RS/MP Lesson 17: “ The Strengthening Power of Faith” (George Albert Smith Manual)
Posted by kirkcaudle on September 13, 2012
A link to the full lesson is here.
Sorry for the delay in the posting of this lesson and thank you to the people that keep up on us about writing them, and posting them, in a timely manner. We are all glad that they help. Sometimes life just gets in the way of things!
This lesson is filled with miraculous stories of faith. I sat through this lesson last week in church and I heard people telling great faith promoting stories. Faith stories always seem to start out with an inescapable problem and they always seem to end up with an impossible solution. Let me provide a fictional, yet common, example of a story that explains how I have heard faith presented throughout my life in the Church.
I was struggling and I only had enough money to pay my rent or to pay my tithing. I decided to so some faith and I paid my tithing. The next day I got a call for a short-term job that gave me the exact amount of money that I needed for my rent. I am so thankful that God blessed me for having faith that day!
Is that really how faith works? Do we show faith and then does God bless us for showing that faith with something like the ability to pay? I believe that we are missing the mark when we are paying tithing, or keeping any other commandment, for the benefit of the potential blessings that it might bring in the future, especially in the short-term future. This is the danger that I see in stories such as the one that I related above (and in the ones that fill the manual).
Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I know that most LDS people do not bring anything other than their KJV Bibles to church (kudos if you do!), but I really prefer the NIV rendering of this verse, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” From this verse we discover that it is hope that mobilizes faith and in turn lets us see what is not there. This kind of faith does not wait for a job or a check to arrive in the mail. This kind of faith sees a greater plan and a greater blessing than that.
After the writer of Hebrews relates the stories of those who had their faith tested in verses 2-11, he declares in verse 13 that all of those prophets “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” This I think is one of the great lessons of faith. Life is hard. Some people even say life flat out sucks at times. We know that God has promised us great blessings and we know that we must live by faith. That is the easy part. The hard part is understanding that the check might not be in the mail. God might still be waiting to put that stamp on it until later. We, like Abraham, must be prepared for the fullness of our blessings to be “afar off.”
Here is a story that I never here in church, but one that I wished that I heard more often.
I was struggling and I only had enough money to pay my rent or to pay my tithing. I decided to show some faith and I paid my tithing. The next day the phone never rang and it took me 6 more months to get a job. I paid my rent two weeks late and I was charged a late fee. I am living pay check by pay check now to support my family but I am so thankful that God blessed me for having faith that day!
Now, I am not denying that miracles happen due to faith. I just think that they are the exception rather than the rule. Many of us probably fit more into the second story than we fit into the first story. I deeply respect those that can keep blessings in perspective and those that know that the promise is afar off. This is faith. I know many of these people personally that strive to show their faith to God and never have any miraculous experiences like the ones in the manual. These people still thank God for the blessings that they do have and they still keep the commandments regardless of the outcome.
Our faith cannot based on positive short-term outcomes/blessings to situations. We do not keep the commandants to be blessed in that way. Rather, I think it is just the opposite. Keeping the commandments is what gives us the faith to not expect checks to magically arrive in the mail. Keeping the commandments help protect our faith no matter what the outcome. D&C 136:42 reads, “Be diligent in keeping all my commandments, lest . . . your faith fail you,and your enemies triumph over you.”
It is very hard for us to believe in something that we cannot see. Seeing is often believing. Ether 12:6 says, “I, Moroni would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” From this verse we find that words lead to faith, and that faith leads to salvation.
A real faith is a tested faith. If you have never gone through a test of faith in your life then I believe that you will (or should). It eventually happens to all of us, or at least that is what Moroni says. Notice that he states “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” In other words, the people going through the trials already have faith. I think that these are the kind of people in my second story. These are the people that do everything that God asks because they have faith and yet they seriously lack something important in some area of their life. God will try the faith of those people and see how they respond when the gift is not immediately given.
I have talked with, and are friends with, many people who have left the church, lack a testimony of the gospel, or are otherwise disenfranchised with the Church. I often hear something to the effect of, I was taught that if I did “x” followed by “y” then “z” would happen,“z” never happened and so I just cannot believe anymore.
The one thing that the vast majority of these people have in common is that I really do believe them when they say that they approached God with faith. They felt that they gave God all the faith that they could muster and they kept his commandments has hard as they could. Yet, nothing spectacular happened and they left. Many of these people no longer claim to have faith. They disputed what they could not see. They had faith and they received a trial of that faith. However, the witness never came in the time frame that they had preset in their minds. They could not believe as Abraham and Enoch believed in the Book of Hebrews that the promise was afar off.
President Smith said, “We know that faith is a gift of God; it is the fruitage of righteous living. It does not come to us by our command, but is the result of doing the will of our Heavenly Father. If we lack faith let us examine ourselves to see if we have been keeping His commandments, and repent without delay if we have not. … May the Lord increase our faith, and may we live to be worthy of it” (188). We destroy the faith that we do have when we expect God to give us short-term signs of his long-term promises. We are given the commandments to build our faith in the unknown, not to make us more money or keep us from dying. Having faith opens up our minds to the possibilities of what could be and having faith takes away doubts that God has stopped paying attention to our various situations even if they do not turn out exactly the way that we had planed.
Addendum: If you are really interested in the topic of faith then read from people that are much smarter than I…MUCH MUCH smarter I might add! Read our own Jim Faulconer’s article on Room to Talk: Reason’s Need for Faith. Also check out, what I believe to be the best work on faith and scripture out there at the moment, An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32. The book comes in a free PDF file and is for sale in printed form. If you buy the book, it is well for investment. This book contains articles from Feast bloggers Joe Spencer, Robert Couch, Jenny Webb, and Jim Faulconer. You all can thank me for the free plug later. :)
Addendum #2: Due to my participation on this blog I was recently interviewed on-line concerning issues surrounding Mormonism. If you are interested you can find that here. I can thank myself for that free plug later.