A beloved poem from the 1800s tells of six blind men who wanted to find out what an elephant is like. So they went to visit one. Each man approached it from a different direction, each taking hold of a different part of the elephant and describing what he discovered. One felt a tusk and concluded that an elephant is like a spear. Another, feeling a thick, sturdy leg, decided an elephant is like a tree. Still another, grabbing the trunk, declared that an elephant is like a snake, and so on.
The poem concludes that these men
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!1
They were right about their descriptions of what they had experienced. They were being true to what they knew. But they were wrong because they failed to account for what they didn’t know. How can an elephant possibly be like a spear, a tree, and a snake? It’s clear when we see the whole picture. It’s not so clear when we refuse to consider anyone else’s experience.
This mistake is humorous when applied to elephants but tragic when applied to people. Sometimes we are so quick to judge. We make casual assumptions about people based on limited information—the way they look or talk. But in reality, we are all blind. Our perceptions, our experiences are limited. It takes patience and humility to withhold judgment, gather more information, and hear other viewpoints.
The same applies to many of the confusing and divisive issues of our day. Many people seem so adamant that they are right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. But those who come closest to the truth are those who are willing to look for it everywhere—even in the perspectives of those who see things differently.
In our quest for truth, we can look to God for guidance. After all, He sees and knows things we cannot, no matter how observant we are. So with one hand, we hold to the truths we know, and with the other we reach out in humility and goodwill, because there’s always more truth to receive.
August 01, 2021
Broadcast Number 4,794
The Tabernacle Choir
and Orchestra at Temple Square
Hallelujah Chorus, from Christ on the Mount of Olives
Ludwig van Beethoven
The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare
Dmitri Bortniansky; arr. Mack Wilberg
Toccata in Seven
Peace like a River
African American spiritual; arr. Mack Wilberg
Over the Rainbow, from The Wizard of Oz
Harold Arlen; arr. Arthur Harris
Standing on the Promises
Russell K. Carter; arr. Ryan Murphy