Given at a BYU fireside November 8, 1981.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ03396_000_003
Someone said long ago that when great events occur, three types of people are manifest: first, the one who doesn’t realize that anything great is happening; second, the individual who realizes something is going on but doesn’t know what it is; and third, the man behind the scenes making it all happen.
How does a person make things happen? How can someone be effective as a young man or woman, as a father or mother, as a leader in the Church? How can we achieve in school work, in life? I submit that it is by doing things the Lord’s way. We can make things happen through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of you are concerned about school work and are unable to perform as well as you would like to. Can faith in the Lord mark the way? Some of you are worried about employment opportunities. Can faith in the Lord mark the way? Some of you are concerned about marriage. Will I get married? If so, to whom and when? Some are concerned about raising families, about sickness, death, personality problems, and personal growth. Once again, can faith in the Lord mark the way?
Some people try to answer these difficult questions on their own and hope for the best but still end up making wrong choices. Well might the Lord say to them: “How long will you kick against the pricks? How long will you go along your own way?”
Faithful Latter-day Saints will want to know how to use their faith to cause all things to work for their good (see D&C 90:24), to act and not to be acted upon (see 2 Ne. 2:13–14, 16, 26–27), and to righteously prevail over self and others and situations (see 3 Ne. 7:17–18). They will want to know the specific will of the Lord concerning themselves and then, in faith, discipline themselves to submit to his will. What is faith? The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“Had it not been for the principle of faith, the worlds would never have been framed, neither would man have been formed of the dust. It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute—for it is an attribute—from the Deity, and he would cease to exist …
“Faith, then, is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things; by it they exist, by it they are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeable to the will of God. Without it there is no power, and without power there could be no creation nor existence.” (Lectures on Faith, No. 1, pp. 9–10.)
The simplest definition I know of faith is “faith is power.” How does one exercise faith in order to resolve the challenges of life? How does he learn to use that power to bless himself and others? May I offer six specific suggestions.
1. Be Believing
How I love these simple but sacred words uttered by Nephi:
“I, Nephi, being exceeding young, … did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers (1 Ne. 2:16; italics added).
Are you believing? Are you able to exercise faith in the words of your parents and leaders with little or no tangible evidence? Remember that unbelief destroys faith. We learn this about unbelieving Laman and Lemuel.
“Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman” (1 Ne. 3:28; italics added).
Some men are confused or deceived and follow strange voices such as Laman’s. They believe in unworthy causes or men or embrace untrue principles. Nephi later taught his brethren how one receives most communication from God:
“He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45).
How much evidence do you require before you are able to act in faith? Are you capable of believing the inspired words of others or only your own experience? Faith cannot be based on physical evidence. You must first exercise your faith, and signs will follow. You will receive spiritual evidence as you go forth believing.
2. Commit Yourself
Commit and discipline yourself totally. For many men it is harder to make a true commitment than to actually fulfill what the commitment requires. Such men may go through life allowing life to serve up the menu. They seem to be subject to every wind of doctrine and mood of the world. They go forth lost in the world with only a vague idea of what they would have from life.
Other men decide what they want, commit themselves to obtain it, and, in righteousness, exercise their faith until they do so. They keep spiritual priorities ever present in their minds and hearts until they have reached that which they righteously desire. Once again, Nephi’s sacred commitment and personal discipline in this respect greatly move me. He said:
“As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us” (1 Ne. 3:15; italics added).
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is fully sustaining. Man can cause things to happen by disciplining himself and paying the price. Hold your word as sacred to God and man. Be truly committed, and you will see the hand of the Lord revealed in your behalf.
Let me tell you of a young man I knew when I was a mission president. He was a missionary full of faith. He was Uruguayan. He had been in the mission about three or four months when I arrived, and I noticed that wherever he served, people were being baptized. In the beginning I thought it was because of his senior companion, because he seemed too young, too new, to be the cause—that was my mistake. He knew how to make things happen.
He was called as a senior companion and a district leader. I sent him into a city that had gained a reputation of being a tough, “no results” city. Missionaries had not baptized anyone there for nearly a year—not one person! The members were discouraged. Only ten to twelve members were attending the branch. I didn’t tell him anything—I just notified him of the transfer. Three weeks later, he and his companion began baptizing. He served there about ten weeks. All of his district started baptizing.
It is great to have a missionary who can baptize, but if he can teach others how to do it, his leadership can bless the lives of many.
This missionary never wrote me much in his weekly reports. He would only write, “Dear President, I sure love you. Things are going great. Sincerely,” or “President, the Lord is blessing us greatly. I love the work. Your brother.”
He was called later to serve as a zone leader and sent to supervise the whole upper area of the mission where there were some very challenging cities. His new challenge was to teach the missionaries to do what he was doing. He served there two or three months and was responsible for scores of baptisms, and he literally changed the spirit of the whole zone, member leaders as well as missionaries. Together they wrought a spiritual miracle.
Then came a spiritual struggle for me, a restless feeling about him. I felt impressed that he should be sent to Paraguay. At that time the work was very slow in Paraguay. We averaged only 20 to 25 baptisms a month in the whole country. I wrestled with that and thought to myself, “He has really proved himself here, but to put him in that situation might drag him down in discouragement as it has so many others. He may have a hard time sustaining his faith there.” I had to struggle with my faith to convince myself that he really ought to go, but I obeyed the promptings.
I sent him a telegram transferring him to Asunción, Paraguay, as a zone leader and told him that he should leave the very next day. When he came into Montevideo, he didn’t even come to see me. He was modest and always a little embarrassed to see “the president.”
He departed from the mission home, but he left a letter, which was the first one that I had ever received from him. It said, in effect, “Dear President Cook, I received a telegram today telling me to go to Paraguay, and I thought you ought to know a few things: (1) You can’t baptize in Paraguay. I have had at least ten to fifteen elders tell me of their experiences there. (2) The members are not helping at all. (3) There are some real morality problems among the nonmembers there. (4) Many people live together unmarried. (5), (6), (7), (8) …” And he went through and listed ten to twelve of some of the most negative things that I have ever heard in my life.
I thought to myself, Oh, no, unbelieving people have gotten to him.
But as he finished the list, he said, “I just wanted you to know, President, that I don’t believe any of those things.” Talk about faith! Then he committed himself, after expressing his faith, saying, “I want you to know, President Cook, that on Christmas Day (and the date of the letter was December 1), we are going to baptize 25 people.”
When I read that, I prayed for him and thought, The Lord bless you, elder. You have a tremendous amount of faith, and the Lord will sustain you. You don’t know the country; you haven’t ever been there. You don’t know where you are going to live. You don’t know your companion, the leaders, the members. You don’t know anything, and yet you, in faith, believe that you are going to baptize 25 people in 25 days.
Well, this young man was full of faith and was a real example of a great Latin leader. On December 25, he and his companion baptized 18 people. They hadn’t reached the 25, but 18 was just about all that the whole country baptized in a normal month. It was a great privilege two weeks later to participate in a baptismal service where he and his companion baptized 11 more. His district baptized about 30 that day. Can you see how one righteous man can turn around a whole set of circumstances? He believed, he committed, and he and the Lord did it.
You too can literally cause things to work for your good both in your life and in the lives of others if you are full of faith in the Lord.
“All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).
Commit yourself in advance to what you righteously desire. The righteous exercising of faith will bring it about.
3. Do Your Part
Do all in your power to fulfill your part. Men falter and expect the Lord to do more than his part. It is evident in all of scripture that unless man does do all in his power, the arm of the Lord will not be revealed in his behalf.
After a man has truly sacrificed and done all in his power, God will come and save him in his time of need. As James taught us, “By works was faith made perfect” (James 2:22).
Man must not only pay the price the Lord requires but search to understand in what currency it will be required. The sacrifice most often required by the Lord is our own personal sins. He desires us to sacrifice those to him and obtain the broken heart and contrite spirit that he requires of all men.
Do all in your power to do your part.
Pray as if all depended upon the Lord. Will the Lord not honor the sacrifice of his servants if they will ask it of him? Sometimes men arrive at this point and do not actually come to ask the Lord for the gift of faith or for power in the priesthood. The Lord taught, “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 4:7).
The initiative rests with the man. The Lord said, “It should be granted unto them according to their faith in their prayers” (D&C 10:47).
If a man exercises great faith in his prayers and fasts as needed, his loving, all-knowing Father will provide him with that which he righteously desires. Pray, believing you will have your righteous desires, and they will, in the Lord’s time, be given to you.
5. Expect Trials of Your Faith
Prepare for constant and intense trials of your faith. Tribulation is a refiner of faith. The Lord said, “For after much tribulation come the blessings” (D&C 58:4).
The Lord will never tempt a man, but he will try him. Tribulations and problems are what this earthly school is made of. Life is all upstream—all uphill. One may at times desire to remove himself from the swift current to rest awhile, but he must go on. Some men are on plateaus and need to be on their way. They are not praying fervently and receiving trials in the right spirit.
The challenges and difficulties that many of us resist are the very elements which refine us and make us godly men. The Lord will try you in every attribute possessed by man and at all stages of development in your life. He will try you again and again and again until you know that you will serve him at all costs.
How comforting the words of Moroni: “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” (Ether 12:6).
6. Expect the Lord to Act
Expect the Lord to perform according to his holy will and your faith. His arm will be revealed. He will take care of his Saints. He wants other people to learn faith by your example.
He wants you to cause things to happen. He wants you to draw upon his all-powerful arm and the power that resides in you to do things in his way. He desires you not to be too deeply involved in or absorbed by worldly, temporal, superficial, or secondary things. These things must be dealt with, but even they must be handled spiritually.
When you pray for something that does not occur the way you desire it to, you must not lose faith. In the Lord’s own way and time, all righteous prayers are answered, but his way and his time may not be the same as ours. Sometimes when a prayer appears to go unanswered, it is because it is being answered in a greater way than we can perceive. When we face these trials, we must double our faith lest we lose it.
Be sure to receive whatever the Lord gives to you with a thankful heart. Alma said, “There are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might” (Alma 32:25).
The same could be said of those who have a thankful heart: There are some among you who would have a thankful heart; let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might.
Remember the heartfelt response of Job after losing all he possessed. He said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Be submissive, humble, and patient, and the Lord will deliver to you that which will be for your good.
I would like now to relate one last personal experience in faith that demonstrates these six suggestions.
On July 29, 1977, Sister Cook and I had just finished visiting the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission and were stalled in the Cochabamba, Bolivia, airport for some five hours. I recall that we were very tired, having had few hours of sleep the night before. We were both delighted to have a few hours rest in the airport. As I was drifting off to sleep, I had a very strong feeling that I should awaken and write down some ideas. The desire to sleep was strong, but the promptings of the Spirit were more powerful. I did write; in fact, I wrote for nearly three hours, solving some organizational problems I had struggled with for a number of years previously. I felt a great outpouring of the Spirit on that day and excitedly wrote down each inspired thought. The experience took most of the time of the delay.
We were then off to La Paz, Bolivia. We were graciously met by President and Sister Chase Allred at the airport and driven in their van to the mission office. We locked the car and left our luggage and briefcase in the van.
Upon entering the office, the president was confronted with the difficult case of a woman whose husband was dying. While President Allred and I assisted with her needs, Sisters Cook and Allred left for the mission home.
When the president and I returned to the van, I realized immediately that all of our goods were gone but assumed that Sister Cook had taken them with her to the mission home. While we were driving toward the home, I discovered that the right front window-wing had been damaged and began to fear that our goods had been stolen.
Arriving at the mission home, we found that our luggage had indeed been stolen. The loss of a substantial amount of money and all our clothing created an immediate but only temporary problem. More disheartening was the fact that my scriptures were in my briefcase along with the inspired ideas I had just received in Cochabamba. The overwhelming sensation of discouragement, anger, and inability to do anything about the situation was overpowering.
My wife and I prayed alone. We prayed with those present. We tried to enjoy our dinner but could not. Who could know of the great loss I personally felt? The scriptures had been given to me as a young man by my parents, a sacred inscription placed in one of them by my mother and in the other by my since-deceased father. I had spent literally thousands of hours marking and cross-referencing (and loving every moment of it) in the only tangible earthly possessions I had ever considered of much value. I had on many occasions instructed my wife that if there were ever a fire in the home, she should first remove the children and then, if there were time, save my scriptures and not worry about anything else.
The president and I had much to discuss as we were to be together only that evening. However, I felt a strong impression that we must do all in our power to recover the scriptures. After supper, all present knelt in prayer once again. We determined to search the immediate area near the mission office and in a nearby field, hoping that the thief or thieves had taken the salable items and discarded the English books.
In the prayer we pleaded that the scriptures would be returned, that the persons who had taken them would be led to know of their unrighteous act and repent, and that the return of the books would be the means of bringing someone into the true church.
Eight to ten of us then loaded into the van with flashlights and warm clothing and drove up to the mission office in the central city. We scoured vacant lots across the street and adjacent streets and alleys; we talked with guards and anyone else we could find and exhausted all possibilities. No one had seen or heard anything. Finally we returned home, dejected, able only to pray individually and wait. President Allred and I worked late into the night to finish our business, and the next day Sister Cook and I flew back to Quito, Ecuador, where we lived.
During the next few weeks, the missionaries searched the lots again. They looked in hedges and garbage cans, searched a nearby park, placed a sign on a wall where the books were stolen, requesting their return, and kept a watchful eye to see if the books might show up in an unexpected place nearby. In sheer desperation, trying to do all in their power, the missionaries decided to place an ad in two daily newspapers, offering a reward and giving explicit information concerning the books.
In Quito, Ecuador, I began a personal spiritual struggle that was a very difficult one for me. After nearly three weeks, I had not studied in the scriptures at all. I had tried on numerous occasions, but every time I read a verse I recalled only a few of the many cross-references I had made over 20 years. I was disheartened, depressed, and had no desire whatsoever to read. I prayed many times expressing to the Father that I had never tried to use my scriptures for any purpose other than glorifying his name and trying to teach others the truths that he had taught me. I pleaded with him to do whatever had to be done in order to have them returned. My wife and little children prayed incessantly for the same blessing. Even after two or three weeks they continued praying every day, “Heavenly Father, please bring back daddy’s scriptures.”
After about three weeks, I felt a strong spiritual impression, “Elder Cook, how long will you go on without reading and studying?” It seemed to me to be a test or a trial and to have something to do with the “cost” of the blessing I desired. The words burned, and I determined that I must be humble and submissive enough to start all over again.
With my wife’s permission to use her scriptures, I began reading in Genesis in the Old Testament, marking and cross-referencing once again.
On August 18, a friend, Brother Ebbie Davis, arrived in Ecuador from Bolivia and laid my scriptures on my desk along with a manila folder that contained the papers that I had written in Cochabamba and some recently prepared mission budgets that were also stolen. He indicated that they were the only things recovered, that he had been given those items by the mission president in La Paz as he boarded the plane, and that he did not know how the books were found, but that I would be told when I arrived there in the next few days to tour the mission.
The joy I experienced in that moment and later that day is indescribable. To realize that my Heavenly Father could, in some miraculous way, lift those books out of the hands of thieves in a city like La Paz and return them intact, not one page removed, torn, or soiled, is still beyond me. How the faith of our family and many Bolivian missionaries was rewarded! That day I promised my Father that I would make better use of my scriptures and my time as instruments in his hands for teaching the gospel.
On Sunday, August 21, I flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and on to La Paz, Bolivia, arriving on August 22. Upon arrival I was given the following account:
A lady had been in one of La Paz’s hundreds of marketplaces. She saw a drunk man waving a black book around. She had the strongest spiritual impression that something holy was being desecrated. She approached the man and asked him what it was. He did not know but showed her the book. She asked if he had anything else. He pulled out another black book. She asked if there were more. He removed a folder full of papers that he said he was going to burn. She then expressed the desire to purchase those things from him, to which he agreed, for the price of 50 pesos or about $2.5, U.S. currency.
After the purchase had been made, she felt totally taken back by what she had done. She realized the books and papers were in English—she didn’t speak, read, or understand English—and she had no desire to have any English books. It would have been like one of us paying nearly 10 percent of our monthly income to buy some books in a language we could not read. She immediately began a search for the church that was named in the front of the books. After approaching a number of other churches, she finally arrived at the mission office in La Paz, directed by the hand of the Lord. She had never heard of the reward nor of the ad in the newspaper, which was to appear that very day. She did not ask for any money, not even to reclaim the 50 pesos that she had paid for the books and papers. The elders received the books with rejoicing and paid her the reward anyway.
She told the missionaries that she was associated with a Pentecostal sect, but she listened very intently as they unfolded the gospel to her. She recalled reading something about Joseph Smith from a pamphlet she had picked up in the street two or three years earlier. After their first discussion with her, they reported, “She is a golden contact.” After the second discussion, she committed to baptism. Two weeks later, September 11, 1977, on a Sunday afternoon in La Paz, Bolivia, Sister Maria Cloefe Cardenas Terrazas and her son, Marco Fernando Miranda Cardenas, age 12, were baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ by Elder Douglas Reeder.
Who could describe my deep, discouraging, depressing, disheartening, overpowering feelings of helplessness when the scriptures were lost? Who could describe my great feeling of joy and rejoicing when we saw the power of heaven revealed in this miraculous way? Our Heavenly Father does hear and answer the prayers of his sons and daughters if they exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord said:
“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:23–24.)
My brothers and sisters, today is a day of miracles. We believe in miracles. The Latter-day Saints may expect miracles according to their faith. As a member of this Church, you are authorized to take a leading part in the development of the kingdom of God on earth within your respective responsibilities. Pray fervently. Actively seek to increase your faith, and with that great gift from God, you can cause great things to occur within your life and in the lives of others.
May the Lord bless you that that responsibility may rest squarely upon you. Remember, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is fully sustaining. Will the Lord mark the way in your schooling, in your employment, in your future marriage, in your family? He will. The Lord is full of mercy, forgiveness, patience, and long-suffering and is desirous of unlocking his treasure house of blessings to you who are full of faith.