Before he died, Larry Barkdull had written a substantial part of an unfinished manuscript about the extraordinary power of faith,  particularly as a power that causes things to happen. This is faith on a higher level than we usually practice and understand it. With the permission of his wife, Buffie, Meridian will be running an excerpt from this new book every week.

The Mind of Man—The Organ of Creation

Joseph Smith made an observation about faith. He taught that the mind of Man is the mechanism that accesses and harnesses this intelligent force. The mind is the organ of creation, and words, he said, are what set faith in motion. Thoughts and words—as regarding faith, the two are inseparable. And words, specifically authoritative words, issuing from belief that has been cultivated in Man’s mind, unleash faith’s tremendous power.

What are we to understand by a man’s working by faith? We answer–we understand that when a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force. It is by words, instead of exerting his physical powers, with which every being works when he works by faith.[1]

The initial act of faith is not physical exertion. That comes later. The initial act of faith is declaring with faith-filled words that which the mind envisions! The Nephite prophet, Jacob, said, “For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?”[2] Clearly, there is power in speaking authoritative words.

Of the connection between faith and words, Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”[3] Elder John K. Carmack reminds us that Man’s thoughts and words must connect to the divine Source of faith for any action to manifest into something meaningful: “Faith taps into divine sources and is a manifestation of unity and partnership with the Lord. Even the ideas and words formulated by faith come by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the power to accomplish the words formed by faith comes from God.[4]

God constructed the mind of Man to mimic His own: “the development of the mind of man…is after the order of the mind of God.”[5] That is, God fashioned Man’s mind to be the organ that contemplates and initiates all creation. The mind has the capacity to envision something that yet does not physically exist; then, by a declaration of intent (speaking authoritative words), the mind plugs into the power of faith, engages the body to take action, and causes the envisioned thing to physically manifest.

This Godlike ability of the mind is a creative phenomenon that is often called “seeing with the eye of faith.”[6] The mind of Man is endowed with the capacity to see the end from the beginning; the mind “[looks] forward with an eye of faith to [harvest] the fruit thereof.”[7] Conversely, Moroni explained that the faithless mind is incapable of believing and accessing the power of faith; the faithless mind cannot see with the eye of faith: “They did not believe, because they saw them not.”[8]

Faith and Hope

Hope is another word that describes the mind’s capability to envision something that has not yet manifested physically. “Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[9] We recall Alma’s explanation of the connection between hope and faith: “And now as I said concerning faith–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.”[10] The hoped-for vision must be founded on verifiable truth. Some element of knowledge is necessary to engage the power of faith. Explaining the Brother of Jared’s experience in seeing the Lord, Moroni wrote, “And because of the knowledge of this man, he could not be kept within the veil.”[11] Knowledge or truth is delivered by the Holy Ghost as a testimony to Man to connect the hoped-for vision to faith.

The mind of Man, blessed with the DNA of Deity, is able to envision futuristic, substantive things as if they were present. The mind sees through the eye of faith as it gathers evidence about things that are not yet visible,[12] things that reside in Man’s future. The mind’s power to envision or foresee allows Man to muster courage to declare with words what he hopes for, that which he sees in his mind’s eye. Then Man declares with words that which he sees and hopes for. Such declarations of hope, according to Alma, are more than verbalizing a wish. Alma’s definition of hope requires that the envisioned thing be based on truth. The vision or hope must have verifiable substance for Man to effectively take a stand for his goal. Under this condition, his declaration of intent constitutes a promise that he will succeed in achieving his goal. “I will go and do,” Nephi declared with words of faith.[13] By taking a stand with a vow, Nephi effectively made God his partner, ensuring his success.

Now the foundation is in place and the process of creation can begin. The force of faith responds to the mind’s hoped-for vision and the declaration of intent. Like plugging into an electrical socket, envisioning coupled with hope and declarative words infuse energy into that which the mind sees, all of which pave the way so that the vision can become a reality. Corresponding action follows; things and people commence to move; resources start to gather, and the creation takes shape. That which the mind had envisioned and hoped for is now becoming a reality, and it is the mind of Man that drives the process of faith through to completion. If we lose vision or hope or back down on our promise or faint in our actions, we unplug from the energy of faith and lie as dark and powerless as a flashlight that has drained its batteries.

Faith and Power

The Gods have perfected the process of plugging into the force of faith and staying the course of creation. Before they take any creative action, they first see then “declare the end from the beginning.”[14] They become firm in their minds by taking a stand to bring to pass their vision, and with authoritative words, they make a declaration of intent: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled….”[15] Having thus plugged into the intelligent force of faith, they are now fully empowered to go to work and cause their vision to manifest. “Faith,” said Joseph Smith, “is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things.”[16]

And so can faith be for us. Mormon said it this way: “Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; …their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.”[17] Such people have “power given them to do all things by faith.”[18]

Faith is the power of God; faith and power are, in fact, synonyms. God has all “faith or power,” taught Joseph Smith.[19] This statement suggests the interchangeability of these two words. “Thus,” wrote Travis Larsen, “when we increase our faith we are really increasing our power. If our faith is strong and vibrant, then our power will likewise be strong; but if our faith is lacking, then our power will be also.” Continuing—

Why, then, do we need this increase of faith and power in our lives? The Book of Mormon Reference Companion gives a brief definition of what power is. It states that power is “the possession and execution of authority, control, or influence over people, things, and circumstances.” …

Joseph Smith taught that the faithful would also be better prepared and able to overcome Satan and his temptations through their faith: “The Saints were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.” …As our faith increases, we will be endowed with the heavenly gift of power and will be better able to fulfill our purposes here upon the earth.[20]

Let us remember that faith is more than a strong belief; rather, faith is an intelligent force as real as electricity that we access through envisioning, hoping, declaring, emotionalizing, believing, taking appropriate action and enduring to the end of the creative process. “There is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.”[21]

Creation Gone Awry

Of course, there is an “opposition in all things.”[22] The power of faith is indiscriminate and can be used for both good and bad outcomes. This idea might seem counterintuitive, but it is true nevertheless. Electricity surges through a computer to make possible the creation of inspiring literature or to gain access to depraved pornography. So is the force of faith to the mind of Man: faith can be used to create what the mind envisions.

No child of God can escape the fact that his mind is a creative organ patterned after the mind of his divine Parents. By the mind’s construction, it is always tapping into the force of faith to generate its present and future realities. Substantially, every thought—both good and bad—that issues forth from the mind of Man initiates a respective creation, unless that thought or creation is interrupted by a higher power. “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.”[23]

Understanding that negative thoughts and words can create destructive realities, King Benjamin warned,

But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.[24]

Consider how God and prophets have learned to discipline their minds, hearts and tongues to think, feel and speak positively; they avoid negative thoughts, feelings and words so that they are free to harness the intelligent force of faith for positive purposes. Of the power of positive, authoritative words, Joseph Smith taught, “God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain…. All this was done by faith…. Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed.”[25]

As children of God, endowed with a divine mind, we are independent agents, created with the ability to choose how we wish to think, feel, speak and act by the power of faith. Thus, essentially everything that exists in our environment is of our own creation, even some things that might appear to have been imposed upon us. We are not always as victimized as we might suspect. Like it or not, we tend to attract manifestations of our thoughts, feelings and words, the effects of which can be buried so deeply in the subconscious mind that we might never perceive them without help. When we encounter anything negative (or positive) within our environment, we can often trace its origin to a thought, feeling or words that at one time created it. Therefore, the most powerful position we can take to handle negative things is to take one hundred percent responsibility for them; that is, if something negative manifests in our life, we accept full responsibility (not credit or blame) for having somehow attracted it by the medium of faith.

Taking this position is highly empowering. Consider: If we possess the ability to think, feel or speak something into existence, we also possess the ability to create something else. When we accept this fact, we begin to understand the potential of the mind and just how powerful and liberating is this intelligent force we call faith.

Dr. Hew Len

In the 1980s, the Hawaii State Hospital created a special ward for mentally ill criminals, people who had committed violent crimes such as kidnapping, rape and murder. The hospital staff lived in constant fear of these dangerous, deranged convicts. The facility was as bleak as the residents: faded, peeling paint, repulsive odors, decaying floors, walls and grounds. Every day saw an inmate attacking another inmate or a staff member. In an attempt to control the situation, security agents shackled the inmates, but even that extreme measure did not stop the aggression. Constantly restrained, the inmates were never allowed outside for fresh air because of their relentlessly threatening attitude. Dark feelings of dread and anxiety permeated the hospital ward, and for the staff that worked there, sick leave was a chronic issue. No one wanted to continuously face the depressive and dangerous environment.

Then a new clinical psychologist, Dr. Hew Len, was hired. He was a cheerful, unassuming man. The staff expected the new doctor to give them instructions, but he never held meetings, and he never met with the inmates. Rather, he spent his time walking the halls or sitting in his office as he read the inmates’ files.

Everyone was perplexed. Then over time, little things started to change. Someone took the initiative to paint the walls, and remarkably, the paint stuck. Now the atmosphere felt more pleasing. Slowly, people began to repair the facility and take care of the gardens. Some members of the staff restored the tennis courts. As an experiment, a few prisoners were unshackled and allowed outside. When that proved successful, other inmates were allowed to play tennis with the staff. Later, more prisoners were unshackled, taken off heavy pharmacological drugs and permitted to spend time outdoors. Eventually, the violence ceased, as did the sick leave. People began to apply for employment to work in the ward because of its positive environment. Gradually, one by one, the inmates were released into society.

Dr. Hew Len’s story is chronicled in a book entitled Zero Limits. The doctor worked at the ward for about four years, and during that time, he never held a staff meeting or counseled inmates or made a suggestion. In the end, only a couple of inmates remained, and they were relocated. When there were no more dangerously insane criminals, the ward closed forever. 

Later, Dr. Len was recognized for his success, but few people understood what had he done to make it possible. Basically, he achieved success by taking one hundred percent responsibility for the situation. As we have stated, taking responsibility does not always mean to take credit or blame. One definition of responsibility is the ability to respond appropriately or to take ownership of a situation. Dr. Len assumed that if some negative thing or person had entered his life, that thing or person had appeared for a reason that resided within him. Perhaps he had attracted it; maybe he had been assigned to it; or perhaps it had manifested in his life because he needed to address something inside himself. For whatever reason, Dr. Len took full responsibility and went to work on himself before he presumed to work on others.

Jesus employed the same principle at the threshold of the Atonement. Surrounded by his disciples, he addressed the Father, saying, “For their sakes, I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”[26] That is, “What I now do to myself will open the door for the same blessings to flow to those whom I love.” Jesus had the ability to respond to a negative situation that was confronting him–in this case, the sins of all mankind–so he took one hundred percent responsibility and changed the reality.

Likewise, Dr. Len didn’t expend energy on bemoaning his situation or assigning blame. He assumed that if he had power to attract or become aware of something negative in his life, he also had power to create a new reality. To do this, he engaged the creative power of his mind, as he personalized the inmates’ files, ingested the negative situation of his environment and envisioned a new reality. Although the staff and patients wondered at the doctor’s apparent disconnect, he was fully present. In his own way, he was working on a solution that began by working on himself, addressing the things in his life that had attracted or placed him among negative surroundings and people. Then when he had disempowered those negative things with a new vision, his environment changed, including everything and everyone in it.

This process might seem foreign, but nevertheless, when Dr. Len employed it by assuming total responsibility, he urged everything and everyone around him to change by the power of his mind. He tapped into the intelligent force of faith by envisioning, declaring and emotionalizing another reality, and he created it!

[1] Lectures on Faith 7:3.

[2] Jacob 4:9, emphasis added.

[3] Mark 11:23-24, emphasis added.

[4] John K. Carmack, “Faith Yields Priesthood Power,” Ensign, May 1993, 41.

[5] Anthony W. Ivins, Conference Report, October 1917, 66-67.

[6] Alma 5:15; 32:40; Ether 12:19.

[7] Alma 32:40.

[8] Ether 12:5.

[9] Hebrews 11:1.

[10] Alma 32:21, emphasis added.

[11] Ether 3:19.

[12] Hebrews 11:1.

[13] 1 Nephi 3:7.

[14] Isaiah 46:10.

[15] D&C 1:38.

[16] Lectures on Faith 1:16.

[17] Alma 57:27, emphasis added.

[18] 2 Nephi 1:10.

[19] Lectures on Faith 4:10.

[20] Travis Larsen, “The Power of Faith That Comes through Sacrifice,” Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2006 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006), 43–52.

[21] Abraham 3:17.

[22] 2 Nephi 2:11.

[23] Proverbs 23:7.

[24] Mosiah 4:30.

[25] Lectures on Faith 7:3.

[26] John 17:19.