What is Truth? I hope this will help shed some light. The living prophets of this dispensation have spoken the word of the Lord.
From the “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson” (pgs. 115-121):
Truth is a glorious thing. We sing about it. “Oh say, what is truth?/’Tis the fairest gem/That the riches of worlds can produce.” (Hymns, 1985, no. 272.) The Church and kingdom of God has no fear of the truth.1
We are engaged in the greatest work in all the world-yes, the greatest in the whole universe: the saving and exaltation of our Father’s children, our brothers and sisters. We are the custodians of the truth, the saving principles which, where applied, will build, save, and exalt men.2…
Our lives, to be successful, must constitute a constant pursuit of truth-all truth. The gospel encompasses all truth; it is consistent, without conflict, eternal. I have had the privilege of traveling to most parts of this world. I have known presidents and prime ministers-dictators and kings. Nothing I have seen or experienced has changed my resolve to stand with truth.3…
Blessed are you if you have a testimony that God has spoken from the heavens; that His priesthood is again among men; that the gospel in its purity and fulness is here to bless mankind; and that we will be judged by its principles. These truths will, if you are wise, take precedence in your lives “over all contrary theories, dogmas, hypotheses or relative-truths from whatever source or by whomsoever” advocated.
As you resolve in your hearts to live the standards of the Church-and you cannot afford to do otherwise from a material standpoint, from a spiritual standpoint, from the standpoint of getting ahead in the world-I hope you will remember that your prescribed standards are a part of a great body of truth-the gospel of Jesus Christ-revealed truth from heaven. Please remember that no discovery of the future will ever be in conflict with the teachings of the gospel. The gospel encompasses all truth. When doubts come to your mind because of instructions you may receive in the classroom, I urge you to remember that time is always on the side of truth, and Mormonism is truth.4
From President Joseph F. Smith:
The religion which we have espoused is not a Sunday religion; it is not a mere profession; it is a most—I was going to say—a most terrible reality—and I believe I would be justified in using that expression, because it savors of life unto life or of death unto death. If it is, and pardon me for using that expression, if it is what we profess it to be, what we have embraced it for, what we believe it to be as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is the most important thing in the world to us, and the results to us in this world and in the world to come will depend upon our integrity to the truth and our consistency in observing its precepts, in abiding by its principles, and its requirements.5
I esteem it a great privilege to be permitted to live and be associated with my brethren and sisters in the great cause in which we are engaged. Personally, I have nothing but this cause to live for, for the rest of my life. It has been very much, almost entirely, the object of life with me, ever since my childhood; and I am very thankful that I have had the privilege of being connected with the missionary work of the Church, and I hope and trust that I may be able to continue in this ministry the remainder of my days. I feel in my heart that there is nothing greater for me, or for any other man living than to be identified with the cause of truth, and I verily believe that we are engaged in the cause of truth, and not error.6
It is so with the Church. From time to time there are characters who become a law unto themselves and they follow the bent of their own “sweet will” until they get themselves into a condition mentally and spiritually that they become a menace to the body ecclesiastic. In other words, they become like a boil, tumor, or carbuncle on the body, you have to call in the surgeon to apply the knife to cut them out that the body may be cleansed from them; and this has been the case from the beginning.7
From President Stephen L. Richards:
Through humility and faith the adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have accepted the truth about life; and while there is much individual dereliction within the Church and consequent restriction of the truth to individuals, the Church as a body is the chief instrumentality of the Lord in establishing the truth among mankind.…
The truth about man is that he is a son of God. As a son of God he cannot reach his destiny without bearing the power of God. The power of God is the priesthood. It is essential and indispensable for the performance of the vital things in the life of man here and hereafter. No people, no church could successfully defend and establish the truth without that power…
It is a high privilege and a tremendous responsibility to be the custodians of special truths, vital to the welfare of humanity. The Church of Christ is such a custodian. “If the salt shall lose its savor, wherewith shall the earth be salted?” We cannot be true to our commission and permit the truth to be compromised or diluted. Technically speaking, of course, we cannot impair or dilute the truth, but unfortunately, we may greatly impair the concept and appraisal of truth by the inconsistency of our lives and living, and every man can advance or retard the work of God and the spread of truth to the extent to which he personally adopts its standards….
At this point I wish to submit a caution to teachers, particularly those within our Church. I deem it to be regrettable that academic practice not infrequently seems to dictate terminology and types of expression and explanation which often confuse more than they clarify and expound. There are those who apparently regard it as a mark of scholarly attainment to be able to mystify others. I don’t. I look upon clear explanations as the expressions of clear thinking and a high order of intelligence. In religious teaching I believe in calling principles, concepts, and practices by the name by which they are generally known. God and the devil, holiness and sin, faith and apostasy are better understood and have more significance when designated by their right names than when disguised and camouflaged in terminology that not even all the professors can understand.…
I feel sure that we spend a larger proportion of our resources for propaganda than does any other religious organization in the world. We make more sacrifices, more widows scrub and wash, more parents scrimp and save, more loving hearts weep and pray within our Church for the propagation of truth throughout the world than among any other people ten times our number who have lived in the world since the days of the early Christians and disciples of the Master.
Is this defense of truth—this unmatched missionary effort, this propaganda of which I speak? It is. Has it been effective in the past? It has. And thousands upon thousands of happy, God-fearing homes, communities, cities, and societies that have won the esteem and the acclaim of the world are the product of this propaganda for truth.
Does the world need this propaganda today? It does. More, perhaps, than in all its history before, because never has there been more widespread evidence of the need of truth and the reign of error than we now behold. For the moment Satan seems in command. His forces are marching roughshod and tramping under their feet the most precious things in life—liberty, mercy, love, human hearts, and little children. Nothing but the power of truth will stay the cruel hand of these sinister forces. Will that beneficent power be exercised in time to save the earth from complete devastation and ruin? It will. How do I know it? I know it by the fact that the truth has been set in the earth, never again to be destroyed. I know it by the fact that truth is mightier than evil, that God is more potent than Satan, and I know it by the inspiration that attends the holy, authentic, restored priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.8
From Joseph Smith:
If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things-that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. . . .
Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them. . . .9
From President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.:
These are some of the ultimate truths, which God has revealed to us. These truths endure; they are the same in all lands, and among all people, and at all times. They are changeless. They are the truths which must take precedence over all contrary theories, dogmas, hypotheses, or relative truths from whatever source or by whomsoever brought. These ultimate truths may not be questioned. All secular truths will, must, finally conform to these ultimate truths.
He wounds, maims, and cripples a soul who raises doubts about or destroys faith in the ultimate truths. God will hold such a one strictly accountable; and who can measure the depths to which one shall fail who willfully shatters in another the opportunity for celestial glory. These ultimate truths are royal truths to which all human wisdom and knowledge are subject. These truths point the way to celestial glory.10.
Lastly, from hymn 272, “Oh Say, What is Truth?”
(Piano by Marvin Goldstein. Vocals by Wade and Wanda Lindstrom. Available on “Favorite Hymns of the Prophets, Volume 2.”)
Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire.
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
‘Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks out-stand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.
Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.11
You know who wrote that hymn? Br. John Jacques:
In the great intercessory prayer that Jesus offered for His apostles, He asked the Father to “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Truth and righteousness are intimately linked. How we live flows from and contributes to what we know to be true. As a matter of urgency, the prophets and apostles have always invited the people to come to a knowledge and testimony of the most fundamental truths of existence. The overarching task of withstanding the evils of the world and standing unwavering in the winds of change is to know and be sanctified by the truth.
Born in Leicestershire, England, in 1827, John Jacques joined the Church in 1845 and commenced himself doing missionary work in his native land. In 1856, he migrated to the United States where he joined the ill-fated Martin handcart company. Before the rescue of the Martin and Willie companies on the snow-swept plains of Wyoming, he lost his eldest daughter. From 1869 to 1871, he served again as a missionary in England and later became assistant Church historian.
Why did this noble man abandon his home, undertake with his family the rigors of a handcart journey to the Great Basin, and raise his voice throughout his life to proclaim the gospel? In a word, because he had discovered the Truth. There are many things that are true, but John Jacques not only posed the question that Pilate put to Christ, “What is truth?” but pursued the query to include: What is the nature of the universe? Does life have a purpose beyond the multiple and diverse goals that each of us pursues? Is there a god? If so, what is the nature of that god? What is man’s relationship to Deity, and what is man’s destiny? The answers to such inquiries transcend time and space. They are not limited to a particular culture or historical period. Above all things, having discovered the truth, one’s life is dramatically changed, as was John Jacques’s, who found that truth in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. That discovery and his commitment to it, above all things, explain the choices and the actions of his life.
Exhilarated by this discovery, John Jacques wrote the eloquent words of what became one of the great hymns of the Restoration, “Oh Say, What Is Truth?”…
Many times over the years, I have met people who, like John Jacques, have been brought up short by the realization that there is something that endures beyond the passing mores, philosophies, and practices of the time and defines what is true and right. Often, this understanding transforms not only their thinking but also their lives.
In the mid-1980s I participated in a series of discussions between officials from the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The subject of the talks was the possibility of naval cooperation between America, Britain, and Russia. This happened at a time when the USSR was undergoing massive social transformations, indeed, far beyond what we then understood. The negotiations took place in all three countries.
On one occasion we were meeting in the United States. All three delegations were housed together in a conference center, where our discussions also took place. One evening I went out for a walk. Upon returning to the hotel, I discovered the head of the Soviet delegation, looking very pensive, sitting alone in a lobby area lighted only by a single table lamp. I didn’t know whether or not I should disturb him, but he invited me to join him. Then began a conversation that I shall never forget.
He said to me, “The great difficulties we are now facing in the Soviet Union are really not economic or political in character. They are in fact spiritual. All the `gods’ whom we have worshiped have failed us and we know not where to turn. Dr. Wood, have you ever heard of an American prophet by the name of Joseph Smith?”
As you can imagine, I was taken aback by the question! I answered that yes, indeed I had, told him of my membership in the Church, and inquired why he asked. He said that his mother, who lived in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), had met some representatives of the Church from Finland. They had given her a book, written in English, to read, and she had passed it on to him. He had read it while in the airplane coming over to the United States from Moscow. The book was by Elder LeGrand Richards and was entitled A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. He then said, “Now that I know you are a Latter-day Saint, let me see if I have grasped the key concept of this book.” He then gave a remarkable exposition of Elder Richards’s thesis. He began, “As I understand it, Joseph Smith brought together two ideas that are generally in conflict with each other and combined them in a remarkable synthesis. On the one hand, the Latter-day Saints believe that mortality is but a moment in eternity and that men and women do not spring into existence at birth and are annihilated at death. We existed before birth and shall persist after death. Moreover, there is a link between those who are yet to be born, those who now live, and those who have passed beyond the grave; there is, in fact, communication across those seeming barriers. Some who have lived have returned and communicated with the living, and there is a great cooperative enterprise that links the unborn, the living, and the dead, aimed at their mutual salvation and perfection. You’re mystics.”
I answered that, while I was uncomfortable with the word mystic, his summary was quite accurate.
He then continued. “At the same time, the Latter-day Saints seem very concerned with improving the lot of mankind in mortality. They do not believe that happiness is simply for another world but needs to be established here through common temporal as well as spiritual efforts. You seem to be community builders. You’re very pragmatic as well.”
I replied that he had correctly concluded. He then exclaimed, using words that clearly resonated with me, “Praise be to the man who brought forth such concepts! Such ideas are the salvation of my people.”
I told him that I had another book that he needed to read. In the trunk of my automobile I had a small box filled with a Russian edition of the Book of Mormon. Knowing I was going to be with a gathering of communists, one of my daughters had given the books to me and said, “Maybe you can find the occasion to distribute some of these!” Well, clearly, if ever there was such a moment, it had come. I retrieved a copy from my car and presented it to this man who was posing once again the age-old question, “Oh say, what is truth?”
The Apostle Paul counseled the Romans to be transformed by the renewal of their minds; that is, changed according to true understanding. The transformation associated with the discovery of the truth has been variously described as a liberation and a mighty change of heart. Ultimately, the inquiry after truth compels us to transcend the ephemeral values of the particular society and culture of which we are a part. It invites us to participate in the life of the divine.
In the mid-eighties, little did I think that in a few years the question that had changed John Jacques’s life would so affect the life of this Russian official as well as countless numbers of his countrymen. The two chapters that follow are intended to explain how we come to know the truth and demonstrate how that knowledge transforms lives. (Robert S. Wood, The Complete Christian. Link.)
I testify, to all those who ever come to read this, in clarity of words that cannot be misunderstood, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true church on the earth today, the one and only church which has a fullness of God’s truth that He is willing to bestow on anyone who comes to embrace it. I know this. I have experienced it personally and in the lives of others. I testify that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, and that this is His Church and His gospel and His truth (Rom. 14:11; Mosiah 27:31; D&C 76:110; D&C 88:104). There is no single other church on the face of this Earth that has the countless truths that stand in the LDS Church today. Every other church combined still does not equal it. There is no other church that has the authority of God’s priesthood to save mankind and bring them back into the presence of God our Father. There is no other man upon the Earth today who has the keys of the kingdom to receive truth and revelation which can exalt mankind, but Prophet and President Thomas S. Monson. This is the truth. And I solemnly witness and testify of it, and will stand by my word for all of eternity.
The Prophet Joseph Smith has proclaimed to an ungrateful and fallen world:
Our missionaries are going forth to different nations . . . the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.12
- Seattle Washington LDS Institute Dedication, 29 October 1961.
- God, Family, Country, p. 129.
- MIA Vanguard Program, Salt Lake City, Utah, 13 June 1960.
- CR April 1959, Improvement Era 62 [June 1959]: 457.
- Gospel Doctrine, 107
- Gospel Doctrine, 108
- Gospel Doctrine, 113
- Defense of Truth, 148-53
- D&C 42:65, 68
- Charge to President Howard S. McDonald at his inauguration as president of Brigham Young University, Nov. 14, 1945, delivered by J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in behalf of the First Presidency, IE1946Jan:60-63
- Hymn #272
- HC 4:540
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