Upon what does one base his or her decision to purchase a car? My dream car is a '69 Chevelle, so let's imagine I'm on a car lot, looking for a car, and see a beautiful '69 Chevelle at a decent price. Obviously, I would be very excited! This car is what I've always wanted and I look great in it!
I hop in and take it for a test drive. The first mile is very smooth - easy riding. I feel fantastic! I can't believe my good luck at finding this car! But on the second mile, the transmission starts to slip up. There's a loud grinding and I can't get it out of second gear very easily. I'm able to get it out and I think, "Probably just a little hiccup. I still love the car." So I drive for a third mile, and the same grinding keeps coming up now and then.
What should I do at this point? I felt so great about the car - It's everything I ever wanted! I could just ignore the transmission problem; "I'll just not think about it and it will be fine. I don't need to worry about it right now. Maybe I could just drive it and see how far I can get."
But deep inside my head and somewhere in my heart, I know that this car just isn't everything it promises to be. I'm suspicious that it can't get me where I want to go. No matter how good it looks, no matter how amazing it feels to sit behind that wheel and rev that engine, that transmission is not going to get better if I ignore it.
Similarly, a purpose in life is also essential. Nietzsche said, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how." Without purpose, life is only a burden.
When we are approached with theories on the purpose in life, upon what do we base our decisions? Unfortunately, I see a lot of people who buy the car/explanation that they want and feel good about without taking it to the mechanic/closely inspecting all the details.
Several people have told me that they have also struggled with some of my concerns about Church doctrine (see link "Outline of My Concerns"), but that they just don't think about them anymore, or that they just "trust" that it is okay. In fact, no one has told me that they felt fantastic when they first heard about those issues.
In other words these individuals are saying, "That noise in the transmission is not a problem I have to deal with now; I'll just ignore it. I won't think about it until I'm stranded somewhere. The salesman told me it was a good car, and I wanted to believe him, so I'll trust that the car will get me over those mountains. I mean, c'mon! It looks and feels amazing! Who wouldn't want to drive around in this thing?"
The good thing about a car is that it claims only to get you from where you are to your physical destination, and you can replace parts. The bad thing is that the car is only as reliable as its weakest essential part, and transmission is essential.
The unfortunate thing about religion is that you cannot replace faulty doctrine (as much as the Church has tried: e.g., persons of African descent will never in this life receive the blessings of God's priesthood [source]), and you really won't know if it will get you to your destination until it's all over. Religion claims to get you much more than from one place to another, it claims to give you answers on how to please God and earn your eternal life and exaltation. All the more reason that that noise under the hood should be checked out - much more is at stake.
More than one person has told me that "the Church isn't about Joseph Smith - it's about Christ!" Well a car isn't about the transmission - it's about transportation, but if the transmission is faulty, you're not getting anywhere. I.e., if Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet, you're not getting to Christ.
No matter how good something looks, no matter how amazing it feels, you cannot ignore those noises under the hood. That is irresponsible and dangerous.
Fortunately, there are '69 Chevelles out there that not only look and feel good, but everything is working under the hood. We just need the courage to leave the one with the bad transmission and go search diligently for the better one.