The scripture words I’m using for the title of this article (from 2 Nephi 22:25) caught my attention recently. Oh, how I want to be numbered as one of His sheep. But the last phrase caused me concern. What does it mean to really know Him? We can certainly learn a lot about Him from the scriptures, other gospel writings, and from the testimonies of others.
One time I started through the New Testament, listing in a notebook as I went along, the characteristics of Christ as I was able to recognize them from the text. We are blessed with other books of scripture, such as the Book of Mormon that offer enlightenment. For example, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world, for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of salvation” (2 Nephi 26:24). What love! And that love extends to all.
The Difference Being Knowing About and Really Knowing
However, I can read a lot about the love of Christ and still not know Christ. In James 2:19 we are told that even the devils know about God, believe in him, and tremble. But what do they lack? They were not willing to experience His love and saving grace. They were not willing to subject themselves to the extreme trials of mortality which bring those experiences with God. I immediately think of the oft-quoted words of the elderly man who came across the plains with the Martin handcart company: “We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities . . . Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay.”1 Is any price too high for the blessing of “becoming acquainted” with God, knowing Him, and feeling His love and caring?
“We became acquainted with Him in our extremities” . . . what a thought-provoking phrase. We do not really know the Lord unless we “become acquainted” with Him through our own experience.
I’ve heard some of the most fervent modern-day testimonies of becoming personally acquainted with the Savior from those in recovery from life-threatening addictions. One man named Tom told how he had let fear and addiction control his life, but that he was transformed by turning his life over to Christ. He said, “Just as surely as the Lord saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from the fire, he saved me—and thousands like me. Through the divinely inspired Twelve Steps I learned that it all comes down to the humility to surrender to God’s will.”
Perhaps that is one description of what it takes to know Him.
My Own Experience
I’m in the final stages of a general Christian rewrite of my book of comfort for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. In some ways it’s been a repeat of my experience in trying to finish the original. I’ve been in tears a few times so tired, and sometimes sick, that I wondered how I could go on. Feeling so weak, sensing in an overwhelming way my need for the Lord’s help, I’ve learned again what it means to turn it all over to the Lord, tell Him I can nothing without Him, and that I was willing to accept His will in regard to my life. My e-mail friend Debbie Avila keeps reminding me, “In God Is Our Strength.” There is no other True Source. And when I need His strength most is when I get my little glimpses of knowing Him. I’ve now lived long enough and gained sufficient perspective to recognize the great gifts of feeling the Lord’s love and intervention in my life. He is the Source of all my blessings, and as well as strength to make it through my darkest hours.
I have never experienced anything like the trials of the early Saints, but have been so inspired by Brigham Young’s perspective about them: “I never felt the peace and power of the Almighty more copiously poured upon me than in the keenest part of our trials. They appeared nothing to me.2
Wasn’t He saying that through those trials the Saints learned to know God, and that made all other considerations seem like nothing? There is absolutely nothing more important than to know Him. In John 17:3 we read, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hath sent.” So much hinges on that knowing.
What Can I Do Daily to Further that Knowledge?
How much time and effort am I extending toward that grand purpose of knowing God? Knowing someone requires sacrifice and service: Mosiah 5:13, “How knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?” Most of getting to really know loved ones on earth comes from spending time with them, listening to them, sacrificing for them, serving them, sharing experiences, thoughts, and feelings with them. Yet I am often surprised at how little I really know even closest friends and family members. I know about them, but I only know a tiny portion of the thoughts and intents of the heart of any other person. And neither do they know mine. Only God truly knows us, partly because mortals are so inclined to role-playing, facades, and misunderstandings that only the Lord can see around, above, and through.
Is the Lord easier to know than other mortals because He is utterly transparent? With him there is no hiding, no deception, no ulterior motives, no defenses. It may be easier because He greatly desires for us to know Him. In fact it is one His top priorities to help us learn to know Him. How do I know that? Because I connected the messages in the following two scriptures: ”This is Life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent” (John 17:3) and “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). His prime purpose is for us to know Him so that we can in inherit eternal life.
I Need More How-Tos!
Knowing that brings me great hope, but also great trepidation. This is an important thing to do. How can I be sure I’m doing it?
The Second Lecture on Faith, page 35, gives some clues:
Q. How do men obtain a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections and attributes?
A. 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.)
Q. 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?
A. It is.
Because it is so important to receive a manifestation of God to ourselves, no wonder He asks us to spend time seeking Him, being with Him—in scripture, in prayer, in temple worship and supplication.
I have friends who set such a good example: some who get up early every morning to spend time with the Lord—praying, “capturing” scriptures by writing the feelings the scripture brings up, asking the Lord to tell them how the scriptures applies . . . . Others who have drawn near him in consistent temple worship . . . One who fasted weekly and prayed constantly to accept her physical trials, and to know Him better; she received a special manifestation of His love for her.
One purpose of the Sacrament is to help us know Him better. We covenant to remember Him each time we partake. We surely must remember Him in order to know Him. What an important thing to focus on—the desire to know Him. To search His words wanting to know how He thinks, feels, what He’s feeling are toward His children. What are they? Love—infinite love and yearning for us so much more pure than I am capable of yearning for my children.
Obedience Motivated by Love
1 John 2:3 tells us, “Hereby do we know that we know him—if we keep his commandments.” But there’s more to this “knowing” than just dutiful obedience. I can grit my teeth and perform a Pharisee-like list of commandments and not know Him at all. 1 John 4:7 gives another big piece of the puzzle: “He that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” In 1 John 4:8 we read, “He that loveth not knoweth not God.” And there we have it. Isn’t it amazing how many things in the gospel come back to that one concept, that one powerful word, that one all-encompassing goal: love. God is love, and getting to know Him is all about feeling His love and enlarging our capacity to pass that love on to others.
In John 10:27 we read, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” That is how we know Him, that is how He knows us, that is how we follow Him: we learn to love.
11 Relief Society Magazine, January 1948, p. 8.
22 Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v 1, p. 313
Author note: For more details about Darla’s new book: After My Son’s Suicide: An LDS Mother Fins Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On, visit her web site: