Sometimes we need to set aside doctrine and share pure emotion. We need to stop talking about principles and start talking about feelings. There are many things I believe. There are also many things I know. You might ask how I know these things–it is difficult to describe why I know. I simply know them. Today, I need to share some of the things I know. Today, I need my children to know what their father knows.
I know I love my wife and that she loves me.
I know I love my children and that they love me.
I know I love my parents and sisters and that they love me.
I know I have friends whom I love and that love me.
How do I know this? Besides hearing the words “I love you” I know it’s true because of the way they treat me. I know it’s true because of the desire I have to do good things for them. I know it’s true because there are times when I sincerely want to remove their obstacles, their trials, and their burdens. I’m even willing to take these things upon myself–to suffer for them. I can’t always do that, there are some trials that must be borne individually…it doesn’t change my desire.
I know this world was created by a God who wants good things for all of mankind. Circumstances aren’t always ideal in which people live, but that doesn’t change who God is.
I know Peter, James, and John were called of God to serve in the kingdom as Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. They gave their lives for what they knew to be true.
I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet–called of God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ in its fulness to the Earth.
I know the scriptures (The Holy Bible & The Book of Mormon) are true. They testify of the principles of the Gospel. We can learn the way back to our Heavenly Father by studying and pondering the Word of God.
How do I know these things? Because of the feeling in my heart and in my mind. I know because of the peace I feel and see in my life when I do the things I’ve been taught to do. There are some who say they can’t believe until they see. To you, I ask why you believe a little child will ever love you when they can’t speak or do loving actions? To you, I ask why you believe the earth is spinning in an orbit around a burning ball of gas when you can’t see this sphere we live on? To you I ask, why do you leave your home and know you’ll be able to breathe when you can’t see the Oxygen on which you depend for life?
Not everything in this life requires a physical witness before we believe or before we know.
The things I know lead me to take specific actions. The things I know have built me into the man I am. And so, without apology, I declare to my children, my family, and to all the most important thing I know:
I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God…the Messiah…the Savior of all mankind.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about a particular topic. I wanted to address it in my weekly post, but I couldn’t figure out the right words. The other day as I was driving to work, this story came to my mind–I think it addresses the situation on my mind well.
I’m not going to share the purpose of the parable (I will say that it’s not written about anyone in particular), but I would love to hear what this parable brings to your mind.
The Parable of the Dying Man
Once there was a man who was the epitome of good health. He exercised regularly, ate well, avoided excessive stress, and received regular checkups from his doctor. At one of his annual physicals, his doctor noticed some unusual results from one of the tests, so the doctor sent the man to a specialist in that field of medicine.
The man dutifully scheduled an appointment and soon was examined with a barrage of tests. Once the results were back, the specialist broke the news: “I’m sorry to say that you have a serious health problem. It has no physical manifestation right now, but, if left untreated, it will soon debilitate you and will eventually cause your death.”
The man was visibly shaken–after all, he was the epitome of health. He did everything they said you should do to be in good health and none of the things they said that caused poor health. The man quickly scheduled an appointment with another specialist in that field for a second opinion.
At that appointment, the specialist ran all the same tests and came to the same conclusion: “I’m sorry to say that you have a serious health problem. It has no physical manifestation right now, but, if left untreated, it will soon debilitate you and will eventually cause your death.”
Now the man was upset. He went home and worried about these test results. Finally, he did some research of his own and decided he needed another opinion. This time, he scheduled an appointment with a specialist in another area of expertise. He wanted to validate whether the first two specialists knew what they were talking about. At this appointment, the man didn’t share the previous diagnosis. “Let’s see if they come to the same conclusion,” he said to himself.
This specialist ran all of the tests he would run in his area of expertise and at the end of the appointment, declared “according to all of my tests, you are the epitome of good health.”
This brought some joy back to the man, but he wanted to be sure. So he scheduled an appointment with another specialist in another area of expertise. That visit also resulted in a clean bill of health. He did this 3 more times–each visit with a specialist in a different field of expertise. All of these visits also declared him to be in great health.
Now the man was feeling pretty good. He’d visited six specialists and four of them said he was in great health. As he looked in the mirror, he tried to see the health problem the first two specialists said he had–he couldn’t see anything.
His mind wasn’t at peace though, so he went to a friend…a friend who was unstudied in the field of medicine. He presented the facts: “I’ve been to six specialists, four of them say I’m in good health. I feel great. I look great. Do you think I’m healthy?”
The friend thought for a moment, then replied, “well, you look healthy, you eat well, and you exercise regularly. There were only two specialists who said you were unhealthy–surely they must have been wrong.”
With that declaration, the man stopped going to his specialists at all. He still went to his primary doctor, but each time, his doctor would tell him about his serious health problem and beg him to go back to the specialist. Eventually, the man stopped going to his primary doctor–he didn’t like that his doctor wouldn’t believe his research.
Very slowly, the man’s problem began to physically manifest itself. At first, it was easy to rationalize away the discomfort as over-exertion. After all, he was working out at the gym every day. Eventually, the day came when the man couldn’t go to the gym because of the pain. Still, he told himself that four specialists had told him he was healthy. Finally, the day came when the man couldn’t leave his bed. As he lay there, he realized he was sick. He pondered upon the council of the specialists. He wondered how they could have been so wrong. He was curious why none of them told him he was going to die. With his last breath, he muttered “I am the epitome of good health.”
Faith is one of those “easy” topics to write about. There are thousands of scripture references and tons of resources on the Internet. Almost everyone has some understanding of faith—it’s the first principle of the gospel. Instead of talking about the usual scriptures (Ether 12, Hebrews 11, Alma 32:21, Matthew 14:22-33, 17:14-21) we hear when faith comes up, I thought I would share an experience I had in Afghanistan that brought me to an entirely new understanding of faith.
There was a time in Afghanistan when I was worried. Ok, I’ve always been a worrier. But in Afghanistan it seemed to get even worse. I wasn’t worried about my life—I wasn’t in any immediate danger of being injured or killed—rather, I was worried for my family. As I spent more time in Afghanistan, I became more and more worried.
I hated being apart from my family—that was by far the worst part of being deployed. I hated to hear about the challenges and problems my family was facing here and being completely unable to do anything to help.
I tried praying and asking for blessings for my family, but my feeling of helplessness persisted. It seemed that there was nothing I could do to relieve myself of the anxiety I was feeling. I found myself getting very short with my colleagues. I smiled less and didn’t enjoy doing much of anything. I was getting pretty miserable. Finally, I decided I had to do something. I went to the scriptures to see if I could find some comfort in them. I read a bunch of scriptures and spent more time in the scriptures than I think I have ever done before. One of the last scriptures I came to was Doctrine and Covenants 67. This section really spoke to my heart. I was chastened and comforted at the same time.
Behold and hearken, O ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together, whose prayers I have heard, and whose hearts I know, and whose desires have come up before me.
Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.
Ye have endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto, there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason you did not receive. (Doctrine and Covenants 67:1-3 emphasis added)
These three verses described me perfectly. I had been praying for days for the same thing—for the same blessing for my family, yet I was filled with fear. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, but I was filled with fear. The Lord wouldn’t answer my prayers until I could overcome this fear that seemed to paralyze my heart and mind. I realized I was afraid and that blessings were held in check because of that fear. But what next? What I was afraid of—what was causing this fear?
Section 67 continues and verse 10 says “And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am–not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual” (emphasis added).
So I had to be stripped of jealousies and fears—then I would know that He is. So I went to the topical guide and read about fear. What was it? Why did I feel it? And most importantly, how did I rid myself of it? This led to a long list of scriptures: In particular was Matthew 8:23-27:
And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
A lack of faith caused the disciples to fear. I had heard this story many times, but I had never before made the connection between a lack of faith and being fearful. Christ was able to take away their fear by calming even the winds and seas. But could he rebuke the storms in my mind and cause a great calm for me as well?
This scripture and many others talked of fear and spoke to my heart. And then the final scripture. This wasn’t listed in the topical guide under “Fear.” It was in a cross reference from another scripture. I knew this scripture without even looking it up. I’ve had it marked in my scriptures for years. I went ahead and looked it up though, because it was referenced from the word “fear.” This was the final scripture I read on fear.
It was Helaman 5:12: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
This was my answer. I needed to build my foundation on Jesus Christ. The Rock. The One Sure Foundation. I was sitting in Afghanistan feeling sorry for myself and allowing Satan to pull me down to the depths of despair because I had forgotten what my faith was based on. I could overcome fear by building my foundation on the Rock.
Now the question was how to build my foundation on the Rock?
My testimony is the how I build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. How do I build a testimony? Through faith, hope, and belief. How do I increase my faith, hope, and belief? By fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and serving others. These are all Sunday School answers, but to me it was as if I was learning it for the very first time.
This was how I conquered fear. This was how I took control of my life and returned faith and hope to its proper place. To allow faith and hope to guide my efforts instead of allowing Satan to pull me down to the depths of depression and despair. I realized that even this didn’t make the world a perfect place, but if I could focus my efforts…my time…on things that were important to me, then there would be no room for fear in my life. If I understood what was happening around me and how I fit into the greater picture called life, then there would be no room for fear in my life.
So I placed my trust in him. I literally said to him “take my fear from me and I will trust in your promised blessings.” This was the beginning of a change in me. A rather dramatic change. I felt better since pondering this topic. My fear was gone and I was able to enjoy my family and what I was doing. I still didn’t like it Afghanistan, but I was there and it was what it was. I found I had more patience with those around me. When my youngest son went into the hospital, I felt much better—I knew that he would be taken care of and that everything would be ok. Such a difference from just a month before when I couldn’t think straight.
The more I pondered this process, the more I appreciated the wonderful blessing I had received. I felt like I had an increase in faith in Jesus Christ. It was if before this experience, I wasn’t really a believer that He would be there for us—that he looked out for us—that he loved us—that he wanted good things for us. Now I knew that he loved us and wanted to bless us with all the good things in life. The wonderful thing is that he blessed me. He blessed my family.
Faith and fear cannot coexist. One gives way to the other. The simple fact is we all need to constantly build faith and overcome sources of destructive disbelief. The Savior’s teaching comparing faith to a grain of mustard seed recognizes this reality (see Matthew 13:31-32). Consider it this way: our net usable faith is what we have left to exercise after we subtract our sources of doubt and disbelief. You might ask yourself this question: “Is my own net faith positive or negative?” If your faith exceeds your doubt and disbelief, the answer is likely positive. If you allow doubt and disbelief to control you, the answer might be negative.
President Hinckley taught in his book, Standing for Something: “faith cannot grow or be exercised in an environment of doubt…God doesn’t give more than we can handle, our problem is in our fears” (112).
And finally, the Savior taught in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I know that my relationship with the Savior will never be the same. I don’t pray for things the same way I have in the past. I now pray knowing that Father will answer. It may not be in the time or manner of my choosing or understanding, but He will answer! What a wonderful thing to know. I continued to pray every morning, night, and mealtime for my family while I was in Afghanistan. Specifically by name. Specifically by need. And those prayers were answered.
It all comes down to faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith that our Savior lives. Faith that our Savior will do everything He has promised. Faith that if I ask, He will answer. Maybe not when or how I want, but in the time and way that I need.
“The first step to finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to let His word–spoken by the mouth of His servants, the prophets–touch your heart. But it is not enough to merely let those words wash over you, as if they alone could transform you. We must do our part. Or as the Savior Himself said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15) In other words, hearing requires an active effort. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). It means taking seriously what is taught, considering it carefully, studying it our in our minds. As the prophet Enos learned, it means letting others’ testimonies of the gospel “[sink] deep into [our] heart[s].” (Enos 1:3)
We cannot always see the answers…we may know what we need and want, but cannot see how to get there. When President Packer was trying to move his family closer to church headquarters, he found he didn’t have the financial resources to cover the home they wanted to buy. He counseled with President Lee who told him to make the purchase. President Packer was still troubled and was hesitant. President Lee finally told him “you must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and perhaps a few steps into the darkness, and you will find that the light will appear and move ahead of you” (A Watchman on the Tower, 138).
Faith requires us to believe things that we cannot see…to trust that what Jesus Christ has said is true. So we need to press on.
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (Doctrine & Covenants 19:23)
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119)
While we lived in Colorado, I had the opportunity to hike Pikes Peak a number of times. As you near the summit from the west (coming through the Devil’s Playground), you come to a large talus slope. On one of my hikes, as I looked at that talus slope, all I could see were rocks. There was no path, there was no trail. There was nothing but rock, after rock, after rock. There was nothing but chaos.
That is, until I saw what I was looking for. I had to look for small piles of rocks called cairns. They were placed beside the trail and marked the way. There were times when I got to a cairn, I had to stop and look all around to find the next cairn. Only when I saw the next cairn could I see the path I needed to take.
As we look around us, we often see and hear nothing but chaos. The world would have us do one thing today, then an opposite thing tomorrow. You even have a vocal minority trying to redefine “right.” Isaiah spoke of this: “woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
The good news is that we haven’t been left alone to wander in the chaos! Our Savior, Jesus Christ has given us the Holy Ghost to be a companion and guide for us. The Holy Spirit has been given the mission to show us the way through the chaos…to show us the order among the chaos.
One thing to keep in mind…the Spirit requires some effort on your part. Consider the story of Lehi and his family traveling in the wilderness…the Lord provided a way for them to know where they should travel. He provided for them a compass called “Liahona” (Alma 37:38). While we don’t know exactly what it looked like, we do know that it functioned “according to the faith and diligence and heed which [they] did give” (1 Nephi 16:28). The Liahona led them on the correct path as long as they demonstrated their faith through diligent work.
The Holy Ghost then becomes the rock cairns–it is our Liahona. It will show us the way through the chaos of life. It will show us the way back to our Heavenly Home. Just like how the rock cairns were sometimes hard to spot, the voice of the Spirit will often be a quiet prompting–the Spirit requires us to listen with our hearts and with our spirit. As we listen with our hearts and spirit, and as we give diligence to faith, the pathway through the chaos of life will be clear. We will know what is right. We will know what we should do.