Romans 3:22–23 says that “righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” When we place our faith in Jesus, we believe in Him, and God grants His righteousness to us.
What Is Faith?
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that faith is “the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness.” The Apostle Paul defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Prophet Joseph Smith further revealed through his inspired revision of the Bible that faith was the “assurance of things hoped for”. He explained that faith “is the assurance we have of the existence of unseen things. And being the assurance,[faith] must be the principle of action in all intelligent beings.”
Faith, belief, and hope are often used interchangeably, and it may be difficult to distinguish between these words. There is a difference, however. Although we cannot have faith without belief and hope, we can believe without having faith. Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “Belief, in one of its accepted senses, may consist in a merely intellectual assent, while faith implies such confidence and conviction as will impel to action.” The Savior taught, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” The Apostle James said it another way: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” So-called faith without works is not faith at all!
Faith is interwoven with other gospel attributes, especially hope and charity. All three help bring us to Christ. Feelings of doubt, fear, despair, or discouragement are the opposite of faith, hope, and charity. Faith requires action, and action is inhibited by fear and doubt. Doubt and fear diminish as one’s faith increases. In the parable of the talents, the slothful servant’s underlying problem was lack of faith. On the day of reckoning, he rationalized, “And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” The two servants who were given five and two talents, respectively, multiplied them through faith and personal effort. They were rewarded, while the faithless, fearing servant lost what he had received. Shakespeare described the negative effects of little faith, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”
Faith Is in the Lord and His Promises
Our faith is in our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Although we talk of having faith in people, in principles, or in things, real faith focuses on eternal life through knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent.” Faith takes us beyond mere acceptance of the Savior’s identity and existence. It includes having complete confidence in His infinite and eternal redemptive power to save us from sin and death. Faith permits us to acknowledge Christ’s divine attributes, including infinite love for both the innocent and the sinner. It acknowledges the Lord’s limitless capacity to forgive and heal when we cast our burdens upon Him. Faith also includes certitude that His promises in the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets will be kept. Thus, integrity and obedience to the law of tithing, Word of Wisdom, and law of chastity are matters of faith. Those who pay tithing are able to enthusiastically testify that the Lord does “open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Faith Is Developed in the Home
The home is the best place to plant and nourish the seeds of faith.
“I am a product of a household of faith. I learned faith in my home. I was taught it. It was drilled into me. …“We’re not going to survive in this world, temporally or spiritually, without increased faith in the Lord—and I don’t mean positive mental attitude—I mean downright solid faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Parents are held accountable by the Lord to teach their children “to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, when eight years old.” When parents neglect this commandment, the Lord states, “the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” Family home evening, family scripture study, and family prayer provide settings where parents can carry out this God-given responsibility to teach their children.
Unfortunately, some of us grow to adulthood without the wonderful opportunity to develop faith as a child. Lack of opportunity in the home, however, does not excuse anyone from gaining faith or being faithful. It is never too late; we are never too old to begin the steps leading to faith in Jesus Christ, which leads to action.
The Blessings of Faith in Jesus Christ
Many go without the matchless blessings that flow from God when we have abiding faith in Him and His Only Begotten Son. But faith in the heart of a man—a living, vibrant faith—can raise the dead, create worlds, and save souls.” Faith is the motivating power for the 11 million members of the Church living in more than 160 countries. It is the force behind the 60,000 full-time missionaries who leave home and loved ones to build up the kingdom by preaching the gospel and magnifying special assignments. It is faith that leads, in our days, to the building of an unprecedented number of temples. Faith motivates members to become and remain worthy to enter these temples and to perform ordinances in behalf of themselves and their kindred dead. Faith compels members of the restored Church to labor with might and strength to move the latter-day work forward to prepare for the return of our resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Thomas exclaimed, after he felt the wounds in the hands, feet, and side of the resurrected Lord, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus gently rebuked His doubting disciple and, in so doing, left us a marvelous promise: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
May we be eager to merit the priceless gift of faith. May we have faith like Nephi of old, who was unequivocally able to say, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” I bear my personal witness that whoever desires and is willing to take the necessary steps will receive the joy and promised blessings of saving faith, which is faith in Jesus Christ.