Being married to a non-member, as I am, has its challenges but it can also be an excellent opportunity to re-examine one's faith and to challenge it. Only then do I know how strong (or weak) my faith really is. I remember my husband commenting after a fast and testimony meeting that he wondered how everyone could get up there and say things like "I KNOW the Church is true, beyond a shadow of a doubt, etc." This got me thinking and I started to re-examine my faith and questioning what I knew vs. what I believed. I came to the conclusion that a more honest testimony, at least for myself, is that "I BELIEVE the Church is true, I HOPE that it is, if I had to bet my life or money on it, I would bet that it is true and there is a lot of good in the Church. However, there are a lot of troubling things in the Church's past and present, so I am open to the possibility that it's all a fraud. I BELIEVE in a lot, but I KNOW very little."
We are a church of absolute truths. Not only do we have the absolute truth, we have a monopoly on absolute truth. We are GOD's Church upon the earth, the ONLY true Church, with the ONLY true prophet, the ONLY one with legitimate priesthood authority from GOD, and in order to be saved, you have to go through us, whether in this life or the next. Should be reassuring, right? Personally, I shy away from absolute truths. I may believe all of the above, but I have a hard time proclaiming it all to be "the absolute truth" that everyone should feel obligated to accept. Maybe it's just my way of wimping out. After all, knowing the absolute truth is a scary thought. For starters, what kind of horrendous trial would it take for me to KNOW? I think I'd rather go througout life with uncertainty than being struck down by an angel. That level of certainty carries a lot of obligation with it. What if polygamy was reinstated a few years down the road? Have you ever thought about what you'd do? I think you can see my fear of commitment shining through. It's a miracle I ever got married.
Despite the fact that many look at Mormons as being arrogant for saying they so, I don't like to bash all the Mormons who say that they KNOW. Who am I to say that they don't know? I don't know. I have admiration for the commitment of anyone who can say they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's all true and therefore if polygamy was reinstated tomorrow or President Monson said that chocolate was now banned, they would follow through.
I've found great comfort in "Pascal's Wager," from French philosopher Blaise Pascal (see image), which basically says that even though God's existence can't be proven by reason, people should "wager" that God does exist and live their lives accordingly because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I think there's a lot of truth to it, despite the fact that I know an atheist would say that I'm losing the only life I have by wasting my time on living a religion for a God that doesn't exist. (You can read more about Pascal here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal)
On the other hand, I think that most Mormons would find Pascal's Wager to be insufficient. Because we CAN KNOW, why settle for just wagering on it? One of life's greatest mysteries to me is why some people seem to know and accept the truth so easily, while others can struggle their entire lives searching, yearning, longing to know the truth only to find it to be elusive. I've seen many good people: caring, compassionate, and humble who have such a strong desire to know God and to feel His Peace. Some find it, but others don't and it's easy to ask what they did wrong. In some cases I can't find any flaw in their approach. I read an article not too long ago, I think it was in the Ensign but I can't remember which issue or which GA was telling the story about one of the prophets. When he was called to be a stake president, he expressed his feelings that he didn't felt he KNEW with absolutely certainty that the Gospel was true. Some of the brethren felt this was enough to remove him from office because he SHOULD KNOW, but the superior at the time felt that that would be a little hasty. To make a short story short, his superior told him that he could know for a surety and so he prayed earnestly about it, got the witness he was in need of, and later went on to become a prophet.
We learn in the scriptures that each member of the Church is entitled to a spiritual gift. In D&C 46 it reads:
11 For all have not every a gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
15 And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
16 And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
17 And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
18 To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
19 And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
20 And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
21 And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
22 And to others it is given to prophesy;
23 And to others the discerning of spirits.
24 And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
25 And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.
While I don't think I've been given verse #13, I think that perhaps I do have #14. Does this mean that I can be quite content to sit back and say "Yes, I believe and therefore I will be faithful" or do I need to constantly be reaching for the sure knowledge of verse #13? If I interpret these verses correctly, then it seems to me that those who think that everyone can know just like they do, is perhaps wrong. (Incidentally, it's amazing how many people in the Church seem to have been given #13. Think about that next fast and testimony meeting. :)
Those are my thoughts for the day. Oh, and just for the record, I do love my mom and dad and my cat(s) and that's the absolute truth!