Talking about knowledge and wisdom feels sort of like talking about air and water. Both are all around us, as well as in us. Yet for all their commonness, the happiness of our lives depends on how we look at, use, and understand them.
Ways of knowing
There is more than one way to know something. First, there is information. Information is what we get when we look up something online. Generally this means we are flooded with facts, as well as non facts, fallacies, and often outright lies. The old adage that “I found it on the Internet, so it must be true,” is something we all have to deal with. There is something about seeing the printed word that seems so official. And seeing more than one person say the same thing makes even the most ridiculous statements seem almost plausible.
Our first lesson in wisdom is recognizing that information is just the building blocks of knowledge, nothing more. When you set out to make a pot of soup or bake a cake, you have all the ingredients in your kitchen at your disposal, but using the correct ingredients is so important if you want your desired outcome. Our son used to randomly mix various ingredients together just to see what would happen. His tuna sandwiches with a lot of cinnamon will always be memorable, and not in a fond way. Just so, when we look up something on the Internet, we need to be discerning as to its source and usefulness. Not just anything that pops up on our screen is worthwhile.
In Doctrine and Covenants 89:4 the Lord warns us that in the last days there are those who actually seek our harm.
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of men in the last days, I have you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation —
As difficult and as hard as it is to believe that there are those who actually plan on setting out to hurt us, it is true. While there are those who exploit others for the money and power the masses can afford them, no matter what happens to those they hurt, there are still others who actually enjoy sewing discord and planting seeds of doubt in the minds and hearts of others. These and many others are responsible for much of the information that is available in such great quantities in today’s society. God has warned us about them. It is our responsibility to be aware that they exist and to be careful about what we read, see, and accept into our minds and hearts. And yes, they even exist within the church of God.
As distasteful as it is to have to filter information we seek and that comes unbidden to us, it is prudent and wise for us to always remember that truth, real and useful, is found in a limited number of places. And more often than not the truths that we find are mixed with falsehoods. It is up to us to recognize the difference between truth and error and act accordingly. In Doctrine and Covenants 50:2-4 God warns us to be careful about who and what we heed in this life.
2 Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false , which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.
3 And also hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
4 Behold, I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen in the church that my name.
It won’t always be like this. When the Lord returns the knowledge of God will be available to us in great abundance. 2 Nephi 21:9 comforts us with these words.
9 They shall hurt nor in all my holy mountain, for the shall be full of the of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Knowledge is more complex than information. Information is a fact, whether or not it is true or accurate. Knowledge is understanding, awareness, and perception. My son wouldn’t have fed us sandwiches of tuna loaded with cinnamon had he first acquired an understanding of how compatible, or incompatible, some flavors are with one another.
Most of what we deal with and experience in the Lord’s church, and in His scriptures, has to do with knowledge, the understanding of God’s dealings with His children and of His ways. We have to filter information in this life, because it is a very big part of mortality. The Lord deals in knowledge or understanding. He is all about us comprehending new things. And there is a reason for that.
God is the source
The mortal mind cannot comprehend the things of God, for His ways are not our ways. What seems intuitive for the human mind often doesn’t work when it comes to things of the Spirit. We seek proof in order to accept something as true. God says believe first, and only then will the proof be shown to you. We seek to legislate away poverty with programs and laws. God teaches His children truth with the expectation that they will pull themselves out of poverty and care for those who haven’t been able to yet. He knows that the poor will always be with us. He has said as much. Hence, it is our responsibility to care for and help them. The things of the Spirit are often simply not compatible with the things of mortality.
Knowing how things work is not enough. We also need to know if it is good or evil. Then we need to choose whether we pursue that knowledge or avoid it. I can know how to take advantage of my neighbor for my benefit. I can know how to exploit my fellow citizens for my gain. But knowing a thing doesn’t mean I should pursue it. With knowledge comes the responsibility of choosing whether to use it, and how to use it. If I open something on my computer and it is of questionable character, it is up to me to dismiss it and move on to something more worthwhile or to stay and consider that which is of shady worth.
It is for our knowledge, our understanding that we will be judged. Information is just static, amoral. It is neither wicked nor righteous. But understanding requires moral choices be made. The agency we will be judged on is a moral agency. So everything we come to comprehend and understand gets thrown into the judgment mix. What we choose to embrace and continue thinking and acting upon today is what will be used in our final judgment.
Our Father in Heaven expects us to learn to choose between good and evil. When we have the capacity to understand good and evil then we are required to choose between the two. Avoiding any understanding when we have the ability to do so, only damns us. That avoidance stops our progression. That is why we are told that we cannot be saved in ignorance. Those who are genuinely ignorant of the differences between good and evil are automatically saved in the kingdom of God through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. It is those of us who can understand, but refuse to seek goodness that Christ will condemn at the last day.
Types of knowledge
We have the knowledge being in mortality generates, and we have the knowledge we receive from God. The only knowledge that benefits us, as eternal beings, is the eternal understanding God gives us. But we still must learn of the world’s knowledge, for that is where we currently reside. What God seeks is for us to learn of both, but use all we have learned for the benefit of His kingdom. After saying, “What I say unto one I say unto all,” (verse 49) the Lord goes on in Doctrine and Covenants 93 to say this.
53 And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should to , and to a of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen.
The Lord’s point here is that we don’t acquire knowledge to benefit ourselves, but for the “salvation of Zion.” This is why we go to school, why we get degrees, why we learn our trades, and why we serve our communities. Everything we do needs to be for the benefit of Zion. This is our purpose for gaining knowledge. It is not the purpose for the world to gain knowledge. The world’s purpose for gaining knowledge is to make money and/or gain power and influence. It is to have control. God will hold us accountable for the reasons for which we seek our knowledge, not just for the knowledge itself. We need to let God be in control. Our focus should be on being useful and a blessing to others.
The background of knowledge
(This section is the most “intellectual” of all the sections. If you get bored reading it, just skip down to the next section and you will be fine. You’ll miss some information, but it isn’t anything you won’t get another time and in another place.)
I would like to use Doctrine and Covenants 93 to look at the background of who we are and why the knowledge of God is so important to us. We’ll start at verse 24 and work our way down through verse 42. I’ll be commenting on the verses as we go. Remember that knowledge is also understanding. So if a verse seems a little confusing, try substituting understanding for knowledge. In the following verses the Savior is speaking.
24 And is of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a from the beginning.
Only God can give us an understanding of truth through the Spirit’s companionship we are given at baptism. It is through the Spirit that we learn to make our judgments between what is good and what leads to evil. We also can discern right from wrong through the light of Christ that everyone possesses in the form of our conscience.
26 The Spirit of is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a unless he keepeth his commandments.
John is referring to those who keep the commandments we are given by Christ.
28 He that his commandments receiveth and , until he is glorified in truth and all things.
Verse 28 explains why the Savior says repeatedly that those who reject the truth he is trying to give them will have the truth they already have taken away, while those who accept the truth they are presented will have more given to them until they know all things in full. What follows is our own history as beings of light and truth.
29 Man was also in the with God. , or the of , was not or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that in which God has placed it, to for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
31 Behold, here is the of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the is under condemnation.
We all understood in our premortal life that to reject God’s knowledge, His light and truth, would bring us under condemnation. We all professed to want more of what the Lord was offering us, for when we were told that we would all be coming to earth to receive mortal bodies that would lead to exaltation we shouted for joy.
33 For man is . The elements are , and and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
Verse 33 takes a little explanation. Us, as intelligences were eternal beings, co-eternal with God. We were fused with a spirit body, making the spirit also eternal. The elements referred to in this verse, I believe are resurrected bodies. When we, as spirits are “inseparably connected” with our resurrected body, we can then experience a fulness of joy.
34 And when , man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
Those who live in eternity without a resurrected body will never experience a fulness of joy. This fulness of joy comes from experiencing the life God lives, which is Eternal life. Getting us to the point where we can experience life the way our Father in Heaven experiences it is why we are going through mortality.
35 The are the of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even ; and whatsoever temple is , God shall destroy that temple.
36 The of God is , or, in other words, and truth.
37 Light and truth forsake that .
38 Every of man was in the beginning; and God having man from the , men became again, in their infant state, before God.
39 And that cometh and away light and truth, through , from the children of men, and because of the of their fathers.
This is why Satan has filled the earth with information and knowledge that is false, misleading, evil, corrupt, and lewd. His goal is to strip us of our innocence, so we will stand condemned before God. Just attaining knowledge for the sake of having knowledge isn’t going to save us. We must obtain knowledge in order to promote God and His works – for the glory of Zion.
Have you ever wondered why bringing up children in today’s society is so difficult? In the next three verses the Lord tells Joseph Smith and the others with him where their trouble lies.
40 But I have commanded you to bring up your in and truth.
41 But verily I say unto you, my servant Frederick G. Williams, you have continued under this condemnation;
42 You have not your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your .
Frederick G. Williams, like so many of us had knowledge given, but didn’t know how to use it. It is one thing to understand a principle or practice. It is something entirely different to know how to apply it in various parts of our life so we can benefit from it. It is so easy to misuse the knowledge we gain. As an example, I saw a meme on social media of a snake emerging from a river carrying a fish in its mouth. The caption said, “Brave snake rescues drowning fish.”
In worldly terms wisdom is the chef who creates a new dish because they understand the properties of each food and can intelligently pair them together to create something that is pleasing to eat. In spiritual terms, wisdom is seen in someone who has learned the commandments, understands the Lord’s words in the scriptures, and when presented with something new can discern what is good or evil about it and decide from there what should be done.
It is difficult, if not impossible to gain wisdom without study and experience. Both are required. It is the experience that gives our knowledge life and usefulness. The law of Tithing is just a demand for money, unless you have come to understand that the Lord’s blessings far outweigh the tenth we pay. Every commandment may seem like a standalone demand, yet when lived together they open so many doors of opportunity for joy. This is why we cannot pick and choose which commandments we obey. If we do, we deny ourselves of many joyful opportunities we won’t ever know about.
The gospel Christ has given us is a complete package. It is the very definition of a godly way of life. But that life cannot be learned from a book. Knowledge is required, in all its forms, as the first step. The second step is to live what we have learned so we can come to understand why God does what He does in the way He does. It is in the living that we learn of God’s wisdom, which becomes our wisdom.
The following are the talks I used to prepare this talk.
Elder Russell M. Nelson – Where Is Wisdom?
Elder D. Todd Christofferson – The Power of Covenants
President Ezra Taft Benson – A Principle With a Promise
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