Sometimes we look at someone and marvel at how much faith they have. Sometimes we wonder how someone can have so little faith. Faith is not like a talent where some can develop it and some cannot. It is more like a trait that anyone can develop if they are willing to put in the work and the time.
The body of quotes in this article, except for the scriptures used, come from Elder Neil L. Andersen’s October, 2015 talk in General Conference entitled, Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice.
One way to explain why some seem to “naturally” have more faith than those around them is that “faith did not begin at birth, and it will not end at death.” Those who have notably more faith to start with in mortality developed that faith as spirits before coming to mortality. Likewise, we will all need to develop greater faith for our progression after this life as well.
The nature of faith
The exact nature of faith is not defined for us in the scriptures, nor is it revealed through any prophet. Neither is the exact nature of man. All I know is that the nature of faith and the nature of man are somehow connected. Here are a few verses to ponder.
Before we were spirits we were intelligences. The word intelligence has several definitions. One refers to those of us who were eventually clothed by God with a spirit body. In Doctrine and Covenants 93:29 it says, “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 it says, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” Note that in both verses the words light, truth, and intelligence are used synonymously. In other words, they are almost interchangeable.
Whatever we are that makes us eternal in nature is bound up in our core, which is our intelligence. This is what makes us co-eternal with God, for an intelligence is eternal and can neither be created nor destroyed. Intelligence, light, and truth are all discernible, like we can see various amounts of light and comprehend different amounts of truth.
“Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible.” In this way Jesus was able to “see” or “comprehend” how much faith a person had when He would tell someone they had great faith or little faith. When the woman with an issue of blood for 12 years touched the hem of his garment and He felt virtue go out of him it was that use of faith by the woman that is perceivable to God that allowed him to know faith had been used in his presence (Luke 8:43-48).
43. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44. Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46. And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
In Doctrine and Covenants 88:40 it says, “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; … truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light …” It is the nature, or the way God lives, that attracts intelligence, light, virtue, truth, etc. As we obey the commandments we attract these things as well. That is the natural order of things. It is disobedience that drives them away.
“Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it. Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker.” Faith is not something we create on our own. Choosing to obey God’s commandments results in being blessed with greater ability to have faith and exercise or use that faith. “Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes.”
“Faith is a principle of power, important not only in this life but also in our progression beyond the veil. By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name.” Faith is a principle of power because faith requires some form of action. It is the action that produces the changes we need to make in our soul so we can one day return to our Father in Heaven.
Let’s say I am just being introduced to the concept of God the Father, His son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I am promised that if I place my trust (faith) in what He has told us to do (commandments) I will receive some specific promised blessings. I’ll use coming to know the Book of Mormon is a true book sent from God as my example.
Currently, I have no evidence in my life that any of this is true or that reading and praying with sincerity to this God I have just learned about will produce knowledge in me that I don’t currently have. (Remember, God will never force knowledge of Him on us. We must seek it of our own choice.) If I choose to listen to the enticings of the Holy Ghost and follow His urging to read the book and sincerely pray about its truthfulness, then, and only then is God free to reveal to me the promised blessing of knowledge about the truth of the Book of Mormon. If I am not honest in my inquiry, or sincere in my search, I will receive no answer.
When I choose to follow the requirements set by God for the knowledge I seek, I receive assurances that what I have been told is the truth. I am given a perception and recognition of truth that I didn’t have the day before. My capacity to sense and use truth has just been enlarged by the Lord. This is the power of my having exercised or used my faith by choosing to believe and act on a promise from God.
Addressing honest questions is an important part of building faith, and we use both our intellect and our feelings. The Lord said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart.” Not all answers will come immediately, but most questions can be resolved through sincere study and seeking answers from God. Using our mind without our heart will not bring spiritual answers. “The things of God knoweth no man, but [through] the Spirit of God.” And to help us, Jesus promised us “another Comforter” and called Him “even the Spirit of truth.”
Note what Elder Andersen says about our reliance on the Holy Ghost. Just using our intellect to try to learn the things of God will not produce the desired results. We must bring our hearts into it. By “heart” he means the desires of our soul, our longing for knowledge from the source of knowledge. Knowledge of eternal things can only be learned from eternal sources. In this case, the Holy Ghost. That is why the Lord has promised us Him as our Comforter.
The Holy Ghost is our revelator, our tutor, our guide in all things spiritual and eternal. As we honestly, sincerely seek to obey the commandments of God, to understand His ways, the Holy Ghost gives us evidences that enlarges our ability to trust what the Lord has taught us. These evidences may be actual facts or they may be the courage and strength to rely on what we have learned in the past to soldier on until we have proven we are ready for more knowledge.
Faith is what enables us to go through the dark times in our lives and stay faithful or true to what we have promised the Lord we will do, which is to be obedient. “Faith never demands an answer to every question but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward, sometimes acknowledging, “I don’t know everything, but I do know enough to continue on the path of discipleship.”
Faith is built by choosing to believe then acting on that belief. The Lord created us to be able to act for ourselves. If we choose to believe, but don’t act then we may as well be rocks. Wait, even the rocks obey the voice of God. Never mind. Even the devils believe, but they chose to act contrary to what they knew. If we choose not to believe, and choose not to act on our knowledge then how much better are we than those who were thrown out of heaven for rebellion?
The difficulties of mortality blow against you, and evil forces lurk in the darkness, hoping to extinguish your faith. But as you continue to make good choices, trust in God, and follow His Son, the Lord sends increased light and knowledge, and your faith becomes settled and unwavering. President Thomas S. Monson said: “Fear not. … The future is as bright as your faith.”
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.