How to Have Perfect Faith

Jun 6, 2021
4 min read

A recent speaker at stake conference told a story of a person who said, “I have faith, but what if it doesn’t work?”

When it comes to faith, I think that too often we are focused on the wrong thing and find ourselves stuck.

Faith fails if focused on the task itself. We somehow calculate the perceived difficulty of the task and assume that easy tasks require a little faith and great tasks require great faith.

Something seemingly impossible will stay that way if we think that we cannot ‘generate’ the faith sufficient for the task.

I think that this is looking at it all wrong. Let’s take a look at what Nephi said:

If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should say to me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth, and if I should say it, it would be done.

1 Nephi 17:50

Turning a boundless ocean to earth by uttering the words “be thou earth” seems impossible, but only if your focus is the task itself.

Note where Nephi’s faith was, it wasn’t in whether or not the task was possible or how ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ such a thing might be. His first principle was this: “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them.”

[God] desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word.

Alma 32:22

Faith is measured by one’s trust in God and one’s trust in God is a reflection of one’s experience with and understanding of God’s character and attributes.

In mortality, we are so used to being let down by mortals and mortal circumstances. This is a fallen world and we view reality through a fallen lens. Building perfect faith requires a perfect foundation upon which to rest.

For without the idea that he was a God of truth and could not lie, the confidence necessary to be placed in his word in order to the exercise of faith in him, could not exist. But having the idea that he is not man that he can lie, it gives power to the minds of men to exercise faith in him.

Lecture 5:22

We cannot rely on our own strength, our own knowledge of what is or is not possible, or the knowledge of other fallen mortals when it comes to developing perfect faith.

The idea of God’s trustworthiness gives power to the mind to act in a manner that draws them nearer to God.

When men begin to live by faith, they begin to draw near to God…

Lecture 7:8

There is no substitute; one must commune with God personally, prove his word in their own lives, and come to know that he is worthy of our faith. It is only then, like Nephi, that we can put our complete faith in his word and do all things, no matter what they may be.

Ponder this exchange between the Lord and the brother of Jared:

And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?

And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

Ether 3:11-13

The Lord asked the brother of Jared if he believed words that the Lord had not even spoken yet.

If someone asked us if we would believe something we had not told them, they might tell us that it would depend on what they had to say; we would want to hear it before we decided if we believe it or not.

Our faith would rest on the trustworthiness of the person and the believability of what they had to tell us.

But the brother of Jared did not seem concerned at all at what the Lord might say. He knew that he was speaking to a being that was incapable of lying so it didn’t matter what that being said, it would be true.

This knowledge brought this individual into the presence of God to behold things that perhaps no other mortal on earth has beheld. All because of his knowledge that God could not lie, and could be completely trusted.

There is a reason that we know these things about the brother of Jared and understand these keys. The Lord said:

And in that day that [the Gentiles] shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

Ether 4:7

There is nothing stopping us from having the kind of faith that can do all things. All we need is to know certain things about God and he has shown us the path.

The challenge is to not be blinded by the mists of darkness and distracted by the noise of the great and spacious building. We must press forward to the tree of life and partake of that fruit.

When we come to know God and put our trust in him, our faith can be perfect.

2 Comments

  1. I think the way you talk about faith is actually a fusion of faith and hope. I’ve been studying hope off and on for years, and within the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on it again. I’ve been trying to determine how it’s different from faith.

    https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/hope?lang=eng describes hope as “the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness… In the language of the gospel the word hope is sure, unwavering, and active… When we have hope, we trust God’s promises.”

    In Alma 32: 15-16 we read, “he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed… in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart.” These verses describe the doctrine of Christ. In them faith is equated with humbling oneself, not in trusting God.

    My current favorite way to think about faith and hope is in repentance. It requires a belief in Christ and His laws, that I have broken a law, and can find mercy from God. It also requires action, to change what I’m doing and make reparations. That is the faith part of repentance. The hope part of repentance is knowing, and expecting, that as soon as I apologize and ask for forgiveness, with a sincere heart, that I’m forgiven. That I am clean before God and worthy of having Him dwell within me. Immediately. Every time. Many people (myself included) miss this part (hope) and because they don’t receive some divine manifestation that their sins are forgiven (like Enos) they may wonder if God has forgiven them or why he hasn’t yet. This can make it very difficult to forgive themselves and trap them in a cycle of self-loathing and doubt.

    In one of your articles on faith you talk about how faith leads to knowledge in an upward cycle. So knowing something is not faith. So when I read Nephi saying “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them” I read that as an expression of hope, not a declaration of how much faith he has.

    When you write “Faith is measured by one’s trust in God and one’s trust in God is a reflection of one’s experience with and understanding of God’s character and attributes.” I think you are partly right. Hope (one’s trust in God) is a reflection of one’s understanding of God’s character. Acting in faith and learning truth increases virtue and one’s ability to repent. (In another article you expressed that repentance involves having the ‘mind of God’, so learning truth aids in the process.) As one repents and becomes more like God, they will trust themselves more and trust God more (in another of your articles you talk about the relationship between integrity and knowledge).

    The lecture 5:22 quote could be typed this way, “For without the idea that He was a God of truth… the [hope] necessary to exercise faith in Him, could not exist.”

    Regarding Ether 3:11-13 God asked b of Jared if he had hope, and b of Jared expressed perfect hope, and God said He was revealing Himself due to b of Jared’s knowledge (I don’t know if that is referring to hope or just the knowledge gained through faith). The faith b of Jared exercised was in his steady, consistent, keeping of the commandments and the doctrine of Christ over years of discipleship. The sentiments expressed in Ether 4:7 speak basically of covenant keeping. If someone keeps their covenants (through faith) then they become sanctified over time (through the Holy Ghost), and God reveals all things to His righteous saints.

    In my mind, perfect faith is perfect integrity and perfect obedience. But I think the perfect obedience needs to be like the analogy you used in another article where you talked about not eating gum under the table. Blind obedience will not lead to perfect faith.

    Now, honestly, I feel pretty good about how I view hope. And in my life, as a convert from atheism, hope has played a critical role in my walk with God, though I didn’t understand this until quite recently. However, when it comes to faith in Christ, I don’t really know how to define it or how to exercise it. I am also bad at repenting.

    I could be completely off about all of this, but thought that if there was any truth contained in my sentiments that it may be helpful to you in your walk with God, and it has been helpful for me to put my thoughts ‘on paper’ and distill them. I love your site and have learned so much from your articles. Thanks for maintaining this site!

    • Hi JV, thanks so much for your insightful comments. There is much to learn by sharing with one another especially as we are each seeking to understand the divine with our crude mortal languages and constructs.

      I have a pretty simple definition of hope that has been formed by personal experience reflecting off the scriptures.

      Hope, to me, encompasses everything that you actually believe is possible.

      Losing hope involves no longer believing that something is possible. I have been on that end of things before and the loss of hope is an incredibly devastating thing. Hope therefore sits on a spectrum of strength. Various things increase or decrease hope.

      Faith is one of these things. There is faith in the general sense of the word but the faith the scriptures describe must be founded upon trust in God.

      You mentioned perfect faith as perfect integrity and perfect obedience and one can be independently exact in their faithfulness in terms of reading scriptures and theology and living in exactness to them. However, if a person never comes to know God personally, a person can never be saved, never born of God. It isn’t all that we do alone that saves us; God saves us when we become saved beings and for that to happen we must commune with God.
      I would define perfect faith as knowing that you are acting on the words of a perfect being (God) because you know his word is sure.

      I can exercise exact faith in the words of mortal men, in mathematical calculations, in recipes, etc. and get exact results. But none of that produces a saved being. The perfect faith I am specifically referring to is that faith that pertains to our salvation and God’s work.

      When you have proven God’s trustworthiness in your own life, you can act, without knowledge, on any of his words with a perfect brightness of hope that you will, indeed, receive what he has promised.

      This is not a ‘blind faith,’ because if God is truly a being that cannot lie, and you know this because of experience with him, then acting on his perfect word confidently would result in perfect faith being exercised like the brother of Jared and Enos.

      Blind faith would be acting on information where you have nothing but unknowns.

      Faith is a principle of action whereas hope is more of a personal judgment of what is possible. Like Alma taught, if we have faith, then we hope for things that are not seen. Perfect faith can produce perfect hope, and by perfect I mean that nothing essential to either is lacking.

      There is a lot of crossover in these principles. They are like the parts of a body, distinct, yet part of a whole.

      We view all of these things through our own lenses that are constructed of our personal experiences, intellects, and world views. While we each may see things in different ways, if the result of our perspective is effective in progressing our spirituality at the time, then that’s a good thing. I think that if the way you view things works for you, then that is great.

      I’m constantly re-examining how I see things as I personally grow and develop. I don’t think I have it all figured out yet. My blog is still called “one climbs” not “one has arrived” ;)

      Also, I feel sorry that you think you are “bad at repenting.” That phrase makes me wonder if your view of repentance could use a tweak. It’s not possible for me to understand all of your thoughts from a single sentence, but I wonder if you’ve had a chance to read my most recent post on this subject: https://oneclimbs.com/2021/03/28/repentance-the-renewal-of-the-mind/

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, I felt blessed reading them and I know others will as well!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *