What is Faith?

Faith as a grain of mustard seed. Faith can move mountains. Faith in every footstep. I walk by faith. Be faithful to those you love. Old faithful. Trial of faith. Go on faith. Keep the faith. ‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith, faith-ah.

What is faith?

faith   (fth)
NOUN:

  1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
  2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
  3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.
  4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.
  5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
  6. A set of principles or beliefs

                                                                     ~American Heritage Dictionary

 

Does that really clear it up? Faith is a concept that I frequently struggle with. The scriptures site many examples of great works and miracles being performed on the basis of faith. I read of mountains moved, famines begun and stopped, city walls tumbling, and the dead being raised. And I’m sure that my faith is lacking. I question to what extent it even exists. If these things can be done with faith equal to a grain of mustard seed, then where does that leave me. Honestly, folks, it just doesn’t look good. And, from that perspective, I become discouraged.

But, is this perspective accurate?

Hebrews 11:1 states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Alma 32:21* shares a similar sentiment:

And now as I said concerning faith–faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

And Ether 12:6* completes the idea:

And now, 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.

These are the scriptures that I cling to when I struggle with the concept of faith. Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of something. Indeed, once we do have knowledge, we no longer have faith. The two cannot exist together–you have one, or you have the other. This concept is stated in Alma 32:18:

Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.

So the question becomes, is my hang-up with the concept of faith, or knowledge? If I am being completely honest with myself, there are many things of a religious nature that I don’t feel I can say that I know are true. Things I haven’t seen, or experienced. Things that fall under the physical limitations of this world. But I believe them. I have hope. I have experienced their effects. The desire to know is there. The faith, then, exists.

Which, I suppose, takes me back to my initial concern–is the faith sufficient? Or do I fall into the trap described in Alma 32:17:

Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

What is the true desire: to have faith, or to have some sort of proof? Hebrews 11 gives repeated accounts of scriptural figures that demonstrated faith and received signs: Moses, Abraham, Noah, Sara, and on, and on…Does the questioning come from a lack of miracles on the scale as these people? Certainly, though, as I explore my own life, miracles have existed. Heck, Sara and I certainly have a little bit in common (I may not be past the age of conception, but I was certainly told–numerous times and in no uncertain terms–that I would never conceive without major medical intervention). I have seen my children protected in frightening circumstances. I have seen those close to me healed. I have felt a deep realization that the Lord knows me–who I am and where my strengths lie. I don’t think that my uncertainties necessarily come from a desire to see some sort of sign.

Truth be told, I think my fears come because I wonder if I’m worthy. What, exactly, determines if you’ve reached a mustard seed? Could I have wondered in the wilderness for 40 years, following a man who was slow of speech, and not complained? Could I, like my religious forefathers, have built and left multiple homes and cities to follow Brigham Young through uncharted wilderness to live far beyond what currently constituted civilization? If I were the wealthy young man asking Jesus what I should do to more completely be his disciple, could I have answered the call to sell all that I had and leave all that I know to follow Him?

I wish I could say that I know that I would. I can’t. But I certainly hope that, if the trial were to come, my faith would  not be lacking.

 

*I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons). As such, I believe in the Book of Mormon, in addition to the Bible. As I explore the concept of faith, my own religious beliefs will, naturally, be used and the Book of Mormon will also be quoted.

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