Ye Receive No Witness Until after the Trial of Your Faith

God expects his children to seek after Him in faith during this mortal life. One comes to know God through the concerted exercise of faith and not by waiting for God to reveal himself separate from this faith in action.

“…Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith…For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them…And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.” (Ether 11:6,12,18)

Questions:

-Will those who learn to earnestly seek God’s influence in this life, through faith, be in a natural position in the eternities to continue to learn from God?

Hope Cometh of Faith

Faith in God, and the hope it fosters, anchors a person’s soul — where it needs to be — in preparation for the eternities.

“…By faith are all things fulfilled—wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4)

Questions:

-How many have a mindset where their deepest motivations come from a desire to glorify God?

-Is it possible to develop that kind of motivation without a correct understanding who God is and a correct understanding of His relationship to the human family?

-Does worthily and faithfully participating in the holy ordinances, administered in His temples, light this kind of eternal flame in the center of one’s being?

All Men Were Created in the Beginning after My Own Image

In seeking a way to cross the ocean in enclosed barges, the brother of Jared, prays to the Lord and asks that He would touch a number of clear stones so they could serve as a light source during the ocean journey. In seeking this help from the Lord, he also learns important truths about the nature of God.

“…I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men. And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.” (Ether 3:4-6)

“And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen? And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood. And the Lord said unto him; Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this? And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me. And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.” (Ether 3:7-13)

“Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and daughters. And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” (Ether 3:14-16)

Questions:

-Do you believe that the human form is not a semi-arbitrary function of some kind of evolutionary force, but is, actually, intentionally patterned by God after the same form He has always taken?

Ye Shall Not Resist Evil

Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same gospel principles He taught to His Jewish disciples in the Old World. The teachings as recorded in the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants after His resurrection.

The passages below show the words from verses 38 and 42 of the King James version of Matthew and the comparable verses from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

And behold, it is written, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also; And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.” (3 Nephi 12:38-42)

Questions:

-Does the image of turning the other cheek suggest a person who is cowardly or obsequious? Or, a person who is confident and intentional in neutralizing the dreary vicious cycles created by knee-jerk reprisal?

-Does the Lord expect a person (or group) to continually turn the other cheek? Or, does a time to fight and defend become appropriate when evil intention on the offender’s part persists? (See: Thou Shalt Defend Thy Families Even unto Bloodshed)  

Looking to the Son of God with Faith and a Contrite Spirit Prepares One for Eternal Life

The raising of the brass serpent by Moses portended the raising of Christ upon the cross and His glorious resurrection. Having risen from the grave, He prepared the way for us all

“…As [Moses] lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, so shall [the Messiah] be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.” (Helaman 8:15)

Questions:

-Is it possible to “look” to Christ without faith and without a contrite spirit?

-Do different Christian faiths (and their individual congregations) influence their adherents, either negatively or positively, toward having a contrite spirit and having faith when looking to Christ?  

Exceeding Faith Draws on God’s Marvelous Power to Preserve Life

Helaman, a prophet and military leader, recounts a miracle that occurred in the field of battle. A group of new recruits (two-thousand and sixty young men from a region of the Nephite nation where the gospel was strong and their families had taught them to have firm faith in God) were strengthened and protected by God:

“…My little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately; yea, they were firm before the Lamanites, and did administer death unto all those who opposed them. And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted…And it came to pass that after the Lamanites had fled, I immediately gave orders that my men who had been wounded should be taken from among the dead, and caused that their wounds should be dressed. And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds. And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.” (Alma 57:19-20, 24-26)

Questions:

-What is the significance of the Lord allowing these young men to be injured but not allowing them to be killed?

-Can a person expect to go unscathed through life even when living faithfully?

Every Seed Bringeth Forth unto Its Own Likeness

Alma continues to teach about the beginnings of faith and how to obtain spiritual knowledge.

“…If ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.” (Alma 32:28-31)

“Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it growth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away. And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word has swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doeth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doeth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:32-34)

“O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good. And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say; Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. But if ye neglect the tree and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.” (Alma 32:35-38)

“And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life. But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white, yea, pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” (Alma 32:40-43)

Questions:

-Will you conduct the experiment Alma describes in the verses above?

God is Merciful unto All Who Believe on His Name

Alma teaches that belief in God and His word, in the initial phases of faith, is a matter of choice. The truths of the gospel can never be meaningfully explored and tested without initial steps of hope and faith into the realm of belief.

“…Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” (Alma 32:21-23)

Questions:

-Have you made the choice to believe in God?

-Is there any other way to start down the path of spiritual growth and knowledge?

-What is the hope that leads to redeeming spiritual knowledge (see Moro. 7:40–43)

See That Ye Have Faith, Hope, and Charity, and Then Ye Shall Always Abound in Good Works

Alma teaches those who have entered the baptismal covenant that they should be submissive to God and kind to their fellow mortals. He also instructs them to ask for God’s help when in need and that the key to abounding in good works is faith, hope, and charity.

“…Be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.” (Alma 7:23-24)

Questions:

-Is it possible to be humble, submissive, gentle, easy to be entreated, temperate, and full of patience and long-suffering if the sin of pride has not been eradicated from one’s soul?

-Why will someone who has faith (in Christ), hope (in Christ) and charity (like Christ) abound in good works?

If You Do This Ye Shall Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins

King Benjamin teaches that humbly remembering the perfect goodness of God, calling on His name in prayer, and exercising steady faith are closely tied to being filled with the love of God and retaining a forgiveness of sin.

“…As ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith…And…I say unto you that if you do this ye shall always rejoice and be filled with the love of God and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 4:11-12)

Questions:

-How does one come to a knowledge of the glory of God?

-Is it possible to do so without the influence of the Holy Ghost?

-How important is it to remember the impressions received from the Holy Ghost about who God really is?

-How is humility, prayer, and faithful action tied to retaining forgiveness of sins.

-Can a person shut out the purifying influence of the Holy Ghost by his or her thoughts or actions? Is it possible to retain a forgiveness of sins without the purifying influence of the Holy Ghost?