Tuesday, October 24, 2017

President Hugh B. Brown on knowing and understanding the gospel

President Hugh B. Brown (October 24, 1883–December 2, 1975) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1953, then as an apostle in 1958.  He served as a counselor to President David O. McKay from 1961 until President McKay's death in 1970, then for almost six more years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until he passed away at age 92.
"I am impressed with the testimony of a man who can stand and say he knows the gospel is true. What I would like to ask is, 'But, sir, do you know the gospel?' I say it is one thing to know the gospel is true, and it is another thing to know what the gospel is. Mere testimony can be gained with but perfunctory knowledge of the Church and its teachings, as evidenced by the hundreds who are now coming into the Church with but bare acquaintanceship. But to retain a testimony, to be of service in building the Lord's kingdom, requires a serious study of the gospel and knowing what it is."
- Hugh B. Brown, personal correspondence with Robert J. Matthews, dated 28 January 1969; see Matthews, "Using the Scriptures," BYU devotional, July 14, 1981

How much do you have to know, to know it's true? What knowledge is required to have a testimony? President Brown suggests that "perfunctory knowledge of the Church and its teachings" are sufficient to bring initial conversion. Perfunctory means something that results from a minimal level of effort or reflection. So a witness of truth can come relatively easily.

But that is not enough to sustain us. Beyond knowing the gospel is true, we have to come to know the gospel:

While it may be easy to obtain a testimony, President Brown warns that to retain a testimony and to be of service in the Lord's kingdom requires that we develop our gospel knowledge. That's the challenge for all of us: to be studying, pondering, learning, applying—growing in understanding and wisdom!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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