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 HERE and HERE and HERE

Faith, we have learned, “in its most unlimited sense,”[1] “is a spiritual force [or]…spiritual energy,”[2] which is “superior to and overrules all other forces of which we know.”[3] It “is a living…intelligent, force, by which God himself performs his work.”[4] “It is a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity.”[5] We understand that we plug into this intelligent force by envisioning, declaring, emotionalizing and taking action on truth, and we have learned that the trial of faith is the engine that drives faith and makes it powerful.

Joseph Smith asked, “How would you define faith in its most unlimited sense?” Then answering, “It is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things.” He followed with this qualifying observation, “By [faith, all things] are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeable to the will of God; and without it there is no power, and without power there could be no creation nor existence.”[6] Among other things, Joseph seems to be saying that a belief that is not centered in God the Father or that runs counter to the truths taught by God or that is disagreeable to the Father’s will is as illuminating as a light switch in the “off” position. Anything that is disconnected to the Father or to the will of the Father might temporarily manifest a negative creation, but ultimately it will prove faithless and wither.

Faith, like light, is a force that permeates the universe, and like light, faith can be harnessed or channeled for different purposes. As an example, when faith is channeled through Jesus Christ, it becomes power unto salvation. We cannot receive that power in any other way. If we desire salvation, we must conduct faith through the circuit of Jesus Christ or forever remain unsaved. We plug into faith in Jesus Christ through the process of a believing response to light and truth that is presented to us through the Holy Ghost. That is, as we believe what the Holy Ghost communicates to us about Christ and his gospel then act upon that belief with the appropriate and corresponding action, we connect to the particular manifestation of faith that produces salvation. Experiences that urge this believing response are intended to intensify the power of our faith in Christ. To the desperate father of the child with a “foul spirit,” Jesus said, “If thou canst believe [in me], all things are possible to him that believeth [in me].”[7] The child was saved from his miserable condition when his father closed the circuit of faith in Christ through his believing response to the Savior’s directive. Similarly, if we wish to exercise faith in God the Father, we enter that specific “circuit” with a believing response to the Holy Ghost’s revelation of truths about the Father. In this chapter, we will examine why faith in God the Father is essential to our life, salvation, power and possibilities. “With God, all things are possible.”[8]

Although this chapter focuses on faith in God the Father, we recognize that the word “God,” in the scriptures typically refers to Jesus Christ: Jehovah. Because the Father and the Son are one, we could, with few exceptions, speak of one and describe the other. When we say, for instance, “God is love,” we are saying that both the Father and the Son are love. When we enumerate the attributes, characteristics and perfections of the Father, we are simultaneously listing attributes, characteristics and perfections of the Son. Nevertheless, the Father holds a unique position that we must consider to access the ultimate source of faith. In this chapter, we will use the word God as it applies directly to the Father or could apply to him by association.

Joseph Smith phrase, “agreeable to the will of God,” reveals the “the object upon which [faith] rests.”[9] It is God the Father, said the Prophet, in whom all beings must center their belief and worship, if they hope to yoke the power faith and lay hold on salvation and eternal life. Like spiritual light, faith or spiritual energy “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.”[10] If we wish to access that spiritual energy for the purpose of salvation and exaltation, we must align ourselves with principles that are “agreeable to the will of God,” otherwise, “there is no power,…creation nor existence.”[11] Nothing sentient exists without faith in God the Father.

Joseph Smith described God the Father as unique in His station; sovereign and autonomous in the principle of faith, He looks to no other being as the object of His faith. No one else can make such a claim. Not to diminish Jesus Christ in any degree, we nevertheless must look to the Father for eternal life and exaltation or we look in vain. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “The faith of Christ, who is God, is centered in his God, who is the Father.”[12] Joseph Smith taught, “We here observe that God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell; and that he is the Father of lights; in him the principle of faith dwells independently, and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings center for life and salvation.”[13]

Beyond being rendered powerless, Man experiences a crisis of identity when he fails to center his faith in God: “There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God….  If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”[14]

How do we come to the Father and center our faith in him? Joseph Smith answered that faith in God pivots on three criteria:

  1. Belief that God actually exists.
  2. A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
  3. An actual knowledge that the course of life you are pursuing is according to God’s will.[15]

From the moment we accept the fact that God exists, we also accept the fact that we are accountable to him. We can no more avoid accountability for our actions, as they collide or align with God’s will, than we can cause him to become nonexistent by the whim of our belief. Awareness of accountability to God increases as we become acquainted with his attributes characteristics and perfections. Who and what he is to us demands our acknowledging that he alone is sovereign of the universe, the originator of laws and the high judge who upholds those laws and metes out justice. Consequently, we cannot exercise faith in him unless we possess an actual knowledge that the course of life we are pursuing is according to God’s will. Faith in God and accountability to God are inseparable.

The scriptures describe our relationship to God in terms of family. We are taught that we are literal children of God.[16] An understanding of a trusting, loving Parent-child relationship is essential to our communicating with him.[17] The scriptures also compare our relationship to God to a marriage in which love is the dominant motivating factor for all interactions. Seen in the context of marriage, our relationship to the Father (and the Son) and our exercising faith in him take on new meaning. A wife can only live happily and securely in her marriage if she trusts that her husband undividedly and unrestrictedly loves her and will sacrifice all that he has and is to provide for her, keep her safe and do what is right by her. Because she knows his character, abilities and attributes, because he has endowed her with the totality of his person and possessions, because she knows that her life and his are aligned, because he has proven his devotion repeatedly by surrendering his time, talents and resources to her, and because she knows that their mutual love overrides all considerations, she is willing to place her trust and confidence in him. Deservedly, he is the object of her faith. So it is with our relationship with the Father.

We recall that Elder John K. Carmack said faith is a “manifestation of unity and partnership with the Lord.”[18] Jesus described this principle of faith as connecting to the True Vine.[19] Using President Packers’ simile of electricity, we could say: As a generator is to electricity, so God is to faith. Or we could quote the Doctrine and Covenants: As light “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space,”[20] so faith emanates from the presence of God to fill the universe. No matter how we say it, we arrive at the same conclusion: we can no more disconnect faith from God than we can disconnect light from God.

Understanding the connection of faith to God helps us comprehend why Paul declared that the energy that drives faith is love: “faith…worketh by love.”[21] Because “God is love,”[22] God, faith and love are inseparable and interdependent. For example, Man has learned to harness and amplify electromagnetic radiation (light) and direct its photons into a laser beam, a formidable tool that can accomplish countless tasks. But the power of the laser could never be engaged without applying the separate power of electricity. Hand-in-hand, these two powers are capable of untold and incredible results. Likewise, the dual powers of faith and love, both originating with God, carry infinite potential to accomplish anything.

We recognize this phenomenon in our lives. We can trace the underlying motivation of every positive action that presses us to seek additional faith to love. Let’s say that we love someone or something. Because of our intense feeling, we are motivated to expend an extraordinary effort that is beyond our present ability. Therefore, we seek more faith, and when we apply it, faith makes our actions equal to our feeling. As a consequence, love grows, which requires more faith to expand into greater action. Thus, love and faith increase reciprocally. Whether we love a person, a project, our profession, giving service or anything that requires sacrifice or greater performance, we need more faith. Without that additional power, we could never realize the end-goal of that which claims our affection. Of a truth, love “worketh by faith.” Love is the great motivator that urges us to pursue faith so that we can sufficiently take action to achieve the object of our love. Love contemplates the vision of what could be then taps into faith to manifest that vision.

Our capacity to exercise faith is proportional to our capacity to love; consequently, because love or charity is a spiritual gift, we are directed to “pray for it with all the energy of heart,”[23] which is an appeal to God. Once again, we see the connection between God, love and faith. We are taught that charity is that pure and ever-enduring love of Christ.[24] To seek and obtain that spiritual gift requires that we petition charity’s Source—Christ—which action requires faith. Once charity is received, which requires faith, and when charity is given, which requires more faith, the cycle of God-Faith-Love continues, growing brighter and brighter until faith and love are perfected in us as gifts from God.

It is important to understand that this cycle begins with God. Like a great Generator, his powerful turbines spin off charity and faith, which land on the receptors of our soul. In the words of John, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but he loved us…. We love him, because he first loved us.”[25] Love motivates us to seek faith, which motivates us to seek God. “He that loveth not knoweth not God.”[26]

Belief that God actually exists

In times devoid of trouble, we seldom wrestle with the question of the Father’s existence; but when we are beset with difficulties, the question of his existence rifles forefront in our minds. The urgency of our circumstance causes us to reach for a power beyond our own. At that point of crisis, our testimony of the Father can be shaken. We can question our beliefs. Will they sustain us?  When we abandon God as the object of our faith, we become as faithless as the wife who withdraws support from her husband, challenges his competency and charges him with indifference or impotence at the first sign of trouble. Likewise, we often question or accuse God:

Are you real?

         Where are you? Are you aware of me and of what is happening in my life?

         If so, why aren’t you helping me? Do you lack the power to do so?

As pertaining to the question of God’s existence, a typical way to settle the issue is to recall our former experiences with him: interventions, deliverances, impressions, revelations, gifts, blessings, evidences and graces. Thus, we hear prophets continually exhorting us to bolster our faith by remembering God and our experiences with him. Consider the following scriptures:

  • “But Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them.[27]
  • “Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.”[28]
  • “And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me. Yea, and I also remember the captivity of my fathers; for I surely do know that the Lord did deliver them out of bondage, and by this did establish his church; yea, the Lord God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, did deliver them out of bondage.”[29]

How critical is remembering the Father’s interactions with us so that we might access the power of faith? Alma suggested to his son, Shiblon, that power runs proportional to belief and trust in the Father. “And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”[30]

Remembering the Father as the object of our faith not only produces power unto deliverance but power unto prosperity.

And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began to grow exceedingly rich.

But notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him.

Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.

And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land.[31]

Knowing that God the Father actually exists is also a function of remembering and internalizing the testimonies of God’s authorized servants. From the beginning it has been so.

Mankind was first made acquainted with the existence of God…by a manifestation of God to man, and that God continued, after man’s transgression, to manifest himself to him and his posterity; and, notwithstanding they were separated from his immediate presence that they could not see his face, they continued to hear his voice.

Adam, thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God, which laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory.[32]

When our mind is settled on the existence of the Father, we seek to resolve who he really is: his persona, lifestyle, situation, character, perfections and attributes. Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “God the Father, in the ultimate and final sense, is the Creator of all things. He is the creator of spirit men, of mortal men, and of immortal men. He created life and death and immortality and eternal life. He made the laws whereby spirit men gain mortality, and mortal men gain immortality, and faithful men gain eternal life. The power he uses in these and in all things is faith. Faith is power, and the power of God is the faith of God.”[33]

Joseph Smith taught that the Father is not an evolving being who is working toward perfection; God is perfect. “What we mean by perfections is, the perfections that belong to all the attributes of his nature.”[34] Elder McConkie explained, “The perfection of God consists in his possession of all knowledge, all power, all truth, and the fulness of all good things.”[35]

In moments of crisis, we are wont to search our environment for extraordinary help. We seek for the most capable, trustworthy individual, who knows and loves us well. In times of urgency, could we give our trust to someone who is inept or unreliable or to someone who knew us casually whose feelings for us were suspect? No wonder that the scriptures warn us not to trust in the arm of flesh.[36] If God approximated even the best of men, exhibiting a degree of imperfection, we could not exercise full faith in him. Someone said there could be nothing so frightening as an imperfect God. Nephi knew well the true character of the Father; his life depended on it. Thus he exulted, “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.”[37]

Who is this perfect, completely reliable, capable being, who knows and loves us totally and who has absolute wisdom and power to help? Elder McConkie wrote–

God is the only supreme governor and independent being, in whom all fulness and perfection dwell; that he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell independently. …

He is the embodiment–totally, completely, and perfectly–of every good thing. He is the possessor of every good gift, of all uplifting attributes, of all edifying graces, all in their eternal fulness. We speak thus in the infinite and unlimited sense. All of the attributes of godliness are resident in the person of Deity in their entirety, in their transcendence, in their holiness. His is the totality, the wholeness, the completeness of every attribute. God does not fall short and is not wanting in anything.[38]  

What, then, must we understand about the Father to make him the object of our faith and without reservation center our trust in him? To instruct us, Joseph Smith extracted from the scriptures six godly attributes and six godly character traits. As we review the Prophet’s list, let us keep in mind that the Father is perfect in each of these attributes and characteristics.

Notes:

[1] Lectures on Faith, Questions and Answers, 1:12.

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

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

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

[5] Boyd K. Packer, “What is Faith?” Faith, 42.

[6] Lectures on Faith, Questions and Answers, 1:12, emphasis added.

[7] Mark 9:23.

[8] Matthew 19:26.

[9] Lectures on Faith 2:1.

[10] D&C 88:12.

[11] Lectures on Faith, Questions and Answers, 1:12.

[12] McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 51, emphasis added.

[13] Lectures on Faith, 2:2.

[14] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 343, emphasis added.

[15] Lectures on Faith 3:2-5.

[16] Genesis 1:26.

[17] See LDS Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 752-53.

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

[19] John 15:1-5.

[20] D&C 88:12.

[21] Galatians 5:6.

[22] 1 John 4:8.

[23] Moroni 7:48.

[24] Moroni 7:47.

[25] 1 John 4:10, 19.

[26] 1 John 4:8.

[27] Mosiah 23:27.

[28] Mosiah 27:16.

[29] Alma 29:10-11.

[30] Alma 38:5, emphasis added.

[31] Alma 62:48-51.

[32] Lectures on Faith 2:30-31.

[33] McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 168, emphasis added.

[34] Lectures on Faith, 5:1.

[35] Mormon Doctrine, 263.

[36]D&C 1:19.

[37] 2 Nephi 4:34.

[38] McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 181.