Monday, August 20, 2012

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

I gave a talk in church yesterday, my first talk I've ever had to give in a BYU ward, and I've been at BYU a whole three years! I was hoping to make it clear 'til graduation without having to speak in church, but no such luck.

This talk was a little bit hard for me to write. The topic I was given to speak on was "Faith." Normally when I have to give a talk I think about it for a couple weeks before I have to write it and by the time I sit down to put it all together, I have a million ideas and it's already basically written in my head. I've been struggling with having faith lately, though, and questioning, and it seems like these past few weeks the harder I'd try to pray for increased faith or to calm doubts, the more doubtful I'd become, and I wasn't sure I'd even be able to write a talk on faith, let alone give it to a congregation in Sacrament Meeting if I didn't really believe it myself.

It turns out that things came together, though, at the end. The talk I wrote was more of an exploration of faith for myself, and getting myself back on the right track. So this talk came at the perfect time in my life, I suppose, forcing me to study things out a little bit. Hopefully it was just as helpful to some of the people in the congregation as it was to me.

Anyway, my mom wanted to be there for my talk but wasn't able to, so I thought I'd just post it right here. Go ahead and read it if you want! Here she blows:

       Jesus’ disciples cried unto Him as they were in a ship, in the midst of a great storm. “Master! Carest thou not that we perish?” Christ arose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still.” Then he turned to His disciples and asked, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
       We know of another story when Christ’s disciples were in a ship, tossed about by wind and waves. They looked out and saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. In faith Peter was able to step off the ship and onto the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind and the waves he lost faith in his ability to make it to Christ. He began to sink and cried, “Lord, save me!” And as soon as he’d cried out, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught Peter. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
       What do we know about faith? In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we’re taught about faith constantly. And every time we’re taught a lesson on the topic, whether in Relief Society, Sunday School, or, I suppose Priesthood meetings, although I’ve never been to one of those, it always seems to go the same, something like this: The teacher gets up and says, “Today our lesson is about faith.  We all know the scripture in Alma 32 about how faith is believing in things that we can’t see, but what is faith really? What does faith mean to you?” And then a few people in the class raise their hands and give answers that are all pretty much the same, about hope and trust, and then the teacher of the class will say, “Well, those are all good answers, but here’s a definition of faith I found in the Webster Dictionary…” and then the lesson will go on the same way it always does, reading all the same scriptures about faith. And they really are good scriptures! But faith is hard for me to understand sometimes, even though I know where to find all the answers in the scriptures. 
       How is it that Jesus Christ’s own disciples, the men He chose to be His apostles, lacked faith when Christ was right there with them? How could Peter sink into the sea when he saw Jesus Christ standing on the water right in front of him? Sometimes I think to myself, “If I were one of His disciples back when Jesus lived on the earth, I’d surely always have faith in Him and I’d never doubt. If I could see Him working miracles, I’d always know of the truthfulness of the gospel and the power it brings.” But this isn’t faith, and as we learn all throughout the scriptures, seeing Christ and witnessing miracles doesn’t produce faith. Believing in Christ and recognizing miracles are results of faith that is already present.
       Faith is the first principle and ordinance of the gospel. But not just any faith! It must be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith in Christ and His Atonement must come before anything else, before we can repent and be forgiven and washed clean, before we can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. So we can’t just have faith, although it’s good to have faith in things; like, faith that we’ll find the right person to marry, or faith that a family member will start coming back to church after they’ve strayed. But faith in things won’t bring us salvation. It is only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that can redeem us of our hurt and sins, and bring us back to live with our Heavenly Father. This is why faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle and ordinance of the gospel.
       Faith is a special gift to us from a loving Heavenly Father. In a world of science, men are always needing proof. They need evidence to believe that something is true. Although it’s hard to hold and touch and see, we are taught in Hebrews 11:1 that faith has substance. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is our proof, our evidence, of all the things we need to believe that we cannot see. But then from there it seems to take more faith to trust that this faith really is the evidence we’re seeking. 
       I think that part of the journey towards having faith in Christ’s Atonement is having faith in faith. In the Book of Mormon, in Helaman chapter 15, the Nephites are being reminded of the time that the Lamanites buried their weapons of war and feared to sin. Verse 9 tells us that “this [was] because of their faith in Christ.” It’s the next few verses, though, that give me hope. They give me hope that, even when it’s difficult to understand the Atonement, I can have faith in faith, the faith that God will help me understand and that He won’t give up on me.  Verse ten reads:

"And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe in that thing which they do believe, for because of their firmness, when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days, notwithstanding their iniquity—"

And then we read about the promise to the Lamanites, that because they have believed in Christ, even during their weaker moments when they “dwindle in unbelief,” they will find their way back. Once they are enlightened, the Lord will bless them. And the Lord will bless us the same way! He doesn’t give up on us. He gives us time to learn what faith is and to believe and to grow. The end of verse 12 says, “And notwithstanding the many afflictions which they shall have, and notwithstanding they shall be driven to and fro upon the face of the earth, and be hunted, and shall be smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge, the Lord shall be merciful unto them.”

       In the next chapter of the Book of Mormon, Helaman 16, the people are witnessing signs and wonders that foretell Christ’s birth. Angels appeared unto men and the scriptures began to be fulfilled. Yet men doubted. 

“Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Nephites and also of the Lamanites, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying:

"Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.
"And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:
"That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come;"

       Sometimes I feel like I’m a Lamanite, having many afflictions and being hunted and smitten by my trials and temptations and weaknesses. And other times I feel like one of those unbelieving Nephites or Lamanites who hardened their hearts to the point where there wasn’t room for faith in Christ, even being surrounded by all these signs and miracles. But even as I am laden with doubts, I can remember times when I have known so completely that Christ is my Redeemer. I remember fasting and praying with my family for a loved one to be healed, and then feeling a healing in my own soul that can only come through Christ. I remember a visit to a bishop’s office where I learned of the power of Christ’s Atonement and left feeling so clean and pure and new that it was as if I’d just been born. I remember moments of pure gratitude at the amazing measure of love my Heavenly Father bestows upon me as He blesses me with things that I surely don’t deserve. And remembering these moments helps me remember that I actually do have faith. Not just faith in faith, or faith that I’ll someday have faith in Christ’s Atonement, but the knowledge that I already have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That I’ve already witnessed miracles in my life and that surely He’s still as real today as He was then. 

       Faith can sometimes be hard and doubt can be easy. The world tries to confuse us, and like the hardened Nephites and Lamanites, tries to reason away God and miracles and the Atonement. In Mosiah 16:8 & 9 Abinadi declares his testimony:

"But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. 

"He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death (emphasis added)."

       The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 10:17) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In Elder Hales’ talk “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said,

"The first step to finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to let His word—spoken by the mouth of His servants, the prophets—touch your heart. But it is not enough merely to let those words wash over you, as if they alone could transform you. We must do our part. Or as the Savior Himself said, 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' In other words, hearing requires an active effort. 'Faith without works is dead.' It means taking seriously what is taught, considering it carefully, studying it out in our minds. As the prophet Enos learned, it means letting others’ testimonies of the gospel '[sink] deep into [our] heart[s].'" 

       As we listen to others’ testimonies, and even remember our own past experiences, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to us and help our faith to grow. Doctrine and Covenants 46:13-14 teaches us, 

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

"To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”

Elder Hales also went on so say:

"When the challenges of mortality come, and they come for all of us, it may seem hard to have faith and hard to believe. At these times only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement can bring us peace, hope, and understanding. Only faith that He suffered for our sakes will give us the strength to endure to the end. When we gain this faith, we experience a mighty change of heart, and like Enos, we become stronger and begin to feel a desire for the welfare of our brothers and sisters. We pray for them, that they too will be lifted and strengthened through faith on the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ."

       This gospel is a gospel of faith. It’s a gospel of acting on our faith in Jesus Christ to change and grow and improve, and to help others have faith in Christ. We will know that our faith is sufficient when we have that peace, hope, and understanding that only the Atonement can bring, and the desire to share it with others.

  I hope we can all always seek for this faith in Christ, to continually strengthen it so that we won’t lose it. When the waters get rough and waves are crashing in, we need to remember that Christ won’t forsake us. He’s in the boat with us! He has the power to calm the sea, and because of His power we can overcome all things. 


Lynette said...

I love this, Jillian. I wish I could have been there, but thank you for posting this. Not your regular "Faith" talk, and I appreciated your thought and pondering. So good.

Kristen said...

Well done.