knowledge vs. belief

It's very common for Mormons to say "I know ___," as in "I know the church is true," or "I know that Christ is my Savior."  Today, we had a man stand up and shamefully declared that he didn't know, but that he believed, and it was one of the most touching expression of faith that I've heard in a good long while.

We also had an investigator sitting near us today, and after the meeting he asked me what people meant when they said that they knew something that is generally considered to be unknowable.  I told him that it was a way in our culture of expressing that one has had a spiritual experience confirming the belief in question, but that often times we just say I know instead of I believe out of cultural habit.  People simply like the strength implied by knowledge.

I'm somewhat comfortable with this specialized cultural context of knowledge, but my main struggle with this phrasing is that it discourages people that don't know, or that haven't had confirming spiritual experiences.  It's exclusive: you're not in the club because you don't know.  Because of this, the use broadens to cover simple belief as well, making the club more inclusive, but making things even more painful for those who feel they cannot honestly declare knowledge when they have none.


Gwen said...

I found that very honest and touching as well. I tried to tell him after he sat down but you can't really convey that in just a few seconds. A lot of what he said mirrors my own experience. When I share this with some people, they say, "yes,but you should be working to get to the place of knowing." Part of me doesn't think that is possible. Maybe I am just more comfortable in this place of being half-skeptic, half believer.

ajbc said...

I think that it's possible that we should be working towards a place of knowing without ever expecting to get there...much like how we try to become perfect. In fact, I think that they might actually be the same goal: perfection and perfect knowledge would seem to go hand in hand. That's not the typically accepted framework, though: knowledge of some aspects of the gospel is viewed as achievable, whereas perfection in any aspect is not.

That said, I spend far more time trying to be better than I do trying to know the gospel better. Perhaps a more equal distribution of time would help both goals, but perhaps not--it's hard to tell. Regardless, being half skeptic, half believer is enriching in its own way; I anticipate staying here as long as I live. :)