Faith Yields Priesthood Power

John K. Carmack


Beloved brethren, in this very room there’s quite enough power to do anything that we’re called to do. We are the priesthood of God.

Recently Elder Tai and I stayed in the Everest Hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal. One evening the electric power failed. Fortunately two small candles and matches were provided. But instead of about four hundred watts of electric power to light our rooms, our candles yielded only two candlepower, not enough light to allow us to continue our work.

The priesthood of God is potentially a greater source of power than electricity. Collectively, priesthood brethren perform well, but we fall far short of our potential. Why? Could our problem be that we fail to tap our greatest source of power in exercising our priesthood? Do we trade electricity for candles?

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the priesthood’s dynamic power source. By failing to put faith first in our callings, we reduce the priesthood’s light and power. Other obstacles also block its beneficial rays.

Oliver Cowdery thought he could translate under the flickering light of a candle. The Lord instructed him, “Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith.” (D&C 8:10.)

Past priesthood leaders such as Peter, Paul, Joseph, and Brigham accomplished amazing results in their callings. How? They all did it with faith. They had no computers or fax machines. Their power depended on faith. Jesus often answered pleas for his miraculous intervention, “According to your faith be it unto you.” (See Matt. 9:29; Matt 15:28.)

Rather than relying on faith, we are tempted to stay with the comfortable and tangible tools of our temporal lives to accomplish priesthood callings. The Church has also provided some tools. These tools are useful. They have helped us achieve success, power, and control over our time. They include our natural intelligence; education and training; preparation, with manuals, handbooks, agendas, and budgets.

We operate with diligent, purposeful effort using management concepts and systems we have learned. I wouldn’t say a word against these tools. They serve us well. Often they have come themselves through a process of faith and inspiration, trial and error, and intelligent effort. After all, the Lord said, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing.” (D&C 88:119.)

Add faith, however, and priesthood service becomes magnificent. Two candles suddenly burst into four hundred watts of light. More to the point, we tap into the Lord’s power source, and our actions move in rhythm with His. The Lord compensates for our deficiencies. Vast, unseen reservoirs of dynamic power supply our needs.

The Lord commanded His Apostles to believe in Him, saying, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” (John 14:11–12.) Clearly the power to do great works comes from faith in Christ.

Let’s look at a well-known example. Nephi and his brethren received an assignment from the Lord. The assignment was, Go and obtain the brass plates from Laban. They tried wisdom, charm, persuasion—tools they were comfortable using. They even offered to trade precious things from their family, from their treasure, in exchange for the plates. Nothing worked. In fact, they fled for their lives, accused of robbery.

Only then did Nephi turn to pure faith. Here’s how it worked. He convinced himself that the Lord had assigned him to get the plates. Next he conceived the mental energy and trust to try again. “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” (1 Ne. 3:7.) Without knowing what he would do, Nephi began moving forward while his brothers skulked outside the city walls. “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Ne. 4:6.) Now he was moving by faith—confidence in the unknown, hope in things unseen. You know the rest.

Notice that faith and trust in the Lord came first. Then came action. He had no plan except confidence in the Lord. It was really a “ready, fire, aim” approach, the opposite of conventional wisdom. Laman and Lemuel thought it foolhardy. Then the Lord’s plan unfolded with Nephi being guided by unseen hands.

Often this is the way faith works. I was assigned, for example, to escort Elder and Sister Bateman and Elder and Sister Steadman to their missionary assignments as English teachers in Hanoi, Vietnam. We planned and organized, but we had more questions than answers. After completing our planned agenda, we still had one full day unplanned. More remained to be done, but what and where?

That morning we decided to act by faith by walking out our doors. Events swept us through an amazing day of welcoming ceremonies at the Hanoi Children’s Palace, dinner in our honor with Operation Smile Vietnam, and other activities planned by our hosts. Our hosts had been too busy to communicate their plans to us, but the Lord knew them and moved us into place like pawns on a chessboard.

In the Lectures on Faith, prepared by brethren under the direction of Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, the authors asked, “What are we to understand by a man’s working by faith? We answer—we understand that when a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force. It is by words, instead of exerting his physical powers, with which every being works when he works by faith.” (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985, p. 72.)

A brief but profound phrase in the book of Abraham describes the complete power of God’s faith. “There is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.” (Abr. 3:17.) With faith we can get the right things to do into our hearts and the words and mental exertion to do them. It may require leaving unstructured time in our planning and on our agenda. Then faith would have some air to breathe.

Although faith often includes positive thinking, it is much, much more than that. Faith taps into divine sources and is a manifestation of unity and partnership with the Lord. Even the ideas and words formulated by faith come by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the power to accomplish the words formed by faith comes from God.

Even more important, faith leads directly to eternal life, because in exercising faith, we come to know God and His power, and we become like Him.

The brethren explained in their Lectures on Faith that “the plan of salvation … was a system of faith—it begins with faith, and continues by faith; and every blessing which is obtained in relation to it is the effect of faith.” (P. 80.)

Priesthood leaders need balance, wisdom, and tools that help them organize, but why can’t we add the power of faith that is available? I know that many of you already do that.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Maybe to some of you it sounds too general and simplistic. Well, in a way it is easy, but there are serious obstacles to overcome before we can add the power source of faith in our service. The hardest step may be to decide that faith comes first. Then we must overcome the obstacles. Our greatest obstacle is often unworthiness. To really have faith, we must cleanse the instruments of faith—our minds, our bodies, and spirits.

Ironically, if we are unworthy, it seems that the order of using gospel principles is, for that period of time, reversed. First, repentance, then faith. Arguably, repentance was first sparked by a particle of faith, but gaining the power of faith sometimes requires repentance first.

Pride and arrogance block out faith.

Self-sufficiency, often through financial success, high educational attainment, fame, and honor among men, can keep us from having faith.

Religious fanaticism can damn our faith. In religion, as in other things, sometimes more is less.

Alcohol, drugs, salacious entertainment, pornography, and accumulation of material things clog the arteries of faith; and fear, guilt, bitterness, and resentment can choke faith. Yes, Satan throws up many obstacles. He doesn’t want us to have faith.

Now, go back over the list of obstacles. Do you notice any of these in children? No wonder the Lord suggested that we seek faith like that of little children.

And brethren, faith is not an exclusive tool of the priesthood. The Roman centurion held no priesthood, but through faith asked the Lord to heal his servant. He added that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home, although he was a man whose authority others obeyed. He said, “But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” (Matt. 8:8.) Jesus marveled at his faith. “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matt. 8:10.)

The gentile woman of Canaan also tapped into the source of power. Evil spirits had vexed her daughter, and she sought in faith to have Jesus cast the evil spirits out. Jesus, probably testing her faith, explained that He was only sent to minister to those of Israel. She simply would not be denied. “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus exclaimed, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” (Matt. 15:27–28.)

Brethren, we can learn much about faith from such sisters as the woman of Canaan, from our friends of other faiths such as the Roman centurion, and especially from our children. No matter how we learn to use the power of faith, we need to have it to accomplish the awesome tasks assigned to us.

Also, we need to use more fully the gifts of the Spirit, all of which operate through faith. These gifts are available to us today. Even the ultimate power—to raise the dead—is occasionally exercised by those of great faith. The sick are healed, the blind see, the lame walk, and evil spirits are cast out—all through faith and priesthood power in combination. I feel we do not enjoy enough spiritual gifts in our priesthood callings.

We can start by adding the ingredients of faith identified in the Lectures on Faith:

  1. 1.

    To know and accept that God exists.

  2. 2.

    To know His correct character, attributes, and perfections.

  3. 3.

    To know that the course of life we are now pursuing is according to God’s will. (See p. 38.)

Let’s add these three elements to our priesthood power tools. We can’t do it unless we sanctify our lives and add more spiritual depth to our knowledge.

Now, what shall we do to put faith foremost? If we listen carefully, we will discover the key to Simon Peter’s faith in the challenge given him by the Savior prior to His resurrection: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32; emphasis added.)

Perhaps it is time that we humble ourselves and overcome the obstacles to faith, and then become converted as Peter did. Why go through life with two candlepower when more than four hundred watts are available? The tasks are so great! How can we possibly take the gospel to all the world and redeem the dead at the same time? I don’t know, but the power and energy to do so must and will come by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, brethren, let’s plead fervently with the Lord as the Apostles of old did, “Lord, Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5.) Then let’s use our increased faith as the primary power source in all our callings. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.