How Can We Find Truth in a Sea of Information?
April 2023

Digital Only: Young Adults

How Can We Find Truth in a Sea of Information?

We are surrounded by misinformation and deception. How can we tell what’s true?

man typing on a computer and looking confused

Have you ever seen something online and wondered if it was actually true? Maybe it was a claim about a diet or fitness program. Or perhaps something about politics or health care. Maybe something about the Church’s history or teachings. Although “righteousness and truth” do “sweep the earth as with a flood” (Moses 7:62) in our day, we are also drowning in rumors, myths, misinformation, and deception.

So what are we to do?

If we want to find truth today—the “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24)—then we must develop spiritual sensitivity and mental habits for evaluating the information we encounter. Here are a few ways we can do that:

Stop and Think

Advertisers, politicians, and social media environments do everything they can to evoke quick and unthinking responses—a social media like or share, an emotion such as laughter or outrage, an ideological declaration to “stand with” or “stand against,” a craving to possess or consume a product.

Because most of the information that engulfs us is not intended to prompt thoughtful consideration, we must develop the self-awareness and self-discipline to stop and think. We can exercise our agency and listen for the Holy Spirit by pausing to ask, “Is this trying to persuade me to do good or to lead me away from the light of Christ?”

Become Aware with “Sniff Tests”

A second helpful habit involves healthy skepticism as we try to “know good from evil” (Moroni 7:15). Prophets have long warned us to be wary of deception and false information, and the Holy Ghost can warn of danger (see Topical Guide, “Beware”; “Warn, Warnings”). Like the Lamanite queen in the Book of Mormon who asked Ammon about her husband Lamoni’s health (see Alma 19:1–12), we do not need to be a medical professional to tell if something stinks or not. We may not have all the facts or a complete understanding, but we can perceive when others do not possess them either.

Most of today’s misinformation comes packaged with fonts, colors, images, and other branding that attempt to look legitimate. Don’t be fooled by a site’s domain name, an official-looking logo, a nice layout, or the simple presence of citations. More important than a source’s presentation is its potential to help us “do good continually” (Moroni 7:13). Several warning signs can serve as “sniff tests,” or clues, that something is not right:

Either/or options and polarized issues. One common tactic is to oversimplify the nuances and complexities of issues by reducing them into polarized either/or propositions. These oversimplifications might:

  • Present “both sides” (when the issues actually have more than two dimensions).

  • Urge to vote for only one political party (not the other).

  • Encourage you to be loyal to one brand only (and buy all of its accompanying accessories).

  • Use exaggerations or superlatives such as always or never.

  • Pressure you to act right now, before time runs out!

Manipulated evidence. Another tactic involves stretching, ignoring, or hiding evidence. The antidote is a simple request: “Show me the evidence.” Deceivers regularly:

  • Present evidence that is vague or not clearly stated.

  • Select only a narrow range of favorable evidence.

  • Emphasize that they “let the facts speak for themselves.”

  • Offer that “it could not be a coincidence.”

  • Present real evidence that has been taken out of context.

No evidence at all. Often there is no evidence presented, no sources given, no expertise cited. Instead, the messenger appeals to other things, such as:

  • Authority or power (by quoting someone well known who “says so”).

  • Emotion (with melodramatic music or tear-jerking stories).

  • The process (“I did a lot of research”).

  • Fear (“If we allow this, then that will surely follow”).

Examine Closely

The Apostle Paul encouraged Saints to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). That advice is still applicable today! Whether you suspect that something does not “smell” right or are simply pausing to think twice, five criteria can help you sift out the best information.

Ask yourself, is this information:

  • Accurate? Is the information correct and presented in the appropriate context? Does the same information exist on other sites, or is it covered by additional media outlets?

  • Authentic? Does the information actually come from the place the site says it does?

  • Reliable? Is the creator of the content consistently reliable? What are the objectives and funding sources? (The internet has an official registry that can help you identify the owner of every website.)

  • Fair? Does the information sympathetically represent the viewpoints of multiple (especially opposing) perspectives? Or does it primarily emphasize emotion, polarization, and strangeness? (One tactic known as anomaly hunting calls out contradictions or questions, often presenting them in a long list that makes them seem strange or hypocritical.)

  • Comprehensive? Does it seek out all accurate facts, authentic sources, and reliable stories? Does it consider a breadth of perspectives and interpretations and present information logically? Do the creators admit that they do not know or understand everything?

Evaluating for all five criteria can help you be protected against false information and hold fast to the truth. The internet can be a powerful tool to help. With the information in question visible in one window, open additional windows to search for specific details that will help you answer the questions posed above.

The habits of pausing to think, being aware of distortions, and examining closely also apply to information about the Church, which has long been a subject of misinformation. Even Joseph Smith prepared one of his histories to respond to false reports by “evil-disposed and designing persons” (Joseph Smith—History 1:1).

Such misinformation and errors have only multiplied today! Does your social media feed contain conflicting information about the Church’s teachings or positions on current issues? Have you ever seen a statement by a Church leader that seemed taken out of context? Have you ever had to pause and ask yourself, “Is that really what the Church teaches?” Fortunately, there are also criteria to help us identify true doctrine.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed that “no definitive list exists that correctly identifies and classifies all gospel doctrines and principles.”1 We therefore look for information that has been:

  • Sustained in the standard works.

  • Taught repeatedly over time by the Lord’s prophets and apostles.

  • Confirmed by the Holy Ghost.

“The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve,” explained Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many.”2

Discerning Truth Is a Gift and a Skill

Remember, the Lord wants to help us find truth and know for ourselves “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). During His ministry, He taught a parable about fish that applies to our information age. He spoke of “a net, that was cast into the sea.” When it was retrieved, it “gathered of every kind” until “it was full” and was then drawn to shore and sorted, “the good into vessels, but [the bad cast] away” (Matthew 13:47–48).

Today we are surrounded by information, good and bad, truth and lies. The ability to discern good information is one of the most important skills for us to develop. And the good news is that it is both a skill that we can acquire and a gift of the Spirit that we can seek (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:23).

President Russell M. Nelson taught that “to discern means to sift, to separate, or to distinguish.” It is a “supernal gift” that “allows members of the Church to see things not visible and to feel things not tangible.”3 It is also a thinking skill that we can improve through practice to develop a keen eye, an analytical mind, and good judgment. By combining inspiration with intelligence, we can find and follow truth.


  1. David A. Bednar, Increase in Learning: Spiritual Patterns for Obtaining Your Own Answers (2011), 157–58.

  2. Neil L. Andersen, “Trial of Your Faith,” Liahona, Nov. 2012, 41.

  3. Russell M. Nelson, “Ask, Seek, Knock,” Liahona, Nov. 2009, 83.

  4. Neil L. Andersen, “Joseph Smith,” Liahona, Nov. 2014, 29.