Episode 55

The Power of God

Hey everyone. Welcome to this episode of the Latter Day Disciples podcast. Hope you all have been having a wonderful New Year. It’s crazy that we’re getting into February already, although January always seems to last forever, so maybe that’s a good thing. But for our topic today and for our podcast, I wanted to share something with you guys that I have been studying over the last year, really, but really significantly here at the end of 2022 and into 2023. It’s something that I feel like the Lord is personally tutoring me about right now. It’s been interesting to say the least, but last year I was instructed in a blessing to study the concept of faith. And I found that interesting because faith seems to be something that is generally accepted as well understood. I think that for the most part, we would say that we have a good idea of what faith is, but the Lord told me to study this more in depth.  I started to do so in the summer, but was sidetracked with many of the other topics that I was also instructed to study and was pursuing. And then at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, I was led to study the topic again. And one of the most significant resources that the Lord led me to on this topic is The Lectures on Faith. And for those of you who don’t know, The Lectures on Faith was the doctrine part of Doctrine and Covenants. It was a seven part series on the topic of faith. It was written collaboratively. We believe Joseph Smith had a significant role in assembling these lectures, although we don’t know to what extent was his writing and what was written by others. It was originally delivered to the School of the Elders in 1834 and 1835, and you can look up and research why it was that they were dis-included from the Doctrine and Covenants later on. There are some things that people found to be confusing, and so ultimately they determined to take it out of what we consider to be the canon of Doctrine and Covenants. Personally, I don’t find any explanation super satisfying. But regardless, you can find on the church website that we still consider it to be very rich in terms of helping us understand the concept of faith. And I personally believe that it will shift significantly. I keep saying significantly. Hmm. Let’s just assume that the Spirit is telling me to say that and you guys can learn from it. But I think that it has the propensity to greatly shift our understanding of what faith is and what the purpose of faith is. And so today I want to talk about some of the core insights I’ve gained through studying these lectures in the hopes that it will open your eyes and give you some new understanding that perhaps you didn’t have before and what it actually means to have faith, to be faithful and how you can better apply that in your life. This is not going to be exhaustive. This is my personal perception. So please take it with a grain of salt as always, and do your own research. I never want people to be looking to me as a source of truth because, no truth is the savior. So please look to him in all these things.

Understanding Faith

So starting off, one of the very first lectures is about defining faith, and they refer to Hebrews 11, verse one that says, “Now faith is the substance or the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It’s a fairly familiar definition. I think that we relate it quite a bit to the one that Alma gives in the Book of Mormon. For me, I found it really helpful lately to utilize the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary to have a definition of these English words that are more aligned with Joseph Smith and with his language because even in the last 200 years, heck, even in the last five years, the English language has shifted dramatically in terms of what words mean and their context and how they can be applied. So if we look up the word assurance, ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for. It says that it is a firm persuasion, full confidence or trust, freedom from doubt, certain expectation, the utmost certainty. I think this is so beautiful and powerful because we tend to think of assurance as like a comfort; it’s a soothing thing that calms our fears and helps us to feel more comfortable. But this definition is saying that faith is the utmost certainty of things hoped for. I want you to keep that in mind. We’re going to come back to it regularly throughout this podcast. And for those of you who are thinking, okay, well then I have no faith, just hang on with me for a little bit because we’re going to see a lot more. We’re going to understand a lot better how it is that we can obtain this utmost certainty.

The other word that I looked at is evidence. It says that ‘faith is the evidence of things not seen’.  In the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, evidence is described as ‘that which elucidates and enables the mind to see truth, proof arising from our own perceptions by the senses, from the testimony of others, or from inductions of reason.’ So if we take these definitions together, faith is the utmost certainty of things hoped for, the proof of perceived truth, though not seen. It’s not just belief. And also it’s not meant to be intangible as we often treat it. You know, evidence is most often perceived through the five senses. And I think that it would be shortsighted to think that God won’t provide evidence for us that way. We certainly experience spiritual evidence and confirmations, as it was saying, through reason or through the testimony of others. And the spirit testifies to us and we can have that spiritual witness. But it would be short sighted to assume that we cannot also have witnesses of our five senses, meaning we see things. We hear things. We smell things. Eventually, God willing, we can touch things and touch and reach Him.

Okay, so it goes on to say that faith is the moving cause of all action. This is really important.  Referring back to those of you who are perhaps considering whether or not you have faith or how much you have, the truth of the matter is that we all possess faith. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to live. We make choices every day based on what we perceive will come from taking a certain course of action. If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to Jeff Buehner’s episode on Faith, Agency and Creation that we did last year, I really encourage you to do that because I think he gave a great perspective on this fact; that we all move in this pattern, this is how everything is brought to pass in our lives, even if it’s something as simple as, ‘what am I going to wear today’.  We mentally create, ‘what will I look like if I pick this white shirt versus this blue shirt’? And which one do I prefer? Which one is going to better meet my needs today? So we all have faith and we’re moving in a pattern of faith all the time.

So what is this faith that we’re talking about in the Scriptures then? What is faith in Jesus Christ? What does that actually mean? Well, it goes on to talk about how faith is a principle not only of action, so the thing that motivates us to act, but also of power.  A direct quote says, “But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth, the principle of power, which existed in the bosom of God by which the worlds were framed, was faith, and that it is by reason of this principle of power existing in the Deity that all created things exist, so that all things in heaven, on earth or under the earth exist by reason of faith as it existed in him.” I want you to listen to this so carefully. The power which exists independent in Elohim, in our Heavenly parents, in Christ, is faith. Not priesthood. It doesn’t say that. I mentioned this in another episode, and it’s a little bit of a teaser because we’re going to go into this topic more in depth in future episodes. But this is something that I would suggest to you right now. Priesthood is a divine organization by which we have the opportunity to inherit and come to the power of God, which is faith. Take some time to ponder that for a while, because this is a truth that we have strayed from a little bit and misinterpreted.  Gerald Lund said that faith is the power by which God speaks and worlds, solar systems and universes come into being. So when we speak of faith, we speak of tremendous power, even the power that can save a man from temporal and spiritual death. This is so vital for us to understand because faith is equal opportunity. It’s not exclusive to anyone. I would argue that the priesthood isn’t either, but that’s another conversation. But the fact is, as long as we are choosing to submit to the pattern of the Lord to obtain this gift of faith and power, it is available to you. It is said that the first great governing principle which has power, dominion and authority over all things is faith. Again, take as much time as you need to contemplate that and to rewrite your definition of faith as belief or  this kind of ethereal, untouchable thing.

The Objective of Our Faith

So the next lecture talks about the object of our faith. What does our faith need to be in? And this is where we start to get a little bit more into the nitty gritty of what we need to be applying our faith towards. And they make the argument so convincing that God is the only entity and being worthy of our utmost certainty by which we can obtain proof of the truth. I think that this is fairly well accepted. We all have faith but the most important thing to have faith in is God, is Jesus Christ. Now I’m going to take that one step further. Why? To what end is it so essential that we have faith in Jesus Christ? If we just say faith in Jesus Christ, we’re cutting short a greater principle. We are suggesting that we have utmost certainty and proof of truth but in what? That he lived? Many historians will agree to that fact. That he’s our Savior. Well, many other Christians believe that. All other Christians believe that. Is it the certainty that he loves us? Yes, that is abundantly clear in the scriptures. So what is it then, that our faith in Jesus Christ is meant to be producing in us? What is the purpose of our faith? 

Now, if we were just going to go by our behavior, it seems that we think that the purpose of faith is to have faith and that it is an end unto itself. We desire faith to see us through hardships, to allow us to better weather the storms of life. And we exercise faith to be free from the shame and guilt of our sins. But are we limiting ourselves? Are we limiting the power of God in our lives? His faith in us by only suggesting that those are the purposes of faith? In Doctrine and Covenants 101, verse eight it suggests that many saints will only feel after God in the day of their trouble. See, the problem with this is that we’re suggesting that faith is just to see us through our problems. It’s just to get us through life and allow Christ to help us in that pursuit. And I think that that is very, very important. But I don’t think that that is the ultimate goal of our faith or it shouldn’t be at least. And The Lectures on Faith go into this really beautifully. This is the purpose of faith that they suggest and that they advocate for. It says, “The extent of their knowledge, our knowledge, respecting God’s character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him. Until, like Enoch, the brother of Jared and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God and power with him to behold his face. To behold him face to face.”  Might I suggest that the moving purpose of our faith in Jesus Christ should be that we may come to an utmost certainty and proof of Him to the degree that we have the power to behold him? If this is the case, then it means that we have truly become like him. Our flesh has been sanctified sufficiently by our utmost certainty in Jesus Christ. They testify of this reality further by saying, “Having aroused their minds to inquire after the knowledge of God, the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed always terminated, when rightly pursued in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty.” This was speaking of those wonderful men and women like Enoch and the brother of Jared and Moses previously mentioned who applied their faith to the ultimate purpose, which was that they would grow in the pattern of the Lord, through Jesus Christ to glorious discoveries and eternal certainty, the kind that can only be had by those who have seen God.

Throughout The Lectures on Faith they use this phrase, ‘until life and salvation’ that our faith is not just meant for mortal support and success, but rather for life eternal and that we may be saved from the fiery darts and the flames of hell, which is separation from God. I quote them when they say, “Let us here observe that the real design, which the God of Heaven had in view in making the human family acquainted with his attributes, was that they through the ideas of the existence of his attributes might be enabled to exercise faith in him and through the exercise of faith in him, might obtain eternal life, for without the idea of the existence of the attributes which belong to God, the minds of men could not have power to exercise faith on him so as to lay hold upon eternal life. The God of Heaven understanding most perfectly the constitution of human nature and the weakness of man, knew what was necessary to be revealed and what ideas must be planted in their minds in order that they might be enabled to exercise faith in him unto eternal life.” Another word for the ‘promise phrase’, I suppose for the ‘promise of eternal life’ is called having your ‘calling and election made sure’. This is something that we’ve mentioned in previous podcasts, and perhaps you’ve heard it in various circles in the Church. It is an inward spiritual ordinance paralleled perfectly in the temple that is available to any and all of God’s children who will submit themselves to the pattern of the temple, the pattern of ascension, and allow God to change them. And this is the preeminent blessing of faith that we should be seeking. The Lectures say that “The mind is led to rejoice amid all its trials and temptations in hope of that glory, which is to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ. His revelation to you, not to the world at large, not just past the veil of death, but when he’s ready to come to you. And in view of that crown, which is to be placed upon the heads of the Saints in the day when the Lord shall distribute rewards into them and in prospect of that eternal weight of glory, which the Lord has promised to bestow upon them, when He shall bring them back into the midst of his throne, to dwell in His presence eternally.” A couple of things I want to point out really quickly here, as we’re talking about some beautiful, deep truths of the gospel, is that in having this view of faith, we accomplish all of the things that we are already trying to use our faith for. And we do so with much more power and conviction and truth. We can look to faith in Jesus Christ just to the degree to get us through mortality. And it won’t get us much further than that. Or, we can apply this pattern of faith, the utmost certainty that we can achieve, that we can obtain through Jesus Christ, being that we know for a fact that the Lord has promised to us individually that we may come and behold Him and live with Him. And in doing that, all of our trials and temptations are put in their minuscule and absolute true perspective. Life is so much easier to endure when you know exactly what it is you are directing your faith towards. 

So I said earlier we were going to talk to those who are listening to this and saying, okay, well, I don’t have faith. I know the feeling. Believe me, I’m there too, a lot of times. So how is it that we can obtain this degree of faith, faith in Jesus Christ to move us past all obstacles in pursuit of the promise of eternal life with Him? Don’t be overwhelmed. First off, remember, we all have faith, and many of us have it quite abundantly. The goal now is to channel our faith towards what the goal of faith is supposed to be, which is to see God, to be like them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. People like to quote the scripture that if you have faith, even as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. I thought that I had about that is that it’s not so much about the quantity of faith that you have as it is about what a seed represents. A mustard seed is going to grow into exactly what it’s meant to become, a mustard plant. And so we need to make sure that our faith is directed appropriately to grow into what it is meant to become, which is the realization of the promise of eternal life.

I hope this also gives you some different perspective on what losing faith or living the faith or leaving the faith really means. It has more to do with directing our faith towards something else. And the Lectures do such a great job of proving, as we mentioned earlier, that God is the only object that can consistently and perfectly conduct our faith to the desired outcome. The reality is that in and out of the church, many of us aren’t directing our faith to what it is meant to become. So we have very little room to judge those who direct their faith outside of what we believe. Our energy is much better spent by considering our own mustard seed and ensuring that it is growing up to be the mustard plant that it is designed to be. 

Prerequisites of Faith

One of the prerequisites to obtaining this faith that is definitely worth mentioning is knowledge. We read in the scriptures that you cannot be saved or exalted in ignorance. There are a couple of different requirements that I want to talk about that they also discuss in Lectures on Faith. They say, “Let us here observe that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God until life and salvation.” (Again read eternal life, exaltation and salvation.) “First, the idea that he actually exists. Second, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which we are pursuing is according to God’s will.” So let’s break these down a little bit. First, the idea that God actually exists. Well, I would say that, generally speaking, his existence is actively and constantly acknowledged in the church and by his disciples, at least mentally, maybe we can behave a little bit differently to show that we truly believe in the existence of God. The second one, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. I think this one is interesting because we often, well, I won’t say often, but it’s very easy to convolute the correct idea of God. Often I think that that is the result of our own misperceptions about ourselves, traditions of our fathers that we have inherited that we might not even know are false, and also the most common veil that we all experience and must have rent, which is the veil of unbelief. This is what I mean when I talk about repentance being anything that comes in the way of us and God; a correct understanding of God. And sometimes that’s our trauma. Sometimes that’s our past that is keeping us from truly discovering him. And we have to submit to him. We have to submit to the Lord and allow him to teach us what we need to remove or revisit or relearn to have a true understanding of who he really is. We have to relinquish the false things that we believe about ourselves and others. We have to allow him to be our compass. Repentance is not just for sin, it’s for everything that keeps us from him. And then the last thing, we have to have knowledge that the course we are individually pursuing is according to his will. I want to spend some time on this concept of our life’s course. I think that many of us have at least a passive belief that everything happens for a reason, or that God is orchestrating all things to be for our good. And those are both true. But that is not what this requirement is actually alluding to. This requirement that we have knowledge that the course we are pursuing is in accordance with God’s will indicates that we must be actively seeking to know His path for our lives and are pursuing that course by use of our agency in the most perfect obedience we can muster at the most granular level we can come to. What I mean by that is that I think that we know we can seek revelation about the big things in our lives, about who to marry, where to go to school, what career to choose, how many children to have. But we need to be applying that same diligence in seeking and asking and knocking to everything in our lives. When I’ve been at my most spiritual heights, I have found myself asking, “Lord, do you want me to do the dishes or play with my children right now?” And sometimes the answer was different, sometimes it was, ‘you need to do the dishes’. And other times it was, ‘go play with your kids, the dishes can wait’. He has a path for us every day, every minute and it’s our opportunity to seek that. I think this is where many of us can be led off course. Quoting The Lectures on Faith, it says, “Such was and always will be, the situation of the saints of God that unless they have an actual knowledge, that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint, for such has always been and always will be, the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven. The only thing which ensures eternal life that they will persecute to the utmost all that worship God, according to his revelations, receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man will enable them to exercise that confidence in Him necessary for them to overcome the world and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.” Again, I hope this gives a little bit more context to those who have chosen to direct their faith towards other objects. Those objects are demanding our faith. This world demands our adherence, our certainty, our senses in every capacity. And so we have to be so intentional about choosing the Lord at all times and in all things, and in all places. So receiving this utmost certainty, what are the main ingredients? Well, I would suggest that the first, as revealed in the temple and in our covenants and all throughout scripture is sacrifice. The lectures, say “It is vain for persons to fancy themselves, that they are heirs with those or can be heirs with them who have offered their all in sacrifice and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with Him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering, obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.” So what sacrifice is it referring to? Well, we learn in the scriptures that the Lord requires of us a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A broken heart to me signifies our whole selves, holding back nothing from him, the good, the bad and the ugly, giving it to him and saying, ‘You know what? I’m yours.’ A contrary spirit could be our submissive will saying, ‘Lord, I don’t have any more desires of myself. For my life or otherwise. I want you to have me. And use me as you will. And I will do whatever it is you say.’ With sacrifice always comes obedience. L. Whitney Clayton said “There is no faith where there is no obedience. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. I think the Word of God to you, your personal revelation. And it is a spiritual gift. Faith increases when we not only hear, but act on the Word of God as well, in obedience to the truth we have been taught. We offer the Lord whatever he asks of us, which will include our whole heart and a willing mind. We offer this through relinquishing our hold on the things of the world by abandoning the illusion of our own control and by bowing ourselves down under the weight of his glory and our own nothingness. We resolved to give all that we have and all that we are to him forevermore. This is the pattern of receiving the gift of faith. We offer sacrifice to the Lord. We are obedient to whatever it is he tells us to further sacrifice. He bestows upon us the gift of faith, for the purpose of growing up to see him, to be like him, and to receive the promise to us individually, that we will return to them. This gift of faith allows us to increase in knowledge of him, to allow us to endure to the end. Which end, I would suggest from my study of scriptures is actually that calling an election, that promise that we finally obtain, that we have served sufficiently in mortality to come unto them at the end and then to receive a crown of exultation. Faith is a gift. This is not something that we can muster through our own efforts. We cannot come to utmost certainty, nor can we obtain proof of truth without Gods intervening in our lives. Instead, we submit to this pattern. We perfect our sacrifice, which is possible. That perfect obedience is possible, until this gift is bestowed upon us. And often it comes in the form of an actual spiritual experience, an endowment from God. Most, from my studies, I can see, obtain this as a gift upon their baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. So the statement that Joseph Smith made, that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same soul at the same time is actually true. I think we’ve spent a lot of the narrative of the last couple of decades trying to debunk that but when we see faith in its true context, we understand that that is absolutely the case. How can utmost certainty and proof of the truth that we’ve obtained also exist with doubt? It can’t. We have qualified for and received the endowment of an actual experience, a gift from God that is discernible, that is unforgettable. And it does put to death our doubt. Quoting The Lectures, it said, “God became an object of faith among men after the fall. And what it was that stirred up the faith of multitudes to feel after him, to search after a knowledge of his character, perfections and attributes until they became extensively acquainted with him and not only commune with him and behold his glory, but be partakers of his faith and stand in his presence.” I hope that this gives you some shift of perspective.

A Leap of Faith

Just wrapping up here, I want to close with my own experience lately. I told you that the Lord has been tutoring me on this principle. And I did post about this and I ended up removing it a couple of weeks ago for personal reasons. But for those of you who saw it and those of you who didn’t, a little bit of context. At the beginning of this year, I was praying for a year of sanctification. And honestly, that was kind of a hard thing for me to pray for with real intent, because I knew this; that sanctification most often comes from rendering service or from suffering. And I knew that I was essentially asking the Lord to give me the suffering that I need to be refined and to be purified and to become more like him. And that was kind of a daunting thing to pray for but I did some wrestling and finally got to the place where I felt like I could ask for that with real intent as a part of my New Year’s reflection and forward thinking. So that happened. And then a couple of weeks later, we were about to buy a house. The Lord had led us to a home and had told me that it was mine if I wanted it. And he told us what to do with our previous home that was so perfect, it was so inspired, like the kind of inspiration that could not have come from me at all. And so we’re getting ready. We’re packing. We’re preparing for this. And I end up getting a notification that I’m going to be laid off from my job. And there was a question of, what am I supposed to do in this situation? Because I know that God is real. I know that He is good, merciful and loving. And just so interested in keeping his promises not just to me, but to the other people involved in the situation. And I also knew that he had led us here, that this was his will, that we had seen it throughout the previous six weeks, that everything was perfectly orchestrated by him, far more than it ever could have been if it was us and our efforts. And so we had this conflict and our situation was such that we could  stop. We could put everything on hold, we could cancel the transaction. Or I was still employed for a couple of weeks, technically, and if we chose to, we could move forward and it would be fine with all the parties involved, with lenders and all of that. And I was heartbroken. I was so heartbroken, more so for my family members who were purchasing our previous home than I was for myself. We would still have a home. It would be stressful to find a new job, but they wouldn’t. And that was really devastating to me. And I was sitting in this work meeting, listening to them talk about the forthcoming layoffs and it just felt so incomplete to me. It just felt like this is not God. This is just men. This is just the world trying to have its say in my life. And it struck me that I didn’t have to do what they seemed to be making me. Or wanting to make me do. And this was really, really shocking.  I don’t know if I want to say I am very logical, but I understood the complete lack of logic in pursuing this and with a decreased income and the stress and the fear and the jumping off a cliff, willingly, that this would entail. But I had those three elements needed to exercise faith. And beyond that, I have the perspective that my faith was not just to get a house or to have a job or even just to trust the Lord that he would make it work. I had the perspective that this is a minuscule, almost imperceptible moment in eternity when I get to choose who I am pursuing, and what power I would give the world to set me off course from what I knew God wanted for me and for other people. And I knew that this choice would answer my prayer to sanctify me. That it would be an extreme exercise in faith. That I want to pursue blessings that transcend this terrestrial sphere. And because of those things, we felt impressed and we decided to move forward. And you guys, we’re still in the middle of this story. It hasn’t come to its conclusion yet. I still am unsure of what exact miracles the Lord will be performing but I know that he will be. And we pray for that. And we tell him and we say, ‘Lord, we’re so excited for the miracle that you’re going to be performing in our lives’. I don’t say any of this to boast of myself because I’m not worthy to be boasted of, I promise, but I will boast in my God. Because I know that in his strength we can do all things. It is my prayer that we can each obtain this gift of faith, that we can point our faith towards what it is meant to become, that we can grow up in the Lord to become like him. To be his sons and daughters in the truest sense possible, and I pray that we will do it with urgency. And with the understanding of the truth that this path is available to you as soon as you choose it. That it need not wait for death. Or disaster. Or any other impetus than just your agency. I love you guys. Have an incredible week. 

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Lectures on Faith

Webster’s Dictionary 1825 ed.

Hebrews 11:1



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