When I was in college (and then after I graduated and was looking for a job/career), several people used to say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I knew that pretty well, since that’s how I had secured 4 of my 5 previous jobs up to that point in time. But once I was a college graduate, and had the ever-impressive initials B.S. (Bachelor of Science) that I could use as a deal-breaker I thought the world would treat me differently. It didn’t.
I applied for like 87 jobs and had about 15 interviews (it seemed like that many) – which all resulted in my continued employment at Questar Gas. This also increased my frustration with the true statement above; “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – until at long last someone else that I knew (my grandpa), asked me if I would be interested in a job opportunity. Bingo. This means that now of the 6 jobs that I have ever had, 5 of them came because of who I knew.
The fact that I knew stuff certainly mattered, and as time passed (in each of these jobs) it was and is a continual and increasing use and reliance upon what I know, combined with a continual and increasing network of who I know that leads to salary increases, bonuses, efficiency, productivity, expansion, new clients, increased responsibilities, etc. So, the fact of the matter is that both what you know and who you know make all the difference, yet the familiarity of who seems to be extremely significant – especially if that’s the factor that allows us to get in the door.
This thinking may help us to understand two important and related gospel topics, which are really 6 gospel topics in similar sets of 3 progressive steps. The first 3-part topic is the relationship between knowledge, understanding, and intelligence (based on Elder Bednar’s exhaustive treatment of these principles). These 3 words are sprinkled throughout the scriptures in various ways, and we can study them in great detail in order to fully grasp their intended meanings, but for our purposes, let’s list the basics.
Knowledge is what we know. It is the facts, stories, principles, and items that we have learned about. Knowledge is based in our minds, and is largely made up of things that we have learned through books, schooling, classes, etc. Knowledge (by itself) is not sufficient, just ask Laman and Lemuel (they were taught and knew tons of stuff), or many of the Lamanites who ‘dissented’ from the Nephites (after they had knowledge of the ways of God). There are a lot of people on earth who are ‘learned’ or ‘educated’. See 2 Ne. 9:28 (when they are learned they think they are wise…supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not).
Understanding occurs only when knowledge (as defined above) is confirmed by the influence of the Holy Ghost in our hearts. It happens when we pray for an answer, or when we feel the spirit testify of truth when someone else is teaching or testifying. In essence, understanding helps the truth (our knowledge) get copied from our minds and pasted into our hearts so that it resides in both places – essentially becoming twice as strong in us. Understanding helps us to know the Holy Ghost and Him who sent the Holy Ghost – and thus can be likened to who we know and is a confirmation of what we know since any understanding is a manifestation of the reality of the Lord, his spirit, and everything else that entails. See Mosiah 12:27 (ye have not applied your hearts to understanding).
Intelligence is the repeated and consistent use of knowledge and understanding. It is both knowing and understanding, and acting upon that knowledge in a repeat pattern. It is knowing that tithing is a commandment, feeling the truth of it in our hearts, and then paying it consistently. It is knowing that home teaching is important, feeling the benefits in your life and/or the lives of those you teach, and then continuing to act as a home teacher in a consistent way (forever). It is the repeated acting on gospel principles. Take Nephi vs. Laman and Lemuel – Nephi knew, understood, and was intelligent. Laman and Lemuel knew, understood (at least once they indicated that they had ‘felt’ the power of the Lord – See 1 Ne. 17:55) but I’m not convinced they ever let that feeling take hold – and certainly weren’t too intelligent about it’s staying in their hearts by repeatedly following it’s promptings. See 1 Ne. 17:45 (ye were past feeling) and 2 Ne. 9:29 (to be learned is good IF they hearken unto the counsels of God).
Even though these three principles are in a progressive order, sometimes intelligence may actually be required before a full understanding comes. As Alma explains in chapter 32:27 (of Alma) “even if you have no more than a desire to believe, let this desire work in you” – or in other words – act on your knowledge to gain an understanding. He promises results “for it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me”. Once we’ve tried this experiment a few times, you’ll understand, and the repeated acting will result in increased intelligence. This is a trial of faith – or when we are asked to act on something (demonstrate at least one or two instances of intelligence) before we have a full understanding. Then, once we have felt an understanding, we can demonstrate our ongoing intelligence by repeating those actions over and over and over. If we think of our faith as intelligently acting in order to perform an experiment it doesn’t seem so abstract does it? Let us “awake and arouse our faculties”.
Now we come to the second 3-part topic, which is a listing of the elements that make up our testimonies (based on Bruce C. Hafen’s explanations in his book ‘Spiritually Anchored in Unsettled Times’). These three elements are reason, feelings, and experience. It shouldn’t take us too long to make the connection between the first three elements (knowledge, understanding, and intelligence) and these later three, (reason, feelings, and experience) and in many cases they reference the exact same idea/principle but I think that too often we think of our testimonies as what we know, but forget how it is that we know it (all of the parts) – or who we know that makes the what so important.
Reason is reason. It makes sense. Heavenly father loves his children (is there anything in the world that makes more sense than this)? He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be a family forever. The fall required an atonement. Mercy can’t rob justice. Wickedness never was happiness. A child can grow to be a parent. Reason is something that we have ‘studied out in our mind’ or given serious thought and pondering. It is something that we’ve investigated, something that we’ve read about, something that we’ve learned about, or something that people have taught us. It is a vital component to any testimony and has a striking similarity to knowledge (as described above). Every testimony is made up of some reason AND similar to knowledge, reason is not enough by itself. We need more. Examples are D&C 88:47 and Alma 30:44.
Feelings are the ‘inward parts’ that Jeremiah (and Christ) spoke of (see Jer. 31:33, Luke 11:39, Ps. 51:6) and is ultimately represented by our hearts. Our emotions and how we ‘feel’ about something is hard to deny, and maybe even harder to explain. It’s just something that we feel. This is an integral part of our testimony, and builds off of our reason and our knowledge. We teach our kids, and they feel good about it, and we hope that we put them in many situations where the spirit can confirm that truth. We also help reinforce and recognize feelings when they come.
Experience is the compilation of both positive and negative feelings over time. In other words, experience is the sum total of all of our acts of intelligence (or non-acts of intelligence). How many years of choices (good, bad, better, worse, leaps of faith) and feelings (anger, resentment, forgiveness, peace, anxiety, depression, joy, love) do we have under our belt? Where did these feelings come from? As we grow older (and hopefully more intelligent) we certainly become more experienced, and these experiences absolutely play a part in our testimonies. A testimony made up of 35 years of home teaching experience carries a bit more weight than a testimony of 1 month of home teaching experience – even if the feelings of that one home teaching moment were ‘off the charts’. Since all of us are going to make mistakes, we all should have good and not so good experiences that have helped shape our testimonies.
Although these three topics are also progressive, the idea that some experience may be required prior to our working through our confirming feelings is consistent with this thought. Many times we need to take a step in the dark before we are blessed with the light.
With all 6 (both sets) of these gospel topics, the idea is that there are several interrelated things going on with our minds, our hearts, and our overall beings that make up our testimonies and our conversions. No two of us are the same – and we can begin to understand the process (and help others) when we better understand the pieces that are involved. After all, that’s the point of going to church, family home evening and scripture study, and girls camp, and the temple and home or visiting teaching, and everything else that we do – to feel the spirit confirm the truth that we’ve taught (or been taught) and participate in the ordinances that we need and then repeat that process over and over and over again until our actions are consistently intelligent, which means that we have become something better. Something that the Lord intended us to become all along, and the only way to get there is by learning, feeling, and acting as he would. That is the intended process of mortality.