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Not all knowledge is of equal worth. The knowledge that constitutes the wisdom of the heavens is all embraced in the Gospel as taught by Jesus Christ; and wilful ignorance of this, the highest type of knowledge, will relegate its victim to the inferior order of intelligences. Another latter-day Scripture may be cited as an inspired generalization embodying an eternal truth relating to our subject: "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." (Doctrine & Covenants 131:6.)
Can it be otherwise? If a man be ignorant of the terms on which salvation is predicated he is unable to comply therewith, and consequently fails to attain what otherwise might have been his eternal gain. The ignorance that thus condemns is responsible ignorance, involving wilful and sinful neglect. Lack of the saving knowledge that one has had no opportunity to acquire is but a temporary deficiency; for Eternal Justice provides means of education beyond the grave. Every one of us will be judged according to the measure of light and truth we have had opportunity to acquire. Even the untutored heathen who has lived up to his highest conceptions of right shall find means of progression. Part of the blessing to follow the second advent of Christ is thus stated: "And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them." (45:54.)
The intelligence that saves comprises knowing and doing what is required by the Gospel of Christ; and such intelligence will endure beyond death. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obe
dience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (130:18, 19.)
Intelligence as to Godly things, which are summarized in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leads to an ever increasing understanding and comprehension of God Himself, and this is knowledge supreme; for as the praying Christ affirmed: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3.)
Opportunity Entails Accountability
T is an aphorism of the courts that ignorance of the law is no valid excuse for crime. If this rule be just it must rest upon the assumption that knowledge of what the law demands or forbids is an inherent and natural possession, or that it is so readily accessible that no one is justified in failing to become informed.
The normal individual of a civilized community requires no specific instruction to know that theft, falsification, drunkenness, adultery or murder is fundamentally wrong, since each of these crimes is a violation of his conscience and a pronounced offense against public weal. If, however, he enter restricted territory within which registration is legally demanded, and he, not knowing of the requirement, fails to register, he is technically a law-breaker subject to the penalties prescribed. True, his offense is that of omission or non-compliance and his ignorance may or may not be taken into account as a mitigating circumstance, this depending, perhaps, upon local conditions and the discre
tion of the magistrate as warranting leniency or demanding the full measure of punishment.
As thus in the ordinary affairs of men so with regard to the laws of God, framed for the governance of souls and providing for their salvation. One's inherent consciousness warns him against criminal actions but fails to inform him of certain definite requirements, without compliance with which he is debarred from admission to the Kingdom of God. There is no inborn knowledge by which man knows that baptism by immersion in water, and the higher baptism of the Spirit through the imposition of hands are essential to salvation; nevertheless our Lord's words to Nicodemus are alike binding upon every soul: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." (John 3:5.)
Is it less reasonable with respect to spiritual requirements than in secular matters to expect of every one an acquaintance with the law as it applies to himself, providing, of course, such knowledge is accessible to all? But some may honestly assert inability to apprehend the necessity of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, even though they had informed themselves as to the letter of the prescribed conditions. Such may ask: Are men to suffer penalty in the hereafter because they cannot understand what is required of them in mortality? The degree of their culpability is to be determined by the fundamental cause of their ineptitude in matters spiritual. Failure to comprehend may be due to bias or to lack of desire to know. The record of our Lord's ministry presents an instance in point, coupled with a remedy for the spiritual disorder by which ignorance was fostered and truth ignored.
It was at the Feast of Tabernacles. Read John 7:14-18.
The Jews were greatly troubled over His teachings; a few believed, more doubted and questioned, and some were so resentful as to want to kill Him. The more honest in the multitude desired to know for themselves whether the Master spoke by the power and authority of God or as a man, for as a man only was He generally regarded. "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."
Are you unable to realize that baptism is essential to salvation? Perhaps the cause lies in the fact that you have never developed the essential condition of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; or, perchance, you have never repented of your sins. Faith and repentance, as the Scriptures aver, are prerequisites to effective baptism; and it is as unreasonable to expect a faithless unrepentant sinner to comprehend the essentiality of baptism as to expect one untrained in the rudiments of arithmetic to understand algebra.
Wilful ignorance of Gospel requirements is sin. Man is untrue to his Divine lineage and birthright of reason when he turns away from the truth, or deliberately chooses to walk in darkness while the illumined path is open to his tread. Positive rejection of the truth is even graver than passive inattention or neglect. Yet to every one is given the right of choice and the power of agency, with the certainty of his meeting the natural and inevitable consequence.
We learn of three principal states or graded kingdoms into which souls shall enter under Divine judgment—the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial-and the inheritance of each soul shall be determined by his measure
of obedience to the laws of God, as the Lord's revelation
KNOWING AND DOING
Knowledge May Help to Condemn or Save
Y way of summary and climax to His lofty yet simple, and withal unparalleled discourse, since named The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ thus spake: "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." (Matt. 7:24-27; compare Luke 6:47-49.)
This Sermon has stood through the centuries in a class of its own. The address is before us as a living preceptor thrilled with the spirit of sincerity and action as opposed to wordy profession and careless neglect. The closing sen