How can I put this?
I don't see anything wrong with believing the church to be true to the exclusion of other religions. There, I said it. The single most insulting and confrontational belief of the Mormon church has my buy-in. And frankly, I'll go one bold step further and say what the church does NOT say, and that is that to harbor a vitriolic, venomous, caustic grudge against the church for this position is intolerant and bigoted. I mean, think about it. If one resents any institution that claims they are right and you are wrong, one is oneself an institution claiming that "I am right and you are wrong." It's hypocritcal.
I've already written a bit about my views on tolerance (near the end of the post), so I won't completely rehash them here. Have a look at that before you flame me. The point is just that I am fine with my baptist friends thinking I'm going straight to hell. I'll chat with them about it and then we'll go to dinner together. I have no problem with them urging me to change my ways and believe the bible. But when their admonitions are thereafter filled with hate and they refuse to be civil to me, walking on the other side of the street or some such nonsense (and hopefully nothing worse!), I think that's just not right. Same goes for my gay friends. I don't mind that they think I'm brainwashed by religion and voluntarily abandoning the free life I could be enjoying by believing gay behavior is a sin, but I think it crosses the line when my med student buddies wear pins that say "straight but not narrow" thus contradicting their own values of being tolerant by categorically insulting the religious demographic as "narrow". Yes, yes, I've heard the argument that they are just affirming their support and intended no insult to religious people. But if you stop and think about it, that's bullshit. The message is a clear allusion to a religious metaphor and it has no clever zing whatsoever if you don't interpret it that way. Regardless, it's a soft offense. Much worse things have been done to both gays and religious people...
But I digress. Back to belief in belief.
You can learn things in two ways--take it from someone who knows, or figure it out for your own damn self. The problem is that there are plenty who claim to know, but actually are either wrong or have ulterior motives. These ulterior motives can be self-deception, personal gain, conscience relief, or whatever. On the other hand, figuring it out yourself is just plain too inefficient. If I were to try to learn medicine by 'figuring it out myself' rather than accepting the facts others feed me, I wouldn't graduate med school in five lifetimes.
So, then there's just a lengthy interplay between hearing ostensible claims of moral or religious fact, and then testing the veracity in some manner that persuades me they are true or false. This is the scientific method of religion. You plant a seed and if it is good it springs up into a fruit bearing tree. That is, if you don't decide to install a jacuzzi right over the saplings to have your gay buddies over for a skinny dip. The whole venture is perilous no matter who you are, but especially when you are filled with angst and want some fast answers or some fast relief. If you try to force it, you may one day realize the quick growth was only a thistle and the real tree died long ago.
On the other hand, I can go overboard with my interplay, fulfilling Tim's prophesy that in the last days men would be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2Tim 3:7).
Or, I can wrest the scritpures to my own destruction if I decide the end from the beginning and try to twist some dead branches and green spray paint into a tree looking structure so I can have the tree on top of the jacuzzi.
I take a deep breath. I realize my beliefs are fluid, not yet the rocky foundation I need. And I examine the evidence. All the while, remembering the admonition that if I don't nurture the tree--if I give up along the way and neglect it--I shouldn't be surprised when it slowly withers away and dies. At least that's what I've been told. And that's what I've seen happen with others' trees.
I want a majestic oak with gnarled mature branches, and a thick tapered trunk. There are people around me who have what I want from life. They have that oak. And so I trust them when they tell me how to nurture my own. I believe them.
It's sometimes scary too. But I don't want to modify my beliefs in a reactionary way. I believe in belief.