“…lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not…” – Moroni 7:19
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21
The scriptures encourage us to seek after that which is good and there are ways explained that illustrate how we can do that.
Like many kids, I enjoyed collecting things such as baseball cards, coins, rocks, fossils, etc. Over the years my interests changed; I no longer collect any of the things that I valued so highly as a child.
What I have enjoyed collecting over the course of my adult life is truth.
The scriptural admonitions that encourage me to lay “hold” on good things drive me to dig and discover the good in everything I explore. If you think about it, truth and good are not hard to find, but they can be difficult to define. Attempting to “lay hold” or collect truth, we convert it into language, policies, doctrines, art, poetry, architecture, symbols, archetypes, motifs, etc.
Thus, every human expression of truth is only an approximation of the truth itself. Distortions accompany the influence of the finite mind and unfortunate misinterpretations, whether or not they are intentional, lead to evil, darkness, tyranny, sorrow, confusion and contention. Hugh Nibley wrote:
“History is all hindsight; it is a sizing up, a way of looking at things. It is not what happened or how things really were, but an evaluation. . . . The modern college teaches us, if nothing else, to accept history on authority. Yet at the end of his life the great [historian] Eduard Meyer . . . marveled that he had always been most wrong where he thought he was most right, and vice versa” (Temple and Cosmos, 440)
As a collector of truth, I have come to realize the limitations of human expression. No poem, sketch, painting or high-definition video is a substitute for beholding a sunset in all its glory with the human eye. Likewise, no words or physical senses can fully capture what the spirit of man can witness through “spiritual” means. (2 Cor. 2)
The experiences and testimonies of others, their expressions of how they perceive reality, no matter who they are or what philosophy they profess, are all valuable to me because they extend the field of exploration. They allow me to apply the principles of Alma 32 and plant a garden of faith where I hope to harvest and taste truths with whatever senses offer the purest experience.
I am thankful that I don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true and that I am free to choose between good and evil. I can embrace all, and every item of truth without limitation while rejecting every error. We think of Mormonism as a religion, a specific corpus of beliefs, while in reality it is a way of looking at things, it is a philosophy that seeks to gather up every item of truth wherever it may be found, whether in religion, science or revelation, whether in human experience or in the vastness of creation.
In other words, a “true Mormon” is a collector.
“We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316)
COLLECT, verb transitive 1. To gather, as separate persons or things, into one body or place.
“…for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:13)