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The Highest Virtue

A virtue is a trait of excellence. What is the highest virtue? It seems that based on the nature of truth, that truth itself is perhaps the highest virtue. For instance, I could say that love is the highest virtue, but then I could ask the question of whether that is true or not. If it is or isn’t true, this places truth virtuously higher than love, at least in some sense. The fact that I can question love through the lens of truth seems to place truth above love in height of virtue. On the other hand, if I said that truth is the highest virtue, then it seems that it would be loving to tell others the truth! Perhaps truth and love go hand in hand, but this also concerns the nature of what truth is. Truth is a requirement for love, which I argue here, but is love a requirement for truth? Love must contain truth in order to be true love. But truth does not have to contain love in order to be true truth. Take for instance, mathematics, or numbers in general… Sometimes, the truth hurts (e. g. one’s cholesterol numbers are high), but that shouldn’t keep us from seeking it. Truth is the highest virtue. I believe that this being the highest virtue translates to honesty, integrity, and wisdom.

This is why we should not only be able to discover what the truth is, but we should strive for it. We know that from the law of non-contradiction that opposing claims cannot both be true. So, the claim that “X is true” cannot be both true and false, but according to the law of excluded middle, can only be true or false. Take for instance, Mormonism. Mormonism claims that God is flesh and bone, but a member of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) cannot show any passages in the Bible that say that God has a body of flesh and bone.[1]Mormonism claims that Jesus is a spirit-child of Heavenly Father,[2] but in the Bible, John 1:1-3 shows that Jesus is God, and created all things that exist. With these things in mind, through the law of non-contradiction, we can know that these opposing claims cannot both be true, and that each claim, through the law of excluded middle, we can know that every claim whether from LDS doctrine or from Christian doctrine, is either true or false. 

Since truth is the highest virtue, then we should be most concerned with knowing what is true. When opposing claims are made, only one of them can be true, which is why we should be able to discuss the truth of a claim. When a truth claim is made, we should approach it with an examining eye. Not a skeptical eye, necessarily, because being skeptical about something before we understand it may cause us to presuppose truths about such a claim, and so we might do something regretful, like act unlovingly toward our interlocutor, which is not good. This is why we should examine truth claims. If someone makes a claim, if we have not examined it before, then we should examine the truth of such a claim based on its value. For instance, if I am not going outside today and someone tells me that it is snowing, then it doesn’t matter much whether or not it is snowing. But if I am going outside, say I must make a trip to the grocery store on snowy and icy conditions, the truth claim might have higher value. Similarly, if someone says to me that Mormonism is true, then I should examine whether or not that it is, because this concerns my own eternity, which is arguably of highest value. 

The problem is that as the Bible says, we let our heart get in the way. Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things.” The Moroni challenge is that we read the Book of Mormon, and when we ask with a sincere heart if the things written in the Book of Mormon are true, then the truth will be revealed to us in our heart:

 

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.[3]

 

When seeking truth, we should not let our heart get in our own way. If the heart is deceitful, like the way that the Bible makes such a truth claim, then we need to be very careful about what we consider to be truth. Similarly with any religion. 

When someone makes a truth claim about or within any religion, we should be able to discuss such a claim without our blood boiling. It seems that boiling blood often comes about because of our own presuppositions, whether they are true or not. But if our blood boils when we have discussions about religion, or on the other hand if we get so offended that we cannot move forward, then perhaps we are afraid of what is true. From any religious perspective. This is why it is so dangerous to be unable to have our beliefs challenged. Because we might be wrong. Truth is of most importance because our eternity depends on what is true. Take for instance the truth claim that Jesus makes in John 14:6… “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” This Jesus, not another one[4] is the only one who can save. Not the Mormon Jesus, not the Jehovah’s Witness Jesus, not the Islam Jesus…

Similarly, we should not belittle people making truth claims because we are all in the same boat in a sense. We all have things to learn, and we all should be striving toward the truth. Therefore, when a truth claim is made, we should examine it. Approach such truth claims with curiosity, rather than animosity. The truth will often defend itself in such things. 



For more, see my book on Mormonism: 


https://www.amazon.com/Mormonism-Refuting-Fundamental-Apologetics-Latter-Day/dp/1662885377/ 


Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

 © Nace Howell, 2024


[1] “Our religion stands virtually alone in believing that God has a tangible body of flesh and bone and that our bodies were literally created in His likeness.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2005/07/the-body-a-sacred-gift?lang=eng.

[2] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/firstborn?lang=eng.

[3] Moroni 10:3-5.

[4] See 2 Corinthians 11:4.

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