Sister Carol F. McConkie: How to Develop “Unwavering Faith”

Contributed By Sister Carol F. McConkie, Young Women General Presidency

  • 31 January 2017

Leaning into the Light: James 1:5, by Stanley J. Watts, cast bronze, edition 51/95, 1996.  Photo by Stanley J. Watts.

Article Highlights

  • Sister McConkie shares how to develop unwavering faith.
  • We can follow the example of Joseph Smith by studying, praying, and obeying.

“We cannot know what faith is if we have never had it, and we cannot obtain it as long as we deny it. Faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.” —President Thomas S. Monson

In last month’s Church News article, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, Young Women General President, encouraged leaders to assist youth in the process of gaining testimonies of Joseph Smith’s mission. (See related article.) Our Mutual theme this year teaches us to ask God that we may receive heavenly wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Unwavering faith is the key. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).

What does unwavering faith look like, and how do we develop that kind of faith? I have often had the privilege of standing on the seashore mesmerized by wind-driven waves as they appear and disappear. Even the great waves that roll into shore come crashing against the rocks and sand only to dissolve into foam or recede into the depths of the sea. None has staying power. If our faith is like waves, “tossed … and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), it will soon fade away. We must seek to obtain wisdom with unwavering faith—a faith that will not allow doubt to crowd out the assurances we have received from God by the power of the Holy Ghost.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “We cannot know what faith is if we have never had it, and we cannot obtain it as long as we deny it. Faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other” (“Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith,” Ensign, Mar. 2009, 6). When questions and doubts do arise, we exercise faith to cast them out of our minds. In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). Instead of being consumed by doubt and fear, we go directly to the source of truth, light, and knowledge.

Parents and leaders of young women can help them follow the example of young Joseph Smith. As they consistently study, pray, and humbly obey, they may receive divine wisdom and understanding that comes by the Spirit of God.


In the midst of a “war of words and tumult of opinions” about religion, Joseph Smith turned to the scriptures. After reading James 1:5, he said: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith—History 1:12). Joseph searched the word of God and was blessed with a life-changing spiritual experience. When young women search the word of God, they plant that seed into their hearts. By the Spirit, the word begins to grow, to enlarge the soul, to enlighten the understanding. We can encourage them to nourish the word, to ponder and pray, that with patience and diligence, “it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (see Alma 32:27–42).


Joseph Smith learned that knowledge from God comes in answer to humble prayer. When reading the word of God, Moroni exhorted: “Ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4–5).

From the very smallest concern to the most overwhelming trial that young women may face, they can receive knowledge and witness miracles through faithful study and prayer.


Joseph’s glorious vision and his communion with the Father and the Son was just the beginning of his test of faith. Temptations, persecution, and reviling raged about him. He knew that he had received knowledge from God, and in spite of all adversity, he had to act in harmony with the instruction he had received. By obedience, continual study, and prayer, he qualified for greater knowledge and was enabled by the power of God to bring about the miracle of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Young women today will face the winds of temptation, false doctrines, and the philosophies of men. But our young women are daughters of God and they have a work to do. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught to let them be candid about their questions, but do not let those questions “stand in the way of faith working its miracle” (“Lord, I Believe,” Apr. 2013 general conference). May we help them desire to study, pray, and obey, that by the Spirit they may be filled with unwavering faith and receive a sure testimony, even the knowledge of God.