I think I love listening to talks given by leaders of the church and going to church so much because I find “nuggets.” I have been a member long enough that the basics are not necessarily new anymore (thank goodness — I’d be worried if they were!), but I often hear a phrase or thought that changes my view and causes me to re-examine where I am now and where I am headed.
I was struck by two thoughts that caused me to pause and think as I considered them side by side:
Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that He actually exists.
Secondly, a correct idea of His character, perfections, and attributes.
Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to His will.
(Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5)
and, in a discourse on Godlike love,
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Faith: the Idea that God Exists
It’s very hard to have faith in someone or something that you’re not even sure is real. So, if we can’t see God, touch Him, or have any other “hard” evidence that He exists, how do we come to the conclusion that He does?
- We have to weigh the things we can see and touch. For instance, can we balance the chaos and evils of this world with the idea of a Creator that had placed things in order based on Divine law? Is there a harmony? Can it really be true that He would spend so much time creating a world for us to exist on and then allow us to Fall and be separated from Him? Is there love in a plan that allows His children to experience so much negativity?
- We can watch those who say they know Him. How often are they doing things that lead them closer to God? Does it make a difference in their life? Do they appear unhinged or delusional?
- We can study and read the words of those who claim the authority to speak for God. Do their words match other records of God intervening and appearing to man?
In our search, we are going to find conflicting evidences, for we are surrounded by humans who tend to get things wrong. However, if we study and seek, we will learn that we can pray and ask for guidance, and then we can watch for patterns of truth to emerge from our studies.
A Correct Idea of His Character, Perfections, and Attributes
In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He also said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” If we take those two ideas together, there is reason to believe that Jesus and his Father want us to know them.
How do we get to know them? We study, we pray, and we apply the principles they say will lead us to a better life. Through the Holy Spirit’s touch, we learn who they really are — completely loving, intimately aware of each of us, and totally dedicated to bringing out the best of who we are (even if it means we have to suffer in the moment).
A Knowledge that the Course We Are Pursuing is According to His Will
After receiving the First Vision, when Joseph Smith went to pray about which church was right, he wasn’t instantly given all knowledge and spiritual insight. Like the rest of us, he had to learn piece by piece. So, at one point (or maybe more), he was praying to know if his life was in accordance with God’s will, and he received more revelation.
While I can’t guarantee that every prayer is answered by heavenly visitors (they are not), we can (and I do) receive impressions from the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. It requires humility and a willingness to listen. It requires that I be willing to course correct when I am told that things in my life are not in harmony with God’s will. It also brings assurance that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love me and will help me as I need it.
But, How do you Know?
In the beginning of my spiritual journey, I didn’t. I simply felt I had enough evidences in nature, in scriptures, and in the spiritual impressions in my heart to take a leap of faith. Faith is a powerful principle. It allows each person to have a certainty about things they cannot see and touch, and act as if they have already received things they have only been promised.
The only way to gain faith is to exercise it — to take the leap and see what happens. (I love the irony, by the way.) As the scriptures say in many places (see Alma 32), you have to try the principles taught in the scriptures to see if they are true.
Faith, Hope, and Charity
I have found that these three things are inseparably linked and strengthening one strengthens the others. So, as my faith grows, so does my ability to love others. I also gain hope — if the principles I can test in my earthly existence hold true, then I can trust that the ones that require me to wait until the eternities are true, as well.
As my ability to love grows, and as I act on it, my faith grows because I see the principles I have been taught bearing fruit. My hope grows as my life and the lives of those around me change and improve.
With increased hope, my faith grows stronger, and my ability to love deepens.
So, that means spending time to learn and relearn that God really does exist, to discover and rediscover that He is the ultimate source of love and good, and to apply and reapply the principles and commandments taught in holy scripture, I not only increase my faith, I increase my hope and my charity.
Isn’t the gospel awesome?