The faith of God, part eleven: Why knowledge doesn’t save


Continued from part ten.

A new visitor (RWW) to this blog recently made the following comment:

I must take issue with your statement that “A man is not saved by knowledge. A man is saved by faith.” I am fairly new to your blog, so I may be misunderstanding your meaning, but taken at face value, I can’t agree with that. Faith is only a step toward the sure knowledge that truly saves. A man cannot be saved in ignorance, which is the lack of knowledge (not faith).

As I was planning for this installment on faith to address knowledge, it seems the best time and place to explain why knowledge doesn’t save us.

Joseph’s words

RWW was paraphrasing the Prophet’s words, found in D&C 131: 6. These are instructions by the Prophet, not revelations, nevertheless, they are true. Here is the direct quote: “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.”

This quote, though, is taken out of context. The full item of instruction is the following:

The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood. It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance. (D&C 131: 5-6)

In other words, the Prophet is saying that it is impossible to be permanently saved without knowing you are saved, as that knowledge is communicated by the Holy Ghost, which is what the more sure word of prophecy is, namely, a revelation from the Holy Ghost that you have overcome the world and thus are permanently saved. Therefore, in regards to permanent salvation (overcoming the world), if you don’t know if you are permanently saved, meaning you are ignorant of whether you have received the more sure word of prophecy, it means that you still haven’t overcome the world, or you still haven’t been permanently saved. (I may have to dedicate an entire post to the more sure word of prophecy, but hopefully I have sufficiently explained the principle.)

The important thing to understand is that both of these verses are speaking of the more sure word of prophecy and not of being saved by knowledge. Joseph wasn’t saying that it is knowledge that saves, but that knowledge of salvation comes with salvation, therefore it is impossible to be saved in ignorance.

Knowledge has no power to save

Returning to that exceptional sermon on faith, we find Alma also explaining the futility of knowledge to save.

Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it. (Alma 32: 16-18 )

If it was knowledge that saved, a sign from heaven would be enough. The Lord could send angels to all of his children, giving them knowledge of him and his kingdom and we would all be saved. Yet, Alma stresses the importance of belief and faith, even in the face of knowledge. Why? Because it is faith that saves.

If knowledge saved, who cares whether you believe or not, whether you have faith or not? Armed with knowledge, sufficient and of the right type, you’d be saved, right? Yet, Alma explains that “if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.” Alma is explaining that knowledge gained by means other than faith ruins, or does not generate, faith in the individual and that faith is really, really important. What is so important about faith that God doesn’t just reveal himself to all the world once and for all, giving them the knowledge of him that “supposedly” saves? It is namely that faith alone saves us and if he were to do that, we would possess knowledge, having no means to obtain faith unto salvation.

Lucifer, the light-bearer, the champion of borrowed knowledge

Any study of the occult will bring up that Lucifer, the bearer of light, is all about knowledge. Lucifer (Satan) gives occult (hidden) knowledge (science) without faith. As he has no faith, he has no faith to give. Yet, Satan has knowledge, lots of it and those who worship him on earth are seekers of knowledge, not of faith. They look for signs and wonders and cold hard facts that they can see with their own two eyes.

All of the Luciferian knowledge, though, is borrowed. It doesn’t come from the heart of man, as there is no planted faith to produce it. As such, those who seek knowledge to the exclusion of faith are doomed to hell, as Satan always abandons all his servants, leaving them in darkness and despair.

Faith alone saves

One of the Mormon blogs had a post a couple of years back about Atonement Theories and proposed a list of questions that needed to be answered by any new theory that was drawn up. One of those questions was: “How was the atonement efficacious before it was performed?” The question presupposed that it was the Atonement that saved us. But the author did not understand that it is not the Atonement that saves us, it is faith that saves us.

And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins. Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Enos 1: 2-8 )

It is the Atonement that allows us to have faith unto salvation and it is faith unto salvation that saves us. The Lord’s words in this scripture are crystal clear. However, as we are conditioned to interpret Joseph’s words to mean that we are saved by knowledge, when LDS read the above words in the Book of Mormon, they look beyond the mark and invent theories to explain away the doctrine of salvation by faith. The reason why many LDS choke on this doctrine is that they don’t understand what faith is.

Additionally, if one does not understand what faith is, he cannot understand what knowledge is. The end result is a guessing game, each one inventing a theory or fantasizing about how it all works, instead of just taking the scriptures as they are written and believing them to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Knowledge and faith are two parts of the same thing

Alma explains in chapter 32 that the seed of faith is the word of God and that when planted by belief in the heart of man it begins to grow due to the action of the Holy Spirit. As it grows, we can know that the seed is good and by not laying aside our faith and belief, it will continue to grow. Alma then explains that the seed of faith eventually grows into a fruit tree, called the tree of life, which twice he states is a “a tree springing up [in you] unto everlasting life” (Alma 32: 41; 33: 23.) Therefore, it is the entire, mature tree of faith grown in you—seed, roots, trunk, branches, leaves and fruit—that grants eternal life, and not just one part of it.

Now, Jesus, on the other side of the world and at another time, explained in his intercessory prayer to the Father that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17: 3.) Notice that Jesus did not say, “this is life eternal, knowing (or to know) thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” Instead, he used the words “that they might know.” This indicates that Jesus is not referring to the fruit of the tree of faith, which is knowledge, even the knowledge that one is like God, possessing all of his attributes in perfection, for the only way to know God is to be like him, but is referring to the entire tree of faith, including the fruit (knowledge.)

Again, knowledge alone does not grant salvation. The fruit (knowledge) cannot come from another tree, it must come from a tree of life planted in your heart. It must be your tree, planted by the good sower (Christ), who plants individual trees in every heart of man that allows him to. It is these trees of faith that produce the fruit (knowledge) that you have obtained (eternal) life.

There is an expression in the church (though not in the scriptures) that “no one can endure on borrowed light.” The expression is a truism. Everything borrowed must eventually be returned. This is why if you cannot produce knowledge (fruit) yourself through a tree of faith planted in your heart, you will fall.

Once a person understands that faith and knowledge are part of the same organism (the tree of life), it becomes easy to see why the scriptures stress faith and faith alone to obtain all other things, including knowledge.

There are different trees

Just as there is a tree of life (faith) that can be planted and grown in one’s heart, there are other plants that can also grow there: the tares. Only the tree of faith, planted in one’s heart, sustains life in the kingdom of God. All other trees or plants will eventually be cut down and cast into the fire (the lake of fire and brimstone.) It is not, though, that you are cast out forcibly, as these scriptures are also written more express, to work upon our hearts, but that you possess no power (agency) to remain in the kingdom. Only the tree of faith grants agency.

Knowledge alone cannot keep you in the created universe. You need a tree of faith, planted in your heart. This is why Satan and his angels (and all the sons of perdition), despite their immense knowledge of the created universe, having never gone through a veil of forgetfulness, will not be able to keep themselves within the confines of the created universe and will go into outer darkness. They have no faith and thus have no agency and thus they cannot save themselves.

God is saved

As all who believe in God will concede that God is saved, and as the scriptures indicate that salvation comes only through faith, this is a further evidence that God possesses faith.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part twelve: Truth

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part ten: the relationship of faith to agency (power)

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

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10 Comments

  1. I see now that we have a semantic difficulty, more than anything else, especially after going back and reading Part 2. I think before I comment further on your Faith posts, I’ll have to read the whole series from the beginning.

  2. From the current priesthood/relief society manual:
    “Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness. Woe unto you priests and divines who preach that knowledge is not necessary unto life and salvation. Take away Apostles, etc., take away knowledge, and you will find yourselves worthy of the damnation of hell. Knowledge is revelation. Hear, all ye brethren, this grand key: knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.”13

    “Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge; and hence He knows how to subject all other beings to Him. He has power over all.”14

    “As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved, and while our hearts are filled with evil, and we are studying evil, there is no room in our hearts for good, or studying good. Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing [see 2 Peter 1:5].

    “… A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.”15

    Joseph Smith taught the following in April 1843, later recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”16

  3. Fantastic comment! This is what I like to see: if you say I’m wrong, back it up with scripture, instead of just saying that I’m wrong. Normally, I stick only to the scriptures, as we are bound by the scriptures (not by the priesthood manual), but I will attempt to address all that you’ve written here to the best of my ability.

    From the current priesthood/relief society manual: “Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness."

    True, knowledge is necessary, as it is the fruit (or part) of the tree of faith. God possesses knowledge, so we must, also.

    "Woe unto you priests and divines who preach that knowledge is not necessary unto life and salvation."

    I don’t know what the priests of Joseph’s day were preaching, but it may be that Joseph was combating or contradicting the notion that we have a Bible and need no more Bible (no more revelatory knowledge.)

    "Take away Apostles, etc., take away knowledge, and you will find yourselves worthy of the damnation of hell. Knowledge is revelation."

    This is the key to understanding Joseph’s words. Revelation is the word of God, or the seed of faith. Joseph is not talking about just any knowledge, he is talking about revelatory knowledge, which is the type that comes from the seed of faith.

    "Hear, all ye brethren, this grand key: knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.”13

    True, revelatory knowledge is, indeed, the power of God, as revelatory knowledge is the seed of faith, which, when planted, produces faith, which in turn produces agency (power) unto salvation.

    “Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. …"

    Again, we must qualify Joseph’s words, as the devil possesses knowledge, yet is in darkness. Joseph, again, is talking only of revelatory knowledge, or the word of God planted in the heart of man, which is the seed of faith.

    "In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge; and hence He knows how to subject all other beings to Him. He has power over all.”14

    Joseph is talking here of revelatory knowledge. God has more agency (see The role of agency in political systems and The faith of God, part ten: the relationship of faith to agency (power)) as he has more revelatory knowledge, which comes of faith. In other words, the faith of God is absolute, which produces, among other things, absolute agency and absolute knowledge. Therefore, he cannot be defeated, overcome or overpowered, only matched by other absolute beings in possession of all things in their fullness.

    “As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved, and while our hearts are filled with evil, and we are studying evil, there is no room in our hearts for good, or studying good. Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing [see 2 Peter 1:5]."

    It is instructive that Joseph begins the list with faith, then virtue and lastly knowledge. He is talking about the growing seed of faith which eventually produces the fruit of knowledge.

    “… A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth."

    Faith must be confirmed, otherwise we lose it and fall. Faith is confirmed by knowledge (signs/witnesses). (See D&C 5: 32; Ether 12: 6 and Mormon 9: 24-25.)

    "Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.”15

    Joseph Smith taught the following in April 1843, later recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”16

    This is true, however, again, we must understand that these verses are talking of revelatory knowledge, not just any knowledge. In other words, whoever possesses more of the word of God (revelatory knowledge) planted in their hearts will have more advantage, not that a plumber who knows how to fix pipes will have more advantage than I, who am not a plumber.

    To summarize, Joseph wasn’t saying that knowledge alone saves, or even that we are saved by knowledge, but that you cannot eliminate the fruit of the tree of life, which is knowledge, and expect to be saved. He is also only talking about revelatory knowledge, which comes of faith.

  4. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12)

    We are saved by our faith, whereas Christ saves us by His knowledge of our sins.

  5. I’d say this quote shows Joseph Smith is agreeing with LDSA about which type of knowledge we are to seek after (revelatory knowledge, rather than worldly knowledge)

    “God is the source of all wisdom and understanding” and that “the best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching”
    -Joseph Smith (TPJS, pp. 55; 191)

  6. FYI, The above 2 quotes taken a bit out of context are taken from the Teachings manual prepared by correlation.

    I’m assuming they are keeping with the spirit of what he was saying in both instances, though I could be wrong 😉
    (https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/enrichments/enrichment-k-seek-learning-even-by-study-and-also-by-faith?lang=eng)

  7. From the OP:

    Now, Jesus, on the other side of the world and at another time, explained in his intercessory prayer to the Father that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17: 3.) Notice that Jesus did not say, “this is life eternal, knowing (or to know) thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” Instead, he used the words “that they might know.” This indicates that Jesus is not referring to the fruit of the tree of faith, which is knowledge, even the knowledge that one is like God, possessing all of his attributes in perfection, for the only way to know God is to be like him, but is referring to the entire tree of faith, including the fruit (knowledge.)

    I fail to see what you’re trying to say with this paragraph. How does saying “to know thee” instead of “that they might know thee” change the reference from “the fruit of the tree of faith” to “the entire tree of faith, including the fruit”?

  8. Anonymous, “that they might know thee” represents potential, or potential knowledge (which is the seed/tree of faith), whereas if Jesus had said “to know thee” or “knowing thee” that wouldn’t represent potential knowledge, but actual knowledge. This allows for eternal life to encompass all three heavens (or degrees of glory), as well as the three heavens or degrees in the highest heaven (the celestial kingdom). Latter-day saints are taught to believe that eternal life is only exaltation, but, as I have written on this blog elsewhere, eternal life encompasses all of the heavens, in any of the degrees of glory. If you have any portion of the word of God (the seed/tree of faith) found in your heart at the last day, you get a reward of eternal life, according to your works, etc. Exaltation is the highest reward, and that reward requires that a person actually know God, becoming just like Him in all things. So, Jesus’s words don’t narrowly constrain eternal life to just exaltation, but to salvation in any of the kingdoms of glory.

  9. LDSA, so do you read John 17:3 as if it was saying ““this is [what] life eternal [is for], that they might know thee the only true God”. Meaning that it is possible that some of those who enter into eternal life do not know God yet (at the point of entering into eternal life) but eventually while enjoying eternal life, they will grow to know Him?

  10. jackdale76,

    You could put it this way:

    “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, [so] that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

    You cannot know God unless you are in His kingdom, and all those who inherit eternal life, enter into His kingdom. When we enter in, we receive an inheritance, a reward, either a greater or lesser reward, and that reward allows us to know God to a degree, so the instant we enter in and receive our reward, which happens in the day of judgment, we all, top to bottom, know God to a degree. Do we fully know God in all His mysteries? No, only those who receive the “full reward.”

    Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. (2 John 1:8)


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