A physician died, leaving behind a collection of scientific and medical books gathered over a lifetime of study and service. His family offered the books with their beautiful bindings to a medical school. But the librarian refused them; they were of no value to the school. They were outdated.
We spend considerable time learning facts. Later, some of these so-called facts are proven erroneous or become antiquated by further enlightenment or more information. No matter how beautiful the bindings of the texts from which we study, some of the information we acquire will be superseded.Many teachings of man are transitory. Some teachings endure for centuries before they fade in the light of new knowledge. For example, Ptolemy, the Egyptian astronomer who lived about A.D. 150, inferred from the daily movement of the sun from east to west that the earth was the center of the solar system. His theory was taught for centuries. Then Copernicus, born A.D. 1473, concluded that day and night result from the earth's rotation upon its axis. When the telescope was invented even more observations were recorded by men such as Bruno, Galileo and Kepler.
But new information is not always readily accepted. For example, in 1633 a religious tribunal condemned Galileo when he would not cease teaching his discoveries, namely that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our planetary system. His theory went against the accepted "Christian astronomy" of his day.
President Heber J. Grant noted how Galileo's theory nearly cost him his life: "When Galileo announced that the earth revolved, they passed the sentence of death upon him. They thought it was too bad to kill the poor fool who thought the world revolved and was round, so they concluded to let him off if he would pledge himself not to teach this doctrine. But he could not keep the truth back and quietly taught it. So they arranged to make him lie down in front of the church where they were worshiping God on this stationary earth and let everybody step on him to show their contempt, and when they all had stepped on him, he got up and said, `Well, it goes around just the same.' " (Gospel Standards, p.321.)
Theories of mankind may wither in the light of new knowledge, but the truths of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ stand the test of time. Our challenge is to learn of those mysteries as the Lord reveals them. Galileo and his successors, even in their great wisdom, received merely a glimpse of the heavens. There is much more for us to learn.
President Joseph Fielding Smith observed: "No modern astronomer, with the aid of all the improvements and inventions at his command, has seen the heavens and comprehended their vastness as did Abraham of old. What Abraham saw, the patriarchs before him saw and understood, even from the beginning. Written in `the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs,' which were handed down to Abraham, was knowledge `of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers.' (Abr. 1:31.) The ancients were not ignorant of these things, as is so generally supposed." (The Way to Perfection, p. 93.)
Moses recorded much about this and other worlds, but because of the unbelief and apostasy from truth, such teachings were eliminated in the Bible. (See Moses 1, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Notes, p.118.)
Unbelief and apostasy might mold popular opinion in society at large (as happened in Galileo's day) and obliterate the writing of God's truths. Still the truths of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ remain. While they may not be known or spoken of for thousands of years, they never change.
There are many kinds of truth. There are truths that pertain to physical science, to historical events and to mathematical formula, to name a few. Knowledge derived from these and other truths brings humanity many benefits, even blessings. But if truths were placed on a measuring rod, the highest would be those that concern God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
Converts often testify that some of the doctrines they were taught prior to their introduction to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not true, or that they had been taught only portions of the truth, or that the doctrines of a particular religious faith seemed to change in accordance to whomever espoused them. Once introduced to gospel truths, these converts were able to increase their knowledge and gain a better understanding of the scriptures. Enabled by the light and spirit of the gospel, they came to understand precepts that were once mysteries. They learned that God's laws are immutable and endure forever.
Our challenge, as we seek learning, is to seek God's eternal knowledge so that we can recognize truth in all aspects of our lives rather than stumble blindly amid the theories of men, no matter how tested or time-proven they appear to be.