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What is truth?

David Johnson

Pontius Pilot responded to Jesus at his trial with: “What is truth” (John 18:38)? Jesus had actually considered this just hours earlier while praying to his Father, when he said: “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). We generally understand that this “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). This truth is in no way temporary; it endures forever (Psalm 117:2). But the word or scriptures are really just the beginning of truth – the springboard to greater truth. We read how this is done in John, where he notes that the Spirit of Truth “will guide you into all truth … and he will show you things to come” (John 16:13). This won’t be completed in mortality, but we can look forward to that day because “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:28).

It isn’t just about the future either, for Jesus taught: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). How else can truth help us? The prophet Alma witnessed one result: “Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation” (Alma 5:46). Once again we see the springboard to the greater knowledge of truth through personal revelation, but also therein, one gains a strong and enduring testimony of that truth. More truth by way of revelation, may also be practical for filling in the gaps. After all, the Bible does not specifically describe in detail how to baptize or ordain someone, how to administer the Sacrament, how church financing should be handled, how the revelations should be written down so we even have the word, how membership is terminated, as well as a number of other very important missing items. Without revelation, these critical points would end up in a mass of confusion, contradiction and disagreement. What then, is truth? It is the eternal gospel that we find in the word; and when we learn those revealed truths and then live them, we grow spiritually, becoming prepared and worthy to receive more and greater truth, through personal revelation from the Spirit, who can eventually teach us all knowledge or truth – past, present and future!

• David Johnson is an elder in the Carson City Clear Creek Ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.