“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
2020 is a year I will never forget. I suspect none of us will. Pandemic. Protests. Destruction. Confusion. Chaos. Elections. Heartbreak. I recognize the urgency and difficulty of seeking pathways to truth for my family and me amidst a deafening tumult. While serving in my various callings, I have asked the question: “How do I discern truth so that I’m a better wife, mother, friend, citizen, Sunday School Teacher, and daughter of God?” Some thoughts have come to me as I study the topic of ‘coming to a knowledge of the truth’ that have been instrumental to my teaching calling and to living the truth.
God is the great Initiator of truth and knowledge. There is no ‘coming to a knowledge of the truth’ without Him because He is the source of all truth. In fact, being ‘brought’ to a knowledge of the truth is the all-important part of ‘coming’ to a knowledge of the truth.
The scriptures explain this profound concept. “Believe in God... believe that he has all wisdom, and all power... believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.” (Mosiah 4:9)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life...” (John 14:6)
“And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.” (D&C 88:11-12)
The Savior declared: “I now give unto you a commandment...to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.'' (D&C 84:43–47)
Finally, describing our journey from darkness into light, Joseph Smith said, “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (D&C 88:67)
Jesus Christ has never given up on me. He radically pursues me, us. I am sure of this. At the same time, certain doctrines of agency are called into play requiring us to proactively accept His invitation to “[c]come unto me...” (Matt 11:28)
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death..”. (2 Ne 2:27)
My Come Follow Me study and lesson planning this year helped me to see a well-known story in the Book of Mormon differently. Alma the Younger and four of the sons of Mosiah went about leading many souls to destruction. Alma Senior prayed very specifically, and very wisely, for one result. “And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.” (Mosiah 27:14)
The angel’s purposes were to answer a father’s prayer and to bring Alma, Jr. to a knowledge of the truth. I can say with certainty that the younger Alma wasn’t acting so that he could ‘come’ to a knowledge of the truth on his own. Alma Senior discerningly and inferentially demonstrated awareness of the precept of agency. This is the nuance of his prayer.
And the angel answered that prayer precisely-equally answering the prayer while protecting the doctrine of agency. “...And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.” (Mosiah 27:16) We now utter the same fervent prayer in our family. We add...so that we can act accordingly.
Though I don’t expect an angelic visitation to bring me to a knowledge of the truth, I am totally sure that I can trust God’s generosity in providing crucial resources to all of His children for this very purpose. How do I access these revelatory riches?
“His divinely ordained pattern requires that we have an honest desire to know the truth (see Moroni 10:4–5) and are willing to live according to that which God has revealed (see John 7:17). Our sincere desire will lead us to seek truth through prayer (see James 1:5–6; 2 Nephi 32:8–9) and a serious study of the word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:15–17; 2 Nephi 32:3).” (Acquiring a Knowledge of the Truth, Scriptural Mastery Document)
The ‘desire’ to believe began with me years ago with an essential awareness of God’s love. “But God...for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ... And hath raised us up together...That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
President Uchtdorf: “Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely. He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love...He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked...No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us. [See D&C 88:63.]” (“The Love of God,” pp. 22–23) God’s all-encompassing love brought me peace, relieved my turmoil, and galvanized my truth-pursuing effort.
Elder John H. Groberg taught some vital elements to consider. “Trying to find lasting love without obeying God is like trying to quench thirst by drinking from an empty cup—you can go through the motions, but the thirst remains. Similarly, trying to find love without helping and sacrificing for others is like trying to live without eating—it is against the laws of nature and cannot succeed...The prophet Mormon explained: ‘Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. ‘Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love. . .’ (Moro. 7:48).
(Ensign, November 2004) Obedience and charity are crucial ingredients to consider in the quest for truth.
Truth and Grace
I love what President Spencer W. Kimball wrote about knowledge of the truth. “The spiritual knowledge of truth is the electric light illuminating the cavern- the wind and sun dissipating the fog- the power equipment removing boulders from the road. It is the mansion on the hill replacing the shack in the marshes- the harvester shelving the sickle and cradle- the tractor, train, automobile, and plane displacing the ox team. It is the rich nourishing kernels of corn instead of the husks in the trough.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City- Deseret Book Company, 1972, p. 14.)
The Apostle Paul insightfully taught that before ‘walking worthy’ we must be filled with truth. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” [Why?] “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;” (Col 1:9-11) Paul’s promises to those of us who follow this divine sequence are glorious.
I have been urgently called to open myself to truth. I believe we all have. “Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked (Why?) [To] land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven...to go no more out.” (Helaman 3:29-30)
I don’t underestimate the effort required to ‘lay hold upon the word of God’. It is my choice (agency) that moves me onto the covenant path, to initiate committed discipleship. The word "disciple" comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning ‘student’. The word ‘discipline’ is from the Latin word disciplina meaning ‘instruction and training’. It's derived from the root word discere ---’to learn’.
But although placing a foot onto the covenant path is a choice we all must make, a consistent lifetime pilgrimage on that walkway can only be carried out with God’s assistance. Beware the mortal tendency (my own especially) to go it alone, to forget God. Remembrance is a key. Remember God. Remember His profound love. Above all, remember that He alone is the wellspring of grace -- grace is a gift freely given through Christ’s Atonement and provides the enabling power to persevere.
I am nothing without Him. “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things...” (Alma 26:12)
“Without God, all of our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrise into the darkest of nights.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
I endeavor to live in a place beyond doubt knowing that “...[His] grace is sufficient for [me]: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (1 Cor 12:9) and that ”...with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) and that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) and that “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23) I’ve not arrived there yet.
We’re all in dire need of the blessings promised to those brought to the truth through His grace. Joseph F. Smith created the impression that he was speaking directly to the commotion of our day when he said, “…unless the Saints have an actual knowledge that the course which they are pursuing is in harmony with the will of God, they will grow weary in trial, and will faint under persecution. … But, on the contrary, with this trust in God burned into their souls, no matter what comes, they are happy in doing his will, knowing full well that at last the promise shall be theirs. Thus is the world overcome, and the crown of glory obtained which God has laid away for those who love, honor and obey him. (…Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 6 Feb. 1893, 2.) How wondrous is this promise.
Coming to a knowledge of the truth in collaboration with God and then, living with reverence in that truth, advances me further on the covenant path where I am carried, ultimately, to peace, glorious salvation and life with Him forever.