What is faith? Why do we need to have faith? Why is faith in Jesus Christ necessary? Have you ever asked these questions or similar ones? I hope I can answer your questions in this post.
Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is first because all other principles of the gospel depend on one having faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s start at the beginning: what is faith? Faith is confidence in things that are not seen but are true. The Apostle Paul taught, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). An ancient American prophet named Alma taught, “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” (Book of Mormon – Another Testimony of Jesus Christ, Alma 32:21).
Would a person go to school to study and learn if he had no hope of gaining knowledge? Would a farmer plant seeds if he had no hope of harvesting a crop? Would anyone go to work day after day without hope of getting paid for the work? These are all examples of having confidence in something unseen.
There are many examples in the scriptures about being doing something because of faith. Noah built an ark and saved his family from the Flood because he had faith (see Hebrews 11:7). Others who exercised faith are: Moses parting the Red Sea (see Hebrews 11:29), Elijah calling down fire from heaven (see 1 Kings 18:17-40), and Nephi building a ship to carry his family to a new land (see Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 17). Another Nephi called for a famine (see Book of Mormon, Helaman 11:3-5); then he asked the Lord to end the famine (see Helaman 11:9-17). Other acts of faith in the scriptures are calming seas, seeing visions, and receiving answers to prayers. The scriptures teach that faith is a strong belief of truth within our souls that motivates us to do good. This prompts a question of faith in who or what.
In order to receive promised blessings, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul taught that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12). Jacob, a prophet in ancient America, taught that men must have “… perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel [Jesus Christ], or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 9:23).
We must have faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice in order to be motivated to repent of our sins and overcome temptations. We must repent and become clean in order to enter the kingdom of God. When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will also have faith in Heavenly Father. When we have faith in the Father and the Son, we will also have faith in the Holy Ghost whom they send to us truth and to bring comfort to us.
We can increase our faith in Jesus Christ by exercising our faith. We exercise faith just like we develop any skill. We learn to paint, play a musical instrument, paint, or cook by practicing. We study, practice, and work to gain any skill, and we improve our skill at the same rate we “exercise” it. Faith works the same way.
If we desire to have greater faith in Jesus Christ, we must work at it. The Prophet Alma compared increasing faith to planting a seed: “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. N 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 y understanding….
“Now behold, would not this increase your faith?” (Alma 32:27-29).
We increase our faith by exercising it. One way to exercise faith is to pray to Heavenly Father and to talk with Him about our needs and desires. Then we must work to get them. Heavenly Father will not simply put a paycheck in one’s lap but will help one to prepare for a career and help find a position.
A story illustrates how this works. There was a man who wanted to study the scriptures, but he did not know how to read. He prayed to Heavenly Father for help in learning how to read. Eventually, a teacher came to the village, and the man asked the teacher to help him. The man first learned the alphabet; he studied sounds and put them with the letters. He learned to put letters together to form simple words. The more he practiced, the more he learned. He expressed his gratitude to Heavenly Father for sending the teacher to him and for helping him learn how to read. The man was eventually able to read the scriptures; he increased in faith, knowledge, and humility and became a leader in his area.
We can increase our faith by hearing and studying the word of God. We can hear the word of God by attending sacrament meeting. We can study His word by reading the scriptures.
Faith comes before miracles. When we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, miracles happen – angels appear, gifts of the Spirit are given, prayers are answered. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “When faith comes it brings … with it – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it disappears from the earth; for these are the effect of faith, … And he who possesses it, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom, until he shall know God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has sent – whom to know is eternal life. Amen.“ (Lectures on Faith, p. 69.)
When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we also have hope in His promises – and charity comes along with faith and hope. We must have faith, hope, and charity in order to become like God.