Sunday, November 4, 2012

Absolute Truth? Absolutely! Except . . . .

For some reason, perhaps inspired as it turned out, I was up late enough to be turning the clocks back in the actual 2 o'clock hour. I checked the blog and e-mail as compulsion requires before I finally headed off to bed and found a message from my freshman son at BYU who was also up late with some worries. Knowing his dad, he gave me permission to use some of it in the blog. I appreciate that trust. His slightly edited message and my response follow:

I stumbled upon this [a recording of a speech of Elder Ezra Taft Benson to some political group on communism - apparently not in any church setting] while doing some research for a talk in church next week. I first saw it taken "in context" in a Glenn Beck clip. It almost seems conflicting that the church's stance on politics is that both political parties present concepts that are agreeable to the gospel, yet people say, and argue with anger that the Democratic Party and it's members, i.e. Obama [aren't]. I know that the world isn't happy with itself, but is it just me, or are things actually good in this world? I am happy, going to college, receiving an education, which includes that of our American Founding. Why is it that so many people are [dis]satisfied with government and such? Is it that people are too selfish and so unwilling to compromise that they can't be happy with government and politics? I don't agree with a lot of stuff that happens, but overall, I feel that I am an American with the freedoms that are essential for me to live my life how I choose and be happy. I do not feel like I am very knowledgeable on many current issues, but I still tried to express my opinion to the best of my abilities with my limited time and resources, namely, the info on I hate arguing politics, but I don't mind discussing them. I much prefer to discuss past politics, but why is it that so many people are [dis]agreeable and dissatisfied with politics and government? Does the reasoning really lie in that they are unhappy of their own choosing? Are they just blaming politics and government for what is actually their own fault? Are people just trying to use politics to force others to be subject to their ideology? I feel like no one is actually very informed on anything, yet nearly everyone has strong opinions on their beliefs. I almost like the idea of being a Democrat, just because it sets me apart from the majority here. I don't want to be a mindless follower of the majority, yet not a ignorant follower of the minority to rebel against the majority. How much power does a president really have? I mean, how different would it be if we had a different president throughout time? I know that President Washington was essential to our nation for our first president to solidify our country, and that Lincoln was very needed in the Civil War, but I couldn't name probably a dozen or so presidents. How different would our country be if Romney won rather than Obama? How much should people really accept of the current president when their choice doesn't win? I feel like overall, people are just too prideful and angry to allow government and society function as it ought to. Sorry for ranting, but I am full of confusion when it comes to politics, and was hoping you could give me some helpful insight. 
Thanks Dad, love you.
PS I give you permission to use some of this in your blog, if you'd like.
My response:
This deserves a good talk sometime we have the chance. For now, let me share a couple of things. First, read this from my blog
Elder Benson had a lot of trouble with the First Presidency over his politics through the years, and as prophet [President of the LDS Church], he didn't say much at all, so don't take it too seriously.
Also, Uncle D [Anonymous D] and I had a good email exchange just a couple of days ago that I might incorporate into a blog piece with what you wrote. It was sort of a follow-up to that email I sent everybody about making sure you stick to what is essential and don't worry about all the extraneous stuff in the gospel, politics or anywhere. I believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. But I have learned more and more the older I get that we humans are somehow wired to make it almost impossible for us to understand it. That's sort of what we're here for. Not so much to learn as much of the truth as possible but to learn that we don't really know it - that's why we have to rely on the Lord.
You're one of the good guys. Keep up the good work.
Love, Dad
Now, some excerpts from the earlier email chain that I was referencing. I started off sending an email to my kids, all but one are adults now, on the current presidential polling with the subject line, "I have a testimony of the Gospel" and then went on:
But I still believe in Science too:
[Your youngest brother] is having a little trouble these days believing in Science (at least good Statistical Analysis) because he has to go to school every day in Davis County [and encountering all the kids who believe Romney is going to win by divine right or intervention or something]. Remember, even with a testimony of the Gospel, stick to the basic things: The Savior's Atonement, Judgment, Faith, Repentance, Ordinances, Holy Ghost, Endure to the end, hope and Charity (the greatest of these). A lot of what a lot of good Mormons believe isn't necessarily true, like, that Mitt Romney is going to win.
I forwarded the messages on to Anonymous D as an FYI. Here is part of his response:
Still good advice, we get into trouble when we read imaginary things into the gospel or the scriptures, for instance reading Genesis as a science text is ill-advised.  Genesis is designed to put you into the picture, to demonstrate how you related to the world around you and your fellow beings. It’s exposition in other words.  I don’t doubt that there was an Adam and Eve and a garden, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t other things happening on the planet at the same time, Elder McConkie’s opinion notwithstanding.
He added more later about a recent change in their stake leadership. I cut a bit (he will be glad to see), but the most important parts follow:
I have a testimony of the Gospel and the Church, after years and years I’ve discovered that it really doesn’t matter to me who is on the stand.  Not on the local level, and not even at the level of President of the Church.  I just haven’t noticed a difference whether it’s Hinckley, or Monson, or Benson or Hunter.  I haven’t noticed a difference with Bishops either.  That’s a good thing.  It shouldn’t matter.  It’s the Lord's church and not mine.  Who’s in charge is none of my business.
My response:
I think your analysis of the scripture is spot on. Too bad we can't teach that in Sunday School. It's not that Scripture is not true or that truth is relative in any way, but that the context is important. The older I get the more strongly I believe that there is absolute truth and that humans, including me, are so inadequate at discovering or understanding it.
And Anonymous D:
Yeah, the moment something like that came out of your mouth in Sunday School you would be treated like a heretic.  Context is everything and we are given only  a bare minimum of context here, we don’t see the big picture and that is on purpose.  Even Moses didn’t get that being told that he would only get so much information about the Universe. 
It does sound heretical and somewhat distressing bordering on existential angst to admit that we really don't know much at all. And even more troubling, most of what we think we know is simply not true. While I accept Science as a tool, it's not the only one. I've blogged on systems of epistemology - how we obtain knowledge - or know what we think we know.

For now, we see through a glass darkly. Yet with the Apostle Paul and Søren Kierkegaard, I'm still taking that leap of Faith with Hope and Charity as my wings making it not so much of a free-fall.

And to my son at BYU, things are still good in the world whatever happens next Tuesday.


  1. Yes, there is much that we think we know that is not part of the saving gospel of Christ. I guess it is being in Godless Oregon, but I have missed the pre-announcement of the Miracle of the Voting Machines, where votes are magically changed from water into wine.

    Although, in my county in Oregon, (Clackamas) we did have a part-time election worker arrested for vote tampering. I hope someone lets his lawyer know that while he might have been breaking state and federal election laws, he was really on an errand for a much higher law. A little prompting to be the Lord's hands in creating the election night miracle? It was someone who is a Republican who was filling in votes for Republicans, in races where the voter had not actually voted. Maybe there are thousands of these Godly men and women, laboribv tirelessly to make the Miraculous happen?

  2. I really liked what Elder Anderson said during this most recent conference. He said that the doctrine of the church is what is taught by all the prophets and apostles. Nothing else matters.

    1. this is a really good reminder of Elder Anderson's teaching and it seems like a good test for sound doctrine. Of course, he is just one Apostle . . . .

  3. "Our religion embraces chemistry; it embraces all the knowledge of the geologist, and then it goes a little further than their systems of argument, for the Lord almighty, its author, is the greatest chemist there is." [Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 15, pg. 127, 11 Aug 1872].
    This website is full of quotes by numerous church leaders relating science and religion.


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