By Kathryn H. Kidd All artwork © 2007 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved

President James E. Faust, who died Friday at the age of 87, was a humble man who displayed great intelligence and compassion. Although recent years found him delivering his general conference addresses from a big red chair, he never had the need of an intellectual or spiritual “red chair.”

His sermons were insightful and inspirational as he reminded members that the way to happiness in this life and the next could be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are a few of the messages he gave that displayed this insight and inspiration.

“Spiritual Nutrients”

In his talk that was delivered in the priesthood session of the October 2006 general conference, he told the priesthood that just as cattle crave the nutrients in rock salt to help them survive, human beings are equally dependant on nutrients of the spirit. He said:

    In our uncertain physical environment, we need to increase our spiritual nutrients, nutrients that come from the knowledge of the fullness of the gospel and the powers of the holy priesthood. When such knowledge penetrates our souls, we not only draw closer to God but we also want to serve Him and our fellow men.

He went on to tell the story of Elder J. Golden Kimball, who served as a mission president over the Southern States mission:

    Over a century ago when Elder J. Golden Kimball presided over the Southern States Mission, he called for a meeting of the elders. They were to meet in a secluded spot in the woods so they would have privacy. One of the elders had a problem with one of his legs. It was raw and swollen to at least twice the size of his other leg. But the elder insisted on attending this special priesthood meeting in the woods. So two of the elders carried him to this meeting place.

    Elder Kimball asked the missionaries, “Brethren, what are you preaching?”

    They said, “We are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    “Are you telling these people that you have the power and authority, through faith, to heal the sick?” he asked.

    They said, “Yes.”

    “Well then,” he continued, “why don’t you believe it?”

    The young man with the swollen leg spoke up and said, “I believe it.” Here is the rest of the story told in Elder Kimball’s words: “[The elder] sat down on a stump and the elders gathered around him. He was anointed and I administered to him, and he was healed right in their presence. It was quite a shock; and every other elder that was sick was administered to, and they were all healed. We went out of that priesthood meeting and the elders received their appointments, and there was a joy and happiness that cannot be described.” Their nutrient of faith had been replenished and their zeal for missionary work revived.1

“Some Great Thing”

In the priesthood session of the October, 2001, general conference, President Faust reminded the youth that even though our heroes are remembered for great acts of courage and heroism, it’s the little things that make us who we are. He said:

    We do not prove our love for the Savior only by doing “some great thing.” If the prophet personally asked you to go on a mission to some strange and exotic place, would you go? You would probably make every effort to go. But what about paying tithing? What about doing your home teaching? We show our love for the Savior by doing the many small acts of faith, devotion, and kindness to others that define our character.

He added:

    Small things can have great potential. Television, which is a great blessing to mankind, was conceived by a teenager in Idaho as he was plowing straight furrows in his father’s field with a disc harrow. He envisioned that he could transmit straight lines from one image dissector to be reproduced in another. Often we cannot see the potential in doing seemingly small things. This 14-year-old boy was doing ordinary day-to-day work when this extraordinary idea came to him. As Nephi once commented, “And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things” (1Nephi 16:29).

    You young men are a chosen generation for whom the future holds great promise. The future may require you to compete with young men in a worldwide market. You need special training. You may be selected for training not because of some extraordinary achievement or great thing, but because you got your Eagle Scout Award, your Duty to God Award, graduated from seminary, or served a mission.

The Shield of Faith

As the world entered the new millennium, President Faust said, “Never before in the history of the world has the need for faith in God been greater.” He told the April 2000 general conference:

    Although science and technology open up boundless opportunities, they also present great perils because Satan employs these marvelous discoveries to his great advantage. The communication highway that spans the globe is overloaded with information for which no one bears responsibility for its truth or its source. Crime has become much more sophisticated and life more perilous. In war, killing has become far more efficient.

    Great challenges lie ahead unless the power of faith, judgment, honesty, decency, self-control, and character increases proportionately to compensate for this expansion of secular knowledge. Without moral progress, stimulated by faith in God, immorality in all its forms will proliferate and strangle goodness and human decency. Mankind will not be able to fully express the potential nobility of the human soul unless faith in God is strengthened.

He added:

    I wish to sound a voice of warning to this people. I solemnly declare that this spiritual kingdom of faith will move forward with or without each of us individually. No unhallowed hand can stay the growth of the Church nor prevent fulfillment of its mission. Any of us can be left behind, drawn away by the seductive voices of secularism and materialism.

    To sustain faith, each of us must be humble and compassionate, kind and generous to the poor and the needy. Faith is further sustained by daily doses of spirituality that come to us as we kneel in prayer. It begins with us as individuals and extends to our families, who need to be solidified in righteousness. Honesty, decency, integrity, and morality are all necessary ingredients of our faith and will provide sanctuary for our souls.

Then he said, “Faith intensifies and magnifies our gifts and abilities. There is no greater source of knowledge than the inspiration that comes from the Godhead, who have all understanding and knowledge of that which has been, is now, and will be in the future.”

He told the story of Amanda Smith, a pioneer wife and mother who lived at Haun’s Mill during the 1838 massacre.

When the gunfire ended and the smoke cleared, her husband and one of her sons were dead. Her seven-year-old son had been grievously wounded. In fact, his entire left hip had been shot away.

Amanda Smith had no idea what to do, so she asked the One who did. Here is what President Faust said happened next:

    And then I was directed as by a voice speaking to me.

    “. . . Our fire was still smouldering … I was directed to take … ashes and make a lye and put a cloth saturated with it right into the wound … Again and again I saturated the cloth and put it into the hole … and each time mashed flesh and splinters of bone came away with the cloth; and the wound became as white as chicken’s flesh.

    “Having done as directed I again prayed to the Lord and was again instructed as distinctly as though a physician had been standing by speaking to me. Near by was a slippery-elm tree. From this I was told to make a … poultice and fill the wound with it … The poultice was made, and the wound, which took fully a quarter of a yard of linen to cover … was properly dressed…

    “I removed the wounded boy to a house … and dressed his hip; the Lord directing me as before. I was reminded that in my husband’s trunk there was a bottle of balsam. This I poured into the wound, greatly soothing Alma’s pain.

    “‘Alma my child,’ I said, ‘you believe that the Lord made your hip?’

    “‘Yes, mother.’

    “‘Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don’t you believe he can, Alma?’

    “‘Do you think that the Lord can, mother?’ inquired the child, in his simplicity.

    “‘Yes, my son,’ I replied, ‘he has showed it all to me in a vision.’

    “Then I laid him comfortably on his face, and said: ‘Now you lay like that, and don’t move, and the Lord will make you another hip.’

    “So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered–a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket, which remains to this day a marvel to physicians. . . .

    “It is now nearly forty years ago, but Alma has never been the least crippled during his life, and he has traveled quite a long period of the time as a missionary of the gospel and [is] a living miracle of the power of God.”2

    The treatment was unusual for that day and time, and unheard of now, but when we reach an extremity, like Sister Smith, we have to exercise our simple faith and listen to the Spirit as she did. Exercising our faith will make it stronger.

Singled Out

President Faust expended much time and had great compassion for those in the Church who lived far from his home state of Utah or who were for some other reason might consider themselves on the fringes of the Church. He served as a district president when he was on his mission in Brazil, and he had such a strong affiliation for the Brazilian people that in 1998 he was awarded Brazilian citizenship. This rare honor has been bestowed on only a few world leaders.

When Mormons had to embrace the two-party political system in order to achieve statehood for Utah in 1896, the ancestors of President Faust were assigned to affiliate with the Democratic Party. President Faust continued the family tradition as a lifelong Democrat. He was so prominent in the party that at one time he was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Racial unrest. Democrats in today’s church have continually looked to him as an example of civic leadership.

President Faust also worked to organize programs for single members of the Church. He wrote an article in the current Ensign magazine that encouraged single church members to persevere. He wrote:

    We are deeply moved and sobered as we hear a common thread running through the expressions of many of our single members. For some, loneliness and discouragement are their most constant companions. One great soul who has a good bishop, a good home teacher, a good position, and comfortable circumstances said, “I don’t need more to do; I just need someone to do it with.” This becomes a matter of great concern when we consider that at least one-third of adult Church members are single.

    Please remember that we have all been single, are now single, or at some time may again be single; so being single in the Church is not extraordinary. Being married also carries challenges and responsibilities. Perhaps you have heard of the young bride who said, “When I get married, it will be the end of my troubles.” Her wise mother replied, “Yes, my dear, but which end?”

He counseled the single members of the Church in these words:

It does not help to become so obsessed with the desire to be married that we miss blessings and opportunities for development while we are single. I also believe it would be helpful to set goals; without goals you cannot measure your progress. But don’t become frustrated because there are no obvious victories. Some things cannot be measured. If you are striving for excellence – if you are trying your best day by day with the wisest use of your time and energy to reach realistic goals – you will be a success whether you are married or single (James E. Faust, “Welcoming Every Single One,” Ensign, Aug 2007, 4-8).

The Blessings of Discipleship

But even though his heart was drawn to people of differing nationalities and circumstances, the focus of President Faust was always on the gospel and the blessings that we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can receive if only we have the strength to endure. In a talk in the October 2006 general conference, he said:

    What is discipleship? It is primarily obedience to the Savior. Discipleship includes many things. It is chastity. It is tithing. It is family home evening. It is keeping all the commandments. It is forsaking anything that is not good for us. Everything in life has a price. Considering the Savior’s great promise for peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come, discipleship is a price worth paying. It is a price we cannot afford not to pay. By measure, the requirements of discipleship are much, much less than the promised blessings.

He went on to say:

    The disciples of Christ receive a call, to not only forsake the pursuit of world things, but to carry the cross daily. To carry the cross means to follow His commandments and to build up His church on the earth. It also means self-mastery. As Jesus of Nazareth instructed us, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

” “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

He continued:

    The blessings of discipleship are readily available to all who are willing to pay the price. Discipleship brings purpose to our lives so that rather than wandering aimlessly, we walk steadily on that straight and narrow way that leads us back to our Heavenly Father. Discipleship brings us comfort in times of sorrow, peace of conscience, and joy in service, all of which help us to be more like Jesus.

Pioneers of the Future

It was president Faust’s belief that, “We belong to the greatest cause on earth. We are the pioneers of the future.” In the October 1997 general conference, he told the young men:

    Action is inhibited by fear. You young men, along with the young sisters, are the future of the Church and, in some measure, of the world. You rightly have concerns about measuring up and finding your place in life. You more often recognize your inadequacies rather than your strengths.

    Some of you may have concerns about leaving home and going into the unknown, such as the mission field. Some of you in your 20s and 30s are timid about taking on the responsibilities of marriage and family. You are properly concerned about your education ? your training ? to learn to use your minds and your hands. You must acquire a skill to be able to compete in today’s world.

    You have fears about being accepted. You worry about being popular in your age-group. It is natural to want to belong.

But he counseled:

    Please be assured, brethren, that we all belong. Nothing is more important or precious to any of us than belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We belong to the greatest cause on earth ? that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have been endowed with the greatest power on earth ? that of the holy priesthood.

    If you take each challenge one step at a time, with faith in every footstep, your strength and understanding will increase. You cannot foresee all of the turns and twists ahead. My counsel to you is to follow the direction of the Savior of the world: “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36).

He said, “We can overcome all of our fears, not all at once, but one at a time. As we do so we will grow in confidence.” Then he said:

    Each of you has been endowed with unique talents and abilities. That, coupled with some special powers of the priesthood, will help you tremendously in any endeavor. It will be a great challenge to be in the royal army that takes the Church into the future under the guidance of the Lord and His leaders. It will also be a most rewarding and exciting experience. It will require great faith, sacrifice, discipline, commitment, and effort. I have every confidence that you are equal to it.

He believed that being a pioneer requires an active battle against the forces of evil. He said:

    Believing involves faith and good works. We cannot be passive; we must actively avoid evil. This means that we do not trifle with sacred things. Families in this day and time should not only avoid evil but avoid the very appearance of evil. To combat these influences families must have family prayer, family home evening, and family scripture study.

    How corrosive is the daily diet of pornography, immorality, dishonesty, disrespect, abuse, and violence that comes from so many sources. If we are not careful it will shake our spiritual moorings. Once we internalize these evils, it is very difficult to purge ourselves of them.

Right on Track

After the death of President Faust on Friday, President Gordon B. Hinckley said this:

    As a member of the Twelve, Brother Faust was a man of strong opinions and had the courage to state them. I never found a time when he wasn’t right on track, and that’s why I asked him to serve as my second counselor – because I appreciated that among his many other virtues.

President Faust’s wisdom and courage will long be remembered by Latter-day Saints.


1 In Max Nolan, “J. Golden Kimball in the South,” New Era, July 1985, 10.
2 “Amanda Smith,” in Andrew Jenson, comp., Historical Record, 9 vols. (1882¬90), 5:84¬86; paragraphing and punctuation altered.