More than 175 years ago a young man by the name of Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. Many people write letters to the editors of their local newspapers, but this letter was different. It was written in response to a request made by John Wentworth, and the letter is now referred to as the Wentworth Letter. Wentworth wrote to the young prophet requesting information about what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believed. The information was published in Church periodicals and is now considered to be scripture and can be found in the Pearl of Great Price. “The Articles of Faith outline 13 basic points of belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Article of Faith 1:4 states, https://www.lds.org/study/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This post will discuss only the first principle, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it means to have faith in Jesus Christ? According to a lesson manual, it means that we trust Him enough to obey His commandments and become His obedient disciples. This is a good, basic explanation, but there is more to having faith in Christ.
Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote about faith in Jesus Christ in an article published in April 2010. This post will be a review of Elder Oaks’ article. He begins with the reminder that faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of His the gospel.
Faith in the Lord is trust in the Lord. We cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing. As a result, no matter how strong our faith is, it cannot produce a result contrary to the will of Him in whom we have faith. Remember that when your prayers do not seem to be answered in the way or at the time you desire. The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. When we have that kind of faith and trust in the Lord, we have true security and serenity in our lives.
According to Elder Oaks, we have to be willing to accept the answer that the Lord gives and to wait until He is ready to give it. I remember praying for a special blessing many years ago and receiving the answer, “It will done in my own time and in my own way.” The blessing has not come, but I feel confident that it will at the right time and in the right way.
Elder Oaks says that Jesus Christ is our model – “our first priority.” “We must testify of Him and teach one another how we can apply His teachings and His example in our lives.” He reminds us that “God creates and organizes,” while Satan’s only plan is to destroy. “Jesus Christ always builds us up and never tears us down.” Elder Oaks continues by saying that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the “central idea in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are His servants, and it is critical that we understand the role of the Atonement in our own lives and in the lives of those we teach. Essential to that understanding is an understanding of the relationship between justice and mercy and the Atonement, and the role of suffering and repentance in this divine process.
The awful demands of justice upon those who have violated the laws of God – the state of misery and torment described in the scriptures – can be intercepted and swept away by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This relationship between justice on the one hand and mercy and the Atonement on the other is the core idea of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Faith in Jesus Christ is more than belief in Him. It is more than a willingness to be obedient and to follow Him. It is more than a readiness to wait for His time and His way. It is a belief that He truly is the Son of God and He really did complete the Atonement in our behalf. We know, of course, that He did not redeem us in our sins but from our sins. (See Helaman 5:11.) He redeems us from our sins on the condition that we repent.
Elder Oaks continues, “One of those conditions of repentance is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, including faith in and reliance upon His atoning sacrifice.” Did you notice that repentance is the second principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ? If we do not have enough faith in the Lord to repent, we will have to suffer for our own sins.
When a prophet quotes another prophet, we should pay close attention. Elder Oaks quotes President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) as saying “that personal suffering is a very important part of repentance. `One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins…. If a person hasn’t suffered,’ he said, `he hasn’t repented.’”
Elder Oaks quoted another prophet named Lehi who taught this same principle. Lehi said that the Atonement of Jesus Christ was for “all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7). Elder Oaks continues with this statement.
The truly repentant sinner who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been through a process of personal pain and suffering for sin…..
There is a big difference between the godly sorrow that worketh repentance (see
2 Corinthians 7:10), and the easy and relatively painless sorrow for being caught, or … `the sorrowing of the damned’ …” (Mormon 2:13).
Continuing with his explanation about repentance, Elder Oaks says that the necessity for suffering is not being cleansed from sin.
… A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day, the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we focus only on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition continues until the tree has been strengthened.
When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to His presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. We must, as the scripture says, become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). This is what the scripture means in its explanation that a person who has repented of his sins will forsake them. Forsaking sins is more than resolving not to repeat them. Forsaking involves a fundamental change in the individual….
Repentance has been the message in every dispensation….
Lest we become discouraged, Elder Oaks closes his article with a “message of hope.” He says that message is “true for all” people, but he says that it is particularly “needed by those who think that repentance is too hard. Repentance is a continuing process needed by all” because we are all sinners. “Repentance is possible, and then forgiveness is certain."
The Lord promises us through numerous prophets that repentance will not only cleanse us but will sweep away our guilt. When we repent, the Savior takes upon Him our sins, leaves us free of them, and makes forgiveness certain.