My job requires me to brief management on subjects that can sometimes require interpretation. I was given some advice by a coworker to “tell them what you know, tell them what you don’t know, and tell them what you believe. More importantly, make sure they know the difference between the three.”

I was wonder how this would apply to a church setting. Years ago when I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher, I would designate one side of the front of the classroom as “my opinion space”. I told the class that when I stepped to that corner, I was giving my opinion. It worked quite well, as I would also announce I was moving to the corner to give my opinion.

What if we applied that advice my coworker gave me to all our church leaders? Let’s start with talks in General Conference. The first problem I see is that most Mormons do not differentiate between what they know and what they believe. Especially at the General Authority level, if they believe something, they know it, and there is very little they don’t know or will admit they don’t know unless it is controversial, and then they just throw up their hands and say “We don’t know what God what thinking”.

The Church Essay on Blacks and the Priesthood does follow this advice. To paraphrase: We know the church did not let Blacks receive temple blessings before 1978, we don’t know why this was instituted, but we believe Brigham Young started it and he was a product of his time.  

Wouldn’t it be great if every talk in General Conference was required to follow this? Instead of just saying “I know the Book of Mormon is true”, they would say “I know the Book of Mormon has provided great blessings for my family as we read and follow its teachings. I don’t know how it was translated or how Joseph Smith wrote it, but I believe it was done through the power of God and is His words for us.”

What other ways could this “Know/Not Know/Believe” rule be applied in a religious setting, or does it not apply at all? Is it too hard to differentiate “feelings/belief” from the truth (facts)? Is this better suited for secular settings, with religion left to fuzzy feelings as the definer of truth?