There scriptures in our standard works offer great insights on the subject of knowledge. Nephi wrote that God would “give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” and for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, we have enough . . . shall be taken away even that which they have” (2Nephi 28:30). Clearly the more knowledge we are willing to receive, the more the Lord will bestow upon us, and if we refuse more—thereby choosing to remain on a lower spiritual level—He will take from us what we have.
Alma taught that this second choice of opting to be ignorant to more truth constitutes wrapping the chains of hell around our neck. “They that will harden their hears, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11).
Evidently, a doubting, disinterested, or indifferent view of knowledge can have an adverse effect on our spiritual welfare. However, on the other hand, the scriptures also make it clear that a faithful, interested, and proactive approach can have a very favorable impact. Our attitude toward knowledge thus plays an essential role in our spiritual development and maturity—which are both determining factors when it comes to our ability to endure hardship.
D&C 82:3 reads: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” For some, who fear greater knowledge because of the accompanying accountability, this scripture serves as a deterrent. Yet for others, the same principle functions as a catalyst—inspiring them not only to obtain greater light and truth, but leading them to consistently remain faithful to what is revealed and entrusted to them. In this regard, the Apostle Paul is one of our best examples.
In Acts chapter 16 we read of Paul and Silas being beaten and cast in prison in Philippi for casting an evil spirit out of a woman. After a miraculous earthquake the magistrates let them go. Despite the persecution and sufferings, they continued diligently and faithfully on to Thessalonica to preach. Their reason for doing so, described by Paul in his later epistle to the Thessalonians, is instructive. “”But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. . . But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1Thes 2:2-4). They viewed their knowledge of the gospel as a stewardship from God—something sacred they had been entrusted with. It was this sense of responsibility that came with feeling trusted by God that led them to speak things that were not pleasing to men, regardless of the consequence; it was this feeling of accountability that led them to endure well their sufferings for Christ’s name and stay faithful by pressing forward and continuing on their mission.
Paul and Silas could have viewed their knowledge as something God owed them, rather than something they earned by their faith and were given a stewardship over. This view does not stress accountability, and creates distance between us and God. Then, as Elder Dale G. Renlund recently noted: “The more we distance ourselves . . . the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive” (April 2016 Conference). If they had held this view, they would have given up rather than pressed forward.
President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “The Lord’s teachings have always been to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear,” further declaring that “to become a ‘hearer’ is not simply to stand idly by and wait for chance bits of information; it is to seek out and study and pray and comprehend” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, p. 127). To seek out knowledge and study is to take a faithful, interested, proactive approach as an agent who acts. To stand idly by and wait for bits of information from others is to choose an apathetic, disinterested, and indifferent approach as an object that is waiting to be acted upon. To have been given knowledge to the point of greater trust and responsibility being required, Paul and Silas must have been ‘hearers,’ classed among those disciples who were anxiously engaged in building their faith and increasing their testimony. This approach is vital in obtaining the spiritual perspective to keep going. As Elder Maxwell observed, “Is it too much otherwise to expect mortals to have such perspective? Yes, it is if we are left to ourselves to endure” (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 89).
If we will continually open our hearts and minds to receive knowledge from God, He will bestow it. “Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you” (D&C 82:4). As He does so, having received the greater light we will stand more accountable, and will have more required of us. But if we will look at the amount of light and truth that has been revealed to us as a stewardship—something we are entrusted with—we will feel more obligated and empowered to meet whatever challenges come our way. More obligated because we will recognize the need to stay true to what we know, and more empowered because the knowledge will provide the perspective and understanding necessary to “endure the crosses of the world, and despise the shame of it” (2Nephi 9:18).