Question #4: Why do you say that you “know” the gospel is true? Don’t you really just believe it?
This question will most likely come from someone without a scriptural or religious background. To the unbeliever or skeptic, the idea that you can “know” anything pertaining to God is illogical at best, an exercise in self-delusion at worst. They will concede that you have faith in something or believe it to be true (most likely, in their view, in the absence of hard evidence), but the idea that you know that God lives in the same way you know the sun will come up tomorrow morning may be greeted by some with dismissal or scorn.
Nevertheless, if you are asked the question, it is your privilege to respond. If your testimony is met with disbelief, you can take heart in these words from Elder Holland:
"To [you], I say, dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped into a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, “view[ed Christ’s] death, and suffer[ed] his cross and [borne] the shame of the world.”
So if the question comes, explain with all the courage and courtesy you can muster how you (and we and he) can know the truths of the gospel for ourselves.
The short answer: “I admit that sounds like a bold statement. I can only say that I have prayed to God to know if He lives and if the gospel is true, and in response He filled both my mind and heart with a burst of knowledge unlike anything I have ever experienced before. And He continues to bless me from time to time with this kind of knowledge. To say anything less than ‘I know that God lives’ would be to dishonor Him and the sacred experiences I have shared with Him and continue to share with Him. And there are millions of others who have had the same experience. Could I share a scripture verse with you that helped me understand how this works?”
The point: We covered a lot of ground in that short answer. Acknowledge it is difficult to understand if it hasn’t happened to you. Explain in as few words as possible what it’s like to receive “the burning in the bosom” that the Holy Ghost brings. Explain that this was not a one-time experience but that the Holy Ghost continues to bless your life with pure knowledge. Let your friend know that these experiences are sacred. Testify that millions of others have had the same experience. Offer to share Moroni’s promise (Moroni 10:3–5).
To the skeptic, there is no point in sharing scripture stories where revelation is given and received. If he doesn’t accept the scriptures, he won’t accept your stories. The best you can do is share Moroni 10:3–5 and invite him to put Moroni’s challenge to the test. He may accept the challenge, or he may not. Or he may finally accept it 20 years later.
One final thought—there is another type of person who may ask the question of how you can know the things of God: the individual without religious background but who is nevertheless looking for truth in his life. To this person, the idea that spiritual truths can be known may be a new and strange concept. “Who am I,” he might think, “to be able to know the truth of God when so many great minds through the centuries have tried and only come to confusion?”
If you encounter any of us out there—and I say “us” because my wife and I were both in that group before we met, married, and joined the Church—then you hold a precious soul in your hands. Share Moroni’s promise, and tell them that there is a central truth and it can be known. Then invite them not to take your word for it but to find out for themselves. Plant the seed carefully, love them for their seeking hearts, and then trust the harvest to the Lord.
Moroni 10:3–5 When you receive these things, ask God, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true . . .
Joseph Smith—History 1:25 I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it . . .
Doctrine and Covenants 76:22 This is the testimony . . . which we give of him: That he lives!