Friday, March 17, 2017

The Song of the Righteous: Part 8

Song of the Righteous #8 goes along very well with President Packer's statement about hymns in part 1, "If we will listen, they are teaching the gospel, for the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!"  It is hymn 272, Oh Say, What is Truth?

"Oh say, what is truth? ’Tis the fairest gem that the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when the proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.

Yes, say, what is truth? ’Tis the brightest prize to which mortals or Gods can aspire.
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies, or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
’Tis an aim for the noblest desire.

The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp when with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last, and its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.

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."

This hymn is correct when it says that truth is "the fairest gem that the riches of worlds can produce."  You see, truth does not change to align with cultural, social, political, or economic fluctuations.   It does not bend to accommodate fads or whims of special interest groups.  It cannot be diluted by public opinion and is not in the eye of the beholder.  To be honest, I don't understand why anyone would even see any value in truth if it was.  We mortals always crave something and someone that is forever reliable, completely honest, always perfectly and infinitely fair and loving, flawlessly just and merciful and in all ways imaginable immune to any shadow of wavering or temptation to be anything else.  So it's just irrational that anyone would want truth to become subject to our ever changing, unsteady, unreliable, often self interested desires.

So where do we find the truth?  What did the Lord Jesus Christ say? "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  So one of His names is Truth.  So, as Jack R. Christianson pointed out, when Pilate asked Jesus in John 18:38, "What is truth?" What's he really asking?  Who. Are. You?  You want to know truth?  Come to know the Master.  He is the truth, the very embodiment of it.

Well does this hymn recommend that we "go search in the depth where it glittering lies, or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies."  If there is truth, we need to find it.  For only it will guide us to what we truly want, peace in this life and eternal life and love in the world to come.  There was a video I watched on youtube just yesterday where a returned LDS missionary said "When Nephi talks about how he pondered the things of the gospel ... I think ... if I just read the scriptures [as opposed to studying them], there's not really a lot to ponder about... I believe it was President Eyring who said 'If we become casual in our study of the scriptures we will become casual in our prayers.  We may not cease to pray but our prayers will become more repetitive, lacking real intent, our hearts cannot be drawn to a God we do not know, and the scriptures and words of living prophets help us to know Him.'"

It is so important to know the truth, to know Him, that He took on the infinite weight of all things evil and overcame it so that we could.  "The most knowledgeable farmer with a horse and a plow is no match for an equally proficient farmer with a high tech tractor at his command.  The mathematician with a slide rule is no challenge to his colleague with a high speed computer.  A Galileo with a handheld telescope will never discover the universe like a Galileo with the most advanced telescope at his disposal.  The Lord must expect much more of us in gospel scholarship than he did of previous generations, because we have so much more at our disposal.” (The Infinite Atonement, pg. 21)  

We have so much more access to truth than anyone else ever did in the history of the world that to not seek it like "horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed [Elder Holland, New Era, October 1980]" to obtain it is not only is not only a dismal and selfish waste, but a direct antithesis to our purpose on earth, to prepare to meet and become like our Father in Heaven, which means therefore to become, ourselves, embodiments of truth.  We can't do that if we don't continually make the truth a part of who we are, our very nature.

I think that, quite possibly, many in the world today view the concept of absolute truth as unfeeling, discordant, cold, sterile, or lifeless.  If they'd look closer at the Embodiment of Truth (the Savior), what did He say about His purpose?  "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  Absolute truth, if adhered to, results in that "abundant life".  As Parley P. Pratt said of the conduit by which all truth flows to us, "The gift of the Holy Ghost... quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use.  It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature.  It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity.  It develops beauty of person, form and features.  It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feelings.  It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man.  It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves.  In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

I'd hardly call that sterile, cold or unfeeling.

To be honest, the fact that truth is so universal and unchanging should be an ultimate comfort to us.  As the last verse reminds us, "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."  

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