If we desire to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ we need to study it like we would any other subject. The familiar process of reading, attending class, writing, and discussing will allow us to acquire information. However, there is a difference between information and understanding. Information is to understanding, what an acorn is to an Oak tree.
Years ago I attended a series of lectures where the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon were discussed. I later learned that some of the scholars who lectured were agnostic. This surprised me. I was hard pressed to understand how someone could spend their life studying these subjects and never experience the things of the spirit.
Since then I’ve come to understand that the gospel net gathereth of every kind. The gospel and the church are attractive in many ways. Some individuals are drawn to the message of the restoration, others by those who proclaim the gospel, some are intrigued by the doctrine and or history, and still others are drawn to the culture and the social aspects, while some find the moral and ethical principles to their liking.
Whatever our initial reason or interest is in the phenomena of Mormonism, there comes a time when our acorn of information needs to be transformed into understanding. The scripture teach there is only one way this can be done:
And he said: Go and tell this people-Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed, but they perceived not. 2 Nephi 16:9
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. 2 Nephi 32:4
Those who “ask and knock” receive a testimony, a transforming experience. Often these experiences change the recipients’ life to the extent that when they encounter obstacles to their faith they will chose faith over reason.
The Book of Mormon recounts the transformation of individuals and even groups of people because of asking and knocking. Nephi prayed and his heart was softened so that he believed the words of his father Lehi (1 Nephi 2:16). Enos says he received a remission of his sins after a “wrestle” with the Lord (Enos 1:2). King Benjamin and members of the Nephi church experienced a mighty change of heart at their “general conference” (Mosiah 5:2). Lehi and Nephi in prison with hundreds of others experience an out pouring of the spirit. They are all converted (Helaman 5:21-52).
Asking and knocking doesn’t generally create a dramatic spiritual experience. Most followers of Christ receive transforming experiences that distils upon their souls as the “dews from heaven”. This kind of transforming experience “descends upon the recipient as gently and almost imperceptibly as the moisture of dew descends upon the earth”.