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It seems to me that usually the phrase "I know" is really shorthand for "I have reasons, some spiritual, that compel me to believe." However, those reasons vary from person to person. Usually the difference is probably inconsequential. Where it becomes an issue is when someone expresses their testimony on a controversial issue. In such cases, who can judge what anybody really knows?

How often to you hear the GA's say "I know"? Maybe I've tuned out hearing them say that, but usually I hear them say "I testify".

Nice post, Dave. I particularly identify with the commitment aspect of testimony-bearing. My impression is that the public display of testimonies does quite a bit to promote group-think and further engrains members to the church. Add to the fact that kids are encouraged to 'know' things when they are simply parroting parents/leaders.

yddy42 - I see the 'testify' statement as being a degree higher that 'knowing' in the Mormon sense. I am sure a significant number of members hear this and think that the GA's 'special witness' is first-hand interaction with the supernatrual, rather than the familiar 'still small voice' that GBH described his revelation as. The desired effect of this is for believers to believe with greater intensity and for doubters to shelve doubts.

Yes, F&T meeting puts it all on display. I find it interesting that GAs continue to push KISS testimonies (keeping it short and simple), with their ideal approaching a Rameumptom-like rote repetition of foundational truth claims.

Local members seem stubbornly attached to the human drama that often emerges at the pulpit on Fast Sunday. While I once bought in to criticism of "travelogue" testimonies, I now prefer them to what I hear from the KISSers. Not that I want to make it Dirty Laundry Sunday, but a little confession (especially someone else's) is good for the soul.

I like the term "I testify" far better as well. I'll tell what I'm sure I could not honestly say, "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt..." That, in my opinion, could mean a few things:

1) You've had more powerful experiences than I have.
2) You are abusing the language.
3) You don't have very rigorous epistemological standards.

It's interesting how securely Mormons link "feeling the Spirit" at any religious location to truth confirmation -- look, for example, at this post. That's just how we are trained to think.

Notice that if you feel the Spirit at an LDS Church it's telling you "the Church is true," but if you feel the Spirit anywhere else, it's telling you they have a piece or a snippet of truth. Hmmm ...

Thanks for the plug Dave. I was interested in this sentence in your post:

I don't object to the notion that faith is a gift from God that some have in greater proportion than others...

Our scriptures also say that it is a gift of God to know.

Now I agree that not everyone in the church will know. In fact the next verse makes that clear and also makes it clear that knowing is not required. I also can agree with your complaint that there appears to be some social pressure to say we know we really just have faith.

But if some in the church do know and others have faith in their words, I question the wisdom of discouraging the practice of saying "I know" for everyone.

I remember my dad telling me about when we attended a small ward in South Dakota. I was probably in kindergarten at the time, so I don't remember much.

But my dad told me about a particular testimony meeting that really stuck out for him.

One of the older "empty-nesters" in the ward got up to bear his testimony. He was attending church alone that day (his wife was out of town). So he starts talking. Nothing unusual, just the standard testimony stuff. The Bishop is half asleep at this point. Slowly the guy starts to get a bit emotional (again, nothing unusual). Then he says:

"And I have also learned to forgive my wife, even though she ran off with that other man 10 years ago."

The bishop is fully awake now.

Next fast and testimony meeting, attendance increased by about twenty percent.

This post is really about both of Dave's recent testimony posts, and the accompanying comments:

Welcome to Mormon Dialectics 101. Dave calls this coming at an issue from both sides.
It's interesting to me that LDS leaders condemned communism so virulently for so long, and yet I've seen no other organization so committed to dialectics. One of the many ironies.

Another irony stems from the Brigham Young quote (based on John's statements--I don't have the original in front of me) that the LDS Church accepts all truth from any source, as long as it's true. Yet you can still find Brother Brigham's general conference comments mocking Muslims and Hindus, among others. Then, in a recent conference (within last 10 years, I think), one of the apostles stated that Mohammed *was* a prophet--who just didn't get all the light because the world was in the middle of the great apostacy. But a prophet nonetheless.

Despite what John has written, and despite what we'd like to believe, official mormon doctrine and stances on certain issues can and do evolve. In the times of Brother Brigham (and certainly John Taylor) we claimed to be open to all truths from any source, as part of our beliefs. Today, we say "bring us your bit of truth, and we'll add more to it." In other words, believers of any religion can have a portion of truth. They just can't have as big a portion as we do. How about these folks adding to the bit that we've got? Well that automatically turns us into "just another church"--because The Church, as in THE Church, would get its info straight from the source.

So maybe John is right, after all. Maybe the whole reconciliation gig is just window dressing.

Nick, I confess I'm not really sure where you're coming from. Are you referring to John H's statements from some BCC post? I'm not sure quite what you're getting at with "maybe John is right, after all," but I think the LDS position (and the summary "bring us your bit of truth, and we'll add to it" is probably a fair summary) is fairly progressive. I don't see how you can paint the LDS position as overly dogmatic; it actually seems pretty generous.

As for taking Brigham's statements and making hay with them, sure you can do that. But let's be fair then, and compare contemporaneous statements: the precursors of the Evangelicals were pushing the doctrine of chattel slavery (owning and abusing black slaves) as a positive good, supported by the Bible; medical doctors practiced a variety of barbarities on their patients; and politics was a morass of opportunism and corruption. The most quoted advice of the 19th century was "go West, young man, and grow up with the country," which is just what Brigham and the Mormons did.

Dave, I believe Nick is referring to John Fowles' comment on the other Testimony thread.

Yes, I see it now, Justin, thanks. That explains my confusion, as the two Johns come at Mormon issues from different ends of the spectrum. Way.

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