Jana Reiss of Religion News Service hosted a guest posting today entitled, “Mormon Celebrates “I believe” instead of I know”. (http://janariess.religionnews.com/2015/04/23/mormon-celebrates-believe-instead-know/)
I know this is a topic near and dear to Ms. Reiss´s heart, as she has talked about it before, ridiculing members who make similar statements when bearing testimony (http://janariess.religionnews.com/2014/10/31/mormonism-doubt-interfaith-truth-religions/).
The guest poster, Brighton Capua, an adjunct professor in the English Department of Brigham Young University, starts out writing about her own personal experience and search for her testimony. She talks about hearing other people say they know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, they know the Book of Mormon is true, they know this Church is true, etc. she wondered when she would “know”. She talks about her struggle to obtain this knowledge and how it led her to a crisis of faith.
Up to this point, her narrative resonates with me, because I went through nearly the same experience in my life. I think that all honest seekers of truth and knowledge have to pass through something similar. We all have to have our personal version of the Abraham and Isaac moment (Genesis 22:1-18), the widow of Zarephath crisis (1 Kings 17:8-16). It was the dilemma of the rich man who wanted to know how far to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22). Our faith must be tested, even to the breaking point.
The result of this rigorous testing is that some will give up, deciding that the perceived impossibility of the test means that the gospel is untrue. They quit trying and fall away. Some even apostatize and fighting against God and His Church. Others continue the struggle, no matter what, until they are finally rewarded with knowledge, like the brother of Jared (Ether 3:20), Moses ( Exodus 33:11), and many others, named in scriptures by name, and others unnamed.
To Sister Capua´s credit she did not give up. As far as I can tell, she is secure in her faith and an active member. She simply decided that the result of her reward for her trial of faith is faith itself. She assumed that faith is the whole point of the test, and has given up on the search for knowledge, and that is where her writing turns from poignant personal experience to teaching false doctrine.
She stated, “When I started searching for faith rather than knowledge, I learned something important: We were never supposed to know, and we are not expected to know.” And that statement is patently false.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf have both recently stated in general conference talks that there is nothing wrong with honest and sincere doubt. Each of us is on his own personal journey of discovery, and we are at differing points along that journey. But nowhere in their remarks did Elder Holland or President Uchtdorf state that doubt, or a belief short of knowledge, was a permanent stopping point, the final destination; and although belief rather than knowledge will be the closest many of us get to perfect knowledge in this life, it doesn´t have to be.
The best-known LDS reference for this particular topic can be found in the Book of Mormon, in the book of Alma, chapter 32, verses 26-34 which read:
26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
As Alma taught, for many people faith comes to life only as a desire to believe. As it progressively becomes stronger, it is completed in perfect knowledge. We don´t start out with perfect knowledge, and it may take us a long time to obtain it. There is no shame in that; in fact, it’s the norm. But sooner or later, we all have to get there.
Perfection in all things is a requirement of exaltation. Although I have a desire to be a good man, and I am better than some, I´m not as good as most, and I will most likely never be perfect, or complete, in this life. But sooner or later I will have to be, in order to reach my divine potential. And some have done it in this life, or at least have come very close. The scriptures speak specifically of Seth (Doctrine & Covenants 107:43), Noah (Genesis 6:9, Moses 8:27), Job (Job 1:1), and Asa (1 Kings 15:14, 2 Chronicles 15:17), There are others.
Not only is it possible to be perfect, we are commanded to work towards perfection, and the scriptures are explicit about the blessings to those who succeed (Deuteronomy 18:13, 1 Kings 8:61, Psalms 37:37, Proverbs 2:21, 11:5, Matthew 5:48, 19:21, Luke 6:40, John 17:23, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Ephesians 4:12-13, Philippians 3:12 and 15, Colossians 1:28, 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:17, Hebrews 10:14, 12:23, 13:21, James 3:2, 1 Peter 5:10, 3 Nephi 12:48, Moroni 10:32-33, Doctrine & Covenants 67:13, 76:69, 88:84, 90:8, 97:14, 124:43, 128:18). Please keep in mind that living a perfect life, beginning to end, and achieving perfection during one[s life, are two completely different things. Only Jesus accomplished the former.
We are expected to work towards perfection in our lives, and that includes progression towards perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:11, particularly the Joseph Smith Translation, Ephesians 4:12-13, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Jacob 4:12, Alma 48:11, Ether 3:20, Moroni 7:15-17, Doctrine & Covenants 50:24, 97:14).
The keys to perfect knowledge have existed in all dispensations, and have been conceded to us in ours as a result of the restoration of the gospel (Genesis 32:20, Exodus 33:11, Doctrine & Covenants 5:25, 76:12-25,115-118, 84:19-25, 88:66-68, 97:16, 136:32)
I will admit that some members use the word “know” without understanding what true knowledge really means. One must be patient with members at this stage in the development of their testimonies, because “knowing” is the only way they know to express what to them is a burning assurance so much more powerful than simple belief. As a young member who often expressed his testimony, I regularly used that word, feeling it to be appropriate. Later, as I struggled with my own doubts and lack of understanding, I came to realize that what I felt in those days was the beginning of a powerful faith, but not yet a perfect knowledge.
In conclusion, I hope that Sister Capua will come to an understanding of why here statement is untrue. I hope that one day she will able to say with conviction, “I know.” But to say that ~to know~ is not possible, simply because she doesn´t, is kind of like a New Yorker saying that he doesn´t know the Pacific Ocean exists because he only ever traveled as far as Chicago. I know it’s a long hard trip, but keep heading west, you´ll eventually get there. Lots of people have already made the trip.
Sister Capua, don´t give up on the quest for knowledge. Just keep heading in the right direction, don´t give up, and you´ll eventually get there. Lots of people have already made the trip.