There were two young boys returning home late one afternoon. It was getting dark, and they should have been home earlier. Knowing they were in trouble, they decided to save a little time and take a shortcut by going through a pasture. The boys were well aware they were not to go into the pasture. The property was posted with “no trespassing” signs because of the presence of a large, mean bull. It was getting dark, and since the bull was in an area of the pasture where he couldn’t see the boys, they decided to attempt the shortcut. After they had crawled under the fence, and were about halfway across the pasture—at the point of no return—the bull spotted them and charged in their direction. The boys began running, but one of them stopped and said, “Wait, let’s kneel down and pray for help.” The other boy said, “If you want to stop and kneel down and pray, you do it, but I’m going to run and pray.”
I don’t want to dwell on the “stop-and-kneel-down-and-pray” faith; I want to discuss the “run-and-pray” faith. I’ve always believed in that kind of faith. In James we read: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17).
President Harold B. Lee once said, “If you want the blessing, don’t just kneel down and pray about it. Prepare yourselves in every conceivable way you can in order to make yourselves worthy to receive the blessing you seek.”
Sometimes we tend to believe that if we have enough faith, anything can happen without our really putting forth much effort, without doing all that is possible, or without “running as hard as we can and praying on the run.” The Lord expects us to do all in our power as we exercise our faith.
How is this kind of faith developed? In Alma we read: “Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.” Faith, then, is not a perfect knowledge. Alma goes on to say, “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, …” (Alma 32:26–27).
Some of you may be having a real struggle with school or with being morally clean and truly knowing what to do. You may wonder if the gospel is really true. There are so many challenges that you begin to question your own faith. I plead with you as Alma did with those people to just “experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe.” If that’s all you can do, then begin there—just have a desire to believe. “Let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27).
In Ether 12:5, Moroni teaches: “And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.” They would not believe his words because they could not see the things he was prophesying. In verses 18 and 19 Moroni states: “And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore, they first believed in the Son of God. And there were many whose faith was so exceeding strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.” [Ether 12:18–19]
What is this eye of faith? What does it mean? Can you actually see the things that can come to pass? I believe that you can. You must be willing, though, to spend enough time to think about what you want to do, what you want to be, how you will react and what you will say under given circumstances. When you work on it hard enough and have it firmly planted in your mind with the eye of faith, you will actually see it happen. You will make the right decisions, you will do the right things, and you will accomplish the goals you set for yourself, if you are willing to put forth the effort and have the faith. Maybe I could give you an example of an experience that happened in my life.
When I was very young, I loved to play ball, any kind of ball. As I grew older, it became obvious that the Lord had given me a special talent in athletics, and of all the sports in which I participated, I was most attracted to basketball. I came from a family of meager financial means, so when I was old enough to throw a ball through a hoop, my folks couldn’t afford the hoop or the ball. I found an old tin band from a wooden barrel and nailed it on the garage. Then I got some rags and tied them together until I had a good-sized rag ball. Every night after school I would go outside and shoot that rag ball through the hoop. Many times, I would have to climb up on the garage to straighten the band because it would bend from the rag ball hitting it so often. I could hardly wait to get home in the evenings so I could start shooting my rag ball through the hoop.
It was during my 13th year when Dad took me aside one day and said, “Bobby, how would you like to have a real basketball hoop?” He had made one out of a rod of iron, had made a backboard, and had attached the hoop to it. I could hardly believe my eyes! Dad and I mounted it on the back of the garage. He then gave me my first rubber basketball. Boy, was I excited! Night after night, as soon as I got home from school, I was out in back shooting my ball. I loved to shoot long shots and practiced them by the hour.
In my mind I would always picture myself as one of the great ball players of the day. If I were having that experience at this time, I would probably be Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. I always pretended I was in the national basketball finals with just a few seconds left. I had the ball and the score was tied. I would come down along the fence line and let go with a long shot, and as it went through the hoop, I would sense the feeling of being a hero. I won more national titles than you can ever imagine. I could see it in my mind’s eye. I thought about it a lot. I knew I could do it. I practiced and practiced. I also dreamed of one day playing in Madison Square Garden. It was the most famous basketball arena in the world at that time. There was no other place like it.
When I graduated from high school, I accepted a basketball scholarship to Utah State University in Logan. During my junior year, we were invited to Madison Square Garden to play in the first holiday festival tournament ever held there. My dream had come true! I had seen it! I had worked hard for it. Along with Utah State and other teams from the United States, the two top teams in the nation had been invited to the tournament. Our team played the number two-rated team the first night, and it was really close. The game went down to the wire, but we won. I was high-point man and played one of my best games ever. The next night Utah State played another great team, and again it was a close game. We won, and once more I was high-point man.
The Aggies from Logan were now in the finals against Manhattan University (New York City), the number one team in the nation. It was a tough and close game. We were never separated by more than four points. As we approached the final two minutes of the game, Utah State was leading by four points. We had the ball and had planned to stall it out, but we lost it. One of the Manhattan players stole a pass and went down and scored. Now Utah State had only a two-point lead with about a minute and a half to go. We came down the floor again and worked around the key until an open shot came. One of our players drove in and missed it. Manhattan got the ball again and scored. Now the score was tied with a minute or less to go. We had the ball, came down the court, and missed our shot. The rebound went to Manhattan, and now they had the ball with about 35 seconds to go. We didn’t dare foul them. What a terrible position to be in! At times like that, you wonder why you ever took up the sport. Manhattan worked the ball around until there were about 10 seconds left, and then the player who had been hitting all night faked out in front, drove to the bucket, and laid it up. I can still see that ball as it rolled around the rim but finally fell off. One of our players pulled down the rebound and threw it to me. I came down the side of the court and let the ball fly from about 30 feet out. It split the net! The final buzzer rang, and we had won the national holiday festival tournament! As that buzzer went off, I thought to myself, “I’ve done this before.” I had. In my mind’s eye and in the backyard, I had done it hundreds and hundreds of times. I had practiced and practiced. I had worked for it. Because of my faith and work, the Lord blessed me.
Whether it is talents you desire to develop or gospel standards you want to live,
I believe you have to develop this kind of faith in order to be successful. It’s something more than just saying you have faith. You have to work for it. You have to live for it. You have to do all you can, as the little boy did when the bull was after him. He ran as hard as he could. You have to be worthy of it and then develop that eye of faith. It has to be firmly planted in your mind. You must know what you want to do and how you will do it.
What do you want to achieve? What kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be morally clean? Do you want to be virtuous and happy? Do you want to stay away from drugs, tobacco, alcohol, pornography, and all the other decay that is so prevalent in the world today? If you will develop your eye of faith, when temptations and negative experiences confront you, your choices will be right because you will already have made them. Remember, the time to make a decision is not in the heat of the battle but long before you meet the enemy. You will also be willing to make the necessary effort to accomplish your goals.
The decisions you make now will have a great effect on the rest of your life. True happiness and inner peace come from choosing to do right. May your eye of faith be developed so as to strengthen and guide you in all you do.