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.
Former General Young Women’s President, Elaine Cannon, recounts the story of a bishop’s faith.
Some years ago I sat in a sacred testimony meeting in the Tabernacle with a select group of LDS college students. Several General Authorities were there, too, as well as leaders from some of the areas of the Church that the student delegates represented at this convention.
One of the speakers was a man from California who told of the day his wife called him at work, frantically reporting that their family home was threatened. The winds had changed and the flames from a fierce canyon fire had driven people from their homes. Police had put up a barricade.
Richard left at once for the street where his home was threatened. He broke through the police blockade. He raced toward his house noting that other homes up and down the street were already in flames. The landscaping about his property was on fire already. Richard took the garden hose and tried to put out the flames, but the fire was too strong. He took the garden hose and climbed to the roof, wetting the area down as he went. It was no use. The fire was too much for a single garden hose.
But it was not too much for the power of God!
Richard remembered this as he dropped the hose. For a moment he thought of the great recreation his ward members enjoyed in their home. It was the only fun in many lives pressured with little income and much struggle as they studied at the university. Richard was the bishop of that ward and his spacious home was an oasis for his needful ward members. He talked this over with the Lord in those tense moments on the roof. He didn’t need the home for himself and his wife. He needed it for the people in his ward. It would be a witness that God was mindful of them if the house could be saved.
Richard then raised his arm to the square, and through the power of the priesthood of God which he holds, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Richard blessed the house against the encroaching flames and all other destructive elements. Richard’s home was only scorched while other homes burned on that street of devastation.
Clearly, faith is at the center of our every action, whether it be temporal, spiritual or redemptive.
We have learned that faith is a “spiritual energy,” “a living…intelligent force…. superior to and overrules all other forces of which we know,” “a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity.” As powerful as is the intelligent force and its various manifestations, it only becomes limitless power when it is centered in God the Eternal Father and his son Jesus Christ and when we authoritatively invoke the name of Jesus Christ.
Before we can understand faith in the Lord and faith in his name, we must understand more about the attributes of the raw force of faith, the engine that empowers it and how we can apply this intelligent force so that it becomes the “strength of the Lord…[to] do all things,” even the power of creation, deliverance and salvation. Almost by rote we use the phrase “to exercise faith,” but given what we have learned about this intelligent force, we realize that the phrase really means to plug into the Source and stay connected so that power can surge through us to bring things to pass.
Faith and Works
Many prophets have offered definitions and imageries of faith. For example, the apostle James taught that faith does not qualify as faith until it couples with its corresponding and appropriate action: “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” The opposite is true: work without faith is dead. Once again we see the requirement to plug in and stay connected.
As pertaining to dead works, we might ask ourselves if there are gospel laws that we are obeying faithlessly, going through the motions but never tapping into the intelligent force. For example, when we fast, are we accomplishing nothing more than going hungry? When we pray, are we just having a conversation with the ceiling? When we partake of the sacrament, are we just treating ourselves to a morsel of bread and a sip of water? How often do we apply faithless works and wonder why nothing happens?
James might have been providing us more than a definition of faith; he might have been describing a formula that allows us to tap into the intelligent force:
Belief + Action = Power (Faith).
Previously, we have learned that taking action involves envisioning, declaring and emotionalizing, which produces power to confidently move toward a goal. So we would state James’s formula of faith this way:
Belief +Taking Action (Envisioning + Declaration + Emotionalizing + Moving Forward) = Power (Faith).
The apostle Paul described faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Joseph Smith changed the word substance to assurance – substantive assurance. Hope without some evidence or assurance is nothing more than a wish. On the other hand, hope that is founded on some evidence or assurance has the capacity to motivate us to action, thus engaging the power of faith. “I hope to travel to Paris. I have never seen Paris, but I am assured that the city exists and that an airline can transport me there. Therefore, based on my assurance of the thing that I hope for, I will take action, purchase a ticket and plan my trip.”
The Pedigree of Hearing the Word of God
Paul further stated that exposure to truth is a precursor of faith; the seed of faith takes root in the soul when we have an encounter with truth: “faith cometh by hearing, and by hearing the word of God.”
From what sources do we hear the word of God? Joseph Smith went to great lengths to demonstrate that truth has a pedigree of authoritative voices that have all born testimony of the same eternal verities. We can trace every gospel truth back to Adam, who received it from the mouth of God; and each of us, who add our testimonies to those of the prophets, takes our place in truth’s descendancy as we receive the witness of the prophets and the Holy Ghost then bear testimony of the same.
Faith and Truth
The seed of faith is and always has been produced from hearing and responding to truth. Let us follow Paul’s reasoning to discover how truth and faith grow out of the same ecosystem to become a powerful union. Truth is “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” that is, truth is a library of eternal, indisputable facts that span the past, present and future.
But, as we have learned, that is only part of the definition of truth. Like faith, truth is also described a spiritual substance or energy. We recall that the scriptures connect faith and truth to terms such as intelligence, light of truth, glory and light—all describing properties of common spiritual matter or energy force. M. Catherine Thomas reminds us that we exist in the midst of truth or Holy Spirit, which, when channeled by the Holy Ghost, conveys pure knowledge of things as they are, were or will be, saving principles, intelligence, glory, light and spirit to the mind of Man.
Truth urges the mind to at-one with it or embrace it. When we respond, truth melds with faith. An encounter with truth always opens a vision of things as they were, are or will be. The encounter with truth motivates us to take action by declaring and emotionalizing what we envision. By so doing, and when we take further actions, we engage the intelligent force of faith, and truth and faith marry in a union of immense power. Thus we might say that faith is initially a “believing response” to truth or Holy Spirit as it impacts on the mind of Man. Catherine Thomas describes the process:
Immediately the message of Truth creates a crisis for a person and puts him on trial, because in his soul is the power to recognize saving Truth (see 2 Nephi 2:5). As the Lord reaches after him, he cannot avoid choosing: “If ye give place that a seed may be planted in your heart…if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell” (Alma 32:28).
If he accepts the seed and cultivates it, the Holy Spirit begins to gather spiritual energy in him, accompanied by an expanding inner vision of things as they really are. This divine activity in his soul continues growing with the person’s acceptance and obedience. Faith, then, at its primary level, is a believing response to the Spirit which initiates a dynamic and reciprocal relationship with the Lord.
In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith welds these ideas as characteristics of faith, explaining that faith is the first principle of all action and power; “in its most unlimited sense” faith is the “first great governing principle.” Continuing–
We learn that faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings….
Faith is … the moving cause of all action in … intelligent beings.
And as faith is the moving cause of all action in temporal concerns, so it is in spiritual….
But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth….
Faith, then, is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things; by it they exist, by it they are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeable to the will of God. Without it there is no power, and without power there could be no creation nor existence.
How would you define faith in its most unlimited sense? It is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things.
Given this brief overview of various prophets’ statements on faith, we begin to understand why Nephi concluded that people who tap into the intelligent force “have power given them to do all things by faith.”
 Elaine Cannon, Adversity , 97-98.
 Charles W. Penrose, “Leaves From the Tree of Life” The Contributor, Volume 2, Oct 1880, No 1.
 Clark, Behold the Lamb of God, 285.
 Boyd K. Packer, “What is Faith?” Faith, 42.
 Alma 20:4.
 James 2:17.
 Hebrews 11:1.
 Romans 10:17.
Lectures in Faith 2.
 D&C 93:24.
 Thomas, Catherine M., Light in the Wilderness, 245.
Lectures on Faith, 1:9-10, 12-13, 24, Questions 1:24.
 2 Nephi 1:10.