The Lens of Truth

March 7, 2017

Elder Kevin W. Pearson

General Authority Seventy

Elder Kevin W. Pearson was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 5, 2008.  At the time of his call he had been serving as president of the Washington Tacoma Mission.  

He previously served as a counselor in the Europe East Area, President of the Pacific Area, and as an Assistant Executive Director of the Missionary Department. He is currently serving at Church headquarters as an Area Assistant with the North America Southwest Area. Elder Pearson also serves on the Communication Services Committee and Strengthening Church Members Committee.  

Elder Pearson received a bachelor of science degree in finance from the University of Utah in 1981. In 1983, he received a master of business administration in corporate finance from Harvard Business School. Prior to his call as a mission president, he was working as the chief executive officer at Ingenix, Inc.  

Elder Pearson has served in a number of Church callings, including full-time missionary in the Finland Helsinki Mission, stake missionary, elders quorum president, ward Young Men president, high councilor, counselor in a bishopric, bishop, and mission president.  

Kevin Wayne Pearson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 10, 1957. He married June Langeland in June 1980. They are the parents of six children.

Spiritual Preparation

We invite you to study and ponder on the scriptures and other preparation resources below previous to attending devotional. As you come more spiritually prepared the Spirit will have greater power to inspire you, teach you, and to testify to you of the truthfulness of the principles that will be taught.

It is an honor for me and my sweetheart, June, to be here with you. You represent a powerful force for good. I wonder what the future holds for each of you and how you will respond to the inevitable challenges of life. Nearly 37 years ago, Sister Pearson and I were married. There is simply no way we could have anticipated the challenges and adversity life would bring. The best decision I ever made was to marry a woman of great faith. She has been a tower of spiritual strength in my life. Our children reflect her faithfulness and commitment to truth and light. If her life could be summed up in one phrase, it might well be "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."[1]

I humbly invite the Spirit to be with us as we consider together one of the fundamental realities of mortality: our divine duty to seek light and truth. Each soul is accountable to God for the light and truth available in her or his time on earth. This responsibility is inescapable. "God judges men according to the use they make of this light which He gives them."[2]

All of us entered mortality with every intention to embrace light and truth. No one came to do otherwise. Your personal responsibility is heightened by attending this university and the sacred covenants with God made at baptism and in the holy temple.

Some time ago, while speaking in a stake conference, I noticed a cute little girl sitting on the third row right in front of me. She had what appeared to be a small handmade telescope. I thought it might be a kaleidoscope, and she was just using the light behind me. I wondered what she could see. Suddenly our eyes met. Unfortunately, her mother realized what was happening and took the little telescope away. My little friend quickly slid under her seat and never returned. I was left wondering what lens she was looking through.

As I stood there at the pulpit, I concluded that everyone was looking at me through a different lens: some through the lens of struggle and unfulfilled expectations; others, through the lens of doubt and disbelief. Still others seemed to be anticipating with faith and hope my message. A number were indifferently focused on their cell phones.  

I share this story for two reasons. First, to assure you that men really can do more than one thing at the same time! Second, to raise a question: What lens are you looking through? 

Consider this: When you look in a mirror, whom do you see? Do you focus on the physical image in the mirror, or do you look a little deeper for the real you? To see ourselves the way God sees us might require us to take a fresh view through a different lens. If you and I could see ourselves as we really are and as we really can become, it would change our reality and our destiny through the choices we make and the things we value. That is the power of looking through the right lens.

Recent research on millennials suggests that the average young single adult spends nearly nine hours a day online, immersed in music, games, virtual entertainment, and otherwise living life through social media. Wow! Media is a powerful lens. It changes the way we all see and understand the world. However, it is not the right lens to find and understand the truth about your divine destiny and purpose.

Truth is not a function of personal preferences, perspectives, or desires. Truth is knowledge of things as they really are, not as we want them to be. As such, truth is rarely popular; it can even at times feel hard, unbending, and uncompromising. Truth withstands the test of time and eternity. Thus, it frees us from the consequences of error.

Consider how a lens works. A lens requires light. The human eye is regarded as one of the most complex organs in our bodies. The human eye, however, has only one lens. To see, we require light and a healthy, functioning lens. Some of us require corrective lenses because our natural lenses have hardened, are misshapen, or are even diseased to some extent. We need the aid of specialized lenses to see great distances or observe microscopic detail.

Like physical sight, spiritual sight requires light. Jesus Christ is the true source of light.


He is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made....

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same 
light that quickeneth your understandings."[3]


Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon described their experience receiving answers to inspired questions regarding the Bible this way: "By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God."[4]

Each of us is endowed with the Light of Christ: the ability to discern spiritual light and truth. Our spiritual eyes, however, have two lenses. "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart."[5] Heavenly Father sends divine light into our minds and hearts. Through these lenses, principles of truth are transformed into understanding, knowledge, and conviction.  

This is a critical time of life for establishing patterns. You will make some of the most pivotal decisions of your life during these years. These patterns and decisions will prepare you for other critical phases of life. Struggle and hardship are inevitable and indispensable to mortality. In the end, we are the masters of our own fate and soul. What we become will be the cumulative sum of the consequences of the choices we make. We will get exactly what we choose.

Ultimately, we will either choose to look through the lens of truth with faith to overcome life's challenges and to understand the issues of our time, or we will choose a secular lens to filter truth and to rationalize life's questions. The lens you choose will determine your destiny.

Lehi's family also lived in difficult and distressing times. The family encountered extraordinary challenges, physical hardships, and deprivation of every kind, including the complete destruction of their people. However, Nephi consistently chose to look through the lens of faith. He was willing to study, ponder, and ask in faith. "I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him."[6] Notwithstanding constant opposition and persecution over many years from Laman and Lemuel, Nephi remained steadfast and immovable. "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever."[7] Nephi's response defines looking through the lens of truth.

By contrast, Laman and Lemuel complained, disputed, and opposed Lehi and Nephi at nearly every turn. They were unwilling to study, ponder, and ask in faith. "For he [Lehi] truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought."[8] Nephi would repeatedly remind them to reconsider: "Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?--If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you."[9] The lens we choose determines our perspective and our destiny.

Why are truth and light so difficult to discover and discern? What prevented the Jews from recognizing Christ, the very source of truth and light? Surely, each of us would have recognized and embraced Him! What deters us from recognizing and embracing Him now in the fulness of times?

Some of Satan's most effective weapons are distraction, deception, and desensitization. Each erodes faith, obscures vision, and skews perspective. Together they constitute the great challenge of our time.

Distraction is the opposite of focus. You can't see what you're not looking for. Not all distractions are bad. But if they effectively prevent us from finding, understanding, and embracing truth, they are harmful and ultimately destructive. The Lord warns about the consequence of distraction: "Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and [they] aspire to the honors of men," they are not chosen.[10] Distractions can be fatally deceptive.

Deception is the enemy of truth. It sows doubt and disbelief. It breeds pride and enmity. It hardens hearts and destroys faith. "For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, [including our Church], who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men ... and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it."[11] With unparalleled access to information and information technology in the fulness of times, surely anyone can find the truth! The mission of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth. That is the only way to find it, in any dispensation. Possession of the gift of the Holy Ghost, however, does not ensure access to its power and influence. Without it, we are all exposed to distraction and deception. Think about your personal prayers. How often do you pray for the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost? Remember, you get what you focus on consistently.

Spiritual desensitization is one of the great diseases of every dispensation. Think of the influences in your life that are spiritually offensive. These influences harden our hearts and dull our spiritual senses. Spirituality is defined as the level of personal righteousness that enables the near constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We are promised the Holy Ghost will never allow us to make a serious mistake without first warning us. If we allow our hearts to harden, we become unwilling and unable to recognize spiritual promptings and warnings.

You simply cannot spend the better part of every day focused on video games, online entertainment, and offensive music, and expect to have the Holy Ghost on demand. Nor can you expect to find truth and the answers to life's most important questions in a podcast, personal blog, or YouTube video produced by someone looking through the lens of doubt and disbelief!  

The Book of Mormon is critical in this process. It was written for our day. It is not a history book; it is a prologue for our time. Have you ever wondered why there are so many chapters on war? Why so many periods of societal, governmental, and economic uncertainty? The Savior directed the inclusion of exactly what we would need to survive the distraction, deception, and desensitization of our days.

Maybe Father Lehi was actually talking to us when he taught about agents and objects:

And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon....

... And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.[12]

Faith is a principle of action and power. When you choose to exercise faith and look through the lens of eternal truth by the power of the Holy Ghost, you are an agent. An agent seeks knowledge, understanding, and truth. An agent seeks learning by study and by faith. An agent is proactive, accountable, actively engaged. An agent understands that happiness is a choice and that they have a divine destiny and purpose. An agent seeks to understand the world through the lens of the plan of salvation and trusts in Heavenly Father, and in the Savior and His Atonement.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that obedience is the first and great law of heaven.

The great test of life is obedience to God....

The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.[13]

The great task of life requires us to be agents and not objects. Are you an agent or an object?

Several years ago, I met a friend for lunch. We hadn't seen each other for many years. During my high-school and early-college days, he had been one of my closest friends. We did everything together. We knew each other very well. He was one of the strongest and most committed young men I knew. We attended seminary together, played sports together, and prepared for missions together. We attended the University of Utah, and we left for missions a few months apart. He married a very talented and wonderful woman from my stake.

As the years passed, our lives took different courses. We moved to different cities. But, as is often the case, we eventually lost touch with one another (this was before Facebook). I still remember how stunned I was to hear that he and his wife had left the Church. Of all those I knew in my youth, he was the very last one I would ever have thought would leave the Church. But there we were, sitting in a small café having lunch.

We reminisced over the friendship that had meant so much to both of us. We laughed again at some of the crazy experiences of earlier days. We talked about our families and tried to close the gap of time. Finally, I asked the obvious question: "Tim," I said, "what happened? You were so deeply converted and committed! Why did you leave the Church? What caused you to walk away from your temple covenants? Have you also left the Savior? We promised one another that we would be true and faithful to the end of our lives! What happened?"

"Kevin," he replied, "I simply see things differently now. My view of the Church and its teachings has changed. I don't hate the Church--I just don't need it anymore."

As we concluded our visit, I expressed my love and gratitude for a friendship I still value. Then, with deep feeling, I expressed my testimony. "Tim, I know these things are true. And you know they're true too. You have always known. You've simply lost the clarity you once had. But you can regain the light and understanding of the Holy Ghost you once had again. Please come back." As we embraced, he whispered, "I admire your conviction and passion. But how can you be so sure?" As I walked away, I reflected deeply on the impact of the choices we had made on our own lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

My young friends, please don't let what happened to my friend Tim happen to you.             
Are you as steadfast, immovable, and converted as you think you are? When you encounter the inevitable and necessary challenges of life, where will you turn for peace and understanding? When your life gets dark and dreary, will you still instinctively and consistently think to pray? As criticism of the Church, its history, its leaders, and its teachings increases, where will you stand? As the beliefs and practices of an ever- darkening world collide with the principles of the restored gospel, what will you do?

Remember the purpose of distraction, deception, and desensitization is not simply to undermine Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, Church doctrine, and its leaders--it is to attack the Savior and the Father's plan. It has always been so. When the inevitable fury of temptations and tribulations approach category-five spiritual storm conditions, will you still trust God and cling to truth? The penetrating question of the Savior unto the Twelve is still in force today:

Will ye also go away?

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

And we believe and are sure that thou are that Christ, the Son of the living God.[14]

I am reminded of a powerful statement by Heber C. Kimball. The Saints had safely arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and were quite pleased with themselves. Having overcome and endured so much, they were a bit prideful and overconfident. He stated,

Let me say to you, that many of you will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work.... To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves.... If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not, you will not stand.... The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?[15]

I wish it were not true, but these are our days. We live in tumultuous times. But the question is not how the Church will fare--rather how you and I will. "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand [will] stop the work from progressing."[16] Whether you and I progress with it is the only unknown.

May I suggest six essential things each of us must do to survive spiritually.

1.    Love and obey God first. Loving and obeying God necessarily precedes loving and serving others. Sequence is important. Attempting to love others while disregarding God eventually leads to apostasy. Nephi taught, "For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding."[17] Heavenly Father loves us and is always willing to give us understanding. We must, however, put Him first in our lives.

2.    Personal prayer is essential. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books [he might have added blogs too], but to go to God in prayer and obtain divine teaching."[18] You will never be unworthy to pray! If you want more answers, ask more questions. Constantly seek for and pray for the influence of the Holy Ghost. "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."[19] This is the light the Father sends that brings understanding.

3.    Seek learning by study and by faith. Learning is a divine duty. Agents seek learning. Objects wait to be acted upon. Great leaders are great learners. The Church needs great leaders--women and men seeking greater light and knowledge, deeper understanding and conversion. The glory of God is intelligence! This requires commitment and dedication. You cannot find truth scrolling a wiki or searching the blogosphere. Remember, faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith, not those who have lost it. Be patient. The answers and understanding don't come all at once. Don't let something you don't fully understand yet unravel everything else you do know and understand.

4.    Search the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, every day, every day, every day! The Book of Mormon was expressly written to protect and preserve us as we navigate the conditions of our day. Regarding its power, Nephi testified, "And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction."[20] If you start to feel confused and lost, start again on page one, and immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon. Clarity, perspective, understanding, and peace will return. It is the lens of truth.

5.    Focus on the big picture. You are part of the greatest movement on Planet Earth: the gathering of Israel and preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You have an important role to play! You have always been faithful. You came committed to being valiant in your testimony of the Savior. That is your divine identity. Don't get lost in the tall grass of small things. Focus on the big picture. The big picture is Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. It is the lens of truth. It is the context for all questions, issues, and concerns. "For the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be."[21]

6.    Above all else, trust in Jesus Christ. "[He is] the Christ, the Son of the living God."[22] "[He is still] the light and the life of the world . . ."[23] When you are encompassed and overwhelmed by doubt, difficulty, and temptation, trust Him. When life isn't what you expected and those you trusted disappoint and betray you, continue to trust in Him completely. May you respond as Nephi of old in equally distressing times:

Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted....

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.[24]

Whatever you do, do not leave the Savior! Stay by the Tree![25]

My dear young friends, you are indeed the master of your fate and soul. Because of the Savior's Atonement, we are agents, free to act and not to be acted upon. Each of us will stand before Almighty God and account for the light and truth we have chosen.

I promise you that if you will follow these principles and cling to truth, your faith will never fail. May God bless you to always choose to look through the lens of truth by the power of the Holy Ghost, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


   


[1] Joshua 24:15. [2] History of the Church, 5:401; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on May 21, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois;  reported by Willard Richards. [3] Doctrine and Covenants 88:7, 11. [4] Doctrine and Covenants 76:12. [5] Doctrine and Covenants 8:2. [6] 1 Nephi 10:17. [7] 2 Nephi 4:34. [8] 1 Nephi 15:3. [9] 1 Nephi 15:11. [10] Doctrine and Covenants 121:35. [11] Doctrine and Covenants 123:12. [12] 2 Nephi 2:14, 26. [13] Ezra Taft Benson, "The Great Commandment--Love the Lord," Ensign, May 1988. [14] John 6:67-69. [15] Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1888, 446-450. [16] Spencer W. Kimball, "No Unhallowed Hand Can Stop the Work," Ensign, May 1980. [17] 2 Nephi 31:3. [18] Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976, 191. [19] Moroni 10:5. [20] 1 Nephi 15:24. [21] Jacob 4:13. [22] Matthew 16:16. [23] John 8:12. [24] 2 Nephi 4:19, 34. [25] Kevin W. Pearson, "Stay by the Tree," Ensign, May 2015.

The Lens of Truth

Audio of Elder Kevin W. Pearson BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2017


BYU-Idaho Radio Interview

Audio of interview with Elder Kevin W. Pearson about his BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2017