By Michael T.
How do we come to knowledge and testimony of truth? As a former philosophy major, I cannot avoid the opportunity to talk about epistemology, which focuses on how one determines:
- What is knowledge?
- How is knowledge acquired?
- To what extent, and through what means, is it possible for a given subject or entity to be known?
In brief, epistemology tries to answer the question, “How do we know what it is we think we know?” As you understand, this is an important question for each of us. Relating to what our religion teaches and to what we believe, it is important to ask
- What do we believe to be true?
- How might one know of its truth or reality?
- How is it that one has arrived at such a belief?
- What is the range of evidences, experiences, or validations that have contributed to that belief?
- What are both the possibilities and limitations to belief or knowledge?
Experience also suggests that there are differences in our intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual make-ups. These differences result in a range or variety of differences in how we learn, perceive, and process information and truth—and in how we come to believe or know something.
How do I know?
Speaking for myself: I do not know, in the strictest sense of the word or without any doubt, that God or Christ exist, or that this is their one true church. But I do have a strong faith and a belief—developed, altered, nurtured, and evolving over many years—that such things are true.
When asked how it is that I believe such things, I can say that my belief in God rests upon multiple and diverse evidences—none wholly independent or complete, but each of which assists and supports the others. I can say that I have felt the fruits of the Spirit in my life, at a variety of times and in a variety of ways:
- I have felt the presence and influence of the Holy Ghost (something experienced and better understood over time), even as I have felt its opposite—a stupor of thought. Faith and doctrinal teachings have helped me learn to know, trust, and understand both of those spiritual phenomena—and what they mean for me as I continue seek knowledge of what is and as I make decisions in my life in the face of uncertainty.
- I have also, by that same Spirit, had intimations, revelations, and confirmations related to understanding God’s will and appropriate courses of action in my life.
- I have heard or felt promptings that have protected me from spiritual and physical dangers.
- I have experienced what I consider to be miracles and have had specific prayers answered—often in ways not expected.
- Over the course of my life, I have come to believe that the principles of the gospel work for me. Specifically, I have seen the benefits and impact of beliefs and of obedience to laws—by which I have experienced happiness and avoided sadness.
- I have experienced and felt what I believe to be a change of heart and spiritual rebirth.
Over the course of my life, I have also come to accept the importance of what the scriptures and living prophets speak of as the law of witnesses: that it is through multiple witnesses or evidences that the truths of the gospel and of Christ’s divinity are established or confirmed in my belief.
There are things that I believe directly, through multiple personal experiences, and those that I believe indirectly, through the witnesses or testimonies of others close to me and others more removed (including ancient and living prophets).
I have accepted that the perfect gospel, despite its divinity, most commonly has to be carried in imperfect vessels (you and I), and that this is true of members and leaders in the Church.
I have become more able and willing to admit to the fact that in life—and in belief and in the gospel—there are tensions, contradictions, ironies, and uncertainties. I don’t expect that I will understand all things now, or when and how I want to. Moreover, I have come to believe that in those contradictions and ironies, there are truths to be learned and greater knowledge to be revealed.
Part of the “To Those Who Doubt” series. Read the series’ other posts here: