Knowledge is power. Certainly the witness of the Spirit is the surest foundation, but there is nothing wrong with a knowledge-solid testimony. Please pardon the expression, but in the Church we need more than “punch and cookie” testimonies. Spirituality is not born of ignorance. The more knowledge we have, the stronger our spiritual witness can be. Someone has suggested that the Latter-day Saints know the gospel is true, but they don’t know the gospel. We should know the reasons that we believe what we believe.
Knowledge of any truth is valuable, whatever the nature and whatever the source. Joseph Smith had an indefatigable appetite for learning in all disciplines. When he organized the school of the prophets in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s, students there studied everything from history, politics, geography, and religious texts to cultures, languages (German, Greek, Hebrew, whatever they could get their hands on), and even English grammar. They just couldn’t get enough of learning of every kind. We would do well to follow their example.
Another of my favorite stories is an episode from the life of Dr. Louis Agassiz, whose proxy temple ordinances were performed in the St. George Utah Temple in 1877, which means he can now be counted among the Saints of God. I take the following account from Elder Marion D. Hanks, who served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and later as a member of the Seventy.
“[It is] the story of an obscure spinster woman who insisted that she never had a chance. She muttered these words to Dr. Louis Agassiz, distinguished naturalist, after one of his lectures in London. In response to her complaint, he replied: ‘Do you say, madam, you never had a chance? What do you do?’
“‘I am single and help my sister run a boardinghouse.’
“‘What do you do?’ he asked.
“‘I skin potatoes and chop onions.’
“He said, ‘Madam, where do you sit during these interesting but homely duties?’
“‘On the bottom step of the kitchen stairs.’
“‘Where do your feet rest?’
“‘On the glazed brick.’
“‘What is glazed brick?’
“‘I don’t know, sir.’
“He said, ‘How long have you been sitting there?’
“She said, ‘Fifteen years.’
“‘Madam, here is my personal card,’ said Dr. Agassiz. ‘Would you kindly write me a letter concerning the nature of a glazed brick?’
“She took him seriously. She went home and explored the dictionary and discovered that a brick was a piece of baked clay. That definition seemed too simple to send to Dr. Agassiz, so after the dishes were washed, she went to the library and in an encyclopedia read that a glazed brick is vitrified kaolin and hydrous aluminum silicate. She didn’t know what that meant, but she was curious and found out. She took the word vitrified and read all she could find about it. Then she visited museums. She moved out of the basement of her life and into a new world on the wings of vitrified. And having started, she took the word hydrous, studied geology, and went back in her studies to the time when God started the world and laid the clay beds. One afternoon she went to a brickyard, where she found the history of more than 120 kinds of bricks and tiles, and why there have to be so many. Then she sat down and wrote thirty-six pages on the subject of glazed brick and tile.
“Back came the letter from Dr. Agassiz: ‘Dear Madam, this is the best article I have ever seen on the subject. If you will kindly change the three words marked with asterisks, I will have it published and pay you for it.’
“A short time later there came a letter that brought $250, and penciled on the bottom of this letter was this query: ‘What was under those bricks?’ She had learned the value of time and answered with a single word: ‘Ants.’ He wrote back and said, ‘Tell me about the ants.’
“She began to study ants. She found there were between eighteen hundred and twenty-five hundred different kinds. There are ants so tiny you could put three head-to-head on a pin and have standing room left over for other ants; ants an inch long that march in solid armies half a mile wide, driving everything ahead of them; ants that are blind; ants that get wings on the afternoon of the day they die; ants that build anthills so tiny that you can cover one with a lady’s silver thimble; peasant ants that keep cows to milk, and then deliver the fresh milk to the apartment house of the aristocrat ants of the neighborhood.
“After wide reading, much microscopic work, and deep study, the spinster sat down and wrote Dr. Agassiz 360 pages on the subject. He published the book and sent her the money, and she went to visit all the lands of her dreams on the proceeds of her work.”
The article concludes with a quotation from Lord Chesterton: “‘There are no uninteresting things; there are only uninterested people.’”
Our Savior wants us to begin right here on earth our eternal quest for knowledge, especially knowledge of God and godly things.
Martin Masariego from El Salvador did just that. A short, powerfully humble man, he told the missionaries at the Guatemala MTC that he first learned about the Church in 1978.
“He was twenty-six years old and wore long hair, bracelets, and a necklace. He was a member of another Christian faith but had been unhappy with the answers he received as to where mankind had come from, why we were here on earth, and where we would be going. When he was younger he had asked these questions of his priest, who had responded that he would understand when he was older. As a young man Martin began attending other churches and the local Jewish synagogue. He studied with the agnostics. No one could give satisfactory answers to his questions, not even his mother, who also told him to just be patient.
“One day two Latter-day Saint missionaries from North America knocked on his door. He opened it; they introduced themselves and then said, ‘We are here to answer your questions.’ He asked, ‘What are my questions?’ They replied, ‘You want to know where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going after this life.’ Martin was immediately interested and invited them in.
“He loved what they shared, especially about the priesthood. His wife didn’t want to listen, but the missionaries wouldn’t teach him without her. They asked him to ask his wife if they could leave a blessing on the home. She agreed. The missionaries used the authority of God to call down a blessing on the couple and their children. The prayer must have softened her heart because at the end the missionaries asked her when they could return to give the first lesson. She invited them back. Martin called that a miracle, especially since he and his wife were on the verge of a separation.
“The Masariegos soon joined the Church and served faithfully. Brother Masariego was later called to serve in the temple presidency in Guatemala.”
The Lord has sent knowledge to the earth, even of the weighty questions of eternity, the most precious of all knowledge. He wants us to have all the additional light and knowledge we can accept and live.
Following strongly worded exchanges with his antagonists, Jesus asked them, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42; emphasis added). It is imperative to have a correct answer to that vital question. Jesus taught through the words of his Intercessory Prayer that “life eternal” is to “know thee the only true God [the Father], and Jesus Christ,” whom he has sent (John 17:3). Jesus had already taught Nicodemus that whoso believed in the Son of God would “not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He taught his followers to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). That is the ultimate knowledge, the most essential of all.
That greatest knowledge comes through studying his words: “Search the scriptures; for . . . they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39; see also verses 45–47). “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
Right after Jesus taught the strong doctrine that he is the Bread of Life and that unless we are willing to partake of him, we have no life in us (John 6:53), John recorded that “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66–69).
The scriptures, containing the words of God through his prophets, and the temples, where we are endowed with knowledge directly from the Father and the Son, are two of our best sources of the knowledge of God.
How do the words of Christ come to us when we need them? “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit, symbolized by fire, burns the knowledge of God deep into our souls. The two disciples walking the road to Emmaus had that very experience. They exclaimed, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us . . . and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
This revelation of the knowledge of God, which can and must come to every soul seeking exaltation, is a sure foundation; it is the rock of our salvation. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Have you ever thought about the gates of hell? It is curious how many times the Lord refers to them. In 3 Nephi 18:13 he warns that “the gates of hell are ready open to receive [us].” These days some of the gates of hell are pornography, aberrant sexual relationships, selfishness, greed, pride, and other forms of severe worldliness. These gates of hell are gaping wide to swallow anyone who lacks the Spirit and who gets close enough to be drawn in.
Knowing God and his truths is absolutely urgent in order to escape the bombardment of worldliness surrounding us. The knowledge of God, including his ordinances and covenants, becomes our shield and protection against the powers of darkness.
So in all your getting, get knowledge. Come to know God, and become knowledgeable—like Jesus.