This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the April 1976 Tuesday morning session. (That’s right, Tuesday morning!)
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the true definition of truth. Is there only one truth or can anyone make up their own truth?
The definition we find in the scriptures is when the apostle John quotes Jesus, who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and later Jesus states, “The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me” (D&C 93:26). We also learn that “truth was not created or made” (D&C 93:29), which means it cannot be changed or modified; it is absolute.
The people of our day are doing their darndest to change truth, and I don’t believe it’s possible, yet this is the great dilemma of our day.
So, here’s my question: Do we shame, squirm, or stand for truth?
The other day we drove past the local Gay Pride Festival. My husband pointed out the small cluster of zealots at the entrance with their signs calling people to “Repent!” They weren’t really accomplishing anything; frankly, their effort seemed kind of silly. Were they toting truth or was it more to shame? A Pharisee kind of act.
The festival was in full swing and we saw couples, singles, and children all over the place. Clearly, these people weren’t thinking about Jesus Christ and His truth, so what did they think was truth? They had to have redefined it somehow. And let me just say, I have no doubt that Jesus if He were around, could easily have been found walking amongst these rainbow paraders. How would the crowd react? I wonder if they might squirm just a little.
I have to look at myself in the mirror every day, so here’s my question to myself: Do I shame others? Do I squirm and modify my opinion to fit? Or do I stand for truth? It isn’t easy to do. But the thought rests heavily upon me. How do I stay true to myself, my God, and everyone I live with and run into?
In this session of conference, Pres. Marion G. Romney shared a very simple experience.
He was sitting on an airplane next to a gentleman. They had a discussion that quickly went into gospel topics, specifically the purpose of life. Without any apology, Pres. Romney casually shared the truth of living a purposeful life. Even as the man drank his liquor, Pres. Romney let him read the Word of Wisdom from the Doctrine and Covenants.
It left such an impression on the man, that he wrote back to Pres. Romney, thanking him for giving him something to think about, but he admitted that he could not change his lifestyle. This did nothing to change how Pres. Romney felt about the man.
Pres. Romney didn’t shove the gospel down this man’s throat. The gospel is too precious to shame others with it. He didn’t squirm when the man pulled out his liquor bottle and he didn’t apologize, make excuses, or modify the truth to make things more comfortable. Instead, Pres. Romney spoke truth in such a manner that it intrigued the man, made him thoughtful (not defensive), allowing this man to ponder his choices. Perhaps this positive experience will resonate later in his life when he is ready to commit to truth.
Standing for truth and righteousness is not easy. It is far easier to squirm or modify truth to fit our apologies. Sometimes we come off a little heavy-handed and it sounds more like shaming, and people shut us out.
Maybe we need to study carefully and understand deeply the scriptures in order to come off more casual and well spoken in speaking truth from the ancient and modern prophets. And of course, be secure enough in our own belief to not pigeonhole a person by condemning their lifestyle. A loving and informative encounter may open the door to a future acceptance for someone who is ready to accept Jesus Christ.
Additional General Conference Odyssey posts:
There will seem to be sacrifice Marilyn Nielson