Friday, October 2, 2009

Of Knowing and Believing

As a result of the comments about my previous post on knowledge and faith, I offer the following:

I read all the time people's concerns about testimonies where members say, "I know . . ." The standard criticism is that it is impossible to "know" anything - that an honest wording would be, "I believe . . ." - or, "I strongly believe . . ."

In response to this concern over statements of "know" vs. "have faith" - and especially people saying, "I know the Church is true":

I have no problem with that statement coming from anyone, since I interpret such statements by Nephi's personal definition in 1 Nephi 1:3. (my own words according to my own knowledge) We live in a hyper-sensitive world when it comes to distinguishing between "think", "believe", "hope" and "know", but it wasn't always so. As long as the statement means, "I (for myself) know (as much as I personally am able to know) that the Church is true (since I can't fathom any other way to explain my impressions and experiences)," I am totally fine with it - even if the parenthetical disclaimers are left unconsidered and unsaid. I really do believe there are things I personally "know" - things that I simply can't accept as being anything but "true". I often define "true" as when talking of a compass - meaning "pointing in the right direction" - but there are some things I believe to be objectively Truth inasmuch as I can comprehend such things.

Having said that, my concern is that others feel pressure to say "I know" amid their own uncertainty, or, even worse, they feel like a lack of certainty somehow is not good enough - when our own scriptures say that some have a GIFT to believe but not know. If their faith is a gift from God, I simply can't classify it as inferior or inadequate in any way.


SilverRain said...

I fully understand that this is something of a snide comment, but I'm going to make it anyways.

It seems to me that people ought to be focusing on their own testimonies, not criticizing how others speak theirs. For all the critics know, the speaker really does know. It is a case of extreme hubris to tear apart another person's testimony simply because one is jealous or contemptuous.

Christy said...

I appreciate this post. Our seminary students seem to be reluctant to testify because if that daunting word "know". And there are times that I have used that word and, quite frankly, felt funny about it.

adamf said...

I almost never say "know" about something metaphysical... actually, I almost never say "know" about anything. It has helped to compare other experiential things outside of religion that I would say "I know" such as "I know I love my son." I know, as much as I think it is possible to know, that there is something out there, something watching over us. I call that God/HF. I know there is power in hope and faith, and I know that most of the fruits of my activity in the CoJCoLDS have been life-affirming, inspiring, growth-producing, etc. etc.

I try hard not to criticize others' testimonies, but my brain just slams shut when I hear someone say "I know the church is the only true church" especially when it doesn't seem like they know Buddha from Constantine, or the Holy Ghost from the "chills" one gets when listening to great music. I don't criticize them, but I can't embrace that either. To each their own! :)

Papa D said...

Amen, SilverRain - and that really is one of the main points of my latest posts on this general topic. It really bothers me when people criticize others for their word choices, when, to the person expressing their feelings, it is sincere and honest and heartfelt.

Christy, I think part of that is the idea that we need to know everything - that true faith almost is not accepted by many. I am concerned about that, but it's human nature, and it's hard sometimes to address without sounding critical.

adamf, try not to let your brain slam shut. Try to understand the words are sincere and mean something to the person speaking - even if you personally wouldn't use the exact same words. It's a critical part of charity, imo.

adamf said...

I know they are sincere, and I can't deny my own hubris. I suppose I can sincerely empathize without having to agree... after all, that's what I often do with my clients.