Wednesday, May 18, 2011

True or False?

I've always loved True or False quizzes.  Even if you didn't do anything to prepare, you still have around a fifty-fifty chance with each question.

Nowadays, I've found a new appreciation for the word truth.  It's a common word, bandied around like a cheap paperback book.  However, it actually goes much deeper than most people realize.
So, to start with, what exactly is truth?

Walter Cronkite is one of the most famous newsmen in the world.  For years, at the end of each broadcast, he would sign off, saying, "And that's the way it is."
I like that, and I've decided to steal that phrase for this blog.  Truth is "the way it is."  It doesn't need support from anything or anyone, and whether or not someone believes it has no effect whatsoever on it's truthfulness.  It's just the way it is.
The Oxford dictionary agrees; it defines truth as "that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality."
Let's say that someone comes up to you in the street, and tells you that two plus two does not actually come up to four.  Instead, it is actually five.  Is this man correct?  Is it true?
Of course not.  It's not true.  It just isn't the way it is.  It is an established fact that 2 + 2 = 4.  Nobody thinks to argue it, because to do so would be lunacy.

Unfortunately, there are very few things that are as clear-cut as the world of mathematics.  Rather, let us say that everything is that way, but that very few people realize it.
Let us take the question of God's existence.  Is there, in actuality, a God who is our Father, who loves us, who wants what's best for us?  Believe it or not, this is a true or false question.  Either he exists, or he does not.  If there is a 'higher power,' but is not God as most Christians imagine him, then that definition is not true; it does not accurately define reality, and should thus be discarded.
If we go back in time, we find Plato and other Greek philosophers.  They looked at all the evidence, looked at the sky, thought for a long time, and came to this conclusion:  We see the sun.  We see the stars.  They all move around us.  This earth goes on for miles and miles in every direction.  Therefore, the earth is flat, and the sun, planets, and stars all revolve around us.

I ask you, was this true?

Turns out, it wasn't.  In 1492, Christopher Columbus conned three ships off of the Queen of Spain, and sailed off into the sunset.  He believed that the world was round, but not in the traditional sense.  Instead of a humongous disk with water endlessly pouring off of the sides, he theorized that the world was actually a sphere.  If he sailed west far enough, he'd come out in the East.  It's too bad he didn't count on there being a new world in between Spain and the coveted Indies.  Either way, he disproved the flat-world theory.  It wasn't true.  It didn't accurately represent reality.  Saying that the world is flat just is not "the way it is."

Later on Nicolaus Copernicus published a book, On the Orbits of the Celestial Spheres, stating a theory.  Perhaps, the truth was not that the universe revolved around the earth.  Maybe, the earth and all the planets actually revolve around the sun, and then the stars revolve around that.  His theories caused so much stir among the intellectual elite that he almost did not publish his book.  This heliocentric, or sun-centric, model then became the accepted version.  Was it true?
Turns out, it wasn't.  The stars do not revolve around the sun.  We are a speck of blue among many other stars, each moving in its own motion.  This is the truth, as we know it.  However, even this could turn out to be a false representation of reality, "the way it is."
Should we be surprised that sometimes things are not as we think they are?  Plato, Copernicus, many scientists, all thought with all their soul that they were correct.  Isaac Newton invented calculus, to the dismay of college students everywhere.  His mathematics explained why things behaved.  It made sense.  However, his explanation and some of his mathematics were proven to be inaccurate by Albert Einstein.

I bet you're kind of wondering why I'm going off on all these tangents.  After all, what do Copernicus, Columbus, Newton, Plato, and all those other dead guys have to do with the Gospel?  As it turns out, everything.
Just as things are either true or false in mathematics and science, things are either true or false with religion.  Either Jesus was the Son of God or he was not.  Either he died for our sins, or he did not.  Either he came back from the dead, or he did not.  There is no middle ground.  It is either true or false.

It's important to distinguish here between truth and philosophy.  Truth, as I've been saying, is the way things are.  Philosophy is a bit like an opinion.  It is a truth that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  It is a philosophy to say that Jesus is God.  Philosophy is what people interpret from the Bible about certain subjects.  It could be false, it might have some truth.  The difference between Methodists, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, it's all a matter of philosophy.  People have interpreted the Bible, and some of them have not represented the truth.

I don't want to offend anyone by writing this.  I am recording my own observations.

Surely, the thing we all want most is to have the most truth we can.  Why would we waste time with philosophy when we can have truth?  

This applies to my church just as much as any other.  Did God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ really appear to a fourteen-year-old boy in upstate New York?  Did they really talk to him?  Did they really tell him that the church that Jesus Christ established had fallen away?  All of these are simple yes/no questions, and they can be answered by another yes/no question.

Is the Book of Mormon true?  Y / N

If the Book of Mormon is true, everything else falls into place.

How can we know?  By ourselves, we could not.  We could study, and examine, tear apart and deconstruct to the best of our ability, but in the end it would still be human beings trying to find the truth.  And you know that humans are very reliable, not changing at all.

Luckily, we have a lifeline to someone who does know.  If God says that something is true, don't you think he might know?  God doesn't lie, so if he tells us, we can know for a fact that something is true.
I know that Joseph Smith did see God and Jesus, and that they did in reality speak to him.  I know it because I've read the Book of Mormon, and I have prayed about it.  God has told me that the Book of Mormon is true.  By the feelings of the Holy Ghost within me, I know that this is the path that God wants me to travel.  And I promise all within the reach of my blog that if they do the same, God will tell them.

And that's the way it is.

Oh say, what is truth? 'Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch's costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.

Yes, say, what is truth? 'Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire;
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies.
'Tis an aim for the noblest desire.

The sceptre may fall from the despot's grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes,
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast,
And the wreck of the fell tyrant's hopes.

Then say, what is truth? 'Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o'er.
Though the heavens depart and the earth's fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

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