God’s promise that we can “know” him, and that knowing him constitutes “eternal life” (John 17:3), means that not knowing him is to fall short of eternal life. Not knowing God characterizes the five foolish virgins and many others who did “many wonderful works” in the name of Jesus but to whom he is compelled to say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 5:12; 7:23). These are persons described as having been “deceived,” who consequently are “hewn down and cast into the fire” at the time of his coming (Doctrine & Covenants 45:57).
Those who did wonderful works in Jesus’ name may indeed have known all about him, but they didn’t make it their business to know him personally in this life. They did not “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him” (Philippians 3:8–10).
Called “an acceptable sacrifice,” the offering of all things on the altar of God in order to know him constitutes a grand key that but few souls find: “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge” (Lectures on Faith 6:5).
From this, we can’t assume that knowing God happens from the moment we “offer your whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26). We mostly begin to know God through the influence of the Holy Ghost, “the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom” and which “beareth record of the Father and of the Son” (Doctrine & Covenants 20:27; 39:6). Comfort is what God provides in response to a need for comfort that we experience when we undertake to walk away from what this world has to offer in order to walk with God.
Experiencing “the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer” (Moroni 8:26), makes it possible to “grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you” (Mosiah 4:12). Deepening our commitment to serve God ever more effectively, we become the “friends” of Jesus, a celestial category of servants who labor alongside Jesus in the ministry of saving souls (John 15:14–16; Doctrine & Covenants 84:77–79). This course in life involves the experience of knowing Jesus personally:
“I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John. This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:3–5); “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:16–18).
Those who “overcome by faith,” who are “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:53), thus also come to know the Father. Just as the Holy Ghost ministers in the telestial kingdom and the Son in the terrestrial kingdom, so the Father ministers in the celestial kingdom and to those on the earth in that spiritual category. From this it follows that there exists a third Comforter, who is the Father and the Mother, as we know from those blessed souls deemed worthy of that degree of comfort.