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Faith and ScienceHouse of Order (Part 2)
by Ami Chopine
I struggled as I wrote this. I knew what I wanted to write, and I knew (and know) to the core of my being that it was true.
But it’s important that we not assume that all our knowledge is correct. If we come at anything with this assumption, we are in danger of two things: First, of pride. Assuming that we are right is prideful. It is leaning unto our own understanding.
Second, we risk drifting away from truth as we base understanding after new understanding upon some small degree of error which would lead us off the true path.
The solution to this is to go back to the source and double check so that we may sift away our errors.
In the scriptures, we’re admonished to “Put on the whole armor of God … For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:11-12
Part of that armor is to stand with our “loins girt about with truth.”
The scriptures are filled with the theme of truth. Truth protects us.
It brings us to understanding, and that understanding leads us to Christ and salvation. God is a God of Truth. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The Holy Ghost is the Light of Truth and the Spirit of Truth. We are always warned and even begged to come to the truth so that we may be saved; while all in the world around us crumbles to dust, truth will still prevail.
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “There are two ways to find truth — both useful, provided we follow the laws upon which they are predicated.”1 These two ways are the scientific method and revelation. Both of these approaches could only work if truth was absolute and the basis by which everything exists. Is it?
The alternative is that all truth is relative, based on belief and opinion. But can that even be a valid statement? It contradicts itself. If it is true, then it is an absolute statement.
But if it is true, there can be no absolute statements. So it invalidates itself. Also, if it is true, then someone can believe that, “All truth is absolute, and relativism is invalid,” which would, according to the relativist statement, be true since it was someone’s belief. Which once again, causes the statement to be false.
Even a partial relativism is not possible, since every absolute truth would cascade to absolute reality. If, for instance, everyone must be bound by gravity, then the driver who swerves off the side of the mountain road will fall, regardless of if he believes with no questioning that he has not swerved or that his car is an airplane.
This invalidity of partial relativism includes moral truth. The argument against moral relativism is best explained in 2 Nephi 2:13:
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
In the spectrum where something can be judged Good, is has to be judged relative to something. And that something is Bad. If nothing is bad, then nothing is good. It all becomes the same gray, moral homogeny.
What is goodness? It’s that which makes us happy — but we’ve got to take it beyond our local happiness and understand the wider consequences. If there is a thing that makes you happy now, but brings you pain later (understand punishment not to be a decree handed down by God, but as a natural consequence of your actions), then it can’t really be a good thing.
And if it makes one person happy at the expense of the suffering of multiple people, then it can’t really be a good thing.
Without happiness, its opposite — pain and misery — doesn’t exist either. Without happiness or pain, there is no God. We shouldn’t understand from this that God made happiness and pain for us to experience. In the scripture, there is a clear hierarchy: our planet and ourselves exist because God exists, and God exists because there is a spectrum of happiness and misery, which exists because there are things righteous and things sinful.
A couple of verses before that, Lehi says this:
…Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. (2 Nephi 2:11)
I add my own understanding to that: “neither order nor disorder.”
Nothing would exist if there were not opposition in all things.
The atheist who understands the above statement might tell us that since morality and its consequences could exist outside of a higher being that decreed them, then their existence doesn’t prove God exists. But that argument misses an important factor.
It is clear that there is also a spectrum of comprehension — we can comprehend more than our dog, who understands more than a fish, who knows more than the fly, which perceives more than an amoeba, which detects more than a molecule can, which has more complexity of interaction than a single atom.
To imagine that we are at the pinnacle of that spectrum is as backwards as believing that the earth is the center of the universe. The opposite of having zero comprehension and understanding is infinite comprehension and understanding — neither sense, nor insensibility.
God is that being of infinite comprehension and understanding. The glory of God is intelligence. God is that being of infinite love.
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them theirbknowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
37 …misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:29-33, 37)
In all of the many things we know that we need to teach our children, an understanding of the nature of Truth is not usually something that comes up as a subject to be discussed during Family Home Evening or around the dinner table.
We might not discuss cultural assumptions and absolute morality either. But if we don’t talk about these things, using the light of understanding we can receive from the scriptures and teachings of our prophets, we leave our children with a gap that will be filled by others, whether they be formal education or media.
We must teach our children in truth and with integrity. We must teach our children about truth. Don’t lie to them about silly things, or things you’re afraid of them to know. Don’t give them more than they can bear.
Give them the tools for honest and critical thinking. Teach them to obey and love God and to seek revelation.
With this armor, with their and our loins girded about in truth, we can know that when we aren’t around to guide them, it will be truth — the Spirit of Truth — that guides them. And that will be all our salvation.
1. Richard G. Scott, Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions, General Conference October 2007
Please also read:
F. Enzio Busche, Truth is the Issue, General Conference October 1993
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