Is It Possible to Know Something but Not to Know That You Know It?

In 1880, a young church leader, Heber J. Grant, was challenged by Joseph F. Smith, one of the apostles. Heber had just stated in a sermon that he “believed” the gospel was true. Following the meeting, Joseph asked him, “Don’t you know absolutely that the gospel is true?” “I do not,” was Heber’s reply. The president of the Church, John Taylor, came to Heber’s rescue: “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph,” he said, “[Heber] knows it just as well as you do. The only thing that he does not know is that he does know it” (As told by Elder Douglas L. Callister in “Knowing That We Know,” General Conference, October 2007).

This experience reminds me of Amulek’s self-assessment after his conversion. He told his friends and neighbors that he had known previously that the gospel was true: “I knew concerning these things,” he said, “yet I would not know” (Alma 10:5-6).

And after Korihor was convinced of the error of his preaching, he made the following stunning admission: “I always knew there was a God” (Alma 30:52-53).

Each of these examples is different, but there is a pattern. It’s possible to know something without being aware that you know it. How can that happen?

At least three things must happen for us to know something:

  1. There must be evidence.
  2. We must recognize the evidence.
  3. We must be willing to acknowledge it.

We all have evidence in our lives that God exists. The prophet Alma told Korihor, “I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true” (Alma 30:41). Amulek said that he had seen God’s “mysteries and his marvelous power” in his life, but that he had failed to notice them (Alma 10:5-6).

Many years ago, President Henry B. Eyring began to write every evening how he had seen the hand of the Lord in his life that day. That process helped him to recognize blessings which would have otherwise gone unnoticed:

Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done (“O Remember, Remember,” General Conference, October 2007).

And what about Heber J. Grant? He also gained an appreciation for the knowledge he had. He later said, “I know that God lives, I know that Jesus is the Christ, I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, I know that the Gospel tree is alive, that it is growing, that the fruits of the Gospel growing upon the tree are good. I have reached out my hand, I have plucked the fruits of the Gospel, I have eaten of them and they are sweet, yea, above all that is sweet” (“Heber J. Grant: A Prophet for Hard Times,” Ensign, January 2004).

Today, I will pay attention to the evidence in my life that God lives and is mindful of me. As I see this evidence, I will strive to perceive it, to understand it, and to accept it for what it is. I will strive to be aware of what I know.

2 thoughts on “Is It Possible to Know Something but Not to Know That You Know It?

Add yours

  1. I love this post! I know several people who say “they don’t know” yet I see that they do know. The fruits of the Gospel are undeniably sweet and I am ever so grateful. Would that I could sing my testimony in grand and beautiful songs of praise. Thank you, thank you, thank you dear Redeemer


    1. Thank you for your comment! I have observed the same thing. Sometimes we know more than we realize or are willing to admit. Thank you for your testimony.


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