Sunday, June 20, 2010

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith - Faith in Christ


            Introduction to the Author
           As this is my first official post on this very excellent blog, I’d like to start off with a little bit of an introduction to who I am, how I got here and where I’m going.
            First off, my name is Katie Plett, and I’m from the cities of Langley, Surrey, and Maple Ridge in British Columbia, in the land known as Canada. As a little bit of a background, I first became aware of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 13, when my mother was going through some rough times and was run into by the Sister Missionaries. She was eventually baptized, as was my little brother. My sister was in Manitoba at the time, and when she found out that our mom and brother had gotten baptized, she was enraged. She spoke to me often on the phone and told me not to listen to “the Mormons,” although at the time I didn’t need her to tell me that. I was very angry at my mother’s decision, and I let my anger drive a wedge between my brother and me. I had convinced myself before this that God didn’t care about me, and didn’t listen to my prayers; I decided since He didn’t listen to me, I wouldn’t listen to Him. The way I saw it, God was going back on the bargain I had made with Him now that the Sisters, Elders, and the Church were in my life.
            A pair of Sisters, who I will always consider “my missionaries,” asked if they could teach me, and since I had previously made a connection with them, I agreed. Much to my mother’s astonishment, she would often come home to find the Sisters teaching me – the first few times this happened she thought maybe she had forgotten about a lunch or dinner appointment with them. After a few lessons, one of the Sisters asked me how I felt when we read the Book of Mormon together, and I responded that I felt good. Excitedly, she asked if I would pray about the Book, and I said I would. Well, I didn’t. The next time we met, she eagerly asked if I had prayed, and I told her I hadn’t. It was easy to tell that this upset her, but she would cheer up and again challenge me to pray. I don’t remember how many times this happened, but one night after I went through my bedtime routine and got into bed, I found that I had lacked any ability to fall asleep. It just wasn’t happening. I turned over various thoughts in my mind but eventually came back to the Sisters challenge, and how every time I failed to pray to know whether the Book was true or not, they were actually sad, troubled, and hurt by my failure. 

            I remember staring at my ceiling and finally saying aloud, “What the heck?” So I knelt down and closed my eyes, and tried to think of what to say. It’s hard to explain, but while I was still organizing my thoughts and before really “commencing,” the prayer, I felt exactly what I read I would feel. The Lord says it succinctly: “you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8). This was a feeling that spread from my chest to the very tips of my fingers and toes, and I felt as though someone had put their arms around me. This was astonishing, because I was fairly convinced God had forgotten about me, and that He didn’t care whether I was troubled, or in pain, or suffering. When I met again with the Sisters, I was again asked if I had prayed. “Yes,” I said, feeling like my feet had been thrown out from under me. The Sister who asked me had a huge smile on her face, “And?” she asked. “It’s true,” I said, or rather mumbled. “So do you want to be baptized?” I felt severely humbled by my experience, but after having a relatively secret baptism (my mother only discovered it when a man in the ward walked up to her after sacrament and congratulated her on my decision), here I am coming up on 7 years.
            Right now I’m preparing my papers to submit so I can serve a mission, which I get to do in 76 days, but who’s counting, right? Hopefully I can contribute something awesome to this blog before I leave, while still remaining spiritual about it, of course. While I’m here though, I’ll post regularly about various teachings, sermons, doctrines, etc., taught by our first President, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and when space permits, various arguments presented against his teachings by anti-Mormons and the like.

Faith in Christ
Absolutely basic, and essential really, to any Christian religion is the need of faith in Christ. This is because we were not there when Christ was born, we did not hear him teach, and we did not witness his brutal sacrifice. We do not have physical evidence to show that Christ is the Son of God, which is why we cannot authenticate, in the traditional sense of the word, Christ’s divine origin, mission, and resurrection. However, just because it cannot be proven, does not mean it is, or can be disproven. As Christians have faith that Christ existed, so do others need to have faith that he did not.
Faith is not just confidence or trust in something or someone; it is a hope that something which you cannot see is true. Paul said simply to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
It is not enough to simply have faith that Christ is the Son of God, although that is tremendously interesting, and may help one develop faith that Christ and God exist; it does not help us in our quest to return to their presence. “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence...” (Moses 6:57). Through the fall of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. And because all of mankind sins, we are separated from God and Christ.
As Christians, it is not enough to simply have faith that Christ was born, lived, and died. It is not hard to imagine someone existing. It is much harder however, to have faith that someone existed who could remove us from our sins, was resurrected, and enables us to return to God’s presence. But Christ did that, and that is what our faith needs to be based in, the fact that salvation comes to us through the sacrifice, or Atonement of Christ.
By merely telling of his experiences, Joseph Smith showed his faith in, as well as bore his testimony of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith recorded that, “[he] saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description... One of them spake unto [him], calling [him] by name, and said – pointing to the other – “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him.” (History of the Church, Vol. 1, pg 5). During the early years of Church history, Joseph received revelations from the Lord which have been compiled into what is known today as the Doctrine and Covenants (Explanatory Introduction, Doctrine & Covenants).
As though that is not evidence enough of Joseph Smith’s faith and the importance of Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection, Joseph Smith also lectured much on those subjects. On one such occasion, “to save [himself] the trouble of repeating the same a thousand times over and over again,” Joseph Smith had the following printed in the Elder’s Journal: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (History of the Church, Vol. 3, pg 30).
In what has become known as the “Wentworth Letter,” Joseph Smith reiterated the “rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints” (History of the Church, Vol. 4, pg 535). Parts of what he wrote then has since become regarded as “The Articles of Faith,” and the first, third, and fourth declare the following:
We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost... We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that the first principle and ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;  (2) Repentance;  (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;  (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
            Joseph Smith taught of the Atonement, Resurrection and salvation afforded us by Christ; the very concepts taught by the Bible are taught in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, by the Prophet Joseph Smith and by every Prophet who succeeded him.

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord. Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual. But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.

            Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of [Christ], this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
            To believe that Christ was born, lived and died is just not enough. To lead us to salvation, our faith, as the scriptures teach, as Joseph Smith taught, as we are taught today by our Prophet and the Apostles, needs to be centered on Jesus Christ, that he not only was born, lived, and died, but that he atoned for our sins and was resurrected, because “... if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

4 comments:

  1. Well organized, well written, and well felt.

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  2. I enjoyed the post. I've been a member for five years and I haven't regretted joining. Also, serving a mission was probably the next best thing I ever did. Good luck!

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  3. I finally got down and read this.

    It's interesting to see how after almost 200 years since the first vision the nature of the LDS faith in God is widely misunderstood despite the clear declarations and actions that have been consistently put forth but the church and its members.

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  4. I think that one of the most compelling parts of this blog entry was your personal conversion story: that was a very real demonstration of faith motivating actions, and, in turn, informing belief and understanding.

    On a different note, it was interesting to see the Romans 10 verses quoted along with the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, because the Romans passage is one of the most commonly used (at least in my experience) passages in scriptures for justifying "lip service salvation": indeed, if that verse were the only relevant scripture with regards to salvation, then one could easily make a case for saying that the modern Evangelical view of saying "I believe" and being "saved" really is legitimate.

    Thanks, though, for framing the context of faith in a sufficiently robust manner to help others understand that "[confessing] with thy mouth the Lord Jesus," and "[believing] in [one's] heart that God hath raised him from the dead," is all God ever wants us to do.

    We should be very grateful for prophets and additional scriptures that serve to expand our knowledge and clarify things of old.

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