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Commentary on Lecture 1:18-24

Just some thoughts on the following verses from Lecture 1. (Lectures on Faith)

18 The Savior says, (Matthew 17:19-20), in explaining the reason why the disciples could not cast out the devil, that it was because of their unbelief: “For verily, I say unto you,” said he, “if ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place! and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Faith without belief isn’t real faith. Faith is centered on something while belief expects something. The less that you expect that your faith will bear fruit, the less fruit you will find. There is a fine line here that becomes more tricky to walk as your belief and faith increase. Your expectations must be based on what it is possible for God to do, or what his will is concerning you. To know this, you must commune with him, start with scriptures, then apply the principles. Experience, pondering and revelation light the way.

19 Moroni, while abridging and compiling the record of his fathers, has given us the following account of faith as the principle of power: He says, in Ether 12:13, that it was the faith of Alma and Amulek which caused the walls of the prison to be wrent, as recorded in Alma 14:23-29; it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi which caused a change to be wrought upon the hearts of the Lamanites, when they were immersed with the Holy Spirit, and with fire, as seen in Helaman 5:37-50; and that it was by faith that the mountain Zerin was removed, when the brother of Jared spake in the name of the Lord. See also Ether 12:30.

20 In addition to this we are told in Hebrews, 11:32-35, that Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; and that women received their dead raised to life again, etc.

I think we exercise a lot of faith as Latter-day Saints by the things we do. We seek to keep the commandments, repent, pray and follow God’s ways, but what is the strength of our belief? Sometimes I think we blend belief and faith together and assume they are the same thing, but they aren’t. Moroni explains the importance of belief and its connection to knowing God, “And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.” (Mormon 9:20)

21 Also, Joshua, in the sight of all Israel, bade the sun and moon to stand still, and it was done. (Joshua 10:12)

22 We here understand, that the sacred writers say, that all these things were done by faith—It was by faith that the worlds were framed—God spake, chaos heard, and worlds came into order, by reason of the faith there was in HIM. So with man also—he spake by faith in the name of God, and the sun stood still, the moon obeyed, mountains removed, prisons fell, lions’ mouths were closed, the human heart lost its enmity, fire its violence, armies their power, the sword its terror, and death its dominion; and all this by reason of the faith which was in them.

23 Had it not been for the faith which was in man, they might have spoken to the sun, the moon, the mountains, prisons, lions, the human heart, fire, armies, the sword, or to death in vain!

Moroni seemed to think that this was an important subject because he comments on it again later in his own record, “…for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” (Moroni 7:37)

Faith only works if we believe and belief only works if centered on proper principles, and we must put forth the effort to understand them. How many blessings do we give in vain? Where we utter words void of belief and say essentially, “We bless you with whatever God wants for you, be comforted.” How many of our actions are vain? How many of us struggle with things because we exercise empty faith and hope our actions will make up for our lack of belief? We think we know God because we are “members” of something, yet there is an emptiness.

We cannot let a sense of entitlement and pride of being “God’s people” prevent us from bowing down in a humble recognition of our awful situation. We must be reconciled to God and must have an actual knowledge that the course we are pursuing is agreeable to his will. (Lecture 6:4) It’s hard to expect anything from a being we don’t really know, a being that is more theory than Father.

24 Faith, then, is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things: by it they exist, by it they are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeably to the will of God. Without it, there is no power, and without power there could be no creation, nor existence!

These are not things to be trifled with. We live in a generation of mockers; the great and spacious building surrounds us and those that dwell within console themselves with fine apparel, elevate themselves by pointing fingers and justify themselves with the company of others who similarly lack a foundation. So distracted are we by the things made with our own hands, (Isaiah 2:8) our busy schedules, and idolatrous ways that we do not take time to worship and commune with God; should we not frequently, honestly, consider our ways? (Haggai 1:5)

Do we spend more time filling our lives with meaningless information and status updates than we do seeking out God in our closets, upon mountains, or in the lives of those in need?

  • Richard J. Nobbe III

    In the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, ‘Truth’ is defined as “Exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.” I always think of the word ‘Faith’ as an active word, the power or ability to KNOW truth, or to BE truthful, or to LIVE truthfully. I have always read the Lectures on Faith as the supreme discourse on how to do just that.

    But what is the difference between faith and belief?

    In the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, ‘Belief’ is defined as “A persuasion of the truth, or an assent of mind to the truth of a declaration.”

    So from these definitions, a possible formula may very well be:

    “Belief” + “Truth” = “Faith”

    You quoted Joseph Smith’s definition of faith, and it’s the finest definition that I know. It’s a power. It’s a force that “acts.” Truth is exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.” It’s universal, undeniable. So, I believe one of our challenges to have faith and build upon the faith we have is that we don’t fully understand or even want to comprehend the building blocks of faith itself, which I understand to be a combination of belief and truth put into action.

    I think President Uchtdorf gave some great counsel in his October 2014 General Conference talk, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth.” Even though it is based on the simplicity of Moroni 10:3-5, there are hidden insights that he shares:

    “My dear friends, here is a fairly straightforward experiment, with a guarantee from God, found in a book of ancient scripture available to every man, woman, and child willing to put it to the test:

    First, you must search the word of God. That means reading the scriptures and studying the words of the ancient as well as modern prophets regarding the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—not with an intent to doubt or criticize but with A SINCERE DESIRE TO DISCOVER TRUTH. Ponder upon the things you will feel, and PREPARE YOUR MINDS TO RECEIVE THE TRUTH. ‘Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you … that ye can give place for [the word of God].’

    Second, you must consider, ponder, FEARLESSLY STRIVE TO BELIEVE, and BE GRATEFUL for how merciful the Lord has been to His children from the time of Adam to our day by providing prophets, seers, and revelators to lead His Church and help us find the way back to Him.

    Third, you must ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unto you. Ask with a sincere heart and with real intent, having faith in Christ.

    There is also a fourth step, given to us by the Savior: ‘If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’ In other words, when you are trying to verify the truth of gospel principles, YOU MUST FIRST LIVE THEM. Put gospel doctrine and Church teachings to the test in your own life. Do it with real intent and enduring faith in God.

    If you will do these things, you have a promise from God—who is bound by His word—that He will manifest the truth to you by the power of the Holy Ghost. He will grant you greater light that will allow you to look through the darkness and witness unimaginably glorious vistas incomprehensible to mortal sight.”

    From this passage, I think President Uchtdorf gives 5 keys that stand out in my mind on how to obtain ‘truth’ by ‘belief’ and have our ‘faith’ strengthened:

    1. Have a sincere desire to discover truth.
    2. Prepare your minds to receive the truth.
    3. Fearlessly strive to believe.
    4. Be grateful.
    5. You must live truth.

    I think very often most of us stop at #1. We have a sincere desire to discover truth, but this avails us nothing if we choose not to do anything about it. I could spend days or weeks writing on #2 alone, but suffice it to say that this is how anyone begins the process of receiving revelation. Preparing our minds to receive truth can also be different for each one of us. It is a personal effort, and we must be patient. President Packer has said, “You cannot rush spiritual things.”

    It’s #3, #4, and #5 that I think we need to give more attention to. How often, for example, do we “fearlessly strive to believe?” In other words, if we want to have a belief in something that is good and TEST it’s authenticity, we must be willing to actually — BELIEVE! We must WANT to believe. We must be ACTIVE BELIEVERS. Belief will not just come to us – I’m suggesting that WE need to come to IT! We need to bring everything we have and lay it all upon the altar and say, “Lord, I’m Willing to believe all thy words.” A willing spirit seeking after goodness will be brought to a belief and a knowledge of the truth. Then with the belief of the truth put to action, it will start to become faith.

    #4 We must always be grateful for all. This is really a topic for another time, but as we are grateful, our belief will increase. Gratitude, forgiveness, virtue, and charity will only help us on our path towards faith, which leads me to

    #5 We must live the truth. I forget if it was you or someone else that said something like, “You cannot just go through the ordinances themselves – they must be lived. They point to powerful truths beyond themselves, but they are merely symbols to guide you in the ‘likeness’ of the real thing, but they of themselves are not the real thing.” That’s powerful. And it’s true. We must do as President Uchtdorf admonishes and “put gospel doctrine and Church teachings to the test in our own live(s).” If Doing is Believing, than I don’t know a greater recipe for gaining a true belief of something that is true. Then when we have knowledge of something that is true, by our sincere belief in that thing, we will begin to have faith.