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  Friday, December 19, 2003

If you are Mormon, you've heard that before.  But what do people really mean when they use that phrase?  Kaimi started an interesting conversation on that topic over at Times and Seasons.  After listing 15 definitions of the word "true," he gave a detailed etymology which I was sure was going to come around to Treebeard the Ent, but didn't.  Instead he ended up at Druids, "ancient Celtic priests," seemingly a type for Mithrandir or Gandalf the Grey.  And that is an encouraging thought.

But I digress.  Here is a slightly edited selection from one of my comments among those following Kaimi's initial post.

Mormons use the phrase 'the Church is true' in two different contexts.  First, when speaking one-on-one, they are generally using 'the Church is true' as Matt described it earlier, as shorthand for "I accept and affirm every claim the Church makes." I think we all have a fair understanding of what that usage is intending to convey substantively. Even so, that blanket affirmation is also a statement of trust. The speaker is acting as a character witness for the Church (or those speaking on its behalf) at least as much as the speaker is affirming any specific proposition.

Second, Mormons use the phrase when speaking in front of a Mormon congregation.  In this case, the trust and commitment component is stronger and the substantive component is weaker or irrelevant. That's okay--it's a religious service, not a graduate seminar. It's designed for people to show their faith, draw faith from others, and build commitment and conviction. Other denominations have similar devices for members to show their faith and publicly witness their belief by speaking or participating in a group action of some sort.

But I find that the use of the term "true" as a synonym for upright, faithful, or loyal often leads to confusion.  Better to reserve the term "true" for evaluating the substance of what people say rather than muddling it up by using it as a vague allusion to one's endorsement or criticism of the Church.  There are plenty of other words to describe those conditions. 11:21:51 PM      

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