Our relationship with the truth is a fundamental part of our moral character.
The prophet Jacob defined “truth” as “things as they really are, and…things as they really will be”(Jacob 4:13). (See also Doctrine and Covenants 93:24.)
The Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith that “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:30). Elder D. Todd Christofferson interpreted that passage this way:
All truth, including the truth that governs our present sphere, exists independent and apart. It is unaffected by my preference or your opinion. It stands independent of any effort to control or change it. It cannot be lobbied or influenced in any way. It is a fixed reality.“Truth Endures,” Address to CES Religious Educators, 26 January 2018
“Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams; “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence” (“Adams’ Argument for the Defense: 3–4 December 1770,” on the National Archives website). Unfortunately, the scriptures are full of examples of people resisting facts to their own detriment, and often to the detriment of others:
- Nephi’s brothers complained, “Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.” He replied, “If ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth…then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us” (1 Nephi 16:1-3). (See also 2 Nephi 1:26.)
- The prophet Abinadi told King Noah and his priests, “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me….and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth” (Mosiah 13:4, 7). After Abinadi delivered his message, he was executed and “sealed the truth of his words by his death” (Mosiah 17:20). For Abinadi, telling the truth was more important than life itself.
- After Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, he shared his vision with a religious leader. He was shocked at the response, not only from this leader but from many others, who not only rejected his story but also ridiculed him personally. He later wrote, “Though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth?” (Joseph Smith—History 1:25).
Since our Father in Heaven is a God of truth (Ether 3:12), our adherence to truth is a measure of our alignment with Him. Thus, Joseph Smith explained his unwillingness to deny his vision by saying, “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:25). Elder Neal A. Maxwell took that concept one step further when, after relating a spiritual experience, he said, “I had been blessed, and I knew that God knew that I knew” (“Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996). (See Elder Neal L. Andersen’s further elaboration on this concept in the talk “Spiritually Defining Memories,” General Conference, April 2020).
- There is such a thing as universal truth. We can’t wish something to be true; its truth or falsehood is independent of our desires.
- We are accountable for how we receive truths communicated by others. Our rejection of that truth harms us and may harm them as well.
- God knows all things, and He expects us to act in accordance with what we know to be true.
Today, I will choose to hearken to the truth. I will accept the way things really are, not the way I wish they were. I will be open to hearing the truth and accepting it, even when it’s hard. I will remember that God knows what I know, and that He expects me to act in accordance with the truth.