The Objective and the Church of Jesus Christ as Episteme
Faithful Saints accept the word of God as received from His Prophets as objective and true.
Objectivity cannot be derived from subjectivity. This axiom might be expanded to state that objectivity cannot be derived in the first place, for by definition objectivity exists as an independent principle that is completely non-contingent. Even the slightest contingency destroys objectivity, consigning it to the realm of subjectivity. It is useful to consider objectivity in conceptual terms. Imagine there is an entity that is absolutely self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and self-justifying. This is the Objective. Here, we have arrived at a hypothetical principle, and we will add another conceptual attribute which is really nothing but an extension of self-justification: The Objective justifies its own discovery because it has value, independent of our notion of value. It serves as its own reason.
Human reality is contingent, and therefore subjective. The ultimate contingency is obvious, spelled out in five letters at the beginning of this paragraph. It is an inescapable fact that even the most emotionally void, mechanized scientist (if it really were possible for him to empty himself of all bias, which is doubtful) cannot project himself beyond the confines of his own senses to the realm of the Objective, a problem elucidated by Husserl long ago. As described by Miguel de Unamuno in his excellent work, Tragic Sense of Life, our reality is basically a product of the self-preservation instinct. A group of fish who wander into a cave will eventually produce eyeless descendants, while for some reason the mantis shrimp perceives both infrared and ultraviolet light. We are privy to exactly as much information about the actual fabric of Reality as is necessary for our survival. Or perhaps what we detect as reality really is this veritable Reality, but such is an unresolvable quandary, for to resolve it would require an arbitrator existing beyond our biological existentiality. The answer to the question of whether we know Reality is not “no”, for we cannot even answer the question. Our emotional world is likewise contingent. How, then, can we place our trust in any member of the pantheon of moral-philosophical systems, if, ultimately, they all derive from such an unreliable locus as humanity? To do so is a deceit. One can only argue that it is a noble deceit, or a useful deceit, but in the end, it is a deceit all the same. Even still, the great majority of humanity falls for its own illusion. Thusly are produced the many convincing arms of the secular octopus which wave about so blithely in our day.
It must be reiterated that the Objective is absolutely independent and non-contingent. That is to say, it is supra-moral, and supra-phenomenological. It defies any humanistic argument. If an idea can be denounced because it fails to produce a satisfactory amount of human happiness, or love, or whatever virtue may be in question, this idea is not objective. This does not imply, however, that the Objective will necessarily not be compatible with human desires, however, any compatibility is purely coincidental, and not in the least causal. And, considering the abject ineptitude of humanity’s sensory apparatus, the Objective will never be arrived at – it can only ever be revealed.
Faithful members of God’s Church, unwittingly or otherwise, accept the Church and the Gospel as incarnations of the Objective (or perhaps it is better said that the Objective is merely a pseudonym for the Church and the Gospel). Although God the Father’s mysteries are unknown to us, we must assume that He, in His omniscience, has complete and perfect access to Reality, and thus fills, as only He can, the necessary role of an independent arbitrator. He reveals his doctrines to us, through His servants, as “divine truths packaged for application”. In other words, He dispenses portions of the Objective in a fashion comprehensible to us. Is the Objective so because God decrees it, or does God decree it because it is so? The revealed theology supports only the latter option. Nowhere is this more beautifully expressed than instruction given by Joseph Smith in 1843: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” This Law, irrevocably decreed, is the Objective.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon each faithful member of God’s Church to accept without question the Objective as communicated to us through the prophets. The maxim “I know the Church is true”, though trite, can serve as an unequivocal answer to every inquisition. For if the Church is true, it constitutes an iron, unbroken line of reasoning and explanation. It is objective, as only revelation can purport to be, and thus must be taken in its entirety or not at all. To attempt to rationalize a point of doctrine in human terms is to betray it.
Addressing, therefore, those among the Church who criticize God’s chosen speakers, and seek to alter God’s revealed doctrines: You have allowed your subjective desires to penetrate and undermine God’s Truth. You serve, as Dallin H. Oaks taught, “other gods and priorities… those becoming popular in our particular time and place.” Whether or not God’s gospel pleases you, it remains true. Faithful members of the Church – the Church as Episteme – have nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.
May God bless and prosper His people.
Hurrah for Israel, long live Zion, and long live Deseret!
- “Truth Restored” -Elder Richard G. Scott, October 2005
- “Models to Follow” -President Thomas S. Monson, October 2002
- “The Only True and Living Church” -Elder Boyd K. Packer, October 1971
- “The Laws of God” -President N. Eldon Tanner, October 1975