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by Richard N. Williams

Latter-day Saints believe that certain forms of knowledge are essential for salvation and eternal life (John 17:3). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that "a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity," and thus human beings have a need for "revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God" (TPJS, p. 217). One of the purposes of the priesthood, which is the authority to administer the gospel, is to make this saving "knowledge of God" available to all (D&C 84:19). Those who die without a chance to obtain a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be given opportunity to receive and accept the gospel in the life after death to become "heirs of the Celestial Kingdom" (D&C 128:5; 137:7-9; 138:28-34; see Salvation of the Dead).

Knowledge makes possible moral agency and freedom of choice (John 8:32; 2 Ne. 2:26-27; Hel. 14:30-31; Moro. 7:15-17). Those who receive knowledge are responsible to live in accordance with it. Those who sin after having received knowledge of the truth by revelation bear greater condemnation than those who sin in ignorance (Heb. 10:26-27; 2 Pet. 2:20-21; Mosiah 2:36-39; Alma 24:30), while mercy is extended to those who sin in ignorance, or without knowledge of the truth (Mosiah 3:11; Alma 9:14-17; Hel. 7:23-24).

Knowledge is one of the gifts of the spirit that all people are commanded to seek (1 Cor. 12:8; Moro. 10:9-10; D&C 46:17-18). Knowledge of the truth of the gospel of Christ is conveyed as well as received by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moro. 10:5; 1 Cor. 2:9-16; D&C 50:19-21). Similarly, knowledge of the mysteries of God also comes through personal revelation. Shared knowledge of the things of God is available in the scriptures and other teachings of his prophets.

Knowledge is closely associated in scripture with other virtues such as meekness, long suffering, temperance, patience, godliness, kindness, and charity (2 Pet. 1:5-7; D&C 4:6; 107:30-31; 121:41-42). It is intimately related to truth; genuine knowledge is truth (D&C 93:24). Knowledge is understood to be an active, motivating force rather than simply a passive awareness, or collection of facts. This force is seen, for example, in acts of faith (Alma 32:21-43) and obedience (1 Jn. 2:4). The word "knowledge" is also used to refer to vain or false knowledge, and to the pride that often comes with knowledge based on human learning unaccompanied by righteousness and the spirit and knowledge of God (1 Cor. 8:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:7; 2 Ne. 9:28-29).

All people are encouraged to seek deeply and broadly to gain knowledge of both heavenly and earthly things (D&C 88:77-80). Such knowledge comes by study of the works of others, and also by faith (D&C 88:118). The LDS Church has traditionally encouraged and supported the pursuit of knowledge and education by its members. Knowledge gained through study and also by faith is obtained "line upon line and precept upon precept" (D&C 98:11-12; 128:21). All knowledge gained in this life stays with those who attain it and rises with them in the resurrection, bringing some advantage in the life to come (D&C 130:18-19). The next life holds the promise of "perfect knowledge" or understanding (2 Ne. 9:13-14).

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page; Education and Work home page)


Reynolds, Noel B. "Reason and Revelation." In A Thoughtful Faith: Essays on Belief by Mormon Scholars, ed. P. Barlow, pp. 205-224. Centerville, Utah, 1986.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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