Here’s another Come Follow Me discussion, looking at how four related terms appear in Alma 32: belief, faith, hope, and knowledge. This seems like a worthwhile discussion because the terms are used (and abused) frequently in current LDS discourse and because the distinctions between the terms become more meaningful for those in faith crisis or who are reexamining their beliefs in light of new information about LDS history, doctrine, or practice. After quoting Alma 32, I’ll contrast faith versus belief, faith versus hope, and faith versus knowledge.
Just to get things started, consider how the following four statements sound to an LDS listener:
- “I believe the Church is true.”
- “I have faith the Church is true.”
- “I hope the Church is true.”
- “I know the Church is true.”
Those are all fairly positive statements and all show a fair degree of belief and commitment to the Church. None of them are critical or even neutral about the Church. Yet in an LDS testimony meeting, any statement other than #4 is likely to be taken as expressing some doubt or hedging one’s bets. The Church’s emphasis on always expressing one’s faith or belief as knowing has the effect of denigrating faith and hope. I think that’s unfortunate. It also tends to confuse Latter-day Saints into thinking about their faith and commitment to the Church in terms of knowledge. LDS leaders like this because it sort of bootstraps a higher degree of confidence and commitment from the membership. But expressing faith and hope in terms of knowledge can backfire when doubt creeps in and a superficial claim to knowledge is then compromised. Often, faith and hope go down with the ship. In fact, faith and commitment are compatible with doubt. But you don’t learn that in any standard LDS context, which is why “faith crisis” has become such a thing lately.
Here is Alma 32:21-22, with the four terms we are looking at in bold text:
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. And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word.
There’s a lot of what your English teacher might call throat-clearing in that passage. Let’s try rewriting it in plainer English:
Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things. If you have faith, you hope for things which are not seen, which are true. Remember, God is merciful to those who believe on his name. God wants you to start with belief in his word.
Bullet points: Faith is clearly distinguished from knowledge. Faith implies hope. Belief qualifies the believer for God’s mercy. Belief is the right place to start. It may be all you need.
Faith versus Belief. I’m inclined to see belief as a willingness to accept or endorse some statement or claim about the world, and faith as simply a belief directed to a religious or divine object or claim or event or doctrine. So in a discussion where the religious context is clear, “belief” and “faith” are essentially synonymous. I’ll admit that faith is a richer term, generally implying trust and commitment as well as simply belief in an assertion. To say, “I have faith in God” is a broader claim than simply, “I believe in God.” But even the narrower statement implies some further claim. It is very unlikely someone will say, “Sure, I believe in God, whatever. It’s no big deal.” It seems clear that believing in God *is* a big deal, as “having faith in God” seems to acknowledge.
Faith versus Hope. Alma 32:21 claims that if you have faith, you thereby hope for some things. Looking just at the quoted verses, I’d venture that you hope the things you have faith in are true and you hope that God will have mercy on you (rather than delivering a just punishment for all you sinful deeds). The phrase “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” seems to stretch the word “hope” a little too far and to assume too much. It’s confusing the terms. As the word is generally used, we hope that something we want to be true is, in fact, the case.
This confusing use of the term “hope” seems to be an intended part of LDS discourse. Here’s how the discussion of hope in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org begins: “Hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness. The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.” Okay. But then there is this:
The word hope is sometimes misunderstood. In our everyday language, the word often has a hint of uncertainty. For example, we may say that we hope for a change in the weather or a visit from a friend. In the language of the gospel, however, the word hope is sure, unwavering, and active. Prophets speak of having a “firm hope” (Alma 34:41) and a “lively hope” (1 Peter 1:3).
Well, there you go. The word “hope” is repurposed to eliminate uncertainty. That’s why a Mormon who says “I hope the gospel is true” is heard as saying “I doubt the gospel is true” and is likely to elicit a defensive response. “Really? Well I know the gospel is true, o ye of little faith.”
Faith versus Knowledge. Let’s reemphasize that Alma plainly distinguishes between faith and knowledge. In the LDS Gospel Topics section, under “Faith in Jesus Christ,” the discussion does not try to push any hint of uncertainty out of the definition. It starts by quoting Heb. 11:1 and Alma 32:21, then states, “Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever we work toward a worthy goal, we exercise faith. We show our hope for something that we cannot yet see.” The last sentence seems to be using “hope” as the regular English word, not as the redefined Mormon word. Later in the article, we read the following:
Faith is much more than passive belief. We express our faith through action—by the way we live.
Faith is a gift from God, but we must nurture our faith to keep it strong. … We can nurture the gift of faith by praying to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. … We can strengthen our faith by keeping the commandments. … We can also develop faith by studying the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.
So the article talks about increasing or strengthening faith, but rather surprisingly it doesn’t say your faith should turn into knowledge. I think devotion (through prayer), duty (obeying God’s commands), and knowledge (studying the scriptures) are all reasonable extensions of faith. Devotion doesn’t swallow up faith; duty doesn’t displace faith; and knowledge doesn’t supersede faith. The discussion of faith in the “Faith in Jesus Christ” article seems to avoid the insistent “faith equals knowledge” claim often on display in LDS talks and testimony bearing.
Conclusion. So what words do you use to express your positive view of God or the Church: I believe, I have faith, I hope, or I know? Have you ever encountered pious pushback for your choice of words? If you follow or attend another church, how are these words used differently? Did your Mormon background make it difficult to relate to how other Christians express their belief and faith? And to you determined contrarians who would rather jump off a cliff than express a positive view of God or the Church, what words do you choose to express your doubt or dissatisfaction with God or the Church?
Organizations have formal and informal speech codes. Many politically conservative folks will denounce US universities for their de-facto (if not actual) speech codes that govern what you can and can not say on campus. But some of these same folks, with no sense of irony, don’t realize that we practice the same within our LDS culture. From the time a boy or girl enters Primary, it is well understood that you are to say “I know” when declaring your testimony. Were you to say “I believe”, you’d be looked at as a doubter, and nobody wants that.
Here’s what I find so utterly ironic and frustrating about the “I know” virtual requirement: If someone truly knows something to be true, they don’t really need to exercise faith. After all, they know. Or, they don’t really know after all but they are sending a virtue signal to everyone that they know. Now contrast this with the sincere and authentic individual who expresses “I believe”. This person is basically stating that they do not know but they have faith that something is true. I find this approach and language so much more real (with all due respect to those of you who “know”).
How about – “I believe in God and am extraordinarily awed and thankful for the creation and beauty we see and discover throughout the Universe. Also, I see all people as growing out of this divine creative force and I try to love, respect and honor them; as my brothers and sisters” No. Formal. Church. Is. Necessary. And is in fact – quite inconsequential
There are two kinds of faith: 1)faith as belief in oneself to overcome adverse circumstances (I.e., “I have faith I’ll get another job after getting laid off”), and 2) uncompromising absolutist belief in often unevidenced claims about history and nature (“I have faith that God has a body of flesh and bones and that Jesus appeared to ancient Americans and nothing could convince me otherwise”). Alma 32 is talking about the latter. The “…which are true” part of the verse suggests faith to be a strong belief in ideas that one has already predetermined are true. The whole chapter is the epitome of confirmation bias. Claim you believe some proposition about nature and history is true and then set out to find any piece of something that you call evidence (even if it means fitting a square peg into a circular hole) in order to confirm belief in that proposition. You are to plant a good seed (meaning whatever belief you want) and nurture it with ideas that confirm the validity of that belief. You are then to cast out bad seeds (meaning ideas that challenge the validity of the original belief).
I subscribe to faith in the first meaning. Not the second one. Belief should be informed by evidence, not social pressure and willpower to believe whatever you want. We shouldn’t believe things simply because they’re popular or because that is what our families and communities expect us to profess. We should believe things because there is evidence. And if we find new evidence or a better interpretation of existing evidence, we should adjust our beliefs accordingly.
“I have been asked many times by many people if I believe in God. I don’t like this question. I generally respond by stating that I act as if God exists…” This quote from Jordan Peterson shifts the discussion somewhat. Instead of arguing whether one’s definition is correct or not we should be asking this question. How is your faith, belief, knowledge, hope in God reflected in your behavior? Who cares what we call what motivates us? I would rather deal with a man who was kind, forgiving, and long suffering and who believed that there was no God than the opposite.
Dave B, all four of these statements are incorrect. It’s the Gospel that is to be declared true, NOT the Church. The Church is the earthly bureaucracy that happens to be the current mechanism by which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is administered and delivered to the world. A person who declares that they “know the Church is true” is speaking incorrectly, professing absolute certainty in an organization run by fallible human beings who make mistakes, rather than expressing faith in the intangible divine.
A person who says “I know the Church is true” could also be saying “I am certain this building was constructed properly, in compliance with building codes”. Unless the person bearing that testimony is a civil engineer or building inspector, he or she is unqualified to testify of such things, and is also speaking incorrectly.
“I know the Church is true” is, ironically, one of the most oft-repeated falsehoods in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
josh h, yes I guess there is something like an LDS speech code. Words that one is supposed to use (“I know”), words that should be avoided (polygamy), favored slogans (burning bosom or stupor of thought, stay in the boat, covenant path). And, as noted in the post, the Mormon use of particular words or terms sometimes differs from the standard English meaning of the term or from the usual religious meaning of the term.
Jack Hughes, I guess we need to spell out what is being said and what is implied in the standard recitation, “I know the Church is true.” First, to be technical, “Church” is a word and words have senses and references and meanings but not truth values. So “the Church” can’t be true or false. One way to understand the standard recitation is as a gloss for a more detailed statement, something like this: “The Church makes several basic faith claims or truth claims about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and continuing LDS priesthood authority. I accept and endorse those basic truth claims.” Another way to understand the standard recitation is simply as an expression of support and commitment. So “I know the Church is true” is really a way to say “I am committed to the Church: I accept callings, support my bishop, and sign my tithing checks.”
“Church” and “true” are both words with multiple meanings. (So is “know.”)
One of my favorite meanings of “church” is “a body of religious believers.” This one seems to be inherent in D&C 10:67 ( “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” ) as well as more general use as “the whole body of Christians from all ages.” Or even more generally in D&C 1:30 (“…the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—“), the last phrase of which makes it clear that the verse is about a group of people being “true and living” and not [or not only] about an organization or its teachings.
One of 9 different meanings of “true” reported by Merriam-Webster is “steadfast, loyal, honest, just.”
So, another way to understand the standard recitation is the assertion that the group of members (known to the speaker) who repent and strive to follow the Lord are,truly (actually) being true (loyal) to Christ and their faith. Or, in a slight variation, that the members as a group (“speaking [of] the church collectively and not individually”) are striving, through repentance, to be steadfast in faith and loyal to Christ.
Other meanings of the stock phrase “I know the church is true” are also possible. I used to wonder what any particular speaker of that phrase meant. My general conclusion were that many of them don’t know what they mean and that I’d never figure out what many others mean without significant conversation with them individually about it (not my job).
Bob Cooper: Beautifully narrated, my friend. Thanks for sharing.
*So what words do you use to express your positive view of God or the Church: I believe, I have faith, I hope, or I know? *
I believe. The Christian creeds (Nicene, Apostle’s) begin with that expression. In fact, the word “creed” comes from the Latin word “credo” which is the first person singular of “to believe.” It literally means “I believe.” A creed is a statement of belief. But the Latter-day Saints, always needing to “one-up” the rest of the Christian world, have to do better than just mere belief. I sometimes think this is how Joseph Smith created his religion. “So the rest of the Christian world has deacons and priests and bishops? Well…I’ll show them. I’ll have deacons and priests and bishops AND HIGH PRIESTS!……They have salvation? I’ll give them EXALTATION!………..They have baptism and communion? Let’s top that with an ENDOWMENT!”
*Have you ever encountered pious pushback for your choice of words? *
No. But I don’t get out much. And when I do, I usually keep my beliefs to myself.
*If you follow or attend another church, how are these words used differently? *
I can’t recall any instance in which anyone in my Episcopal parish has used the expression “I know.” It would sound so completely out of place. We don’t feel the need to spend twelve services per year convincing ourselves that we are the “one true church.” We don’t turn any of our meetings into sales pitches for the club. The priest who baptized me always made it a point before performing a baptism to assert to the congregation that this baptism represents a baptism into the body of Christ, NOT an initiation into the Episcopal Church.
*Did your Mormon background make it difficult to relate to how other Christians express their belief and faith? *
Yes. At first, it was very odd to communally recite a creed. It was also uncomfortable, strangely, to hear a group of people sing hymns that are openly praising God. This is not non-denominational, hands-in-the-air, worship music. This is a very traditional hymn sung and directed toward God. It is called the “gloria.” There are different musical settings for it. It is very old. It references God and Christ in the second person, so you are really singing directly to God. (“…..almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory……”). That was, and is still, very strange. I haven’t gotten used to it yet, even though I like it. Mormons generally do not direct hymns of praise toward God in so direct a fashion.
A Church can either orient itself toward coaxing faith by building on whatever hope someone has, allowing room for doubts, or it can outlaw expressing doubts, making “knowledge” or “certainty” the goal (which among competitive people ends up being the new norm). We denigrate doubt, making it seem like it’s not perfectly normal (which it is), which results in people feeling extreme relief when they can finally admit their doubts, even if it in a more private setting than Church. It’s a dangerous approach, one we can thank Bruce R. McConkie for normalizing.
I have always read Alma 32 as a recipe for confirmation bias. If you want to believe something, and you ignore or set aside doubts, your belief gets stronger until eventually you rely on it as if it’s “knowledge.” That’s how we get unquestioned assumptions and beliefs that we haven’t really investigated closely. But hey, humans are wired to do that, so maybe that’s OK. I just always found it shocking how openly Alma 32 describes that process.
But, Angela, there are so many “I know” testimonies from 1908 reported by Ardis Parshall in her “So Great a Cloud of Witnesses” series at Keepapitchinin, that I wonder if normalizing can really be attributed to BRM. Maybe it was normalized before he came on the scene.
I wonder if confirmation bias is not built into “normalized” LDS talk of testimonies by many more than BRM, e.g. “A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.” Boyd K. Packer “That All May Be Edified” (1982), 340, Did Packer learn that from BRM?
Alma 32:18 makes a notable contrast between persons centered on faith centered on imperfect “cause to believe” and those who hold out for a faith based on absolute certainty (“he that knoweth it”), coercive proof that brooks no argument and leaves nothing unknown, nothing to question, nothing to seek and absolute accountability for every thought and decision and act. He prefers a life of acting on “cause to believe” as preferable. A desire for absolute certainty as the starting point for belief to me, misses the point of faith. Far from being a recipee for confirmation bias, I’ve long seen Alma 32 as directly comparable to the epistomology described in Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He describes the pattern in how people decide on which framework to use as a general approach to knowledge. Which of two theories is better? And that leads to the problem of How do I measure better? Should I reject your theory on the grounds that it is not mine, or because it comes from your tribe, rather than mine? Should I reject mine on the grounds that it is not yours? A crucial problem is that the means of measuring are partially defined by the framework we start with, so the issue of self referential standards comes up. When Jesus says, check on the beams in our own eyes first, I think he’s asking us to consider how we measure what we measure and how that affects our judgements. How do we “see clearly?” He says, that starts with being self critical and self-aware. What are the implications of my own starting ideology? And how do I arrive at standards of judgement that are not completely self-referential? “Which is better? to be meaningful, requires fair comparison by standards that are not completely self referential. And that is what Kuhn provides. He identifies a set of values that can give weight to arguments to paradigm choice because they are not paradigm dependent. Testability, accuracy of key predictions (where what makes an issue key is always going to subjective to a significant degree), comprehensiveness (breadth and depth) and coherence (both internal and external consistency), fruitfulness (what comes out in trying it on for size that you’d never see or experience from the outside), simplicity and aethetics, and future promise. Kuhn points out that since no paradigm solves all the problems it defines, part of the paradigm choice is deciding which paradigm to use in approaching problems neither candidate has yet solved. That, he notes, is inescapably a faith decision. Because they function as values, rather than rules, they can be applied differently even by people who share them. So Alma 32, sets out some testable problems as examples, (where can we worship? How can we believe what you are telling us?), and recommends experiements on even a portion of the word, describes how the discernable outcome will lead to understanding being increased, the mind expanding, and enlargement of the soul, fruitfulness, deliciousness, and future promise. All very much in line with Kuhn. That, by itself, provide me, at least, with significant “cause to believe.”
So is my knowlege perfect? With Alma, I can say, “Nay,” despite all that I have learned from a wide range of experiments and experiences over several decades. My knowledge is not perfect. But I do have abundant cause to believe, and from my perspective, the view is wonderfully promising. I have to consider the many things I have learned that I would have completely missed, and never have even known what I was missing (I have a substantial library and around 40 published essays at this point), had I dropped out on encountering this or that question or complaint forty years back. I’ve also learned that any one can dismiss things that mean a lot to me by just saying “So what?” or not even bothering to look. Which means, I can’t take myself too seriously, even though I take Christ very seriously.
How about: “Faith is not a perfect knowledge of things. If you have faith, you hope for things which are not seen. Remember, God
is merciful to all, depending on His discretion.” To believe that God is only merciful to those who believe smacks of the Prosperity Gospel. And bad things do happen to good people (the reverse is also true). And it is an open question how much God intervenes in our lives. I’m a believer that God is quite standoffish.
I avoid saying, “I know.” I bear my testimony from time to time in Church, and use the words, “I believe.” Hardly ever have I gotten pushback. Once, a member of the Mormon Thought and Speech Police responded with, “Well, I KNOW!” I responded that he was lucky, but I had not yet achieved Brother of Jared status, yet (Ether 4:19), I made my point and the Thought Police backed off.
Angela: Yes, Alma 32 is indeed an example of confirmation bias. So is Hebrews 11 (faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen). Just about all our actions in life are based on confirmation bias to a greater or lesser degree. I found that to be true when I worked as a translator of spoken text. We can try to lessen confirmation bias, and if we have an open mind, we will let data that goes against our pre-dispositions, change our opinions— but I think we fool ourselves if we claim we have eliminated our confirmation bias. (I also learned that, even among the work of experts, there is a lot more error than we are comfortable in acknowledging. This is also true in the Church.)
Ultimately, faith is a choice, both with the Mormon Church, and Christianity, and religion in general. There are plausible reasons to believe, and plausible reasons to disbelieve. I chose to believe, and understand when others do not believe.
I try to be a disillusioned believer.
The last time I bore my testimony in church, I stated that the older I get the more questions I have— and that I choose to have faith, to believe.
The testimony bearer after mine stated, she has no questions, no doubt etc.
It felt like pushback.
A few years passed and talking to a “friend” I was sharing some of the questions which I believe won’t be satisfactorily answered in our mortal lives to which she responded by suggesting I need therapy, need to figure out what my deal is and pray, read the scriptures, listen to church leaders etc. Apparently there can be no unanswered questions.
While I continue church attendance, I’m more distanced from ward members and have learned to keep my mouth shut.
Lois: I am sorry that you were singled out like that. Our favorite pastime in Church sometimes seems to be confessing each other’s “sins.“ I have myself learned the hard way to “know my audience” before I try and say anything of substance. Sometimes I still open my mouth, anyway. Please don’t let the know-it-alls silence you.
This is a worthwile discussion. The scriptures suggest that what God wants is faith in God. The church wants us to know the church is true.
I believe it is dangerous to know things there is no verifiable evidence for. It creates a gullible group, who also know the virus is a hoax, or that a network marketing thing is good, or that Trump was put in by God.
Fowlers levels of faith describe level 3 as At this stage people rely on some sort of institution (such as a church) to give them stability. They become attached to the forms of their religion and get extremely upset when these are called into question.
Which is where the church wants its members to be, believing that all they need is supplied by the church, do not look outside the box.
As I don’t believe God discriminates for or against some of us, and as the church does discriminate, I am not comfortable in that box.
I hope/ have faith there is a God, but have lost faith in the leaders of the church, who have not shown greater leadership, or connection to God than I have, though their claims are much greater, though not verified.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Nice discussion.
wondering, yes one sees several meanings and uses of certain LDS terms, including “church” and “true” or “truth.” Remember, equivocation is an informal logical fallacy. It consists of using a particular word or term in different modes in the course of one argument. That’s exactly what we should try to avoid in our own statements and be on the watch for in the arguments of others.
John, great reflections. My own opinion is that a good Mormon is likely to make a great anything else, but the vocabulary and conceptual hurdles to fully participating in the discourse of another denomination are likely to be a challenge.
Angela C, the Church is always going to marginalize doubts and doubters. I think that’s true of most organizations and those who doubt the legitimacy of the institution’s leadership and goals. It’s frankly a little surprising that the Church has lately engaged in so many discussions (Ensign articles, GA talks) that explicitly recognize the issue. The fact they are addressing faith crisis and doubt problems publicly suggests the leadership thinks it is a serious problem. If it was not, they wouldn’t be addressing it.
Dave B., Yes, but ritual statements are not arguments. Sometimes it may be important to know what one means without caring much what someone else thinks the words mean. If/when that is the case, the ritual and personal meaning may be important and communication or argument/persuasion of little or no importance. If that’s ever the case, it may be important to discern or decide when it is the case.
One can use words consistently, without equivocation, in a statement and still be misunderstood because a listener attaches a different meaning to those words. If communication to that person is the point, and the speaker is aware of the different meaning attached by the listener, then clarification is in order. If ritual statement is the point, that may not be important to the speaker (but different meanings sure caused me a lot of confusion and upset when I was an adolescent).
In most cases I try to avoid using terms that I expect may communicate something different from what I mean to the intended listener. There are also times when words are intentionally and appropriately ambiguous, but those times are rarely, if ever, part of an argument intended to be persuasive.
Thanks for the comments on confirmation bias and Alma 32, Angela C. and Kevin.
I’m afraid an adequate response and discussion would end up being a post unto itself (great idea for next week) but I’ll make some quick comments. Confirmation bias is about the human inclination to retain current beliefs. It manifests in a variety of ways, from filtering out unfavorable information, interpreting what gets through to favor existing beliefs, selective recall which again filters out unwanted information or modifies what is remembered to be more favorable to one’s existing views.
Within the LDS context, there are two relevant scenarios. One is for existing Church members. Their human tendency would be to filter, interpret, and remember information in such a way that it confirms an existing belief in the Church. Leadership and LDS speakers are likely to reinforce this approach: don’t read stuff critical of the Church, give the Church the benefit of the doubt, and so forth.
The second scenario is missionary work. Here, LDS missionaries or motivated members are trying to persuade a potential convert to adopt new ideas. The average potential convert, following the human pattern, would be inclined to hear and interpret what they are being told by the LDS speaker in such a way as to reinforce their prior beliefs about God, church, and all that. What missionaries need is an approach that is the opposite of confirmation bias.
So in Alma 32, is Alma trying to get existing Nephite Christians to retain their beliefs in the face of contradictory information? Or is Alma trying to get wayward Nephites with independent beliefs to abandon those beliefs and adopt new ones? Is Alma 32 about belief retention or belief replacement? I’m gonna leave that hanging and consider doing a fuller discussion in a post in a week or two. But I like the contrast between what the Church tells its own members (Strengthen your existing beliefs! Avoid contradictory information! Doubt your doubts!) and what it tells “investigators” (Adopt new beliefs! Read more about the new religious beliefs we are offering! Doubt your prior beliefs!).
Regarding confirmation bias (something we typically raise to account for why other people don’t agree with us), and filtering and valuing information, there is an enlightening passage in Betty Edwards Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain that was eye opening for me many decades ago:
“Most of us lend to see parts of a form hierarchically. The parts (hat are important (that is, provide a lot of
information), or (he parts that we decide are larger, or the parts we think should be larger, we see as larger
than they actually are. Conversely, parts that are unimportant, or that we decide are smaller, or that we think
should be smaller, we see as being smaller than they actually are. (Edwards, 134)
That is one of the things that Jesus wants us to know about ourselves as part of checking our own eyes for beams that we might “see clearly.”
And what exactly the scriptures and prophets encourage us to do about our limited knowledge is worth exploring. I notice that Joseph Smith famously commented to Daniel Rupp, or a book that included statements by believers of many different faiths, “By proving contrarities, truth is made manifest”, And that D&C 88 says, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom,” rather than “Seek out of approved books words of orthodoxy.” Personally, I had sought only out of approved books, I would not be looking back on 40 published essays. It’s one thing to prepare yourself to swim, and quite another to jump into a raging current without means of survival. It’s one thing to look at the traffic and learni how to cross safely, and another to run blindly into traffic. “Do you preach the orthodox religion?” is one mindset. “I am seeking further light and knowledge” is another. There are members of the LDS church in both categories. Who speaks for what God wants for us?