From where we speak, it is a beautiful April Sabbath morning. The tulips are well out of the ground and will soon be bursting into flowering beauty. In the winter of our doubt there came the hope of spring. We knew it would come. Such was our faith, based on the experiences of earlier years.
And so it is with matters of the spirit and soul. As each man or woman walks the way of life there come dark seasons of doubt, of discouragement, of disillusionment. In such circumstances, a few see ahead by the light of faith, but many stumble along in the darkness and even become lost.
My call to you this morning is a call to faith, that faith which is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), as Paul described it.
In the process of conversion, the investigator of the Church hears a little. He may read a little. He does not, he cannot, comprehend the wonder of it all. But if he is earnest in his search, if he is willing to get on his knees and pray about it, the Spirit touches his heart, perhaps ever so lightly. It points him in the right direction. He sees a little of what he has never seen before. And with faith, whether it be recognized or not, he takes a few guarded steps. Then another, brighter vista opens before him.
Long ago I worked for one of our railroads whose tracks threaded the passes through these western mountains. I frequently rode the trains. It was in the days when there were steam locomotives. Those great monsters of the rails were huge and fast and dangerous. I often wondered how the engineer dared the long journey through the night. Then I came to realize that it was not one long journey, but rather a constant continuation of a short journey. The engine had a powerful headlight that made bright the way for a distance of 400 or 500 yards. The engineer saw only that distance, and that was enough, because it was constantly before him all through the night into the dawn of the new day.
The Lord has spoken of this process. He said: “That which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:23–24).
And so it is with our eternal journey. We take one step at a time. In doing so we reach toward the unknown, but faith lights the way. If we will cultivate that faith, we shall never walk in darkness.
Let me tell you of a man I know. I will not mention his name lest he feel embarrassed. His wife felt there was something missing in their lives. She spoke with a relative one day who was a member of the Church. The relative suggested that she call the missionaries. She did so. But the husband was rude to them and told them not to come again.
Months passed. One day another missionary, finding the record of this visit, decided that he and his companion would try again. He was a tall elder from California who carried a big smile on his face.
They knocked on the door; the man answered. Could they come in for a few minutes? they asked. He consented.
The missionary said, in effect, “I wonder if you know how to pray.” The man answered that he knew the Lord’s Prayer. The missionary said, “That is good, but let me tell you how to give a personal prayer.” He went on to explain that we get on our knees in an attitude of humility before the God of heaven. The man did so. The missionary then went on to say, “We address God as our Father in Heaven. We then thank Him for His blessings, such as our health, our friends, our food. We then ask for His blessings. We express our innermost hopes and desires. We ask Him to bless those in need. We do it all in the name of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, concluding with ‘amen.’”
It was a pleasant experience for the man. He had gleaned a little light and understanding, a touch of faith. He was ready to try another step.
Line upon line, the missionaries patiently taught him. He responded as his faith grew into a dim light of understanding. Friends from his branch gathered around to reassure him and answer his questions. The men played tennis with him, and he and his family were invited to their homes for dinner.
He was baptized, and that was a giant step of faith. The branch president asked him to be a Scoutmaster to four boys. That led to other responsibilities, and the light of faith strengthened in his life with each new opportunity and experience.
That has continued. Today he stands as a capable and loved stake president, a leader of great wisdom and understanding, and above all, a man of great faith.
The challenge which faces every member of this Church is to take the next step, to accept that responsibility to which he is called, even though he does not feel equal to it, and to do so in faith with the full expectation that the Lord will light the way before him.
Let me give you a story of a woman in São Paulo, Brazil. She worked while going to school to provide for her family. I use her own words in telling this story. She says:
“The university in which I studied had a regulation that prohibited the students that were in debt from taking tests. For this reason, when I received my salary I would first separate the money for tithing and offerings, and the remainder was allotted for the payment of the school and other expenses.
“I remember a time when I … faced serious financial difficulties. It was a Thursday when I received my salary. When I figured the monthly budget, I noticed that there wouldn’t be enough to pay [both] my tithing and my university. I would have to choose between them. The bimonthly tests would start the following week, and if I didn’t take them I could lose the school year. I felt great agony. … My heart ached. I had a painful decision before me, and I didn’t know what to decide. I pondered between the two choices: to pay tithing or to risk the possibility of not obtaining the necessary credits to be approved in school.
“This feeling consumed my soul and remained with me up to Saturday. It was then that I remembered that when I was baptized I had agreed to live the law of tithing. I had taken upon myself an obligation, not with the missionaries, but with my Heavenly Father. At that moment, the anguish started to disappear, giving place to a pleasant sensation of tranquility and determination. …
“That night when I prayed, I asked the Lord to forgive me for my indecision. On Sunday, before the beginning of sacrament meeting, I contacted the bishop, and with great pleasure I paid my tithing and offerings. That was a special day. I felt happy and peaceful within myself and with Heavenly Father.
“The next day I was in my office; I tried to find a way to be able to take the tests that would begin on Wednesday. The more I thought, the further I felt from a solution. At that time I worked in an attorney’s office, and my employer was the most strict and austere person I had ever met.
“The working period was ending when my employer approached and gave the last orders of the day. When he had done so, with his briefcase in his hand he bid farewell. … Suddenly, he halted, and looking at me he asked, ‘How is your college?’ I was surprised, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The only thing I could answer with a trembling voice was, ‘Everything is all right!’ He looked thoughtfully at me and bid farewell again. …
“Suddenly the secretary entered the room, saying that I was a very fortunate person! When I asked her why, she simply answered: ‘The employer has just said that from today on the company is going to pay fully for your college and your books. Before you leave, stop at my desk and inform me of the costs so that tomorrow I can give you the check.’
“After she left, crying and feeling very humble, I knelt exactly where I was and thanked the Lord for His generosity. I … said to Heavenly Father that He didn’t have to bless me so much. I only needed the cost of one month’s installment, and the tithing I had paid on Sunday was very small compared to the amount I was receiving! During that prayer the words recorded in Malachi came to my mind: ‘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’ (Mal. 3:10). Up to that moment I had never felt the magnitude of the promise contained in that scripture and that this commandment was truly a witness of the love that God, our Heavenly Father, gives to His children here on earth.”
Faith is the very fiber that gives strength to this work. Wherever this Church is established across this broad world, it is evident. It is not limited to one country or one nation or one language or one people. It is found everywhere. We are a people of faith. We walk by faith. We move forward on our eternal journey, one step at a time.
Great is the promise of the Lord to the faithful everywhere. He has said:
“I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
“Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
“And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, …
“Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, …
“And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.
“For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man” (D&C 76:5–10).
How could anyone ask for more? How glorious is this work in which we are engaged. How wondrous are the ways of the Almighty when we walk in faith before Him.
The faith of an investigator is like a piece of green wood, thrown on a blazing fire. Warmed by the flames, it dries and begins to burn. But if it is pulled away, it cannot sustain itself. Its flickering flame dies. But if left with the fire, it gradually begins to burn with brightness. Soon it is part of the flaming fire and will light other, greener wood.
And so goes, my brothers and sisters, this great work of faith, lifting people across this broad earth to increased understanding of the ways of the Lord and greater happiness in following His pattern.
May God, our Eternal Father, continue to smile upon this, His Kingdom, and cause it to prosper as we, His children, walk in faith is my humble prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.