Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Have Courage to Say “I Don’t Know”

Have Courage to Say “I Don’t Know”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 29, 2010

Our methods in speculation and reasoning about the things of God may often be harmless; but if we depart from the simplicity of God’s word into a spirit of rationalism, we become the victims of vanity, which endangers the true spirit of worship in the human heart. It is not easy for men to give up their vanities, to overcome their preconceived notions, and surrender themselves, heart and soul, to the will of God which is always higher than their own.

The dangers of religious speculations are as great today as they were in the days of Christ, and if we would avoid these dangers we must adhere to the simplicity of our religious beliefs and practices. When men and women realize they are getting into deep water where their footing is insecure, they should retreat, for they may be sure that the course they have been taking will lead them more and more away from their bearings which are not always easy to regain. The religion of the heart, the unaffected and simple communion which we should hold with God, is the highest safeguard of the Latter-day Saints. It is no discredit to our intelligence or to our integrity to say frankly in the face of a hundred speculative questions, “I do not know.”

One thing is certain, and that is, God has revealed enough to our understanding for our exaltation and for our happiness. Let the Saints, then, utilize what they already have; be simple and unaffected in their religion, both in thought and word, and they will not easily lose their bearings and be subjected to the vain philosophies of man.

Juvenile Instructor, May 1911, 269.



  1. A nice representation of JFS’s direction. In this he was an innovator, ironically. A sign of the Talmage era. Good selection.

    Comment by WVS — July 29, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  2. I like this idea. Thanks for posting.

    Comment by Amy — July 29, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  3. I’m currently reading Madsen’s bio of BH Roberts, Defender of the Faith. As contemporaries and friends, I think both Roberts and Smith were not afraid to say “I don’t know”. For Roberts, though, that appeared to be the starting point for further inquiry, diving deep into those murky waters in a tireless effort to find that footing. That’s not to say anything pejorative towards Joseph F. Smith, but he didn’t seem to have the same questing spirit and intellectual curiosity as Roberts.

    I admire the idea of simple faith, and have seen many examples of it in people I come in contact with, but for some of us, “I don’t know” does seem to be the catalyst for further inquiry. I do appreciate the highlighted statement in the second paragraph.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Comment by kevinf — July 29, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  4. This is wonderful. Thanks for posting it.

    And I like that, kevinf: a question mark as motivation to keep searching.

    Comment by David Y. — July 29, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

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