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.

“Truly understood and properly practiced, faith is one of the grand and glorious powers of eternity. It is a force powerful beyond our comprehension. ” — Joseph B. Wirthlin[1]

In my life, I have witnessed many extraordinary acts of faith. In the summer of 2010, my son-in-law, Jason, had a strong feeling that he needed to immediately move his family from Florida to Utah. The feeling drove him to the temple, where, for six hours, he sat in the celestial room pondering and praying. When finally he received a confirmation, he returned home and began to make calls to secure employment in Utah.

Jason is a teacher, and his window of opportunity was four weeks. In just twenty-eight days, he would have to find a new job, sell or rent his Florida home and move his family across the country. If he failed, he would have to wait until the end of the coming semester or perhaps as long as a year.

Clearly, the move would be no small feat during an economic downturn when jobs were scarce for teachers in Jason’s field. To compound the challenge, Jason would have to apply for employment long distance without the advantage of a face-to-face interview. Then there was the obstacle of selling or renting the family home in recession-ridden Florida. The home was located in a depressed area of the state, where few houses had moved for several years and unsold real estate inventory was high.

Undeterred, Jason began to make calls. He contacted everybody he knew, whether he thought they were in a position to help him find a job or not.

Imagine what Jason’s wife (Katie) was thinking while she watched her husband make plans to move the family. She went to her knees, and while pouring out her heart, she received an impression: Support your husband and his answer. Dutifully, she got up and went to work. “If we’re leaving in four weeks” she thought, “we had better get packed.” And that is precisely what she did. She began sorting through toys, clothes and other belongings in an effort to trim down to the bare essentials.

By the end of the third week, Jason had found no job opportunities in Utah. Moments like these are often when faith folds, but Jason and Katie held firm. Then Monday morning, Jason suddenly received two calls for employment opportunities. He interviewed by phone. Both potential employers said they would let him know by Thursday. After the interviews, Jason and Katie acted in faith by boxing up their remaining belongings, selling their second car and extra furniture, and arranging for a moving truck.

On Wednesday, Jason was offered both jobs, plus a part-time adjunct professor position at BYU. He accepted a teaching job in Utah Valley and the BYU position. That same night, a single sister in their ward appeared on their doorstep asking if she could rent their house. On Friday, the moving company loaded their belongings, and on Saturday, Jason, Katie and their three children headed for Utah. The following Monday, Jason began work at his new job.

What is Faith?

What is this faith, which Joseph Smith called “the first principle of action and power?”[2] A common answer is faith is a strong belief, but according to Elder James E. Talmage, belief is only one element of faith. “The terms faith and belief are sometimes regarded as synonyms,” he said; “nevertheless each of them has a specific meaning…. One cannot have faith without belief; yet he may believe and still lack faith.”[3]

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. forwarded this definition: “[Faith is] an intelligent force.” Belief is a means to access that force. Continuing, he said, “Faith is not trust. Faith is a living, and I think an intelligent, force, by which God himself performs his work.”[4] On a later occasion, President Clark repeated his definition of faith and added a profound observation:

As I think about faith, this principle of power, I am obliged to believe that it is an intelligent force. Of what kind, I do not know. But it is superior to and overrules all other forces of which we know.[5]

With elegant prose, President Charles W. Penrose wrote an article on faith called “Leaves from the Tree of Life.” Here is an excerpt:

In a higher sense, faith is a spiritual force. It reaches up to the heavenly spheres. It lays hold upon eternal things. It acts upon the grosser elements, and moves spiritual essences and immortal intelligences. In its fullness, it is all powerful. By its exercise God made the worlds, bringing order out of chaos, light out of darkness, and visible things out of the invisible, all moved by that spiritual energy called faith. By its power Christ stilled the winds and walked upon the waves, healed the sick and raised the dead. Elijah by faith closed the heavens, that they rained not, and overcame the might of Death, passing with his body into the mansions on high. By faith Job beheld the coming of the Redeemer and Paul ascended to the third heaven. And by faith men and women can overcome the influences of earth and time, and rise to communion with angelic beings, and even with God, the highest and holiest of all.[6]

President Boyd K. Packer concurred, describing faith this way:

There are two kinds of faith. One of them functions ordinarily in the life of every soul. It is the kind of faith born by experience; it gives us certainty that a new day will dawn, that spring will come, that growth will take place. It is the kind of faith that relates us with confidence to that which is scheduled to happen….

There is another kind of faith, rare indeed. This is the kind of faith that causes things to happen. It is the kind of faith that is worthy and prepared and unyielding, and it calls forth things that otherwise would not be. It is the kind of faith that moves people. It is the kind of faith that sometimes moves things. Few men possess it. It comes by gradual growth. It is a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity. Directed and channeled, it has great effect….  

In a world filled with skepticism and doubt, the expression “seeing is believing” promotes the attitude, “You show me, and I will believe.” We want all of the proof and all of the evidence first. It seems hard to take things on faith.  

When will we learn that in spiritual things it works the other way about–that believing is seeing?[7]

Notice the descriptive phrases employed by these prophets:

  • “a living…intelligent force by which God himself performs His work”
  • “superior to and overrules all other forces of which we know”
  • “spiritual force…spiritual energy”
  • “acts upon the grosser elements”
  • “moves spiritual essences and immortal intelligences”
  • “all powerful”
  • “overcomes the influences of earth and time”
  • “causes things to happen”
  • “calls forth things that otherwise would not be”
  • “moves people”
  • “moves things”
  • “a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity”

We begin to understand why the prophet Ether declared, “By faith, all things are fulfilled”[8] and why Joseph Smith called faith “the moving cause of all action…in intelligent beings.”[9] Is it possible that faith is more than a strong belief? Is faith actually some thing?

Harnessing the Power of This Intelligent Force

If faith is “an intelligent force,” “a spiritual energy” “as real and as invisible as electricity,” these definitions defy the notion that faith is merely an intense belief. Apparently, faith is so much more than “the power of positive thinking or a great exertion of emotion.”[10] Faith is the primal source of the actual power of God!

Joseph Smith taught, “Faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth… the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which he framed the worlds.”[11] Elder McConkie wrote, “Faith applies in all spheres. All intelligent beings—be they gods, angels, spirits, or men—all operate by its power.”[12] And again, Joseph Smith said, “[Faith is] the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute–for it is an attribute–from the Deity, and he would cease to exist.”[13]

Imagine faith as electricity and belief as the necessary confidence to plug into that power. Voila! All the lights would go on! Energy would surge! Suddenly, we would have power to take any action or even begin the process of creation.

Clearly, belief is essential to connect to the intelligent force of faith: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him [everyone] that believeth.”[14] This universal promise of access to power is available to everyone who is willing to believe and plug into faith. “Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.”[15]

The opposite is true of unbelief:

And the reason why [God] ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.[16]

Hence, if we would seek God’s intervention, miracles and saving encounters, we are “justified by faith”[17] alone. Speaking of faith as a justifier or qualifier, we note that the Third Nephi saints did not immediately achieve the glorious blessing of coming into the presence of the Lord; that blessing waited until they exercised sufficient faith in Christ: “For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him.”[18]

Ether 12:7, emphasis added. See also verse 12.

Watch for the second article next week.

[1] Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, Nov 2002, 84.

[2] Lectures on Faith, 1.

[3] Articles of Faith, 87-89.

[4] Clark, Behold the Lamb of God, 285-86.

[5] Clark, Behold the Lamb of God, 285, emphasis added.

[6] Charles W. Penrose, “Leaves From the Tree of Life” The Contributor, Volume 2, Oct 1880, No 1, emphasis added.

[7] Boyd K. Packer, “What is Faith?” Faith, 42, emphasis added.

[8] Ether 12:3.

[9] Lectures on Faith 1:2-5.

[10] Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, 246.

[11] Lectures on Faith 1:13, 15.

[12] McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith,164.

[13] Lectures on Faith 1:16.

[14] Mark 9:23.

[15] Mormon 9:21, emphasis added.

[16] Mormon 9:20.

[17] Romans 3:28.

[18] Ether 12:7, emphasis added. See also verse 12.