August 14, 2011

Spiritual gift of faith

Being a child of a member of the bishopric means having to hide from him in your own home in order to avoid giving a talk. Inevitably, our paths crossed and I was asked. I gave my talk today and the theme was spiritual gifts. I chose to speak on the spiritual gift of faith.
Reading the scriptures, saying your prayers, attending church, and so on are commonly known as the “Primary answers” but there is a reason why we have been taught these from the beginning. These are the essentials for building faith in Christ; it is how we exercise our faith in Christ.

We’ve always learned that you had to first exercise faith in order to accept the gospel and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Spiritual gifts then come through the gift of the Holy Ghost. I was initially confused when I learned of the spiritual gift of faith. One had to exercise faith to receive the gift of faith? What is the difference between the initial faith and the gift of faith?

C.S. Lewis describes faith in The Screwtape Letters as “when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” (40). Faith is actively acting on what you know you should do.

We also know that faith is one of the “first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Pearl of Great Price, Articles of Faith 1:4). And Alma taught the poor in Chapter 32, our initial faith “is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” and “any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.”

The gift of faith is a stronger, deeper faith, an almost perfect knowledge that Christ is there next to you, that if you ask, you will receive. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “this gift takes root in our hearts as hope and, nurtured as a seedling, will eventually flower into knowledge and bear the fruit of eternal life.”

It was the gift of faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to crumble. It was the gift of faith of the three Nephites that they should not taste death. It was the gift of faith of the brother of Jared that allowed him to see the Lord.

My friend was a great example to me as a person with the gift of faith. She had to have a risky operation done. Even with all her family crying around her, she sat on her hospital bed with a slight smile and a sense of peace and said, “If I don’t make it, I’ll be with Heavenly Father.” She said this with such surety that everyone in the room had to believe her.

It was the gift of faith of my friend that gave her a reassuring knowledge that she will return to her Father in Heaven if her mortal life was at its end. It was also the gift of faith of those who fasted and prayed for her that helped her to a speedy recovery after her successful surgery.

Spiritual gifts “are given for the benefit of those who love [the Lord] and keep all [His] commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:9). Not only do our gifts benefit ourselves but they can also be used for blessing others.

 That same friend's family commented afterwards, “To see her enter the operation room with such faith made me want to grow more in my faith.”

Brothers and sisters, do you yearn for this powerful gift of faith? To have an almost perfect knowledge of Christ and to rely completely on Him? To believe that even though we don’t understand everything, He does?

President George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency over a century ago taught the Saints:

If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. …No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.” He is not justified in it, for…God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. If a man lacks wisdom, it is his duty to ask God for wisdom. The same with everything else. That is the design of God concerning His Church. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth.

Brothers and sisters, if we lack faith, it is our duty to ask God for faith. We have been instructed to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Even if we only have the “desire to believe, let this desire work in [us]” until we have found good soil to plant our seed of faith (Alma 32:27).

"Turn to the Lord. Exercise all of the faith you have in Him. Let Him share your burden. Allow His grace to lighten your load" (Donald L. Hallstrom).

I know that spiritual gifts are real and that they are given by our Lord through the gift of the Holy Ghost. I know that if we be not faithless but believing, we can witness miracles performed before our eyes. I know that my Savior is always here by me and that He listens. I know these things through the gift of the Holy Ghost and I say this in the name of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.

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