“16. Essay on Faith: Mary B. Ferguson,” At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (2017), 65–68
“16. Mary B. Ferguson,” At the Pulpit, 65–68
As faith is the first principle of the gospel, it is necessary to inquire, What is faith? The scriptures tell us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”;13 for example, if I should tell you that by going to a certain place you could obtain a piece of gold or a pearl of great beauty, and consequently you go and find it, you manifest your faith by your works.14 Thus it is when we obey the gospel, certain blessings follow; but if we say we believe and do not obey, then is our faith vain. It is like the body without the spirit, dead. It was this living faith, my young sisters, which caused your fathers and mothers to obey the gospel in their native lands and homes; in the midst of scorn and persecution, through faith they left homes and kindred and all they held dear and embarked on the mighty ocean, tossed upon the waves and billows for weeks and months, far from the sight of land, seasick and weary, but still trusting in the arm of Jehovah to bring them safely to a haven of rest; and many of them had never known the trials and hardships of life, leaving weeping friends distracted with grief, who had not faith, and did not understand the purposes of God.15 Through faith they traveled across the plains with the slow wearisome travel of oxen—but still more wearisome traveled with handcarts. Think of it, my young sisters: your fathers and mothers traveling over a thousand miles drawing a handcart, with their rations and bedding, cooking utensils, clothing and etc., many of them with little children; fording rivers up to their waists and toiling through miles of heavy sand, and yet by the campfire at night their songs of praise resounded to God, for the principles of faith were planted in their bosoms;16 they had an assurance of things not seen; by faith they arrived in these valleys; they were not then the rich fertile valleys you now see. By faith they subdued the sterile, barren soil and through the blessings of God succeeded in making the wilderness blossom as the rose.17 It may yet be said of us in succeeding generations as it has been said of Moses: they struck the soil, and it brought forth abundantly; but it has taken years of arduous toil—toil that now tells on the constitution of those who have passed through it.
Time would fail me to tell you of the trials of our faith caused by crickets, grasshoppers, droughts, floods, and also by the persecution of our enemies; but in all we are an exceedingly blessed and happy people; and through faith we intend to grow and increase and spread abroad till, like Abraham of old, of our increase there shall be no end.18
Now, my dear young friends, you need not think that because we have done so much there is nothing for you to do; you have got to spread abroad. You need not think that the territory of Utah is going to hold the children of Zion. You will have to build up new colonies.
It is for our young people, as they are called upon, to leave fathers and mothers, for Zion’s stakes must be strengthened and her “cords lengthened.”19 “Give us room that we may dwell, Zion’s children cry aloud.”20 The scriptures are fulfilling right before our eyes; the wicked are afraid that we will take away their name and nation, but the prophecies must be fulfilled, though earth and hell should dare oppose.
Therefore, contend earnestly for the faith delivered in these last days to your fathers, that you may be enabled through faith to help bring to pass the purposes of Jehovah; and may the quickening influence of the Spirit of God rest upon the children of Zion, that it may be as a living fire within them, bringing forth much fruit unto righteousness. Then can you say with the poet:
In danger, in trials and afflictions,
We have shared with the worthies of yore,
That we at truth’s banquet may join them,
When error’s great conflict is o’er.21