us.

We must seek truth with real intent

The Book of Mormon gives this counsel about seeking truth:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Moroni 10:4-5 This scripture was given specifically with the Book of Mormon in mind, but can be applied to all of our efforts to seek truth. One of the key elements of this scripture is found in the phrase, "ask with a sincere heart, with real intent". I have met many people over the years who decided before hearing what our church teaches, that it cannot be true. They closed their minds to the possibility that it could be true. They have not used their free agency to study the thing out in their mind. How can the Holy Ghost confirm the truthfulness to them if they have not asked with real intent? There are also those who made up their mind before reading the Book of Mormon that it could not be true. They closed their mind before even reading it. Then when they did read it, they did so with an intent to prove it wrong, not to find out if it were true. I wonder what they would think of a person who did the same with the Bible. Perhaps they are afraid that it really is true, and that they might have to change their view of things? We need not fear truth. Truth will lead us to God.
Lastly, we would also do well to follow the advice of the prophet Moroni who was one of the last writers of the Book of Mormon,

“Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moro. 7:12–14).

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