There are actually three unanswerable questions to my mind. Not that they can’t be answered but that seeking the answer leads us away from value, not toward it. They are: when does life begin? are gay people born that way? is there such a thing as universal truth?
The last question pertains to Mormons because we say we are “the one true church.” Like the other two questions, the answer can be argued hotly on either side—that’s why asking the question leads away from value. The truth is, the answers don’t matter because we can’t convince anyone, and no one can convince us, which one is right. We have to frame our lives and interactions beyond the questions, take a step back so to speak, to the level of agency.
I’ve pondered “the one true church” for over a decade, and I think I’ve come up with a helpful, at least to me, analogy. I think the gospel is like nutrition: no matter how you strive to live the gospel, you can always do better; no matter how healthy you are, you can always be healthier.
I don’t know that there is anything we all agree on, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that daily exercise and a Mediterranean diet are the healthiest way to live. I believe that, can even say I know it to be true, but I don’t care. I don’t want to live that way. Knowing all the facts perfectly, I still choose a relatively unhealthy life of minimal exercise, white sugar, lots of fat, and plenty of red meat. That’s why the answer to the question doesn’t matter. My truth, my heaven, where I want to live, is not the celestial kingdom of nutrition, and I’m okay with that. I would and do resent anyone who tries to get me to eat/move their way because it’s the “right” way. I agree it’s the “right” way; now leave me alone.
Even if we could prove absolutely that the LDS Church is true, which we can’t by the way, it doesn’t matter. Some people just won’t care. So rather than ask the question “is it true?” and waste a lot of time arguing about the answer, reframe the perspective. It isn’t about what’s true, it’s about agency.
With perfect knowledge of gospel, nutrition, or anything else, some of us will go in a different direction. Heavenly Father knew that when he gave us our agency, when he gave Adam and Eve the choice of eating the forbidden fruit. God himself told them not to eat it—as perfect a knowledge as anyone can have—and they did it anyway.
God didn’t agree with their choice, and there were consequences for not doing what was “right”—like my expanding middle—but in all their interactions, God never disrespected their choice, or told them they were wrong to make it. It makes no sense that disobeying God was the right thing to do and yet the existence of humanity proves that it was.
I had a poignant conversation with a good friend, someone who used to be a weekly Temple patron and now has only the barest of shadows left in the pew. I adore her, admire her, think she’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever met. How can we see the Church so differently? She is so much happier with her new truth of moving away from the Church. I am so much happier with my new, fourteen years old now, truth of moving into the Church. How can it be true and she not know it? How can I be so sure it’s true if it’s not?
There are four principles that guide my thinking: 1) the Church is true; 2) it is, I believe, universally true, i.e., the one true church; 3) some outstanding people have a different truth, as true for them as mine is for me; 4) there is no connecting the dots between these principles in this life.
Just as it makes no sense that disobeying God was right, it makes no sense that universal truth and contradicting personal truth can both be right. It makes no sense in our three-dimensional reality, but that’s what God is for. I leave the unanswerable questions to him.