So a few weeks ago I was reading someone’s blog about religious matters and they referred to the concept of Liahona Mormons and Iron Rod Mormons.

This nomenclature comes from Richard D. Poll, a history professor who once taught at BYU.

Iron Rod saints are people who believe the Church, Scriptures, and Modern Day Prophets teach Truth, that we can know the Truth and live by it.  Iron Rod saints find all sorts of answers in the scriptures and declarations from modern prophets.  Faith is a major principle for accepting these declarations from scripture and modern prophets.

Liahona saints are people who tend to doubt and question answers in the face of other inputs from the world of science or philosophy but find that the answers in the LDS faith are good enough to go by and they live with their doubts and misgivings on certain topics.

From Dr. Poll (p.20):

Those who need “true” answers and see religious authority as a reliable source of such answers are Iron Rods. Those who see truth as elusive and all authority-based answers as liable to scrutiny are Liahonas. The Iron Rods pray for confirmation of answers which they have received, and frequently it comes. The Liahonas pray for strength to cope with uncertainty, and it also frequently comes.

(emphasis added).  This is little more than people getting what they pray for as a consequence of how they see the world.  It is a truism that people see the world as they are, not as the world really is.  Believing is seeing.

Dr. Poll was writing about 20 years after his original declaration about two types of saints, the Iron Rods and the Liahonas and noted that he pretty much was rebuked by President Harold B. Lee (First Counselor in the First Presidency) in General Conference in 1971.  If that is not a big sign to change your thinking on a given topic, I’m not sure what is.

The statement was a sound rebuttal of this kind of doubtful thinking as well as efforts to “correct” the church.  Here is a somewhat extended quote from that address.

There are many who profess to be religious and speak of themselves as Christians, and, according to one such, “as accepting the scriptures only as sources of inspiration and moral truth,” and then ask in their smugness: “Do the revelations of God give us a handrail to the kingdom of God, as the Lord’s messenger told Lehi, or merely a compass?”

Unfortunately, some are among us who claim to be Church members but are somewhat like the scoffers in Lehi’s vision—standing aloof and seemingly inclined to hold in derision the faithful who choose to accept Church authorities as God’s special witnesses of the gospel and his agents in directing the affairs of the Church.

There are those in the Church who speak of themselves as liberals who, as one of our former presidents has said, “read by the lamp of their own conceit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 373.) One time I asked one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He answered in one sentence: “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.”

. . .

Here again, to use the figure of speech in Lehi’s vision, they are those who are blinded by the mists of darkness and as yet have not a firm grasp on the “iron rod.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, when there are questions which are unanswered because the Lord hasn’t seen fit to reveal the answers as yet, all such could say, as Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have said, “I accept all I read in the Bible that I can understand, and accept the rest on faith.”

How comforting it would be to those who are the restless in the intellectual world, when such questions arise as to how the earth was formed and how man came to be, if they could answer as did an eminent scientist and devoted Church member. A sister had asked: “Why didn’t the Lord tell us plainly about these things?” The scientist answered: “It is likely we would not understand if he did. It might be like trying to explain the theory of atomic energy to an eight-year-old child.”

Sometimes I think about scientific truth or historical truth and how often the truth is stranger than fiction.  We sometimes tend to not believe true statements when presented merely because the concepts presented are so foreign or alien to our understanding that we dismiss it out of hand.

I tend to look at some things and place a “truth” value on them.  The source often matters more than the content of the message.  Satan is working as hard as he can to deceive everyone in any way possible, including clouding the minds and the motives of scientists who may or may not have a dispassionate pursuit of truth in mind.

As Latter Day Saints, it is better to hold to the Truth as best you can.

Comments Welcome

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