Leo Tolstoy

Aug 22, 2017
2 min read

Certainty and Actual Knowledge

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.

Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

There is a school of thought out there that I have come across that frowns upon certainty or is at least highly skeptical of it. Tolstoy’s quote points out how hard it can be to change one’s mind if they are “firmly persuaded” that they “already know”.

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”

2 Nephi 9:28-29

“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”)

2 Nephi 28:29-30

The scriptures from the Book of Mormon likewise talk about “know[ing] of themselves” and thinking that you “have enough” knowledge.

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