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  2. Faith, the First Principle of the Gospel
  3. Faith Defined

Jesus said also, "Except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Men must first be born of the word of God, which lives and abides for ever. As the Apostle Peter says, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. When they bear their testimony to people who are honest in their hearts, who desire the truth and who wish to know of God, the Holy Spirit that is in the servants of God, the Spirit accompanying the word spoken by authority, enters the hearts of such people, and they are born of the word of God, so that they can see and comprehend the truth.

A change is wrought upon them by the power and influence of divine truth, by which they are able to see the truth as the speaker sees it; the word spoken by the gift and power of God carries conviction to the heart, and they at once begin to recognize the authority of Him who imparts the words of life to them. They are born of the word and are able to see and understand to a certain degree, their faith and their ideas having been quickened by the power of God. The light and influence of the Holy Ghost radiating and proceeding from the inspired speaker, accompanies his word.

As his testimony is borne under the influence of the Holy Ghost and by authority from on high, conviction seizes hold of the people, and if they are honest in their hearts and desires, it bears record in their souls. And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them Lehi taught that "no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah" 2 Nephi Even the most just and upright man cannot save himself solely on his own merits, for, as the Apostle Paul tells us, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans Therefore, repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior.

Many men and women in the world demonstrate great will-power and self-discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even if in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance. Repentance involves not just a change of actions, but a change of heart. As we seek to qualify to be members of Christ's Church -- members in the sense in which He uses the term, members who have repented and come unto Him -- let us remember these principles.

The gospel is the Lord's plan of happiness and repentance is designed to bring us joy. True repentance is based on and flows from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way. True repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior see Alma Part of this mighty change of heart is to feel godly sorrow for our sins. This is what is meant by a broken heart and a contrite spirit. God's gifts are sufficient to help us overcome every sin and weakness if we will but turn to Him for help. Most repentance does not involve sensational or dramatic changes, but rather is a step by step, steady and consistent movement toward godliness.

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , p. Repentance is not that superficial sorrow felt by the wrongdoer when "caught in the act"- a sorrow not for sin, but for sin's detection. Chagrin is not repentance. Mortification and shame alone bring no change of heart toward right feeling and right living. Even remorse is not all there is to repentance. In the highest meaning and fullest measure, repentance is equivalent to reformation; the beginning of the reformatory process being resolve to "sin no more.

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Every person baptized into this Church has made a covenant with the Lord to keep his commandments. We are to serve the Lord with all the heart, and all the mind, and all the strength that we have, and that too in the name of Jesus Christ. Everything that we do should be done in the name of Jesus Christ. In the waters of baptism, we covenanted that we would keep these commandments; that we would serve the Lord; that we would keep this first and greatest of all commandments, and love the Lord our God; that we would keep the next great commandment, we would love our neighbor as ourselves; and with all the might that we have, with all the strength, with all our hearts, we would prove to him that we would "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God"; that we would be obedient and humble, diligent in his service, willing to obey, to hearken to the counsels of those who preside over us and do all things with an eye single to the glory of God.

Doctrines of Salvation , The mode of baptism is by immersion in water. Sprinkling or pouring did not come into vogue until two or three centuries after Christ, and such a practice was not universal until about the 13th century A. We have to go into history to find these particulars. It is in the similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of all others who have received the resurrection.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. We are dead to sin because we have left it. Banishment works one way as well as the other. In other words, when we are in spiritual life or in the Church or in the kingdom of God , we ought not to sin.

Through baptism we come back from the spiritual death which is upon all unbaptized men. Whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant, if they are unrepentant and unbaptized they are in spiritual death. But we who have received the gospel, why should we live in sin when we have been baptized and are in spiritual life?

We are back in the presence of God. The question might naturally be raised: How do we come back into the presence of God if we do not see him? We do not see him now, but are we not in his presence when we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, one of the members of the Godhead, to lead and direct us in righteousness? We are back in his presence, if we keep the commandments and do not longer live in sin; then we are in spiritual life. That is an important thing in connection with baptism not generally understood. Now this is the commandment; Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

One is born again by actually receiving and experiencing the light and power inherent in the gift of the Holy Ghost. Conference Report, Apr. After we had been baptized we were anxious to have hands laid upon our heads that we might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. In using that term, the "gift of the Holy Ghost," we do not mean some particular gift of the Spirit, but the gift of the Spirit itself--the Holy Ghost given unto us as a gift from God.

We will find that term, "gift of the Holy Ghost," used in the old Scriptures, and in the latter day Scriptures. It is the Holy Ghost itself given unto us as a gift from the Almighty. It is a greater and higher endowment of the same spirit which enlightens every man that comes into the world; a greater power given unto us as an abiding witness, to be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path; as a restraint against sin, to guide us into all truth, to open up the vision of the mind, to bring things past to our remembrance, and to make manifest things to come.

It is the spirit of truth that reveals the things of the Father and the Son, proceeding from the presence of the Almighty and the very glory in which He is enrobed, which makes him like unto a consuming fire. If we receive that heavenly gift all are brought into communion with Him; we can understand something concerning Him, that we may pattern after Him until we become like Him; for if we are continually guided by that spirit, eventually we will come back to His presence and be able to enjoy the fullness of His glory.

And while we remain in the flesh He will not be a stranger to us; we will not walk in the dark like the majority of mankind, but we will be the children of the light, comprehending the truth as it is in Him, and seeing the path in which we should walk. His law required all mankind, regardless of station in life, to repent and be baptized in His name and receive the Holy Ghost as the sanctifying power to cleanse themselves from sin.

Yale student: Of course. That is the fundamental foundation of Christianity! Without the belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ there is nothing for Christianity. Yale student: Pausing to think with dawning comprehension Oh, I see. Taylor: What is more implausible: That someone claims to have translated a book and now the original book is missing, or that a physically dead body is now alive again? Just as Christians throughout the centuries have exercised faith in the claim that Jesus Christ died and rose again, so too members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exercise faith in that original claim as well as in the claim that God has brought forth additional scriptural witnesses, such as the Book of Mormon, for the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

The restored gospel requires actions of faith. Trust my word. And as you do, your knowledge will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day. Perfect knowledge cannot be obtained unless we experience the crisis of having to act on faith. If we could gain perfect knowledge without faith, effort or sacrifice, we could never fully appreciate the knowledge or have a context for why that knowledge matters.

Perfect knowledge is inseparable from the process of faith. For example, some want final, indisputable evidence of the reality of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon before they are willing to believe its words and message. Yet, without faith our agency may be compromised. Alma's description and discussion fit the Zoramite needs perfectly. Typically, we would hypothesize that when a person begins the process of developing and entering into Faith 1, described so perfectly by Alma, he will likely get confirmation quite rapidly.

This is an experience missionaries see countless times. When people truly humble themselves upon hearing the word of God and experiment upon that word for instance, seeking to know through prayer whether something is true , very often the confirmation, the swelling, the feeling of truthfulness, the almost indescribable sensation that this is good come quickly, and they know that the word of the Lord is a good seed.

When we have achieved Faith 1, have we achieved all that there is to have? Obviously not.

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Alma himself encouraged the people to continue on once they had received this "perfect knowledge. In other words, once we have Faith 1, we can move on to the next level of the process in developing faith. The second stage of faith Faith 2 , diagrammed [below], is a level of faith entailing belief and knowledge. Once again there are the three components: Hope 2, Action 2, and Confirmation 2. In the second level of hope, we have more than a desire to know if something is true.

Now our attitude could be described not as "I want to know if this is true," but as "I desire this truth. This is a major step upward from the Faith 1 level. In his sermon to the Zoramites, Alma did not discuss in detail this second level of faith probably because of the nature of his audience. But others did. Besides Moroni's statement in Ether above, we find statements like these from Mormon: You "shall have hope through the atonement of Christ.

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When we move into this second level of hope Hope 2 , where we begin to sincerely believe in the things we have heard rather than simply desiring to believe, we will then be motivated to action again. However, this action Action 2 is on a higher level than that of Faith 1 and could be defined as a willingness to live the truths we believe to be true. Whereas we had previously acted to find out if the Lord's word was true, now we act to incorporate into our lives the truths we have learned.

Here again we find in operation the principle in Ether we must have our faith tried; we must prove by our actions that the hope in us truly is sincere and serious. Notice what Moroni said about this hope: it makes "an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works" Ether In his letter on faith, hope, and charity, Mormon said, "They who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing" Moro.

Faith, the First Principle of the Gospel

This seems to be what Alma meant when he said, "If ye nourish [the word] with much care it will get root" Alma When we operate at the Action 2 level, we again undergo the trial of faith. We must show that we are willing to trust in things not seen. When we do so, we receive confirmation Confirmation 2 , specifically evidence on a behavioral level. This empirical evidence is more outward than that received in Confirmation 1, where the evidence consisted mostly of inner feelings although Confirmation 2 still includes many feelings. Such evidence is easier to identify and to put into words.

It would involve statements such as "Yes, my prayer was answered" or "I can see that this principle works in my life.

Faith Defined

In Moro. Now that we have examined the first two levels of faith, we begin to appreciate the profound implications of the discussion of faith and works James the apostle gave. If we do not have works joined to our faith, then our faith is dead, "being alone" see James If we have the hope or desire that something is true Hope 1 but refuse to act on that hope, we will receive no confirmation, and our faith, even at this early stage, will be dead.

The same is true in level two. Once we believe that something is true but refuse to live the truth, then we have faith without works, and our faith dies. We will receive no confirmation. The confirmation comes only after the trial of faith. But in this second level, our trial is not on an investigator level; we are tried on a higher level involving conversion, or testimony.

Now we are prepared to look at the next level of faith, which brings us to faith as Joseph Smith defined it. We could say that Faith 3, diagrammed [below], is the power level of faith. Once again we are describing a major step upward from the previous level, and once again we find all three components operating as in the previous levels.

Hope 1 is to hope that something is true, and Hope 2 is to believe that it is true. After having gone through the process of Faith 2, however, we have confirmation and knowledge that the things we cannot see are indeed true. This makes a new level of hope possible. Hope 3, the third level of hope, could be described as a knowledge and assurance of things not seen. At this level, our attitude is reflected by this statement: I have the truth, and I desire to use it to become like God. This is, I believe, what Moroni meant by the phrase "a more excellent hope" Ether This desire seems to also describe what Nephi meant by "a perfect brightness of hope" 2 Ne.

When our hope is this strong, when we truly have knowledge and assurance of unseen things, we move into more committed action Action 3. This higher level of action could be described as a willingness to do whatever God requires of a person. This, again, is a great trial of faith. Action 3 may involve a wide range of behaviors, including working on a Church welfare project or taking care of a sick neighbor's children. It may be something as trying and challenging as God's request to Abraham that he sacrifice his only son.

In our development of faith, if we have reached this point of hope or knowledge but refuse to act accordingly, then, as James said, "as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" James We have failed the trial of faith and will receive no confirmation of our hope. Notice the quotation by Joseph Smith from the Lectures on Faith included in the diagram. He said that only a willingness to sacrifice whatever God requires brings the knowledge that allows us to obtain the faith required for salvation.

If we operate at this level of action, we would expect that confirmation of this hope would be forthcoming, and such is the case. We could describe this level of confirmation Confirmation 3 as evidence on many levels of experience. It can not only involve experiences of inner feelings and knowledge, but also include experiences available to the senses, such as visions, visitations of angels, the demonstration of power in miracles, speaking in tongues, and the like.

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These may still be hard to express in words in the sense that words are inadequate to describe them , but they are irrefutable kinds of evidence, demonstrations that the honest person cannot deny. Notice the promises cited under the Confirmation 3 level in the diagram. This is what the Lord meant when he said, "These signs shall follow them that believe" Mark This power level of faith also helps us to better understand what the Lord meant when he said: "Faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.

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Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God. I believe that understanding the process of Faith 3 also gives us added insight as to why those who seek signs to bolster faith are called "a wicked and adulterous generation" Matt. A person who wants to build his faith only on the basis of confirmation or evidence, without living the principles, seeks to circumvent the trial of faith that Moroni described.

That is, he wants to have confirmation without paying the price of hope and action. And this "adulterates" or pollutes the proper relationship in the developmental process of faith. Satan seems to understand the significance of this and often prompts his servants to demand a sign, to demand faith without paying any price see, for example, Jacob ; Alma ; Ether In level three of faith, or the power level, we looked to the faith shown by the people in the scriptures whom we typically characterize as having great faith.

Many people might think of this as being the highest level of faith, but I feel that there is a fourth level of faith, which could be described as the perfection level. Once again, this is a major step upward. We have to be a little more speculative as we describe this level of the process of faith because relatively few have achieved it; and those who have seem reticent by direction of the Spirit to talk about it in much detail. But I believe again that it involves our three components of hope, action, and confirmation, as diagrammed [below].

In level three, hope involved knowledge and assurance. How could one come to a higher level than that? I suggest that Hope 4 is the actual knowledge that one will become like God, and it can be characterized by the attitude, I desire to be as God is. When someone has reached this level of faith in mortality, his calling and election is made sure, and he is told by the more sure word of prophecy that he will be exalted.

Imagine the level of hope or desire that such a revelation would create in him. Such hope would lead him to the fourth or highest level of action Action 4 -the level where his life becomes more and more godlike until he is made perfect and becomes worthy to become a god.