How to Obtain a Knowledge of God – Lectures on Faith
What testimony have men, in the first instance, that there is a God?
Human testimony, and human testimony only. (2:56)
What excited the ancient saints to seek diligently after a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections and attributes?
The credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers. (2:56)
How do men obtain a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections and attributes?
By devoting themselves to his service, through prayer and supplication incessantly, strengthening their faith in him, until like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they obtain a manifestation of God to themselves. (2:55)
Is the knowledge of the existence of God a matter of mere tradition, founded upon human testimony alone, until a person receives a manifestation of God to themselves?
How do you prove it?
From the whole of the first lecture of the second section.
The questions and answers above are from the very end of the catechism in Lecture 2 of the Lectures on Faith. These particular questions and answers condense the message of scripture into a few words that take only seconds to read. There is no doubt in my mind as to the source of their inspiration. Based on personal experience, I can soberly state that I know of myself that these words are factual.
For 86 years, the Lectures were the “Doctrine” part of the Doctrine and Covenants and were important enough that Joseph Smith had them precede all of the other content that currently makes up the D&C today.
The first part of the book [The Doctrine and Covenants] will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work. (Preface to the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants)
The above statement was signed by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick Williams.
Bruce R. McConkie once stated:
“In my judgment, [The Lectures on Faith] is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language – that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true.” (Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University).
I had often heard of the Lectures growing up, but figured that if they were really that important we would hear more about them. It’s only been in the last several years that I have come to appreciate the profoundly simple and powerful teachings they contain. Nowhere else is faith so richly and plainly explained; they are truly one of the greatest things to come out of the restoration.
Because of my familiarity with the text, I have become aware of how often their content is quoted in General Conference and in various books, most recently in Elder Bednar’s Power to Become.
Not too long ago I acquired the domain name LecturesOnFaith.com where I built a simple site, free of charge and free of advertising where one can read the lectures online or on their mobile devices. I believe that the Lectures are more important now than ever. We can often get overwhelmed and bogged down by life and information overload, we question, we doubt, we can often feel lost and estranged from God. There is only one solution to this problem and the Lectures on Faith address it without pulling punches:
“Such was and always will be the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint;… for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.” (Lecture 6:4,12)
We can grow up with a tradition that is more external than internal. One day we might realize that we have never truly connected with God and like Enos we yearn to know him, to know we are free from sin and that the course we are pursuing in life is agreeable to his will. Our minds are not sufficient to endure the paradoxes and challenges of life. We need God’s mind (Lecture 5), we need to know him (John 17:3), we need a change of disposition (Mosiah 5:2), we need to see things they way he sees them (Alma 37:29, 2 Nephi 4:31, Mosiah 28:3). To change one’s mind is to change the entire creature (Repentance, Prayer – last 2 paragraphs).
Personally, I believe that the Lectures are the best place to start if you are just starting on your journey to know God, if you feel estranged from God and are seeking reunion, and if you know him already, but are seeking to refine that relationship. Faith is never something you outgrow, it is moving cause of all action (Lecture 1:10).
This new online version is unlike any other. It is based on the original 1835 edition, not the modern one put out by Deseret Book; there are some minor differences.
- New titles have been provided to reflect the subject matter of each lecture (My favorite update)
- A very small handful of spelling corrections (from the 1835 edition)
- Modernized Book of Mormon references to the current chapter and verse, instead of the 1830 edition page number (the Deseret Book version has these)
- Scripture references show the full book name and are no longer abbreviated (just for kicks)