Faith and Knowledge, Not Faith versus Knowledge

Faith is defined and explained in the scriptures of our Church; Alma Ch32. In verse 21 we read, "And now as I said concerning faith - faith‍ is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope‍ for things which are not‍ seen, which are true."

When I was investigating the LDS Church in 1979 this scripture was first shared to me by door-knocking missionaries. At that time, I was in the final year of my university where I had been an astute student of knowledge since I started school 15 years ago. Faith was not a concept that my family background had nourished in me as I was a product of a father who believed strongly in education more than anything else for his children. I, therefore, had difficulties to merely exercise faith in what was taught to me but took an intellectual approach to find out if what was taught to me was true. The investigation led to many other teachers of the gospel to try to convince me of the truths that they had accepted. I quickly learnt the doctrines that identified the beliefs of each group and used my logical mind to try to discern who had the doctrines that made more sense.

Herein lies the challenge. Faith really is about hope and is not based on perfect knowledge or knowledge that can be objectively supported or proven. I found that much of the beliefs that each group had seemed to have a subjective element in it based on their interpretation of the same scriptural text. The challenge of Christianity as I had long suspected seemed to be on different views or interpretations of a single common biblical text. The unity of faith-based on different interpretations of each group seemed to be a great challenge. What was unique with the LDS Church was that it had a different approach. Bolder claims were made of direct revelations from God to latter-day chosen prophets and the investigation was no longer a comparison between who had the better interpretation. I had to investigate and decide if what I had learnt and the new scriptures based on new revelations were authentic or true. It was a much clearer decision as to whether it was true or completely false with no middle ground as in the other religions due to the bold claims that were made.

I knew I had a sufficient logical and inquiring mind to sift through theological, scriptural or doctrinal text to understand what was proposed by the different churches but how would I know if the new scriptures such as the Book of Mormon was true? It seemed to be the decisive point to decide if the founder of the Church and first proclaimed latter-day prophet who first introduced the book to the world is indeed a true prophet or not. I was taught how to pray as the end of the book Moroni Ch 3:3-5 had a promise that if I would ask God with a sincere heart, with real intent and having faith in Christ, I will receive a manifestation of the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. I asked the missionaries how could I tell if the Holy Ghost bore witness to me and they said there might be a burning in my bosom or I would feel peace in my heart and mind. This seemed rather subjective to me and even if I did feel anything, I would not feel satisfied that it would be positive proof of the truth!

Even though the LDS Church had the most convincing doctrines to me, it took time for me to accept the ordinance of baptism as an official entry to the Church. I didn't feel I had the perfect knowledge sufficient to warrant me to make such a big change in my life to accept a new lifestyle of becoming a 'Latter-day Saint' or 'Mormon' that others would call us. The words of one missionary, who made a comment in my blog journals much later in my life, reminded me of my spiritual moments as I was taught by the Elders that softened my logical mind. to think that no harm could be done to proceed with the baptism as after all, I could treat the whole experience as an 'experiment' to find Truth! I may not have realized it then but that experiment was actually my act of faith in God. I had acquired much knowledge about the teachings of the Church but it wasn't perfect knowledge for me to know they were revelations from God as opposed to mere doctrines or philosophies created by Man.

This 'experiment' of faith eventually made what was just hope or belief in the beginning to become 'sure knowledge' which is, in essence, is also 'perfect knowledge'. The difference between 'sure' and 'perfect' is only a difference in semantical definition ie a slight difference in meaning. (Click their highlighted words for details). I use the word sure because it was exactly how I felt. With the experiences or occurrences that were happening to me, I knew I was receiving divine revelation or communication from a Heavenly source! It was beyond any intellectual thinking or reasoning that could explain what had happened. I was experiencing the miracles that come after one exercises faith. Indeed, Faith precedes the Miracle!

My conversion added faith and hope in God to my confidence in earthly knowledge created by Man for our progress in the world we live in. There is no conflict between faith and knowledge. Faith and knowledge are not opposites. Only faith and fear are. (Read about Faith versus Fear .) In fact, I have found them very complimentary as the knowledge of science that we depend on in our world isn't as perfect as we think either. The more I learn of the knowledge available on earth the more I realize that I don't know. Even faith is still required to be exercised in living on earth with all the knowledge that we have as we still have to hope to gain further knowledge as what we know is still insufficient in many areas.

It is interesting to read the revelations received by Joseph Smith recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 which reads " And as all have not afaith, seek ye diligently and bteach one another words of cwisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best dbookswords of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."  Why not click here to read the entire long chapter in order to gain the wisdom of having faith in God?

We acknowledge that Man's knowledge is finite but God's knowledge must certainly be infinite as the worlds and stars he created. If we need to have faith and trust in human beings with the knowledge they have discovered and taught to us as solutions to our lives, why can't we have faith and trust in God that he will provide us with what we lack in perfect knowledge for our mortal lives?
It is appropriate to quote the following verses from that Chapter of faith in the book of Alma. The power of it's meaning is part of the answer to the question posed earlier of how we can know the new scriptures are true.

"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 a 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 alikeness.

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.

35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.

In conclusion, faith begins with an experiment to try the word and if we are humble enough to try it, what began as a mere possibility can become a reality or sure or perfect knowledge. We cannot quickly write off a belief or hope in something purely on the basis that we do not see the physical evidence at first sight.

If the above was a bit too heavy reading for the reader, here is something lighter :
A science teacher once stopped a little girl with child-like faith to try to convince her that her faith was in vain. Pointing to the clouds in the sky he asked if she could see the clouds. She replied yes. Then he asked if he could see God in the clouds in which she replied no. He then pointed to a mountain far away in the horizon and asked if she could see it? She replied yes. He again asked if she could see God in the mountain and she replied no. He then explained that the clouds and mountain did exist as she could see them but since she could not see God, he must not exist and went on his way.

A friend of the girl who had seen the teacher conversing with her walked up to her to ask what was the teacher doing pointing to the sky and the mountain? She pointed to the teacher and asked him if he could see the head of the teacher in which he replied yes. She next asked if he could see the brain in his head in which he replied no. She summarized to him that it means the teacher has no brain!"

If you have a legal mind, here is an interesting perspective about the burden of proof from a lawyer.

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