Faith (part 01)
FAITH REQUIRES TRUTH
It was important to introduce the principle of “unbelief” while discussing “belief”. Not only to define the word, but to hopefully recognize unbelief in our own lives. Belief is a necessary component of faith. Without belief we cannot progress to faith. So if one were to have unbelief rather than belief, they could not progress to faith. And without faith we cannot progress to knowledge. He does not show himself until after “faith”.
For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith. (Ether 12:12)
Remember this order of progression?
Knowledge comes after faith but belief precedes faith. This is why it is imperative that we have correct beliefs because with unbelief or disbelief we can not progress beyond the faith stage. The principles we believe must be true if we are to gain knowledge.
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. (Alma 32:21)
We often hear this scripture shared when discussions of faith arise. Typically we focus on faith not being knowledge (makes sense considering it is meant to lead to knowledge), that it is a hope and that hope is in things which are not seen. But rarely, if ever, do we focus on the characteristic at the end… “which are TRUE“.
Faith can not be exercised in something that is not true. That is called “hope” and it qualifies as a “false hope” when it is based on something not true. False hope does not lead to knowledge. False hope is the result of unbelief. Faith is the result of belief. One leads to knowledge while the other leads to captivity.
To try and progress towards knowledge and avoid captivity we are going to look at faith a bit closer. We already have a general definition to build from found in Alma 32:21. We have already highlighted a very important part of that definition which is often overlooked – that being the “true” part. Perhaps we just weeded out a tiny portion of unbelief?
IT IS BY FAITH
In Ether 12 there is an awesome list of some of the things faith does. Lets look at that.
- by faith all things are fulfilled (Ether 12:3)
- hope comes of faith (this is a specific kind of hope – not to be confused with false hope) (Ether 12:4)
- by faith Christ shows himself (Ether 12:7)
- by faith they of old were called after the holy order of God (Ether 12:10) (what is the holy order)
- by faith the law of Moses was given (not because of faith, but by faith) (Ether 12:11)
- God can do no miracle without faith being among the children of men (Ether 12:12)
- faith caused the prison to tumble to the earth (Ether 12:13)
- faith wrought a change that brought about the baptism by fire (Ether 12:14)
- all those who wrought miracles wrought them by faith (Ether 12:16)
- promises obtained by faith (Ether 12:17)
As you begin to study what faith does, it might surprise you (as it did me) that those things are done through faith and not priesthood. We often attribute much to “the priesthood” when faith is actually the power. For instance, the action of rebuking darkness. This seems like it should be an action which is performed through priesthood power and authority. Yet, it is by faith, which is a power.
FAITH AS A GRAIN OF MUSTARD SEED
You may recall the account of a man coming to Jesus. (Matthew 17:14-20) He comes and kneels before the Lord. He asks the Lord to have mercy on his son. The man’s son is possessed. This man at some point had brought his son to the disciples but they could not cure him. Jesus cures the son. What follows is the teaching of a true master.
The disciples ask “Why could not we cast him out”. Jesus responds, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, 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“.
Notice the distinction in words. It was not necessarily the lack of faith which prevented these men from preforming the miracle. It was because of unbelief. This unbelief resulted in less faith than a mustard seed. Had they believed in truth, they could exercise faith sufficient to move mountains.
When we have too little faith, it is a result of our beliefs… not our hopes. We typically have enough hope, but when that hope is false, it is unbelief. Unbelief prevents faith.
Of course the element of prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21) should not be overlooked. But the subject Christ seemed to have focused on in that teaching moment was unbelief. We really ought to understand what unbelief is.
To add to our list, possessing faith results in “nothing [being] impossible unto you”. (Matthew 17:20)
Hebrews 11 is another great source referencing what comes through faith. We would probably profit by going through the list ourselves as we did with Ether 12. Here are a few principles I would like to note however:
- through faith the worlds were framed (oh goodness, not priesthood?) (Hebrews 11:3)
- without faith it is impossible for please Him (Hebrews 11:6)
First we should recognize that priesthood is not mentioned in any of these “powers”. It is by faith. Second, without faith we can not please Him. The first point doesn’t sting as bad as the second point, does it? Why can we not please Him without faith? It would probably be helpful to further define what faith is in order to answer that question.
DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work.
The second part contains items or principles for the regulation of the church, as taken from the revelations which have been given since its organization, as well as from former ones.
There is more to the preface but it ends with this:
“We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that we are to be called to answer to every principle advanced, in that day when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed, and the reward of every man’s labor be given him.”
The names in print that follow this preface are:
- Joseph Smith Jr.
- Oliver Cowdery
- Sidney Rigdon
- F. G. Williams
In our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants we no longer have the “first part” which was referred to as the “important doctrine of salvation”. We do have the second part which “contains items or principles for the regulation of the church”. This is interesting as the Doctrine and Covenants was once referred to as the “Book of Commandments”. This Book of Commandments did not contain “the first part”. The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (not the Book of Commandments) is noted in our history as the Kirtland Edition. The Kirtland Edition is the first edition where “the first part” appears and the name “Doctrine and Covenants” is adopted. This is the 1835 edition. The very title suggests two parts. Doctrine. Covenants.
This might seem totally unrelated to the subject of faith until one realizes that “the first part” is referred to as “The Lectures on Faith”. The lectures are divided into seven sections. The title page of the lectures says:
On the doctrine of the church of the Latter Day Saints.
Even the lectures title page refers to these lectures as “the doctrine”. Interestingly enough, the title page of “Part Second” (as it is called in the 1835 edition) is title “Covenants and Commandments of The Lord”. It is no wonder the volume was called “Doctrine and Covenants”. It clearly contains two parts. One part doctrine. One part Covenants. We should all study the doctrine. Perhaps it would be worth our effort to study the doctrine with more diligence than we currently “study” the covenants.
It should also be noted the importance of these lectures. Look whose names follow the preface. Look at what they said before their names appear on the page.
We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that we are to be called to answer to every principle advanced…
I believe Joseph knew what he was talking about. He expected to be called to answer to every principle advanced in that volume. Not only the “second part” but also the “first part” which was subsequently removed from the standard works in 1921.
If you desire to understand faith, this simple post is not going to do it for you. Read the lectures contained in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. There are many principles of doctrine contained in those few pages. Speaking of pages, that edition contains about 250 pages (not including things like preface, index, publisher notes, etc). The Lectures, or “first part”, comprise about 70 of those pages. This isn’t a mathematics message, but for those interested, I think the lectures comprise about 28% of that edition. This 28% is “the doctrine” or rather “the important doctrine of salvation” as it is referred to in the preface – approved by Joseph.
As I mentioned, I believe Joseph knew what he was talking about… even when I don’t know what he is talking about. So, I look at these lectures as doctrine. And as doctrine, I value them. I want to understand them. I want to have them.
Next: Faith (part 02)