Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Seek Diligently for Truth, No Matter Where It Is Found

I believe deeply in finding truth in everything.  I think that outlook is a fundamental part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see Moroni 7: 5-19, especially) and Joseph Smith's philosophy that animated the Restoration and his role as a prophet.

I was asked once if organized religion loses potency when it admits there is truth in everything - that a religion doesn't posses or even understand all truth and that "the fulness of the Gospel" doesn't include an understanding of all truth. My response was that it does not, according to Joseph Smith - or the notion of a process called the "restoration of all things" through on-going / continuing revelation.

Part of the grandeur I see in pure Mormonism is the audacity to believe that all truth can be circumscribed into one whole - and that striving to comprehend that whole is worth the effort. Limiting that whole to what we know now, and denying that there still is truth outside our current understanding to be included in the circumscription process (including things that others know of which we are not aware), goes against the very core of the Restoration.

A good friend of mine once wrote the following when he was asked about believing there is truth in every religion, denomination, faith tradition, science, etc.

1. If something is proven to be true, or beyond reasonable doubt, it's simply part of the gospel. As we study the creation, and the processes whereby creation occurred, I come to be in awe of the creator. Scientific discovery does not diminish my regard for god, it enhances my understanding of the absolute miracle of god's inherent power: nature. That god works entirely through nature is part of what Joseph Smith said, at least, in section 88, one of his most important and thoughtful revelations.

2. If something true is in conflict with scripture, then we need to re-evaluate our literal understanding of the scripture. I have to recognize how scripture was written in the mind and heart of the revelator, and thus, it's going to include the revelator's worldview. Obviously, this is controversial to those who believe that scripture is literally and forever true. Scripture is the milk -- it is not the meat of the gospel. As we grow up in our understanding, we sometimes need to set aside childish things.

3. There are a host of things that cannot be proven, and we need to take an attitude of suspended judgment for these things. I don't know if we pre-existed. I think it's a very useful model as part of the Plan of Salvation, but I simply don't know. Is it imperative for me to say "I know we lived with god before this life"? I believe it, I trust in it, but I cannot explain it. I don't know how it works.

4. I should never be afraid of truth. If Joseph Smith and Brigham Young did some pretty whacked out things, then I think it important to understand their humanity. I'm not afraid of it. I can understand how once you know that JS did a number of questionable things, that it's hard to believe that he was also a 'prophet', but I don't have a problem with it. I'm sure some people think I'm intellectually dishonest as a result. Whatever; truth is truth. Judgment is entirely another matter. I think it's true that Joseph did some pretty human things. My judgment is not affected by it -- he's still a prophet. He still facilitated the restoration. I find truth in the restoration, and therefore I can only conclude that God uses imperfect humans to do his work. This should be obvious from scripture. 

In summary, going back to my first thoughts in this post, as I am exposed to the thoughts, beliefs, discoveries, etc. of others, I try hard to make sure my initial response is:

What truth can I learn from this - no matter the source? 

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