Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Many Perspectives, One Truth

I had the privilege to attend BYU. I say "privilege" because, despite the frequent reminders that the poor little old ladies in third world countries were paying for 70% of my tuition and the infrequent truths to BYU stereotypes, I was able to take classes where it was okay to talk about God and how whatever subject I was studying at the moment tied in to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Occasionally, the teachers would use some aspect of the subject to teach a gospel truth.

One such moment was in art class. We often sketched still lifes of styrofoam, fruit, random office supplies. After one such session, the instructor had us put all of our sketches up side by side to compare and critique. After we were done, he pointed out that all of the sketches were completely different, though the arrangement we sketched was the same. Even if all of our skills in sketching had been equal, some sketches showed parts of the arrangement that others couldn't see. In some sketches, entire elements of the arrangement were missing because they could not see them. He compared it to truth, and our search for truth.

There is an old saying I've heard in many variations, "There are always three sides: yours, mine, and the truth." When I was going through counseling to start me on the path to recovery, it was pointed out to me a that my perspective was not any less accurate than another's. That has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

But, I have begun to see that although there are many perspectives on any given situation (whether you are talking about describing an event or about religious truths), there is only one truth. And while I may not be completely accurate in describing that truth, neither is anyone else. I don't have to take their perspective as somehow more true than my own.

I am under the impression that most people are more likely to believe what they see over what others see, but the struggle for me has been the opposite. Either way, it is important to acknowledge other perspectives, to admit that others might see something you don't, but to rely on your own perspective in the end.

Convincing someone else of your perspective should not be about getting them to believe you, it should be about leading them to see what you see. Taking them by the hand, if you will, and leading them over to your side of the arrangement. Of course, they have to want to come.

For while we must take some things on faith for a time, the Lord has promised us that eventually, should we wish to understand, we will be shown the truth.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:31-32

"And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
Moroni 10:5

The trick then becomes to be brave enough to face the truth. It is easy to be afraid of what we will find.


  1. This reminds me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind men is touching a part of the elephant - one the ear, one a leg, etc. - and as they describe the elephant to one another they can't recognize the elephant the others describe. And yet each is touching the elephant.

    That's a good parable. But, I think there is another parable equally apt. The blind men all reach out to touch the elephant. One touches the elephant's ear, one is swung wildly about by its tail, one is touching an ostrich, one is touching a toy elephant, one is touching a rat, and one is touching himself. And yet each thinks he is touching the elephant.

  2. That's a great object lesson. I'm gunna' have to steal it.

  3. A very good metaphor for the truth. I agree with it completely. Thank you.

  4. Wonderful example, SR. Thanks!

  5. This is what I have been trying for a long time to explain to people when they want to force me in seeing things "the right way" (their way which is in total agreement with the leaders' view and therefore with God's so it is the only and true right one).
    I don't mean to enlighten them. I mean to have them give me a break.
    It does not work. If you have an idea on how to deal with them I'll be happy to hear it.


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