Faith in Jesus Christ
Christ Healing the Blind Man, by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890; oil on copper plate, 20" x 30"). Jesus heals a man blind from birth (John 9). Healings and other miracles are one manifestation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Courtesy the Frederiksborg Museum, Hillerod, Denmark.
by Douglas E. Brinley
Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ (A of F 4). One who has this faith believes him to be the living Son of God, trusts in his goodness and power, repents of one's sins, and follows his guidance. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is awakened as individuals hear his gospel (Rom. 10:17). By faith they enter the gate of repentance and baptism, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which leads to the way of life ordained by Christ (2 Ne. 31:9, 17-18). Those who respond are "alive in Christ because of [their] faith" (2 Ne. 25:25). Because God's way is the only way that leads to salvation, "it is impossible to please him" without faith (Heb. 11:6). Faith must precede miracles, signs, gifts of the Spirit, and righteousness, for "if there be no faith God can do no miracle" (Ether 12:12). The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni summarized these points:
The Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved [Moro. 7:32-34].
Although in common speech people speak of having faith in people, principles, or things, faith in its eternal sense is faith in, and only in, Jesus Christ. It is not sufficient to have faith in just anything; it must be focused on "the only true God, and Jesus Christ" whom he has sent (John 17:3). Having faith means having complete confidence in Jesus Christ alone to save humankind from sin and the finality of death. By his grace "are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8). If "Christ be not risen," then "your faith is also vain" and "ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). To trust in the powers of this world is to "trust in the arm of flesh" and, in effect, to reject Christ and his gospel (2 Ne. 4:34).
Paul explained, "Now faith is the substance [or assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence [the demonstration or proof] of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Mortals must live by faith, since divine realities are veiled from their physical senses. The invisible truths of the gospel are made manifest by the Holy Spirit and are seen in the lives of people who live by faith, following the daily directions of that Spirit. Though most mortals have not seen the spiritual realities beyond this physical world, they can accept such premises in faith, based on personal spiritual witness(es) and the scriptural record of former and latter-day special witnesses whom God has called and who have experienced these realities firsthand.
True faith is belief plus action. Faith implies not only the mental assent or cognition of belief but also its implementation. Beliefs in things both spiritual and secular impel people to act. Failure to act on the teachings and commandments of Christ implies absence of faith in him. Faith in Jesus Christ impels people to act in behalf of Christ, to follow his example, to do his works. Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21; italics added). James further emphasized that "faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works" (James 2:17-18; see also Grace).
Righteousness leads to greater faith, while sin and wickedness diminish faith. "The just [man] shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4). Violating the commandments of God brings a loss of the Spirit of the Lord and a loss of faith, for faith in Jesus Christ is incompatible with disobedience. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma characterized the words of Christ as a seed that is tested as people plant it in their hearts and nourish it. If they desire to see the seed grow, they must give it room and nourish it with their faith. If it is a good seed, it will swell and grow, and they will know that it is good. However, if they neglect the seed, it will wither away. But if they will "nourish the word by [their] faith with great diligence," it will grow into a tree of life, and they will taste its fruit, which is eternal life (Alma 32:26-43).
Faith may be nurtured and renewed through scripture study, prayer, and works consistent with the commandments of the gospel. Because those who act on faith, repent, and are baptized receive a remission of sins, they have reason to hope for eternal life (Moro. 7:41). With this hope, their faith in Jesus Christ further inspires individuals to minister to each other in charity, even as Christ would have done (Moro. 7:44), for the "end of the commandment is charity out of faith unfeigned" (1 Tim. 1:5). "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever" (Moro. 7:47). Thus, faith, or "steadfastness in Christ," enables people to endure to the end, continuing in faith and charity (2 Ne. 31:20; 1 Tim. 2:15; D&C 20:29). True faith is enduring and leads to an assurance that one's efforts have not gone unnoticed and that God is pleased with one's attitude and effort to implement the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in one's personal life.
While Alma explained how faith leads to knowledge, modern LDS commentary also points out how certain kinds of knowledge strengthen faith (MD, pp. 261-67). The knowledge that God exists, a correct understanding of his character, and a reassurance that he approves of one's conduct can help one's faith "become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness" ("Lectures on Faith," pp. 65-66; see Lectures on Faith).
The restoration of the gospel in modern times was initiated by an act of faith by the youthful Joseph Smith. Reading the Bible, he was struck by the encouragement of James to all who lack wisdom that they should "ask in faith, nothing wavering" (James 1:6). The visions that came to Joseph Smith in answer to his prayers (see Visions of Joseph Smith) are evidence that prayers are "answered according to [one's] faith" (Mosiah 27:14). Though God delights to bless his children, he "first, [tries] their faith, then shall the greater things be made manifest" (3 Ne. 26:9). But there will be "no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:6), and "without faith you can do nothing" (D&C 8:10). "Signs come by faith, not by the will of men" (D&C 63:10).
Because faith involves the guidance of the Holy Ghost to individuals, it leads them by an invisible hand to "the unity of the faith" (Eph. 4:13). Through the strength of others and increased confidence in the Lord's way, faith provides a shield against the adversary (Eph. 6:16). Similarly, faith has been described as part of one's armor, serving as a "breastplate of faith and love" (1 Thes. 5:8) in protecting the faithful from evil.
(See The Shield of Faith by President James E. Faust; Developing Faith in Christ by Elder Merrill J. Bateman; Confirmed in Faith by Sister Aileen H. Clyde; Developing Faith in Christ family home evening lessons; Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About Jesus Christ home page)
Benson, Ezra Taft. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 65-69. Salt Lake City, 1988.
Kimball, Spencer W. Faith Precedes the Miracle. Salt Lake City, 1973.
"Lectures on Faith." In The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, ed. L. Dahl and C. Tate, pp. 29-104. Provo, Utah, 1990.