Several years ago I was discussing the origin of the Book of Mormon with a friend. When I had finished explaining the role of the golden plates in Joseph Smith’s translation work, my friend asked the understandable question, “Where are the golden plates now?” After I told him the angel Moroni had taken the plates back following the completion of the translation, my friend quickly lost interest in any further religious discussion. It was apparent that for my friend, seeing is believing.
Unfortunately, people commonly say: “Show me. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” Believing in that which is beyond the reach of the five senses is not the inclination of today’s society. But the Lord has in mind for us a better way.
The Apostle Paul tells us that charity, that most important of all virtues, “believeth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7; see also Moro. 7:45). For us, to “believe all things” means to believe the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the words of the Latter-day prophets. It means to successfully erase our doubts and reservations. It means that in making spiritual commitments, we are prepared to hold nothing back. It means we are ready to consecrate our lives to the work of the kingdom.
The Thinking of the “Natural Man”
This is certainly not the normal, “natural man” way of thinking (see Mosiah 3:19). The natural man may believe carefully selected points of doctrine, he may even believe a majority of the doctrine, but he will always have some reservations (see 1 Cor. 2:11–14).
These reservations may be intellectually based. Some members are constantly evaluating the gospel by the standards of the world. They may think, “That is not how I think the Lord would want it done,” or, “Based on my understanding of the scriptures, the Church position should have been …”
Many of these reservations are driven by pride. For example, Laman and Lemuel received numerous, powerful spiritual manifestations certifying Nephi’s divine calling, but their pride would never let them submit to the leadership of their younger brother. Contrast their reservations with the unwavering support Hyrum Smith gave his younger brother, the Prophet Joseph Smith. According to President Heber J. Grant (1856–1945), his mother, Rachel Ivins Grant, said that “of all the men she was acquainted with in her girlhood days in Nauvoo, she admired Hyrum Smith most for his absolute integrity and devotion to God, and his loyalty to the prophet of God,” his brother Joseph Smith Jr. 1
Some Church members may have reservations because of a physical appetite they are not quite willing to surrender. In an effort to justify their behavior and to avoid facing the challenge of keeping their appetites within heavenly bounds, they may say, “Surely the Lord will not keep me out of the celestial kingdom over a cup of coffee every once in a while.”
Other common reservations are flagged by words such as “yes, but …” when scriptures or prophets are quoted. Or we may hear, “I am not going to let the Church make my decisions for me,” implying that Church leaders do not understand the central role of agency in the plan of salvation.
“I can’t accept that because I don’t understand it” is another philosophical impediment to believing all things. But if we have spent any time considering the nature of faith, we must realize that “believing all things” is the equivalent of full faith, not full knowledge. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has quoted President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) as saying, “You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and perhaps a few steps into the darkness, and you will find that the light will appear and move ahead of you.” 2 We develop our faith in the word of God through our experience.
In Malachi 3:10 [Mal. 3:10], as the Lord is instructing Israel regarding tithing, He states His willingness to have His doctrine tested through experience: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (emphasis added). As we pay our tithing and see the blessings flow—and they surely will—we grow in our faith. The Lord will always pass the test of reliability and dependability. As we continually see Him keep His promises, we continue to grow in faith. The more we believe, the easier this faith-based obedience becomes. Hence the value of “believing all things.”
Obedience is a fundamental law of the gospel. It is not only the demonstration of our faith but also the foundation of our faith. But the philosophical standard of the world holds that unquestioning obedience equals blind obedience, and blind obedience is mindless obedience. This is simply not true. Unquestioning obedience to the Lord indicates that a person has developed faith and trust in Him to the point where he or she considers all inspired instruction—whether it be recorded scripture, the words of modern prophets, or direct inspiration through the Holy Ghost—to be worthy of obedience.
The standard of the world is “I will move on a course only when its truth has been proven to me.” This standard contradicts the admonition to believe all things. Unfortunately, we are too often content to live with our reservations, assuming that believing most things is good enough.
At some point in our quest for perfection and eternal life, we may come to have perfect faith and eventually perfect knowledge. But between now and then, there will certainly arise intriguing questions with answers reaching beyond our capacity to comprehend. Such questions can drive the prideful person to conclusions such as “Given the constraints of Christian doctrine, there is no possible answer to this question; therefore, a thinking person cannot be a Christian.” Such pride and arrogance must greatly offend the heavens.
The scriptures support the importance of believing all things rather than waiting to know all things. For example, we are instructed to be like children, who are willing to be taught and then to act without first demanding full knowledge. In Matthew 18:3 [Matt. 18:3] Christ taught, “Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” King Benjamin taught that a disciple should become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
It is interesting that as children we believe in and respond to the instructions of our earthly fathers, with their limited vision and understanding. But as we get older, despite our avowed testimonies of an eternal, all-knowing Heavenly Father, we may shy away from rendering Him that same trust and obedience we afforded our earthly fathers.
One who powerfully exemplified childlike submissiveness was Mary, the mortal mother of Jesus Christ. After the angel Gabriel told her of her divine calling, she replied, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Mary knew the potential impact of Gabriel’s message. Her neatly planned life—with its future marriage and family in a familiar village, surrounded by her lifelong friends—was not to be. The laws of the day would demand that she be stoned for expecting a child in her current circumstances. Yet she offered no words of reservation or restraint. Her response reflected her willingness to believe all things. Certainly her rewards for her faith are rich and eternal.
Fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith also stands as a powerful example of a believing spirit. Had he been proud or prone to intellectualization, these words in James 1:5 would not have entered deeply into his heart: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Pride would have prevented him from retreating to the woods to pray regarding which church he should join. But his believing heart led him to accept the words of this scripture, and he sought the Lord’s guidance. His faith was rewarded by a divine vision that changed the course of his life and would change the lives of those who seek to know the truth of his story.
The three young Israelites Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego each revealed a similar childlike faith and trust when they were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship the gods of Babylon. Their words reflect their faith in the power of their God, even Jehovah: “Our God … is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, … but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods” (Dan. 3:17–18; emphasis added). Their God was able to, and did, deliver them from the furnace. Full faith, or a willingness to “believe all things,” is a remarkable power.
The greatest of all examples of submissiveness is that of the Savior in Gethsemane as He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” He went on to signal the depths of His character, love, and submissiveness as He declared, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Everything about His life reflects His childlike submissiveness to the will of His Father.
In our quest to “believe all things,” we may discover questions that are not easily answered. But we can have faith and peace of mind because we know that God is just. One day there will be answers to all our questions, and they will be based on divine fairness and love. The Lord will not hold people accountable for factors over which they have no control.
Let us believe all things. Let us have unquestioning faith in all of the doctrines and truths of the restored gospel. The virtue of charity will then be embedded more deeply in our character, and we will be more receptive to the counsel and guidance of the Lord. I pray that we each may conduct our lives to this end.
Helps for Home Evening
Blindfold one family member. Have a parent guide him or her through a set of obstacles. Compare this activity to the doctrines presented in this article.
Wrap something worthless in an attractive package and wrap something valuable in an ugly package. Ask family members to choose which they prefer and why. After opening the packages, discuss why some people have reservations about believing all things. (See the first two sections.) How can we develop our trust in God? (See the last two sections.)
Show pictures that illustrate the scripture stories found in this article. How and why were the people in these stories blessed by the Lord? What are some blessings you would like to receive from the Lord? How can obedience and childlike submissiveness be helpful in this quest?