From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley
“When I left for a mission [as a young man],” recalled President Gordon B. Hinckley, “my good father handed me a card on which were written five words. They were the words of the Lord to the ruler of the synagogue who had received news of his daughter’s death: ‘Be not afraid, only believe.’ (Mark 5:36.)”1 As young Elder Hinckley served in England, he faced many challenges in which he needed to remember those five words. He later described one such experience:
“One day three or four of the London papers carried reviews of a reprint of an old book, snide and ugly in tone, indicating that the book was a history of the Mormons. President Merrill [my mission president] said to me, ‘I want you to go down to the publisher and protest this.’ I looked at him and was about to say, ‘Surely not me.’ But I meekly said, ‘Yes, sir.’
“I do not hesitate to say that I was frightened. I went to my room and felt something as I think Moses must have felt when the Lord asked him to go and see Pharaoh. I offered a prayer. My stomach was churning as I walked over to the Goodge Street station to get the underground train to Fleet Street. I found the office of the president and presented my card to the receptionist. She took it and went into the inner office and soon returned to say that the president was too busy to see me. I replied that I had come five thousand miles [8,000 kilometers] and that I would wait. During the next hour she made two or three trips to his office; then finally he invited me in. I shall never forget the picture when I entered. He was smoking a long cigar with a look that seemed to say, ‘Don’t bother me.’
“I held in my hand the reviews. I do not recall what I said after that. Another power seemed to be speaking through me. At first he was defensive and even belligerent. Then he began to soften. He concluded by promising to do something. Within an hour word went out to every book dealer in England to return the books to the publisher. At great expense he printed and tipped in the front of each volume a statement to the effect that the book was not to be considered as history, but only as fiction, and that no offense was intended against the respected Mormon people. Years later he granted another favor of substantial worth to the Church, and each year until the time of his death I received a Christmas card from him.”2
In accepting the assignment to visit the publisher’s office, Elder Hinckley practiced what would become a lifelong pattern: with faith, accept the challenge; plead with the Lord for help; then go to work.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can become the wellspring of purposeful living.
If there is any one thing that you and I need, to help us find success and fulfillment in this world, it is faith—that dynamic, powerful, marvelous element by which, as Paul declared, the very worlds were framed (see Hebrews 11:3). I refer not to some ethereal concept but to a practical, pragmatic, working faith—the kind of faith that moves us to get on our knees and plead with the Lord for guidance, and then, having a measure of divine confidence, get on our feet and go to work to help bring the desired results to pass. Such faith is an asset beyond compare. Such faith is, when all is said and done, our only genuine and lasting hope.
… Faith can become the very wellspring of purposeful living. There is no more compelling motivation to worthwhile endeavor than the knowledge that we are children of God, that God expects us to do something with our lives, and that He will give us help when help is sought. …
… When I discuss faith, I do not mean it in an abstract sense. I mean it as a living, vital force that comes with recognition of God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our Savior. …
… Faith in a Divine Being, in the Almighty, is the great moving power that can change our lives.3
Long ago I worked for one of our railroads whose tracks threaded the passes through [the] 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. …
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. …
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.4
Faith is the basis of testimony and the strength of the Lord’s work on the earth.
The only real wealth of the Church is in the faith of its people.5
It is a marvelous and wonderful thing that thousands are touched by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, that they believe and accept and become members [of the Church]. They are baptized. Their lives are forever touched for good. Miracles occur. A seed of faith comes into their hearts. It enlarges as they learn. And they accept principle upon principle, until they have every one of the marvelous blessings that come to those who walk with faith in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
… This precious and marvelous gift of faith, this gift from God our Eternal Father, is still the strength of this work and the quiet vibrancy of its message. Faith underlies it all. Faith is the substance of it all. Whether it be going into the mission field, living the Word of Wisdom, paying one’s tithing, it is all the same. It is the faith within us that is evidenced in all we do.
… The strength of this cause and kingdom is not found in its temporal assets, impressive as they may be. It is found in the hearts of its people. That is why it is successful. That is why it is strong and growing. That is why it is able to accomplish the wonderful things that it does. It all comes of the gift of faith, bestowed by the Almighty upon His children who doubt not and fear not, but go forward. …
Faith is the basis of testimony. Faith underlies loyalty to the Church. Faith represents sacrifice, gladly given in moving forward the work of the Lord.6
The gospel is good news. It is a message of triumph. It is a cause to be embraced with enthusiasm. …
Let us not be afraid. Jesus is our leader, our strength, and our king.
This is an age of pessimism. Ours is a mission of faith. To my brethren and sisters everywhere, I call upon you to reaffirm your faith, to move this work forward across the world. …
“Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22). So wrote the Prophet Joseph in a psalm of faith.
How glorious is the past of this great cause. It is filled with heroism, courage, boldness, and faith. How wondrous is the present as we move forward to bless the lives of people wherever they will hearken to the message of the servants of the Lord. How magnificent will be the future as the Almighty rolls on His glorious work, touching for good all who will accept and live His gospel, and even reaching to the eternal blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations through the selfless work of those whose hearts are filled with love for the Redeemer of the world. …
I invite every one of you, wherever you may be as members of this church, to stand on your feet and with a song in your heart move forward, living the gospel, loving the Lord, and building the kingdom. Together we shall stay the course and keep the faith, the Almighty being our strength.7
With faith, we can rise above fear and any obstacle or challenge in our lives.
Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future. Some carry the burden of sin and would give almost anything to unshackle themselves from those burdens but fear to change their lives. Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly.8
Paul wrote to Timothy: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:7–8).
I wish that every member of this church would put those words where he might see them every morning as he begins his day. They would give us the courage to speak up, they would give us the faith to try, they would strengthen our conviction of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that more miracles would happen over the earth.9
I spoke one day to a friend who had escaped from his native land. With the fall of his nation, he was arrested and interned. His wife and children were able to get away, but for three years and more he was a prisoner without means of communication with those he loved. The food was wretched, the living conditions oppressive, with no prospects for improvement.
“What sustained you through all those dark days?” I asked.
He responded: “My faith; my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I put my burdens on him, and then they seemed so much the lighter.”10
It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us.11
Could not any of us say that if we had greater faith in God we could do better than we are now doing? There is no obstacle too great, no challenge too difficult, if we have faith. With faith we can rise above those negative elements in our lives that constantly pull us down. With effort we can develop the capacity to subdue those impulses that lead to degrading and evil actions. With faith we can school our appetites. We can reach out to those who are discouraged and defeated, and we can warm them by the strength and power of our own faith.12
As we exercise our faith, the Lord will help it increase.
As you exercise your time and talents in service, your faith will grow and your doubts will wane.13
The Church will ask you to do many things. It will ask you to serve in various capacities. We do not have a professional ministry. You become the ministry of this Church, and whenever you are called upon to serve may I urge you to respond, and as you do so your faith will strengthen and increase. Faith is like the muscle of my arm. If I use it, if I nurture it, it grows strong; it will do many things. But if I put it in a sling and do nothing with it, it will grow weak and useless, and so will it be with you. If you accept every opportunity, if you accept every calling, the Lord will make it possible for you to perform it. The Church will not ask you to do anything which you cannot do with the help of the Lord.14
This is my prayer for all of us—“Lord, increase our faith” [see Luke 17:5]. Increase our faith to bridge the chasms of uncertainty and doubt. …
… Lord, increase our faith to rise above the feeble detractors of this Thy great and holy work. Strengthen our will. Help us to build and expand Thy kingdom according to Thy great mandate, that this gospel may be preached in all the world as a witness unto all nations. …
… Grant us faith to look beyond the problems of the moment to the miracles of the future. Give us faith to pay our tithes and offerings and put our trust in Thee, the Almighty, to open the windows of heaven as Thou hast promised. Give us faith to do what is right and let the consequence follow.
Grant us faith when storms of adversity beat us down and drive us to the ground. In seasons of sickness may our confidence wax strong in the powers of the priesthood. May we follow the counsel of James:
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” (James 5:14–15; italics added). …
Lord, when we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, give us faith to smile through our tears, knowing that it is all part of the eternal plan of a loving Father, that as we cross the threshold from this life we enter another more glorious, and that through the atonement of the Son of God all shall rise from the grave and the faithful shall go on to exaltation.
Give us faith to pursue the work of redemption of the dead that Thine eternal purposes may be fulfilled in behalf of Thy sons and daughters of all generations.
Father, grant us faith to follow counsel in the little things that can mean so very much. …
Lord, increase our faith in one another, and in ourselves, and in our capacity to do good and great things. …
Father, increase our faith. Of all our needs, I think the greatest is an increase in faith. And so, dear Father, increase our faith in Thee, and in Thy Beloved Son, in Thy great eternal work, in ourselves as Thy children, and in our capacity to go and do according to Thy will, and Thy precepts, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.15
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
President Hinckley taught that faith in God is “the great moving power that can change our lives” (section 1). What experiences have helped you learn about the power of faith? How have you seen that when “we reach toward the unknown, … faith lights the way”?
What can we learn from section 2 about the source of the Church’s strength? How are faith and sacrifice related to each other? Consider how you can heed President Hinckley’s call to “move this work forward across the world.”
Why do you think faith has the power to help us in times of trial? (See section 3.) When has faith helped you rise above fear? When has faith helped you rise above other obstacles?
Review President Hinckley’s prayer in section 4. What words in this prayer have special meaning for you? How can faith help us overcome uncertainty and doubt? How can faith help us look beyond problems to see miracles?
“When we study the scriptures regularly and diligently, earnestly seeking guidance from the Spirit, we will be receptive to enlightenment about how to prepare lessons. We will also be prepared to receive and follow promptings from the Spirit while we teach” (Teaching, No Greater Call , 14).
In Conference Report, Oct. 1969, 114.
“If Ye Be Willing and Obedient,” Ensign, July 1995, 5.
Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes (2000), 109–10.
“We Walk by Faith,” Ensign, May 2002, 72–73.
“The State of the Church,” Ensign, May 1991, 54.
“The Miracle of Faith,” Ensign, May 2001, 68–69.
“Stay the Course—Keep the Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 71–72.
“God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear,” Ensign, Oct. 1984, 2.
“Be Not Afraid, Only Believe,” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 5.
“Be Not Faithless,” Ensign, Apr. 1989, 4.
“Latter-Day Counsel: Excerpts from Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 73.
Standing for Something, 109–10.
“He Is Risen, As He Said,” Ensign, Apr. 1983, 7.
“Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, June 1999, 2.
“Lord, Increase Our Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 52–54.