Elder Richard C Edgley in the 2010 General Conference spoke on faith in a talk entitled, “Faith – The Choice is Yours.” This is where I base my remarks.
For your faith to lead you to salvation, it must be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is faith? Just a recap- In Alma 32 in says “faith (in Christ) is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” It’s important to note that hope in the gospel sense does not hint at uncertainty like “I hope the weather is good tomorrow.” Hope is an expectation. If you have faith, you expect or firmly hope for things that are not seen, which are true.
Elder Edgely says, “Faith is not a free gift given without thought, desire, or effort. It does not come as the dew falls from heaven. The Savior said, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28) and “Knock, and it shall be [given] you” (Matthew 7:7). These are action words - verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism.”
Listen for the action words in the great faith discourse given by Alma in the Book of Mormon - “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
Alma uses the words awake, arouse, experiment, exercise, desire, work, and plant. As I thought of these words, I was reminded of times I exercised faith in my life and the blessings I received from doing so.
I recall a time years ago that illustrates the words “Desire”, “Awake” and “arouse”. When I was younger, perhaps 15 or 16, I wanted to have greater faith in my Savior. Through past spiritual experiences, I had a testimony of many things including the Prophet Joseph Smith and that the church was indeed Christ’s church on earth, but I was not yet able to say I knew my Savior or I could feel His presence in my life. I knew Christ lived because Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, but I wanted to have my own personal testimony of his love in my everyday life. I believe I was inspired to start at the very beginning, with prayer. Looking back, I can say that I was inspired to improve my prayers. I knew heartfelt prayers asking to feel Him in my life would surely give me what I was looking for. I started every morning, no matter how tired I was, with a sincere prayer pleading to become friends with Jesus. As I drove to work every day, I spoke to God out loud in my quiet car as if he was sitting there listening. I plead on my knees every night to know Christ specifically loves me. As I did these things, I felt closer to Christ. I had a desire to awake and arouse my faculties to increase my faith. Was I nervous that I wouldn’t receive the answer I desired? Yes, but my faith was greater than my fear.
As I read Alma’s sermon on faith and read the words, “Experiment” and “exercise”, I was reminded of another experience I had about 10 years ago. I attended an Institute lesson on a BYU Devotional given by Sheri Dew. She has since spoken on that same subject many times. She urges every person to go to the Lord with questions. She says “Questions are good. Questions are good if they are inspired questions, asked in faith, and asked of credible sources where the Spirit will direct and confirm the answer. Just because you have questions doesn’t mean you didn't have a testimony. The scriptures are filled with accounts of prophets who had questions. Questions are not just good, they are vital, because the ensuing spiritual wrestle leads to answers, to knowledge, and to revelation. And it also leads to greater faith. Are you willing to engage in a spiritual wrestle to find the answers to your questions?” I knew I had to act and start asking questions to increase my faith. Can you guest what my first question was about? Polygamy. It is a loaded topic and I was very nervous that perhaps I couldn’t receive an answer to such a topic. I wasn’t sure what kind of answer I was looking for, but I knew I wanted a confirmation. I was determined to exercise my faith in prayer and the Savior. It took weeks of researching credible sources, with each study session beginning and ending in prayer. I will never forget, as I was rereading Eliza R. Snow’s experience, I received my answer. It was nothing earth-shattering, but it was exactly what I needed. I am so glad I engaged in the wrestle. I am so glad I experimented on the word and exercised my faith.
Other action words that Alma uses to teach us how to gain faith are “work” and “plant”. I served a mission in Japan, where I worked…hard. One of the very first things I was taught in the MTC were Christlike attributes. A few of which are emphasized in Preach My Gospel. Therein is an attribute activity quiz, that when taken sincerely and honestly, will show you which Christlike attributes you could work on. I took the quiz in the MTC and saved my answers. For the next 18 months, I worked so hard improving myself so I could be worthy to preach the gospel and bring people to Christ. My companions and I worked every day to be and do better to show Christ how much we love him. As my fulltime mission came to a close, I was excited to retake the quiz and see, hopefully, how much closer to Christ I had become. I compared my quizzes, and my growth was astonishing. God will bless you for your work. I had faith before serving a fulltime mission and it grew as I worked to nourish it.
I hope these very personal experiences I have shared have perhaps given us a desire to awake and arouse our faculties. I hope they have encouraged us to experiment on the word and exercise a particle of our faith. I hope we are encouraged to work for our faith. If we make these choices and do not cast the seed out by unbelief, then as Alma says, “it will begin to swell within [our] breasts” (Alma 32:28).
And when we choose faith and then nurture that faith to a perfect knowledge of the things of the Lord, then we use the words “I testify” or “I know.” For it is no longer faith or belief, it is knowledge.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.