Faith is a Living, Vital Force
I would begin the lesson from Chapter 25: Move Forward with Faith with this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley:
”If there is any one thing that you and I need, to help us find success and fulfillment in this world, it is faith—that dynamic, powerful, marvelous element by which, as Paul declared, the very worlds were framed (see Hebrews 11:3). I refer not to some ethereal concept but to a practical, pragmatic, working faith—the kind of faith that moves us to get on our knees and plead with the Lord for guidance, and then, having a measure of divine confidence, get on our feet and go to work to help bring the desired results to pass. Such faith is an asset beyond compare. Such faith is, when all is said and done, our only genuine and lasting hope.” GBH Manual
What are some words Gordon B. Hinckley used to describe faith? Dynamic, powerful, practical, pragmatic, working, divine confidence, asset… The words used in this quote paint a picture of a living dynamic faith, something that requires work and effort.
“… When I discuss faith, I do not mean it in an abstract sense. I mean it as a living, vital force that comes with recognition of God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our Savior. …” GBH Manual
What does it mean for faith to be a living thing? How does the cultivation of a living faith help us to press forward through the challenges of our lives?
Gordon B. Hinckley shared this analogy of moving forward with the light we have, even if we can only see a little distance ahead of us:
”Long ago I worked for one of our railroads whose tracks threaded the passes through [the] mountains. I frequently rode the trains. It was in the days when there were steam locomotives. Those great monsters of the rails were huge and fast and dangerous. I often wondered how the engineer dared the long journey through the night. Then I came to realize that it was not one long journey, but rather a constant continuation of a short journey. The engine had a powerful headlight that made bright the way for a distance of 400 or 500 yards. The engineer saw only that distance, and that was enough, because it was constantly before him all through the night into the dawn of the new day. …
And so it is with our eternal journey. We take one step at a time. In doing so we reach toward the unknown, but faith lights the way. If we will cultivate that faith, we shall never walk in darkness. …” GBH Manual
Faith is the light that allows us to move forward without the need to be fully enlightened right at this moment. We can take steps into the darkness without knowing exactly where our path is leading us.
The Opposite of Faith is Fear
We often mistakenly think that doubt is the opposite of faith, but doubts and struggles can actually keep faith a living breathing thing. President Hinkcley’s analogy shows us that we need the darkness in order to need the light of faith. So if doubt is not the opposite of faith, what is the opposite of faith? The opposite of faith is fear. When we live in fear, we inhibit our ability to experience faith.
“Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future. Some carry the burden of sin and would give almost anything to unshackle themselves from those burdens but fear to change their lives. Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly.
Paul wrote to Timothy: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” GBH Manual
What are some things that you fear? How do those fears keep you from moving forward to fulfill your purpose in life? How does faith light a path for you so that you can see more clearly in the darkness of your life and move forward with confidence?
Eliza R. Snow wrote these beautiful words about faith:
“I will go forward. … I will smile at the rage of the tempest, and ride fearlessly and triumphantly across the boisterous ocean of circumstance. … And the “testimony of Jesus” will light up a lamp that will guide my vision through the portals of immortality, and communicate to my understanding the glories of the Celestial kingdom.” Eliza R. Snow, Relief Society President Poems, Religious, Historical, and Political, vol. 1 (1856)
Cultivating Living Faith in our Lives
Just as we often think doubt is the opposite of faith, we tend to think of faith as a perfect knowledge. What is the relationship between faith and knowledge? Alma tackled this question during his discourse on faith in Alma 32:
“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.“ Alma 32:26-27
As we mentioned before, faith is a living thing that requires constant work. How do we cultivate our faith?
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?” Alma 32:27-35
We can nurture our faith by testing the words and ideas we hear to see if they bring good fruits into our lives. Just as seeds that we plant in the ground require work and nurturing to grow and evolve into their full potential, our faith also requires work and nurturing in order to grow in enlightenment. As we grow in that faith, we will be more open to accepting the gifts of the spirit. Faith will propel us forward, away from fear and toward a light that allows us to connect more fully with others and enjoy the fruits of faith together.
“There are great blessings and opportunities available— personal blessings that come through unshakable faith and opportunities that come through giving Christian service. I have confidence that our Latter-day Saint sisters will continue in their enthusiasm to promote righteousness, both in themselves and in others. Women internationally can share faith, values, experiences, and ideas. I have respect for the diversity among women and acknowledge the strengths, abilities, and talents they possess. We can relate to all women through the Spirit. Elaine S. Jack, Relief Society President “Faith, Hope, and Charity: Inspiration from the Lives of General Relief Society Presidents.” 2008.