Belief, Faith, and Knowledge

In our church culture, we tend to value knowledge over faith. In our testimonies, we assert that we know the Church is true, for example. People, when they hear that you merely believe that the Church is true, or have faith that the Church is true, will pat you on the back, tell you to pray harder, and someday, you will know.

I’ve been working on The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage for the Mormon Texts Project, and I thought this was an interesting thought by Brother Talmage:

We frequently hear it said that faith is imperfect knowledge; that the first disappears as the second takes its place; that now we walk by faith but some day we will walk by the sure light of knowledge. In a sense this is true; yet it must be remembered that knowledge may be as dead and unproductive in good works as is faithless belief. Those confessions of the devils, that Christ was the Son of God, were founded on knowledge; yet the great truth which they knew did not change their evil natures. How different was their acknowledgment of the Savior from that of Peter, who, to the Master’s question “Whom say ye that I am?” replied in practically the words used by the unclean spirits before cited, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter’s faith had already shown its vital power; it had caused him to forsake much that had been dear, to follow his Lord through persecution and suffering, and to put away worldliness with all its fascinations, for the sacrificing godliness which his faith made so desirable. His knowledge of God as the Father, and of the Son as the Redeemer, was perhaps no greater than that of the unclean spirits; but while to them that knowledge was but an added cause of condemnation, to him it was a means of salvation.

It strikes me funny that for Talmage, faith, not knowledge, is what saves. For Talmage, saying “I know that the Church is true” is a good start; however, Talmage would probably respond, “That’s great that you know that the Church is true. Now, what are you going to do about it?”


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