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. See earlier articles in this series by clicking on the author’s name.

When premortal Jesus appeared to the brother of Jared, the Lord declared the prophet to have exhibited more faith than anyone else to that point: “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast.”[1] That is quite a pronouncement considering that prophets such as Adam, Enoch and Noah had preceded the brother of Jared.

Clearly, faith in Jesus Christ exists in degrees. It is informative to note that if a person, such as the brother of Jared, was capable of exhibiting more faith in Christ than another person then faith must have the capacity to intensify in radiance, much like turning a light switch from dim to bright until it arrives at “a perfect brightness.”[2] We are informed of this brightening phenomenon in the scriptures: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[3] It stands to reason that God’s brightness and glory are only equaled by his Son. There could be no person or heavenly body brighter or more glorious; his brightness and glory are the fullness—the ultimate, the perfection of brightness and glory. He is “above the brightness of the sun…his brightness and glory defy all description.”[4] And the same could be said of his faith.

Faith can thus grow from one level to another–“a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27), “sufficient” faith (3 Ne. 17:8), “much faith” (Mosiah 27:14), “strong” faith (Alma 7:17), “exceeding faith” (Mosiah 4:3), “exceedingly great faith” (Moro. 10:11)–into “perfect faith” (2 Ne. 9:23), perfect faith being “the principle of power which existed  in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed” (Lectures on Faith 1:15; cf. Heb. 11:3). Perhaps at that level, faith and knowledge could be considered synonymous. God is the embodiment of faith and knowledge, just as he is the embodiment of truth and love and light and justice and judgment and mercy. And so mortals are working not toward that day when they will no longer live and act by faith but rather toward that day when they operate by perfect faith. “In the eternal sense,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “because faith is the power of God himself, it embraces within its fold a knowledge of all things. This measure of faith, the faith by which the worlds are and were created and which sustains and upholds all things, is found only among resurrected persons. It is the faith of saved beings.” (McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 209-10.)[5]

But back to the brother of Jared–why did the Lord designate him as the one who had manifested the greatest faith?

Faith to Obtain the Lord’s Promise

Let us consider a few things that we know about this man. In the first place, Moroni informs us that the brother of Jared had enough faith in Jesus Christ to seek a promise from him; the brother of Jared believed that the Lord could bring him into his presence and show him his work and his glory: “For [the Lord] had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things.” Therefore, when the time arrived, “the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things.”[6]

The Lord’s choicest people, Israel, share this quality of faith: an unfailing confidence that the Lord is capable of making and keeping a promise. Armed with that confidence, they persevere in faith until they obtain the Lord’s promises. A definition of Israel is “He perseveres with God.”[7] We recall that Adam and Eve persevered in faith until they received the Lord’s promises: the promise of a Savior and the gospel for them and their family, the promise that they would yet see God in the flesh, the promise of the joy of redemption, and the promise of eternal life.[8]

Noah persevered with God until he received promises that the Lord had originally given to Enoch: the promise that the Lord would never again destroy the earth by flood, and the promise that Zion should come again upon the earth in the latter days. The rainbow became the sign of that latter promise.[9]

Abraham persevered with God until he received promises that the Lord would bless his posterity with the rights to the fullness of the gospel and priesthood, a land of inheritance, and the blessing of eternal life—and all of this would happen through the promise of a son. [10] Later, Isaac and Jacob persevered with God until they received the blessings given to Abraham.[11]

Enos persevered with the Lord until he received the promises that the Lord had made with his fathers, Lehi, Nephi and Jacob: the promise that entire family, both the righteous and the wicked, would be beneficiaries of the covenant that God had made with their ancestor, Joseph, which covenant included America as a land of promise, the gospel blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the preservation of their seed to the end of the earth, the preservation and coming forth of a family record, the Book of Mormon to help them recall their identity and blessings, and a saving latter-day seer to bless their posterity.[12]

Likewise, the Brother of Jared had the faith to persevere with God to obtain promises of a land of inheritance for his people and the blessings of the fullness of the gospel. Of the quality of the brother of Jared’s perseverance, the Lord said, “And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.”[13] The Brother of Jared further persevered with God to receive the promise that he would one day come into the Lord’s presence and that the Lord would “ show him all things.”[14]

Faith to believe the Lord’s Great and Last Promise

Inherent in the ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood is the Lord’s great and last promise: “Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.”[15]

It requires little faith in Jesus Christ to simply read about this great and last promise in the scriptures, but it requires great faith in Jesus Christ to receive his personal assurance that you will obtain the great and last promise, and it requires even greater faith in Jesus Christ to actually prepare and wait for the Lord to manifest the great and last promise. We have discussed that faith is an intelligent force and the moving cause of all action in intelligent beings, but saving faith is specifically applied to spiritual concerns. Joseph Smith said, “As we receive by faith all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we in like manner receive by faith all spiritual blessings that we do receive.”[16] Abraham set an example for having the faith to obtain the Lord’s promise then wait in faith for the Lord to fulfill it.

[Abraham] who against hope believed in hope…. And being not weak in faith…. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.[17]

The early latter-day saints are also examples of exercising faith to obtain the Lord’s promise of “an inheritance in the land of Zion,” then needing greater faith to wait for the Lord to deliver on that promise.

And behold, I, the Lord, declare unto you, and my words are sure and shall not fail, that they shall obtain it.

But all things must come to pass in their time.

Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.[18]

Clearly, faith in Jesus Christ includes an abiding belief that he has both the ability to make a promise and keep a promise. “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”[19]

The record of Enos in the Book of Mormon is a case study in persevering with the Lord until he makes a promise then having the faith that he will fulfill his promise. We read that Enos desired the blessings of eternal life and “the joy of the saints;” therefore, “hungering” for those blessings, he kneeled before his Maker and “cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for [his] own soul.” Enos’s perseverance extended throughout the day and into the night before the Lord answered, pronouncing him clean and giving him a promise: “Thou shalt be blessed.” The Lord did not use the word blessed casually. In the context of this account, blessed meant the promise of eternal life, for Enos ends his account with this definitive statement: “I know that in [my Redeemer] I shall rest,”[20] “which rest is the fulness of his glory.”[21]

The subsequent exchange between Enos and the Lord is instructive about fervent faith in Jesus Christ and how that quality of faith allows us to obtain the Lord’s promises, reconciliation and healing, all of which lead to obtaining the Lord’s rest:

And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

And I said: Lord, how is it done?

And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.[22]

We next learn that Enos’s having received promise of eternal life had the effect of increasing his faith in Jesus Christ insomuch that he now had the capacity to exert a saving influence on an expanding number of people. With this new power, he first desired that the blessing he had just received be extended to his family, the Nephites; therefore, he began to once again perseverance with the Lord until he received the Lord’s promise to bless them. “Struggling in the spirit… I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.” His faith was rewarded; he received the Lord’s promise.[23]

Emboldened, Enos next persevered with the Lord to obtain a promise for the Lamanites, his estranged brethren–his enemies. Again his faith carried the day.

And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites.

And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.[24]

The Lord’s promises to Enos included the assurance that the Lord would preserve and bring forth the Nephite record to all of Lehi’s latter-day posterity in an effort to offer them the blessings of salvation. Having received the Lord’s promise, Enos made this remarkable declaration that reveals his faith that the Lord would surely deliver on his promises:

Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.

And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time.

And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest.[25]

Enos, who had received the Lord’s promise of “rest,” could finally allow his soul to rest, knowing that the Lord could not lie; absolutely the Lord would fulfill his promises.

Faith in Jesus Christ precedes any saving encounter that we have with Jesus Christ. If we agree that it is the Lord’s desire that we seek his face always[26] and if we agree that we cannot obtain his presence without first having faith in him, we also agree that “without faith it is impossible to please him.”[27] Moroni stated that “if there be no faith…God can do no miracle.”[28] The miracle of seeing and knowing for ourselves is completely dependent on having faith in Jesus Christ. At another time, Moroni taught, “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 before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.”[29]

The brother of Jared exhibited so much faith in Jesus Christ that the Lord “could not withhold anything from him.” The brother of Jared saw the Lord, who showed him “all things…. and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.”[30]  This same great and last promise is extended to every person of the Covenant:

And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.[31]

Faith to Act as if You have Knowledge

The brother of Jared may have been deemed the person of greatest faith (to that point) because he was willing to act as if he had knowledge. This great prophet had demonstrated time and again that he was willing to act on the instructions and revelations he received from the Lord. But it was at the moment of crisis that the Lord chose to withdraw a pace to test and increase the brother of Jared’s faith level.

Faced with the dilemma of crossing the great deep in darkness, he cried to the Lord for a solution: “O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”[32]

Overcoming darkness was the trial of faith that would increase the brother of Jared’s faith level and open the door to the presence of the Lord. How did the Lord help raise the brother of Jared’s faith? He handed the problem back to him so that the brother of Jared could no longer act upon instructions (one level of faith), the brother of Jared would be forced to act alone, as if he had knowledge. “And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”[33]

The brother of Jared likely appealed to the scriptures for help. There he would have read the account of Noah, another ship builder who needed light. According to some Hebrew teachings, Noah constructed the ark with a window or a “tzohar,” which in Hebrew also refers to something that shines.[34] The brother of Jared would have known that God is no respecter of persons, therefore, if God would light a stone for Noah, he would light stones for the Jaredites.

Given this scriptural precedent, the brother of Jared acted as if he had knowledge. His solution was to ask the Lord to light stones, but what kind of stones? And herein we might discover the reason for this man’s great faith: He did not simply gather stones and convey them to the top of the mountain; he took the trouble to “molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass.”[35] He exerted his best effort, knowing all along that no matter how hard he tried, he could not make the stones shine—only God could. He was not going to approach God with less than his best effort. Notice the brother of Jared’s prayer of faith, how he apologizes for the “things” that he made in his weakness. It is as though he is saying, “This was all that I could think to do, but I gave my best effort to it.”

O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.

Behold, O Lord, thou hast smitten us because of our iniquity, and hast driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness; nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.

Then he bears his testimony, which is key to coming into the presence of the Lord: I know that thou exists. I know that thou hast all knowledge and power. I know that thou canst make my puny effort enough.

And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.[36]

What happened next is the point of this story: The brother of Jared went up into the mountain (temple) to receive light, and he received the Light! He saw the Lord, who showed him all things. As we have noted, this promise is ours: when we exercise faith in the Lord, as did the brother of Jared, and become sanctified, the Lord will manifest unto us the things which the brother of Jared saw.[37]

Acting as if you have knowledge is “to act in accordance with what you presently understand…. You must act according to your present knowledge and understanding of the gospel,”[38]—on what you know, not on what you don’t know. Orson Pratt wrote: “The only way to receive additional faith and light is to practice according to the light which we have: and if we do this, we have the promise of God that the same shall grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[39]

The Book of Mormon Reference Companion teaches us about the progression of faith as it brightens and leads us back to the presence of the Lord:

In the first estate mankind walked by sight and by faith. Those who were valiant in the premortal existence demonstrated “exceeding faith and good works” there and were foreordained to significant assignments here (Alma 13:1-6). In this life mankind walks by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). That is, he proceeds through life with the Spirit- given assurance that his actions are approved of God and will result in the salvation of his soul. Therefore, to see with an “eye of faith” (Alma 5:15; 32:40) is to act according to the witness of the Spirit, to act as though one has seen and thus has perfect knowledge. The Saints of God thus view things with an eye of faith in this life, until one day, because of their faithful endurance, they will see “with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith” (Ether 12:19).[40]

Notes: 

[1] Ether 3:9.

[2] 2 Nephi 31:20.

[3] D&C 50:24.

[4] JS-History 1:16-17.

[5] Largey, Book of Mormon Reference Companion, 262-63.

[6] Ether 3:26.

[7] Genesis 32:28, footnote b

[8] Moses 5:6-11

[9] JST Genesis 9:4-6, 21-25.

[10] Abraham 2:8-11; Genesis 17:1-8, 16-19.

[11] Genesis 17:21; 32:24-30.

[12] Enos 1:9-18; See 1 Nephi 15:13-20; 2 Nephi 1:5, 9; 2:20; 3:2, 5, 11-12, 23.

[13] Ether 1:42-43.

[14] Ether 3:26.

[15] D&C 88:68.

[16] Lectures on Faith 1:13.

[17] Romans 4:18-22.

[18] D&C 64:31-34.

[19] D&C 1:38.

[20] Enos 1:27.

[21] D&C 84:24.

[22] Enos 1:6-8.

[23] Enos 1:9-10.

[24] Enos 1:11-12.

[25] Enos 1:15-17.

[26] D&C 101:38.

[27] Hebrews 11:6.

[28] Ether 12:12.

[29] Ether 12:18-19.

[30] Ether 3:26; 4:4.

[31] Ether 4:7.

[32] Ether 2:22.

[33] Ether 2:23.

[34] “The Shining Stone of Noah’s Ark,” www.Chabad.org.

[35] Ether 3:1.

[36] Ether 3:2-5.

[37] Ether 4:7.

[38] Cook, Living by the Power of Faith, 76.

[39] Lundwall, A Compilation Containing the Lectures on Faith, 84.

[40] Largey, Book of Mormon Reference Companion, 263.