“The How and Why of Faith-promoting Stories,” New Era, July 1978, 4
We have in the Church an untapped, almost unknown, treasury of inspiring and faith-promoting stories. They are the best of their kind and there are thousands of them.
One reason they are the best and most inspiring faith-promoting stories is because they were selected and edited by the Lord himself. They are the ones he had, his prophets choose and place in the holy scriptures so that we would have samples before us of how to act and what to do in all the circumstances that confront us in life.
They are stories of real people who faced real problems and who solved them in a way that was pleasing to the Lord. They have been preserved for us so that we will know how to act and what to do in all the affairs of our daily lives.
As it happens, we live in a day when there is nothing as outdated as yesterday’s news. Everyone wants to know what is happening today and what likely will occur tomorrow. Our tendency is to bury the past. We almost take pride in neglecting the lessons of history. We are like the people of Athens who assembled at the Areopagus to feed their minds on all the strange tales and unusual happenings of the day—“For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” (Acts 17:21.) This almost sounds like some of the news-starved people of the 20th century who keep their ears glued to their radios and their eyes riveted on their television sets lest they miss what has happened in the last half hour on the other side of the globe.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with telling a modern faith-promoting story, one that has happened in our dispensation, one that occurred in the lives of living people whom we know, whose voice we can hear, and whose spirit we can feel. Indeed, this should be encouraged to the full. We should make every effort to show that the same things are happening in the lives of the Saints today as transpired among the faithful of old. Unless our religion is a living thing that changes the lives of people in whose nostrils the breath of life is now inhaled, it has no saving power.
Unless we enjoy the same gifts and work the same miracles that marked the lives of those who have gone before, we are not the Lord’s people. The Lord our King is the same yesterday, today, and forever. A soul is just as precious in his sight now as it ever was. He is no respecter of persons, and anytime any of us exercise the same faith that moved the ancients in their pursuit of righteousness, we will enjoy the same gifts and blessings that attended their ministries.
It is an eternal law that “these signs shall follow them that believe.” (Mark 16:17.) They “never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.” (Moro. 10:19.) At any moment when we have the faith of the ancients, we shall also enjoy the same gifts and blessings that they possessed.
I think the proper course for us to pursue is to turn to the holy scriptures and learn what the Lord has done for the people of his church in days of old. The more we know about the way an unchangeable God has operated in days past, the greater surety we will have that he will repeat himself in days present.
The faith-promoting stories in the scriptures will accomplish their purpose if we will let them, and that purpose is to create faith in our hearts so that we will trust in the same Lord who blessed our forebears and thereby inherit the same blessings that he poured out upon them.
Do you know the story of a young, teenage girl who told a great general where to find the prophetic counsel that cured him of leprosy? (2 Kgs. 5)
What really happened on Mount Moriah when a great patriarch took his son up its slopes? (Gen. 22.)
How well do you know the story of Nephi and his journey to America? (1 Ne.)
What experience in the life of Jesus caused him to say: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2.)
There was a Nephite prophet who was born again in a miraculous manner—can you tell the story? (Mosiah 27.)
Does the account of Helaman and the preservation of his 2,000 stripling warriors ring a bell in your mind? (Alma 53–57.)
Did you know that during one period of time the whole house of Israel wore the same clothes for 40 years and that the clothes did not wear out? (Deut. 29.)
Having so studied and having thereby gained faith like the ancients, we also shall enjoy what they enjoyed. Pure religion and undefiled will dwell in our hearts, as it did in theirs, and we for our day will be able to testify of the goodness of God to us as they testified of that same goodness to them. And finally, having known and felt and experienced what those of old knew and felt and experienced, we will be qualified to go where they are, to possess, inherit, and receive in the kingdom of God as they have done.
Perhaps the perfect pattern in presenting faith-promoting stories is to teach what is found in the scriptures and then to put a seal of living reality upon it by telling a similar and equivalent thing that has happened in our dispensation and to our people and—most ideally—to us as individuals.