PROVO — Individuals have a personal obligation to search for and find truth, said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during a Church Educational System devotional address in the Marriott Center at BYU on Sunday night.
"It seems to be part of our nature as human beings to make assumptions about people, politics and piety based on our incomplete and often misleading experience. ... So often the 'truths' we tell ourselves are merely fragments of the truth and sometimes, they're not really the truth at all," he said.
President Uchtdorf asked the young adults three questions: "What is truth?" "Is it really possible to know the truth?" and "How should we react to things that contradict truths we have learned previously?"
"Now, never in the history of the world have we had easier access to more information — some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true," he said. "Consequently, never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error."
What is truth?
Part of the problem in the quest for truth is that human wisdom has often disappointed people, providing many examples of things that mankind once knew to be true, but has since been proven false, President Uchtdorf explained.
One example he used was that in spite of one-time overwhelming consensus, the earth isn't flat.
"In some ways we are all susceptible to such strange thinking," he said. "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, he said.
"We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true," he said. "Conversely, we sometimes don't believe truth or reject it — because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often truth is rejected because it doesn't appear to be consistent with previous experiences."
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, he said.
"The thing about truth is that it exists beyond belief," President Uchtdorf said. "It is true even if nobody believes it."
How does one find truth?
Over the centuries many wise men and women — through logic, reason, scientific inquiry and inspiration — have discovered truth, President Uchtdorf said. These discoveries have enriched mankind, improved lives and inspired many. Even so, things that were once known as truths are continually being enhanced, modified or even contradicted by enterprising scholars seeking understanding. Because Satan is the great deceiver, he has many cunning strategies for keeping individuals from the truth. He does this by offering the belief that truth is relative; appealing to a sense of tolerance and fairness, keeping the real truth hidden by claiming that one person's "truth" is as valid as any other.
"Soon he entices to believe that there is an absolute truth out there somewhere, but that it is impossible for anyone to know it," President Uchtdorf observed. "For those who already embrace the truth, his primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt."
President Uchtdorf also reminded listeners that just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers does not make it true.
"Now what is this truth?" he asked. "It is His gospel. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ — He is the way, the truth and the life."
Our obligation to seek truth
"How can we know that a truth is different from any other?" he asked. "How can we trust this truth?"
The invitation to trust the Lord does not relieve anyone of the responsibility to know for themselves, President Uchtdorf said. Each has a personal obligation to seek out and find truth.
"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, more inclined to build up instead of tearing down and you will be more willing to go where God wants you to go," he said.