Believing in the Savior and His mission is so essential that it is the first principle of the gospel: “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”1 What is faith? In his epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul taught that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”2 And how do we gain faith? How do we gain evidence of our Savior, whom we have not seen? The scriptures teach us:
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
“To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”3
From the beginning of time, prophets have known that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, of His mortal mission, and of His Atonement for all mankind. Sacred records give the prophecies of thousands of years, not only of the first coming of our Savior but also of the Second Coming—a glorious day that will most assuredly come.
If we had lived in the days of these prophets of old, would we have believed on their words? Would we have had faith in the coming of our Savior?
In ancient America, Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that on the night of the Savior’s birth “there [would] be great lights in heaven, … insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.”4
Many believed Samuel and went to find Nephi, confessed their sins, repented, and were baptized. “And angels did appear unto [them], and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy.”5
But for the most part, the Nephites “harden[ed] their hearts”6 and became blind to the “signs and wonders” of the times. These signs were given so “that [the people] might know that the Christ must shortly come.”7 But instead of heeding them, the Nephites “depend[ed] upon their own … wisdom, saying: Some things [the believers] may have guessed right, … [but] it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come.”8
In those days as in ours, some naysayers, called anti-Christs, convinced others that there was no need for a Savior and His Atonement. When Samuel’s prophecy was finally fulfilled and there was a “day and a night and a day, as if it were one day,”9 what joy must have filled the hearts of those who had believed in the prophets! “It had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets. And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.”10
Those who believed on the words of the prophets recognized the Savior throughout His life and ministry and were blessed to follow Him. But sometimes the faith of even the most devoted followers was tested. After the Crucifixion Thomas heard his brethren testify that the Savior had risen from the tomb. But instead of believing their words, Thomas declared, “Except I shall see …, I will not believe.”11 Later this beloved Apostle was given the opportunity to touch the prints of the nails in the Savior’s hands and confessed, “My Lord and my God.”12 The Savior then lovingly taught him as He has taught all of us what it means to have faith: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”13
Believers on the American continent faced similar tests of faith. As Samuel had prophesied, there were great “thunderings and lightnings,”14 and darkness covered “the whole earth for the space of three days.”15 But those who had “received the prophets and stoned them not”16 did not fear or flee. They recognized this was “the sign [that] had been given concerning [the Savior’s] death”17 and gathered to the temple, marveling together. And there He appeared to them, saying:
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
“… I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world. …
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.”18
Brothers and sisters, the prophecies of Christ’s first coming were fulfilled, “every whit.” As a result, many throughout the world believe that the Savior did come and did live in the meridian of time. But there are still many prophecies yet to be fulfilled! In this and other conferences, we hear living prophets prophesy and testify of Christ’s Second Coming. They also witness of the signs and wonders all about us, telling us that Christ will surely come again. Are we choosing to believe their words? Or despite their witnesses and warnings, are we waiting for evidence—are we “walking in darkness at noon-day,”19 refusing to see by the light of modern prophecy, and denying that the Light of the World will return to rule and reign among us?
Throughout the course of my life, I have known many good and generous people who adhere to Christian values. However, some lack faith that He lives, that He is the Savior of the world, and that His Church has been restored to the earth. Because they do not believe in the words of the prophets, they miss the joy of the gospel and its saving ordinances in their lives.
I have a dear friend who, one day not long ago in a moment of brotherly tenderness, asked, “Elder Hales, I want to believe. I’ve always wanted to believe, but how do I do it?” This morning I desire to answer that question.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”20 The very fact that you are viewing, listening to, or reading the proceedings of this conference means that you are hearing God’s word. The first step to finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to let His word—spoken by the mouth of His servants, the prophets—touch your heart. But it is not enough merely to let those words wash over you, as if they alone could transform you. We must do our part. Or as the Savior Himself said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”21 In other words, hearing requires an active effort. “Faith without works is dead.”22 It means taking seriously what is taught, considering it carefully, studying it out in our minds. As the prophet Enos learned, it means letting others’ testimonies of the gospel “[sink] deep into [our] heart[s].”23 Let us review some of the elements of Enos’s profound, faith-building experience:
First, Enos heard the gospel truths from his father, just as you are hearing them in your families and in this conference. Second, he let his father’s teachings about “eternal life, and the joy of the saints”24 sink deep into his heart. Third, he was filled with a desire to know for himself whether these teachings were true and where he himself stood before his Maker. To use Enos’s words, “My soul hungered.”25 By this intense spiritual appetite, Enos qualified himself to receive the Savior’s promise: “Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”26 Fourth, Enos obeyed the commandments of God, which enabled him to be receptive to the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. Fifth, Enos records, “I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.”27 It wasn’t easy. Faith did not come quickly. In fact, Enos characterized his experience in prayer as a “wrestle which [he] had before God.”28 But faith did come. By the power of the Holy Ghost, he did receive a witness for himself.
We cannot find Enos-like faith without our own wrestle before God in prayer. I testify that the reward is worth the effort. Remember the pattern: (1) hear the word of God, spoken and written by His servants; (2) let that word sink deep into your heart; (3) hunger in your soul for righteousness; (4) obediently follow gospel laws, ordinances, and covenants; and (5) raise your voice in mighty prayer and supplication, asking in faith to know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I promise that if you do these things sincerely and unceasingly, the words Christ spoke to His disciples will be fulfilled in your life: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”29
Once we find the beginnings of our faith in Jesus, our Heavenly Father allows our faith to be strengthened. This occurs in many ways, including through the experience of adversity. An acquaintance of mine recently wrote:
“We lost a 2-and-a-half-year-old grandson to leukemia. … My children still haven’t taken his crib down; it will [soon be] 7 years [since he died. It is] hard to have faith. [I] lost a friend [who was] 69. [He] had three different cancers in 10 years, [cancers which] went into remission twice. [First, they found it in his] kidneys, [then his] brain, [and] then [his] lungs. [He] couldn’t fight it any longer. [He] tried everything humanly possible and 6 years ago found faith … but not an extra day, so I guess it’s hard to believe.”
This appeal to me for faith was answered as follows: “Your family story of the loss of your grandson to leukemia was touching. Hopefully, you and your children will find peace as you seek answers to the purpose of life. Our faith is acquired through prayer with a sincere desire to draw close to God and trust in Him to bear our burdens and give us answers to life’s unexplained mysteries of the purpose of life: Where did we come from? Why are we here on earth in mortality? And where are we going after our mortal sojourn on earth? All is well with your little one because he died before the age of accountability of eight years of age and he is in the presence of God. Seek faith, and may the blessings of God be with you.”
Isn’t it interesting that the one who is suffering often gains faith through suffering and accepts the Lord’s will, “thy will be done,”30 while family members and caregivers may have a difficult time accepting the tragic outcome and being able to strengthen their faith from the experience. We cannot measure faith by “an extra day.”
When the challenges of mortality come, and they come for all of us, it may seem hard to have faith and hard to believe. At these times only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement can bring us peace, hope, and understanding. Only faith that He suffered for our sakes will give us the strength to endure to the end. When we gain this faith, we experience a mighty change of heart, and like Enos, we become stronger and begin to feel a desire for the welfare of our brothers and sisters. We pray for them, that they too will be lifted and strengthened through faith on the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Let us consider a few of these prophetic witnesses of the effects of the Atonement in our lives. As we do I invite you to let them sink deep into your heart and fill whatever hunger and thirsting there may be in your soul.
“And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning …, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed.”31
And “the Lord showed himself unto [the brother of Jared], and said: … Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. … In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name.”32
Abinadi witnessed: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. … Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain … ; giving [him] power to make intercession for the children of men …, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”33
And finally, Joseph Smith. As a 14-year-old boy, he exercised unwavering faith and followed the prophet James’s direction to “ask of God.”34 Because of Joseph’s prophetic calling, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him and gave him instructions. How glorious was this First Vision to the first prophet of this last dispensation! Sixteen years later in the Kirtland Temple, Joseph was visited again by the Savior and testified: “We saw the Lord. … And his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying: I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.”35
To my dear friend and all those whose souls are hungering for faith, I invite you “to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written.”36 Let their witness that the Savior gave His life for you sink deep into your heart. Seek a witness of the truth through the Holy Ghost in prayer, and then see your faith strengthened as you joyfully meet the challenges of this mortal life and prepare for eternal life.
Jesus Christ did come. He did live. And He will come again. This I know and give my special witness and testimony, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.