“Chapter 23: Eternal Truth,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor (2011), 209–18
“Chapter 23,” Teachings: John Taylor, 209–18
One of John Taylor’s most admirable qualities was his devotion to the truth, no matter what opinion others held. “The praise or censure of the world had little influence over the mind of John Taylor where truth was concerned,” wrote Elder B. H. Roberts. “The more men despised [truth], the more intense seemed his devotion.”2 The events surrounding John Taylor’s conversion to the gospel provide one of the earliest examples of his love of truth.
John Taylor was introduced to the gospel by Parley P. Pratt in Canada. Elder Pratt’s teachings delighted John Taylor and his religious friends, who had similar beliefs concerning such ordinances as baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. However, when Elder Pratt told them about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, many of John Taylor’s friends hesitated to learn more, and some even refused to investigate the Book of Mormon and its teachings. With boldness, John Taylor addressed the group as follows:
“We are here, ostensibly in search of truth. Hitherto we have fully investigated other creeds and doctrines and proven them false. Why should we fear to investigate Mormonism? This gentleman, Mr. Pratt, has brought to us many doctrines that correspond with our own views. … We have prayed to God to send us a messenger, if He has a true Church on earth. Mr. Pratt has come to us … without purse or scrip, as the ancient apostles traveled; and none of us are able to refute his doctrine by scripture or logic. I desire to investigate his doctrines and claims to authority. … If I find his religion true, I shall accept it, no matter what the consequences may be.” John Taylor’s thorough investigation resulted in his baptism on 9 May 1836. He later stated, “I have never doubted any principle of Mormonism since.”3
As a member and leader in the Church, John Taylor could always be relied on to teach and defend the truth. “He proclaimed the gospel in many lands; and as the champion of truth, stood ready to meet all who assailed it; and whether he met his opponents in the forum, before a multitude steeped full of prejudice against him, or in the columns of the public press, he was equally successful in vanquishing them by his powerful statement of the truth.”4
Standing upon its broad platform, encircled by the mantle of truth, the man of God, by faith, peers into the future, withdraws the curtains of eternity, unveils the mystery of the heavens, and through the dark vista of unnumbered years, beholds the purposes of the great Elohim, as they roll forth in all their majesty and power and glory. Thus standing upon a narrow neck of space, and beholding the past, present, and the future, he sees himself an eternal being claiming an affinity with God, a son of God, a spark of Deity struck from the fire of his eternal blaze. He looks upon the world and man, in all their various phases, knows his true interests, and with intelligence imparted by his Father Celestial, he comprehends their origin and destiny. …
His intelligence, lit up by God and followed out, will be expansive as the world and spread through space; his law is the law of love; his rule, the rule of right to all. He loves his neighbor, and he does him good; he loves his God and therefore worships him; he sees the power of truth, which, like the light of God, spreads through all space, illuminates all worlds, and penetrates where men or angels, God or spheres are known; he clings to it. Truth is his helmet, buckler, shield, his rock, defense; his all in time and in eternity. Men call him a fool because he cannot be directed by their folly, nor follow in their erratic, truculent wake. But while they are grasping at shadows, he lays hold of the substance. While they are content with a rickety, sprawling religion, fashionable for a time, but having nothing to do with eternity, and smother the highest, noblest principles of man, he dare acknowledge God; and acknowledging him, he dare obey him and confess that faith which God has given to him. He grasps at all truths, human and divine. He has no darling dogma to sustain or favorite creed to uphold. He has nothing to lose but error, and nothing to gain but truth. He digs, labors, and searches for it as for hidden treasure; and while others are content with chaff and husks of straw, he seizes on the kernel, substance, the gist of all that’s good, and clings to all that will ennoble and exalt the human family. …
Did ancient men of God revel in the truth? So do we. Did they have revelations and visions? So do we. Did they prophesy? So do we. Did God communicate with them? He does with us. Did they prophesy of “the restitution of all things?” [See Acts 3:21.] We say it is at our doors. Did they prophesy of a kingdom of God? We are helping to build it up. Had they the ministering of angels? So have we. Had they prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, and evangelists? So have we. Had they the spirit of prophecy and revelation? So have we. Did they look for the second advent and glorious appearance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? So do we. Did they expect that God would purge the wicked out of the earth and introduce a reign of righteousness? So do we. Did they look for Jesus and the saints to reign on the earth? So do we. We are, in fact, looking for all things that they did; seeking to know all things that they knew, and to bring to pass all things that they prophesied of, the great consummation of which is the restitution of all things; and men may lie and rant and rave; they cannot frustrate the designs of God, nor stop the progress of eternal truth one moment—its course is onward, onward, ONWARD, and it defies opposition. …
The omnipotent power of eternal truth will stand unscathed in the view of gathering hosts, and the nations will know that God rules in the heavens.5
Truth, eternal truth, is the groundwork of the Christian’s hope: it is the only sure rock on which he can build. Forsaking that to support some favourite dogma, he falls into the mazes of infidelity, scepticism, error, and delusion, and is on the highway to destruction. The power of God will always attend those who love the truth and keep it.6
The gospel is calculated to lead us on from truth to truth and from intelligence to intelligence, until that scripture will be fulfilled which declares that we shall see as we are seen and know as we are known [see D&C 76:94], until one will not have to say to another, know ye the Lord, but all shall know Him from the least unto the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34], until the light and intelligence of God shall beam forth upon all, and all shall bask in the sunlight of eternal truth.7
In regard to our religion, I will say that it embraces every principle of truth and intelligence pertaining to us as moral, intellectual, mortal and immortal beings, pertaining to this world and the world that is to come. We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word “all,” comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity. And it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or preconceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be.
We, as Latter-day Saints, believe, first, in the gospel, and that is a great deal to say, for the gospel embraces principles that dive deeper, spread wider, and extend further than anything else that we can conceive. The gospel teaches us in regard to the being and attributes of God. It also teaches us our relationship to that God and the various responsibilities we are under to him as his offspring. It teaches us the various duties and responsibilities that we are under to our families and friends, to the community, to the living and the dead. It unfolds to us principles pertaining to futurity. In fact, according to the saying of one of the old disciples, it “brings life and immortality to light” [see 2 Timothy 1:10], brings us into relationship with God, and prepares us for an exaltation in the eternal world.8
God has revealed unto us great and glorious truths, and He is prepared to reveal more if we will only place ourselves under His guidance and His direction. Let us seek to follow the principle that Jesus inculcated—to do the will of our Father who is in heaven, who said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” [John 5:30.] We are here as much as He was here, and under obligations as He was to do the will of our Heavenly Father. We should subject ourselves to the law of God, the word of God, and the will of God.9
Truth has always been opposed by the children of men, it comes in contact with the corrupt hearts and wicked practices. The Prophets have always been persecuted; and why? because they dared to tell the word of the Lord to the people. Stephen, in speaking on the same subjects, says, “Which of the Prophets have not your forefathers killed who testified before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been the betrayers and murderers?” [See Acts 7:52.] “But in this age,” say the people, “we know they were wicked and we would not have done that.” So said the Jews to Jesus, and yet they crucified him. …
The Lord has restored the Gospel as it existed in the Apostle’s days. This Gospel does not agree with the systems of men, which are conflicting and various; and instead of acknowledging, as honest men, the truths contained in the Bible, which they profess to believe, but, in reality do not, they try to cover over their tottering systems and unscriptural theories, to wrap themselves in their cloak of self-righteousness. … But truth will roll forth; the honest in heart will be aroused from their slumber; the purposes of God will roll forth; the kingdom of God will be established, and … truth will stand proud and erect, … and no power can stay its progress.10
I will now tell you about some of my feelings when I first came into this church. It is a long while ago. When I first heard the gospel, I was compelled to admit there was something reasonable about it. I almost hoped it was not true. “If it is true,” said I, “as an honest man I shall be obliged to obey it, or else I cannot have any confidence in myself.” When I had investigated the subject, and became convinced that it was true, I said, “I am in for it; I must embrace it; I cannot reject the principles of eternal truth.” And I will say, moreover, I don’t know of a time in my life when, if anybody presented a truth that could not be controverted, but I was ready to obey it and I am today.
If any person in the religious world, or the political world, or the scientific world, will present to me a principle that is true, I am prepared to receive it, no matter where it comes from. Well, says one, you believe the Bible? Yes. You believe in the Book of Mormon? Yes. You believe the Book of Doctrine and Covenants? Yes. I believe all that God has ever written or spoken, everything that we have on record, and I am prepared to believe everything that he will communicate to the human family. We profess to believe in all truth, and to be governed by all truth.11
I expected when I came into this church, that I should be persecuted and proscribed. I expected that the people would be persecuted. But I believed that God had spoken, that the eternal principles of truth had been revealed, and that God had a work to accomplish which was in opposition to the ideas, views, and notions of men, and I did not know but it would cost me my life before I got through. … If they killed Jesus in former times, would not the same feeling and influence bring about the same results in these times? I had counted the cost when I first started out, and stood prepared to meet it.12
The Lord, through simple means, is able to take care of and deliver his people, but they must put implicit faith and confidence in him; and when they are crowded into a tight place they must not be afraid to make sacrifice for the sake of maintaining the truth, and all will be well with us whether living or dying, in time or in eternity.13
We are after the truth. We commenced searching for it, and we are constantly in search of it, and so fast as we find any true principle revealed by any man, by God, or by holy angels, we embrace it and make it part of our religious creed.14
A man in search of truth has no peculiar system to sustain, no peculiar dogma to defend or theory to uphold. He embraces all truth, and that truth, like the sun in the firmament, shines forth and spreads its effulgent rays over all creation. If men will divest themselves of bias and prejudice, and prayerfully and conscientiously search after truth, they will find it wherever they turn their attention.15
One great reason why men have stumbled so frequently in many of their researches after philosophical truth is that they have sought them with their own wisdom, and gloried in their own intelligence, and have not sought unto God for that wisdom that fills and governs the universe and regulates all things. That is one great difficulty with the philosophers of the world, as it now exists, that man claims to himself to be the inventor of everything he discovers. Any new law and principle which he happens to discover he claims to himself instead of giving glory to God.16
There is nothing of more value to me than the principles of eternal truth; than the principles of eternal lives; eternal salvation, and eternal exaltations in the kingdom of God. But then it is for us to comprehend them, for if we do not comprehend them, no matter how great the truths, they cannot benefit us.17
We are open for the reception of all truth, of whatever nature it may be, and are desirous to obtain and possess it, to search after it as we would for hidden treasures; and to use all the knowledge God gives to us to possess ourselves of all the intelligence that he has given to others; and to ask at his hands to reveal unto us his will, in regard to things that are the best calculated to promote the happiness and well-being of human society.
If there are any good principles, any moral philosophy that we have not yet attained to, we are desirous to learn them. If there is anything in the scientific world that we do not yet comprehend, we desire to become acquainted with it. If there is any branch of philosophy calculated to promote the well-being of humanity, that we have not yet grasped, we wish to possess ourselves of it. If there is anything pertaining to the rule and government of nations, or politics, if you please, that we are not acquainted with, we desire to possess it. If there are any religious ideas, any theological truths, any principles pertaining to God, that we have not learned, we ask mankind, and we pray God, our Heavenly Father, to enlighten our minds that we may comprehend, realize, embrace, and live up to them as part of our religious faith. Thus our ideas and thoughts would extend as far as the wide world spreads, embracing everything pertaining to light, life, or existence pertaining to this world or the world that is to come. … They would soar after the intelligence of the Gods that dwell in the eternal worlds. They would grasp everything that is good and noble and excellent and happifying and calculated to promote the well-being of the human family.
There is no man nor set of men who have pointed out the pathway for our feet to travel in, in relation to these matters. There are no dogmas nor theories extant in the world that we profess to listen to, unless they can be verified by the principles of eternal truth. We carefully scan, investigate, criticize, and examine everything that presents itself to our view, and so far as we are enabled to comprehend any truths in existence, we gladly hail them as part and portion of the system with which we are associated.18
If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it; I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it; whether it is popular or unpopular, truth, eternal truth, I wish to float in and enjoy.19
What sources of eternal truth do we have? How can you improve the way you respond to these sources?
How does the gospel lead us “from truth to truth”? What changes have you noticed in your life as you learn and accept new truths?
What sacrifices have you or others you know made for the sake of truth? What blessings came because of this?
Many of God’s people have died for the truth. How can we live for the truth with the same dedication and devotion?
Why do you think eternal truth is frequently opposed by the world in general? What can we do to help children recognize and accept eternal truth? What can we do as families to strengthen our commitment to the truth?
Why is it important to continually increase our understanding of the truth? In what ways can we follow President Taylor’s counsel to continue to search for truth? How can we discern truth from error?
What are some gospel truths that you find especially inspiring and strengthening? How can you as a member of the Church help others understand and embrace truth?