Is the first principle of the gospel faith? No! The fourth article of faith teaches that the first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ includes having a firm belief that He is the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We recognize that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father only by relying on His Son’s grace and mercy while being obedient to His commandments. When we have faith in Christ, we accept His Atonement and His teachings, thus leading to baptism “of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5).
Faith in Jesus Christ motivates missionaries to work hard, obey mission rules, and seek diligently to find sincere investigators. Faith brings assurance that they are doing the work of the Lord and representing Him as they teach the message of salvation. As missionaries increase their personal faith, they increase their power to teach and help their investigators become converted to the Savior Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.
Note: This chapter focuses on the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, how you can increase your faith, its role in one’s conversion, and how faith relates to repentance, baptism, and the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost. You will recall that repentance is discussed in more detail in chapter 2 of this student manual.
Doctrines and Principles to Understand
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is essential to spiritual growth.
Faith can increase.
Faith leads to conversion.
Conversion includes repentance, baptism, and the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Supporting Scriptures and Statements
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is essential to spiritual growth.
Faith that leads to salvation must be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love. It includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though you do not understand all things, He does. … He is always ready to help you as you remember His plea: ‘Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not’ (D&C 6:36)” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 54).
President Ezra Taft Benson explained why we must place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:
“The fundamental principle of our religion is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is it expedient that we center our confidence, our hope, and our trust in one solitary figure? Why is faith in Him so necessary to peace of mind in this life and hope in the world to come? …
“… Only Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to provide that hope, that confidence, and that strength to overcome the world and rise above our human failings. …
“Faith in Him is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief.
“Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Because He descended below all things (see D&C 122:8), He knows how to help us rise above our daily difficulties” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 5, 7; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 6, 8).
“Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that faith centered in Jesus Christ helps us develop a trust in God:
“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a conviction and trust that God knows us and loves us and will hear our prayers and answer them with what is best for us.
“In fact, God will do more than what is best for us. He will do what is best for us and for all of our Heavenly Father’s children. The conviction that the Lord knows more than we do and that he will answer our prayers in the way that is best for us and for all of his other children is a vital ingredient of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. …
“Faith must include trust. … When we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have trust in him. We must trust him enough that we are content to accept his will, knowing that he knows what is best for us. …
“… The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. That is why we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing. When we have that kind of faith and trust in the Lord, we have true security in our lives. …
“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ prepares you for whatever life brings. This kind of faith prepares you to deal with life’s opportunities—to take advantage of those that are received and to persist through the disappointments of those that are lost” (“‘Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,’” Ensign, May 1994, 99–100).
“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ prepares you for whatever life brings.”
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how we can know when our faith is in harmony with the will of God:
“How do we know when our faith conforms to the will of our Heavenly Father and He approves of that which we seek? We must know the word of God. One of the reasons we immerse ourselves in the scriptures is to know of Heavenly Father’s dealings with man from the beginning. If the desires of our heart are contrary to scripture, then we should not pursue them further.
“Next, we must heed the counsel of latter-day prophets as they give inspired instruction.
“Additionally, we must ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit. If we do so, the Lord has promised, ‘I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart’ [D&C 8:2].
“Only when our faith is aligned with the will of our Heavenly Father will we be empowered to receive the blessings we seek” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2002, 90; or Ensign, Nov. 2002, 84).
Faith can increase.
How do we get more faith? Faith is a gift from God that we must desire and seek. The Bible Dictionary teaches that “although faith is a gift, it must be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree” (“Faith,” 670). Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained, “Faith requires deliberate nurturing, for it is not static; it is either increasing or decreasing” (Lord, Increase Our Faith , 1).
The Savior’s Apostles understood the need for greater faith. They pled, “Lord, Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Understanding how to increase one’s faith is vital to successful missionary work.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained what we can do to increase our faith: “If we study, ponder, and pray, our faith in the unseen but true things of God will grow. Even if we start with only ‘a particle of faith, … even if [we] can no more than desire to believe’ [Alma 32:27; see also vv. 28–43], with nurturing attention a tiny seed of faith can grow into a vibrant, strong, fruitful tree of testimony” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 32; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 26).
When he was a member of the Seventy, Elder John K. Carmack suggested ways of increasing our faith:
“Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls. We cannot say, ‘We have done enough and deserve to rest.’ Nor does the increase come through definitions, logic, or philosophy. Rather, we must:
Do what is right and serve the Lord because we know, trust, and love Him with all of our souls.
Harbor no thought that we deserve a reward or thanks for what we do, although rewards will surely come.
Humbly ask, seek, and knock.
Never demand anything of our Lord, because we are always in His debt.
Leave to Him the final decision in all things, having the attitude ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’
Be prepared to sacrifice, even unto death, for our entire mortal lives.
“As members of the Lord’s Church, we can increase our faith, if we desire, by going beyond the minimum requirements of the gospel and developing complete trust in the Lord” (“Lord, Increase Our Faith,” Ensign, Mar. 2002, 57).
“Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls.”
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles related ways to increase faith in order to achieve a sustaining power in our lives:
“Faith is not illusion nor magic but a power rooted in eternal principles. Are you one who has tried to exercise faith and has felt no benefit? If so, you likely have not understood and followed the principles upon which faith is founded. …
“You will gather the fruits of faith as you follow the principles God has established for its use. Some of those principles are:
Trust in God and in His willingness to provide help when needed, no matter how challenging the circumstance.
Obey His commandments and live to demonstrate that He can trust you.
Be sensitive to the quiet prompting of the Spirit.
Act courageously on that prompting.
Be patient and understanding when God lets you struggle to grow and when answers come a piece at a time over an extended period. …
“You can learn to use faith more effectively by applying this principle taught by Moroni: ‘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; italics added]. Thus, every time you try your faith—that is, act in worthiness on an impression—you will receive the confirming evidence of the Spirit. Those feelings will fortify your faith. As you repeat that pattern, your faith will become stronger. …
“Even if you exercise your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you. He loves you to a depth and completeness you cannot conceive of in your mortal state. Indeed, were you to know His entire plan, you would never ask for that which is contrary to it even though your feelings tempt you to do so. Sincere faith gives understanding and strength to accept the will of our Heavenly Father when it differs from our own. We can accept His will with peace and assurance, confident that His infinite wisdom surpasses our own ability to comprehend fully His plan as it unfolds a piece at a time” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2003, 78–79; or Ensign, May 2003, 76–77).
President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, suggested ways to sustain faith: “To sustain faith, each of us must be humble and compassionate, kind and generous to the poor and the needy. Faith is further sustained by daily doses of spirituality that come to us as we kneel in prayer. It begins with us as individuals and extends to our families, who need to be solidified in righteousness. Honesty, decency, integrity, and morality are all necessary ingredients of our faith and will provide sanctuary for our souls” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2000, 22; or Ensign, May 2000, 18).
Faith leads to conversion.
Missionaries must not only understand how to increase their own faith, but they must learn to help strengthen the faith of those they teach. As the restored gospel is taught, a seed of hope is planted in the investigator’s heart and faith begins to develop. This faith can lead to a recognizable feeling that confirms the truth of the message. When that feeling comes, faith increases and leads to a desire to accept the message and live by gospel standards. Gaining a testimony and becoming converted result from strengthened faith.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that faith is part of the fertile ground that nourishes conversion:
“The first seeds of conversion begin with an awareness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a desire to know the truth concerning His restored Church. ‘Let this desire work in you’ (Alma 32:27). A desire to know the truth is like a seed which grows in the fertile ground of faith, patience, diligence, and long-suffering (see Alma 32:27–41). …
“… In the conversion process, we experience repentance, which brings about humility and a broken heart and contrite spirit, preparing us for baptism, remission of sins, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Then, over time and through our faithfulness, we overcome trials and tribulations and endure to the end” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 111; or Ensign, May 1997, 80).
President Marion G. Romney, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized that faith is an essential ingredient in conversion: “Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change. Converted implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel[, a] faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct. In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments” (in Conference Report, Guatemala Area Conference 1977, 8).
“Conversion is a spiritual and moral change.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley noted that conversion begins with small steps of faith: “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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 84; or Ensign, May 2002, 72).
President Hinckley also spoke of the nourishment the faith of members can provide for the budding faith of investigators:
“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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 86; or Ensign, May 2002, 74).
Conversion includes repentance, baptism, and the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
In the process of conversion, faith and repentance prepare investigators for the ordinances of baptism and confirmation. Baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands are necessary to become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that conversion requires a complete willingness to give up all practices contrary to the teachings of the restored gospel: “The gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change. ‘Repent’ is its most frequent message, and repenting means giving up all of our practices—personal, family, ethnic, and national—that are contrary to the commandments of God. The purpose of the gospel is to transform common creatures into celestial citizens, and that requires change” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 39; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 37).
“The gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the following principle regarding the ordinance of baptism:
“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. …
“… The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 314, 360).
President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that missionaries should understand that baptism is more than just the water ordinance:
“When you are teaching investigators and preparing them for baptism by water, you must also think of the gift of the Holy Ghost—baptism by fire. Think of it as one sentence. First comes the baptism of water and then the baptism of fire.
“Someone may ask you, ‘How are things going?’ or ‘Are you teaching anyone?’
“You automatically answer, ‘Yes, we have a family preparing for baptism and confirmation, for receiving the Holy Ghost.’ I repeat, to be baptized and to receive the Holy Ghost—link those two together” (The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Missionary Should Know—and Every Member As Well [address at seminar for new mission presidents, June 24, 2003], 2).
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaking of those who have not received the gift of the Holy Ghost, explained: “The Holy Ghost can be their constant companion only after they have been faithful and after they have received the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands by those with proper authority. But even before baptism, a child or an adult can have the Holy Ghost testify to their hearts of sacred truth. They must act on that testimony to retain it, but it will guide them toward goodness, and it can lead them to accept and keep the covenants which will in time bring them the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 84; or Ensign, May 1996, 62).
President James E. Faust explained that a witness to the truth can come to an individual before baptism, but without the gift of the Holy Ghost, administrations of the Spirit are limited:
“Many outside the Church have received revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost, convincing them of the truth of the gospel. Through this power, sincere investigators acquire a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the principles of the gospel before baptism. However, administrations of the Holy Ghost are limited without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
“Those who possess the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism and confirmation can receive more light and testimony. This is because the gift of the Holy Ghost is ‘a permanent witness and higher endowment than the ordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit’ [in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 5:4]. It is the higher endowment because the gift of the Holy Ghost can act as ‘a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin’ [Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost,” 704]” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 73; or Ensign, May 2001, 58).
Points to Ponder
Consider Articles of Faith 1:4. Why do you think it is important that the principles and ordinances are listed in that order? Why do you think faith in Jesus Christ is listed first?
What can you do to increase your faith in Jesus Christ?
What does it mean to exercise your faith in Jesus Christ?
If you were working with investigators who said they wanted to be able to believe the story of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, what would you counsel them to do? Why?
Why is baptism by water only “half a baptism”?
Review the bulleted points in the statements by Elder John K. Carmack (p. 83) and Elder Richard G. Scott (pp. 83–84). Think about how your attitude and ability fit each of their points. Select one or two areas in which you would like to improve and develop a plan that will lead to improvement. Share that plan with your Heavenly Father in prayer and ask for help to increase your faith.
Recommended Additional Reading
“Baptism” (pp. 21–26)
“Conversion” (pp. 40–43)
“Faith” (pp. 54–56)
“Holy Ghost” (pp. 81–84)