How Can We Know Truth?

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Overwhelmed in this modern information explosion, how can we know the truth?

How can we know what is true? Every day we are constantly bombarded with advertising making promising claims. Are they true? We see the news supposedly reporting objectively on reality. But just how much is accurate, and how much is “spin” or propaganda? We hear of scientific studies about health which apparently establish that either some vitamin is not effective or that some new wonder drug is. But who sponsored the studies and how unbiased were the scientists when they knew who was paying their salary? We see politicians using science to back their claims of global warming which just happen to match their political agenda. Religious claims are made of revelation and miraculous healings. But even in the scriptures we read that in the last days there will be false Christs and deceivers, so how can we know just who is telling the truth? And now we enter a period of presidential elections where we will hear the promises of politicians. But how many of their words are true, and how many simply calculated response to polls about what the voters want to hear? And then we realize that history books were written by the conquerors, so we wonder just how accurate even they are? Whether it be in science, religion, politics, history, medicine, or even hearing just one side of a friend’s reasons for divorce, the question arises: How can we know the truth?

Ask yourself, just how much truth have you learned in your life? How much are you 100% sure is correct? What if it were announced that aliens from a much more advanced civilization had landed, and they would now become our new source of truth? Are you well enough founded to detect when even a more technologically advanced civilization is wrong? What if they were all atheists? What if a friend gives you a book that was “channelled” from an “advanced spirit” through a spiritual medium? Would you accept what it says, or do you know enough with certainty to tell when the message is false? Can brilliant university professors be wrong? How do you feel when a media poll announces that just about everyone else disagrees with you? What do you actually know with certainty? Is there any truth you are willing to die for?

This article summarizes some personal lessons learned in attempting to know truth. It is an article that was begun two years ago, but soon abandoned when no sure-fire way to recognize truth surfaced. That is still the case, but now it seems acceptable to at least share a variety of techniques, all of which seem to work sometimes. By applying several of the methods to a given problem, one can hopefully have a very good chance of actually learning truth. Let’s try starting from a clean slate, knowing nothing, and go from there.

Infant Learning

When an individual enters this plane of existence, that infant appears to know virtually nothing. It needs to learn to focus its eyes to learn to see, to recognize sounds, and to figure out what hunger, pain, dreams, and a host of other experiences mean. Let us try to put ourselves back into the position of a newborn. How did we learn to know truth at that time?

First of all, most of us arrived here with several senses. These seem to be useful in learning truth, or at least, learning how to interact with what is apparent reality. Let’s review some of these to assess their usefulness.

Five Senses

Sight is an amazing ability that most people have. By merely awakening and opening our eyes, we can come in contact with something called “light” which brings us signals from other objects in our universe. We can see Mommy, a baby crib, and distant stars. This ability is so useful that it leads to proverbs like “Seeing is believing.” Is sight a guaranteed source of truth? Not at all. We are all familiar with optical illusions, and with magicians who deceive us easily into thinking we see things that are not reality at all. Photographs and holograms can make us think we are seeing something that is only an image of an object. Nevertheless, sight is clearly one of the best ways to know about the world we live in.
Similar remarks could be made about hearing, smelling, tasting, and touch. These abilities along with sight are often called the “five senses.” Each is useful in a different way. Each seems reliable in the vast majority of cases, but each can be fooled. So how can we know truth with certainty?

Multiple witnesses

This brings us to an extremely important technique which is useful from the courtroom to scientific or religious inquiry. It has been called the “Law of Multiple Witnesses” [1]. It basically asserts that several independent witnesses are better than only one. Let’s consider the five senses. Little children are famous for wanting to touch everything and put things in their mouth to taste. They seem to be trying to use as many of their senses as possible to understand their new reality.

Think about a mirror. We are so used to how mirrors work that we trust our lives daily to what see in a rear view mirror. Have you ever watched a kitten discover a mirror for the first time? At first it thinks it sees another cat, but it learns otherwise. How does it learn that the image is not a real cat? Is it not because it soon learns from its sense of touch that a mirror is hard and cold and smooth, not soft and warm and fuzzy?[2] If we had only the sense of sight, it would be much more difficult to distinguish between a mirror and the “real thing.”

In fact, if you want to add to your own mirror experience, you might want to buy the “Magic Illusion” shown at right in which the mirror image is brought out in front of the mirror. In the illustration, the little car is only an image, and when the lady tries to pick it up, nothing is there at all.[3] Thus, when two or more senses disagree, we may have to choose between them, but when they agree we have a much better chance of finding “truth.”

Elementary Learning

How does the infant continue to learn, after it is familiar with the basic skills of the five senses? If the child has loving parents, then experiments show that it can feel their love. This seems to be separate from the five senses of just feeling warmth, seeing smiles, etc. After one learns to hear, usually there is a verbal language to be learned. And then the formal education begins with whatever the parents think they have learned about life and wish to pass on, and also usually what the state also wants to pass on.

First Teachings

How is the child to know if it is being taught false principles? What if it is being taught to hate children of another color? What if it is being taught a completely false doctrine? How can a little one know the truth? Here there seems to be a nearly insurmountable problem. The child basically has its inborn senses to recognize truth. But in many cases, these senses are not useful in knowing about what is being taught, or the parents would have detected the falsehood themselves. Often they are only passing on what they themselves were taught. A little child is a very believing creature, and tends to accept whatever it is taught by parents, friends, or the TV as truth. This is a huge responsibility for all adults interacting with children not to betray their trust.

Intuition

Most people also seem to have one or more additional senses to the five described above, which have been called intuition, a “sixth sense,” or extra-sensory perception (ESP). Modern research suggests that there is a whole host of such senses which have been named clairvoyance, remote viewing, precognition, and mental telepathy.[4] Many children have natural skills in several of these areas before they learn in school that such things are impossible.[5]

Conscience

Another innate sense which even children have is an innate sense of right and wrong. The parents teach some concepts here, but to me it appears that even very small children have some sense of right and wrong, even if it might go against what they have been taught. This sense is commonly called a “conscience.” It appears that this is what the scriptures refer to as “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” [6]. Learning to listen to one’s conscience is an excellent way to know the truth, especially the truth about what is right and wrong, and what we personally should do in any given situation. If we don’t like what we hear and begin to view our conscience as an enemy and repeatedly attempt to squelch it, we probably have little chance of finding truth.

Teenage Learning

Then a wonderful thing happens when the child becomes a teenager. Something in the mind turns on and they begin to question their parents. This is a great hope for mankind, because it might just be that the parents have been dead wrong all along! And if the parents were right, then hopefully the teenager will find out independently and become another witness for truth.

Parents and good teachers are again extremely important in these years. The individual has awakened to realize the possible folly of blindly accepting statements on authority alone. They want real (i.e. logically or scientifically convincing) answers, not a dogmatic statement whether it be from parents or priests. They won’t question the scientific answers from their teachers so much because that is often the very kind of answers they are seeking. At first, teenagers are not rebelling against authority as much as questioning. But if the authority figure lacks convincing answers, then true rebellion can occur because the questioner feels he has been duped and taught nonsense.

Teenagers are, however, at a very vulnerable age. If they reject their parents teachings, the are often wide open to be taught by forces of evil, who are all too eager to indoctrinate them with the enslaving habits of pornography, sex, drugs and crime.

Okay, so now we are past the teenage years. You have found out that much of what you learned in high school was just not true, and the government educational system looks even worse today. And, having passed through the teenage years, you have learned as did Mark Twain, that your parents got much smarter after you turned 21. So what are the methods you now use to learn the real truth? Here are some that seem to work for me; you might have found your own.

Left Brain Learning

Our brain has two halves. The left half is more logical and rational and the right half is more intuitive and emotional. The left hemisphere uses step-by-step thinking processes, whereas the right-side tends to do “all-at-once” processing, like looking at a picture.[7] For the purposes of this paper, let us divide all learning and discovering truth into two such categories and look first at left brain learning.

From Known to Unknown

One excellent method, and often the only available method is to review the “known” carefully before branching out into the unknown. In a way that is how all learning is done. The child first learns from his senses, then from people, and every new truth builds in some way upon earlier ones. Sometimes a new truth is so powerful, that it is necessary to question or even replace earlier beliefs which now no longer appear true. This is always a risky process because you might reject a real truth for a lie. Hence this article is being written to help recognize real truth.
I used this technique constantly in math and physics classes, but it can work to solve almost any kind of problem. When faced with a problem that just seems too difficult, simply solve an easier but similar one instead for which you can be absolutely sure you are correct. Then gradually make modifications until you have solved the hard problem.

Logic

Have you ever had a formal course in logic? When I was in elementary school, my mother gave me her father’s book on logic and to this day I credit it with helping me learn how to think rationally. The other big help was a high school course in Euclidean geometry. These two classes have been dropped from the curriculum of most schools, and many people have only been taught what to think and not how to think. In fact, I still have that logic book, published in 1873, and the author bemoaned that logic had already been dropped from school curricula.[8] Let’s consider some simple logical methods.

Deductive Logic. One kind of logic uses “syllogisms,” which usually contain three lines: a general premise, a particular statement, and a conclusion. For example, “All dogs are mammals” is a general statement or premise. “Rover is a dog” is cites a particular example. Then logic dictates that the conclusion follows: “Therefore, Rover is a mammal.” That syllogism is valid, meaning that if the first two statements are true, then the third must also be true. It is “deduced” from the first two in the sense that it subtracts out a particular truth from a larger truth. A course in logic teaches to recognize whether syllogisms are valid or not.

Inductive Logic. The question arises how to know if the general premise of a syllogism is true. One method is called “inductive reasoning.” It deals with generalizing the big truth from many little truths, and it is not as certain. For example, when one looks carefully at several snowflakes, it is noticed that they all differ from each other significantly. The general principle is induced that “Every snowflake is different.” That may or may not be true because no one has verified it by looking at every snowflake, but sometimes it is the best we can do.

Question All New Premises

One way to evaluate any new general premise that you hear is simply to ask yourself, “Exactly what does that mean?” and “Is that true?” Remember, once you accept the general premise, then logic demands that you accept any correctly deduced conclusion. Ask, “What are this person’s qualifications to say this? Do they have a bias? Do they at least appear to be objective? Do they discuss several sides of an issue? Can you catch them in a deliberate lie?” One useful technique when listening to an obviously biased source, such as a salesman, is to go to a competitor and announce that you’re about to buy the other guy’s product, and ask if there is any reason you shouldn’t. Then go back to the first one and tell him what you were told about the weakness of their product. Try this and you’ll be amazed that some salesman are indeed honest. Once I actually had both men tell me the same list of strengths and weaknesses of both products.

Let’s consider, for example, the proposition that “All life is of equal value.” The first time you hear such an idea, you could ask, “Do they mean all life, or perhaps just animal life? Do they mean that each individual existence is as important as every other? If so, then is that really true? How do they know? Was a scientific experiment done to prove it? If so, just who did it and who funded it (possible bias)? In this case, an experiment does not seem possible, so perhaps they are quoting a great authority. If so, who would be an authority on all life? Does this speaker have an ulterior motive where he will get me to accept what sounds like a reasonable principle in order to deduce something that fits his political agenda? Is this a religious belief? Or is it just a speculation that occurred to the speaker which sounded plausible?”

Perhaps because of my scientific training, I try to question everything I read and hear. It is a highly recommended practice. You don’t have to argue with people, but this method sure helps to understand what point is being made and just how valid you think it is. To question is not to reject. For example, although I believe the scriptures contain words from God, I question everything I read there because that process greatly helps me understand what is being said. Common questions are, “Was that translated correctly? What did those words mean in the original language? Does it refer to just this one case, or to the general case? What is the context? Are there other scriptures which agree or disagree with this one?”

Reasoning from Extremes

One kind of reasoning can be very useful to quickly test a general premise, such as, “All birds can fly.” Test the proposition on extreme cases, such as ostriches (extremely big) or baby birds (extremely young). If you can find even one counter example, then the proposition is not true. In our example, “All life is of equal value” we can look at the extreme cases. Is the life of a spider as important as man? How about a weed? Or an amoeba?

Thought Experiments

Another method that Albert Einstein popularized is the thought experiment, meaning to just think about what would happen if you did an experiment. It is a really low-budget method that can add tremendous insight. Let’s try it on the example of evaluating that same premise, “All life is of equal value.”

Suppose you were in a shopping mall when a gunman began killing everyone in sight. You are behind him as he is reloading. Would you tackle him to try to prevent more killing? Now suppose it happened in a pet shop, and he was shooting all the animals possible. Would you risk your life to stop him? Suppose you discovered your neighbor hunts deer and then eats them? Suppose you saw your neighbor setting a mousetrap with the obvious intent to kill? Suppose you saw your neighbor spraying poison on the bugs in his garden? Suppose you saw your neighbor walking on his lawn, mercilessly crushing and breaking blades of grass underfoot? Or worse, what if you saw him actually eating the cooked, lifeless body of a chicken and a cob of corn at a fast food restaurant? And finally, suppose you saw him taking an antibiotic in order to purposely kill millions of helpless bacteria?

Note that in this example, the thought experiments are combined with the extreme reasoning method. It was also combined with a test of “value,” namely, whether you thought it was worth risking your life or perhaps reporting your neighbor to the police. Thought experiments are not the final word. Einstein also suggested real experiments which indeed verified those in his mind, but he felt the thought experiments greatly helped clarify his thinking process.

Scientific Method

Before the renaissance, many scholars were content with simply reasoning about how nature should be, without actually checking to see if they were correct. Then the scientific method was developed which is a systemic method of seeking truth. It is very simple in principle, but even many modern scientists overlook important steps. Basically, it is to 1) make an observation of nature, 2) propose an explanation and then 3) use that explanation to predict the result of a future observation. One key point is that if the prediction fails, then the hypothesis is “falsified” meaning that is was disproved. In that case it is necessary either to 1) reject the hypothesis entirely, 2) modify the hypothesis and try a new prediction, or sometimes 3) reject the observation as a bad data point. The best theories are based on repeatable experiments which give positive results time after time. A big red flag of suspicion arises if repeated failures are rejected as bad data points, or if the scientist claims that the negative results are inconclusive and that more research is necessary. If that is really the case, then the scientist must announce it before the experiment is done, not after the theory is falsified. Any theory which cannot be falsified is not a scientific theory. It might still be true, it is just not verifiable with the scientific method. It is also important to note that no scientific experiment ever leads to knowing the absolute truth of a theory. In principle, there could always be a new experiment which could falsify it.

Layers of Truth

Truth can be like an onion, with many layers. We might dig down a little with research, and find some truth and think we have it all. Then we might dig deeper and find much more, which might even reverse the original conclusion. And then we can dig deeper. There can be a tendency to think we know all of the truth when we have only scratched the surface, so be ready to dig deeper.

Context

All meaning comes from context. The letters of the words in this article only have meaning in the context of the English language of this century. If one looks at one verse of scripture, or one sentence out of the context in which it was written, the meaning can be reversed. Sometimes those wishing to deceive purposely quote out of context.

Let’s consider an example of both “layers of truth” and “context.” Consider the phrase that we have all heard ad nauseam as an excuse to ban religion from all public life: “Separation of Church and State.” When that phrase is quoted by itself, the implication is that it must be found in the U.S. constitution. When we did deeper, we find that there is no such phrase there, and that for the first hundred and fifty years of this nation, the Christian religion was enthusiastically encouraged by government. In fact, six of the first thirteen states had a state religion when the constitution was ratified and several states required voters to be Christian.[9] All we find in the constitution is that the First Amendment provided that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Then we dig deeper and find that Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in 1947 was the first to state that “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state.” Where did he get that? He was quoting Thomas Jefferson, who used it in a letter of 1802 to the Danbury Baptists. Then we dig deeper and find the context of the letter was that Jefferson was writing to reassure those who were afraid that the federal government might try to interfere with the rights of freedom of religion, which they had fought so hard for. Jefferson knew they were familiar with Roger William’s allegory where the church is compared to a garden that is protected by a wall from the surrounding wilderness. In that context he wrote that the constitution provided that wall to separate the church (garden) from the state (savageness of the federal government).[8] Thus we see that by quoting the sentence out of the context, precisely the opposite meaning is understood.

Right Brain Learning

There are several methods of encountering truth which rely more heavily on intuition and feeling, and also seeing the relation between different pieces. The right brain can process many pieces of information at once, whereas the left is best at looking at things in a series one at a time. One important point here is that there are two kinds of “feeling” which are different and sometimes confused. There is emotional feeling and intuitive feeling. Our emotions are our motivators. When we feel sympathy, we may wish to help the afflicted. That is not learning truth at all; it is being motivated. On the other hand, the intuition (or ESP) feeling refers to sensations such as, “I feel peaceful and good about going into this business venture,” or “I feel this salesman is lying. I don’t trust him.” In attempting to discover truth, it is essential not to let the emotions be a factor. Wanting something to be true does not make it true, but only clouds your perception of reality. Now let us look at some systematic methods of right brain learning.

Draw a Picture

One method that has proven of much worth to me in solving problems is to always try to either mentally picture it, or actually draw an illustration of it. This was especially useful when solving (left-brain) math problems. Drawing a picture got my right brain involved and invariably helped me understand what the meaning of the mathematical symbols was. The problem could be solved by simply applying step-by-step procedures, but when it was finished one might have no idea what it meant. It would be like reading the words of a book one by one but not understanding the meaning.

Pattern Matching

When you see something new that seems to fit a known pattern, it can often be very useful in understanding it. If there are several bank robberies in a short period all by someone using similar techniques and answering the same description, then they probably were done by the same person. But then again, maybe is was just a chance coincidence that so many things were in common. Any time the pattern matching method is used to prove a relationship, one must consider the probability that the match was due to chance. Usually this is simple, because the laws of chance are fairly well understood. But sometimes it can be very difficult to calculate. One example of this is in the so-called “Bible Codes.” Hidden words were found by reading equally spaced Hebrew letters in the Old Testament. The proposed code was a precise pattern. Were the words due to blind chance or not? It was a sticky enough problem that a reputable statistics journal printed the paper statistically showing that it was not due to chance, and then a later paper refuted that conclusion.[10]

The Big Picture

When someone presents a new, somewhat isolated fact, ask, “How does that fit into my understanding of everything? Should I change anything I do, such as how I eat, or how I treat my fellow man? Does it require me to modify my belief system of how the universe is? If so, can I reject the new idea as false or has my entire world view been false? If it is a true principle, can I apply this knowledge in a different area that matches the same pattern?”

An example might be that when you see your neighbor being sued, you think he is stupid to simply pay the money without a court battle. You are about to instruct him in the fine art of litigation, when the Savior’s words come to mind, “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also” [11]. Suddenly you realize that this one isolated event did not fit into your world view, but that it should have, and so you repent and change you view to be more like that of the Savior.

Dreams

Are dreams just the result of too much pepperoni on the pizza? Many people, both ancient and modern, looked at dreams as a method of communication from your inner self to your conscious mind, or even as being from God [12]. They often appear to contain warnings. Here we are not talking about the more trivial dreams, which might just be sorting out yesterday’s activities to see if there are any lessons learned, but the kind of lucid dream where you wake up saying, “That was so real!” It is hard to know how important any given dream might be, but there is evidence that some warning dreams have been heeded and apparently saved lives. If so, then they appear to be one method of learning the truth in time to be useful, and to actually change the future from what might have been.

Learning from Nature

One form of pattern matching which can work for the atheist and believer alike is to learn from watching nature. One thinks he is learning the lessons from billions of years of trial and error and the other from the mind of God, but both see wisdom.[13] Many of our inventions from vaccination to velcro came from having seen it first in nature.[14] One application of this principle is to compare even “scientific” discoveries to the higher standard of nature. For example, when someone tells me that it has been discovered that eggs are bad to eat, I’m very skeptical when I see every kind eaten in nature by a wide variety of animals. On the other hand, one must be cautious here because sometimes many animals are better equipped than we are. For example, many animals eat grass, but cows have extra stomachs to digest the cellulose which man cannot digest. This rule must also be modified when man has changed the product. For example, all mammal babies drink milk, but it has not been homogenized, pasteurized and filled with growth hormones. So when chemical companies try to sell their own formula for babies’ milk, it doesn’t take rocket science to know that there is no way it could be as good as breast-feeding. Our eyes have developed perfectly to see in sunlight, so when someone tries to sell you sunglasses, claiming that the sun is bad for your eyes, can you detect the obvious falseness of their claim? And when doctors proudly announce that tonsils are useless, one must realize that of course that only means they have not yet discovered their purpose. Be skeptical before paying that same doctor to remove them as was the craze in my youth.

One more example from nature has been very important in the computer industry. When do nerve cells send the message to the brain to get your hand off that hot stove? It turns out that the message is not sent until several nerve cells all sense “hot” at about the same time. In other words, our bodies seem to know that any one cell could misfire and indicate heat when there is none. This is akin to any one sense being fooled. But the chances of that are very low because normally the cells function correctly. The laws of probability imply that it would be rare indeed for many cells in the same area all to misfire at the same time, so that the combined witness of many cells is almost certainly correct. It is only then that the message of pain is sent. This is an example of the Law of Witnesses being applied in nature. This principle is called “redundancy” in computer science and has greatly reduced the number of errors due to any one part of a computer malfunctioning.

By Their Fruits

One method of knowing truth is to look for the pattern of just what are the fruits of the words and actions and deeds of those professing to know truth. The Savior was accused of doing miracles by the power of Satan. He taught that if his listeners wanted to know if his words came from God, then they should simply try obeying them and they would know [15]. Good fruit comes from good trees and bad fruit from bad trees [16]. Thus, if a man claims to be a prophet, look at the what fruits his church produces. If it is mass murder or suicide that is a big red flag that something is amiss. If the prophet teaches to kill the innocent, then you must ask yourself if his god is the same as your God. But if the fruits are faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity [17], then there was probably much truth in the revelation.

This principle applies to all areas of knowledge. For example, what are the fruits of “no-fault divorce” legislation? It was passed with the hope of liberating mistreated wives. But the fruit of that law has been to devastate the children, who were overlooked in the original discussions. Thus, the fruit of divorce is bitter indeed, which raises the question of why we do not reverse such laws.

Authority

There are many areas where we tend to rely on an expert in the field because the subject is beyond our personal experience or because we feel the authority knows more. Most of the questions at the beginning of this article on how to know what is true are really asking whether we should believe what authorities have told us. Here it is extremely important to pick a truly competent authority. Several questions can be asked, such as “Why should I believe him? Does he have authentic credentials? Does he have experience in this field? Does he have a bias which could cause him to lie? Can I get a second opinion? Does he have a good track record of honesty and competence? Has he actually done what he is teaching?” If the person fails this last question, it can nullify otherwise good credentials. For example, most of the professors in universities who teach elementary education have never taught in an elementary school. Some people who write books on edible wild plants include many which they have never eaten themselves. Should you put your life in their hands?

Do you know a higher authority? Do you have an accepted standard of truth in your life such as the scriptures that you turn to for authority? If not, then ask yourself what do you consider the highest authority?

No matter what the answers to these questions, you must make a decision whether or not to trust this authority. If the logical approaches don’t decide it, then you often must base your choice on intuition. If you do, make sure that your “feeling” is intuitive and not emotional. If this authority is appealing to our emotions, that is a big red flag that the facts may not back up what is being said.

Let’s go back to the proposition that “all life is of equal value” from the example above. Christians will remember that the Savior said that a man is worth many sparrows [18]. And he said that not all men are of equal worth, for those who have lost their savour are “good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men” [19] For me, these are more authoritative words than from any other source. Man was created in the image of God and given dominion over the entire animal kingdom [20], which implies that man is the crowning achievement of the creation.

So in this example, we have both (left-brain) reasoning and a trusted (right-brain) authority agreeing that NOT all life is of equal value. When both halves of the brain come to the same conclusion, we can have much more confidence in the correctness of the conclusion.

Emperor’s New Clothes

There are a lot of times we just need to use common sense, especially the innate wisdom of a child. Have you ever seen a painting that could have been done by a five-year-old, or perhaps was done by a can of worms, and told that it is great art? Have you seen the first place ribbon on that painting, and then found out that traditional beautiful paintings that took years of practice to perfect needed skills were not even allowed into the contest? And then you were told that you just we not educated enough to appreciate it, but that the great intellects agree that this is a masterpiece? We too have seen such garbage masquerade as art, and we feel our five-year-old son summarized the problem well. After looking at a painting at a university art exhibit that required less skill than he had, he exclaimed in wonder, “And they even framed it!”

Revelation

In addition to intuition, conscience and dreams, there are other types of revelation which come directly from God and can reveal truth. These may be much more rare and tend to come in response to fervent prayer, or perhaps as a warning. These might be a simple synchronicity of events happening apparently randomly, but seemingly in answer to your prayer.[21] Sometimes an audible voice is heard with distinct words, such as when Samuel thought Eli was calling him [22]. Sometimes a vision opens up in the mind during waking hours, perhaps during a prayer. And most rarely, sometimes one actually sees an open vision in broad daylight. In any of these cases, there is still the possibility that the communication is from Satan, which never occurs to many people. Many religions and cults have been founded by those who claimed to have had revelations and their actions confirm that they indeed believe that. Some of those religions are from God and some are from Satan.
This raises two questions. First, how can one receiving such a revelation know if it is true, and second, how can someone else know?

The one receiving the revelation should ask if the new truths revealed are consistent with all known truth which has been revealed formerly and already confirmed to be from God. If only one or two minor points differ, then we should double check to make sure we are correct about the first truth, and not just depending on someone’s misunderstanding of God’s word. One nice thing about the Lord is that he is the same yesterday, today and forever [23]. Even so, he can do different things at different times. He can command and he can revoke a commandment. But he is extremely consistent with his doctrine and revealed truth. This is one point which has drawn me as a scientist to God. When scientists are studying the “laws of nature,” they are really studying the laws of God. It is because those laws have been found to be obeyed in nature so consistently that we can teach physics classes and calculate just how to put a man on the moon.

After making sure it is consistent with well-accepted truth, we should also ask if the new knowledge is consistent with our own truths. It is my personal experience that in answer to a prayer, it is God who always responds first. That answer invariably comes with a feeling of deep inner peace, which I do not believe Satan can fake, and it usually comes with such a clear knowledge that the answer is correct, that one wonders why it was not clear before, and why it was even necessary to pray at all.

If God does not answer, it is my belief that Satan is not allowed to answer directly. By the way, when one prays, it is always nice to include a “default clause,” in which you tell Heavenly Father what you will do in case you receive no answer. And it seems wise to have studied that choice out clearly in your mind before having prayed. To me that just seems like common courtesy to show our Father, not to request him to answer our every whim like a super errand boy.

It is also my experience that if someone receives an answer from God, that afterward Satan is indeed allowed to respond with an alternate message. Sometimes this comes as doubts about the revelation, or as fears of the consequences of following the instructions. It can even come as another revelation of equal or greater magnitude than the first. After all, Satan loves to yell and scream, whereas God often speaks in a still, small voice [24]. It is part of our test here on earth to learn to distinguish between these two voices.

How can one tell when someone else’s revelation was false, or that a religion is false? To me two good methods are to compare the teachings to known truth and to look at the fruits of that church. Remember that there are many layers to truth. One prophet might be called in a ghetto with a message of just stopping killing and drug dealing. Many religions such as Buddhism and Taoism teach people to be good to each other, without mentioning Christ, at least by that name.[25] Christianity takes many of those basic teachings, and adds the higher knowledge and laws of Jesus Christ. Other religions could perhaps add even more knowledge of Christ, such as adding a record of his visit to others of his sheep besides those in Jerusalem [26].[27] But if a so-called “higher religion” rejects Christ or any earlier truths, whether it be preached by angels or aliens, then it is a sure sign that it is false to those who have a sure knowledge of Christ [28].

Conclusion

God has given us a brain with two distinct halves, the left being more logical and the right more intuitive and emotional. Many say that science is the road to truth, which uses only the left half, and we should ignore all intuition and revelation which is just not scientific. Others start emotional cults, or try to keep their subjects in ignorance, declaring that science cannot be trusted. In our quest for truth, should we listen to anyone who teaches only to use one half of our brain and ignore the other half? To have two different perspectives, two different opinions, two different mental processors is a great gift from God. This article has discussed several techniques for using both witnesses to discover truth, some being more logical and others more intuitive. Nevertheless, there are situations when we will want to rely more on one side that the other. For example, when listening to a salesman or television commercial, knowing that marketing techniques often appeal to emotion to distract the rational brain, one might focus on keeping a cool, logical head. On the other hand, when deciding which of two airplane flights to choose, which look equally good logically, one might select the one he “feels” best about, which might well turn out to be the one that is not delayed, or on which he will meet someone important to him.

The best chance of finding actual truth, occurs when both halves of the mind agree, along with all the senses. An example might be someone’s conversion to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. On the one hand, that experience most likely began with an emotional and/or spiritual experience. On the other, later study of the scriptures and research into the life of Christ in the rational light of historical, archaeological and scientific findings, one can verify (as in my writings) that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the son of the Living God. Many witnesses agree that this is the truth, and when we know the truth, the truth can make us free [29].


  1. 2 Cor. 13:1
  2. To my surprise, when I tried to verify my own conclusion that a kitten uses the sense of touch, there were articles on the internet claiming that it was because they could not smell the image, or could predict what the image would do, but none that I saw mentioned touch. Again we ask, how can we know the truth? My answer: “Seeing is believing.” Check out the video at www.kewego.com/video/iLyROoaftZme.html.
  3. This is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. After a lifetime of experience with mirror images always staying safely behind the mirror, this is definitely a “Through the Looking Glass” sensation as your fingers feel nothing at all. This illusion can be purchased for as low as $11. See www.physicstoolboxinc.com/pc-46-5-magic-illusion-concave-mirrors.aspx.
  4. Wikipedia article on ESP.
  5. A friend of mine helped his son do an interesting experiment for a junior high science fair. He offered grade school children a candy bar if they could roll a certain number with dice. He found that the older children could not beat the laws of chance, but that several in kindergarten and first grade easily cleaned him out of candy bars, far beyond the laws of chance.
  6. John 1:9
  7. Actually, it is my understanding that we think with our minds, which should never be confused with the brain. After people die, they can think and remember just fine, while their brain is rotting in the ground. But the mind, which is within our spirit, is closely tied to the brain while we live.
  8. Balme, Jaime. Balmes’ Logic , trans. by James Spellissy (New York: O’Shea & Co., 1873) p. v.
  9. The six states were Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. David Kupelian, in his wonderful book The Marketing of Evil (Nashville, TN: WND Books, 2005) devotes an entire chapter to this issue. This list is from p. 41. It is available from the Christian Daily news service www.worldnetdaily.com.
  10. Pratt, John P., “Bible Codes: A New Approach,” (25 Jan 2006) offers a mathematical approach to verifying even short Bible Codes which form geometrical patterns.
  11. Mat. 5:40
  12. Mat. 1:20, 2:12
  13. Benyus, Janine, Biomimicry (New York: William Morrow, 1997) is an entire book devoted to the subject of copying inventions from living things.
  14. Another great book is by Royston M. Roberts, Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science (New York: Wiley, 1989). It treats many accidental discoveries, but several are from nature. Smallpox vaccination was discovered when Dr. Edward Jenner actually listened to a milkmaid who told him she couldn’t get smallpox because she had had the less dangerous cow pox (p. 20). Velcro was discovered when George deMestral looked to see why burrs stuck so tightly to his clothing (p. 220-222).
  15. John 7:16–17
  16. Mat 7:16-20
  17. 2 Peter 1:5–7
  18. Mat. 10:31
  19. Mat. 5:13
  20. Gen. 1:26
  21. Pratt, John P., “Synchronicity as a Sign” (12 May 2004).
  22. 1 Sam 3:4–10
  23. Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8
  24. 1 Kings 19:12
  25. Members of Taoism follow “The Way.” Jesus Christ said, “I am The Way” John 14:6.
  26. John 10:16
  27. This is what has impressed me about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their Book of Mormon adds the account of the visit of the Savior to the other sheep in the Americas, while at the same time not contradicting any of the truth in the Bible. And it passes all of the tests such as looking at its fruit. For some people to classify it as non-Christian is absurd.
  28. Gal. 1:8
  29. John 8:32
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Joseph Smith Foundation

Joseph Smith Foundation

Joseph Smith Foundation is an organization focused on supporting and contributing to projects founded in the words of Jesus Christ.Our motto is “Vision in Light of the Restoration”.Joseph Smith advanced a literal interpretation of scripture and confirmation of the truths taught in the Bible. He taught that a restoration of the doctrine and Church established and led by Jesus Christ was necessary in the latter days as it was in the former ages of the earth. Revelation was the rock foundation of all lasting accomplishment. Currently, Joseph Smith Foundation is the umbrella for the following organizational divisions, each based on the above principles: Joseph Smith Academy, Joseph Smith Forum, ZionVision and LDS Answers.
Joseph Smith Foundation

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Joseph Smith Foundation

Joseph Smith Foundation is an organization focused on supporting and contributing to projects founded in the words of Jesus Christ. Our motto is “Vision in Light of the Restoration”. Joseph Smith advanced a literal interpretation of scripture and confirmation of the truths taught in the Bible. He taught that a restoration of the doctrine and Church established and led by Jesus Christ was necessary in the latter days as it was in the former ages of the earth. Revelation was the rock foundation of all lasting accomplishment. Currently, Joseph Smith Foundation is the umbrella for the following organizational divisions, each based on the above principles: Joseph Smith Academy, Joseph Smith Forum, ZionVision and LDS Answers.

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