On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached a great sermon of Christ and began the work of the Apostles to take the Gospel to the world. The multitude, who heard Peter preach, developed faith that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Christ, and they asked Peter what they should do. This faith became their motivation to be baptized and to follow Christ. Faith is the first principle of the Gospel, because without faith all else will fail.
Faith Brings Success
The Scriptures teach many beautiful stories of people who had faith in God and who succeeded in their lives. One of the stories is that of Noah. As we think of Noah, let us imagine in our minds that he is living in our time in Arizona. He has come into Phoenix and is telling us a flood is coming and we should construct a large boat! Can you imagine that, a flood in Arizona? Not the minor floods that Arizona has during its rainy season, but a flood that would cover everything. Come on, give us a break! He must be kidding! Not only is the old geezer foolishly talking about a flood, but he is actually trying to build a boat. Every day he is out in the Saguaro cactus pounding away.
Noah probably seemed eccentric to the people of his time, just as the man in Arizona would seem eccentric to us. For 120 years, Noah preached to the people and warned them, and for 120 years the people laughed at him and ignored him. It is amazing that he avoided discouragement and continued with his mission. Noah must have had great faith in God and also great faith in his own calling as a living prophet. This faith must have sustained him and kept him going; truly, his eye was fixed on the glory of God. As we think of Noah let us remember this promise from Jesus Christ.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:23)
Shortly after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., the Lord commanded him to send his sons back to Jerusalem and obtain a set of brass plates that contained the Old Testament scriptures up to their time. This task seemed insurmountable to the older sons, Laman and Lemuel, and they complained to their father. The younger brother Nephi, however, had faith the Lord would help them complete the task. In reply to his father’s request, Nephi said the following.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)
In that passage, we have a beautiful expression of Nephi’s faith that God would help them accomplish the task.
Faith Builds Character
Laman and Lemuel did not want to leave Jerusalem to seek a new home, and they continually complained about leaving. Nephi tried to encourage his brothers to follow their father.
Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise; and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled. (1 Nephi 7:12-13)
Nephi and his brothers faced a period of great uncertainty, and Nephi’s faith in God gave him the strength to go forward.
The prophet Alma taught his son Helaman to depend upon God, not just in times of uncertainty but in all things and at all times.
O remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.
Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. (Alma 37:35-36)
Because of his deep faith in Jesus Christ, the prophet Abinadi withstood persecution, torture, and death by fire from King Noah. He could have saved his life by denying Christ, but he was true to his faith and testified with his last breath of the vengeance of God.
Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.
And it came to pass that they took him and bound him, and scourged his skin with faggots, yea, even unto death.
And now when the flames began to scorch him, he cried unto them, saying:
Behold, even as ye have done unto me, so shall it come to pass that thy seed shall cause that many shall suffer the pains that I do suffer, even the pains of death by fire; and this because they believe in the salvation of the Lord their God.
And it will come to pass that ye shall be afflicted with all manner of diseases because of your iniquities.
Yea, and ye shall be smitten on every hand, and shall be driven and scattered to and fro, even as a wild flock is driven by wild and ferocious beasts.
And in that day ye shall be hunted, and ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies, and then ye shall suffer, as I suffer, the pains of death by fire.
Thus God executeth vengeance upon those that destroy his people. O God, receive my soul. (Mosiah 17:10, 13-19)
Faith Brings Conversion
Enos, a grandson of Lehi, had heard his father Jacob speak of Jesus Christ, but he had not established a personal relationship with the Savior. He came to know the Lord while hunting in the forest.
And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
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.
Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them. (Enos 2-9)
Enos prayed to God for hours, and finally through his faith, the Holy Ghost bore witness to him of the Son of God, and he began to feel a desire to serve others. Enos used the word hungered to describe his desire to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as a person who is hungry will do almost anything to obtain food, so Enos pleaded with God for hours to know of his status before Him.
Centuries later, King Benjamin asked his people to gather at their temple that he might teach them. After seeing the vast multitude, he realized that many of the people would not be able to hear him, and he had a high tower constructed. From this tower he taught his people. At the conclusion of his long sermon, he asked the people how they felt about his remarks.
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:2-7)
Through their faith in the righteous teachings of their king, the people developed faith in God and desired “to do good continually”.
Zeezrom was a wicked Nephite lawyer who contended with righteous Nephites. He was skilled in twisting and distorting words to defeat his opponents. When he debated Alma and Amulek, however, he encountered a third opponent with whom he had never dealt. That opponent was the Spirit of God. As he talked with Alma and Amulek, the Spirit influenced him such that he realized that Alma and Amulek were teaching the truth. He later suffered great guilt and sorrow as he understood the magnitude of his sins, including, as he supposed, the death of Alma and Amulek.
And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat. (Alma 15:3)
He heard that Alma and Amulek were still alive and were not far away. With relief, he sent for the two missionaries.
Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him.
And it came to pass that they went immediately, obeying the message which he had sent unto them; and they went in unto the house unto Zeezrom; and they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities; and when he saw them he stretched forth his hand, and besought them that they would heal him. (Alma 15:4-5)
Alma realized that healings occurred because of the power of God and that the Power of God can not be used unrighteously. He talked with Zeezrom to see if he had a sincere conversion to Jesus Christ.
And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words. (Alma 15:6-9)
Realizing that Zeezrom was a true convert to Jesus Christ, Alma asked the Lord to heal him.
And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk; and this was done to the great astonishment of all the people; and the knowledge of this went forth throughout all the land of Sidom. (Alma 15:10-11)
Zeezrom then devoted himself to bringing people to Jesus Christ.
And Alma baptized Zeezrom unto the Lord; and he began from that time forth to preach unto the people. (Alma 15:12)
Faith Brings Protection from Sin and Evil
Not only is our faith a strength to us, but it is a protection against the temptations of Satan.
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ephesians 6:16)
What a great armor God has given us in our war with wickedness. Paul said we should take the whole armor of God, with our loins girt about with truth, our breasts covered with a breastplate of righteousness, our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, our heads protected with a helmet of salvation, by our sides a sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, and above all our whole person protected with a shield of faith.
The Nephites called upon the Lord for protection from the Lamanites. He blessed them with victory in their wars, and the Nephites rejoiced because of the goodness of God towards them.
And they did rejoice and cry again with one voice, saying: May the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, protect this people in righteousness, so long as they shall call on the name of their God for protection.
And it came to pass that they did break forth, all as one, in singing, and praising their God for the great thing which he had done for them, in preserving them from falling into the hands of their enemies.
Yea, they did cry: Hosanna to the Most High God. And they did cry: Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God.
And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction. (3 Nephi 4:30-33)
Through our faith, we develop a love of God. Jesus taught we must not only love God but we must have a Christ-like love for each other.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)
This need for love is taught beautifully in chapter 15 of John, where Jesus describes himself as the vine or the way to salvation. He said we are the branches of the vine, and we must perform righteous deeds of service to others if we are to have salvation; we must serve others out of love rather than out of obligation. In that chapter, Jesus first said we must have righteous works or we will be removed from the vine. Then he said those who have righteous works must increase their works, i.e. they must have more fruit.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me [people who have accepted Christ] that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1-2)
Jesus went on to explain the type of works we must have.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:10-14)
In those verses, Christ explained what perfect love is: the love God has for his son Jesus, and the love Jesus has for us. We must have that love for our fellow men. This love has to be so strong that we would willingly give our lives to assist others. Most of us will not be called upon to give up our lives for others, but we are called upon to give our lives in service to others. The message from John 15 is that Christ is the vine and we are the branches, and if we do not keep the commandments of God and serve others through love, the Father will prune us from the vine.
The Book of Mormon gives a beautiful example of what can happen to a society when love takes hold of their hearts. For many years after the resurrected Jesus Christ visited the Nephites, there was peace in the land. This happened because of the love of God among the people.
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land. (4 Nephi 1:15-18)
Because of love, the Nephites lived a celestial law. Imagine what our world today would be like with no crime of any kind!
Faith and Works
Jesus taught that those who have faith in him have a grave responsibility to live a life of righteousness and service as he did. Thus, faith leads one to perform Christ-like works. James taught the relationship between faith and works in his epistle.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15-16)
James went on to say
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:18-26)
In those verses James said the following.
- Faith is made perfect through works
- Man is justified by works [coupled with faith] not by faith only
- Faith without works is dead
- It should be obvious that no one can be saved with dead faith
Thus, we must have good works if we are to be justified. We can conclude from studying James that faith and works can not be separated. This means that the verses that say we will be saved if we believe in Jesus and call upon his name really mean if we believe in Jesus and do good works we will be saved! Salvation from sin is given with the condition we obey the commandments of God. This is not “salvation through works”, because works can not save anyone–only Christ’s atonement saves us! If Christ had not performed his Atonement and we could live perfect lives, we would never enter the kingdom of God; it was necessary that Jesus offer himself as an atonement. Righteous works are necessary because Jesus requires them before he allows his atonement to cleanse us.
Let us now read the teachings of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount. Notice the emphasis he puts on our living clean, Christ-like lives. Above all else, Jesus was concerned that we live as he did, changing our habits and attitudes such that we become more like him.
We have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:43-44)
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
In his epistles, Paul taught that salvation does not come from the law but comes from faith. Some people construe this to mean he was referring to the law of Christ’s Gospel and hence we are saved by faith only, and good works are not needed for nor are part of salvation. In reality, however, Paul was talking about the Law of Moses not the Gospel law. Let us look at chapter three of Galatians. Paul is trying to get the people to realize the ceremonies of the Jewish law will not bring them salvation. They must have faith in Christ (and subsequently good works that are tied to faith) to receive salvation.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Galatians 3:2,11-13,24-25)
It is clear that Paul is referring to the Law of Moses. All of the ceremonies and blood sacrifices of the Old Testament had but one purpose–to teach the people that Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ would give himself as the final sacrifice. The Law of Moses was truly a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. Notice Paul said that after Christ performed his atonement, the schoolmaster was no longer needed.
Paul indicated in his writings that he believed we must have good works and that we will be accountable to God for our works.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:7-9)
Paul clearly said that wicked people will not inherit the kingdom of God, and that we shall reap (receive the kingdom of God) if we faint not (endure to the end in righteous living). Paul’s statements apply to Christians who sincerely have accepted Jesus as their Savior and then later reject him and turn to a life of wickedness; their later acts cancel their earlier conversions, and they lose their salvation! Their faith in Christ was not sufficient for their salvation; they needed but did not have righteous works.