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What is Truth?

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2020 8:05 pm

What is Truth?

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry.

With me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. There was an article in the Deseret News. It was posted on January 10, 2019.

It was written by Jennifer Graham. It was titled, What is Truth? Why Pontius Pilate's Question Still Resonates Today. It starts off this way. In his interrogation of Jesus, Pontius Pilate famously asked, What is truth? Or as we would say in Latin, quid est veritas.

Pundits, politicians and philosophers are still wrestling with the question today. Now, one of the reasons why this article caught my attention is because just recently, I was reading some posts on various Facebook pages. And this Facebook page happened to be one that discusses Mormon doctrine and people who have come out of Mormonism can, you know, tend to post on here. And what caught my attention was it was an obvious Latter-day Saint who was accusing another individual of lying because they had said that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. And this individual was demanding that this person who they assumed were lying produce some type of legal documents to verify that Smith, in fact, had more than one wife. Now, we would look at that as saying, wait, you can't produce any kind of legal document to verify Joseph Smith's plural wives because it wasn't legal.

I mean, Emma, yes, definitely. But even the church admits now, the LDS church admits that Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives. You would think that would be proof enough for a person who has loyalty to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when his own church leadership is admitting to this. But this person was incredulous that someone would say that Joseph Smith was a polygamist and this individual did not believe that to be true.

This is why it really caught my attention when I saw this article. When it talks about Pilate in a statement, what is truth? Naturally, they're quoting from John 1838.

Of course, truth was standing right before him when he asked that question, because as Christians, we believe, as Jesus has said of himself, that he is the way, the truth, and the life. But I think there's some things in this article that we can learn from, although I'm going to say up front, a lot of it we're not going to cover, because much of it has to do with truth and error as it pertains to the political arena. And we're not a political organization, although I think all of us are pretty serious about what we believe politically. But there are some things in here that I think relate to religious truth and how people come to believe certain things, and that's why I wanted to cover this. But there are some interesting things that are in this piece.

There's a comment in the third paragraph, Eric, why don't we start there? It says, the gravity of Pilate's question of why it still matters in a culture that some have pronounced post-truth, and this is a quote that comes from Margaret Sullivan in a column that she did for the Washington Post on December 17th. She says this, lies are coming at the American public in torrents, raining down on them everywhere they turn. The intentional spreading of disinformation on every platform from Facebook all the way to PayPal.

And we would certainly agree with that. In our information age, as it has been dubbed, we are being bombarded with statements right and left. And I'm sure you agree, Eric, sometimes it seems to be overwhelming to try and wade through all the things that we read nowadays, because it used to be if we read something in a book, the book has been pretty much vetted by a publisher. And so there was some veracity given to that.

Well, now anybody can post anything and they can cite anybody or anything. And it makes you have to stop and pause and wonder, is that a good source? Is the statement being made tainted by their bias? And of course we would say, yes, of course it's being tainted by their bias. Everybody has bias. And sometimes we are accused by Latter-day Saints of saying, well, you're bias.

And I think it may shock them when we write back and say, yes, we admit we're bias. We do have a worldview that we feel is based in the Bible, not in what a Mormon would think is our Latter-day prophets. So certainly we do have a bias, and we do have certain things that we consider to be better standards for determining what is right than maybe some Latter-day Saints who are going to sources that we would question. Would you think, Bill, that most people approach truth based on their presuppositions? And what I mean by that is, they will gauge as to whether or not something is true as if it actually falls in line with their preconceived notions that they already accept.

Yes, and I think that goes the other way too. A Mormon might say, for instance, well, you don't believe the Book of Mormon because you automatically don't believe it to begin with, so everything you read from the Book of Mormon is going to be viewed through your prejudice, and you're going to look at it negatively. Now I would argue there's probably some truth to that, except it fails to ask the question, why did I come to the conclusion that I don't believe the Book of Mormon in the first place? It's because we have spent a lot of time examining the quote-unquote truth claims of the Book of Mormon, and based on its truth claims, we have found them to be faulty. So yes, we do approach the Book of Mormon with a huge amount of skepticism, but it's only because our research has led us in that direction in the first place. Whereas, as you brought out, a Latter-day Saint who probably hasn't seen some of the things that we have seen, has not researched the things that we have found, might readily go by the feelings that they have because they were told by the missionaries, we'll just pray about this, and the Holy Ghost will manifest the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to you. And they assume that that is a good way for determining truth, and we would argue, no, that's a terrible way to determine truth. So if the evidence were to be shown that the Book of Mormon is a true book, talking about a real history of real people and real events, I think that we would have to take that into consideration. But what you're saying is, we don't have that information.

In fact, everything we have goes against the veracity and the historicity of the Book of Mormon. I have a couple of quotes that I want to give you that relate to what we're talking about here. One is from First Presidency member N. Eldon Tanner, who in October of 1978 at General Conference, this is found in the ensign of November 1978, page 46, says, no matter how sincere one's belief may be in an heir, it will not change the heir into truth.

He states it right! I think we would agree with that, certainly. And then another quote comes from J. Reuben Clark in a book that was written by D. Michael Quinn called J. Reuben Clark, The Church Years, and this is from 1983, page 24 of that book, and J. Reuben Clark said, if we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. And we would agree with that too. If, in fact, we are believing something that is wrong, I would hope our honesty as a Christian would say that needs to be abandoned.

And you know, you and I have emphasized this very fact many times when we speak at Christian churches on this topic. We need to be vulnerable, as we hope our Mormon counterparts would want to be vulnerable, to admit we could be wrong. We could be wrong. We are not omniscient. How do we determine whether we are or not? Well, we would say by the evidence, not because of a mere feeling or, in the case of many Latter-day Saints, a desire to want to be a Latter-day Saint.

That's a terrible way to come to a proper conclusion. Many Latter-day Saints are going to accept, though, whatever their leaders say. I want to give you one more quote. This is from a Mormon apologist.

His name is Michael Ash, and he wrote a book called Shaken Faith Syndrome, page 16. Very interesting what he says. He writes, we need to be aware that sometimes we are too quick to uncritically accept the things we hear or read, even from sources such as church leaders or in church magazines. It's not that their words aren't usually true, but we should use our brains as well as our spirits when we study the Gospel now. He didn't hold that the leaders were always correct on things, that maybe that went beyond their understanding and knowledge. But I think that's an interesting quote to say even the leaders ought to be questioned, because many Latter-day Saints don't think that way.

And you bring up a good point. Would most modern LDS leaders agree that what Michael Ash just said in that statement is true? I would say many of them would say, no, that's not true.

The Lord speaks to the leaders of the church, we tell them what is right, and you need to get in line and believe it. And who are you to question what we say is true, because they are the Lord's spokespeople. There was a quote in here from Abdou Murray.

He is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, and he works with Ravi Zacharias Ministries. He cited as saying that Americans have not lost the ability to discern truth, but have gotten better at ignoring it. When I first read that, I had to really analyze that sentence, because I think what he's saying here, without any more information to back up that statement, is the ability to come to a truthful conclusion is still out there.

We've never lost that. But what he is implying is, is many people have ignored the ability to come to an actual truth, and we'd much rather ignore it. He says, our problem with truth isn't so much that we don't understand it, it's that we don't like it.

I think that can go in all sorts of directions. Many times I know when we're talking with fellow Christians about certain doctrinal beliefs, and certainly there are peripheral issues that we do have our disagreements on, but I've often noticed sometimes in talking with some Christians how they tenaciously hold on to something that's really not a primary belief. It's not, in my opinion, a sword worth falling on. But they will hold on to this, regardless of all the many verses that might show that their conclusion is a little bit questionable. I would think that if they would be honest with themselves, they would at least have to admit they could be wrong on this. But many times we get very dogmatic about some things that maybe we shouldn't be dogmatic. Because you know me, Eric, we've had a lot of discussions on theological issues, and there's some issues I really don't know what the conclusion is. I see good arguments by well-meaning scholars and believers on both sides, and sometimes I think we need to take the approach of, I don't know.

I don't know. On those essential issues, and not the essential issues that we hold to as Christians, such as who is God, who is Jesus, the Trinity, salvation by grace. We have a hold on those, but we may disagree on some of those side issues. In one of the paragraphs in this article, it asks, so what is truth? It's a question that keeps theologians and philosophers up at night, befuddles legal scholars, and puts liars in jail. How would we answer that question? And I think, Christian, you need to have a concise way of explaining what truth is.

We've always used this very short explanation. Truth is that which conforms to reality. And this is why we would challenge a lot of the assumptions that many Latter-day Saints have, even regarding the first events in their history. The first vision, for instance. Most Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus in the spring of 1820. The evidence doesn't support that position. Things like that ought to be challenged, and if found to be faulty, should also be abandoned. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, please visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-10 21:34:42 / 2024-01-10 21:40:11 / 5

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