Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power that helps us to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost. It is the power that brings miracles into our lives and helps us to endure to the end in righteousness. Prophets and apostles have discussed faith and its importance for centuries, and we can learn much from their teachings.
The Apostle Paul wrote about faith in his epistle to the Hebrews. The Hebrews were Jews who had converted to the Christianity, but they were reconsidering their decision to join the Church. Paul defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Paul tells us that we must continue to hope for things even though we see no evidence of them – yet.
A prophet named Alma who worked among ancient Americans defines faith as “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 Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 32:21). Alma teaches us that faith is only faith if we hope for those things that are true.
Moroni, the last prophet to write on the plates that became the Book of Mormon says that faith “is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute note because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). Moroni tells us that we will not see any evidence until our faith is tried.
The Prophet Joseph Smith teaches in the Lectures on Faith (1:1, 13) that faith is “the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness.” He also says that faith is “the principle of action in all intelligent beings.” Joseph Smith tells us that faith in Jesus Christ is the rock on which we should build and that it is a principle of action.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refers to the above quotes when he says the following.
These teachings of Paul and of Alma and from the Lectures on Faith highlight three basic elements of faith: (1) faith as the assurance of things hoped for which are true, (2) faith as the evidence of things not seen, and (3) faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings. I describe these three components of faith in the Savior as simultaneously facing the future, looking to the past, and initiating action in the present.
Faith as the assurance of things hoped for looks to the future….
Faith in Christ is inextricably tied to and results in hope in Christ for our redemption and exaltation. And assurance and hope make it possible for us to walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness – expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way…. The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present.
Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. … The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith … is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.
Assurance, action, and evidence influence each other in an ongoing process (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, September 2009).
Elder Bednar tells us that faith has three basic elements (assurance, evidence, and action) that work together in our lives. In other words, our trials in the past and the actions we took to deal with them strengthen our faith until we can see evidence in our present life and have assurance in the future.
Paul shares several examples from the scriptures of people who exercised faith. Cain exercised faith when he offered his excellent sacrifice to God. Enoch exercised faith to the point that he was translated. Noah exercised his faith when he built the ark before the rain started to fall. Abraham exercised faith when he was called to move to a new place and when he obediently prepared to offer his son Isaac on the altar. Isaac and his son Jacob exercised faith to the point that they received the same promises that were given to Abraham. Sara exercised faith when she believed that God could bless her with a child even in her old age. Joseph exercised faith that the children of Israel would escape from Egypt when he commanded them to carry his bones with them. Moses exercised faith as he led the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. Joshua exercised faith when he led the children of Israel around the walls of Jericho for seven days until the walls fell down. Paul lists several others who lived with faith.
As we can see from the above paragraph, these great prophets used the three elements mentioned by Elder Bednar. Their faith moved them to action, which then brought evidence of the power of God, which in turn brought assurance that they were doing the right thing.
Paul writes the “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,” (Hebrews 11:1) and Joseph Smith explains how this was done in his Lectures on Faith (1:15-16).
15 By this we understand that the principle of power, which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power, existing in the Deity, that all created things exist – so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, exist by reason of faith, as it existed in HIM.
16 Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed, neither would man have been formed of the dust – it is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal, as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute, (for it is an attribute) from the Deity and he would cease to exist.
Joseph Smith teaches that God works by faith and without faith God would cease to be God. Faith is the power by which God works; it is the power of eternity. It is the power by which miracles are wrought. It is the foundation upon which our spiritual lives are built.
We have learned about how faith works in the lives of prophets and even in God. So, how does faith work in the lives of mere mortals like you and I. Farmers exercise faith when they plant seeds each spring with hope that they will reap crops. Young couples exercise faith when they start their families even though they live in an uncertain world. Middle aged couples exercise faith when they send their sons and daughters into the mission field. Elderly people exercise faith when they continue in the covenant path even when dealing with health or family problems. All of us exercise faith as we continue to follow the counsel of prophets and apostles.
We follow the exceptional examples of God and many of His prophets when we exercise faith in God. We must remember that we must do the action (exercise faith) in order to see the evidence (miracles) and to receive assurance (confirmation) that we are on the right path.