Discovering Truth

What is truth, and how can we know it? President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained: “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. …

The thing about truth is that it exists beyond belief. It is true even if nobody believes it” (“What Is Truth?” [Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 13, 2013], speeches.byu.edu). It is good to accept the fact that we simply don’t know all things. We can’t see everything, but our Heavenly Father can.

We have been given the promise that if we will search for the truth, study it out in our minds, and ask with a sincere heart, it will be confirmed to us (see D&C 9:8; Moroni 10:3–5). Heavenly Father is pleased with us when we seek to discover truths. He loves teaching us line upon line, precept on precept. As we strive to learn and have faith in Him, He will bless us to see things as they really are.

Prove or Disprove? Science and the LDS Church

LDS critics often claim “all reputable” scientists or scholars say this or that in relation to the LDS Church.  Broad, sweeping claims.  Often lots of bravado and bluster.

Absolutely no evidence for this. Absolutely no evidence for that.

Is it true?  Science checkmated the LDS Church?

How could it be true when more and more faithful Latter-day Saints are doing Science.  The very Science the critics claim disproves the LDS Church.

Science is simply a method to understand truth.  Mormons are good geologists, statisticians, chemists, and are distinguished in every field of Science.  How Mormons interpret data for their personal lives is unique.  So is the way in which life-long agnostics interpret non-scientific data.

Experiments on bacterial genetics, plant growth, and other topics won’t prove or disprove God.  Won’t prove or disprove the Book of Abraham.  Nor the Book of Mormon.  Or a long list of issues.

Science answers how.  Faith answers why.

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To repeat, has Science check mated the LDS Church?

Quick summary:  Nope.

Longer summary:  evaluate each specific critical claim in context.  When all relevant data is on the table “all scientists” don’t tend to agree and/or the argument is often itself flawed with biases.

Let’s first consider what “all scientists” believe.  Scientists, like most academics, tend to be very secular.

Many, many non-believers. Do non-believers believe in the Book of Mormon?

Nope.

 

Moreover, the individual critic frequently herself lacks a fundamental understanding of Science and how exactly Science would perform an experiment to unequivocally illuminate the question under discussion.

To unequivocally prove the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, or other topic is obviously false — contrary to many critics’ belief system — turns out to be quite challenging. In fact, it’s impossible.

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For example, a critic might say that no self-respecting scientist believes major battles with steel swords and wheeled, horse-driven chariots took place in Palmyra, NY around 400 AD.  And further, no archaeologists have found lots of steel blades, metal armor, and wheels in the ground.

Book of Mormon defeated in a single swipe?  Nope!

This is an example of a straw man.  I and every LDS scientist would agree.  Yet, there’s more nuance to this situation than you may initially appreciate.

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1) Joseph never called the hill near his home the Hill Cumorah.   That belief — that the hill where Joseph got the plates was the same site as the final Nephite battle — sprung up long after Joseph Smith passed away, as folks hypothesized where the Book of Mormon took place.  It didn’t help that well-meaning Church leaders latched onto the idea.

The final Nephite and Jaredite battles likely happened in Mesoamerica — near where the entire narrative occurred.  Moroni wandered northward for decades.  36 years total.  A trek from Mesoamerica to NY can be accomplished by a fit person in around a year.

2) Nephi mentioned the fine steel of his bow and the Sword of Laban.  Both of these could have been made with technology of the time.  The Book of Mormon text doesn’t otherwise mention steel swords.

Dr. Wade Miller discusses iron, steel, swords, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon.

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3) The Book of Mormon mentions chariots, but doesn’t indicate horses led those chariots.  These “chariots” could have just have easily been smaller animals or people pulling a litter on which rested a leader.

Lots on horses and the Book of Mormon here.

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4) No archaeologists have excavated the Hill Cumorah.  Farmers have plowed the field, but no organized excavations have been undertaken.

I’d be suprised if anything were found, but the point still remains that nobody has done the research to rule out presence of metal Nephite objects.

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So, when aspecific example is given by critics — and not simply exaggerated generalizations — the Book of Mormon typically stands on reliable evidence.  Sure, questions still exist, but critics’ sweeping claims are nearly always uninformed and imprecise.

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The same thing applies with claims toward the Lehites and DNA.  When one looks at all the evidence — and not simply listens to critics’ absolute  and usually unsupported statements — the picture becomes clearer.

Watch Ugo Perego and Michael Whiting dispel common misconceptions.  These two scientists are leaders in the field of genetics, and see no conflict between their science and the Book of Mormon narrative.

Another scientist, Dr. Keith A. Crandall, converted to the LDS Church.  He discusses DNA and the Book of Mormon below:

 

A larger point should be emphasized:  how does one prove the Book of Mormon?  How does one disprove the Book of Mormon?  I’ll argue one can do neither.

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To say there’s not a shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon historicity is a mischaracterization.   Haven’t we — that is, LDS and non-LDS scholars — found things in Mesoamerica and elsewhere that are in sync with the narrative of the Book of Mormon?  Yep!

Critics used to say say steel wasn’t known till 100s of years after Lehi.  And they mocked Joseph and the Book of Mormon for that.  That’s clearly no longer believed.  We could list item after Book of Mormon item (silk, swine, iron, etc) that is no longer a mismatch or an anachromism.

See trends below:

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I like the trend:

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Surely, not everything matches and much work remains.  But to say there’s no evidence is untrue. To prove or disprove is not possible.  To find supporting evidence is possible and is under way.  A complete fraud wouldn’t be expected to get so many matches.

LDS scientists are the ones (no surprise!) who are interested in finding support for the Book of Mormon.  Other scientists typically don’t care or are perhaps mildly opposed to such ventures and findings.  Again, no surprise.

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Do atheist, Catholic, evangelical, or other scholars, who find wheat (or other disputed item in the Book of Mormon) in Guatemala, refuse to admit wheat was in the area?  No. 

They’re scholars doing scholarly work. They publish their findings, regardless of implication. 

Does finding wheat in Mexico change non-Mormon opinion of the LDS Church? The Book of Mormon?  Probably not in the least.

Does wheat in Guatemala (if found) absolutely prove the Book of Mormon?  No.  Evidence for?  Absolutely.

So, let’s allow scientists — Mormon and non-Mormon — to do their jobs:  Science.  And publish all findings.

The truth will take care of itself. I expect more and more evidence will be uncovered to support the Book of Mormon.

Can the LDS Church be true? What about a sandwich?

 

In an on-line discussion this evening I stated that I believed the LDS Church was true. An ex-Mormon responded that I would quickly tire of him telling me that his sandwich was true. Another said I was an arrogant @%$.

I told this first fellow that his sandwich might be good, bad, average, gross, or extraordinary. But we don’t usually characterize things like sandwiches, apples, or bubblegum as true. True relates to something being valid, actual, based in reality, etc. So, sandwiches can’t be true. But churches, certain principles, and other discernible things can be true (or false).

I told the 2nd fellow — who called me an arrogant @%$ — that we don’t have to agree. We don’t have to agree on politics, sports, our interpretation of Science, or religion. But it is possible that my religious views are correct without my being arrogant or a jerk. Just as it’s possible my views on sports may be based in fact, and therefore I might be correct in my views on that topic. It simply isn’t true that to hold beliefs others disagree with makes you a bad or arrogant individual. One simply must look at the merits of the beliefs. Are they true beliefs? Based in fact?

I didn’t say people from the South Pole are always bad. That would make me a jerk and perhaps an @%$. Instead, I made a religious claim. I have many reasons for believing the way I do. He doesn’t. Fine. Our difference of opinion makes neither him nor me a jerk. We simply disagree. You’ll have to trust me that I was trying to be nice, thoughtful, and persuasive — and not arrogant — in a spirited discussion.

So, unlike claiming a sandwich is true, it is completely rational to say that the LDS Church is true. After all, I believe Joseph saw angels, had plates, translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and restored the Gospel.

I shared w/ these critics a few synonyms for true (see below) that make the expression easier to handle in many cases. I personally don’t prefer the one-sentence answer: “The Church is true,” though the sentence itself is true. We might want to mix in other words such as accurate history, what really happened to Joseph and the witnesses, etc.

true
tro͞o/
adjective
  1. 1.
    in accordance with fact or reality.
    “a true story”
    synonyms: correct, accurate, right, verifiable, in accordance with the facts, what actually/really happened, well documented, the case, so; More

  2. accurate or exact.
    “it was a true depiction”
    synonyms: accurate, true to life, faithful, telling it like it is, fact-based, realistic, close, lifelike

    “a true reflection of life in the 50s”

Can Many Religions All be True?

Just yesterday a friend of mine claimed that it’s arrogant to say you’re the only true church.  After all, he said, other faiths say the same thing.

We debated for some time, reaching no agreement.  I thought I’d YouTube the question.  Among other things I found, I liked the video below.  I shared it with my friend who hasn’t yet commented on it directly.

Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, and the inaugural holder of the Jellema Chair in Philosophy at Calvin College.  He is a Protestant and considered by many to be America’s leading Christian philosopher.

Plantinga explains that, according to his view, only one faith can be correct.  And it isn’t true one is arrogant to believe this.   I agree with Dr. Plantinga’s arguments.  I disagree, however, that Protestantism holds the Gospel’s fullness.

I believe Joseph Smith restored the fullness of Christ’s teachings through gradual development and miraculous visitations.

 

Finding a balance between loyalty or commitment to one’s faith and sympathetic openness to other faiths is one of the biggest challenges Mormons face in an age of inclusiveness.

Episode 32: Balancing Religious Tensions – Mauro Properzi

Truth is found in all faiths.  But priesthood and keys are only found in the restored church.

How can I know that spiritual experiences are not just a product of brain chemicals?

Only feelings?

 

Some critics state that all people have religious experiences that they report as true.  They, in fact, state they’ve felt the Holy Ghost.  Now what?

I say, do you feel it’s fair that only Mormons feel the Holy Ghost?  No, we’ve never taught that.  We know the light of Christ is felt by all.  Gifts of the Spirit aren’t unique to Latter-day Saints.

When folks of other faiths feel the Spirit we should be glad for them.  We hope they would consider investigating the LDS Church.  As Plantinga points out above, many of our positions can’t all be true.

I believe Jesus when he said he was the way, the truth, and the light.  One path gets us back to the Father, despite all the goodness and truth found in other faiths.

Blake Ostler emphasizes an inclusive faith in a pluralistic society:

 

Truth Restored: Godhead Clarified

Elder Oaks was awesome yesterday.  A few of my thoughts below:

John 17:3:    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

What Christians believed in Joseph’s day and for centuries before was not true:  that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were an incomprehensible, unknowable mystery.  According to Elder Oaks, “We believe that the truth about the nature of God and our relationship to him is knowable and is key to everything else in our doctrine.”

Paul references the three members of the Godhead below:

2 Corinthians 13:14:   “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”

 

3 separate and distinct beings in the Godhead:

  • God the Father:  Creator and Ruler of the Universe;  Father of our spirits; Author of Plan of Salvation
  • God the Son:  First Begotten in the Spirit and the only Begotten in the Flesh;  Redeemer and Mediator;  He saved us from death by Resurrection and from sin by the Atonement; Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel speaks to and through prophets; God of the whole Earth
  • God the Testator or Witness:  Holy Ghost;  Comforter;  Personage of Spirit; Agent of Personal Revelation; Mission is to testify of the Father and the Son; Guides into all truth

So what, you ask?!

Please contemplate what Joseph restored.  With these truths restored and a clear plan of salvation we have the ultimate road map.  We know who we are, who we can become, we know who makes it all possible, and we know whom and why we worship.

Martin Tanner discusses the Godhead:

 

Dallin H. Oaks: The Only True and Living Church

Why do we claim to belong to the true church?

Elder Oaks shares 3 reasons:

  •  The fulness of the Gospel was restored.
  •  The power of the Priesthood was restored.
  •  We have a restored testimony of Jesus Christ, his true nature, and purposes.

Let us share this message with great humility.  As Elder Oaks says,

“Sometimes we do this in a way that gives great offense to people who belong to other churches or who subscribe to other philosophies. But God has not taught us anything that should cause us to feel superior to other people.

Certainly all churches and philosophies have elements of truth in them, some more than others. Certainly God loves all of His children. And certainly His gospel plan is for all of His children, all according to His own timetable.”

Click here to read complete talk.

 

We believe the priesthood and associated keys were restored to Joseph Smith.  However, unique truths and perspectives are found in every faith and people on earth.  No one organization has a monopoly on goodness or truth.