When Joseph Smith was a teenager, he longed to know which church he should join. He found himself confused because each church he looked into had contradictory doctrine. How could they all be right, as some claimed? Rightly so, he sensed that truth was absolute and unchanging.
If God is the source of truth, and God is not a God of confusion, then there can’t be conflicting truths. If baptism is required to enter the kingdom of God, then it’s always required. If children infants shouldn’t be baptized, then they must never be baptized. Saying that baptism both is and is not required can both be true leads to confusion about important issues, and God doesn’t create confusion.
There are those who expect churches to be fashionable and “tolerant.” They feel churches should take no real stand on any issue, even those that affect salvation. There are churches which have done that, have kept up with the times and not worried too much about what the Bible actually says. However, this is not what God has taught us about truth.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8: 32
John demonstrates the importance of knowing what is true. In order for us to know what’s true, there must be truth to know. Certain things must be so, whether we like them to be or not. We, as mortal beings, do not get to choose truth. Only God can do this. Our job isn’t to intellectualize truth or judge it, but to know it, live it, share it, and love it. The truth can then make us free.
So, when people accuse your church of being out of touch with the “real” world or the modern world, say it’s out of style or old-fashioned, measure your doctrine against God’s. If you find it’s in tune, then take their criticism as praise. It takes moral courage to stay with truth, and not wander off to the demands of fashion and those who are intolerant of God’s truths.
The Book of Mormon records a vision of the prophet Nephi. In this vision, there was a tree. Lehi understood that the tree had a wonderful fruit, which could bring joy to anyone who partook of it. The tree represented God’s love. Lehi naturally wanted his family to join him at the tree and eat the fruit. His wife and two youngest sons did, but his two oldest were rebellious and refused to come. Lehi watched others set out on the road that led to the tree. One group got sidetracked along the way. The next group found the iron rod that ran alongside the road after a while and held onto it so they wouldn’t get lost, even though a heavy mist had arisen. They stayed on the path, got to the tree, ate the fruit…and then made an eternally fatal error.
This group started looking around to check out how the rest of the world was viewing their wonderful accomplishment. To their surprise, the world wasn’t largely cheering them on. Instead, the people who had not entered the road or who hadn’t stayed on it mocked them, told them they were foolish, and called them names. The people who had successfully navigated the path couldn’t seem to tune out the mocking. They wanted to be loved and accepted, and so, humiliated by the mocking, they rushed off the path to join those who were elegantly dressed and very popular, but who were without truth.
There were other groups, but only one group was successful. Those people chose to take the path. They persevered until they reached the iron rod, which represented God’s word, and then held tight, allowing the rod to guide them to the tree. When they partook of the fruit, they enjoyed the blessings that came from it without taking an opinion poll to see what others thought of them. They didn’t care what others thought. They knew what was right and good, and they were content to have that, regardless of the jeers and persecutions of those less wise.
Today, those who choose to stay on the path and partake of God’s truths are jeered at and mocked. It takes real courage to stay firm and tune out the mockers. However, truth is truth. While it might seem temporarily more provident to follow those who have abandoned God, in the eternal scheme of things, those who honor God will have the best outcomes.
Those who truly know and love God do not expect him to alter truth for their convenience. They understand that truth is unchanging, and that it’s worth the hardships.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.