“Developing Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 72
My beloved brothers and sisters, I would be ungrateful if I did not thank the many of you who have prayed for my well-being over the past few months. Medical science is marvelous, but above and beyond that, it takes special blessings from our Heavenly Father for healing to occur. I appreciate your prayers in my behalf.
I was told of a conversation by a Primary teacher, who related what transpired in his class. He was teaching the eleven-year-olds. He asked the question, “Suppose the Lord asked you to build a spaceship big enough to take you and your family and provisions off this planet? Could you do it?”
Steve spoke up and said, “Yes.”
And the teacher said, “Have you ever built a spaceship?”
“Have you ever built a model spaceship?”
“Have you ever seen one?”
Steve said, “Yes, on TV.” But then he declared, “You said the Lord told me to build it. If the Lord told me to build it, I could do it.”
I wonder how many of us as adults have that kind of faith. I would like to read in the Book of Mormon a great example of this kind of faith. I go to the seventeenth chapter of 1 Nephi:
“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me [Nephi], saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters” (1 Ne. 17:8).
Listen to the answer of this great Nephi:
“And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (1 Ne. 17:9).
And when his brothers realized that he was actually going to set about to build a ship, they said: “Why, you’re a fool. You don’t know how to construct a ship” (see 1 Ne. 17:17).
And then Nephi set about to teach them a great lesson.
How do you develop faith?
Let’s learn a great lesson from what transpired with Nephi. He started to recount the things that had happened that they all knew were a part of their heritage. He went back to the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt. He said: “You know what happened. There they were right against the Red Sea with the Egyptians coming, and the Lord saved them” (see 1 Ne. 17:26–27).
Then he goes on and talks about how they received manna in the wilderness, how they received water from a rock, how the Lord led them by a pillar of cloud in the daytime and a light at night, and how when they crossed the Jordan, it stopped when the feet of the priests touched the water (see 1 Ne. 17:28–30, 32; see also Ex. 13:21, Josh. 3:15–17). And then Nephi tells how the Lord scattered the people; and then how, when they came among the flying serpents, Moses fashioned a brazen serpent, raised it, and all they had to do was look at that serpent, and they would be healed. The account says that many perished because they wouldn’t even look (see 1 Ne. 17:32, 41; see also Num. 21:8–9).
He was trying to do what you and I as parents need to do with our families today—to develop faith in the Lord. And the way to do it is to recount the examples of faith that have happened in our history and in our heritage and with our people. That’s the value of history. It contains accounts of faith of our own blood and ancestry and of our own people and our children. As has already been said in this conference, we cannot go one generation without losing faith if we do not do this. And to rear a generation of faith for what we must do in these days, you and I simply must develop and increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s another principle: that is, that faith precedes the miracle. This lesson is found in Ether, chapter 12. You’ll recall that Moroni was abridging the records of the twenty-four plates, and this is what he records:
“And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not” (Ether 12:5).
They couldn’t see them; they wouldn’t believe them. They needed to be taught that believing is seeing. And then Moroni interpolates here:
“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” (Ether 12:6; italics added).
We need to learn that. We can’t have just faith. We cannot have the miracle until after the exercise of faith. Moroni sets forth on the next page or so instances of those miracles that have occurred after the trial of the faith of the people. We need to learn that principle as well.
I recall that when I was twenty years old, I went for an interview with the bishop to go on a mission. When I returned, my mother, all smiles, said, “Well, Ted, what did the bishop say?”
“He said I couldn’t go.”
“Why not?” my mother asked.
And I said, “Because we don’t have enough money.”
“If my father could leave two children and another to be born shortly after he left, you can go.”
I said, “I know that, but the bishop doesn’t.”
Parenthetically, I might say that he was doing his job right. He asked me if I had any money. I told him I had a few hundred dollars that I had earned that summer.
He said, “Then what?”
I said, “My dad would send it to me.”
He said, “Does your dad have it?”
I said, “No,” and he didn’t. We had lost our sheep herd during the Depression. My father was a livestock dealer buying lambs and wool on commission, and that was a very uncertain income.
The bishop said, “The Brethren have had some serious experiences, and so you cannot go unless you can guarantee that you’ll have sufficient money.”
I accepted that, and that’s what I told my mother.
That night we waited for Dad to come home and then held a family council. We concluded that we didn’t then have enough money—and that we wouldn’t, so far as we could see, anytime in the future. We decided to ask our neighbor, Tom Anderson, a rather wealthy man, if he would help. When we explained our situation, he said, “You tell the bishop that I will ‘back you.’”
Before the bishop opened his business the next morning, I was there waiting to tell him that Tom Anderson said he would back me. The bishop said, “That’s all I need to know.”
The interesting thing was that we never did have to call on Brother Anderson. My folks would send that check and with it a note, “This is for this month, and we’ll have the next month’s, too.”
I am a product of a household of faith. I learned faith in my home. I was taught it. It was drilled into me. I need that faith now as much as I ever did.
I think we all do. We’re not going to survive in this world, temporally or spiritually, without increased faith in the Lord—and I don’t mean a positive mental attitude—I mean downright solid faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the one thing that gives vitality and power to otherwise rather weak individuals.
I bear you my humble witness that I know that God lives. I know that he lives, that he is our Father, that he loves us. I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer.
I understand better what that means now. I am grateful for his atonement in our behalf and for knowing something about our relationship to him and to our Heavenly Father and about the meaning and purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for Joseph Smith. I know he was a prophet, and I know that President Ezra Taft Benson is a living prophet today. I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.