Experiencing the Gospel Versus Intellectualizing the Gospel

The doctrine of Christ as revealed in the Book of Mormon teaches church members how to experience the gospel; not just learn it. In other words, a church member can be active in the church but not active in the gospel.

The gospel is experienced when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It is far more important to experience the gospel than it is to understand it. When we experience the gospel we understand it on a whole different level as compared to study alone.

What I’ve just said may sound like I’ve got things backwards, after all, doesn’t one need to understand the gospel before they experience it? Yes, there needs to be some basic understanding of the gospel. The following definition from Preach My Gospel, page 5, explains what one needs to understand and believe.

The Savior defined His gospel in terms of the following basic doctrines:

1.  He came into the world to do His Father’s will, and His Father sent Him into the world to be lifted up on the cross

2.  By His Atonement and Resurrection, all men will be lifted up to stand before Christ to be judged of their works, whether they be good or evil

3.  Those who exercise faith in Christ, repent of their sins, and are baptized in Christ’s name can be sanctified by the Holy Ghost

4.  If they endure to the end, they will stand spotless before Christ at the last day and will enter into the rest of the Lord. Christ will hold them guiltless before the Father. He will be their Mediator and Advocate

5.  Those who do not endure in faithfulness to the end will be “cast into the fire . . . because of the justice of the Father.”

With the knowledge contained in this definition, and a believing heart, the new or long time member of the church is prepared to fulfill their baptism covenant and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. After that, with the Spirit’s guidance, understanding the gospel in greater depth will come as one learns line upon line, and precepts upon precept.

The Lord is not pleased with those who are more interested in learning and teaching the gospel than they are in experiencing it. The Book of Mormon says there will be those who “shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 28:4). In another verse we learn that some among us “preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world” (2 Nephi 26:29).

Church members who turn the gospel into an academic exercise are denied the Spirit. While those who apply the doctrine of Christ will experience the gospel by receiving manifestations of the Holy Ghost.

Elder Richard G. Scott told of an experience he had while attending two classes during the block that illustrates my point.

“The first class was taught by a humble, unschooled, priesthood leader who struggled to communicate truths of the gospel. It was obvious they had touched his life profoundly. I felt his intense desire to communicate those principles because they would be of great worth to his brethren. In his manner there was evidence of a pure love of the Savior and love for those he taught. That love, sincerity, and purity of intent permitted a spirit to envelop the room. I was so touched that in addition to receiving again a witness of the truths he presented, I began to receive some personal impressions…Next I visited the Sunday School class, where a well-educated individual presented his lesson. That experience was a striking contrast to that of the priesthood meeting. It seemed as though the instructor had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles in the lesson. I will confess that I had the distinct impression that he was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge. He did not seem as intent on communicating truth as the humble priesthood leader had been.” 1

The Book of Mormon condemns the acquisition of knowledge when it leads to a prideful heart saying “…the wise, and the learned…who are puffed up because of their learning…” will be shut out from the gift of the Holy Ghost “save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility…” (2 Nephi 9:42).

The doctrine of Christ is the antidote for pride and every other form of ungodliness. The Book of Mormon is the key to both experiencing and understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ.



[1] Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, Richard G. Scott, BYU Devotional 17 August 1993.




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