The first principle of the Restored Gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Article of Faith #4). But what does it mean to “exercise” faith in Christ? How do we demonstrate our faith so that our prayers can be answered? There are many things that can be done, but let’s consider one idea.
The Apostle Paul taught that faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The Joseph Smith Translation changes the word substance to assurance: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Thus, faith is the absolute assurance in things that are real and true (such as the fact that God lives and cares about us), but which can’t always be seen with the natural eye (or better phrased, by the natural man ). We can count on their reality, even though we may not see them. This kind of faith gives us hope.
The Prophet Ether described how faith in God gives mortals an enabling power to move forward with hope in their lives. Inserting the word “assured” from the JST, Ether testified: “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for [“expect” or “be assured of”] a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God [a place in the celestial kingdom], which hope cometh of faith , maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”
This kind of hope coming from our faith is not merely a positive mental attitude in our own minds—not confidence in ourselves or in our own abilities—but in God. Faith is a power that centers in the perfect character and caring of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior Jesus Christ. Faith is an absolute assurance or trust that God has all power, all wisdom, all knowledge, and is also all-caring. It is a reassurance that we really matter to Him. It is this kind of trust that empowers us, regardless of our faults or our circumstances, to move forward in life towards something better. It gives us hope to go on.
In fact, helping and saving each of us was so important to God, that He gave us His most precious gift: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For god sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). And Christ loved us so much, He determined He would do His Father’s will: “Listen to the voice of the Lord your God…I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons [and daughters] of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father” (D&C35:1-2).
In the Lectures on Faith , the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that true faith is based on an absolute knowledge that God exists; a correct understanding of His character traits; and an assurance that what you’re doing is in harmony with His will ( Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5). Knowing God had given them a commandment to get the Brass Plates, knowing God has all power, and knowing they were doing what God wanted them to do, Nephi and his brothers were able to obtain complete their mission, which later proved an unimagined blessing to them and their posterity for hundreds of years (1 Ne. 5:21-22). Their immediate circumstances looked dire and daunting. But their faith in God proved stronger than their trials (see 1 Nephi 3-4).
So how do we get such great faith? Alma taught that if we first plant a seed in our hearts, our faith would increase. He said the seed was a symbol for “the word of God,” particularly the words that testify of Christ and His divine mission to save and redeem us (see Alma 32:27-29 and 33:22-23). The word “seed” is an acronym for the growth we will experience. If we take the time and care to plant the words (scriptures and testimonies of Christ) in our minds each day, our faith will S well, E nlarge our souls, E nlighten our understanding, and become D elicious to us.
Faith founded on a testimony of Christ’s redeeming mission helps us overcome doubt and despair. We can’t let our moods blitz our beliefs. If we’ll learn to keep our faith in Christ strong, then when troubles come, our faith will keep us, and as Ether explained, this kind of faith helps give us hope for a brighter future, despite the immediate darkness (Ether 12:4). A new day will dawn. We can be sure of it.
Faith is an action word. Faith is an active principle. We can’t exercise faith in Christ without showing works, and as we do, we will receive evidences that God knows our circumstances and hears our prayers. The pioneers, for example, had to move their feet with “faith in every footstep” to show their trust in God. At first, they didn’t know where exactly they were to go in the vast western wilderness. But as they began to exercise their faith, by moving forward one step and one day at a time, God led and guided them by revelation. One night, the Prophet Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young, and they were taken by the Spirit to a mountain overlooking the Salt Lake Valley . Here is George A. Smith’s description of the experience:
We look around to-day and behold our city clothed with verdure and beautified with trees and flowers, with streams of water running in almost every direction, and the question is frequently asked, “How did you ever find this place?” I answer, we were led to it by the inspiration of God. After the death of Joseph Smith, when it seemed as if every trouble and calamity had come upon the Saints, Brigham Young, who was President of the Twelve, then the presiding Quorum of the Church, sought the Lord to know what they should do, and where they should lead the people for safety, and while they were fasting and praying daily on this subject, President Young had a vision of Joseph Smith, who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, and there was an ensign fell upon that peak, and Joseph said, “Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace.”
The Pioneers had no pilot or guide, none among then had ever been in the country or knew anything about it. However, they travelled under the direction of President Young until they reached this valley. When they entered it President Young pointed to that peak, and said he, “I want to go there.” He went up to the point and said, “This is Ensign Peak . Now, brethren, organize your exploring parties, so as to be safe from Indians; go and explore where you will, and you will come back every time and say this is the best place.
” They accordingly started out exploring companies and visited what we now call Cache, Malad, Tooele, and Utah valleys, and other parts of the country in various directions, but all came back and declared this was the best spot. ( Journal of Discourses 13:86.)
So how does that experience relate to us in our present circumstances? What can we learn from them and from the scriptures about our role in exercising faith to find solutions to our problems? Simply this, if we will ask in faith, and then act in faith, God will answer our faith, and help and bless us. Compare 1 Nephi 1:20 with Moroni 10:3 and think about the “tender mercies” God has blessed others with, in ages past. Won’t He do the same for us? We have an absolute assurance that He can and will.
As we’re faced with some serious challenge, some overwhelming circumstances, consider these words of counsel about how to move forward in faith, to find answers to our prayers and solutions for our present situations.
President Ezra Taft Benson: “Usually the Lord gives us the overall objective to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but He expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and His prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded ‘in all things.’ This attitude prepares men for godhood.” ( Conference Report , April 1965, p. 121.)
President Brigham Young: “I will now refer you to the scripture, where it reads that we shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body. If I do not know the will of my Father, and what He requires of me in a certain transaction, if I ask Him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from Him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, He is bound to own and honor that transaction, and He will do so to all intents and purposes. ( Journal of Discourses 3:205.
President Harold B. Lee: “If you want the blessing, don’t just kneel down and pray about it. Prepare yourselves in every conceivable way you can in order to make yourselves worthy to receive the blessing you seek.
“Brigham Young illustrated this when he said: ‘You may go to some people here, and ask what ails them, and they answer, ‘I don’t know but we feel a dreadful distress in the stomach and in the back; we feel all out of order, and we wish you to lay hands on us.’
“He said to these people, ‘Have you used any remedies?’ meaning herbs or whatever the pioneers had. ‘No,’ they said, ‘we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed.’ President Young said: ‘That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and then ask my Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, to sanctify that application to the healing of my body….
“‘But supposing we were traveling in the mountains, and all we had or could get, in the shape of nourishment, was a little venison, and one or two were taken sick, without anything in the world in the shape of healing medicine within our reach, what should we do? According to my faith, ask the Lord Almighty to send an angel to heal the sick. This is our privilege….’ ( Discourses of Brigham Young , p. 163)
“When we are situated that we cannot get anything to help ourselves, then we may call upon the Lord and His servants who can do all. But it is our duty to do what we can within our own power.” (Harold B. Lee, In MIA June conference, June 1966; see Stand Ye in Holy Places , pp. 244-45.)