Question: Which comes first faith or knowledge? Is faith a vague and uncertain hope in something unseen that, as a sprouting seed, may grow into knowledge? Or is faith based on truth and knowledge? Is faith something that grows out of and comes because of a prior knowledge of the truth?
Answer: Faith is the child of knowledge. It is reserved for those only who first have knowledge; there neither is nor can be any faith until there is knowledge. No one can have faith in a God of whom he knows nothing. Faith is founded on truth; it is the offspring of truth; it can never exist alone and apart from the truth. No one can have faith unto life and salvation in a false god; no idol ever had power to raise the dead or stop the sun. And faith is power. It is true that faith in some doctrine or on some theological point may be imperfect; it is true that sproutings of either faith or knowledge can become perfect relative to that doctrine or concept. But faith itself – the great and eternal power that creates and governs and saves, faith unto life and salvation – saving faith grows out of knowledge and cannot come in any other way.
“Faith cometh by hearing,” Paul says, “and hearing the word of God” taught by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 10:17.) Faith comes to those only who receive the word of truth. Hence the gospel truism that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21.) The gospel embraces all truth, and truth – nothing else — can bring salvation. Thus Alma says, “If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21.) Indeed, faith is a hope in that which is not seen that is true, and there can be no faith in an unseen thing that is false. There is no power in falsehood. No one can have faith unto life and salvation in a god who is believed to be a spirit nothingness, or in a doctrine that denies the resurrection, or in a philosophy that postulates man’s evolutionary evolvement from lower forms of life, or in anything that is not true.
Truth, diamond truth, is the rock foundation upon which faith rests, and no one can have faith in God or in any gospel truth unless and until he comes to a knowledge of whatever truth is involved. (Bruce R. McConkie. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.166-167)
Question: How do men exercise faith? If they have an occasion to heal the sick, raise the dead or move mountains, how is it done? Faith is power, but what causes the power to flow forth and accomplish the desired result? As an introductory explanation, the account we are studying asks: “What are we to understand by a man’s working by faith?”
Answer: By way of answer, the account says: “We understand that when a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force. It is by words, instead of exerting his physical powers, with which every being works when he works by faith. God said, `Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain: he again commanded and the heavens gave forth rain. All this was done by faith. And the Saviour says: `If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, say to this mountain, “Remove,” and it will remove; or say to that sycamine tree, “Be ye plucked up, and planted in the midst of the sea,” and it shall obey you.’ Faith, then, works by words; and with these its mightiest works have been, and will be performed.” (Lectures on Faith 7:3.)
But working by faith is not the mere speaking of a few well-chosen words; anyone with the power of speech could have commanded the rotting corpse of Lazarus to come forth, but only one whose power was greater than death could bring life again to the brother of Mary and Martha. Nor is working by faith merely a mental desire, however strong, that some eventuality should occur. There may be those whose mental powers and thought processes are greater than any of the saints, but only persons who are in tune with the Infinite can exercise the spiritual forces and powers that come from him.
Those who work by faith must first have faith; no one can use a power that he does not possess, and the faith or power must be gained by obedience to those laws upon which its receipt is predicated. These we have set forth. Those who work by faith must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his Father. They must accept at face value what the revealed word teaches as to the character, attributes, and perfections of the Father and the Son. They must then work the works of righteousness until they know within themselves that their way of life conforms to the divine will, and they must be willing to lay their all on the altar of the Almighty.
And then — when the day is at hand and the hour has arrived for the miracle to be wrought — then they must be in tune with the Holy Spirit of God. He who is the Author of faith, he whose power faith is, he whose works are the embodiment of justice and judgment and wisdom and all good things, even he must approve the use of his power in the case at hand. Faith cannot be exercised contrary to the order of heaven or contrary to the will and purposes of him whose power it is. Men work by faith when they are in tune with the Spirit and when what they seek to do by mental exertion and by the spoken word is the mind and will of the Lord. (Bruce R. McConkie. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp.191-192)
Answer: It is also clear from the scriptures that one must pray in faith. It is apparent that there is a direct relationship between the strength of one’s faith and the effectiveness of his prayer. There is, however, a principle associated with this matter of faith that we should all understand. I used to feel that if I could develop enough faith, I could receive in every instance exactly what I prayed for. This belief was based upon such scriptures as Matthew 17:20, in which Jesus said to his disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” But at that time I had not learned that this promise was made upon the implied condition that one’s request be made in harmony with the will of God.
We learned this principle in our home through a rather trying experience. During the early years of our married life, my wife and I intensely desired a particular blessing that we thought would be a great blessing, and we set about to obtain it by faith. We asked, we believed, we thought we had faith, but though we fasted often and prayed fervently, the years rolled by without bringing us the object of our prayers.
Finally we concluded that there must be something that we had not fully understood. Further research and prayerful study of the scriptures revealed the fact that we were not giving proper consideration to the will of the Lord, that we were concentrating our faith and prayers solely upon receiving the particular thing which by predetermination we had set our hearts upon. We had to reconsider the conditions of the promise. We found that Jesus had stated them in full in several places. For example, to the Nephites he said, “. . . whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given you.” (3 Nephi 18:20. Italics added.) In the light of this and other scriptures, we came to realize that pending the time we could know what is right and what is expedient, we had to learn to be as earnest in praying “if it be thy will” as we were in presenting our request.
We further learned that the time will come when we shall know the will of God before we ask, and then everything for which we pray will be right and expedient. And that will be when, as a result of righteous living, we shall so enjoy the companionship of the Holy Spirit that he will dictate what we ask. On this point the Lord has said:
“And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.
“But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask.” (D&C 50:29-30; also D&C 46:30 and Helaman 10:5.) (Marion G. Romney. Improvement Era, April, 1966, pp. 274-276, 301, 302, 304)
“I battle with the same temptations over and over, even though I decided against them years ago and have resisted them so far. Why doesn’t the Lord acknowledge my commitment and take away the temptation?”
- Avoid situations that you know hold temptations for you.
- The longer you entertain a temptation, the harder it will be to resist.
- You will not be tempted beyond what you can withstand.
- Being tempted isn’t a sin. Giving in is.
- If you fail, repent and keep trying.
Being a Nephite wasn’t easy. The Lamanites attacked repeatedly, but for a great part of their nearly 1,000-year history the Nephites resisted. The Nephites were obviously committed. Why didn’t the Lord take the Lamanites away?
There were many reasons. But the bottom line is, life is a test. We are here to prove we will choose the Lord no matter what (see Abr. 3:25).
It may help to understand the following:
First, God doesn’t tempt us; Satan does.
Second, God allows Satan to tempt us as part of the test. But He limits Satan. We will not be tempted beyond what we can withstand (see 1 Cor. 10:13).
Third, being tempted isn’t a sin. We sin if we give in to temptation.
Fourth, if we fail, it was our own decision. If the temptation seemed too great, it’s usually because we didn’t resist when we had the opportunity. We are often our worst enemies by putting ourselves in a position to fail. Even after Captain Moroni had prepared the Nephites with better armor and city walls, anyone who wandered outside was an easy target. If immoral thoughts are a temptation, are you avoiding the shows, music, Web sites, and other things that trigger them? Or are you outside the walls, just to see if any Lamanites are around? True commitment to keeping the commandments means we try to live as far from temptation as possible (see D&C 20:22).
Fifth, as we resist current temptations, we gain strength to resist future temptations.
Sixth, you may do everything possible to avoid temptations, and yet they will still come. Satan won’t ever give up. But by doing your best to live God’s standards, you’ll be prepared. Your walls will be high, your armor strong. When the Nephites were most righteous, it was easiest to repel the enemy.
Finally, if you give in to temptation, which we all do sometimes, you can turn back to God through repentance. Resisting temptation is more than fleeing sin; it is pursuing righteousness with all your heart.
We need to show God that even after resisting 1,000 times, we will choose Him the 1,001st time too.
“There will be whisperings of approval or warning when you have decisions to make. The Holy Ghost can guide you away from evil and bring you back if you have wandered and lost your path.” President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected,”