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Discerning Truth When You Literally Can't Believe Your Eyes

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

This week's readings in Come Follow Me struck me as especially timely, given an article I read as the week began about the sophistication of deception in a technological age. For some time now, the Brethren have been warning us that we're fast approaching an era when it won't be possible to stand on borrowed light. Lately, I've been struck with the difficulty that earnest people of goodwill have in being able to figure out what's true. For example, I have friends who think COVID-19 is some elaborate hoax that's being perpetrated for political gain. And that the murder of George Floyd was faked. Conspiracy theories abound. And the problem with conspiracy theories is that

  1. You can't test them (since the conspirators are believed to have covered their tracks and bought off witnesses) and

  2. Liars and conspirators are among the first to accuse others of engaging in deception and conspiracies.

Now, to make matters even worse, we have deepfakes. This new technology allows people to create convincing videos of events that never happened. They can claim to catch celebrities, politicians, or religious leaders doing or saying outrageous things, and provide visual "proof" of the event. And it's all fake. We are at a place where you can't necessarily trust even video evidence.

So, how do we know what's true?

By applying the principles of discernment that we learn in the scriptures. And this week, the accounts of Korihor and the Zoramites highlight the principle of questioning what appeals to our carnal mind.

Korihor had a personal spiritual experience. He was visited by what he took to be an "angel." True, the angel's message didn't hold up to any critical evaluation. He said that there was no God [Alma 30:53], no sin [30:17], and no life after death [30:18], yet called Korihor to "go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray" (30:53). Astray from what? If there's no sin, why does it even matter? And if there's no God and no life after death, who exactly is this angel? What does he have to do with man? Why does he even care?

These inconsistencies don't seem to have occurred to Korihor. Why not? Because the message was "pleasing to the carnal mind." I'm guessing it made him feel superior to others, legitimized his feelings of rebellion and commissioned him to become something of a celebrity. So he followed the "angel's" instruction on how and what to teach. It appears he may not have actually believed what he was teaching until after the message brought him "success," probably wealth and fame.

It's interesting that in the next chapter, we read about another grand deception of the Zoramites. They believe in God, but deny the doctrine of Christ. Like Korihor, they delight in a feeling of superiority. They thank God for his holiness in electing "us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell."

My takeaway: one of the ways I can discern between truth and falsehood is by paying attention to what part of me responds to the message. Is it my pride? My insecurities? Does it make me feel puffed up or hopeless or any other of those emotions that tend to bring me under the influence of my adversary? In that case, it is probably false. Or does it appeal to my humility, soften and tenderize me, give me courage and steady determination? Does it "enlarge my soul" and "enlighten my understanding" (32:28)? In that case, I can be assured that the message is based on truth because it helps me to be more true.

What do you think? How do you discern between truth and falsehood in a world where vast numbers of people have drastically differing interpretations of reality?

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