In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that "unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. …"
Some questioned our team here at the Deseret News for convening a conversation on the principles of integrity, trust and truth in our nation’s capital — especially in a day when debates are rarely about principles and policy but are instead about fake news, alternate facts, deceptive internet influence, half-truths, bold lies and countless shades of morally relative gray. We felt it was exactly the right place for this conversation to begin.
As we have highlighted in these pages and on Deseretnews.com/trust, legendary reporter Bob Woodward, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Pew Research Center president Mike Dimock provided compelling insight to a captivated capacity crowd at the Newseum on Jan. 14.
Sitting onstage with these uniquely talented individuals, I was fascinated by the places the conversation naturally flowed. What began with a framing of integrity and trust quickly expanded to companion virtues like love, humility and persuasion, in addition to principles such as pluralism, truth, exactness and restraint.
Mr. Woodward shared in his opening remarks some of the final words President Nixon delivered to his Cabinet and staff before leaving the White House. Woodward poignantly pointed out that hate had been the piston that fired and fueled the engine of Nixon’s administration. But Nixon, perhaps in a moment of clarity and self-understanding, said to his team, “Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” Hate should never drive the day or get the last word.
The principal protectors of integrity and trust are indeed found in truth and love. Hate, intolerance and contempt isolate the conscience while undermining the structural integrity and strength of the soul.
Elder Christofferson described the kind of intolerance in the name of tolerance that is beginning to permeate a society ripe with moral relativism. He explained that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get to the truth because there is no space to have an actual weighing of the merits of a matter or for real persuasion to take place.
His journalistic instincts activated, Mr. Woodward chimed in with a question of his own, “How about tolerance for nonbelievers? Do you feel tolerance for them?”
Elder Christofferson responded, “Exactly. Yes. That is pluralism. That is what I opt for and we opt for as church. We have a voice, but everyone has a voice. If you cut it off and say disagreeing with me is intolerant, that leads to intolerance in the name of tolerance.”
When there is a level playing field, persuasion based on truth and love becomes possible. Elder Christofferson concluded his thought by quoting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founding prophet Joseph Smith, who said, "If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No, I will lift them up, and in their own way, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way."
Truth can always cut its own way. And that way can be greatly accelerated in an environment of tolerance, understanding and love with a commitment to truth.
The important and powerful principles the panel discussed don’t belong to a political party or any one politician. Nor do they belong to any business, organization, government agency or the media. They belong to and are the responsibility of “we the people.” It is we the people who must revere them and perpetually apply them.
In 1874, John Jacques worked for the Deseret News in the position I now occupy with oversight of opinion and editorials.
As a younger man in the 1840s, Jacques was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England. Jacques contemplated the question of what truth is and how he could live truth with trust-building integrity. His answer came in the form of a poem “Oh Say, What Is Truth.” It concludes, “Then say, what is truth? 'Tis the last and the first, For the limits of time it steps o'er. Tho the heavens depart and the earth's fountains burst. Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst, Eternal … unchanged … evermore.”15 comments on this story
Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon each of us individually and all of us collectively to find the truth, speak the truth and ultimately to be the truth. Dr. King was right, that "unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
If remembered and properly re-enthroned as the bulwark of society, integrity and trust, delivered through truth and love, will transcend the chronic character deficits of today and strengthen individuals, neighborhoods and nations to confidently meet the challenges of our time.