Lesson Eight: Epistemology

Concept: Epistemology

  1. Symbols: Epistemological, epistemologically
  1. Base: Scientific/humanistic, with Restored Gospel applications
  1. Etymology: Gk. episteme, knowledge + logia, words or discourse about
  1. Dictionary: Webster’s Collegiate

Definition: The theory or science of the method and grounds of knowledge, esp. with reference to its limits and validity.

  1. Examples in base:

Epistemology is the most fundamental of the philosophic disciplines.

If you wish to understand someone, track down his epistemology.

On what epistemological grounds do you make that assertion?

  1. Correlatives:
  • Genus: Inquiry
  • Constituents: Questioning, considering, evaluating
  • Prerequisites: Doubt, wonder, blundering
  • Consequences: Skepticism, carefulness, acuity
  • Similar: Support, knowledge, verification, ascertainment
  • Contrary: Ignorance, leaping-to-conclusion, assuming
  • Perfection: Omniscience
  • Opposite: “It is said…”
  • Counterfeit: Wordiness
  • Levels:
    • Celestial: Prove all things by the Holy Spirit
    • Terrestrial: Wise use of all sources except revelation
    • Telestial: Depend on word of mouth
    • Perdition: Deliberately to mislead and to misconstrue
  1. Key Questions:
    1. Why is epistemology the most fundamental philosophic discipline? Because any discussion of metaphysics or ethics (the other parts of philosophy) depends on prior epistemological commitments.
    2. How can one learn to be keen about epistemology? By learning the various methods and combinations, then practicing them.
    3. What are the various methods? That is what this lesson is about.
    4. What is the place of epistemology in thought? Every human assertion is grounded in some human evidence or assurance. Epistemology is the technical study of actual and potential groun ds for making assertions.
  1. Definition: Epistemology is the study of human knowing through natural and divine means, with special reference to the powers and limits of each method and each combination of method.
  1. Positive example: Alma’s discussion as to how one gains a testimony.
    1. Negative example: Laman’s and Lemuel’s unwillingness even to inquire.
  1. Effects of this concept: What might and should result.
  • Heart: A desire to be founded on the rock in all things.
  • Mind: A willingness to find and treasure the truth, no matter how arduous the task.
  • Strength: Acquisition of those skills which will facilitate finding and learning truth.
  • Might: \A beginning of a godly perspective.

Establishing a ground for an assertion is always a very personal thing.

The following are possible positive components of a ground or basis for making an assertion:

  1. The witness of other persons.
  2. Reasoning it out for oneself.
  3. Personally sensing the thing in question: eyewitness.
  4. Observing the matter over time and different circumstances.
  5. Trying an idea to see if it works.
  6. Receiving personal revelation on the matter.

There is also a negative force or power which enables us to discard any basis material which we judge to be faulty or insufficient: Skepticism.

The positive and negative possibilities for support each give rise to a separate epistemological stance, each having strengths and limitations.

Building a basis for an assertion is much like establishing a foundation for a house. One starts with what is already there, then imports whatever materials are available to make a sure and stable foundation, casting out any material which will prove to be unstable and undependable.

The assembling of support material for an assertion depends upon the heart, mind, strength and might of the individual person. Thus each person’s basis for making an assertion having the identical form will be very different. Example: Many persons say, “I know that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is true,” but no two persons will have exactly the same experiences and other evidences as a basis for that assertion, even though different bases may be equally adequate for making that assertion.

Authoritarianism: Accepting the testimony of other human beings.

Definition: Forming and accepting ideas on the basis of the witnes of other human beings.

Etymology: F autor; L auctor, fr augere to increase, produce

Complements:      Authoritative/untrustworthy


Levels of authoritarianism:

  • Celestial: None (see personal revelation, below)
  • Terrestrial: Reason, tradition, agreement (as in civil law)
  • Telestial: Brute force (police and military power)
  • Perdition: Deception and coercion.

Example: Parents teaching their children to speak their mother tongue.

Relevant citations:

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:31)

And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, 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 12:9-11)

To ponder:

  1. About 90% of what most persons believe has only authoritarian support.
  1. Human witness has value on a sliding scale:

Most valuable:          Disclosures of a person’s heart and mind.

Directives as to how to do things the speaker has done.

Descriptions of things here and now. (Facts)

Descriptions of the past. (Laws)

Descriptive hypotheses about the unseen world. (Theories)

Least valuable:   Directives as to how to solve human problems. (Wisdom)

  1. The greatest problem about using authoritarianism is knowing whom to trust as an authority. One must be an authority on a subject to know who is an authority, and then they don’t need the witness of that other authority.
  1. Devices of the world used to get ignorant persons to trust others as authorities:
  • Official position
  • Familiarity
  • Age
  • Jargon
  • Prowess
  • Testimonials
  • Honors of men (degrees)
  • Printed words
  • Blood (blue)
  • Official stationery
  • Past triumphs
  • Clothing (vestments)
  • Force, strength
  • Lavish surroundings (banks)
  1. Warrant: Other good evidence (not including any of the above) that what a person says is true or trustworthy. Examples:

Corroborated by the testimony of other persons who are known to be reliable. Fits with what you already know.

Squares with what you see and hear.

You have tried it and it works.

Attested to by the Holy Spirit.

  1. The Savior restored his gospel in these latter days so that no man would need to accept the testimony of another person on any matter. If one lives that gospeL the only sufficient warrant for believing anything is the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
  1. We accept the human General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints only because their words and deeds are given supporting warrant by the Holy Spirit.


  1. What is our principal clue that most human beings are untrustworthy witness about most important things?
  2. Why are the honors of men a trap?

What would happen to our civilization if everyone suddenly was consciously in communication with the Savior and believed him, and thus no longer accepted the sole witness of another human being as a sufficient basis for believing anything?

Rationalism: Using reason as a basis for certifying an idea. 

Definition: Certifying an idea because it agrees with or is deducible from premises we already believe.

Etymology:        L ratio a reckoning, a relation

Complements:      Rational/Emotional


Opposite:         Reasonable/irrational

Example:    If all men are mortal, and I am a man, then it will occur to me to deduce the assertion that I am mortal.

Relevant citations:

And even so I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me. Wherefore, come ye unto it, and with him that cometh I will reason as with men in days of old, and I will show unto you my strong reasoning. (D&C 45:9-10)

And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand; Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face. Now when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand. (D&C 50:10-12)

To ponder:

  1. Rationalism is based on the notion that there are clear and definite fundamental assertions which are directly self-evident to intelligent persons from which all truth could be deduced. (The model for this was Euclidean geometry.)
  1. The weakness of rationalism is that it must begin with premises, and no more can be gained from the conclusions than was originally found in the premises. If one starts with wrong premises, then nothing is sure.
  1. Educated people usually pride themselves on being rational about what they do. They have (or can quicKly make up) a rationale for everything they do and don’t do.
  1. The strength of rationalism is that it can show inconsistency, which is usually a sign that something is drastically wrong. Thus it functions in practice as a negative, rather than as a positive test of truth.
  1. The basic processes of reasoning are:
  2. Deduction: Deriving a necessary conclusion from given premises by given rules of inference.

Example: Given the premises: All A is B, and All B is C, one may conclude by the rules of syllogistic reasoning that All A is C.

  1. Induction: Deriving a conclusion about a whole class of things (anything) on the basis of evidence about characteristics of part of that same class or population.

Example: If by inspection I see that one of a pair of shoes is worn out, I may conclude that the other one of the pair is also worn out (the pair is worn out). (This, as induction always is, is a guess.)

  1. Adduction: Creating premises from which a given conclusion may be deduced in accordance with given rules of inference. (There are in most systems of thinking an infinite number of sets of premises from which a given premise may be deduced.) As an individual uses this process to find or to create the reasons why he does something, we call the process rationalization. In science, the process is called hypothesization, and usually is the process of theory construction. In detective work, it is also called creating a hypothesis.

Example: If I am given the conclusion that All men are mortal, I may then search for premises and come up with All men are children of Adam and Eve. All children of Adam and Eve are mortal. From those premises I may then draw the given conclusion by the given rules of the categorical syllogism.

  1. Reason is at its best when we have an extra-rational source of true general propositions (assertions) which we can use as premises in our reasoning. From particular propositions (assertions) one can deduce nothing.
  1. Important rationalists:

Rene Descartes: French soldier and mathematician (1596-1650). He developed cartesian coordinates, analytical geometry. Principal philosophic work: Discourse de Ia methode.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: German mathematician, diplomat, historian, theologian (1646- 1716). Principal philosophic works: Discourse de Ia metaphysique, 1686, and Monadolo, 1714.


Why is it good to be rational but not as good to be a rationalist?

In what ways does a university education support rationalism?


Empiricism: See for yourself.

Definition: The use of sensory experience to certify ideas. (But these ideas are usually embedded in an authoritarian/rationalistic frame of thought.

Etymology: Gr empirikos fr Ln + peira, experiment

Example: Bringing rocks from the moon to see what it is made of.

Relevant citations:

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. (John 20:26-28)

Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am. (D&C 93:1)

To ponder:

  1. The strength of empiricism is that for things capable of being sensed it provides an excellent test of assertions. Unfortunately, many important things cannot be sensed (such as the future, the past, spirits, causes, etc.).
  1. Empiricism is helpful when one is already well experienced in a matter and has well-developed concepts. An experienced horseman can tell much about a horse just by looking at it. But empiricism is not very useful when there are no concepts m place, such as when most persons look under the hood of an automobile.
  1. Empiricism may mislead, either because we cannot sense with clarity or we do not have a clear concept to start with.
  1. The great flaw in empiricism as an epistemology is that it must have a non-empirical concept base in which to operate.
  1. Gathering empirical information by observation is the process of pattern recognition (seeing familiar things, the concepts we already have) and at the same time seeing or forming new patterns of things we have not before observed, or seeing old concepts in new arrangements.

Example: A hunter must know and understand the terrain to be successful. The terrain is the old and familiar. He seeks game, also an old and familiar concept, but he seeks to observe where a specimen is right now. This latter is the new.

  1. Some of the laws/rules that characterize empirical observation:
  2. We tend to ignore more than we bring to the focus of consciousness.
  3. We sense and report patterns, not individual and unique experience.
  4. We report new things by making them analogies to familiar things.
  5. We observe and report with a purpose, which greatly affects what we see and report, and what we ignore or take for granted.
  6. The more developed is our concept bank, the more we can see when we look.
  7. We tend to see only what we are willing to believe. For example, people who do not believe in miracles usually do not see any.
  8. Empiricism thus provides reliable truth about the universe only when:
  9. We have correct concepts, formed out of much experience and instruction.
  10. We have full and undistorted sensory impressions.
  11. We are not biased in what we wish to see.

Important empiricists:

John Locke, English physician (1632-1714).

Two Treatises on Government, 1689 (Ideas relevant to the U. S. Constitution.) Essay on Human Understanding, 1690 (All ideas originate in sensation.)

George Berkeley, Irish clergyman (1685-1753).

Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge. 1710. (Matter does not exist, but is only a concept in our minds.)

David Hume, Scottish philosopher (1711-1776).

Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. (Our idea of causation is not empirical; therefore, not all ideas are empirical.)


  1. How do the requirements for empiricism (#7 above) map to heart, mind, strength?
  2. Why must every painter be an empiricist?

Statistical empiricism: Arrays of empirical data.

Definition: Certifying ideas on the basis of correlations of arrays of empirical data in an authoritarian/rationalist/empiricist frame.

Example: Testing several brands of tires under severe controlled wear conditions to determine which brand is the best.

Relevant citations:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would Dot! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matt 23:37- 39)

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen. (D&C 121:39-40)

To ponder:

  1. Empiricism tells us what things happen, but only statistical empiricism can tell us under what regular conditions things happen. This is not a knowledge of causation, but of correlation.
  1. A false concept can cause one to gather data only to confirm that concept. For example, those who believe that the dole is good for people tend to see only the data that supports that view.
  1. In every statistical inquiry one must make many assumptions or hypotheses. Sometimes these are so powerful that they overwhelm any data gathered. Doing a valid statistical study is a difficult task.
  1. All statistical data must be manipulated by some rational process to produce any result. The rational process should be chosen with great care before the data is gathered.

Important statistician:

Karl Pearson, British biologist (1857-1936), the father of modern statistics.

The Grammar of Science. 1911. (The world is our construct.)


  1. Why is it better to use the concept of correlation than to use the concept of causation in science?
  2. Why is statistical empiricism a rich man’s epistemology?
  3. When you read a study which comes to conclusions based on statistics, why should you read the whole report, not just the conclusions?

Pragmatism: It works!

Definition: Accepting as sufficient support for an idea that it seems to work, to be useful.

Etymology: Gr pragmatikos, fr pragma, a thing done, business; fr prassein, to do

Example: Believing that cod-liver oil helps because you feel better when you take it.

Relevant citations:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a-true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves–It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. (D&C 89:18-20)

To ponder:

  1. Pragmatism is most valuable in areas where we either have no truth, or where the received truth does not seem to work.
  1. Pragmatism is a substitute for a firm grasp on the truth. But it may be an important beginning of finding the truth. When all else fails, each of us tends to become pragmatic.
  1. The danger in pragmatism is that we may settle for it, not recognizing that we must seek further. For instance, evil persons can do many powerful things using the power of the adversary. But one would not want to accept them as prophets of God just because they have power. We must also use other epistemologies to find out just what kind of a power we are dealing with.
  1. Pragmatism leads one to indulge in the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc: after this, therefore because of this. Example: I become ill after dinner, but was it really what ate that made me ill?
  1. Pragmatism also may lead one to comfort oneself with the idea that the end justifies the means. If I get my way every time I become angry, I am tempted to use anger to get my way, then to comfort myself by justifying the anger because it produces such desirable results.

Important pragmatists:

Charles Sanders Pierce, American scientist and philosopher (1839-1914).

Collected Papers

William James, American psychologist and philosopher (1842-1910)


John Dewey, American philosopher, (1859-1952).

How We Think


  1. Why is pragmatism the most fundamental epistemology?

Skepticism: Let’s be sure!

Definition: Rejection of all assertions for which there is contrary or insufficient support.

Etymology: F sceptique, fr L scepticas, fr Gr skeptikos, thoughtful, reflective

Opposite: Skeptical/assured

Complement: Sceptic/believer

Example: Only when one becomes dissatisfied with one’s traditional religion will one search out and accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Relevant citations:

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:31)

Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it i~ not of God. (D&C 50:31)

To ponder:

  1. Skepticism is the backbone that unites all religions, philosophies, science, and thoughtful inquiry. They all reject the idea that man in his natural state is sufficient. But of course they differ greatly as to the best cure.
  1. One can be too skeptical, rejecting even those things for which there is abundant good evidence.
  1. Anciently to be a Sceptic was to belong to a certain school of philosophy. They rejected all religions and philosophies and dogmatism of every sort. Such sought to live a quiet, peaceful life by living according to appearance, custom, habit and environment. Their plea was to avoid the excess speculations of the other philosophers.
  1. To be skeptical one need not be a Sceptic. It behooves everyone to be skeptical lest they be taken in by unscrupulous men or the snares of the adversary, or even by their own superficiality or carelessness. But to live and act as a normal human being one cannot be skeptical about everything.
  1. Extreme skepticism leads to cynicism, which is the idea that nothing is good, or holy or worthwhile in this world. A true cynic would soon die, for he would be cynical about even eating. Most cynics are very selective about what they wish to reject. That cynicism becomes a posture of rebellion, and usually destroys good as well as bad.

Important sceptic:

Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire, French dramatist, historian, encyclopedist (1694-1778). Dictionaire philosophique.


  1. What is the relationship between skepticism and free agency?

Mysticism: Feeling is better.

Definition: Rejection of thinking as a basis for knowing reality and substituting feeling in its place.

Etymology: L mysticus, fr Gr mystikos, secret rites, fr mystes, one initiated

Opposite: Mystic/hard-headed realist

Complement: Mystical/effable

To ponder:

  1. Mysticism is skepticism towards reason and sensory experience. It hopes for satisfaction is some non-rational, non-empirical feeling of euphoria.
  1. Mystical experience can be approached through any medium, including reason and sensory experience. But at some point there must be a transcendence, a crossing to another realm which cannot be described in words or captured in rational concept systems.
  1. Every major religion and philosophy have had adherents who have turned to mysticism to find fulfillment.
  1. The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is not mystical in any way, for one of the requirements for something to be of God is that it must be intelligible, understandable, of light and truth.
  1. It is possible that what some people call mystical fulfillment is revelation from the adversary.


  1. Why is mysticism not a very social enterprise?
  2. Why do “artistic” types of persons often drift off into mysticism?
  3. Why are little children not inclined to be mystics?
  4. What is the connection between mysticism and the drug culture?

Fabrication: Inventing ideas to fill in the holes in our knowledge.

Definition: Fabrication is the making of ideas, using imagination, to satisfy our desire to know the answer to some question.

Etymology: L fabricatus, to build, for’ fr fabrica, a fabric or workshop

Complement: Fabricate/find

Opposite: Natural occurrence

Example: My friend is late for work and has grease on his hands. I hypothesize (fabricate) that he had a flat tire on the way.

Relevant citation:

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (D&C 1:16)

To ponder:

  1. Fabrication under the names of hypothesizing, guessing, formulating a theory, estimating, etc., is an important part of the life of every human being. It is troublesome only when a person believes a fabrication without further evidence.
  1. The name for fabrication in science is “theory construction.”
  1. Systems design is all fabrication.
  1. Artistic creation is fabrication of a material expression which is usually guided by a prior mental and emotional fabrication within the artist.
  1. All manufacturing is fabrication, as is all creativity. What we here are most concerned with is fabrication of ideas to stand in the place of things known to be so by other evidence. Sometimes we must make guesses and act on the basis of them because we cannot do better.

Science: the fabrication of assertions to describe the universe.

Description: Science is a compound or complex epistemology. It combines authoritarianism, rationalism, empiricism, statistical empiricism, skepticism, pragmatism and fabrication. Each of these separate epistemologies is used in the production of reliable descriptive assertions: factual assertions, law assertions, theory assertions, and principle assertions. (See the theory of descriptive assertions in Lesson Six for a fuller discussion of those assertions. See Lesson Seven where science is discussed as a strategy.

It is important to realize that science, as a complex epistemology, is important in the epistemological arsenal of every educated person.

Many persons believe that science is the ultimate epistemology. What ever is supported by scientists is the truth, and whatever is not supported by scientists is superstition. (This ignores the fact that scientists disagree much of the time.)

Scholarship: the fabrication of assertions about the past

Description: Scholarship is the fabrication of assertions about events which cannot be presently seen, mainly the past, on the basis of the record evidence available. The main strategy of scholarship is the control of extant documents, which is to find, translate, interpret, and formulate ideas using documents, then to fabricate an account of the events to which the documents relate in such a way as to account for all of the documentary evidence in a way that accords with some set of canons. This complex epistemology uses authoritarianism, rationalism, empiricism (minor), statistical empiricism (evidence about authenticity of documents, etc), skepticism, and pragmatism. Scholarship is to the world of history what science is to the natural or present physical world. (See Lesson Seven for a discussion of scholarship as a strategy.)

Before the rise of science, to be a scholar was a great honor. To flatter someone, he would be referred to as a “gentleman and a scholar.”

Scholarship is also important in the epistemological arsenal of every educated person.

Knowledge of good and evil: the ability to make moral choices.

Description: Good is the righteousness of God; evil is any alternative to the righteousness of God, especially as promoted by Satan. This knowledge is guaranteed to every human being because of the fall of Adam. Everyone knows the good to some degree because everyone is touched by the light of Christ, which is the vehicle by which the knowledge of good comes to them. Everyone knows the evil because everyone is under the influence of the Fall, wherein Satan was given a stewardship to tempt Adam and Eve and all of their posterity.

The knowledge of good and evil comes to each person as an awareness that there is an important difference between things. The good and the evil do not come labeled. What we sense is the difference. It is the agency of man to call one of them “good” and the other “evil.” A person who is good in his heart will call good “good” and evil “evil.” But an evil person will call some evil things “good” and some good things “evil.” It is the agency of mankind to make that choice. Every human being is forced to make that choice between good and evil many times every day.

Many people in the world would like to pretend that there is no way to know good and evil, that good and evil are not “objective” categories. The world substitutes that which pleases me for good and that which displeases me for evil, then says all values are relative (what pleases individuals is relative). But each person knows in his heart that there is a real good and a real evil. Children have no trouble admitting this. But as people are acculturated in this world, that education tends to substitute cultural standards for the light of Christ, confusing nearly everyone.

Knowledge of good and evil is the fundamental epistemology. It is primary, or fundamental, because no one can surely grasp the truth or the goodness of anything without using this epistemology. Someone who tries to use personal revelation as an epistemology will almost invariably accept revelation from the wrong source unless they have paid careful attention to the difference between good and evil and have practiced choosing only the good in their daily lives. Even pragmatism will not work fully unless one has a prior knowledge of good and evil.

Relevant citation:

Now we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, y e will begin to say within yourselves–It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)

Personal Revelation: Communication with another world.

Definition: Ideas, feelings and directives which come from usually unseen, always non-human sources.

Etymology: F reveler, fr L revelare, to unveil; fr re + velue, to veil, fr velum, a veil.

Complement: Reveal/ hide, conceal

Example: The First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the grove.

Relevant citations:

God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now; Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fullness of their glory; A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. (D&C 121:26-29)

For thus saith the Lord–I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. (D&C 76:5-7).

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

To ponder:

  1. There are two kinds of personal revelation: good from God and evil from Satan. Because there are two, man is free, for he may choose between the two, to follow whichever one pleases him.
  2. Every human being receives an abundance of personal revelation. Everyone, good and bad, has revelation from Satan. But some persons are so evil that the good spirit has ceased to strive with them.
  3. Sooner or later every human being receives a full understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is the heritage of every child of God. Whether one receives that gospel into his life or not is up to each person. When one receives it (as opposed to hearing it is also up to each individual. Every human being receives that gospel sooner or later, though some then renounce that acceptance and become sons of Perdition.
  1. Sin is disobedience to the word, which is the law, of God. But sin is imputed only when the individual has been given that law by God in personal revelation and then disobeys.
  1. Most Latter-day Saints are virtually immersed in personal revelation from both sources yet are usually oblivious to the presence of either kind. To become conscious of these two kinds of revelation, to detect and to distinguish them with accuracy is one of the most important skills any person can have.
  1. Faith in Jesus Christ is to depend on the information received from Him through personal revelation. To be faithful is to depend solely on Him in that way.


  1. What is the relationship between mysticism and the mysteries of God?
  2. How can one learn to distinguish the good spirit from the evil spirit?
  3. Why cannot some individuals get the revelations they desire to have?
  4. Why do some persons try not to get revelation from God?
  5. What is the etymology of the word wicked?
  1. To consider the support for an assertion is to ask: How do you know? and, How do you know you know?
  1. Every assertion has a support component.
  1. To evaluate the internal and external support for an assertion requires that one be a master of epistemology and its various modes of verifying assertions. The wise person is one who understands them all and uses each as it is appropriate.
  1. An intelligent person will use authoritarianism, rationalism, empiricism, statistical empiricism, pragmatism and skepticism in conjunction with personal revelation from the Lord, the latter being the most important factor, the rock on which his knowledge and action is based.
  1. A servant of Jesus Christ should always be able to tell another person how he knows what he knows. This is part of bearing a valid testimony.
  1. We know that we know because we can receive and to do those things which God has instructed us to do. (1 John 2:3)


Description – Forming and cert. ideas on basis of:

Description: Testimonies of other human beings
Strength: Easy
Weakness: Most human beings overstate their knowledge

Description: Ideas consistent with accepted ideas
Strength: When premise is true usually conclusion is true
Weakness: Difficult to know when premise is true

Description: One’s own sense
Strength: Directly related to impressions around us
Weakness: Cannot sense many important things

Statistical Empiricism
Description: Mathematical manipulation of arrays of empirical data
Strengths: Establishes correlation
Weaknesses: Correlation often confused with causation: bad samples, bad manipulations

Description: Ideas that work
Strength: Last resort, but a good one
Weaknesses: May be coincidence

Description: Inventing ideas to answer questions
Strengths: Creates hypothesis to fill in the holes
Weaknesses: May come to be believed

Description: Combination of rationalism, statistical empiricism, pragmatism, fabrication, based on empirical data
Strengths: Powerful aid to technology
Weaknesses: Theory comes to be considered law, even fact

Description: Combination of rationalism, pragmatism, fabrication, based on documentary evidence
Strengths: Facilitates construction of histories
Weaknesses: Histories may be taken as truth

Description: Doubting all ideas not sufficiently supported
Strengths: Enables one to shed bad ideas
Weaknesses: May go too far and turn into cynicism

Knowledge of good and evil
Description: Perception of value differences of among things
Strengths: Enables one to make choices
Weaknesses: Choices can be good and bad

Personal Revelation
Description: Testimony of non human beings
Strengths: Richest source of ideas: source of all metaphysical truth
Weaknesses: Two sources; God and Satan canada goose sale canada goose sale

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