What is the “eye of faith”?
There is a three word phrase that is found only in the Book of Mormon and it has always intrigued me. We read of looking forward or beholding with an ‘eye of faith’ things that are either to come or things that currently exist but are invisible to temporal vision.
The three verses
We find the phrase “eye of faith” in the following scriptures listed below.
Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.
In both of the verses in Alma, we are admonished to ‘look forward’ with this eye of faith to future events such as our resurrection and judgment and also the fruit of our faith which can be knowledge or redemption through Christ.
In Alma 5, Alma is speaking to members of the church, and his admonition to ‘look forward’ to the resurrection is a doctrine tied to the ordinance of the sacrament. In 3 Nephi 18:7 we read:
And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
Today we partake of the sacrament in remembrance of the resurrected body of Christ and the future glory that he has purchased for us through his atonement.
There are at least three elements at work here, so a brief overview of the definitions is helpful:
- Eye: The organ of sight or vision.
- Faith: Any action based on belief.
- Look[ing] Forward: Future can be perceived through this eye.
There are two examples in particular that I would like to point out as being uniquely significant to a more powerful experience with this principle of the ‘eye of faith’. The first is Enos and the second is the Brother of Jared. There is something about the two that is exactly the same, and to me, it’s the turning point in their powerful experiences with God.
Enos is out hunting in the woods and he is consumed by a desire to find comfort to his soul. He prays for an extended period of time until he hears a voice:
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
Here is where we are first introduced to a simple but powerful concept, Enos’ guilt was swept away because he knew if God spoke something it was the truth; he knew that “God could not lie”.
Now that may sound simple enough, if you asked any member of the church: “Does God lie?” the answer would almost certainly be a resounding “NO, of course not!” But it is one thing to just believe this and quite another to KNOW it through EXPERIENCE. This is something that I really turned over in my mind again and again. Ask yourself that question and approach it honestly. Have you had enough experience with God to know as sure are you know you are alive that he is true to his word and cannot lie?
If so, does your faith compel you to move on fearlessly or do you still tremble a little in moving forward doing God’s work? It is a sobering question.
And I said: Lord, how is it done?
He didn’t even understand how what happened to him was possible, he just knew that it was. There was no question in his mind, his prior knowledge of God’s character allowed him to be instantly healed because he knew with a surety one of the most powerful characteristics of God – his power to stand by his word.
The Brother of Jared
We read in Ether 12 about “those” that saw with their eyes the things that had beheld with an eye of faith and how the Brother of Jared was one of these.
Ether 12: 20
And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared;
The Brother of Jared is the second figure in the Book of Mormon that we will address in this article pertaining to the eye of faith. His experience is important because of a conversation that he has with Jehovah where another key aspect of this idea is revealed.
The Brother of Jared approaches the Lord with sixteen small stones that he asks the Lord to touch with his fingers so that they can give off light. The Brother of Jared was given very specific instructions on building ark-like “barges” that were to carry his people to a promised land. These instructions indicated that the vessels would have small openings for receiving air but other than that, would be water-tight, dark, and fire or candles were not an option.
When inquiring of the Lord, the Brother of Jared was not given specific instructions as he had grown accustomed to, instead the Lord said:
Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? – Ether 2:25
No existing technology or engineering could solve this problem and the Brother of Jared must have initially felt lost as to what to do. But with his great faith and knowledge of the power of God he formulated a plan. He went up to a mountain:
“…and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord…” – Ether 3:1
He approaches the Lord in the depths of humility, pleading to the Lord to “not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee” (Ether 3:2). He presents his solution which has an earthly component (the stones) but cannot possibly work without the heavenly component: the direct influence of the power of God.
How often do we try everything earthly to solve our problems and then give up because we have “tried everything“? Have we considered working out a solution that has, as its essential component, the power of God? Have we tried taking that solution to the Lord to experience what the Brother of Jared experiences next?
The Lord answers the Brother of Jared’s prayer by touching the stones one by one with his finger. During this process something happened to the faith of the Brother of Jared, a change occurred in him and he saw through the veil to the degree where he could actually behold the finger of the Lord has he was touching the stones.
As a side note, this scene has always fascinated me. I used to imagine both the Brother of Jared and Jehovah looking down at the stones and then the Lord looking up as he noticed the Brother of Jared fall back with fear. But over the years my perception of this scene has changed, I still envision the Brother of Jared staring intently at these stones lighting up before him, but I envision the Lord looking not at the stones initially, but looking right at the Brother of Jared. I see him patiently helping increase the faith of the Brother of Jared and sensing his growing strength.
My good friend and former Institute teacher, Brother King once suggested the the potential significance of the Lord touching these stones one at a time; he didn’t just wave his hand and make them all light up at once. Brother King brought up several very fascinating ideas and one of which dealt with how long the Lord waited between the touching of each stone and what that scene could have possibly been like.
Since then, I’ve formulated a few of my own questions, I’ve wondered if the Brother of Jared placed the stones in a circle or a line or in a pile or arranged in a pattern of some kind. How long did it take for them to light up when they were touched and how brightly did they shine? Did the Brother of Jared’s faith increase after the touch of each stone, or did the Lord touch the next stone after the Brother of Jared’s faith had increased?
There is much to think about and ponder there.
The Brother of Jared then falls back to the earth with fear, thinking that he saw something that he wasn’t meant to. The Lord asks him if he saw more and he replies “Nay, Lord show thyself unto me” (Ether 3:10). The amount of faith it must have taken to even speak those words blows me away.
Now here is where it gets interesting. The Lord is going to go along with the Brother of Jared’s request but he asks him a very interesting question first:
And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
Now get this, the Lord doesn’t ask the Brother of Jared if he believes everything he has told him thus far, he asks him if he “believes,” present tense, words that he is going to speak. It is a test question and the Brother of Jared’s response is amazing:
And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
The Brother of Jared’s answer indicates an important doctrine. It’s not whether or not we believe in the particular words the Lord speaks by weighing their implications, it is the level of trust we have in the one speaking those words.
Think of how powerful it was for the Brother of Jared to know that God could not lie. He didn’t just believe strongly, he knew it, it was knowledge to him that was obtained by a relationship of trust with God. Time after time, God had fulfilled his words to the degree that this man knew that he was dealing with a being that was void of deception in any degree.
To the Brother of Jared this meant that anything coming from God could be completely relied upon without question or hesitation. This was not a man working off of “blind faith”, this was a man seeing clearly with an “eye of faith”.
This particular experience was given to the Brother of Jared, but it was recorded, preserved, translated, published and made available thousands of years after the event specifically for you, right now, today. Ponder for a moment how incredible that is.
The words of God become an organ of vision and they show us the results of choices before we even make them.
Enhancing our vision through trust
If we, like the Brother of Jared and Enos, obtain a knowledge of the infallible character of God and KNOW that he cannot lie, then we can know the veracity of those words and act on them in full trust.
We learn to trust God by doing things that require faith. Trust is earned and we must allow God the chance to prove to us his trustworthiness.
The impact of God’s words on our lives and decisions will vary in accordance to our level of trust in God.
To one that trusts God, his words literally become the eyes of our faith and looking forward, we don’t just look into darkness, we foresee the future in terms of what God has promised. Fear is removed from the equation because we see clearly and any obstacles are eliminated.
What do you think?
- Have you had any moments in life where possession of certain knowledge about the attributes of God allowed you to exercise great and confident faith?
- In what ways have you built a relationship of trust with God?
- Do you find that in your life God gives you similar opportunities like the Brother of Jared? That he encourages you to choose a solution in life and bring it to him so that he can touch it and bring it to life?
Updated: April 4, 2011