President Uchtdorf Encourages Young Adults to Discover Truth
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
“Never before has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said during the CES devotional address held in the Marriott Center at BYU on January 13.
Sharing an ancient parable about six blind men who went to see an elephant, President Uchtdorf spoke of each of the traveler’s personal experiences. While there, they each took hold of a different part of the elephant, so none of them had the same experience. Although each of the men described truth, it wasn’t the complete truth, or the elephant as a whole.
“That someone could make a judgment based on one aspect of truth and apply it to the whole seems absurd or even unbelievable,” President Uchtdorf said. “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?”
Part of human nature is to make assumptions about people based on incomplete and often misleading experiences, he taught.
“So often the ‘truths’ we tell ourselves are merely fragments of the truth, and sometimes they’re not really the truth at all,” he said.
President Uchtdorf asked the young adults three questions: “What is truth?” “Is it really possible to know the truth?” and “How should we react to things that contradict truths we have learned previously?”
Some of the greatest minds that have ever lived on this earth have attempted to answer the question of what is truth, he said.
“The elusive nature of truth has been a favorite theme of history’s great poets and storytellers. … Now, never in the history of the world have we had easier access to more information—some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true. Consequently, never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error.”
What Is Truth?
Part of the problem in the quest for truth is that human wisdom has disappointed people so often, providing so many examples of things that mankind once knew to be true but has since been proven false, President Uchtdorf explained.
One example he used was that in spite of one-time overwhelming consensus, the earth isn’t flat. The scriptures also contain stories of men and women who misinterpreted truth.
“In some ways we are all susceptible to such strange thinking,” he said. “The ‘truths’ we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these ‘truths’ are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives.”
Part of the reason for poor judgment comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between belief and truth, he said.
“We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true,” he said. “Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it—because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often truth is rejected because it doesn’t appear to be consistent with previous experiences.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, speaks Sunday night in the Marriott Center during a CES devotional address.
When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict what an individual already knows, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and would augment or complement knowledge, individuals often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed or trying to deceive.
President Uchtdorf shared an example of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who practiced medicine in the mid-19th century, who early in his career figured out why many of the patients—specifically women—were getting sick with childbed fever and even dying. He figured out that many of the doctors were going from studying contaminated corpses to delivering babies, therefore infecting the women with deadly fevers.
Although his clinic adopted a policy for doctors to wash their hands before delivering babies, other doctors did not agree and did not follow his advice.
“The thing about truth is that it exists beyond belief,” President Uchtdorf said. “It is true even if nobody believes it. … There is indeed such a thing as absolute truth—unassailable, unchangeable truth.”
Truth is different than belief and hope, he said.
“Absolute truth is not dependent upon public opinion or popularity,” he declared. “Polls cannot sway it. Not even the inexhaustible authority of celebrity endorsement can change it.”
So, How Does One Find Truth?
Over the centuries many wise men and women—through logic, reason, scientific inquiry, and inspiration—have discovered truth, President Uchtdorf said. These discoveries have enriched mankind, improved lives, and inspired many.
“I believe that our Father in Heaven is pleased with His children when they use their talents and mental faculties to earnestly discover truth,” he said.
Even so, things that were once known as truths are continually being enhanced, modified, or even contradicted by enterprising scholars seeking understanding.
“As we all know, it is difficult enough to sort out the truth from our own experience,” he said. “To make matters worse, we have an adversary, ‘the devil [who] as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.’”
Because Satan is the great deceiver, he has many cunning strategies for keeping mortals from the truth. He does this by offering the belief that truth is relative, appealing to a sense of tolerance and fairness, and keeping the real truth hidden by claiming that one person’s “truth” is as valid as any other.
“Soon he entices to believe that there is an absolute truth out there somewhere but that it is impossible for anyone to know it,” President Uchtdorf observed. “For those who already embrace the truth, his primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt.”
For an example, President Uchtdorf said that Satan has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had previously learned.
“If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place,” he said. “You will find even those who still claim 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.”
President Uchtdorf also reminded listeners that just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers does not make it true.
“Sometimes untrue claims or information are presented in such a way that appear quite credible,” he said. “However, when you are confronted with information that is in conflict with the revealed word of God, remember that the blind men in the parable of the elephant would never be able to accurately describe the full truth.”
Further, he noted, “We simply do not know all things—we can’t see everything. What may seem contradictory now may be perfectly understandable as we search for and receive more trustworthy information. Because we see through a glass darkly, we have to trust the Lord, who sees all things clearly.”
Although the world is full of confusion, eventually all questions will be answered and all doubts will be replaced with certainty because of the one complete, correct, and incorruptible truth—an infinitely wise and all-knowing Heavenly Father.
“Now, what is this truth?” he asked. “It is His gospel. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ—He is the way, the truth, and the life.”
An Obligation to Seek for Truth
The invitation to trust the Lord does not relieve anyone of the responsibility to know for themselves, President Uchtdorf declared.
“This is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation, my young friends. It is an obligation, and it is one of the reasons we were sent to this earth,” he said.
President Uchtdorf said that Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they hear. They are encouraged to think and discover truth for themselves—expecting that they ponder, search, evaluate, and come to a personal knowledge of truth.
“As you accept the responsibility to seek after truth with an open mind and a humble heart, you will become more tolerant of others, more open to listen, more prepared to understand, more inclined to build up instead of tearing down, and you will be more willing to go where God wants you to go,” he said.
The Holy Ghost, Our Guide to All Truth
“Just think about it. You actually have a powerful companion and trustworthy guide in this ongoing search for truth. Who is it? It is the Holy Ghost,” President Uchtdorf said.
Because of the difficulty discovering truth amidst the competing noise in mortality, Latter-day Saints have the heavenly gift of the Holy Ghost to illuminate their minds and to teach and testify of the truth. The Holy Ghost is a revelator, a comforter, and a safe guide to assist all who seek God.
“It is my prayer that you will seek the truth earnestly and unceasingly, that you will yearn to drink from the fount of all truth, whose waters are pure and sweet, ‘a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’ I bless you with confidence in the Lord and a deep-rooted desire to rightfully discern truth from error—now and throughout your life.”