When we come across difficult gospel questions, how do we manage the court proceedings to come to the correct verdict?
In a court of law, the phrase “leading the witness” is used to refer to a tactic some lawyers employ, in which they use carefully crafted questions to put words in a witness’s mouth or suggest an answer. If such tactics are left uncorrected, a witness will likely validate something he or she knows to be false, leading to an erroneous verdict. Similarly, there have been instances in which lawyers have emphasized misleading evidence to make their point and have wrongfully won the case.
Similar problems can occur in our evaluation of gospel principles. Some questions can be misleading. Focusing on some facts without considering the bigger picture can make reality appear to be different from what it really is. As such, we should learn to acquire spiritual knowledge, as outlined in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document.
1. Act in faith. Following this principle ensures that all evidence is considered and that a hasty conclusion is not made. The Doctrinal Mastery Core Document declares that “as we seek to develop our understanding and to resolve concerns, it is important that we rely on the testimony that we already have of Jesus Christ, the Restoration of His gospel, and the teachings of His ordained prophets.” Even if we do not fully understand a principle of the gospel, we should not discard the testimony we have already gained or assume that all the evidence will be presented to us in this life. God still has truths to reveal, so we must remain “faithful to the truth and light we have already received” while waiting for more to be revealed.
2. Examine doctrine and social issues from an eternal perspective. Having an eternal perspective keeps us from being led astray by assumptions and poor premises, so that our faith does “not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). For example, what would the world tell us is the more important role: being CEO of Big Moneymaker Inc. or being a parent? The one offers fame and wealth, and the other is likely to take a portion of both away. But what truly matters in this life?
3. Seek learning from divine sources. Seeking out the best sources helps us avoid basing our judgment on opinions or other sources that carry less weight. The Internet gives us a wealth of knowledge, but not every source is reliable or as objective as it claims to be. “Learning to recognize and avoid unreliable sources can protect us from misinformation and from those who seek to destroy faith.” More importantly, there is a Witness that knows all the facts, whose testimony would be worth every effort required to obtain it. That witness is our Father in Heaven, and he speaks to us through “the light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, parents, and Church leaders.”
As we pass our verdicts on gospel matters, deciding what we believe and what we will follow, we should keep these principles in mind. They will likely save us from a poor verdict. They will likely save us from condemning ourselves.
Read “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document.
—Austin Tracy, Mormon Insights
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Find more insights
Read some of the Gospel Topics Essays at lds.org/topics for examples of examining gospel-related questions with an eternal perspective.
Watch the video “Examining Questions with an Eternal Perspective,” which focuses on evaluating why God allows suffering to exist.
Read the Mormon Insights article “Asking Hard Questions in the Gospel” by Mark T. Hales to learn how to respond to tough answers we may receive when asking questions about the gospel.