Oh Say, What is Truth?

Oh Say, What is Truth?

In the English version of the LDS Hymnal is a beautiful hymn entitled “Oh Say, What is Truth?”. The lyrics are as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

In this hymn, the author asks, “what is truth?”. This is the first time I noticed that this was posed as a question. The response is then given in a poetic form, first that it’s the fairest gem, second that it’s the noblest desire, third that it will endure to the last, and fourth it will weather the worst.

To me the nobility of truth is worth seeking. I have long admired the champions of just causes, who spent most of their life being punished by authoritarian figures who wanted to prevent the truth from coming out. The life of Mohandas Ghandi is a perfect example:

Gandhi great quote

As a faithful member of the LDS church I often felt that I was in-line with this narrative. I had the truth and needed to protect it. I was born into the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and needed to share the truth with all I came in contact. I was certain of my faith and the experiences that I had which confirmed my faith. I then learned that what I was taught by the Church was not exactly true. I would never allow myself to read anti-Mormon websites, but for me the discovery came from the one source I thought I could trust–the LDS Church.


What did the LDS Church tell me that was so damaging to my assurance of truth?

  1. The Book of Mormon wasn’t translated from Golden Plates, but was revealed through a rock in a hat
  2. The Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith translated into the Book of Abraham, don’t actually say anything about Abraham, but are a common funerary text
  3. Joseph Smith practiced polyandry and even married a 14 year old girl
  4. There are multiple conflicting accounts of the first vision
  5. There is no DNA evidence that supports the historicity of the Book of Mormon
  6. Past prophetic teachings are sometimes disavowed as being non-doctrinal
  7. LDS Leaders helped organize the Danites, a mafia like paramilitary organization

Each of those 7 items is linked to a recently published “Gospel Topic Essay”. The essays are designed to give faithful answers to unconventional aspects of church history. Unfortunately, these essays provide information that just fifteen years ago, I was told were anti-Mormon lies. Now I am wondering, what is true?

President J Reuben Clark stated:

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: The Church Years [1983], p. 24.)


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3 thoughts on “Oh Say, What is Truth?

  1. “I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview Tuesday . “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.” Many Mormons across social media have reacted with dismay at hearing an LDS apostle reject out of hand the idea of apologizing.

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