Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pathway to Faith, Part 2

Last week I talked about faith and what is and how Peter the fisherman became Peter the Apostle through his path to faith. Before I tell you what my path to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was like, I would like to discuss another principle related to faith. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. We stepped into the darkness with assurance and hope, and we received evidence and confirmation as the light in fact moved and provided the illumination we needed. The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6) is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.

True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. Faith as the principle of action is highlighted in many scriptures with which we are all familiar:
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26; emphasis added).

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; emphasis added).

“Awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).(“Seek Learning by Faith”, David A. Bednar of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, From a satellite broadcast address to Church Educational System educators given on February 3, 2006)

Elder Bednar introduces an interesting point related to faith. When we are struggling with something spiritual, we must be willing to live the principle, or step into the darkness, before the testimony of the principle comes. It is only after we exercise our faith through obedience that the witness of the spirit comes into our hearts. As I look back over my life I can see this pattern often as I have made decisions that would take me on my path to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

My parents converted to the LDS Church before I was born. When I was two years old my parents moved from Provo, Utah where I was born, to Argos, Indiana. There I lived until I was 18 and left home for college. Belonging to the LDS Church in Indiana was not easy; we had to travel 30 miles to South Bend to find the nearest LDS Church. I was baptized when I was eight years old (the normal age for baptism in the LDS Church). But not long after that my parents stopped going to the LDS Church because of the hardship in traveling that far. We attended the Methodist Church during the next 10 years while I was at home.

There were times at the Methodist Church that I felt the spirit working on me, but it just did not feel the same. I remember having questions about God and Jesus that just did not feel right. I remember being taught in the LDS Church that Heavenly Father and Jesus were real with physical bodies and that we lived with them as spirit children of our Heavenly Father before coming here to earth. I remembered knowing that Heavenly Father loved us, his children, as much as he loved his children before Christ was born and after and because of that love there were prophets that he spoke to that testified of Christ’s birth and mission. Some of those writings ended up being published as the Old Testament. Some writings of the Apostles that were witnesses of the earthly mission of Jesus Christ became what we have in the New Testament. But we know there were other writings that were not included in the Old and New Testament.

Now I was struggling with the concept that God was not one person, but three. He was not a real physical person, but just a spirit that filled the immensity of space.  And to top those two things, he no longer had prophets on the earth that he spoke to so the heavens were closed; there were no new revelations to help us through life’s challenges. If God does not change, why would he change the way he communicates with his children? Why did revelation stop? Elder Hugh B. Brown, in a BYU Devotional said there could only be three reason for the change: 1) He does not love us anymore. That of course is not true, he loves all his children no matter when were born. 2) He cannot speak to us, he lost the power. That of course is blasphemous; he is all-powerful and cannot lose the power to communicate.  3) We don’t need him anymore. That is simply silly. There has never been a time when we need to have communication from God than now. (“Profile of a Prophet”, BYU Devotional, October 4, 1955).

I remember one time when I was in high school and there was a program where all the high school aged youth attended a meeting with a guest minister. He talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus and how we each needed to make the attempt to personally know our Savior. I felt the spirit that night and went home praying for answers to all the questions I had been asking. It was as if I was asking the questions that I talked about a couple of weeks ago in the primary song: “A Child’s Prayer”

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
"Suffer the children to come to me."
Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

That night as I prayed, I felt the spirit comfort me and I knew that he was really there and he did answer our prayers. It was as if he was answering me through the second verse of that song, he was telling me:

Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list'ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav'n.

(Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938)

I knew in my heart that he was a real person, not just some spirit that was not comprehensible. He loved me and would answer my prayers. I had stepped into the darkness with faith that God was there and would answer me. I was filled with the light of his love and would never doubt that fact again.

Was my faith perfect? Not even close, it was still as the “faith of a child”, but it was there and it could grow. As long as Peter kept his focus on the Savior he could walk on the water, when he lost that focus he began to sink. As long as we continue to focus our lives after the pattern of our Savior, his spirit will continue to abide with us and strengthen us.

Now it was up to me to put that faith into action and test other things that would bring me closer to my Savior and be worthy of his love. Could I love my neighbor as myself? Could I be honest in all my dealings with everyone I came in contact with? Could I accept those who were not on the same path to faith that I was?

Would I stumble and fall? Yes, as we all do because of our mortality we fall short of the glory of God and are often unworthy of his grace. But his grace is sufficient to cover all our sins if we give ourselves to him and work to live worthy of that grace.

Throughout my life my faith has been tested, I have stumbled and fallen. But my pathway to faith has brought me to the point that I have no doubts that God, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ live, they are real, glorified physical beings. We are all children of Heavenly Father and once lived with him before coming here to earth. And were are here to prove that we are worth to live with him eternally. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that he gave his life that we could all be resurrected. I also know that not only will we be resurrected, but that all those who are worthy will be exalted and live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with our families. Families can be together forever, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your Comments and questions are welcome.

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