Anyway, despite my complete unbelief in the church, I love my wife and am reluctantly active for her sake. I've been invited to give a sacrament meeting talk in a couple of weeks on the topic "James 1:5 and Joseph Smith's search for truth". I guess it's supposed to support the hype for the upcoming 200 anniversary conference extravaganza, but I don't plan on giving that any time. At first glance it seemed like a terrible topic for an unbelieving NOM like me, but I think I can actually write something I'm mostly comfortable with saying.
My current plan is to break it into two parts: Smith's search for truth, and our own search for truth. Here are some initial thoughts; they are a little jumbled right now, but hopefully they come together into something coherent in time:
- It's okay to question God -- discuss the "upbraideth not" phrase in James 1:5. Lots of examples of people questioning God in the scriptures: Smith in D&C 121, Job, even Jesus on the cross. Sometimes the world doesn't make sense and it is human nature to question and try to understand
- God is self-secure enough that he doesn't punish questions, in contrast to human institutions (*cough* the church)
- Being open to answers that may be very unexpected, going against your previous intuitions and beliefs. Possibly mention the different first vision accounts of how Smith wasn't sure which church was true, or whether any were true at all. He seemed open to both possibilities.
- Finding truth comes with responsibility. Smith was tasked with starting a church, most people will be tasked with building their own lives on the truth they find. Finding truth should change your life and outlook.
- Sometimes your family, friends, or neighbors won't understand the truth you find and may even reject you. This happened to Smith, it happens to many converts to our church, and it happens to church members whose personal search for truth may lead them away from the church. As church members, we should honor and respect those who are earnestly seeking truth (share Uchtdorf quote: "In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves."
- Smith himself recognized the personal nature of the search for truth in a quote toward the end of his life ("You don't know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don't blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace.")
- God expects us to continue to grow and learn more truth throughout our life
- The worth of every soul is great. He knows and understands you, and you will learn truth in your own way (2 Nephi 31:3 For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.)
- We can learn truth from many places, not just from the scriptures, but also from other books (D&C 88:118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.)
- Quote from Elder Poelman's 1984 conference talk (the original version, not the one that was re-recorded in an empty tabernacle with a cough track): "God wants us to grow, become independent As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.