Faith: The Foundation of All Righteousness
“Chapter 6: Faith: The Foundation of All Righteousness,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 49
Faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, is the first principle of our religion and the foundation of all righteousness.
From the Life of Joseph F. Smith
Joseph F. Smith centered his faith in his Father in Heaven, in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the simple and constant truths of the gospel. When Joseph F. Smith was young, his faith was greatly strengthened by his mother’s devotion to duty and to righteousness.
He said: “I recollect most vividly a circumstance that occurred in the days of my childhood. My mother was a widow, with a large family to provide for. One spring [between 1849 and 1852] when we opened our potato pits, she had her boys get a load of the best potatoes and she took them to the tithing office; potatoes were scarce that season. I was a little boy at the time, and drove the team. When we drove up to the steps of the tithing office, ready to unload the potatoes, one of the clerks came out and said to my mother, ‘Widow Smith, it’s a shame that you should have to pay tithing.’ … He chided my mother for paying her tithing, called her anything but wise or prudent; and said there were others who were strong and able to work that were supported from the tithing office. My mother turned upon him and said: ‘… Would you deny me a blessing? If I did not pay my tithing, I should expect the Lord to withhold his blessings from me. I pay my tithing, not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing it.’ ”
President Smith explained: “She prospered because she obeyed the laws of God. … Then that widow had her name recorded in the book of the law of the Lord. That widow was entitled to the privileges of the house of God. No ordinance of the gospel could be denied her, for she was obedient to the laws of God, and she would not fail in her duty.” 1
Teachings of Joseph F. Smith
It is necessary to have faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.
We believe in God, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Father of our spirits. We believe in him without reserve, we accept him in our heart, in our religious faith, in our very being. We know that he loves us, and we accept him as the Father of our spirits and the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2
First … it is necessary to have faith in God, faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness.
Faith in God is to believe that he is, and “that he is the only supreme Governor and independent Being, in whom all fulness and perfection and every good gift and principle dwell independently,” and in whom the faith of all other rational beings must centre for life and salvation; and further, that he is the great Creator of all things, that he is omnipotent, omniscient, and by his works and the power of his Spirit omnipresent [see Joseph Smith, comp, Lectures on Faith (1985), 10].
Not only is it necessary to have faith in God, but also in Jesus Christ, his Son, the Savior of mankind and the Mediator of the New Covenant; and in the Holy Ghost, who bears record of the Father and the Son, “the same in all ages and forever.” 3
Our faith in Jesus Christ lies at the foundation of our religion, the foundation of our hope for remission of sins, and for exaltation after death, and for the resurrection from death to everlasting life. Our faith in the doctrines that have been restored through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith confirms and strengthens us and establishes beyond a question or doubt, our faith and belief in the divine mission of the Son of God. 4
Faith, Paul tells us, is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen [see Hebrews 11:1]. Faith in God [is] to believe that He is, and is the rewarder of them that seek after Him and that love Him. Faith in God would lead men to all knowledge and to all fulness and to all fidelity before them. …
We are all babes in this principle of the gospel. We are only beginning, the best of us, to know something of this principle of life and salvation, this principle of power. By faith, we are told, the worlds were made. Who of us have faith to do much of anything? Our faith is so limited that we can scarcely live the little principles of the gospel that God has revealed to us that are necessary for social peace and enjoyment. We have scarcely faith to carry out these little principles that are revealed to us for the government of our every day lives. The Lord has to bear with us and to be patient with us and to teach us here a little and there a little, line upon line and precept upon precept that we may eventually gain that faith that was once delivered to the Saints by which the mouths of lions were stopped, and the heat of the fiery furnace was assuaged. … Our great teacher, Jesus Christ, … is trying to teach us the principles of life and salvation which are principles of power, teaching men to rise from the depths of sorrow, from the depths of humanity to the heights of glory and knowledge of God. 5
The truth is, every son and daughter of God must first have faith in God—faith that He is, that He is righteous, that He is almighty, that He governs all things, and that in Him all perfection dwells. You may not have a knowledge of this, but you must have faith that this is true. This is the first principle of revealed religion. It is written that without faith it is impossible to please God. It is also written that the just shall live by faith. Therefore I say it is necessary for all men to have faith in God, the Maker and Creator of all things, the Ruler of heaven and earth. Without faith worlds could not have been made; without it they could not be held in their positions; but by faith all things are possible with God and with man. 6
God, in his revelation to man, has made his word so simple that the humblest of men, without special training, may enjoy great faith, comprehend the teachings of the gospel, and enjoy undisturbed their religious convictions. 7
No man’s faith, no man’s religion, no religious organization in all the world, can ever rise above the truth. The truth must be at the foundation of religion, or it is in vain and it will fail of its purpose. I say that the truth is at the foundation, at the bottom and top of, and it entirely permeates this great work of the Lord that was established through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, the prophet. 8
Faith, a gift of God, is obtained by obedience.
Faith is always a gift of God to man, which is obtained by obedience, as all other blessings are. The man or woman in this Church who desires to enrich his or her faith to the highest possible degree will desire to observe every rite and ordinance in the Church in conformity to the law of obedience to the will of God. In these things, and through them, man gains a more perfect knowledge of God’s purposes in the world. An enriched faith means an enlarged power, and though man may not have in this life an occasion to exercise all the powers that come to him through the enrichment of his faith, those powers may be exercised in their fulness in eternity, if not in time. 9
It is said that faith is a gift of God, and so it is; but faith does not come without works; faith does not come without obedience to the commandments of God. 10
A leading mission of the Church is to teach the gospel of Christ in the world. It has an important message to deliver, which not only includes the spiritual salvation of men, but also their temporal welfare. It not only teaches that faith is necessary, but also that works are required. Belief in Jesus is well and good, but it must be of a living kind which induces the believer to work out his own salvation, and to aid others to do the same. 11
We believe it is necessary to live our religion every day in the week, every hour in the day, and every moment. Believing and acting thus, we become strengthened in our faith, the Spirit of God increases within us, we advance in knowledge, and we are better able to defend the cause we are engaged in. 12
I pray you, my brethren and sisters, who have children in Zion, and upon whom rests the greater responsibility, teach them the principles of the gospel, teach them to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in baptism for the remission of sins when they shall reach the age of eight years. 13
Faith in God will sustain us in times of adversity.
In order to successfully overcome anxieties in reference to questions that require time for their solution, an absolute faith and confidence in God and in the triumph of his work are essential. 14
The need of one’s having a keen knowledge of the truth is paramount. So also is it that every Latter-day Saint should have a deep-rooted conviction of the justice of God, and an implicit confidence and faith in his being and mercy. To rightfully understand the gospel and to be able to keep his commandments such knowledge is absolutely necessary. Let each person ask himself if in his soul there is a sharp and immovable conviction of these facts. Could anything that might occur to you … change your faith in the purposes, and in the absolute justice and mercy, of the Lord, or in the saving power of his gospel, the message of his salvation? If so, your faith is not deep-rooted, and there is strong need of your becoming convinced.
The scriptures abound in examples of men who were unflinchingly grounded in an abiding faith in God. There is need of every young man leaning upon such a pillar of strength.
In the loss of all his earthly goods, and even in the severer bereavement which befell him in the loss of his children, Job yet implicitly trusted in the Almighty. …
In Abraham we have another example of devotion to the word of God, and faith in ultimately sharing his goodness. … In Abraham’s willingness to trust in God in the greatest trial that could come to a father—the sacrifice of his son—we observe deep-rooted faith and abiding confidence in the Almighty being able and willing to fulfill his promises, no matter how improbable it might appear under the most trying circumstances. … So will he do with all who trust him, for the promise is to all.
Such knowledge, faith, and confidence, supply an important part in revealed religion. … Abraham learned the great truth, which we also must impress upon our hearts, that God is just, and will fulfill his promises to the uttermost. And so he was blessed, as we shall be also, in trying circumstances, because he trusted the Lord and obeyed his voice. It was further told to him, Thus saith the Lord: “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” [Genesis 22:17–18.]
The situation is the same today; unless the Saints have an actual knowledge that the course which they are pursuing is in harmony with the will of God, they will grow weary in trial, and will faint under persecution. … But, on the contrary, with this trust in God burned into their souls, no matter what comes, they are happy in doing his will, knowing full well that at last the promise shall be theirs. Thus is the world overcome, and the crown of glory obtained which God has laid away for those who love, honor and obey him. …
No person can realize the fullness of the blessings of God, unless he can approach, in some degree, at least, the standard of faith in God’s justice, exemplified in the examples quoted. He must have founded in his own soul belief and confidence in the justice and mercy of God. It must be individual, no man can act for another. Lessons of this class need be taught and held up before the youth of Zion, to bring forcibly to their minds the truth which alone will make them free and able to stand firm in the faith. Let them, as they are called together in their assemblies, present themselves before God, and be reminded of his gracious benefits, in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, in the scenes of Kirtland, in Zion [Jackson County, Missouri], in Nauvoo, in the trying days of the exodus, and in the wilderness. This that they might count the mercies of God in his promises, and behold how past affliction and sore trial have been turned to the well-being of his people; and so renew their covenants, filled with a deep-rooted, immovable conviction of the goodness and mercy of the Lord. Each individual must learn this lesson, it must be impressed upon his soul, so deep, and be so well-founded that nothing can separate him from a knowledge of the love of God, though death and hell stand in the way. …
God is good; his promises never fail; to implicitly trust his goodness and mercy, is a correct principle. Let us, therefore, put our trust in Him. 15
There are people fond of saying that women are the weaker vessels. I don’t believe it. Physically, they may be; but spiritually, morally, religiously and in faith, what man can match a woman who is really convinced? Daniel had faith to sustain him in the lion’s den, but women have seen their sons torn limb from limb, and endured every torture satanic cruelty could invent because they believed. They are always more willing to make sacrifices, and are the peers of men in stability, Godliness, morality, and faith. 16
To stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition, when you have done all you can, is the courage of faith. The courage of faith is the courage of progress. Men who possess that divine quality go on; they are not permitted to stand still if they would. They are not simply the creatures of their own power and wisdom; they are instrumentalities of a higher law and a divine purpose. 17
By faith we can enter into God’s rest.
The ancient prophets speak of “entering into God’s rest” [see Alma 12:34; D&C 84:23–24]; what does it mean? To my mind, it means entering into the knowledge and love of God, having faith in his purpose and in his plan, to such an extent that we know we are right, and that we are not hunting for something else, we are not disturbed by every wind of doctrine, or by the cunning and craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive. We know of the doctrine that it is of God, and we do not ask any questions of anybody about it; they are welcome to their opinions, to their ideas and to their vagaries. The man who has reached that degree of faith in God that all doubt and fear have been cast from him, he has entered into “God’s rest.” 18
Without the aid of the Holy Ghost no man can know the will of God, or that Jesus is the Christ—the Redeemer of the world, or that the course he pursues, the work he performs, or his faith, are acceptable to God, and such as will secure to him the gift of eternal life, the greatest of all gifts. 19
No man can obtain the gift of eternal life unless he is willing to sacrifice all earthly things in order to obtain it. We cannot do this so long as our affections are fixed upon the world.
… But if we will lay up our treasures in heaven; if we will wean our affections from the things of this world, and say to the Lord our God, “Father, not my will, but thine be done,” [see Luke 22:42] then may the will of God be done on earth as it is done in heaven, and the kingdom of God in its power and glory will be established upon the earth. Sin and Satan will be bound and banished from the earth, and not until we attain to this condition of mind and faith will this be done. 20
Suggestions for Study
• What is faith? Why is faith in God and in Jesus Christ “the foundation of our religion”?
• What do we know about God and Jesus Christ that help us to have faith in them? Why must our faith be based upon truth? (See Alma 32:21.)
• How is faith obtained? How can we enrich and strengthen our faith? What is the relationship between faith and works?
• How can we effectively help our children develop faith in Jesus Christ?
• To endure adversity, why must every Latter-day Saint have complete faith in the “absolute justice and mercy” of the Lord and in “the saving power of his gospel”?
• What can we learn about faith from the examples of Abraham, Job, and the early leaders and members of this dispensation? In the midst of your most challenging experiences, how has trusting in the Lord strengthened and blessed you?
• Why is it important for us to know that the course we are pursuing is “in harmony with the will of God”? How can we know this?
• What is the “courage of faith,” and how can it be effective in our daily lives?
• Why must we be willing to sacrifice all earthly things in order to obtain the gift of eternal life?
• What does it mean to enter into God’s rest? How can we enter into this rest now?
8. In Brian H. Stuy, comp, Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 5:29.