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 periodically. See earlier articles in this series HERE and HERE and HERE 

Brigham Young taught that trials of faith are necessary for us to obtain power to become like God and ascend to Him: “All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation. Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. … Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”[1]

Two things are certain: faith cannot exist unless it has an opposite; faith cannot transcend to power until it confronts its opposite and endures an opposing trial: “I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness (testimony, blessing, benefit, goal) until after the trial of your faith.”[2] While it is true that trials of faith often follow blessings, it is also true that they can precede a faith-opposing experience. Either way, following or preceding blessings, trials of faith are essential to the balance that must be maintained for faith to become powerful.

The Law of Opposites and Opposition

Of a truth opposites and opposition define existence for all physical and spiritual realities. Lehi taught this verity to his son, Jacob, by explaining what we might call the law of opposites and opposition: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”[3] Mormon, speaking of the resurrection, referenced this law, noting that all things exist on a balance or parallel of good and bad: “If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation; being on a parallel, the one on the one hand and the other on the other hand.”[4]

Lehi, Mormon and other prophets were not only stating a fact but a necessity. Without an opposite or an opposing force, “righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation.”[5] That is, if good and bad, light and darkness, health and sickness, happiness and misery were compounded into one indescribable It, the purpose of creation would be blurred and frustrated: “[creation] must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death.”

Faith is not exempted from the law of opposites and opposition. According to this law, an opposite is one part of a two-part whole with both parts being interdependent. Opposites are not necessarily bad. They are often the male and female or the ying and the yang of things; opposites are the positive and negative poles of every creation. To separate opposites would be impossible. The only way to appreciate relief from pain is to know the anguish of pain. Pain, less pain and no pain are all locations on the same continuum.

Sometimes an opposite takes the form of opposition, something that we might categorize as an opposing negative force. Although by nature, negative and positive forces are equal, one can and must eventually overwhelm the other. When a negative overpowers a positive, the result is death to the creation. When a positive subdues its negative twin, the result is the formation of an engine that can generate great power to propel us forward. Think of an electric motor that is fueled by alternating positive and negative charges; think of Jesus overcoming Satan and becoming, like his Father, the most powerful being in the universe. It is safe, then, to say that everything in the universe, including faith, exists, progresses and is defined by the conflict between its two parts, and the outcome of that conflict becomes a primary object of its existence. “To endure to the end…is life eternal.”[6] The product of this struggle is power to become. According to Lehi’s logic, we would be rendered powerless without confronting opposition; in fact, he said, we could neither exist nor experience the good unless we became acquainted with opposites and were confronted by them. We could neither become a devil nor a God, for most certainly, both potentials lie within us, and the point of departure is the trial of faith.

In his book, The Prophet, Kahil Gibran wrote:

Existence and Progression depend on Opposites and Opposition

A primary purpose of our mortal sojourn is to learn to discern the opposites of things so that we can make informed choices that lead to desires results. On the morning of Man’s creation, the Father announced to the Son, “Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil.”[7] Significantly, the Father made this declaration when he had provided the spirit of Man with a physical body, the spirit’s other half, the object upon which the spirit could act so that the soul of Man–the combined spirit and body[8]–could fully experience the good and evil of things in the universe.[9]As wonderful as was the blessing of a physical body, Man’s two halves would stand opposite and oppose each other for a season until they could learn to live together in unity. How the two halves would fare in this experiment would determine the soul’s ability to make choices and access power to act upon its environment and deflect attempts of opposing forces to act upon it.

The Fall cast Man into the second estate, a sea of extremes, where opposites are more pronounced than possibly in any other estate. Man was suddenly tossed about by the relentless currents of opposing forces originating with God or Satan, each competing to draw Man to his shore. The second estate was designed for Man to swim or drown by his choices, his giving diligence to acquiring the capability to discern and choose between these opposing forces. Man’s developing the competence to access the intelligent force of faith and endure faith’s trials would become his ticket to survive the contests of mortality and ascend to celestial glory. If exaltation could have been purchased with a kinder price, if Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden and escaped the harsh opposition of mortality, God would have allowed it. However, according to Lehi, the problem with the Edenic existence was that it suspended the law of opposites and opposition, and consequently Adam and Eve could know no joy there because they knew no misery; they could not do good because they knew no sin.[10] To progress toward Godhood, they had come face to face with opposites and opposition; therefore, they had to be relocated to an existence where the risks were high and choices were thick with extreme dangers and supernal blessings. A world that remains a Garden of Eden is a wasted world; faith without a trial is wasted energy.

We have postulated that no existence confronts Man with more of the stark effects of the law of opposites and opposition than does the second estate. Here, Man will invariably choose to sin, which leads to spiritual death and separation from God, a reality that stands opposite Man’s choice for reconciliation with God, redemption from the penalties of sin, salvation, exaltation and eventual perfection—in other words, spiritual life: life eternal[11] and eternal lives.[12] In the second estate, Man must experience physical death, the temporary separation of the body and the spirit, so that he might warrant resurrection, the spirit and body’s eternal reuniting. All these opposing realities exist in mortality. We are informed that at one time we shouted for joy at the prospects of the second estate,[13] but we might have also been horrified by them. Where else would the risks be higher? Nevertheless, despite our trepidation, we must have understood that we simply could not mount to celestial brilliance without falling into telestial darkness. Estrangement from God to become by nature carnal, sensual and devilish[14] would yield the possibility of living with him and like him forever. Therefore, the law of opposites and opposition was instituted as an act of divine love. The law would stretch us as if we were a pebble in the saddle of a slingshot. Against the tension we would be pulled to the breaking point: if we faltered, we would drop and lie powerless; if we endured, we would explode into eternity and rocket across immense distances at velocities we had never imagined and otherwise could not have attained.

Sir Isaac Newton observed the law of opposites and opposition in his third law of motion: “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, the impact of two bodies on each other is always equal and always directed in opposite directions. All forces, said Newton, exist in equal and opposite pairs. Actions and reactions are simultaneous, and both forces are part of a single interaction. Neither force exists without the other.[15] In the physics of the spirit, we observe the same phenomenon. We must descend “below all things”[16] into this telestial world so that we might ascend above all things into the celestial world; we must fall into sin, lack, depravity, obscurity, and corruption to be raised in perfection, abundance, virtue, glory, and incorruption.[17] Faith must encounter a trial to become power.

In the second estate, Man can no more escape the law of opposites and opposition than he can escape the law of gravity. He may love gravity in one moment and hate it in the next, but he cannot ignore it. If he can harness its power, he can achieve extraordinary results; if he ignores or resists its power, he will break himself against it. And so it is with the laws that govern faith and every other law of God; trials of faith are necessary realities for faith to exist and become an engine that generates great energy. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand.”[18]

Trials of Faith yield “Greater Things”

The trial of faith can take the form of any combination of oppositions, such as too much or too little time, financial distress or abundance, illness, fatigue, abuse, relationship challenges, spiritual, physical or emotional suffering, doubt, fear, isolation, persecution, apathy, facing staggering odds—and every temptation could be considered a trial of faith, as could every sacrifice to obey and serve. These are a few examples trials that can drive faith to the point of crisis. Pushing back against the seemingly impossible, standing alone, being beaten down, continuing to hope when all seems hopeless—trials of faith are designed to vitalize not destroy faith.

Great blessings accompany trials of faith. Brigham Young said, “Do I acknowledge the hand of the Lord in persecution? Yes, I do. It is one of the greatest blessings that could be conferred upon the people of God. I acknowledge the hand of the Lord in leveling His people to the dust of the earth, and reducing them to a state of abject poverty.

“Time and time again have I left handsome property to be inherited by our enemies.

“Suppose we were called to leave what we have now, should we call it a sacrifice? Shame on the man who would so call it; for it is the very means of adding to him knowledge, understanding, power, and glory, and prepares him to receive crowns, kingdoms, thrones, and principalities, and to be crowned in glory with the Gods of eternity. Short of this, we can never receive that which we are looking for….

“Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution. If he had lived a thousand years, and led this people, and preached the Gospel without persecution, he would not have been perfected as well as he was at the age of thirty-nine years.”[19]

Jesus told the Nephites that God tries our faith so that “the greater things shall be manifest.”[20] The scriptures are thick with proof that trials of faith generate power to deliver the “greater things.” Noah and Nephi faced the immense trials of persecution and other obstacles to build vessels of deliverance. Similarly, impoverished, hated, persecuted Joseph Smith and the saints overcame incredible odds to built temples and cities in the wilderness. Enoch and Melchizedek endured monumental adversity to preach repentance to wayward people and lead them into the presence of the Lord. One-hundred-year-old Abraham and ninety-year-old Sarah, who was well past the age of childbearing, persevered in faith until they claimed the blessing of Isaac. But their trials of faith were not over. Later, “by faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.” In each trial, Abraham anchored his faith in the truth that God could not lie. God had promised him a son through whom Abraham’s promises would be fulfilled; therefore, Abraham pressed through the trial of faith, “accounting that God was able to raise [Isaac] up, even from the dead.”[21]

Human Weakness as a Trial of Faith

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob confirmed that universal human weakness is another engine that engages and accelerates faith and converts it into power.

Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.[22]

The human condition of weakness, to which Jacob refers, is the common denominator of substantially every opposing trial of faith. We stare at the mountain and realize that we do not have the power to move it; we contemplate the ocean and shrink at our inability to cross it. We search for a solution, and because we have searched the words of the prophets and have developed a trusted relationship with Jesus Christ, we harbor hope than an appeal to him will be heard and, more importantly, answered. Our hope in Christ motivates us to action and thus engages the power of faith. Invigorated with an element of power, we seek Christ diligently and make our way to him for help. We ask for his intervention and grace to make us more than we are so that he and we together can bring something to pass that would otherwise be impossible. Our act of faith motivates the Lord to respond with a miracle. His intervention increases our hope, trust, belief and faith in him and our relationship with him. The miracle brings the trial under control or to an end, and thus we can say that we have endured to the end of the trial in faith.

But our experiment in faith is not yet complete. We have simply added weight to the bar of faith like a power lifter will add weight to become stronger. To fully become, like God, perfect in faith we must come to know the good and evil of all things, which is the Father’s stated purpose for our journey in the second estate[23]–in other words, we must become acquainted with the opposites of all things and gain power by faith to subdue opposition in all things, including our human weakness and individual weaknesses. We must harness the power of trials of faith and our weaknesses to get them to work for us rather than against us. Joseph Smith taught, “Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until He had put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy was death.”[24]

Because we have appealed to Jesus and he has responded with a miracle to help us move the mountain or cross the sea, we now know something about the power of faith, specifically faith in Jesus Christ; we have more confidence to plug into the force of faith and summon its immense power the next time we face an unmovable or uncrossable obstacle. Progressively, as we confront each opposition, we learn to quickly make our way to Jesus Christ to engage the engine of faith that will propel us to success. Finally, according to Jacob, as we continue in this cycle, we develop unshakable trust in the Lord and in his name. We discover that nothing is impossible when we partner with Jesus. Perhaps this is what Jacob meant when he said, “…we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.”[25] Yoking the power of human weakness is the catalyst that summons the faith necessary for a miracle.

Embedded within human weakness is the key to unlocking endless opportunities, even the blessing of eternal life: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”[26] Of course, when we are in the middle of a trial of faith or when we are confronted by our weakness, we often fail to recognize them as faith-vitalizers; we seldom perceive that we are making progress.

Imagine that you are on an airplane flying at 600 miles per hour. You see a crippled man stand and hobble toward the front of the plane. His each labored stride spans mere inches, and the man appears discouraged by his slow pace. Now imagine that you are on the ground observing the same scene. From your new position, every step that the crippled man takes covers several miles! From his vantage point, he is hardly making any progress at all, but from where you stand, he is crossing incredible distances. As long as he presses forward, he will rocket through space by virtue of his faith, but he may not be aware.  So it is with our handling human weakness and every other trial of faith.

The Law of Restoration

The law of opposites and opposition impacts directly on the law of restoration. The relationship between these laws gives us perspective into the potential reasons for and outcomes of our trials of faith. Alma taught his son, Corianton, that opposition must eventually give way to restoration, which truth emboldens our resolve to persevere through opposition. As we begin to appreciate that trials are the engine that generates the force of faith, we are more inclined to allow them to work for rather than against us. Because we know that the “decrees of God are unalterable,”[27] we gain confidence that all things that we suffer will be proportionately restored “to their proper order”[28] and “work together for [our] good.”[29]

Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame–mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption–raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other–

The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.[30]

Notice how Alma connects the law of opposites and opposition with the law of restoration:

  • “restored to their proper order”
  • “every thing to its natural frame”
  • “the one on one hand, the other on the other”
  • “one raised to happiness… the other to evil”
  • “even so shall he have his reward of evil… even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.”

Then Alma states the great promise to all those who persevere through their trials of faith to experience restoration: “these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness.”[31] Without such hope, we could not survive the trials that are intended to increase the force of faith and make it more powerful.

Restored “an Hundredfold” 

The law of restoration stipulates that we will receive restitution in proportion to our loss, suffering or sacrifice. Brigham Young taught, “I know that the cloud will burst, and Satan’s kingdom be laid in ruins, with all his black designs; and that the Saints will come forth as gold seven times tried in the fire, being made perfect through sufferings and temptations, and that blessings of heaven and earth will be multiplied upon their heads; which may God grant for Christ’s sake.”[32]

Covenant people are uniquely blessed to receive restoration many times their loss, suffering or sacrifice–even “an hundredfold.”[33] This hundredfold law becomes operational at baptism when we enter into the new and everlasting covenant, and, if we remain faithful, the law reaches its zenith in the resurrection. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin called this law “the principle of compensation. The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at a time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”[34]

Joseph Smith taught that to the degree that we have sacrificed, suffered or been opposed or denied, we shall be restored.[35] Jesus made this promise: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”[36] Notice the two blessings, “an hundredfold” and “everlasting life,” suggesting a process of restoration that begins in mortality and extends into eternity. The hundredfold law describes the Lord’s willingness and warrantee to open the windows of heaven to those who persevere in faith and eventually deluge them with blessings. The promise of hundredfold restoration from trials of faith is repeated so often in the scriptures that we are obligated to consider it as literal. The apostle Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[37]

Here is how the law of restoration might work. Imagine sacrificing $10,000 to help a needy friend. Most of us would feel the acute sting of such a sacrifice, and we might experience a trial of faith in doing so. But suppose we knew that the Lord would restore to us $1,000,000. Suddenly, the $10,000 would become a non-issue.

Following is how King Benjamin summed up the law of restoration:

And behold, all that [God] requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?[38]

[1] Discourses of Brigham Young, 345, emphasis added.

[2]Ether 12:6, emphasis added.

[3] 2 Nephi 2:11.

[4] 3 Nephi 26:5, emphasis added.

[5] 2 Nephi 2:11-12.

[6] 2 Nephi 33:4.

[7] Moses 4:8.

[8] D&C 88:15.

[9] 2 Nephi 2:13-14.

[10] 2 Nephi 2:23.

[11] John 17:3.

[12] D&C 132:24.

[13] Job 38:7.

[14] Alma 42:10.

[15] Resnick; Halliday; Krane (1992). Physcis, Vol.1 (4th ed.), 83.

[16] Joseph Fielding Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 13.

[17] Mosiah 16:10; Alma 41:4; D&C 132:1.

[18] Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 206.

[19] Journal of Discourses 2:7.

[20] 3 Nephi 26:9.

[21] Hebrews 11:17, 19.

[22] Jacob 4:6-7, emphasis added.

[23] Moses 4:8.

[24] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 297.

[25] Jacob 4:6.

[26] Ether 12:27.

[27] Alma 41:8.

[28] Alma 41:2.

[29] D&C 90:24.

[30] Alma 41:4-7.

[31] Alma 41:7.

[32] History of the Church 2:353.

[33] D&C 98:25; 132:55; Matthew 13:8, 23; 19:29; Mark 10:30

[34] Jospeh B. Wirthlin, “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 46.

[35] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 296.

[36] Matthew 19:29, emphasis added.

[37] 1 Corinthians 2:9.

[38] Mosiah 2:22-24.