Hope, for us, can sometimes be an ethereal substance, something that comes and goes, seemingly of its own accord. When we are told we should be pressing forward with a prefect brightness of hope, it sounds good, but the ‘how to’ part of that process can seem elusive. We, as Latter-day Saints, by rights should have more hope in the future than anyone else on earth. So let’s look at hope, at where it comes from, and what it can do for us, and how pressing forward in hope can become second nature to us.
The quotes used here are from talks given by President Henry B. Eyring (HBE) and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (DFU). The links to each talk are at the bottom of this post. When I quote from a talk the quote will be followed by the three-letter initials of the apostle being quoted. There is also a podcast of this post at the bottom of the post.
Hope is the anticipated fulfillment of a desire. When my wife travels without me, my desire is that she will return safely. I anticipate that my desire will be fulfilled by her safe return. This is my hope. The power of hope is what causes us to do things that demonstrate our belief. When we follow our hope in correct spiritual principles with action we call it faith.
Just a word about faith: Faith and hope are like the proverbial chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Personally, I think hope is the generating power that leads to faith. When I decide to plant a seed, it is because I have a desire for the fruit that comes from that seed, and I am willing to do something to make that hope come true. Planting the seed is actually half way through the process, because I have already gained a desire and have already decided to do something to make that desire come about.
Once faith has been exercised, that is, once action has been applied to the belief in a true principle, it is the hope that started it all that continues to fuel our actions until we see the fruits of our belief. In this case, my hope is demonstrated in the watering and caring for the seed I planted until it matures and produces the fruit I longed for in the beginning.
Another important aspect of hope that bears mentioning is that hope means that you look forward to something with a sense of optimism. The opposite of hope is despair. This optimism that hope generates changes how we look at the world and each other. It is this optimistic outlook on life that gives us the staying power to continue on in faith even when we see no evidence that we should.
The source of hope
The Apostle Paul taught that the scriptures were written to the end that we “might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) DFU
We learn to cultivate hope the same way we learn to walk, one step at a time. As we study the scriptures, speak with our Heavenly Father daily, commit to keep the commandments of God, like the Word of Wisdom, and to pay a full tithing, we attain hope. We grow in our ability to “abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost,” as we more perfectly live the gospel. DFU
Let’s look at the first quote. How do the scriptures create hope? Aren’t they just words? It’s true they are just words, but they are God’s words. His words to us contain promises of eternal blessings and glory. His words promise us a resurrection after we die. His words teach us what we must do to obtain the highest degree of blessings he has to offer us. Yes, they are just words, but they are also the words of life. Once we start to gain confidence in the promises of God our hope increases that his promises to us will be fulfilled.
This brings us to the second quote. Each time we allow ourselves to hope in the blessings promised to us by our Father in Heaven and by Christ, we are better able to believe that if we follow the commandments and keep our covenants those blessings will be ours someday. As we continue in our faith, our action that demonstrates our hope in the promises we have been given, the Spirit confirms to us that we are placing our hopes in something good and true.
The following quote from President Uchtdorf is his explanation of what hope is.
Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.
In the language of the gospel, this hope is sure, unwavering, and active. The prophets of old speak of a “firm hope” and a “lively hope.” It is a hope glorifying God through good works. With hope comes joy and happiness. With hope, we can “have patience, and bear … [our] afflictions.” DFU
The demonstrations of the hope President Uchtdorf is talking about is the exercising of one’s faith. Our hope is demonstrated by the perseverance, our continuing in our obedience to our covenants and the commandments. But hope is more than just exercising faith then persisting in that behavior until we have proven our belief or trust – until our desire has been fulfilled.
What hope does for us
We do what we do because of hope. Let’s step back and look at our first two estates. We have all kept our first estate. By the fact that we are here in our second estate we can know that we kept our first estate. Those who did not keep their first estate are here also, but they are here as spirits. They are the followers of Satan. They will never be ‘added upon’ by receiving a physical body.
Those who kept their first estate were obedient to the laws and commandments that governed us in the premortal spirit world. The ‘added upon’ statement refers to our physical bodies. Because we were obedient there we got to come here and have the experience of having a physical body. Those who kept their first estate are also promised a resurrected body and a kingdom of glory, no matter what they do in this life. Christ’s atoning sacrifice makes all that available to the family of God.
But those who keep their second estate, those in mortality or the post mortal spirit world who make and keep sacred covenants with God, obey the commandments and exercise faith in Christ, will be blessed with eternal increase and lives that include living in a family setting for eternity in the presence of God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ.
Keeping our second estate depends on our making covenants with God and faithfully performing the duties they require of us. It takes faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior to keep sacred covenants for a lifetime. HBE
“Each covenant brings with it duties and promises. For all of us, … those duties are sometimes simple but are often difficult. But remember, the duties must sometimes be difficult because their purpose is to move us along the path to live forever with Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in families. ” HBE
Hope ‘moves us along the path’ or in other words, hope changes us. Hope creates within us strength to be obedient to the commandments, and gives us greater ability to keep our covenants.
The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls. DFU
Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. Its absence—when this desire of our heart is delayed—can make “the heart sick.” DFU
The scriptures say that there must be “an opposition in all things.” So it is with faith, hope, and charity. Doubt, despair, and failure to care for our fellowmen lead us into temptation, which can cause us to forfeit choice and precious blessings.
The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward. DFU
Notice that the opposite of faith is doubt. The opposite of hope is despair. At the beginning of this post I said that the Latter-day Saints, of all people should be filled with hope. We are the only ones who are making those sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven. We are the only ones who have a hope of eternal life as families.
Hope as a natural act
When we first hear about the gospel of Christ, everything seems like it needs to be proven. We develop a small amount of hope by hearing the word of God. That hope is tested by applying action (faith) to prove the principles we have learned about. As we see that what we believed in is true, we are able to test other principles. Eventually this cycle of proof and testing the Lord’s word becomes second nature to us. But the more accustomed we are to seeing that His promises are always fulfilled, the more automatically we put those promises to the test.
This also means that as we become more comfortable in giving the Lord the benefit of the doubt about the promises he has made to us, the more we are willing to believe in things that cannot be immediately or quickly proven. This includes principles of the gospel like the resurrection, eternal glory, and eternal families. These are the principles that we have to exercise our hope in through faith in order to prove them in the long run. It is these principles that we place our hope and trust in. Hope in these principles are what gives us the strength to endure to the end.
Hope begins with a desire, but turns into faith as we work to obtain that desire. We gain our desire by learning the word of God. This is done by reading the scriptures and by listening to and studying the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern. As we exercise our faith by actively keeping commandments and making covenants with the Lord, the Spirit confirms to our souls the truthfulness and sureness of what we placed our faith in. Our hope is confirmed to be valid.
Once we have gotten into the habit of trusting in the Lord and receiving these assurances of our hopes in God’s promises to us, our willingness to trust Him in less provable things becomes easier for us. Things like the resurrection and eternal families begin to be more comfortable to our souls. We are able to exercise our faith more readily and in more difficult circumstances. The Spirit changes us so that we have more spiritual stamina and strength when it comes to believing and trusting in the harder spiritual principles.
Hope is what brings us joy. It is the hope of the promises being fulfilled that creates happiness. When doubts creep into our lives they can be overcome by hope. A good way to overcome doubts is to study the scriptures and the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern.
“We hope in Jesus the Christ, in the goodness of God, in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future. In times of distress, we can hold tightly to the hope that things will “work together for [our] good” as we follow the counsel of God’s prophets. This type of hope in God, His goodness, and His power refreshes us …” DFU
Hope is critical to both faith and charity. When disobedience, disappointment, and procrastination erode faith, hope is there to uphold our faith. When frustration and impatience challenge charity, hope braces our resolve and urges us to care for our fellowmen even without expectation of reward. The brighter our hope, the greater our faith. The stronger our hope, the purer our charity.
The things we hope for lead us to faith, while the things we hope in lead us to charity. The three qualities—faith, hope, and charity —working together, grounded on the truth and light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, lead us to abound in good works. DFU
Hope sustains us through despair. Hope teaches that there is reason to rejoice even when all seems dark around us. DFU
This is why we can press forward with a perfect brightness of hope. The Lord always has been faithful to His word, and He always will be.
This post is on the High Council topic for December, 2015 in the Laie, Hawaii Stake.