As Jesus returned from his transcendent spiritual experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, He was approached by a desperate father whose son needed help. The father pleaded, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” Jesus replied, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. “And straightway the father . . . cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. ”
When I was a child and even into my early adulthood, that scripture confused me. I believed in a black and white world. People were either good guys or bad guys. Good guys chose the right. Bad guys didn’t. Good guys believed and had faith. Bad guys didn’t. My black and white mindset was challenged by a good guy who believed and at the same time asked for help with his unbelief.
However, I now have over 50 years of life experience under my belt. Joe and I have been married for almost 34 years. We have raised (and continue to raise) six children. We have four grandsons.
A few months ago, I was watching a movie with two of my grandsons. I can’t remember which movie it was, but I remember that we had reached a pretty exciting moment when the hero was in some danger and had to fight his way out. As the tension got a little thick, one of my grandsons turned to me with a worried look on his face and asked, “Grandma, is he a good guy or a bad guy?” (I’m pretty sure he needed to know that because good guys always get out okay and he need reassurance.) But his question reminded me of how I felt about the world when I was much younger.
My world is no longer black and white. There are many beautiful colors. I have learned that there aren’t just good guys and bad guys. In fact, I haven’t met very many bad guys in my life. I’ve met a lot of good guys (and good girls) who sometimes make bad decisions, but they are still good guys.
And, as I have lived out these 50 some-odd years, there have been many times when I have had to pray, sometimes with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
I have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that He lives. I know that He is the Son of God. I know that He is my Savior and Redeemer. I know that He loves me. I know that it is only through the His “merits and mercy and grace” that I can return to live with my Heavenly Father. (2 Ne 2:8)
So why, even with all of my faith, do I still stumble? For me, the answer lies in my ability to trust the Lord. Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.” (Prov 3:5)
One of my favorite scriptural examples of faith (and trust) in the Book of Mormon is the brother of Jared. As I review his story, notice how it parallels our own lives.
The brother of Jared was a prophet at the time of the Tower of Babel. I’m sure you all remember the story. The people had decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. As a result, the Lord confounded their languages so that they could not communicate with each other and thus could not continue building. At this time, Jared asked his brother (a “man highly favored of the Lord”) to cry unto the Lord that their language and the language of their family and friends would not be confounded so that they could remain together and communicate with each other. The brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord and the Lord heard him. Their language was not confounded. The brother of Jared then asked the Lord what they should do and where they should go.
The Lord answered and in the first chapter of Ether, verse 41 says:
41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.
42 And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.
43 And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.
So we see that the brother of Jared had been crying unto the Lord for a long time. He was a prophet. He had faith in the Lord. He obviously trusted the Lord because he and Jared and all their friends and families are obedient. They pack-up and head into the valley northward as the Lord directed.
So, fast forward a few years.
Jared and his brother and their families and friends wander in the wilderness for awhile and they end up at the seashore. They pitch their tents and they dwell in their tents on the beach for four years. I’m guessing that life at the seashore was a little difficult to begin with. I’m sure they had to start everything over. They had to re-create the lives they were living before they left. They had to plant and harvest crops. They had to hunt for game and tend their flocks. There were babies being born and children to attend to. There was school to teach and homework to do. There were clothes to wash and meals to prepare. (Sound familiar?) But, after a couple of years, life probably got into a nice smooth routine. They were living at the beach. Life was probably pretty good.
Ether 2:14 says:
14 And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.
This is why I LOVE the brother of Jared. He was just like me! He got distracted by life. I’m pretty sure that the brother of Jared didn’t forget about God and lose his faith. I bet he thought about God a lot during that four years, but he was busy with the temporal things in life. He was working hard building a life for his family and friends. I’m sure he spoke of the Lord often, especially to his children as he taught them of spiritual things.
But, he gradually “stopped calling upon the name of the Lord.” The scriptures are silent as to how long the brother of Jared didn’t call upon the Lord. It may have been a month or two, it may have been longer, but at some point, he got distracted enough that he didn’t even pray. Maybe he decided that life was comfortable there at the seashore and he really didn’t want to shake things up and go to the land of promise. So, perhaps, he just stopped calling upon the Lord because he didn’t want to hear what the Lord had to say. Maybe the brother of Jared was afraid that what the Lord would require from him would be hard. Instead of trusting the Lord, the brother of Jared was “leaning unto his own understanding.”
In my life, I begin to lean unto my own understanding for two very different reasons. Sometimes, I forget to trust the Lord because my life is so good. I’m comfortable in my day to day routines and it is uncomfortable for me to change. So, I don’t. I know that, in order to become more like Christ, I should study my scriptures more or pray more or do more service or magnify my calling (whatever that might be), but I don’t want to shake up my easy lifestyle. I trust my easy chair or the novel I’m reading or the movie theater or my hobbies or anything else that takes up my free time each day more than I trust the Lord.
Even more often, I forget to trust the Lord when my life is difficult. When I am tired and overwhelmed. When babies won’t sleep. When young children argue. When loved ones are making hard choices and experiencing the consequences. When there are too many bills and not enough income. When there is too much work to do and not nearly enough time to get it all done. When I see suffering around me that I cannot control. Sometime, in these circumstances, although I always have faith in Jesus Christ, my ability to trust Him falters. I begin to lean unto my own understanding and I forget to “cast my burden on the Lord”. (Psalms 55:22) I forget that “[His] yoke is easy and [His] burden is light.” (Matt 11:30.)
Now comes my favorite part of the story of the brother of Jared. The Lord comes to the brother of Jared in a cloud. He chastens him for not calling upon Him. Then, the Lord talks with the brother of Jared for THREE HOURS. The scripture does not say that he chastened the brother of Jared for three hours, it says He talked with him. I like to believe that Jared was immediately chastened when the Lord showed up in the cloud. And that as soon as his heart was turned back to the Lord, the Lord used the rest of that three hour session to love him and teach him.
So, fast forward through the story again.
The Lord tells the brother of Jared to build eight barges that are “tight like a dish” so that they will not sink as they travel across the ocean. Repentent, brother of Jared builds the boats and realizes when they are done that when they are sealed up tight, there will be no light or air.
Jared takes these problems to the Lord.
2:19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.
The Lord responds by giving the brother of Jared the answer to one problem (how to get air into the barges). However in regards to the issue of light, he says to the brother of Jared, “What would ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”
Repentant brother of Jared is up for this task. He goes to the mountain and creates 16 molten stones that are “white and clear like glass”. He takes them to the Lord and says (in an amazing declaration of trust in the Lord),
3:4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
And to make a long story short, the Lord touches the stones with His finger as the brother of Jared requests. And, the brother of Jared’s faith (and trust) is so strong that he sees the finger of the Lord. In fact, the Lord shows Himself completely to the brother of Jared because of his great faith. (Remember, this is the same man who one chapter earlier wasn’t even praying.)
Fast forward again and we see the brother of Jared and his little band of family and friends in their “tight like a dish” barges,
5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.
9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
So, why does this story resonate with me? I haven’t seen the finger of the Lord. But, when I look for it, I see His hand in my life. And if I (like the brother of Jared) thank and praise the Lord all the day long, then my faith in Him is strengthened and I see His hand in my life even more frequently. In this way, He is never very far from my heart and my mind. And when the furious winds blow and I am tossed on the waves or buried in the sea of life, I can remember that I have seen His hand upon me and that the winds of life will always blow me toward my promised land if I trust in the Lord.
President Ezra Taft Benson gave this counsel:
“... we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.
But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20.)
We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope.” (First Pres. Message 10/1989)
In a BYU devotional in January of last year, Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated;
“...as you ask in prayer for your daily bread, consider thoughtfully your needs –both what you may lack and what you must protect against. As you retire to bed, think about the successes and failures of the day and what will make the next day a little better. And thank your Heavenly Father for the manna He has placed along your path that sustained you through the day. Your reflections will increase your faith in Him as you see His hand helping you to endure some things and to change others.”
Most of you know that we have a son on a mission in the NYNYS mission. When I found out I was going to give this talk, I emailed Eric and asked him for his thoughts on faith.
This was his response:
“Hey mom, I think and strongly believe the secret of helping people see their faith and how powerful it can be is strictly by allowing them to see how they are already tapping into it. What miracles are ALREADY happening in our lives DAILY? I think powerful faith carries with it a whole lot of gratitude.
Why are we all at church? Obviously that sprouts from our deep roots of faith. Why do we all want to improve? Why do we all know we need to read more scripture, to pray more often? Once again, all of those desires are tied into our deep roots of faith. So yes, we are faithful, not perfect, some more obedient than others, but we all have faith, and it can move mountains when we rely on it.
I think that is a major secret I have learned. I have a whole lot more faith than I think I do, and I only recognize that when I fully rely on the little amount of faith that I think I have.
Help the members recognize the miracles they see daily because of their amount of faith. Help them to see how those daily miracles are connected directly with their faith. Help them to have more gratitude in the little things, in recognizing what the word 'miracle' really means. To me a miracle is anything that causes a bit more conversion within myself or within another person... and as we are more grateful for all the things we have around us we are constantly full of the spirit and more and more converted every day... which in turn, leads to faith.
And tell them I said I know Vista 8th has a TON of faith, because I have felt their prayers, and it has really made the difference in my mission. It is what makes me able to put one foot in front of another on those TOUGH days.”
The Lord has promised that if we keep his commandments, we can have peace and joy in this life and in the life to come. I trust Him to keep His promises. The Lord loves us and wants us to be with Him.
Elder Uchtdorf has taught:
“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.” (The Love of God, Conf 10/09)
Let’s trust in the Lord with all our hearts and allow Him to direct our paths. Let’s recognize His hand in our lives and live accordingly. As we do, our faith and trust in the Lord will grow to the point that we, as the brother of Jared, will be “brought back into [the Lord’s] presence” and He will show himself to us. And when He does, we shall know Him because we shall be “like Him”. (Moroni 7:48)