Question #1 – What do I mean when I say I know something is true?

I know what I used to mean, when I said “I know” [insert truth claim] is true.

I meant that I had been taught a principle or a doctrine and I had prayed about it. And at some point in time I had a spiritual feeling that what I was hearing or thinking about was right (i.e., true).

To me, I had been taught in church, that a spiritual feeling could be many things. It could be a warm feeling in my chest. It could be a feeling of peace. It could be goose bumps on my arms or even thoughts coming into my mind. I was taught to recognize that when I felt good about an idea, principle or doctrine, that this was the Holy Ghost witnessing to me that I was in the presence of truth.

So when I read the Book of Mormon all the way through for the first time and went to the mountains and prayed about it, to test Moroni’s promise, I was surprised. Because I felt absolutely nothing.

No feeling of peace.

No burning in my chest.

Not even a stupor of thought.

Nothing.

However, my parents had taught me that the Book of Mormon was true. I trusted their faith. So I continued on in my quest of praying and seeking out these spiritual feelings that I had been taught would come when I prayed about something true.

Ultimately I did have many of these spiritual experiences while reading, studying and praying about the Book of Mormon.

So despite my initial non-answer to my prayers, I now knew that the Book of Mormon was true.

But what did I really mean, when I said I knew it was true?

At that time, I meant that everything the church had taught me about the Book of Mormon was factually and actually true. It was a second witness of Jesus Christ. The prophets who wrote it were real people. It contained the fullness of the gospel. And it was the most correct book on the earth.

That is what I had been taught that truth meant.

That is what I meant, when I said “I know” it is true.

HOWEVER.

I really didn’t “know” any of those things.

What doctrine did the Book of Mormon really teach? I couldn’t say. I had only just finished reading it completely for the first time. It would be years before I had fully studied it for what it really taught as opposed to what was taught to me in Sunday school lessons.

Did Nephi really exist? Was the brother of Jared a real person who lived at a time when all languages were the same and then God cursed the people’s languages?

I didn’t know that. I just trusted what I had been taught.

Did I “know” that the Book of Mormon was really the most correct book? It would be decades before I recognized the potential historical issues and doctrinal nuances it contained.

No.

When I said “I Know” the Book of Mormon is true, I was really saying this. That I had felt something peaceful or warm in context of reading and praying about it.

All of the things I had been taught about the Book of Mormon, I really didn’t know. I just trusted the church and its leaders and took them at their word. That when I felt that warmness in my chest and a feeling of peace, then all of those other things I had been taught were true.

So no.

I didn’t really know.

I trusted.

I trusted my leaders. I trusted my feelings.

So it would have been more accurate to say, when I was bearing my testimony, that I trust that the Book of Mormon is true. I had a warm feeling when I read it and I prayed about it and this is a witness of its truth according to the leaders who have taught me.

I trust my leaders that the Book of Mormon is true would be a more accurate statement for me, and the vast majority of Mormons I know, rather than the statement “I know”.

But at that time, I didn’t know anything better. Except that I had felt something.

And that would be sufficient for decades. I would continue on as a faithful servant in God’s one true kingdom on earth.

Until….

Until the questions that periodically popped up their annoying heads, ultimately refused to go away and stay on the shelf.

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