Pilate said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38.) Men have been struggling with this question for centuries. Each man or woman may determine what is truth for himself or herself. Another appropriate question is, where can truth be found?
There is a much repeated story by an American clergyman Russell Conwell (1843–1925) about hectares of diamonds.
Ali Hafid, an ancient Persian, owned much land, many productive fields, with orchards, gardens, and money loaned out with interest charged. He had a lovely family and was content because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was content.
An old priest came to Ali Hafid and told him that if he had a diamond the size of his thumb, he could purchase a dozen farms like his, and Ali Hafid said, “Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?”
The priest told him, “If you will find a river that runs over white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands, you will always find diamonds.”
“Well,” said Ali Hafid, “I will go.”
So he sold his farm, collected his money that had been loaned with interest charged, left his family in the care of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds. He traveled through many lands.
The man who purchased Ali Hafid’s farm led his camel out into the garden to drink, and as the animal put his nose into the shallow waters, Ali Hafid’s successor noticed a curious flash of light in the white sands of the stream. Reaching in, he pulled out a black stone, containing a strange circle of light. Not long after, the same old priest came to visit Ali Hafid’s successor and found that in the black stone, containing a strange circle of light, was a diamond. As they rushed out into the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers, they came up with many more beautiful, valuable gems. Thus were discovered the diamond mines of Golconda, which were the most valuable diamond mines in the history of the ancient world. So, had Ali Hafid remained at home and dug in his own cellar or anywhere in his own fields rather than traveling to strange lands, he would have had hectares of diamonds.
The search for truth is often not unlike Ali Hafid’s search for diamonds. The truth is not found in distant lands but at home.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally accidentally encounter truth, but most of them do not recognize it.”
One of the most significant legal trials of all history was the trial of Socrates: Greek philosopher and teacher (470–399 B.C.). The charge against him in the Athenian Court was two-fold in nature: First, that he was atheistic and did not believe in the customary gods. The second charge was that he was “corrupting the youth” in the sense that it was contended that he influenced the young people to inquire for themselves as to the wisdom of the Athenian society. Socrates was convicted by the majority of the jury of 501 and was sentenced to death by poison.
As a means of corning to the truth, young people in our church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out truth for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, by the Spirit of God, lead them to.
Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God, whether they are led by Him. I am fearful that they settle down in a state of blind security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (Journal of Discourses 9:150.) In this manner no one will be deceived.
Searching and inquiring is a means of coming to a knowledge of all truth, whether that truth be spiritual, scientific, or moral truth.
The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and all that it means to mankind came about because of the inquiring after truth of the 14-year-old boy Joseph Smith, guided by the passage he read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.)
Many years of experience in courts of law have taught me that truth, in the sense of obtaining justice, is only arrived at by questioning in a searching way.
Members of the Church are encouraged to seek learning from all good books and from any source. For “if there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (A of F 1:13.)
The Queen of Sheba, having heard of the fame of Solomon, came to visit him, to learn if his fabled wisdom, his great wealth, and his splendid house were as great as had been reported to her. It is recorded that “she came to prove Solomon with hard questions …” (2 Chr. 9:1.) Solomon answered her questions, and she became satisfied and said to him, “It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom.” (2 Chr. 9:5.)
The principal question that every person born in the history of the world has and that each must answer for himself is that spoken of by Amulek in the Book of Mormon when he said, “And we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds is whether the word be in the Son of God, or whether there shall be no Christ.” (Alma 34:5.)
Some people in their searching, however, are not seeking for truth, but are given to contention and do not sincerely seek to learn, but rather desire to dispute, to show their supposed learning and cause strife.
Paul said to Timothy, “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing they do gender strifes.” (2 Tim. 2:23.)
Since each one of us has our free agency, the ultimate determination of what is inspired of the Lord, what is right and wrong, true or false, can be made by each of us. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., made this statement:
“The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the members (themselves), whether the Brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ (see D&C 68:3), and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.” Each must accept or discard the values that will produce his greatest happiness.
As each of us tends to ask Pilate’s question, “What is truth” we can learn from the wisdom of Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626 English philosopher-essayist) who said, “There are three parts in truth: First, the inquiry, which is the seeking of it; secondly, the knowledge of it, which is the presence of it; and thirdly, the belief, which is the enjoyment of it.”
President Harold B. Lee, on many occasions, counseled the leaders of the Church to make time to think and ponder, to withdraw from the world and evaluate. This wise counsel would be beneficial to anyone.
A key to individual knowledge and truth is that contained in the ninth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which promises that if the inquirer will study it out in his mind, he shall have a burning feeling within his bosom that it is right. (See D&C 9:8.)
The gathering of many facts may be very helpful and productive, but the person with the inquiring mind must not stop there. “Truth does not consist in minute accuracy of detail, but in conveying a right impression; and there are vague ways of speaking that are truer than straight facts could be. When the Psalmist said, ‘Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law,’ (Ps. 119–136) he did not state the facts, but he stated the truth deeper and more true than fact.” (Henry Alford.)
Those who earnestly inquire, under the influence of the Spirit of God, will enjoy a companionship, not only of the Spirit, but of others who seek truth. Thomas Carlyle (also Thomas Carlisle: Scottish essayist 1795–1881) said, “I have always found that the honest truth of your own mind has a certain attraction for every other mind that honestly loves truth.”
In the individual search for truth the wisdom that William Shakespeare declared in Hamlet is timeless: “To thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” (Hamlet, Act 1: Scene 3: lines 78–80.)
There is no greater truth than that spoken of by the Savior, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), for, the Savior continues, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6.) “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37.)
Everyone who seeks to be better than he is must make a humble and honest inquiry to determine where truth lies in his heart as well as in his mind and in his life.