faith
Week 48 is scheduled for study Nov. 23-29, 2020. This week we are discussing miracles, faith, weaknesses, strengths, and hope. Oh, and listening to the prophets. Be prepared to do some thinking.

Day 1

Ether 12 – Faith in Jesus Christ can lead to mighty miracles.

Recording impressions can invite further revelation and strengthen your testimony. It also helps you remember your impressions and share them with others in the future.

Since I haven’t worked my way up to “mighty” miracles, I will confine my remarks to the smaller, more frequent variety of miracles. I have had experience with those. We need to discuss belief, faith, and hope before we can talk about miracles.

The most basic truth of belief is that it is a choice we each have to make. No one can make you believe something you choose not to believe. And in reverse, no one can convince you that you are in error if you insist on believing something. We choose what we believe, whether it is a lie or the truth, we must choose to accept it as truth in order to believe it.

Choosing to believe something doesn’t mean you have faith in it, for faith requires action. I believe that if I just stopped eating I would lose weight, but until I act, and actually stop eating so much, my weight will not reduce. So we can believe in many things, but we don’t have faith in what that “knowledge” can do for us unless we do something about it. As a missionary I can’t tell you how many times I heard comments like the following: “I believe in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but I just can’t give up my nightly glass of wine (or my cigarettes, etc.).” They believed, but they couldn’t generate any faith in what they believed, because they were not willing to put those beliefs to the test and do something about them.

I see faith and hope as a classic chicken and the egg scenario. Personally, I believe that it is a small glimmer of hope that what we want to believe is true that spurs us on to try to do something about the belief, and that action, which is faith, serves to strengthen our hope, for it is after we act on our beliefs that God gives us verification that we did something profitable to our soul.

This principle is demonstrated in Moroni’s comments in Ether 12:6.

… 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 until after the trial of your faith.

The classic demonstration of this is the convert who reads the Book of Mormon and feels good about what was read. Hoping it is true, she follows up with prayer, which is a demonstration of what she is choosing to believe (that what she read is true). Yes, she is asking God for verification, but the decision has already been made, and it is confirmation of that choice that she seeks. Once she has exercised this faith (believing that God will talk to her and tell her the truth), the Holy Ghost verifies to her that the book is, indeed, true, and she has witnessed her first miracle.

Why is a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon a miracle? Because it is knowledge of something eternal that we could not receive or come to know by any other means other than through revelation from God. And this is just the first of many such little miracles she will experience as she grows and develops in the gospel of Christ. The big miracles are achieved in the same way as the little ones, but require greater commitment and action to obtain. This becomes possible as we receive greater and greater witnesses that what we believe in brings joy, happiness, and peace to our soul. We just need to remember that this is a process that we learn over time. Most of us require years of development and trials to learn the kind of faith that can withstand the greatest adversities in our lives. The Lord knows when we are ready for the next step, and will never give us a trial we cannot pass if we lean on Him with all our heart.

Day 2

Ether 12:1–9, 28, 32 – Jesus Christ gives us “a more excellent hope.”

Recording impressions can invite further revelation and strengthen your testimony. It also helps you remember your impressions and share them with others in the future.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments as to what you think of this concept of having a more “excellent hope.”

Think back to yesterday’s lesson on belief, faith, and hope. When we choose to believe something, I think it is natural that we believe something because we have a glimmer of hope that what we choose to believe will affect us positively somehow. We choose to believe something because we hope it will benefit us in some way (I’m speaking of spiritual matters here).  I think this is why we make our initial choice to believe. But what happens if nothing changes, and there is never any kind of proof or evidence that what we chose to believe in is resulting in a benefit for us? It seems to me that it would become increasingly difficult to maintain the belief in that thing. The only way we can become stronger in that belief is to have greater and greater evidence given to us that we chose wisely.

As mentioned in the lesson yesterday, once we choose to believe then exercise faith in a true principle, we receive a witness of some kind from God. This witness strengthens our belief, which leads to us being encouraged to act on that belief even more than before. We do this because our hope has been confirmed and it becomes easier for us to put more trust in our belief.

This is a cycle of us making the initial choice, acting on it, receiving a confirmation of our hope in the choice we chose to believe in and act upon, and finally receiving an increased sense of hope that our initial choice was correct. Over time we receive many, many witnesses, both through our own efforts, as well as through the testimony of others who are experiencing the same things in their lives. This is why we bear our testimonies to each other in church and in private. I believe it is this cycle that creates what Moroni refers to as “a more excellent hope.”

Day 3

Ether 12:23–29 – Jesus Christ can make weak things strong.

Recording impressions can invite further revelation and strengthen your testimony. It also helps you remember your impressions and share them with others in the future.

Before commenting on these verses, I would like to point out that when these verses talk about the gentiles, they refer to us. Most of us come from gentile nations, qualifying us to be called gentiles. It is true that once baptized we are children of Israel, but in the sense that we come from gentile nations, we are still gentiles. I say this only to make the point that we should not think Moroni is talking about someone else when he is, in fact, referring to each of us. We need to take his words personally.

If the Lord can give us weaknesses when He actually wants us to be strong in those areas of our lives, why doesn’t He just make us strong in those areas to begin with? It makes sense that if He can make one facet of our life weak then He could have just as easily made it strong. Why do we need to have weaknesses at all? Before reading further, you might benefit from taking a break and trying to write down some answers to these questions. You will probably think of some things I haven’t considered yet.

Making weak things become strong

What is the process of making those parts of our characters or personalities that are deficient into strengths? The New Testament clearly points out that we do not have the ability to choose to add a cubit to our height or to change the color of our hair at will. If we are unable to make the needed changes to ourselves, by ourselves, how does Christ do it? I might point out that Christ’s examples were physical examples having to do with height and hair color, but the same thing applies to our traits. We all have some aspect or multiple aspects of our life in which we are weak. We may have a tendency to lie, fib, or embellish stories needlessly. We might have an addictive personality or problems with anger. Some have difficulty exercising faith or are untrusting of others so they find it hard to believe what the Lord says. Many are quick to judge or eager to knock others down a peg so they don’t appear to be so high and mighty. The list of personality traits that might be affected is abundant.

So how does Christ take all those personality traits and transform us into stronger, more spiritually healthy people? What is the process? We know he doesn’t just wave a magic wand and our problems go away. We know that we can’t experience these changes by just asking them to be altered. Christ may have given us specific weaknesses, but we have to be the ones to identify what they are and deal with the process of changing them from weaknesses into strengths. He has made it our responsibility to make these changes, even though we can’t actually be the one to make the changes.

To make a weakness into a strength requires that we recognize that it is a weakness, whatever it is. We have to own that weakness and admit that we cannot personally make all the needed changes in our soul to make our particular weakness into a personal strength. Recognition and acceptance is the first step.

The second step is to study the word of the prophets and the word of God to learn what we need to be like, as opposed to how we are right now. We need to acknowledge that there is a gulf between our current position and where we need to be that we cannot possibly cross on our own. This is a recognition of our own weakness and inability to change our heart. I say this because it is our heart, our desires, our attitudes, and to a certain degree our personality that must change so we can be different than we currently are. By our self we cannot make this change.

Step three is recognizing that God can make the needed changes within us. And only God can do this. This means we must humble our self and approach the Lord and confess our inability to make this change on our own. We must plead for his help. But it doesn’t end there. Asking for God’s help is only the first step on the road to change. When we searched the scriptures and learned how we are supposed to be, and compared that to how we currently are, we should have made at least a mental list of some of the changes we would need to make in order to be different than we currently are. This is the list we now begin to work on. And at this point we need to depend on, and rely on prayer and action to work with the atoning sacrifice of Christ to learn new ways of thinking and behaving that will develop a strength of character that we never had before in sufficient quantity.

Working on changes is not quick, not easy, nor is it simple. We must begin to watch our attitudes, our thought processes, we must learn to see where we rely on the world for our thinking and inspiration and where we are relying on Christ for those things. We do the leg work, and as we practice trying to change our thinking and behavior, over time the Lord softens our heart and helps the changes we are trying to make become lasting changes.

If I might share a personal example – many years ago I was very impatient with something my wife did on a regular basis. Her habit annoyed me to no end. I learned that I would have to change myself, since we can’t change anyone else, so I followed the above steps and took my impatience to the Lord. I talked to Him about how I felt, and acknowledged that the change I was looking for seemed so far away. I pleaded for His help to change my attitude so I could love my wife more purely and feel more kindly toward her about this habit.

Months went by and I did all the groundwork. I prayed about it regularly. I watched my thoughts. I studied my scriptures, and I served her more often and in different ways than before. Finally, one day we were having a discussion and she did what she always did that had always distressed me so much, and like a bolt of lightning I realized that it no longer bothered me. I was now able to look past her habit and it became almost invisible to me. It was no longer a conversation stopper. I finally realized and had accepted that the fault was in me, not her, and the Lord helped me overcome my hangup. My heart had changed.

What I learned from that experience was that this process of making weak things become strong is a process of coming to Christ and learning to rely on Him in all things. It is accepting that we are, in fact, weak and in need of help. We need to acknowledge God’s power to change us and help us become more than we can possibly make of ourselves on our own. This is not a negative thing, but a glorious admission that we have a path to greatness of soul. We can make so much more of ourselves because God loves us and wants to help us. When we are willing to be humble and rely on His power to change what we cannot, we can shed those attributes that cause us suffering in this life, and we can find greater joy in His love and atoning sacrifice.

Day 4

Ether 13:13–22; 14-15 – Rejecting the prophets brings spiritual danger.

Recording impressions can invite further revelation and strengthen your testimony. It also helps you remember your impressions and share them with others in the future.

I’ll keep this short today. It seems to me that there is more than one way to reject the prophets. There are those classic tales of stoning, murdering, casting out, and otherwise not being kind to the servants of God. But there are also those who ignore them, bad mouth them, and otherwise speak ill of them and their counsel or their office.

The Lord, Himself has said that whether by the voice of his servants or by his own voice, it is the same (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).

38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

Think about it. Have you ever read or heard of a single example where rejecting God’s words have turned out well for the children of men? Really. When the prophets speak, we need to listen, for rejecting or putting off their counsel never bodes well for those who do not listen. And it doesn’t matter if we think we know better or that we think we might be an exception to what they are saying. The only safety in our lives will be found in strictly listening to, and obeying the voice of God, whether by His own mouth or by the mouth of His servants.

FHE/Personal Scripture Study

Ether 12-27 – Weaknesses

This was discussed earlier in the week. The Savior’s part in changing our weaknesses into strengths is to change the parts of us, our heart, our attitudes, our very character, etc. that we can’t permanently change on our own. True, we can temporarily force certain behaviors, but lasting changes to how we think and feel can only come through relying on the mercies and the atonement of Christ. These changes rarely happen quickly. They are usually apparent only after extended effort on our part, but when they come, they are changes we can maintain for the rest of our life, because we are now practicing behaving in new ways.

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BoM Week 48

(Ether 12-15)