The Word of God
To understand faith, it helps to understand what God's word is. God's word is not just the black ink on white paper. It is not merely truth received by the intellect. The word of God lives just as Jesus Christ lives. God's word is living truth. It is spirit. It is light (1)(2).
Faith comes to us by hearing the word of God (3). Faith can come by means of hearing a person preach, but we must hear the word of God by the Spirit (4). It is conceived in our heart from the Holy Ghost.
The word of God is God speaking directly to you. Essentially, the word of God is revelation. That is how faith in Christ comes to us.
Assurance by the Word
To understand faith, it helps to understand what assurance is; even the greatest form of assurance.
Faith, in its very nature, is spiritual. Faith is of assurance by the power of the Spirit:
5. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; (1 Thessalonians 1)Faith is receiving those assurances by revelation. From Words of Joseph Smith:
...in 1835 Joseph Smith wrote to his uncle Silas to convince him that revelation was still necessary, reasoning that the modern Saints...[should receive revelation] just as their ancient counterparts had received such assurances by revelation.Assurance from God is the greatest assurance we can receive. Ezra Taft Benson said:
This, then, is the supreme assurance for the honest in heart-to know by personal revelation from God that the Book of Mormon is true. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson)We learn truths by revelation. We are to walk in faith. We continue to exercise our faith by those assurances because we know they come from Christ (5).
The supreme assurance we receive is by God's word, which is by revelation, which is spirit. When God tells us to do something, we should be assured that it can be accomplished.
What is Faith?
I really love Hebrews 11 and think it is a masterful and persuasive sermon on faith in Jesus Christ; especially if we understand the most powerful form of assurance is God's word. We all have faith granted unto us by Jesus Christ; for we couldn't do anything without faith, like even opening a door. Perhaps the faith we are to nurture is the faith in Christ. We are to seek faith in Christ, rooted in His word and more importantly, His will (6, see JST).
All are given power to act, all are given the light of Christ, all have the gift of agency (A). On the other hand, if it is received by the word of God, it must also be His will. This is where the the power of faith in Christ comes. Faith is given to all men; we couldn't even move if it wasn't for faith:
46. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world;But it is faith in Christ that enlightens us to act:
46. ...and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. (D&C 84)We must use our agency (our ability to move and act by our own dictate, powered by faith) to make our will His will (which is seeking faith in Christ).
The Jews stumbled because of the new covenant, which is faith in Christ. They were used to the strictness of the law, wherein if they kept the law then they were justified. By breaking it in one little piece, they broke the whole law. But faith in Christ brought mercy, and we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ which brings about mercy. If there was a law given that could save us, it would have been given to us; but no such law exists. Thus, faith in Jesus Christ is what saves (7).
The law does not have power to save, only to condemn. Faith in Christ was always meant to be the spiritual counterpart to the law. We are to obey His voice and promptings (8).
Paul taught in Romans 9:
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone [Christ];They could not exercise faith in Christ sufficiently because they didn't believe in Him and therefore stumbled.
Justified by Faith in Christ
We are condemned by the law, but by faith in Christ we are justified:
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (Galatians 3)Justification is by the Spirit, not by the law. It is righteousness in faith by His word. In everything we do, whether by covenant, by the law, by ordinances, by commandment; we must do so by faith in Jesus Christ, received from Him (9). For every law and ordinance there is a spiritual counterpart we must receive; it is also the Holy Spirit of Promise that seals our faith in righteousness (10).
Now that we know what faith is, that it is received from hearing the word of God, which is the greatest assurance we can receive; now what? All we have to do is sit around until we have faith by receiving His word, right? On the contrary; we must actively seek and receive faith, just as we would seek revelation.
7. Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (3 Nephi 14; see also, 11)Our days should actively be sought in prayer to receive guidance. We should pray always and direct our thoughts towards Him. I believe He can show us how to do this. Being humble is a necessary part of receiving faith. If receiving faith in Jesus Christ is receiving faith from Him, then we receive it according to His will (12).
Types of Faith
Ministering by the Spirit and working miracles is not by the law, but can only be by faith (13). This is why there is "faith unto repentance" (14), "faith unto salvation" (15), and "faith unto mighty works" (16).
Noah could not have built a boat had he not first received the assurance of the word of God to do so (faith).
Moses could not have parted the sea, had he not first received the assurance of the word of God to do so (faith).
And "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son" (Hebrews 11:17).
We know that "faith without works is dead" (17). We can exercise that assurance we receive by God's word, just like Nephi knew he could get the plates of Laban, and was led by the spirit to accomplish it. God commanded Him to do so, despite "not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do" (1 Nephi 4:6).
Once Nephi was commanded, "it [was] not meet that [God] should command in all things". Once commanded by God, it was up to Nephi to exercise and act according to the faith he received.
27. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness (D&C 58)Nephi had to figure out how to get the plates, and it took him many tries to do so. He was not compelled, but always kept trying by his own free will. We should always pray that the Spirit will be with us and consecrate our actions for our good:
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32)I think the greatness of our faith depends on how we carry out our faith. The Lord granted the brother of Jared much agency in choosing how to light the barges (18). It is certain that through his life he had continuously exercised his faith by God's word. Certainly, the brother of Jared became very well acquainted with His voice.
It's important with our faith to exercise it carefully. Not with a "doubtful heart" or "with slothfulness" (19). Rather:
7. But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. (D&C 46)Connecting Faith and Revelation
As we progress in faith in Christ, we will receive more revelations and commandments meant for us personally (20):
1 ...whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge...Many others used the same faith (22). Revelation is a great assurance of faith and one to strive for.
2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. (D&C 8; also, 21)
The End of Faith
We all understand that faith is not a perfect knowledge (23). However, the end of faith is that we fulfill God's commandment and obtain His promises. When we fulfill that commandment, or when we see His promise fulfilled, we then have a perfect knowledge. We saw that God's word was true and fulfilled in the exercising of our faith (24). Sometimes the exercising of our faith can last a long time until it is fulfilled.
After our faith has been proven time and time again by fulfilling God's commandments, our faith in God will become unshakable. This is the end of faith in Jesus Christ:
19. And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.Therefore, "plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness" (Alma 34:4).
20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3)
***LETTERED & NUMBERED REFERENCES***
A. Lectures on Faith:
If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action, in them; that without it, both mind and body, would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.1. D&C 84:45
2. 1 John 5:7
3. Romans 10:17
4. 2 Nephi 33:1
5. 2 Timothy 3:14
6. Hebrews 11:1b(JST)-3
7. Galatians 3:21-23
8. D&C 29:34-35
9. Galatians 2:16
10. D&C 76:53-54
11. D&C 88:63
12. James 4:3, 7-8
13. Galatians 3:2-5
14. Alma 34:15-18
15. 1 Peter 1:5
16. D&C 63:11
17. James 2:20
18. Ether 2:25
19. D&C 58:29
20. Mosiah 2:24
21. Hebrews 11:29
22. Hebrews 11:4-37
23. Alma 32:26
24. D&C 58:29-33