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I think it would be helpful to know the context of the JS quote...and not just the context of it's appearance, but the context of mind. What exactly was JS thinking when he decided this ditty was worth passing along?

I think it suggests an implicit and hidden connection which remains to be discovered...upon which discovery a previous paradox vanishes.

But I'm still wondering...was JS speaking of a connection that he was aware of that others had yet to discover? Or was he just blowing smoke to justify the many paradoxes that are JS?

Watt, I just looked up the passage, found at HC Vol. 6, p. 28. Joseph wrote (or dictated) a short letter to one L. Daniel Rupp, who had written a book on religious denominations in the US and, for the Latter-day Saints, published a write-up submitted by Joseph. In the course of the letter, Joseph wrote:

Although all is not gold that shines, any more than every religious creed is sanctioned with the so eternally sanctioned sure word of prophecy, satisfying all doubt with "Thus saith the Lord:" yet, "by proving contraries, truth is made manifest," and a wise man can search out "old paths, wherein righteous men held communion with Jehovah," and were exalted through obedience.

(I fiddled with the quotation marks to make them sensible; they are screwed up in the HC text as printed.) The quotations suggest Joseph was quoting from another source, but no reference is given. The full quote kind of gives a different sense to the "proving contraries" phrase than is evident from a first reading (and than is reflected in my post).

Alright, Google has provided further light and knowledge, courtesy of a quote from none other than Eugene England himself. In the book Why the Church is as True as the Gospel, subtitled "Grappling Constructively With the Oppositions of Existence" (available here, down the page or search on text), the following passage appears:

Just before his death Joseph Smith, also with prophetic perception, wrote, "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest" (History of the Church, 6:428). By "prove" he meant not only to demonstrate logically but to test, to struggle with, and to work out in practical experience. The Church is as true — as effective — as the gospel because it involves us directly in proving contraries, working constructively with the oppositions within ourselves and especially between people, struggling with paradoxes and polarities at an experiential level that can redeem us. The Church is true because it is concrete, not theoretical; in all its contradictions and problems, it is at least as productive of good as is the gospel.

So England thinks Joseph was using "prove" to mean "test," as in the famous Pauline dictum "prove all things, hold fast that which is good" from I Thess. 5:21.

Now that we're up to speed on this quote (fittingly, one that England felt was particularly insightful) I will get around to commenting on the actual contents in my next post on the book.


Thanks for your depth of response.

Reading this reminds me of what a deep and complex and beautiful man was JS. It's easy to fall into the trap of underestimating him, as I often do.

doesn't the line (as used by JS) come from shakespeare?

The closest I can find (using a Shakespeare text search) is "I'll prove the contrary, if you'll hear me speak." King Henry IV, Part III, Act I, Scene 2. I'm not familiar enough with either Shakespeare or England to pull up any better reference.

One certainly could liken the Averroes idea to compartmentalization. Not knowing anything about the topic, I wouldn't know if that is reasonable or not. However if one is generous, I don't think this is the only way to see the idea.

One could take the view that Averroes "religion" is an approximation of absolute truth done to enable laymen to understand rough ideas. Sort of like some of the poorer science readers you pick up at Chapters: accurate, but approximations of more precise reasoning. They fall apart when analogies get taken too far. From my teaching experience, this tends to happen when students can't manage to get any kind of start on a concept. You throw out a poor analogy and then hope it leads to a stage of comprehension where correction can take place. Of course many people don't like this type of corruption, preferring a reasonably high entrance threshold.We also don't like the streamlining than "two truths" leads to.

However it seems like many people today naturally assume things keep their validity as they get simplified and compressed. (Look how TV sharpens those surveillance camera images - silly 24 season opener). Church focus on personal revelation seems to try and bypass the idea of "truer truths".

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