How Truth Prevails

Heber C. Kimball (1801-1868)

Heber C. Kimball (1801-1868)

On September 2, 1837, after crossing the ocean to preach Mormonism in England, my great great grandfather Heber C. Kimball wrote this to his wife (not my great great grandmother, since I am descended from  another of his many wives):


I take this opportunity to write a few lines to you, to let you know I am in the land of the living, I am a pilgrim on the earth, and a stranger in a strange land far from my home, and among those that seek my life because I preach the truth and those things that will save their lives in the day of tribulation.  On the 18th of July [1837] we landed in Liverpool in the forenoon.  I had peculiar feelings when we landed, the spirit of God burned in my breast, and at the same time I felt to covenant before God to live a new life, and to pray that the Lord would help me to do the same.  We remained there three days, resting our bodies.  On Saturday, the 22nd, we took coach for Preston, the distance 31 miles; we arrived there at four in the afternoon.

After we had unloaded our things, Brother Fielding had gone to see his brother, and Brother Goodson had gone to get lodgings.  All at once I looked up.  There was a large flag before me with large gilded letters written thereon, “TRUTH WILL PREVAIL."  We said, "amen, so let it be Lord.”

Having heard that story many times growing up, I was pleased to read John Stuart Mill’s explanation of how truth prevails. John, 1806-1873 was five years junior to Heber. In his 1867 essay On Liberty, Chapter 2, “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion,” he writes:

It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent power denied to error, of prevailing against the dungeon and the stake. Men are not more zealous for truth than they often are for error, and a sufficient application of legal or even of social penalties will generally succeed in stopping the propagation of either. The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.