There are numerous instances in our lives when we wonder what is true. We often hear differing viewpoints from people around us or on the news - from fighting children to government officials to competing politicians. What is the truth?
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented a talk titled “What Is Truth?” at a CES Devotional held in January 2013. He shared a 100-year-old poem written by an American poet who “put to rhyme an ancient parable.” The first verse of the poem says:
“Six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined.
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
“In the poem each of the six travelers takes hold of a different part of the elephant and then describes to the others what he has discovered. One of the men finds the elephant’s leg and describes it as being round and rough like a tree. Another feels the tusk and describes the elephant as a spear. A third grabs the tail and insists the elephant is like a rope. A fourth discovers the trunk and insists that the elephant is like a large snake. Each is describing truth. And because his truth comes from personal experience, each insists that he knows what he knows. The poem concludes:
“And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong.”
“We look at this story from a distance and smile. After all, we know what an elephant looks like. We have read about them and watched them on film, and many of us have even seen one with our own eyes. We believe we know the truth of what an elephant is. That someone could make a judgment based on one aspect of truth and apply it to the whole seems absurd or even unbelievable. On the other hand, can’t we recognize ourselves in these six blind men? Have we ever been guilty of the same pattern of thought?”
The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith the reality of truth: “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come:
“And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar form the beginning.
“The Spirit of truth is of God…” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24-26).
President Uchtdorf continued, “So often the `truths’ we tell ourselves are merely fragments of the truth, and sometimes they’re not really the truth at all.
“Today I would like to speak of truth. As I do, I invite you to ponder a few important questions. The first question is `What is truth?’ The second, `Is it really possible to know the truth?’ And third, `How should we react to things that contradict truths which we have learned previously?’
President Uchtdorf told a story about Ignaz Semmelweis, a doctor who practiced medicine in Hungary in the mid-19th century. Dr. Semmelweis learned that ten percent of the women who came to his clinic died from “childbed fever” while only four percent died at a nearby clinic. He investigated the two clinics and came to the conclusion there was only one major difference between them: his clinic did autopsies and the doctors went from examining corpses to delivering babies. He concluded that the doctors were carrying contamination on their hands and insisted that the doctors in his clinic wash their hands before delivering babies. The death rate from childbed fever dropped by 90 percent, but even with this “evidence,” there were many doctors who did not believe it.
Truth is “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” Truth is “true even if nobody believes it.” There is absolute truth, and we can find it if we seek for it earnestly. “Over the centuries many wise men and women – through logic, reason, scientific inquiry, and, yes, through inspiration – have discovered truth. These discoveries have enriched mankind, improved our lives, and inspired joy, wonder, and awe.
“Even so, the things we once thought we knew are continually being enhanced, modified, or even contradicted by enterprising scholars who seek to understand truth.”
A few months ago there was a vigorous discussion about whether or not we should vaccinate children. Even though I believe vaccinations save lives, I questioned whether I had done the right thing with my children and worried about my grandchildren. I got caught up in the discussion and soon could feel the tension growing in me as I sought the truth. I decided that there was only one place that I could go to learn the truth about vaccinations. I went to the Lord to present my problem and came away from our discussion with the truth. I had confirmation from God that vaccinations save lives, and I never worried about the situation again.
The Holy Ghost testifies of truth. “The Witness of truth from the Holy Ghost is available to all, everywhere, all around the globe. All who seek to know the truth, who study it out in their minds, and who `ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, [will know] the truth … by the power of the Holy Ghost….
“If you follow the Spirit, your personal search for the truth inevitably leads you to the Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ, for He is `the way, the truth, and the life.’ This may not be the most convenient way; it will probably also be the road less traveled, and it will be the path with mountains to climb, swift rivers to cross, but it will be His way – the Savior’s redeeming way….
“I ask you to spare no efforts in your search to know this truth [that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God] for yourself – because this truth will make your free.”