Faith, Not Fear

It is a fundamental belief of my religion that one should live a life of faith. I suppose that is somewhat self-evident, and I think this is probably foundational to many religions. What is faith, and what does it mean to live a life of faith?

It is a fundamental belief of my religion that one should live a life of faith. I suppose that is somewhat self-evident, and I think this is probably foundational to many religions. What is faith, and what does it mean to live a life of faith?

Faith is a belief that things will ultimately work out for the best in the end for those who trust God, in spite of any challenges along the way. Faith is written in the scriptures to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”1, or also translated as the “proof” of things not seen. To have faith we must believe in, and hope for the good things that are ahead for us, even when we don’t have complete proof that those good things are coming.

Faith requires action. The “substance” of faith, as noted in the quote mentioned above, includes the efforts exerted by us in giving life to our hopes, and longings. These actions and efforts may be prayers, studying scriptures, focused and optimistic thoughts, or acts of kindness. Acts of faith may also include stepping out of our comfort zone to build a friendship, apply for a job, go to college, have children, or follow through with an idea to do something good. These are some ways that we live a life of faith.

“Faith is the opposite of fear.”2 In church, and in scripture we’re taught to “be not afraid”3. Instead of being fearful, we are to “walk by faith”4, and to “be of good courage”5. It can be difficult to have faith when life gets hard, things seem bleak, and our faith is tested, and yet these are exactly the times when faith is needed most.

Today, the voices of fear and anxiety in the world seem to be growing louder. These voices would have us believe that when hope is fading and solutions are hard to find, fearfulness and capitulation is the only response. If we act with fear, the result is often more fear, pain and confusion. What does faith offer instead?

“And Christ hath said: if ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”6

“Faith is a principle of power”7. Faith must be centered in Christ. If we have faith in Christ, He enables us to accomplish things we would otherwise consider impossible.

“What, then, are the blessings of faith? What does faith accomplish? The list is almost endless:

Our sins can be forgiven because of faith in Christ.17

As many as have faith have communion with the Holy Spirit.18

Salvation comes through faith on Christ’s name.19

We receive strength according to our faith in Christ.

None enter the Lord’s rest save those who wash their garments in Christ’s blood because of their faith.21

Prayers are answered according to faith.22

Without faith among men, God can do no miracle among them.23

–Elder Quentin L. Cook8
  1. Do Not Fear, President Boyd K. Packer
  2. Hebrews 11:1
  3. Mark 5:36
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:7
  5. Isaiah 41:6
  6. Moroni 7:33
  7. Faith, a Power That Centers in Christ, Doctrines of the Gospel, Student Manual
  8. Foundations of Faith, Elder Quentin L. Cook

An Example to Me

I’m writing just a few notes about someone who inspires me, whom I admire, and who is an example to me of Christ-like love and kindness. She doesn’t get a lot of free time these days, spending most of her time taking care of two young kids, however she took the time to go sing recently with a group at a retirement home during the holidays. When her daughter grew out of one diaper size, she bought a larger size and took what was left of the smaller size of diapers to someone who has a younger baby. She volunteers to do things like make cinnamon rolls for social gatherings and take meals to people. You may have a guess about who I’m writing about. These simple, yet meaningful things that she does so often, helps me want to be better.

Prayer, Joy & Happiness

Recently I have felt that it is important for me to work on offering more heartfelt and sincere prayers, and to focus more on the joy and happiness that I have now and ahead of me. Here are a few quotes from the past general conference that I found to be meaningful. Hearing and reading these words and the rest of these (and other) talks from the recent LDS general conference was an answer to my prayers. I offer my testimony that these are men and women who have been called by the Lord to serve, teach and share these inspired messages. I share my own personal witness that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, a man who has dedicated his life to serving, encouraging, and loving others and teaching people to follow Christ.

“As you pray to Heavenly Father in faith, “he will console you in your afflictions, … [and ye may] feast upon his love.” President Henry B. Eyring shared that his father’s prayers during a losing battle with cancer taught him the deeply personal relationship between God and His children:

“When the pain became intense, we found him in the morning on his knees by the bed. He had been too weak to get back into bed. He told us he had been praying to ask his Heavenly Father why he had to suffer so much when he had always tried to be good. He said a kindly answer came: ‘God needs brave sons.’

“And so he soldiered on to the end, trusting that God loved him, listened to him, and would lift him up. He was blessed to have known early and to never forget that a loving God is as close as a prayer.”

– Carol F. McConkie (and quoting Pres. Eyring)

“Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!

And what was the joy that was set before Him? Surely it included the joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making it possible for you and me to return home—clean and worthy—to live with our Heavenly Parents and families.

If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?”

– President Nelson

“Essential to the plan is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice, all would be lost. It is not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission. We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them. We need to receive His saving ordinances. Only by so doing will we obtain true, eternal happiness.

We are blessed to have the truth. We have a mandate to share the truth. Let us live the truth, that we might merit all that the Father has for us. He does nothing save it be for our benefit. He has told us, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”1

From the depths of my soul and in all humility, I testify of the great gift which is our Father’s plan for us. It is the one perfect path to peace and happiness both here and in the world to come.”

– President Monson

Dieter F. Uchtdorf Shares Experience As a Refugee

Providing insight to the current refugee crisis in Europe, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares his experience as a refugee in Germany during WWII. He expresses that as the members of the LDS faith we should never “label” any people, and should help people in need throughout the world, and help them to become self reliant.

Community Effort (Northern Virginia) to assist Syrian refugees:

A Favorite Bible Verse, from James

In honor of International Bible Day, here’s a verse from the Bible that is meaningful to me, from James chapter 3:

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:16-18)

As Jesus taught us, and his brother James confirms, “blessed are the peacemakers”.

“My sheep know my voice”

Orson F. Whitney on why the Savior said “My sheep know my voice”:

“…After meeting someone whom I had never met before on earth, I have wondered why that person’s face seemed so familiar. More than once, upon hearing a noble sentiment expressed, though unable to recall that I had ever heard it until then, I have found myself in sympathy with it, was thrilled by it, and felt as if I had always known it. The same is true of some strains of music [some perhaps heard today]; they are like echoes of eternity. I do not assert pre-acquaintance in all such cases, but as one thought suggests another these queries arise in the mind.

When it comes to the Gospel, I feel more positive. Why did the Savior say: “My sheep know my voice?” Did a sheep ever know the voice of its shepherd if it had never heard that voice before? They who love the Truth, and to whom it most strongly appeals—were they not acquainted with it in a previous life? I think so. I believe we knew the Gospel before we came here, and that is what gives to it a familiar sound.”

[Orson F. Whitney, “The Undiscovered Country,” Improvement Era, vol. 23 (December 1919), p. 100]

Several religious and other charity groups work together in Oklahoma tornado cleanup effort

There’s a lot to like about this news report. I love how several volunteer groups, including Mormon Helping Hands, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Baptist charity groups and other organizations were working together to help the people in Oklahoma after the recent tornado. Also just seeing people care enough to voluntarily give their time and money in service for their neighbors strengthens my faith in society and inspires me to want to do the same. These are people of faith putting their time and money where their prayers are.

From mormonnewsroom.org:

“…an estimated 2,500 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers assisted their neighbors over the Memorial Day weekend, working an estimated 15,000 hours. In several neighborhoods, Church volunteers worked shoulder-to-shoulder with other groups to assist tornado victims in a common effort.

“The focus of who we are in terms of wanting to give service to our fellow man really binds us together as a community,” said local Church leader, Kevin Graves. “You see people of great faith and a lot of love for their fellow being regardless of their religious denomination.”

…volunteer Carlos Coronado said all of the groups were helping together because they believe in following the example of Christ.

..Baptist charity Mercy Chefs served meals to the hungry including Mormon Helping Hands volunteers working in different parts of the devastation. The charity is made up of professional chefs who donate their time to prepare hot gourmet meals for victims and volunteers.

…When around 40 Church missionaries clad in Mormon Helping Hands vests and tee-shirts arrived on their property, Karen Johnston was overwhelmed with relief. “I was like, oh my… the army is here! The army in the yellow shirts!” she said.

A little while later, a group from the Journey Church from Norman, Oklahoma and the Fellowship church out of Dallas, Texas came to help too. Soon the “army of yellow shirts” was mixed with an army of people wearing red tee-shirts, all working together.

Pastor Andy Boyd said there are churches and faith-based groups all working for a greater cause to help people like Mark and Karen. “It’s not telling them the gospel it’s showing it to them,” said Pastor Boyd.”

On a few occasions I’ve heard people say something to the effect of, mormons spend a lot of time and money building temples and doing missionary work, why doesn’t your church do something to help the needy? Resisting the urge to blurt out, “we do!” and pull out a stat sheet, my better response is this, let’s work together and do more to help because there’s a lot of people who are in need, and not just people who are suffering from natural disasters, and not just people who need monetary assistance. All of these groups have given us a tremendous example of how to do it.

He never fails us

…I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.

And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father. (Ether 12:33-34)

My first few drafts of this post included my attempts to define charity and then trying to expound on the writings about charity found in 1 Corinthians 13, Moroni 7, and my favorite – Ether 12. I’ve decided to simply quote what inspired this post in the first place, Elder Jefferey Holland’s words on charity which reference the verses above:

“…it is not just that we should try to be charitable ourselves. We should. We are supposed to be Christ-like, we are supposed to be charitable, we are supposed to demonstrate charity, but what [Moroni] is saying is, that were it not for real charity, capital C, the one time in all the world that real charity was demonstrated, i.e., the pure love of Christ — if it were not for that, “we could not inherit that place which thou has prepared in the mansions of thy Father.” That’s the charity that faileth not. Ours does as much as we try. We give it our best effort and we fall short. But one time, in one way, with one person, the pure love of Christ was demonstrated. Real charity was given to this world. And that’s why we can say that charity never faileth.

He never fails us. The message of the Book of Mormon is that Christ does not fail us! That’s what we’re trying to tell a world. That’s what we’re trying to say with the basic missionary text of this dispensation. That Christ is the pure love. He is the only one that has ever really mastered it while the rest of us are still trying. But it will never fail. His salvation will not fail, His ordinances will not fail, His church will not fail. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times. [The fullness of the gospel] will never be taken from the face of the earth again. That’s the message of the Book of Mormon.

Life has its share of fears and failures. Sometimes things fall short. Sometimes people fail us, economies fail us, businesses or governments fail us. But one thing in time and eternity does not fail us, the pure love of the Lord Jesus Christ as manifest in His Atoning sacrifice. That’s why we can inherit the place which Thou has prepared, Father, for us in the mansions on high.”

–Elder Holland
“Mission of the Book of Mormon”, 1997 Mission Presidents’ Seminar

The Light of the World

I’ve watched this video 5 or 6 times already since it was released last week (I think) and I love it. It gave me a whole new perspective on the verses in John chapter 8 which it is taken from. While I wonder a little bit if the tone of voice in Christ’s initial statement about being the light of world might have been different than how it’s portrayed here, I find the rest of it carries the truth of Christ’s words.

From the New Testament there is the indication that during His ministry Jesus was continually surrounded by both doubters and believers, as well as others who hadn’t yet made up their mind about Him. He repeatedly had to deal with those who wanted to discredit and demonize Him and also take His life, and at the same time still be the great teacher and example of love and truth that He was in word and action. Everything He did was in love and patience, yet the darkness and unbelief that was in the Pharisees who questioned Him here was so great they couldn’t see the beautiful Savior that was right in front of them. In this sense it’s extremely sad to watch the portrayal of their disbelief, to see the encounter between them and Christ unfold as He says, “…if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.”

When considering how the Pharisees kept mentioning Abraham and their connection to him and at the same time that they considered Jesus to be blasphemous by simply declaring the truth of His being the fulfillment of all of the prophets before Him, I can’t help but make a comparison to today. There are some who look back to Christ’s day and believe he was is the Son of God and that the Bible is true (which is good), but then they find it hard to believe the great things God has done in our day and would even oppose it, and would regard any continuation of revelation and of God’s speaking to man in a similar way today, as being blasphemous.

While Jesus is walking away there is the sense that He is deeply saddened by their hardened hearts, sad for them rather than for the fate ahead of Him as he says, “…But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God …Why do ye not understand my speech?”

I know Jesus is the light of the World, without Him there would be no love, no forgiveness, no happiness, no joy in this world. But He does live, He did suffer and die for us, was raised the third day so that we could all be resurrected. He fulfilled His mission, His arm of mercy is extended to us even in our times of bitterness and disbelief. He has a pure love that never fails, if we’ll place our trust in Him and follow His words we can live with Him eternally.

Angels are declaring it unto many…

I love the lessons learned from prophets of God who have preached repentance throughout time. I have no doubt that we as individuals and as a society would be blessed greatly if we would hear this call now.

Repentance has been defined as “…a change of mind and heart that gives us a fresh view about God, about ourselves, and about the world. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness.” (ref.)

Old Testament Prophets Preached Repentance

The prophet Jonah was called by God to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah. Jonah first tried to run away and avoid this heavenly commission, he consequently ended up in the belly of a “fish” (or a whale). He prayed to the Lord mightily for mercy and the Lord delivered him. Jonah then went to Ninevah and did as he was commanded “…and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The king of Ninevah sensed the truth of his preaching and his heart was softened. He joined Jonah’s cause and spread the call of repentance throughout the land, telling his people to “cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands”, also proclaiming, “Who can tell if God will …turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 1-3)

Through Jonah’s preaching the great work was brought about of convincing the people of Ninevah to turn their hearts to God. They repented and were spared destruction.

We learn from the Book of Mormon that Melchizedek, king of ancient Jerusalem in Old Testament times, was called to preach repentance:

“Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days;” (Alma 13:17-18)

The Savior’s Commission to Preach Repentance

John the Baptist went before the Lord to prepare the way for Him. The Book of Mark states that “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mark 1:4)

After His resurrection, Jesus Christ briefly returned to Jerusalem and taught “…that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47)

After the Savior’s ascension into heaven, in the book of Acts there is the account of Peter preaching the Lord’s gospel of repentance and baptism boldly to the people of Israel:

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:22-38)

Repentance preached in our day

With the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith, God has again sent prophets to preach repentance to all nations as Jesus has commissioned, and they will continue to do so until peace, righteousness and “…love of God and neighbor rules the world” (Elder Jefferey Holland, Oct 2012).

The prophets are not alone in their call to repentance:

For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory. And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon…

And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; (Alma 13:24-25,27)

Alma also taught earlier in Alma chapter 5:

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.

…I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life.