Back when I was a youth, my mom was once asked to substitute teach my Sunday School class. Normally, she taught Relief Society where the class members are eager to participate. The 14-18 year olds are less eager. So she kept putting me on the spot because she knew that I would have to answer. (Now that I myself have spent some time teaching teenage girls, I completely understand how difficult it is to get them to say anything.) I remember one of the questions she asked is, ‘If you could have any gift or power, what would it be?’ I don’t remember what I said then, but now I could definitely go for healing powers. I’d hug my friend with cancer and make it go away. I’d zap running injuries. And I would get rid of many an ailment that effect my patients. And I would wear a cape, like this.
Not interested in a white dress or lace-up boots, but I like the cape. Of course, no one has given me magic healing powers, so I have to rely on the skills I have acquired through study and practice and hope for the best. I remember the gift my mom said she desired. She wished for the ability to always be able to discern truth. I was unimpressed. Isn’t it obvious how to tell right from wrong, true from false? As an adult I have come to understand that no, it is not easy, but the quest is important none the less. As I have researched, and perhaps it is just my medical background, I have seen many parallels to looking for truth and promoting good health and healing.
Here are a few quotes on the importance of truth:
If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. – J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24.
“So often the ‘truths’ we tell ourselves are merely fragments of the truth, and sometimes they’re not really the truth at all…
“In some ways we are all susceptible to such strange thinking.The ‘truths’ we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these ‘truths’ are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives. Part of the reason for poor judgment comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between belief and truth…
“When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict what an individual already knows, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and would augment or complement knowledge, individuals often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed or trying to deceive….
“Remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything at any time and every place. You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat. That the moon is a hologram. It looks like it a little bit. And that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind just because something is printed on paper, appears on the internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.
“As you accept the responsibility to seek after truth with an open mind and a humble heart, you will become more tolerant of others, more open to listen, more prepared to understand, ”-Dieter F. Uchtdorf President Uchtdorf Encourages Young Adults to Discover Truth, Jan 14, 2013
“In this troubled circumstance, we who believe in God and the corollary truth of absolute right and wrong have the challenge of living in a godless and increasingly amoral world. In this circumstance, all of us—especially the rising generation—have a duty to stand up and speak out to affirm that God exists and that there are absolute truths that His commandments establish…. There is no middle ground. We must stand up for truth…With our children and others whom we have a duty to teach, our duty to truth is paramount.We are cast as combatants in the war between truth and error.” Dallin H. Oaks, Balancing Tolerance and Truth, Feb 2013
“Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew? -Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Jan 2012
“Sunlight is the best antiseptic“-Florence Nightingale
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.“-Ghandi
As I have come across things that are uncomfortable I have heard many people say ‘Just don’t look at it. No one likes polygamy (or insert issue), just don’t think about it.’ Wasn’t Uchtdorf just saying that to stop thinking is to thwart the spirit? I’m not going to ‘just stop thinking about things‘. I’ve also heard people say, ‘Go ahead and research, but only focus on the good parts, only read things that make you feel good’ I’m sorry that model of thinking doesn’t fly for me. I am a nurse and when I assess a patient (or a problem), I try to look at the whole picture to the best of my ability. If my patient has an infected wound on their foot, I’m not going to just not look at it because there’s pus and blood. I would be doing my patient a great disservice if I didn’t look at a problem because it doesn’t look pretty or considering the pain it is causing him/her doesn’t make me feel good. I could also be fired from my job, and I should be if I were so negligent to ignore signs or symptoms that indicated a problem. If I ignored the infected wound it would only become worse and can lead to bigger problems. In a diabetic patient, such a situation could lead to the patient having their leg amputated. Problems (or at least big ones) do not get solved by ignoring them or pretending that they don’t exist. Just as ignoring health symptoms can lead to pain and suffering, ignoring or denying other issues can tear apart families and destroy lives.
I think of truth-seeking as being similar to playing ‘mystery diagnosis’. When a patient presents with given
symptoms, we as a healthcare team are trying to find the source of the problem, the truth of the issue. ‘What is going on here?’ When we are uncertain of a patient’s status it leads us to searching for information through tests, assessments and consults. We repeat our research until we find the diagnosis that fits the symptoms, not the diagnosis that fits the HMO, someone’s dissertation or the cheapest treatment plan. We don’t throw out test results when they give us unexpected information. We double check them. We don’t force symptoms to fit a predetermined diagnosis, we look at the symptoms until we find the diagnosis that describes our findings. I feel like to research and provide care in any other method is to provide care without integrity and honesty. I was taught to believe that operating with integrity is paramount. It’s pretty obvious to see how that relates to healthcare, people’s lives are on the line. However, I believe that having integrity as we search our own beliefs is also very important.
If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak. George A. Smith Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, Page 216
Our history is especially critical, because in a sense, we rise or fall with our history,” he said. “If those early beginning stories that Joseph Smith told us are true, then we are the only true church as we contend. If they’re not true, then we don’t have what we purport to have. Marlin K. Jensen Mormon Times, Nov 19, 2009, found in Deseret News 19 Nov. 2009.
“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues. ”- President Gordon B. Hinckley, Dec. 25, 2005 interview with The Associated Press
“Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true… That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.” Gordon B. Hinckley Jan 2007 interview with PBS
To me those quotes support my belief that the truth is worth investigating, and if we can’t look at a problem, then there are other deep issues bigger than the initial problem itself. We have to look for truth with the best of our ability. We need to research, we need to look at the entire situation. As Uchtdorf said above, we have to look for truth, and we can’t let our preconceived notions taint what we expect to find. If we decide before investigating that A=Truth, are we really looking for truth, or are we looking for what supports our idea that A=Truth? We need to look at the evidence and then come to a conclusion of truth, not before. If a doctor decided that his patient had a bacterial infection before running a lab test or assessing the patient, he wouldn’t come to a ‘true’ conclusion, he wouldn’t be able to see what the problem actually is. What he would do is contribute to an epidemic of the overuse of antibiotics. We need to look at the evidence first and then determine our conclusions. The answers that we find are critical.