On the first Sunday of the month, we could attend any of our chapels on the planet and likely hear the phrase "I know the church is true" several times.
"I know the church is true", "I know Joseph Smith is a prophet", "I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God", "I know God loves me", etc. etc.
These are wonderful sentiments, but I worry that at times this “language of knowledge” can do as much harm as good.
Most of us know what is meant by the phrase “I know…” when someone testifies. They mean, “I have received a spiritual witness from God that this specific principle is true/right/good. For me, that witness is just as good as knowing. And because of that witness, I am choosing to live my life according to that truth.” But, I am sure all of us have at times forgotten that this is what they mean.
I greatly respect anyone who has paid the price for a testimony of spiritual things, but I see both a potentially positive and negative interpretation of these types of declarative statements for those without this same conviction.
Positive - The firm knowledge-based testimony of others becomes a foundation for my own faith. For most of us, this is where our testimony needs to begin. Before we receive our own spiritual witness we rely on the testimony of those we trust and respect.
"What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested ... I invite you to lean on mine."
Negative - When we hear someone say, “I know ____ is true”, but we do not have that same “knowledge”, it may cause us to question ourselves. What’s wrong with me? Even little kids say they know this. How does everyone seem to know this but me?
I am definitely not saying we should stop using the words "I know" when testifying of our beliefs. But, there is also nothing wrong with "I believe" or "I hope" when that is how we feel.
As the Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, so eloquently taught, it is OK if you "can no more than desire to believe." You can then "let this desire work in you, even until ye believe" (Alma 32).
The language of faith is just as acceptable as the language of "knowledge."