“Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 28–29
On one occasion, the Savior encountered a great multitude of people who were listening to a discussion between His disciples and the scribes. He then asked the scribes, “What question ye with them?”
A certain man, kneeling down to Him, answered that he had asked the disciples to cast an evil spirit out of his son, but “they could not.” The father begged Him, saying, “But if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
The Savior then rebuked the evil spirit and charged it to “come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him.”1
All of us have come face-to-face with difficult, even desperate hours, when with tears we have fallen on our knees and pled as did this father, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
Just as the Savior stood ready to help this father whose son was “sore vexed,”2 so is He ready to help our unbelief today so that with faith we can survive our mortal struggles and “come off conqueror.”3
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than mere belief.4 Faith is a “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”5 “Faith always moves its possessor to … physical and mental action.”6 “To have faith in Jesus Christ means to have such trust in him that we obey whatever he commands. There is no faith where there is no obedience.”7
Mary’s reply to the angel’s announcement provides an excellent example. Mary was told by the angel Gabriel: “Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” Mary then obediently said to Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”10
On another occasion, “Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
“And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”11
After the Savior’s Resurrection, Peter and other disciples went “a fishing.” However, “that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.” He told them to “cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”12
We find similar faith-developing obedience in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Following the angel Moroni’s all-night-long visits with him in September 1823, Joseph went to work in the morning with his father. Having been awake nearly all night, he “found [his] strength so exhausted as to render [him] entirely unable” to perform “the necessary labors of the day.” His father told him to return home, and he “started with the intention of going to the house; but … [his] strength entirely failed [him], and [he] fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.” When he awoke, he “looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over [his] head, surrounded by light as before.” Joseph was commanded to “go to [his] father and tell him of the vision and commandments which [he] had received.” Although understandably weary, he obediently “returned to [his] father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him.” His father replied “that it was of God, and told [him] to go and do as commanded.” Exhausted but obedient, Joseph then “left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told [him] the plates were deposited, a journey of several miles.”13
Each day we decide what we will do and what we will not do, among myriad alternatives. When we choose to obey the commandments cheerfully as our first priority, neither murmuring about nor measuring the things He commands, we become the handmaids of the Lord and fishers of men and cast our nets on the right side of our own ships. We simply go and do the things the Lord has commanded, even when we are weary, trusting that He will help us to do exactly as He asks.14 As we do so, the Lord helps our unbelief, and our faith becomes powerful, vibrant, and unshakable. The Prophet Joseph wrote from Liberty Jail, “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance [or faith], to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”15
No matter who we are or where we live, there is much about our daily lives that is routine and repetitive. As we go about this dailiness, we must be deliberate about doing the things that matter most. These must-do things include making room first for the minimum daily requirements of faithful behavior: true obedience, humble prayer, serious scripture study, and selfless service to others. No other daily vitamins strengthen the muscles of our faith as fast as these actions. We also must remember that genuine fasting fosters strong faith. This is especially important as we faithfully seek to fix deeply embedded character flaws which go “not out but by prayer and fasting.”16
Developing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a step-by-step, line-upon-line, and precept-upon-precept process. We promote the process of strengthening our faith when we do what is right—increased faith always follows as a consequence.17 If we exercise our faith daily with prayer, study, and obedience, the Savior helps our unbelief, and our faith becomes a shield to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”18 Alma taught that we may “withstand every temptation of the devil, with [our] faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”19 However, we can neither ignore nor reject the essential ingredients of faith and then expect to reap a rich harvest.
We see countless examples of faith developing in Church members today. As young men, young women, and mature couples accept calls to serve missions, as couples prepare themselves in virtue to be married in the holy temple, as parents train up children in the way they should go,20 they strengthen their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we keep the Sabbath day holy, magnify callings, pay tithes and offerings, welcome new members into Church circles, and invite friends and neighbors to learn gospel truths, we strengthen our faith. When we choose to abandon our sins and repent willingly, and when we fall to our knees in prayer in good times as well as in turbulent times, we develop strong faith.
We then find occurring in our own lives an experience described in the Book of Mormon: “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”21
I know that the Savior lives and that He helps our unbelief. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.