Moroni may complain about his weakness with words, but he has given us one of the most insightful chapters on faith in all of scripture. We’ll study it today.
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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.
Moroni may complain about his weakness with words, but he has given us one of the most insightful chapters on faith in all of scripture. We’ll study it today.
Welcome, we are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow me podcast, where today we will study Ether chapters 12-15 in the Book of Mormon, titled, “By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled.”
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Just for context remember that Coriantumr is the king over the Jaredites and will also be the nation’s last survivor. We learned much earlier in Omni 1:21, that he had been discovered by the people of Zarahemla,and lived with them for 9 moons or months.
The prophet Ether, for whom this book was named, came forth in the days of Coriantumr, before the nation was utterly decimated, with a warning. Prophets are often called upon to warn people of peril that is at their door, and people don’t like to hear that they are about to be destroyed—even when it has this message of hope, that even now if they repent, they can be spared.
Now, it was a dangerous atmosphere to preach to a people so totally hardened and bloodthirsty. The prophet’s words were certainly not welcomed, but we learn that Ether “could not be restrained because of the spirit of the Lord which was in him. For he did acry from the bmorning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be cdestroyed, saying unto them that dby efaith all things are fulfilled” (Ether 12: 2,3).
This reminds me of what Wilfrid Woodriff said about his missionary labors. “His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones.”
This all-consuming love for the Lord could not be better described: “burning fire shut up in my bones,” “could not be restrained”. As Paul said, he worketh in me to do according to his will. (See Philippians 2:13).
When God works in us, it manifests itself as wanting to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. We cannot keep from singing this good news. Yet, for Ether what a contrast there was between that light that was inside of himself and the darkened world where he preached. Ether demonstrates that we can remain firm and keep that light burning even in a world of shadows where there is sin and tumult on every side.
Was it threatening to preach his message? Was he in constant danger? Was his very goodness repellent to the people? My guess is yes, yes and yes, but he still could not be restrained. His faith in the Lord was developed not from looking around and following others, but from some deeper well.
Can you base who you are on what others say? Do you believe something because 100 million other people do? Can 100 million people be wrong? Yes, they can.
Ether stood alone and we may find that we may have to as well. What can make us firm, steadfast and immovable? It is faith, the subject of this chapter.
“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with asurety bhope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which chope cometh of dfaith, maketh an eanchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in fgood works, being led to gglorify God” (Ether 12:4).
Doesn’t an anchor to your soul sound important right now? Contrast that with the fear and terror of being tossed on every wind of the sea. The storms in our lives can blow with a furious wind that does not have to drive us into the rocks where our ship can be broken and destroyed.
Being tossed around with worry, pain and insecurity in the hard times of our lives can make our lives miserable. It is common to feel that and become unmoored. Sometimes we hear a loved one say, “I’m lost.” Sometimes we may feel lost. Sometimes we may feel that it is just too much. We have been battered and battered against the rocks.
One reason we may waft around in misery is because we wonder if we are safe. The world feels dangerous and we are frightened. Where is that place of peace?
It is faith that “maketh an anchor”. The scriptures here are not talking about any kind of faith. They’re not saying faith that tomorrow there will be blue skies or faith in a political ideology or positive thinking that brings good things.
It is faith in the Lord Jesus that is an anchor to our souls.
When we anchor ourselves in Christ, we are anchoring in the One who has never faltered. We are anchoring in the sure foundation where we can have complete trust. We are anchoring in the One that knows the end from the beginning.
Even when the Lord was in the Garden of Gethsemane with the weight of all the sin, sorrow, and pain of the world upon Him and would that He might not drink the bitter cup, He did.
Everything in our life seems to falter. Even the earth itself has earthquakes. So where is our pillar of strength? It is in Christ who has already demonstrated that He is completely worthy of trust.
This reminds me of Doctrine and Covenants 6:34, where the Lord says, “Fear not, little flock, do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.”
Or Doctrine and Covenants 50: 40. “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world and you are of them that my Father hath given me.”
Can we trust the Lord when he says, “Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’(Isaiah 58:9).
Think of the immense comfort of building my faith, and therefore myself upon a rock, not a sand dune. Of counting on the one who has overcome the world.
One of the scriptures we memorized is this, “And Christ hath said: if ye will have faith in me ye shall power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (1 Moroni 7:33). Turning this over and over in our minds, we suddenly realized that it doesn’t say “if ye will have faith in yourself”, but “if ye have faith in Christ.” Of course. I know that faith in myself will always fall short. Being mortal, I bob and weave, falter. Yet we live in a society that teaches us, “You can only count on yourself.” “Brace yourself.” “It’s all up to you”. In reality, faith in Christ gives us this steadying hand inside of us.
The Lord tells us not to look to ourselves, but “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” That doubting not and fearing not is what begins to happen as we do look to him in every thought. And why?
The next verse tells us: “Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36,37).
Think of how much easier life becomes. Having faith in Christ gives us a calm, still center to our souls. Having faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement allows us to let go of things that are past, the many ways we have disappointed ourselves and try again. We cannot disdain earlier iterations of ourselves.
Having faith in Christ means we don’t have to fear because there is a bigger light inside us than the threat beyond.
You see it in people, this faith in Christ that makes them steady even in the hardest situations. I’ve seen it these past months with my brother Rees Jensen. I have admired him since I was a child. He is a leader, a mentor, endlessly gracious, resilient and strong. The rock of his foundation has always been Jesus Christ—and it showed.
This past year, he and his wife, our beloved sister-in-law Virginia, have lived in assisted living because of health complications. With COVID-19, and assisted living you know what that means. No visitors. Only phone calls. Then in March, Virginia died, and being in assisted living, he was alone to grieve, and then suffer the pain from his health concerns alone.
How much he needed the loving arms of his family around him, and they did everything they could, given the restrictions. But I knew it was agonizing.
Still, every time I called him, he was so kind. He always turned the conversation to me, using that time to tell me how much he admired and loved me. He told me not to worry about him because in assisted living, you live with angels, people who have suffered and been tried and were still so good and full of light. He told me how much faith he had in Christ. I came away from those conversations so lifted, it was the bright spot of my day. His daughter told me that every night while he was alone, they had prayers over the phone together, and he mentioned me by name.
Rees always told us that when someone asked how you are doing you can always honestly answer, given both the blessings and pitfalls of mortality, “Many things are going well.” This is true. At any given time, many things are going well. We’ve used this answer for years. Last Saturday, Rees graduated from mortality. Graduated was his word for it. We have to add that he graduated with high honors.
We knew that since he was with his sweetheart, Virginia, again, this time he could answer the question about how he was doing with this. “Everything is going well.” Because of his faith in Jesus Christ, we were certain that everything was going well—and always was, even if the day-to-day mortal experience didn’t seem like it. Nothing in life rocked him. Resilience is just another name for faith in Jesus Christ.
President Henry B. Eyring said, “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” Mortality is a troublesome place, but it is faith in Jesus Christ that transforms it.
In Ether 12:4, we note that “whoso believeth in God might hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God”, but there is also a more proximate hope, which is the hope we are given every day. One of the saddest words in the English language is hopeless. It is that sense that your problems have no solution, that there is no way out, that the tunnel you are in will not have a light at the end. When you are hopeless, you want to weep and cry and scream. But hope is a product of faith. How can I be hopeless when I know that Jesus Christ is walking by my side on this journey?
So, faith and hope working together, make us sure and steadfast. Whenever we get discouraged or feel overworked or worried, we tell ourselves, “Steady, steady” and that helps. Where is our faith?
It is that steady working of faith in our lives, that sense of the Lord’s goodness and closeness, that leads us to abound in good works and glorify him. One reason we can abound in good works is because so much of the mortal baggage of worry and fear is lifted from us. We can turn from endless preoccupation with ourselves, to look outward.
I thought about this when Wendy Nelson Maxfield, daughter of President Russell M. Nelson died in January of 2019 after what her obituary called “a courageous and faith-filled battle with cancer.”
In the hours when I learned of this, I could not stop thinking about the pain our prophet and all of Wendy’s family felt at her passing. This was in part because I knew this twirl of light and energy named Wendy in college and call her friend, but also because we, too, have lost a daughter. It is a pain of agonizing proportions, and in President Nelson’s case, this was his second such loss. His daughter, Emily Nelson Wittwer, died in 1995, also of cancer.
Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children, and in President Nelson’s life, he has had this heavy duty twice.
I don’t know how long Wendy has was sick, but because she had cancer, it has clearly been for a while. Courageous and faith-filled battles do not sound like short ones, which brings me to why my thoughts lingered so much on President Nelson at that time.
All those many months President Nelson had been serving us, with unspeakable selflessness, care, and a beaming face. He had been the recipient of a cascade of revelation for us, teaching us what it means to minister, how we can be called by the name of Christ and urging us that for our spiritual survival we must learn to receive revelation. His words ring in our ears every day. “Does God really want to speak to you? Yes!”
We looked at him for assurance and strength. We had watched in awe as the Church is hastening the work under his leadership. We had seen his face in dozens of photos greeting members of the Church with a radiant look. We knew that he keeps paper by his bed so he can record the revelation which is coming so quickly.
And all this time he has had a precious daughter struggling for life, a battle she lost. I think of that line from “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” which describes the singer coming upon a man, stripped, wounded, and beaten nigh to death along the road and he gives him refreshment, but admits the speaker, “I had myself a wound concealed. But from that hour forget the smart, and peace bound up my broken heart.”
As those who have made a covenant with God, we are forever seeking to understand the qualities that would bring us to Him. I saw it in our prophet as he has borne this silent burden of a precious daughter who had been sick, but, at the same time, has had the resilience and strength given to him to bless our lives in remarkable ways despite his concern. Only Christ, through his atonement, and our faith in him can offer such empowerment.
How do we obtain faith and what is it? Moroni tells us, saying, “I would show unto the world that afaith is things which are bhoped for and cnot seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no dwitness until after the etrial of your faith”(Ether 12:6).
Let’s unpack that scripture a bit. “Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen.” We can compare that with Paul’s definition of faith in Hebrews:
So we have faith in Jesus Christ and God, the Father who are real. They exist. They are. They are tangible, but we cannot see them, for in mortality, we live in a fallen, telestial world and therefore, they are beyond our sight. We believe in something that is true and actual, that really exists, but is not readily discernible with our five senses.
The challenge for us is that we rely so heavily on things we can see and measure and touch here and now. The world easily dismisses anything it cannot see, and so do we. We have to see it to believe it.
I’m from Missouri and Missouri is the show me state. You have to prove everything. You have to see it to believe it. I think sometimes we forget that the whole part of the test that was given to us as we came here to earth was that we would have a veil dropped in our minds and that veil is not there to hurt us; it’s to help us to exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
The Lord could’ve shown the plates not only to Joseph Smith, but He could have shown them to an entire general conference of the Church or He could have shown them to the whole world through various means, but he chose to show them to a few witnesses so that way the rest of us can blessed as we exercise faith.
What is interesting to me about that is that even though there is this insistence that we can’t believe something that we haven’t seen, in fact, the most important things are things we haven’t seen. Do we believe in mercy, justice, love and goodness? We do, and these are things that we have not seen. We can see expressions of those things, but we can’t see those things themselves and yet they mean everything to us.
On a more mundane level, do you believe that China exists, even though you haven’t seen it? Do you believe in atoms even though you don’t see them? Do you believe in stars beyond the stars we see, even though they are invisible? This last set of things, we believe because authority has told us they are true. Many of us haven’t seen China, but every map of the world includes it, so it must be there. We haven’t seen atoms or quarks, but scientists assure us they are there, and so we believe their witness.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, ““Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” While this makes sense to believing people, it is often confusing to nonbelievers. They shake their heads and ask, “How can anyone be certain of what they cannot see?” To them, this is evidence of the irrationality of religion.
“What they fail to understand is that there are more ways to see than with our eyes, more ways to feel than with our hands, more ways to hear than with our ears.”
Paul tells us again that faith is the “evidence of things not seen.” We are not asked to have blind faith. God gives us evidence that He is and that He loves us. This is what Paul calls being “compassed about with [a] great cloud of witnesses”.
Think of the great cloud of witnesses we experience. We have the testimony of reliable witnesses, pages of scripture that testify of God’s dealings with man. We have the witness of prophets that they have seen Him face to face. They speak with authority. We see the earth and its place in the cosmos that speaks of harmony and perfect order. In our own faith journey, drop by drop we begin to accumulate our own personal cloud of witnesses in our experience. Some of them are clear. Some of them are small. Some of them we only realize their importance years after they’ve passed. Some of them are just being buoyed on a day we are down. Our faith journey starts by just planting that seed of desire and turning our real devotion and interest toward the Lord that we might have faith in Him. This is not a casual journey for last place on your things to do.
Elder Uchtdorf said that for anyone who wants to increase faith “to listen differently”
He said, “The Apostle Paul encourages us to seek the voice that speaks to our spirit, not just to our ears. He taught, ‘The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.’ Or perhaps we should consider the words of Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, who said: ‘One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.’
He continued, “Sometimes it’s not easy to develop faith in spiritual things while living in a physical world. But it is worth the effort because the power of faith in our lives can be profound. The scriptures teach us that through faith the worlds were framed, waters were parted, dead were raised, and rivers and mountains were moved from their course.
“Yet some might ask, ‘If faith is so powerful, why can’t I receive an answer to a heartfelt prayer? I don’t need a sea to part or a mountain to move. I just need my illness to go away or my parents to forgive each other or an eternal companion to appear on my doorstep with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and an engagement ring in the other. Why can’t my faith accomplish that?’
That is where receiving no witness until after the trial of your faith comes in. Elder Uchtdorf said, “I learned this as an airline pilot on days when I had to fly into thick fog or clouds and could see only a few feet ahead. I had to rely on the instruments that told me where I was and where I was headed. I had to listen to the voice of air traffic control. I had to follow the guidance of someone with more accurate information than I had. Someone whom I could not see but whom I had learned to trust. Someone who could see what I could not. I had to trust and act accordingly to arrive safely at my destination.
“Faith means that we trust not only in God’s wisdom but that we trust also in His love. It means trusting that God loves us perfectly, that everything He does—every blessing He gives and every blessing He, for a time, withholds—is for our eternal happiness.”
His advice is that in working to develop our faith, we just keep knocking at the door that the Lord promises He will answer. This may be part of what it means when we talk about exercising our faith. It is true exercise, just like physical exercise. You may not be strong or able at first, but you keep working—and I mean truly working—and your faith grows.
Elder Ucthdorf again says seeking to increase our faith, ”is not an easy quest. Those who are impatient, uncommitted, or careless may find faith to be elusive.
“This truth is illustrated in the experience of two young missionaries serving in Europe, in an area where there were few convert baptisms. I suppose it would have been understandable for them to think that what they did wouldn’t make much of a difference.
“But these two missionaries,” he continued, “had faith, and they were committed. They had the attitude that if no one listened to their message, it would not be because they had not given their best effort.
“One day they had the feeling to approach the residents of a well-kept four-story apartment building. They started on the first floor and knocked on each door, presenting their saving message of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Church.
“No one on the first floor would listen to them.
“How easy it would have been to say, ‘We tried. Let’s stop right here. Let’s go and try another building.’
But these two missionaries had faith and they were willing to work, and so they knocked on every door on the second floor.
Again, no one would listen.
The third floor was the same. And so was the fourth—that is, until they knocked on the last door of the fourth floor.
“When that door opened, a young girl smiled at them and asked them to wait while she spoke with her mother.
“Her mother was only 36 years old, had recently lost her husband, and was in no mood to talk with Mormon missionaries. So she told her daughter to send them away.
“But the daughter pleaded with her. These young men were so nice, she said. And it would take only a few minutes.
“So, reluctantly, the mother agreed. The missionaries delivered their message and handed a book to the mother to read—the Book of Mormon.
“After they left, the mother decided she would read at least a few pages.
“She finished the entire book within a few days.”
That young girl at the door turned out to be Harriet Uchtdorf, Elder Uchtdorf’s wife, and thank heaven for missionaries who just kept knocking.
In developing our faith, that is what we have to do. Exercising faith is not gritting your teeth and clenching your fists and just trying harder. It is to open your heart to see, feel and listen—and then acknowledge the witnesses you begin to see. It is to hold on in the times when you don’t see, knowing that trusting the Lord is also trusting his timing. Exercising your faith is to be as exactingly faithful as you can.
You see in this chapter how Moroni acknowledges the faith experiences of the prophets of his people. The faith of Alma and Amulek caused the prison to tumble to the ground. The faith of Ammon turned a people to the Lord.
Hearing these recounted experiences, builds our faith. This is part of why we keep a journal—to remember our witnesses and build our faith, recounting them as they happen. These experiences build us. I remember one from my own life.
One Christmas season I have been asked to speak to a regional single adults’ New Year’s Eve fire side. The week before the fireside, I got really sick, specifically with laryngitis. Now I have never had laryngitis to the point where I completely lost my voice, but I absolutely lost every semblance of a voice. The fire side I was going to do was two hours long on the Prophet Joseph Smith. It’s one I have done a lot and I knew the material very well and I knew that I needed full voice and full energy of voice to be able to give this fire side.
So, I called my home teacher–we had home teachers in those days, and ask ed him to come over and give me a blessing. Before he came, I was absolutely convinced that if I just had a blessing, I’d be able to do this fire side. Our home teachers name was John, and when he arrived, I said, “John I need a blessing”, and he could hardly hear me because I had no voice. I said, “I need to get a blessing so that my voice can be restored completely and in full power to give this fire side to this region singles.
He laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing. I went to that fireside that night, completely unable to speak. The crowd was huge and the pressure intense. I listened to that prayer without a voice and then as I got up to speak, my voice came at full power and I was able to give a two-hour fireside as if I had not had laryngitis. Then, at the end, I sat down again and my voice was gone, and did not come back for a few more days.
Alma and Amulek got to see a prison tumble to the ground through their faith and you got to see your silence shattered. That was a big thing, but there are so many little things that are also big. I was feeling so sad the other day and I prayed for comfort and help, and the next morning, I had a sense of peace and purpose in my heart. I felt,”Thank you, dear Lord.” Noting these things builds our faith. It also helps us in those times when our faith is tried and we don’t see a witness. For those times, we keep knocking on those doors like the missionaries did. We stay humble, and we trust that the Lord really knows what he is doing with us.
Do we want those witnesses of the Lord that increase our faith? Moroni teaches us:
“And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.
“And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even abefore Christ came, who could not be kept from within the bveil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.” (Ether 12: 18, 19).
Did you catch that?” Many could not be kept from within the veil. Who are these many who learned such powerful faith? It doesn’t say many prophets, just many.
We do a cousin’s camp every year where every grandchild over the age of six comes camping overnight with us. We always choose a theme and one year it was about the times in our family when we had seen faith exercised and rewarded. We wanted our grandchildren to know that we had seen God’s hand in our lives. We told them stories of their ancestors and stories from our own lives. We told them about priesthood blessings. We wanted to add to the great cloud of witnesses in their life.
Then came a high point. Our very young grandson, who could not have been more than 7 at the time came to me and said, “Grandpa, when I grow up, I want to be a righteous priesthood holder.”
It was a precious, unforgettable moment for us.
As Paul noted, we remember our great cloud of witnesses, even on those days we are discouraged and our faith is being tried, for that is, as he says, how we “lay aside every weight” (Hebrews 12:1)
The Lord says in Ether chapter 12, verse 27, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Here’s another gift from faith. The Lord will make our weak things strong.
That’s all for today. This has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we will be studying Moroni chapters 1-6, “To Keep Them in the Right Way.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and Michaela Proctor Hutchins, our producer. See you next week.