Joseph Smith tried to teach that a man can be saved “…no faster than he gains knowledge,” and that “…no man can be saved in ignorance.” However, in true traditional style, we err in understanding what Joseph is trying to teach. We filter our understanding by seeing his words through the standards of our time. This blog is intended to give a little more detail to the road to knowledge.
The path of stepping stones to move from where we are, to knowledge, is important to get right:
- Unbelief: to accept false doctrine as truth, or to have an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of correct doctrine (by your own choice- pride, or by being misinformed- traditions of your fathers).
- Belief: the possession of true and complete doctrine
- Faith: the firming up of the mind to have confidence in God, in every form of righteousness. To have been tried and found committed to the truth.
- Knowledge: to have an audience with Christ
Knowledge defined, in this sense, is completely foreign to our generation. Our generations idea of knowledge is the accumulation of information. But the information we accumulate is based on the understanding of man, the things of the world, which is in the likeness of the world, which the Lord calls an idol. Our efforts to accumulate the knowledge of man is referred to as “idol worship.”
“16. They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great which shall fall.”
We search Google more often than we seek the Lord to establish his righteousness. Interesting to associate Google with idle worship.
Starting out with the right objective, properly defined, will prove necessary for the journey to produce the desired results. If we define a correct understanding of knowledge as having an audience with Christ in the flesh, we can now see clearly that in our generation, many may have been called, but only a very small …few have been chosen. Truthfully, most of us are absolutely ignorant of such knowledge being available to us. This is not negative or positive, just a fact (informative). Such ignorance can only be overcome by faith, and the resistance to faith is sin.
There are only two ways to sin:
- The traditions of our fathers, that instill false traditions as truth (Sinning ignorantly)
- Or …Rebellion (our hard heartedness). Knowingly rebelling against the truth (Pride)
Belief and faith are purposed to overcome both types of sin, and eventually produce a visitation of Christ, in the flesh. Let’s go through each, so that we can be clear (unbelief/ belief/ faith/ and knowledge).
Unbelief: Contrary to popular belief, our biggest problem of the two types of sin, is the traditions of our fathers, which produces in man unbelief. Unbelief is used in connection with losing truth, forsaking doctrine, and therefore “dwindling.” The condemnation of zion, where the whole church is condemned, is due to this dwindling of unbelief. We fail to remember the new and everlasting covenant, even the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:56-57).
Those who do not know the words of Christ, in the scriptures, cannot have a correct understanding of the perfections, attributes and characteristics of God. Therefore, they cannot obtain faith unto life and salvation (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 5). It doesn’t matter how the words of Christ are obtained (by reading, or through constant conversation with those who know, or by revelation), only a correct understanding can remove unbelief (false, incomplete, or inaccurate doctrines). Miracles end, stop occurring, discontinue, and are unfamiliar because of unbelief!
“37. …and it is by faith that miracles are wrought… Wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.”
We’ll use this scripture again later, but sufficed to say that overcoming unbelief is the first stepping stone toward obtaining real knowledge. We can only overcome by faith. Faith can only be placed in truth. And since all truth is circumscribed in Christ, faith increases as you come to know Christ.
Side note: remember the man who brought his son to be healed by Christ? Christ asked him if he believed that Christ could do all things. The man replied wisely, yeah Lord I believe, …then exclaimed, “help thou mine unbelief.” Christ was one who could correct the man’s incorrect ideas (unbelief). The man was instructed to “…go and sin no more.” Perhaps the sin he was guilty of is ignorance and the protecting or preserving of unbelief (false, incomplete or inaccurate doctrines).
Belief: The study of the words of Christ is what generates belief, an accurate, true and complete understanding of doctrine. An understanding of correct doctrine provides a clear path, and clear expectations. The second way to sin is by rebellion. This is where a correct understanding is obtained, but we reject the truth anyway. Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah fit into this category. Their fathers taught them correct doctrine, void of unbelief. Thus, the angel appeared to the boys to hold them accountable for rebellion. They were given the truth and where found rejecting it. Eventually, they repented and became those who had “knowledge,” in the correct sense of the word, given to them by the same angel that stood to condemn them earlier. That gives me hope.
The 2,000 stripling warriors, however, never doubted that their mothers knew (the correct sense of the word- “to know”), and they performed their obedience with “exactness.” I find it very interesting that Moroni tells us throughout the Book of Mormon that once the Lamanites obtain a correct understanding (belief) of the doctrines of Christ, they never fall away! The story of Aamon, King Lamoni, King Lamoni’s dad, the anti-Nephi-Lehi’s, Samuel the Lamanite, and the stripling warriors are all examples of this. In our last day we will be accountable for obtaining the correct understanding of the attributes, perfections and characteristics of God. When we obtain this belief, that is when Israel will finally become the Lion amongst the beast of the forest, who treadeth to pieces and teareth to pieces those who stand in their way.
Faith: You see, you must have a correct understanding of the attributes, perfections and characteristics of God first, before you can exercise faith unto life and salvation. Life eternal is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ (John 17:3). If you don’t know their correct attributes, then you too follow after the image of your own God, which is in the likeness of the world, which is an idol and will perish with Babylon.
I have never before heard anyone define faith this way before, but I understand faith to be a solidification process, or the firming up of the mind, to have confidence in God, an unshaken-ness, in every form of righteousness. To have been tried and found committed to the truth. God knows who we are, but we are the ones that benefit from knowing Him. Our obtaining of faith is purposed for us to endure all things, as we are changed into new creatures in Christ. That is why faith can only be developed upon the correct understanding of the words of Christ.
It is only when our faith is solidified in the correct doctrines, our minds are firm, and we have the utmost confidence in God, in every form of righteousness, that the seed we planted in our hearts (the word) will finally produce the fruit that is sweet above all that is sweet and pure above all that is pure. A correct understanding, leads to a trust, which leads to an unshaken faith in Christ (2 Nephi 31:19), and finally after feasting upon the words of Christ, you will have eternal life by entering in by “the way.”
“37. ..and it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
38. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.
When Christ accused men of drawing near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, He was essentially telling them that they had no faith. They didn’t want to align with the correct doctrine. They rebelled against the truth and rejected the very Christ who gave them the doctrine. Thus they could not have their minds firm, they could not develop a confidence in God to endure the test. These men were not recipients of miracles or angels, because their faith ceased. Their rewards where from the accolades and the honors of men.
Ask yourself, have I had angels? Have miracles and angels ceased in my life? If the answer to these questions are , “no,” then it is because of unbelief and you have not the faith. The message of Christ is that His arms are stretched out still. He desires that we return.
Knowledge: John taught that life eternal was to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent (John 17:3). Nephi taught that when we shall see him in the flesh, then whatsoever he says unto you, shall you observe to do (2 Nephi 32:6). We are also promised that those who forsake their sins, come to Christ, call on His name, obey His voice, keep His commandments will see His face and know that He is (D&C 93:1). This is available to us right now, …in this lifetime. And it is not intended to only be significant after we leave this earth. The test is here and now. We are invited to enter into His presence. He doesn’t withhold Himself from us. We refuse to receive Him.
When we see knowledge as a personal audience with Christ, we can then understand Joseph Smith telling us about gazing five minutes into heaven and knowing more about the subject than any book ever written. Knowing God and Christ produces a view into the heavens. The view into the heavens, although only five minutes, produces a knowledge that is a complete vision of all things, from the beginning of time until the end of time. That knowledge is not calculus, chemistry, anatomy, physics, etc.; although, such subjects are encompassed and swallowed up within the knowledge of heaven.
We are taught that “…as all have not faith seek ye diligently to teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118). We have falsely assumed that the best books are found in colleges, universities, history books, and english literature. They are not. They do not contain words of wisdom, the key words that are associated with knocking on the gates of heaven, and piercing the veil, to enter into the presence of Christ, to enter into a fraternal embrace with the savior. Those best books are scriptures! There are many scriptures that Joseph Smith studied, that are not considered scripture in our day (Apocryphal writings, Greek, Egyptian, etc.). It was the study of these best books that provided Joseph Smith with more scripture (i.e. the Pearl of Great Price, the facsimile’s of Abraham, and the Lectures on Faith). God adds upon what we have sought and received. You cannot be added unto if you do not receive it.
Conclusion: Parents of all kinds have a huge responsibility to teach correct principles when the children are young. But you can’t teach what you don’t understand. So parents are also the ones who perpetuate false doctrines that lead to unbelief. The same goes for leadership positions, where the called and sustained leader perpetuates unbelief in ministry. The story of King Noah and the wicked priests, from the Book of Mosiah, comes to mind. In this light a large amount of responsibility rests upon the parents and leaders for the “lack of faith” of their subjects.
If you have been misled and follow after unbelief, …small kine, just repent. Repentance is the process of correctly aligning. Repentance cannot be done in ignorance. It can only be done through the correct understanding of the words of Christ. As we align through the understanding of the words of Christ (by reading on your own, or through lengthy conversations), then we can increase faith. Faith is increasing as your confidence waxes stronger and stronger, till your faith becomes unshaken and solidified. Unshaken faith is an indicator that your tree (whose seed was the word) is fully developed, and soon the fruit will appear unto you. Christ will visit you as He did all who diligently seek Him. When He appears, then you have obtained knowledge, and your faith becomes dormant. You will have a perfect brightness, based in real knowledge. This is the purpose of the words of Christ. The words of Christ are in the best books. Reading is not what is essential. What is essential is:
2 Nephi 2:25
“26. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ and we prophesy of Christ, and write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”