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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lectures on Faith Preface

The Worldwide Faith Gap Analysis


No matter if you're Mormon, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist or whatever Christian denomination, you likely believe that faith in God is a foundational doctrine of your religion.

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Joseph Smith thought so, too. I believe he saw those in the embryonic LDS church struggling with their faith in God. Then, like today, they were by-and-large just good people trying to better understand what it meant to exercise the most basic of doctrines.

Joseph believed in the importance of faith so much, that he approved the inclusion of seven "Lectures on Faith" into Mormonism's canon. To Joseph, the Lectures on Faith contained, "in short, the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe." He also taught that "faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness" and that it is also "the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Lectures on Faith, 1).

Joseph wanted us to have faith with real power! The kind of faith that performs true miracles and shatters the veil between God and man. Of anyone in the modern era, he alone knew what it took. So he left you and I a roadmap, a treasure map of sorts, for us to discover this precious treasure.

Unfortunately, nearly a century ago, the Lectures were decanonized from the LDS scriptures. Today, their existence is almost forgotten, with (at most) a rare paragraph about or quoting from them in curriculum materials. They are largely unknown to the vast majority of church members, and mankind in general.
"I suppose that the rising generation knows little about the Lectures on Faith. In my own judgment, these Lectures are of great value and should be studied. I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ." (Joseph Fielding Smith, "Seek Ye Earnestly". Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970).
Today's society frowns on having faith in God. Instead, how about having faith in a celebrity? Fine. A leader? Endorsed (by them). The spiritual experiences of others? Popular. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10)

Amidst the cacophony of diverse directions of faith, it's not surprising that some experience a "faith crisis" -- a fact now trumpeted in almost daily news articles. Here, too, is a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" conundrum: Those who seek comfort in their crisis are typically blasted with judgmentalism and ugly words lacking understanding and compassion (sometimes by those who are expected to be overflowing with such attributes). Those who don't express their feelings are often left to sort them out, invariably with those also undergoing their own faith crisis.

If ever there was a time mankind needed a greater understanding of faith, it's today. The gap between the amount of faith we have, and the amount of faith we truly need, isn't narrowing. It's widening.

How Deep Is Your Faith?


Now, how about your faith?

Is it meeting Father's expectations?

Could it be better? Could you stand to improve your one-star or three-star faith to five stars?

I believe the best way to develop your faith is to first get informed. Seek out the best sources and learn as much as you can from them.

In my opinion, when it comes to the topic of faith, there's no better source than the Lectures on Faith. And I'm not alone in this thinking:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie has appraised the lectures as "some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character, perfections, and attributes of God; on faith, miracles, and sacrifice. They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 439)

In a discourse at Brigham Young University, Elder McConkie quoted certain portions of the lectures that dealt with the Deity and praised them as follows:
"In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, intelligent, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language-that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It is written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true. I will only read part of it, and even then, because of the deep content that is involved in the words, we cannot measure or fathom their full intent. We need to study and ponder and analyze the expressions that are made." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University, Jan. 4, 1972)
In 1835, the Prophet Joseph Smith was the senior publishing committee member. In January, 1835, Joseph was engaged in "preparing the lectures on theology for publication" (History of the Church 2:180). From these references and other circumstances it seems evident that the lectures were prepared and published with Joseph Smith's approval (Dahl, Larry E., and Charles D. Tate, eds. "The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective" Provo, UT, 1990, p. 7-10; 16).

Joseph presented the finalized compilation of the Lectures on Faith as "doctrines of salvation." He attached his name to it. He vouched for it. He made himself accountable for it.
"We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe. The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place. And in consequence of their embracing the important doctrines of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work..." (Lectures on Faith, Preface)
"We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that we are to be called to answer to every principle advanced, in that day when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed, and the reward of every man's labor be given him." (Lectures on Faith, Preface)
On August 17, 1835, the entire church membership agreed with Joseph, sustaining the lectures as scripture. Per D&C 26:2 and 28:13,
"Voting on the book proceeded by quorums and groups, with the leader of each group bearing witness of the truth of the volume before his group voted to accept it. After the voting by quorums, the entire church membership present, both male and female, voted to accept the book as 'the doctrine and covenants of their faith.'" (Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 2, p. 307; http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/doctrine-and-covenants-1835)
Even though the Lectures on Faith are no longer included in our canon of scripture, the general church membership has never reversed its sustaining vote for them as scripture. They are still scriptural and scripture.

How's that for a starting point in developing a deeper understanding of faith? Aside from canonized scripture, can you point to another concentrated, detailed set of scriptures focused entirely on faith? I can't.

About the Lectures on Faith


The Lectures on Faith were originally delivered to a class of the elders in Kirtland, Ohio, in the winter of 1834-35. They consist of seven doctrinal treatises, prepared chiefly by Joseph Smith, with perhaps some assistance from other brethren. Their intended purpose: "to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ" (Lectures on Faith, 1)

The lectures are logically and systematically arranged and scripturally (primarily Biblically) based:

Lecture 1: What Faith Is -- Explains precisely what faith is. It is described as the first great governing principle, the foundation of all righteousness, without which there is no power.

Lecture 2: The Object of Faith -- Shows the object on which faith rests and demonstrates that it was by revelation that correct knowledge of the existence of God first came into the world so that men could have faith in Him.

Lecture 3: Attributes of God -- Details the character, perfections and attributes of God as given in the revelations and shows that these attributes have been the same in all ages. It is shown that three things are necessary for true faith: (1) an idea that God does exist, (2) a correct idea of His character, perfections and attributes, and (3) the assurance that one's course of life is according to and harmonious with God's mind and will.

Lecture 4: Character of God -- Explains why the exercise of true faith in God depends upon one's having correct ideas and knowledge about God's attributes. It provides examples showing that without the awareness that God is supreme and infinite in His character, the mind of man could not have unshaken confidence and trust in Him.

Lecture 5: The Godhead -- An inspired declaration of the nature of Deity --  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- showing the perfection, harmony and unity that exist between these personages. The lecture explains that God's purpose is to enable man to become like Him in fulness and perfection.

Lecture 6: Sacrifice -- Explains why it is necessary for a person to have knowledge that his course of life is acceptable to God so that he is able to exercise unwavering faith. It is further shown that the sacrifice of all things is required in order for the mind of man to lay hold on the faith needed for eternal life.

Lecture 7: Effects of Faith -- The capstone which crowns the foundation built in the first six lectures. It shows the fruits that grow from true faith. Possessors of faith described in these lectures will be able to obtain every necessary thing (including personal revelation) to become perfected in Jesus Christ. Jesus is spoken of as the prototype of all saved beings; to become like him is to be saved; to fail to become like him and the Father is to fail salvation. (source: http://emp.byui.edu/PyperL/MyFiles/CH%20341/Lectures%20on%20Faith.htm)
"Lectures 1 through 5 each sum up with a question and answer section, a kind of catechism pertaining to the principles stated in the lecture. These sections are often about as long as the lectures themselves. 
There are no questions and answers at the end of Lecture 6; rather, the following note appears:
'This lecture is so plain and the facts set forth so self-evident that it is deemed unnecessary to form a catechism upon it. The student is,  therefore, instructed to commit the whole to memory.'  
Lecture 7 ends with a simple 'Amen'". (http://www.cedarcitylodge.org/books/mormon-lectures_on_faith.pdf)
In my next post in this series, we'll dive right into Lecture 1!

1 comment:

  1. The pdf at the end of this blog is amazing!! I love all the talks combined with the lectures. This is a treasure trove of information to study, pray about, and learn on this important principle. Thank you for making it available for all of us. I always wonder how you find so many amazing things to share. Thank you!! I believe this a time in the history of our earth when faith truly needs to increase and we need to rise up to all the Lord would bless our lives with. Thank you for helping us move in that direction with your inspiring testimony, ponderings, and blog posts!!

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