How do we accept the truth? What ingredients are necessary for a person to change their most treasured beliefs if these beliefs are actually erroneous? Here we will review the “four essentials” for accepting truth. All four of these qualities are indispensable. If even one is missing or lacking, it will be extremely difficult for a person to accept and embrace reality. Let us review each one in turn:
First, in order to accept the truth, a person must utilize their inherent intelligence. This includes the ability to use logic, reason, and intuition to understand a complex problem—often called critical thinking. Many people lose their critical thinking skills when they are subjectively biased toward their own paradigm or worldview. Critical thinking is important because it allows a person to think objectively, rather than subjectively, and is an essential step for actually learning the truth. The moment we cease to think critically, we cease to intelligently engage in disciplined thought that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.
A great hindrance to learning truth occurs when we already have our conclusions formed before even examining the evidence. This happens when people think, for instance, “I know this is true, so I will refuse to look at any evidence to the contrary until I find something that might substantiate my already-determined beliefs.” Thinking in this way does not allow a person to learn or progress in the direction of truth. In reality, our thinking should be the other way around. One should form conclusions after weighing all the evidence, rather than ignoring most of the evidence and searching until one can find some small piece of evidence to support an already drawn conclusion. Sherlock Holmes aptly described this situation when he said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts” (Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia).
Second, in order to accept truth, a person must have access to true information regarding the church’s actual history, origins, and doctrines. Many people are unaware of what actually happened when our church began and during the intervening years since then. They are exposed only to the church’s version of its history, which unfortunately is highly romanticized and inaccurate. As a result, they are “only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). Still other people are afraid to look at the actual true history because they have been taught all their lives that any negative information about the church is “of the adversary” or “poison for the soul.” Perhaps such people do not realize that “the truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by the testing; For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure. Those that would silence doubt are filled with fear” (Robert Weston). Only error fears investigation. If you are being instructed not to investigate something, then there is probably something being hidden that you deserve to know.
Along with this second essential is included the incentive and personal drive to study the true information and validate its sources. Many people, upon discovering the truth regarding our church, find themselves absorbed in months and months of fascinating study. Because a whole new world of information has been opened to their view, they acquire an insatiable desire to learn the truth. This desire and thirst for truth is crucial for anyone who wishes to acquire wisdom and live a life of integrity. It is important that each person arrives at their own conclusion based upon their personal study and critical thinking.
Perhaps you have heard the story of a young man who approached the great thinker, Aristotle, and asked him the profound question: “How can I have wisdom?” Aristotle smiled and replied, “Follow me.” The young man followed closely as they made their way into a pool of water. Aristotle suddenly turned and pushed the young man under the water. The student flailed with his arms, but to no avail. Aristotle was the stronger of the two, and he held the struggling lad’s head beneath the surface. At the last possible moment, Aristotle pulled him up, dragged him over to the edge, and sat him down. Coughing and gasping for air, the student could hardly believe what had just occurred. Unmoved by the young man’s confusion and surprise, Aristotle simply asked him, “Young man, when I held you under the water, what did you want more than anything in the world?” He sputtered between coughs, “Air, sir . . . air!” Aristotle then responded, “When you want wisdom as badly as you wanted air, then you will find it.”
John Adams observed: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” In our information age, the facts and the evidence are readily available to us. We need only to have the eager desire to know them, and once that desire is obtained, nothing can stop the dedicated seeker of truth from finding it.
* For more information regarding the history and origins of the church (the “rest of the story”), see the Gentle Awakening Presentation Series.
Third, in order to embrace truth, we must possess the noble virtue of humility. In 1650, Oliver Cromwell wrote these profound words to the Church of Scotland: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”
Humility is a gateway to learning truth. When we are humble in our approach, we have the ability to be open-minded and admit when we may have been mistaken. François de La Rochefoucauld wrote: “No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”
Humility allows us to accept when we have been wrong with dignity and grace. It allows us to move forward from error and to embrace even greater light and knowledge. Without humility, it is impossible for us to change for the better. Humility is required in order to demonstrate the flexibility to change one’s erroneous beliefs.
Finally, in order to accept truth, we must demonstrate courage. It takes a certain courage of heart and soul to even dare to look at the truth, to dare to admit that one might be wrong, to dare to learn.
Often, bravery is required to face reality. Once someone learns the truth about the church, there are many implications that may seem heartbreaking. There are sacrifices that might have to be made. There are obstacles that at first may seem insurmountable. There are dreams and aspirations that may seem shattered. But if one wishes to demonstrate integrity, then courage will be required to face the consequences, embrace the truth, and at last overcome error and falsity. New meaning is found in the words: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”
Although the consequences of accepting the truth may appear dire at first, in the end the truth will, as Jesus said, “set you free” (John 8:32). Courage and dedication to the truth are paramount for anyone who wishes to live a life of integrity. Marcus Aurelius declared: “If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”
And C. S. Lewis made this profound observation: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”
Many people have seen first-hand the veracity of the statement made by Felix Alder: “The truth which has made us free will in the end make us glad, also.” It is better to live the truth than to live a lie, no matter how comfortable the lie may seem. With the truth as our guide, life takes on greater meaning and understanding, there is more depth and vibrance in the world around us, and we are better able to expand our minds and our hearts. May we actively seek the intelligence, truth, humility, and courage that will set us free and pave the way for future generations to benefit from knowing the truth.