Why KnoWhy?

In the Book of Mormon, when Alma was confronted by Korihor, he bore a strong, direct testimony, declaring: “I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come” (Alma 30:40). Yet Alma did not stop there. He drew on the witnesses of the prophets, as found in the scriptures, and taught that “all things denote there is a God” (Alma 30:44). As S. Michael Wilcox observes of Alma, “He knows. But more important, he knows why he knows. And the why he knows is based on reason, experience, and authority.” Wilcox would go on to say, “Our challenge in life is to search for, create if you wish, the evidence, the substance, to put underneath the ‘I know.’”1  As a model example of this, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has spoken of “a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon.”2

Likewise instructive is the example of Jacob, one of Nephi’s younger brothers. He was confronted by Sherem who hoped to shake Jacob from the faith. Yet because of “many revelations” and powerful spiritual experiences, Jacob “could not be shaken” (Jacob 7:5). Earlier, Jacob had publically explained the source of his unshakeable faith: “We search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken” (Jacob 4:18). Jacob’s firm faith in the promised Messiah did not come to him in a moment, like a bolt of lightning out of heaven. It came from diligently studying the scriptures, living their principles, receiving the spirit of God, and obtaining an abiding hope of their truth.

The KnoWhy is a daily feature produced by Book of Mormon Central. Each KnoWhy is designed to enhance understanding and testimony of the Book of Mormon by providing some brief historical, cultural, linguistic, literary, legal, and prophetic information that is interesting, useful, and insightful. Our central goal is to help Latter-day Saints better come to know the Book of Mormon as another testament and testimony of Jesus Christ, and to see why its teachings are relevant and valuable for our day. Each KnoWhy seeks to build up testimony, strengthening the “I know” by providing substance, insights, and evidence, that can expand the reasons why you know

In providing this information, we readily recognize that no single fact will be decisive in exploring or proving the Book of Mormon. Like Elder Holland, we seek to embrace thousands of elements of testimony. As John W. Welch has written, “Individual pieces of evidence, each of which standing alone is relatively insignificant and uninteresting, may take on vast importance in a person’s mind as they combine to form a consistent pattern or coherent picture.”3  Nor do we imagine that secular evidence can replace a spiritual witness. With Welch, we affirm that “without diminishing the essential power of the Holy Spirit in obtaining and bearing testimony of the things of God, … evidence is an important ingredient in God’s instructions to those who believe his word, as well as in his plan of happiness extended to all human beings.”4

The dynamic and productive relationship between secular evidences and spiritual witnesses can be likened to many ordinary parts of our daily lives. Like two friends and allies, they work together to achieve shared goals in the pursuit of truth. Like two eyes, together they make depth perception possible. Like two legs, they allow us to walk the path of life smoothly, and like two hands that cooperate in playing a violin, they produce beautiful music of the soul. Functionally, they are like “two riders on a tandem bicycle. When both riders pedal together, the bicycle (the search for truth) moves ahead more rapidly. Each rider must work or the other must bear a heavy and exhausting burden. Only one (faith) can steer and determine where the bicycle will go, although the other (reason) can do some back-seat driving.”5  Faith and spiritual witness must always lead the way, but reason and evidence can and should make a contribution to the success and enjoyment of our journey. 

Through these KnoWhys, we hope readers everywhere will come to know and see familiar things in the Book of Mormon in new and exciting ways—ways that build faith, understanding, and confidence in its truth and goodness, in its authenticity and crucial teachings. It is our prayer that this will help you develop a testimony built of thousands of elements so that you, like Jacob, will not be shaken in your knowledge of and love for the one and only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • 1. S. Michael Wilcox, That Your Faith Becometh Unshaken: Building Your Testimony Pyramid (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Audio Library, 2007).
  • 2. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Safety for the Soul,” October 2009 General Conference Address.
  • 3. John W. Welch, “The Role of Evidence in Religious Discussion,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 283; first published as “The Power of Evidence in the Nurturing of Faith,” in Nurturing Faith through the Book of Mormon, The 24th Annual Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 149–86. Reprinted in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), 17–54. Developed further in “. . . And with All Thy Mind” in BYU Speeches of the Year (Provo, Utah: BYU Publications and Graphics, 2004), 105–12, also available in Clark Memorandum (2004): 17–23; and BYU Magazine (2004).
  • 4. Welch, “The Role of Evidence in Religious Discussion,” 259.
  • 5. Welch, “The Role of Evidence in Religious Discussion,” 261.