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.
Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy taught in a talk titled “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”
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.
How do we get greater faith?
In a talk titled, “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” Elder Robert D. Hales taught:
“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.
In a talk titled “The Shield of Faith“, President James E. Faust taught us:
There are for this people some absolutes upon which our faith must rest. They are basic, eternal truths. They are that:
- Jesus, the Son of the Father, is the Christ and the Savior and Redeemer of the world;
- Joseph Smith was the instrument through which the gospel was restored in its fulness and completeness in our time;
- The Book of Mormon is the word of God and, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, is the keystone of our religion and another testament of Jesus as the Christ and the Redeemer of all mankind;
- [The living prophet] holds, as all of the preceding Presidents of the Church did, all of the keys and authority restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
So in summary:
Which grow A Testimony
Built on a firm Foundation
Which Foundation is the
Whereon if I build
I will not Fear
In which case if I Fear not
I will receive the blessings promised of the Lord
And know that
The Lord Is!