Knowing and Believing


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In Alma's classic discourse on faith he contrasts knowing vs believing and speaks against those who have to know as opposed to merely believing and then says:

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

Is this the only benefit to not knowing and only having faith or are there other benefits to faith that knowledge does not give us? 

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4 hours ago, laronius said:

In Alma's classic discourse on faith he contrasts knowing vs believing and speaks against those who have to know as opposed to merely believing and then says:

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

Is this the only benefit to not knowing and only having faith or are there other benefits to faith that knowledge does not give us? 

knowledge and faith produce different powers. You need them both. I’m also not so sure faith is meant to evolve into knowledge. I think belief evolves into knowledge, but faith seems to be it’s on factor unrelated to knowledge.

I have beaten this topic of faith and knowledge I’ve met head for years. I dont really understand it all.

here is a link on another forum where I recently offered similar questions: https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/74511-belief-knowledge-and-faith/#comment-1210092801

Personally, I think faith has greater power than we think. I’m bothered when I hear people emphatically state that they KNOW the church is true and that they KNOW there is a God (and so on). I have a couple  of arguments and thought experiments that tend to disprove their proclaimed knowledge… but really what bothers me is that people seem to value knowledge above faith.

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4 hours ago, Fether said:

knowledge and faith produce different powers. You need them both. I’m also not so sure faith is meant to evolve into knowledge. I think belief evolves into knowledge, but faith seems to be it’s on factor unrelated to knowledge.

I have beaten this topic of faith and knowledge I’ve met head for years. I dont really understand it all.

here is a link on another forum where I recently offered similar questions: https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/74511-belief-knowledge-and-faith/#comment-1210092801

Personally, I think faith has greater power than we think. I’m bothered when I hear people emphatically state that they KNOW the church is true and that they KNOW there is a God (and so on). I have a couple  of arguments and thought experiments that tend to disprove their proclaimed knowledge… but really what bothers me is that people seem to value knowledge above faith.

Thanks for the link. There are some good comments made there.

I agree with you that faith is its own thing. Faith is a principle of action, It involves belief but is also a companion to hope with motivation to do. Belief alone and even knowledge can exist without any of that.  They also do not of necessity require desire. I may know working out will make me healthier and that I ought to do it. But if my desire is to sleep in or be lazy then that knowledge remains barren whereas faith always carries with it an assurance of things hoped for. So there is definitely more to faith than a stepping stone to knowledge. 

But I don't think we are intended to be content with merely believing either. Alma 32 specifically instructs us on how to acquire knowledge. This knowledge comes by way of experience and we come to know pieces of the whole little by little, so that we can come to know some things and yet not have a perfect knowledge. But what exactly does it mean to know?

In the Sacred Grove we say that Joseph came to know that God the Father and His Son are two distinct beings. But what if his encounter was really just with two members of a super advanced race of aliens pulling a joke on him? And yet Joseph came away from that experience knowing that was not the case. He KNEW who he saw. But how? Of course our sensory perceptions help us get along in life but those senses could not 100% reliably distinguish between God, aliens, or even a delusion. There had to be something more that granted him knowledge, qualifying him as a prophetic witness of God and His Son. I believe this is knowledge granted on a spiritual level, directly to our spirits, to our very beings. We are by definition intelligences after all. But at what point a person evolves from believing to knowing is tough to put a finger on. But with this in mind I have no problem with people saying they know the Church is true. I am curious to "know" does your argument and thought experiment disprove just knowledge of the Church's truthfulness or all knowledge altogether, a philosophical "How can we Know anything?" 

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13 hours ago, laronius said:

But I don't think we are intended to be content with merely believing either. Alma 32 specifically instructs us on how to acquire knowledge. This knowledge comes by way of experience and we come to know pieces of the whole little by little, so that we can come to know some things and yet not have a perfect knowledge. But what exactly does it mean to know?

 In the Sacred Grove we say that Joseph came to know that God the Father and His Son are two distinct beings. But what if his encounter was really just with two members of a super advanced race of aliens pulling a joke on him? And yet Joseph came away from that experience knowing that was not the case. He KNEW who he saw. But how? Of course our sensory perceptions help us get along in life but those senses could not 100% reliably distinguish between God, aliens, or even a delusion. There had to be something more that granted him knowledge, qualifying him as a prophetic witness of God and His Son. I believe this is knowledge granted on a spiritual level, directly to our spirits, to our very beings. We are by definition intelligences after all. But at what point a person evolves from believing to knowing is tough to put a finger on. But with this in mind I have no problem with people saying they know the Church is true. I am curious to "know" does your argument and thought experiment disprove just knowledge of the Church's truthfulness or all knowledge altogether, a philosophical "How can we Know anything?" 

I love and hate this topic. It is very interesting… but it always ends up becoming a “what does it mean to know” epistemology conversation which is such a bore.

I think Alma, when is talking about gaining knowledge, is referring to knowledge on specific principles. Not things like whether there is a god or not, if this church is gods one true church, or if Joseph smith was a prophet. I think he is referring to commandment. I know, through experience, that the principles taught in the word of wisdom are true, that reading scriptures every day gives me peace and strength to overcome temptation. And so , and that obedience brings blessings.

I do not, however, know that God is real or that this is gods one true church.
 

This is what I think he means by having a perfect knowledge in That thing, but not a knowledge that is perfect (Alma 32:34-26). Hence why continued faith is necessary.

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In the end, believing is a choice. Knowing is not. You know what you know. You believe what you choose to believe. You can believe what you know or you can not believe what you know. You can believe what you don't know, and you can not believe what you don't know.

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I have pondered knowing verses faith and have come to the conclusion that there are two many unknowns.  I speculate that there is a third object in this discussion and that is belief.  It certainly seems to me that faith and belief are what we call in science - tightly coupled.  Knowledge is a very different problem.  I do not know how to distinguish between what we think we know and what truth we actually know.  I have the impression that in this mortal life we really do not know anything but rather we think we know stuff.  Very often I think I know something only to discover that what I thought I knew was not as accurate as I thought.

My impression is that we make best guesses based on what we think we know.  As long as our paradigm makes sense we build on it thinking it is true.  As long as our building of sense makes sense and things turn out as expected - I tend to think I am on the correct path to truth.  I speculate that truth is more of a process than a destination.  When someone comes up with a concept that I believe to be lacking in consistency - I like to question their conclusion.  I have concluded that if they have no repeatable process their conclusions are most likely not better than mine.

But I also have another problem - I have received (on very rare occasions that I cannot duplicate) spiritual enlightenments.  For example as a youth I received a spiritual manifestation of light overcoming physical description specifically filling me with understanding that the Book of Mormon was divinely appointed truth that could be understood through the Holy Ghost.  The problem for me is that the power of the experience did not remain - only the memory of it.  So I am left to deal with my memory that I have proven to myself is flawed - or so I think I have proven to myself.  So I deal with doubts.  Not so much of what I think I know but more of my ability to remember what I think I have learned correctly.

I am of the general impression of the following: (please realize that there always seems to be an exception - just not very often)

1. Those that cannot express how they came to a understanding - their understanding is likely flawed. 

2. If someone gets angry when their understanding is challenged - their understanding is likely flawed.

3. If someone believes to know something for the single reason that someone of authority said so (authority referring to scripture or a person of wisdom speaking in general) - their interpretation - of what they think was specifically intended is likely incomplete as well as flawed. 

4. If someone is happy and kind even when their ideas are challenged - their understanding is likely well considered and thought out.  Usually following their logic is pleasant to consider. 

5. We all tend to think we know stuff we believe and have tested - but many are afraid to test their beliefs.   I worry (especially for myself) that rejecting a test of faith or beliefs is because we really do not believe it and our fear is that if a test is failed we will be left with nothing to believe or have faith about. 

6. If a person is willing to change their mind - they are more likely to have good ideas

7. Logic coupled with divine inspiration appears to be the best path to believable things I have faith in and think are true.

 

I would be interested in any comments or additions - especially from those willing to discuss details.

 

The Traveler

 

Edited by Traveler
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40 minutes ago, Traveler said:

have pondered knowing verses faith and have come to the conclusion that there are two many unknowns.  I speculate that there is a third object in this discussion and that is belief.  It certainly seems to me that faith and belief are what we call in science - tightly coupled.  Knowledge is a very different problem.  I do not know how to distinguish between what we think we know and what truth we actually know.  I have the impression that in this mortal life we really do not know anything but rather we think we know stuff.  Very often I think I know something only to discover that what I thought I knew was not as accurate as I thought.

I find that belief and knowledge are opposite ends of a spectrum where Faith is the application and internalization of those beliefs and knowledges in our own lives.

For example:

I know that eating too much unhealthy food is unhealthy for me and will cause me to gain weight. But I still choose to eat it despite my desire to be healthy. I have knowledge, but no faith.

I believe that investing in NFTs and Crypto will result in mass wealth in the future… but I don’t do it. I have belief, but no faith.

I know spending time on scriptures every day brings me peace and joy. I choose to spend that time in scriptures each day. But have knowledge and faith.

I believe doing work for the dead is helping bring about Gods plan of salvation. I choose to spend some of my time doing work for the dead. I have belief and faith.

 

 

We won’t be judged on what we believe and know, we will be judged on our faith. The examples above seem to go along nicely with that

Edited by Fether
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There is a difference between believing and Knowing and even if that is all there is, it's a rather drastic difference.

I'm trying to think of a relevant example. 

You have children and they see you buy candy at the store.  They have been told that if they are good, they will get that candy.

Because they KNOW you have the candy, it limits their ability to choose.  They Believe (and if it is true, it would be faith) you will give them the candy if they are good.  The KNOW you have the candy.  They WANT that candy, so they behave. 

Now, if they never saw you have candy and didn't know if you did, or did not, have candy, they may still be good.  They may still believe they will get candy, but the impetus will not be as strong.  Because it is not as strong an impetus, you could say that without knowledge, the choice is harder to make because it is their ability to choose is much more free.  It is not based on sure knowledge in any part, but a belief instead.

Knowledge of the Lord is harder than that.  I know the Lord lives and exists.  I have seen and talked to the Savior.  I know that the adversary exists.  I have dealt with him physically as well.  This knowledge has it's benefits and detriments.  It is a GREAT comfort to KNOW rather than to hope or believe that he is real and exist. 

I also don't feel that I can do certain things.  My freedom to walk away from Church or skip out I feel is no longer an option, even if I wanted to do it.  My freedom to choose NOT to do certain things (for example, I'd love to give in to the temptation for a sip of coffee, even for a second.  That's a FAR greater addiction for me than any other from before my member days.  It's been decades and I still would want a cup, but I WILL not because it's not in the plan of things.  It goes against what we should be doing, at least for present day commandments) is restricted.  Because of my knowledge, I could STILL choose to do things, but the default is to NOT to choose them.

It gets worse.  The adversary ALSO knows you know and acts accordingly.  This makes things much worse sometimes.  The degree of obstacles at times seem to scale directly in relation to knowledge, and with pure knowledge the adversity to it can get bad.  Once you know, the things getting tossed against you to deny that knowledge can sometimes seem unbearable.  In Academia, that can involve many things that are so challenging as to threaten your livelihood (having credentials tossed out if you don't refute things, or discredited if you uphold that God exists and influences things, etc), you home, and even your life come into effect that make you wonder why you get so targetted in these things.  

Knowledge can be a great comfort and good to have, but the challenges that come with it can be extreme at times. 

The Prophet Joseph knew far more than others, and he paid for that knowledge with his life.  Knowledge is a good thing to have but the temptations and things against you rise proportionally and can be extreme.

On the otherhand, with belief You may not have the comfort or assurance of many things.  You HOPE, but you do not have that absolute certainty that knowledge brings.

I Know the Lord lives and he is the savior.  That said, I do not have a knowledge of all things.  I have a belief that I should pay my tithing, but I don't have an absolute knowledge of it and that it is the right thing to be doing.  I was not instructed by the Lord personally on the matter, I just have the scriptures and what they say as well as the leaders of the Church.  I have FAITH that it is being done correctly, and hope that I am doing it right, but I do not have a pure knowledge on it.  I may have it wrong, I don't know for positive that even I am right in it and interpret things absolutely correctly. 

It is hard to say which is better.  I feel that if you only have belief, things are easier overall.  It also allows you more freedom in what YOU can choose to do or not to do.  Knowledge gives you comfort, but that comfort comes at a price to try to challenge that comfort.  The level of understanding and knowledge is directly contrasted with what will tempt you to choose evil, even with the knowledge you have. 

How much in pain and temptation do you actually want to PAY for that knowledge?  How much physical discomfort (and, if you get pure knowledge to what Joseph had, even death and temporary loss of family, along with your family also being tormented at times with you being unable to stop their torment and perhaps even their loss of faith of what you have) would you willing to give to have that knowledge. 

How much are you actually able to bear?

I think that's one BIG difference of how much knowledge we obtain at times.  Hopefully we are never given more than we can bear, but knowledge has it's price.

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On 5/11/2022 at 10:37 AM, laronius said:

In Alma's classic discourse on faith he contrasts knowing vs believing and speaks against those who have to know as opposed to merely believing and then says:

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

Is this the only benefit to not knowing and only having faith or are there other benefits to faith that knowledge does not give us? 

First, we need to get semantics out of the way. 

It should be clear that our common English usage of "faith" vs "knowledge" are different than the gospel meanings (plural) of these words.  In some gospel contexts, the meaning of faith is a higher level of understanding than knowledge.  In other gospel contexts knowledge is a higher level than faith. In common English, knowledge is always a higher level of understanding than faith.  But that meaning is different than gospel meanings.

It is important to ponder the definitions before we truly begin to try understanding what is real.

Edited by Carborendum
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1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

First, we need to get semantics out of the way. 

It should be clear that our common English usage of "faith" vs "knowledge" are different than the gospel meanings (plural) of these words.  In some gospel contexts, the meaning of faith is a higher level of understanding than knowledge.  In other gospel contexts knowledge is a higher level than faith. In common English, knowledge is always a higher level of understanding than faith.  But that meaning is different than gospel meanings.

It is important to ponder the definitions before we truly begin to try understanding what is real.

I agree. I specifically set out to contrast knowing and believing but still ended up equating believing with faith and sometimes they are used synonymously. I did though try to clarify myself after that. But really it is believing and knowing that are being contrasted here, as faith as a gospel principle is a much broader doctrine.

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43 minutes ago, laronius said:

I agree. I specifically set out to contrast knowing and believing but still ended up equating believing with faith and sometimes they are used synonymously. I did though try to clarify myself after that. But really it is believing and knowing that are being contrasted here, as faith as a gospel principle is a much broader doctrine.

Well, that started with your OP.

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On 5/11/2022 at 9:37 AM, laronius said:

In Alma's classic discourse on faith he contrasts knowing vs believing and speaks against those who have to know as opposed to merely believing and then says:

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

Is this the only benefit to not knowing and only having faith or are there other benefits to faith that knowledge does not give us? 

I would say, not becoming a son of Perdition is a great advantage of faith over knowledge (in this scenario for sure).

There is one aspect I think is very important to "faith" given in the book by Joseph Smith that faith is the power and action of all intelligent beings. Knowledge and faith form a symbiotic relationship of principles. We may have the knowledge of how to build a house, but the action to build that house is accomplished through faith.

At times, the desire for knowledge is the reason why there is no action. I won't move until "I know", as doubting Thomas is a great example of this. Another example, think of Laman and Lemuel who said, paraphrased, "God has made no such thing known to us." In contrast, Nephi acted in faith, faithfulness, and as a result of his faith he gained knowledge -- the Lord softened his heart toward his father and made things "known" unto him that Laman and Lemuel did not because Nephi acted with faith, while Laman and Lemuel were "waiting" for knowledge. Abraham 1:2, is a great verse of scripture that highlights faith leading to obedience which leads to more knowledge.

So, I would say the biggest benefit of faith is "action." Knowledge doesn't always lead to action, as has already been mentioned with Satan and his minions who followed him. They know, but do not believe in the Father's plan and fight against it.

A marriage works through faith, and more so it works even better where there is faith in Jesus Christ or in true principles. I would make mention again, the greatest gift/benefit of faith is the power to act -- action. Without action there isn't any faith, it is either knowledge or belief. With faith there is action, or wisdom. Wisdom being who we place our trust in, and who we act for.

Edited by Anddenex
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This is my understanding of faith - that faith involves a great deal of knowledge that is incomplete.  I would use the example of electrons.  No one has ever seen an electron.  We are told about electrons in science but even the experts in science that have a lifetime of studying electrons - none have ever seen one.  We have have experienced the effects of electrons but no one really know how or why electrons exist and function.  But a lot of people have faith in electrons.

We believe that electrons are what makes the lights (and other electrical things in our home work and function).  But if we go to a switch to turn on a light and the light does not come on.  No one thinks it is because electrons no longer function.  The will instead think that the light is burned out or a breaker has shut down the current to the light.  If the breakers are fine then it is assumed that the power to our house is down - again no one ever thinks it is because electrons are no longer working.  This is because we have faith in electrons.  I say faith because no one has sufficient knowledge of electrons to be able to know what is really going on.  But we have experience in exercising our faith and realize through that faith that if something is not working it is not the electrons but something else.  It is by exercising our faith that our faith become strong.  Alma indicates that such faith is knowledge but I think such knowledge cannot be obtained in this life - rather we must live with faith.  

Many do not have the same faith in G-d that most of us have in electrons.  If something goes wrong with something they think is associated G-d, many struggle with their faith in G-d and begin to doubt that G-d is as consistent  as electrons.  I believe this is because they have not sufficiently exercised faith in G-d and discovered that when something goes wrong it is not because G-d is not (nor no longer) functioning correctly. 

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler
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