“The Church is true” has got to be the most uttered phrase on the first Sunday of the month in LDS churches worldwide. But alas, it’s a phrase that has tripped me up since childhood. Not because I don’t believe it, but because those words, in that precise order, have never made sense to me.
What does it mean to say the Church is “true?” Are we saying the Church is “honest?” Maybe that the Church is the “genuine article?” Or that it “conforms to the actual state and conditions of reality?” (Thank you Dictionary.com)
I actually like that last one. Next fast and testimony meeting I might just have to get up and say those exact words. Those words, in that precise order, make a lot of sense to me. I’m sure the phrase is sound in whatever it’s supposed to mean, but, for me, its meaning is elusive.
On my mission, I felt even more justified in my confusion over the phrase because when I would say it in Romanian to Romanians they would either just stare at me and smile or ask, “what?” like I was just a stupid American butchering their beautiful language.
I would look into their glossed over eyes and see my own confusion staring back at me, smiling and nodding meaninglessly.
This question of what “true” means has had me thinking for years, but it’s weighed on me over the last few months, ever since a friend, talking about cinematic art, said to me, “I don’t think people even think about what is true or what is real. Truth is elusive.”
I watch small children get up and say the Church is true with various levels of gusto and timidity and wonder if anyone really knows, and I mean really knows, what they’re saying. I can’t help but wonder if it’s one of those “powerful” phrases that we say because it’s familiar and we don’t always know how to say what we’re feeling. Or perhaps it’s so ripe with meaning that it’s rendered meaningless in its overuse.
Have you ever really thought about it? Do you think we should?
I’ve never been one to say something just because it is the thing to say. I have to know and understand what is coming out of my mouth.
I’ve been trying to break down what is truth and what is true. So, here’s what I know:
- The Atonement is real. It’s a reality. It’s not mythical or magical, it’s real. It works and through it, so does everything else.
- The gospel is sure, it’s steadfast and it’s reliable. It’s designed to last. It’s designed to work for everyone, not matter what.
- Covenants are invaluable resources of insight and faith.
If those things (and the million others that fall under them) are what make the Church true, then I get it. But I can’t help but wish we could drop the glossy, oversimplified version of the truth and say what we’re really saying. (Unless we’re five minutes over in testimony, then, by all means, keep it short and sweet.)