It was seven years and four days ago, their time, that I landed in Hong Kong. I suppose it was that little tunnel connecting to the plane… that was the first "Hong Kong soil" that I stepped on. I was caught up in the moment and took no thought to that first footfall… but so much difficulty, as well as a wonderful summation of those difficulties, can be traced to that foreign impact. I thank God for sending me there.
Why can’t I disbelieve? Is it that I’ve never tried?
Well, I’ve dealt with the same doubts that have enervated and destroyed others. I’ve read them, their explanations of them. I’ve thought about them, measured them, held their weight in my mind, as if trying to judge which thing was heavier.
And what of them?
They lack weight, that’s what. They’re not heavy enough. The doubts don’t have substance to them, not enough to pull the balance.
…Not even nearly enough.
But if I can’t doubt in thought, then I more than compensate with my doubtful actions. My faith has not failed me — I have only ever failed it.
Today I finished up a book compiled from Ray Canning. I started midway through, read through the end, and only today reached the first few chapters. How happy I was in the beginning. Here was a man, as I guessed by the credentials he wore, who took an original view of the gospel, a thoughtful view, intentionally rejecting unproven assumptions — that he might prove them himself, I thought, prove his faith anew. Here was a Talmage, an Eyring, a Maxwell, and all of them — here was a Joseph. So I gave ear to his opinions.
But not so. I found out at last in the first two chapters that the man is an apostate whose "dogma" is as brittle as any he faults in the Church — a man so demeaningly humble in his "lack of knowledge" that he sees himself at the summit of human intelligence; a man so free from the obligation of religion that he would proselytize the entire world into his freedom. There’s no escaping the contradiction of trying to be right while throwing down rightness.
And all his opinions that I had entertained when he was still faithful… I thought twice about.
Yes, it was strange, now that I think about it, that he should have such a hatred for old BYU President Wilkinson (where he’d taught before mosquitoing off to the U), the "tyrant" who made attendance at devotionals mandatory. I’d thought I was just getting a fresh perspective from an incompatible personality — but no, I was getting the offended condemnations of a traitor, a quitter, a giver-up — more yet, a preacher of the "humanism" that’s pleasing to the carnal mind, the religion bestowed by demons of light.
In the end, what was he left with?
A hope of "immortality" in the influence that he left, and in no other sense — in other words, an expectation of eternal death. And the cowardly clause, "If I’m wrong, I’ll face the consequences."
…And his kindness. He did seem to express that, at least — a concern for the outcast. At least that I can still respect.
But all in all, it’s a terrible fear. Darkness is a damning fear. Not knowing the future is a fear so awful it even makes death palatable, if only for the surety waiting on the other side of death. And it’s a fear the insincere will deny. "I’m not afraid." But there’s no way not to be. So they hide their fear behind a form of faith and optimism, a form of charity, and a form of hope in God’s mercy. Even the liberal, intellectual atheist, faced at last with the finality of nihilism, turns to his religion, his trust in the divine humaneness of nature that he believes has smiled on him for his genius and will remember him for his superior philosophy.
Then… in Ray Canning, I see nothing but a priest secure in his robes and more secure in his holiness. I can’t follow his "quest" of self-discovery, the idolization of gray folds of tissue, because that "self" he found was never himself — only voices in his mind.
Ah… it’s so… overdone. So many have taken that path. None have found a light at the end, and none will, because they hate knowledge. They take one side of the question, and only one side. There’s so, so much that they miss. So Jesus said that the seed can take no root in them. If they only had one little penetrable spot of soft ground… But it’s all hard. Hardened, maybe; who knows why? God pity them who once were within the shade of grace.
But me, why can’t I doubt?
I sit here trying.
…But it’s a pile of feathers in my hand. One exhalation from above, and the doubts flutter away…
But again, sin is a worse doubt, in the same degree that righteous action is better than righteous belief. And I surely can sin.
Save me, Father. Show me my real self, the spirit in me who hates darkness.
Ah, there’s so much more to learn. I couldn’t even bear to finish Ray Canning’s truth-hatred, and had to skim quickly over it. But there is a pure stream; I found it already as a young boy, reading the truths another young boy once found…
Joseph Smith was the prophet of God and a revelator of truth. It will become obvious to you too, as you read his words.