“ But, he cautioned, “do not come to my office to ask me whether I am mistaken, for I want to tell you now perhaps I am.”
“I will acknowledge that all the time,” he elaborated, “but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray.”
Rather, “accord-[p.xii]ing to the best light and intelligence we are in possession of we will tell you what we think the Lord wishes of us and his policy concerning this people.””
What is interesting about what is said there is the clear assertion that he believed that he was often mistaken, enough that he felt comfortable acknowledging it in advance.
Instead of saying he was always right he was stating that he was doing the best he could, in light of what he knew and understood. He acknowledged he could be wrong and often was wrong.
In considering what he said, how often do we acknowledge that we might be wrong on something? That our understanding might be incomplete or only partial?
(You can think of parables as an exercise in learning from incomplete and misunderstood information).
Would we be better off if we acknowledged that we knew and understood far less than 100% — and if we treated what we were taught, and what we taught others as incomplete, subject to revision and an expression not of absolutes but of our best understanding under the circumstances and our limitations?
I was thinking about it when reading older writings by church leaders about how they lacked all truth and how we and they would benefit if we studied other groups and learned from their truths and brought them home again.
(It is not just the Church that has discussed mistakes, irony and learning from outside).
It also came up as I was reading more about Joseph Smith and his injunction to learn more from others and out of the best books and his explanation that he was doing his best to do that (something reflected in the JST where there were multiple authors of the JST and they used the “best books” to improve their understanding).
- Are we ready for that level of humility?
- To start from the proposition that we are probably wrong and our understanding incomplete?
- Do we have good reason not to be that humble?
- What truths should we be learning from other groups?
- What about what we should learn from the “best books”?
- What truths have we learned in the past from the outside?