By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Seeking After Truth

In the April 1981 Ensign Edwin Brown Firmage writes an article called "Recovering and Discovering Truth." I thought this was an interesting article and I believe you will enjoy reading it.

Brother Firmage talks about seeking and finding truth--the methods we can use to go about it and where truth comes from.

As I read the experiences of others who were seeking knowledge, I found patterns similar to the ones I had discovered. Even more strikingly, I noticed remarkable similarities between searches for knowledge using the more obviously spiritual processes of prayer and fasting, and those using the rational processes of scientific inquiry. (Ultimately, our spiritual and rational characteristics are surely part of a whole.)
One point he makes is that:


But before we examine the process itself, we must deal with three questions: (1) Why must we rely on God at all? (2) Where do ideas come from? (3) How can prayer help us?
After a discussion of those three questions, Brother Firmage discusses the processes of inquiry. He writes:


Does this revelatory process differ markedly from the scientific method of getting knowledge or ideas or truth? In a lecture at Brigham Young University a number of years ago, Dr. Edmund D. Starbuck declared: “The scientist studies his problem, saturates his mind with it, puzzles over it, dreams about it, but seems to find progress impossible, blocked as it were by a black, impenetrable wall. And then at last and suddenly as if out of the nowhere, there comes a flash of light, the answer to his quest. His mind is now illumined by a great discovery.” (Quoted by Harold B. Lee in “Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity,” Instructor, June 1965, p. 217.)

Albert Einstein said: “When I think and reflect how my discoveries originated and took form, a hundred times you run, as it were, with your head against the wall (meaning a hundred failures) in order to lay your hands upon and define and fit into a system what, from a merely indefinable premonition, you sense in vain. And then suddenly, perhaps like a stroke of lightning, the salient thought will come to you and the indescribably laborious task of building up and expanding the system can begin. The process is not different by which the artist arrives at his conceptions. Real faith, either to a scientist or a businessman or a minister of religion, involves the problem and struggle of searching.” (Instructor, June 1965, p. 217.)

Einstein described this process of gaining knowledge like a “stroke of lightning”; Starbuck described it as a “flash of light.” Plato used almost the same language to describe his intellectual leap from frustration following deep thought to the resolution of a problem or getting an idea. Joseph Smith said, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas.” (History of the Church, 3:381.)

This very process argues against the false idea that prayer, study, and meditation, or deep thought are merely attempts to convince oneself of a particular principle. To the person who is sensitive to divine communication, pure revelation floods the very being in a way that makes it unmistakable. Whether the truth be in science, philosophy, or religion, that knowledge is now his in a way that it was not before. Again, Einstein said of faith: “Real faith, either to a scientist or a businessman or a minister of religion, involves the problem and struggle of searching.” The Lord said to Joseph and Oliver that “you must study it out in your mind.”
His final two paragraphs say this:
This may be at least partially what the Master meant when he admonished us to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39). The injunction was not merely to read the scriptures, but to search them, which implies a process of reading and rereading, studying, pondering, praying, meditating, and exerting all the mental and spiritual power we possess to obtain the deepest level of understanding of that which the Lord has given us. The same effort is implied in Alma’s description of how faith develops into perfect knowledge: “Swelling motions” enlarge the soul, growing until “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (Alma 32:28, Alma 34:26–43).

Finally, I have learned that one must use the truth he possesses before asking for more. An ancient Tibetan proverb says, “He who knows and fails to practice the precepts is like a man who lights a lamp in the darkness and then closes his eyes.” We have a loving Heavenly Father who possesses all knowledge. He is willing to share it with us as fast as we are able to obtain it by worthy effort and then truly make it “ours” by living it.
Reading the entire article will give you a better grasp of what Brother Firmage is saying, but I wanted to include a few highlights to give you an idea of what it is about.

I found his last paragraph particularly meaningful--we need to use the truths we know before asking for more, before expecting to obtain more. You might say that truth is something we grow into. We use it and live it and put it into practice so that it becomes a part of us. Then we are ready to obtain more truth.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Barb said...

I have pondered how it would be unfair for God to expect us to have faith in him or in Jesus Christ being our Savior or of any necessary truth without a way to know in our hearts and our minds wheter something is true. Yes, we need to put forth effort. And it may be a long time in coming for some.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Barb, I've always thought the Holy Ghost must be involved all along the way--inspiring people to be interested in a specific topic or idea and then sticking with it long enough to find out it's true. Otherwise, would people even put forth the effort? And be patient if it takes time? Interesting to contemplate.

5:05 PM  

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