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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lectures on Faith 1, Part 2: Develop The Power To Move Mountains

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right. Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle With You.

They're looking like fools...and I'm actually kind of enjoying watching them squirm.

I'm speaking of the political pundits who consistently cough up their "expert" commentaries on the national TV news networks. Last year, they laughed when two men declared their candidacies for President of the United States. Six months ago, they weren't chuckling anymore, but still, they boldly predicted the two men would self-destruct by spring.

Well, here we are. One of the men has clinched enough delegates for his party's nomination, and the other probably won't, but will at least be an ideological tour de force at his party's nomination convention.

And the pundits? Whatever credibility they had with me before has evaporated, because their expert insights and predictions had all the legitimacy of a three dollar bill.

Yet in other quarters, I'm seeing similar things happen:
  • I see groups of people who are hinged on every word, practically every syllable, of mortal "teachers" -- even to the extent that they ascribe a certain degree of infallibility to these "teachers".
  • I see groups of people expounding and preaching the words of these "teachers" alongside canonized scripture, as if they are scripture.
  • I see people making bold predictions of calamitous events which never materialize, then backtracking on their public statements.
  • I see people prioritizing the study of, and devotion to, the words of these predictors above those in the scriptures.
Unlike my "enjoying watching them squirm" response re: the political commentators, I'm not entertained, but saddened, by what I see in the spiritual landscape.

And it's only getting worse.

The Greatest Power in the Universe

Lecture on Faith 1 reminds us that faith "is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen: Hebrews 11:1. That is, it is the assurance we have of the existence of unseen things. And being the assurance which we have of the existence of unseen things, must be the principle of action in all intelligent beings. Hebrews 11:3: Through faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God. (1:8-9)" (Lecture 1 Question 5).

This "assurance" is also a "principle of power" "by which the worlds were framed" (Lecture 1:17). In fact, "all created things exist" -- "all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, exist by reason of faith". (Lecture 1:14-15). Faith "is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal, as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute, (for it is an attribute) from the Deity and he would cease to exist" (Lecture 1:16).

Faith (in God) "is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things: by it they exist, by it they are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeably to the will of God. Without it, there is no power, and without power there could be no creation, nor existence!" (Lecture 1:24).

The Power of Words

Interestingly, there's a direct correlation between faith and the words we speak. There is tremendous power in our words. They can either be used to create, or to destroy. Thus we're told, "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing" (James 3:10).

In the case of the latter, a certain fig tree found that out the hard way when the Savior cursed it with words ("No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever"; Mark 11:12-14). The next morning, the tree showed the effects of that cursing (Mark 11:20-25).

What did it take to curse that fig tree? A big ceremony? A five-minute long pronouncement? A Hollywood production company? Nope, just nine words. That's because only a particle of faith is enough to move a mountain. "The Savior says, (Matthew 17:19-20), in explaining the reason why the disciples could not cast out the devil, that it was because of their unbelief: 'For verily, I say unto you,' said he, 'if ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place! and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible unto you.'" (Lecture 1:18).

Look at this long list of example after example where someone used words to create or curse:

  • " was the faith of Alma and Amulek which caused the walls of the prison to be wrent, as recorded in Alma 14:23-29" (Lecture 1:19)
  • " was the faith of Nephi and Lehi which caused a change to be wrought upon the hearts of the Lamanites, when they were immersed with the Holy Spirit, and with fire, as seen in Helaman 5:37-50" (Lecture 1:19)
  • " was by faith that the mountain Zerin was removed, when the brother of Jared spake in the name of the Lord. See also Ether 12:30" (Lecture 1:19)
  • "Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; and that women received their dead raised to life again, etc" (Lecture 1:20)
  • "Joshua, in the sight of all Israel, bade the sun and moon to stand still, and it was done. (Joshua 10:12)" (Lecture 1:21)

The interrelation of faith and words is crystal clear. Look at how Lecture 1 ties them together:
"We here understand, that the sacred writers say, that all these things were done by faith—It was by faith that the worlds were framed—God spake, chaos heard, and worlds came into order, by reason of the faith there was in HIM. So with man also—he spake by faith in the name of God, and the sun stood still, the moon obeyed, mountains removed, prisons fell, lions' mouths were closed, the human heart lost its enmity, fire its violence, armies their power, the sword its terror, and death its dominion; and all this by reason of the faith which was in them." (Lecture 1:22)
One important point that hopefully didn't escape you: that these words weren't based on the words of another mortal. They weren't based on some book that you could buy on Amazon. They weren't based on a broadcast interview, a podcast or blog post.

Nope. They were based on one thing, and one thing alone: the personally revealed words of God to that particular individual. And when that individual spoke, they did so with divine investiture of authority. They understood God. They believed God. They trusted God. So when God told them to speak certain words, they spoke, and the cosmos obeyed.

When God Speaks From An Unexpected Direction

There's a common belief among LDS that unless you have some kind of ecclesiastical or familial authority over someone, you have no right to say anything to them that's from God. I don't believe that. I believe that if God indeed prompts you to say something, you do it. Examples:

  • Galatians 2: Paul (a general authority, but not one of the Twelve) publicly calls out Peter (President of the Church) as a hypocrite. Paul assumed not ecclesiastical, but moral, authority ("I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed" and "I said unto Peter before them all").
  • 1 Nephi 16:18-20: Amidst inadequate food for the exhausted desert travelers, Nephi breaks his bow. Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael murmured "exceedingly". Even Lehi, surprisingly, joined them and "began to murmur against the Lord his God." Then they all "were exceedingly sorrowful" and murmured against the Lord together. Nephi assumed moral leadership; he denounced his brothers (who were above him in family status, if not in religious hierarchy) for hardening their hearts and murmuring against God. Instead of denouncing his father, Nephi asked Lehi for guidance, asking "Whither shall I go to obtain food?" Lehi was later strongly rebuked and chastened by the Lord.
  • D&C 6:19: Here, the Lord instructs Oliver Cowdery to reprove Joseph on occasion: "Admonish him in his faults, and also receive admonition of him". Yet in a previous verse, Oliver is instructed to "stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be..." So, it appears that "standing by" a leader and reproving his faults are acceptable to the Lord, if it's done with God's express permission.
  • The Word of Wisdom: In February 1833, the School of the Prophets met in a room above the kitchen of Joseph's his house. According to Brigham Young,
"the first thing they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke." (Journal of Discourses 12:158)
Emma complained at "having to clean so filthy a floor," which "made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the elders in using Tobacco, and the revelation known as Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry." David Whitmer suggests that Emma actually desired a revelation on the subject:
"Some of the men were excessive chewers of the filthy weed, and their disgusting slobbering and spitting caused Mrs. Smith... to make the ironical remark that 'It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a sin, and commanding its suppression." (David Whitmer, in Des Moines Daily News, 16 October 1886, 20; Paul H. Peterson, "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom" (Master’s Thesis, BYU, 1972), p. 19-20; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, "Mormon Enigma" (New York: Doubleday, 1984), p. 47)
In this case, too, moral inspiration came first to a technically non-hierarchical person, then moved upward to the head of the Church. Also important: the impetus for the revelation came from the wife, not the husband.

It is interesting that in each of these cases, the recipient of the information didn't attack hierarchical structure or try to place himself/herself above another. They heard or sensed a stronger moral truth, and promoted it with courage and conviction.

All of us are morally and intellectually fallible. We should have the courage to admit our weaknesses and mistakes and get back on track (like Lehi, Peter and Joseph) instead of selfishly pursuing a wrong course, and thinking that everything we do is rubber-stamped by God. History has shown time and again that leaders should take seriously the ideas, insights, counsel, suggestions and even rebukes of those hierarchically beneath them.

The Doctrine of Just Helping Others

I hope you can see, as I do, that when a person speaks the words that God truly puts into their hearts, the effects are obvious, their source is undeniable and their approval by God is rock solid. No equivocating or backtracking is required. Conversely, if their words or actions aren't from God, it'll be painfully obvious to all...and hopefully, the person who has put himself/herself out there.

Have you ever had an experience where someone said something to you, and you knew it wasn't just that person speaking to you? The specific words they said, and perhaps even how they said them, had such a profound effect on you, that you knew right then and there that God just spoke to you?

I know a man who prays everyday that the words he speaks will help draw people to Christ. I mean, this is a fervent prayer. And when an experience happens that he believes answers his prayer, he prays for another experience. And after that one, another, and so on and so on.

Is he perfect at it? Heavens no! He's just as imperfect as the next person.

But the fact that he has a particle of faith in God, that God can work miracles through someone so imperfect as my friend, is remarkable to me. It's daily proof positive that the Lord just wasn't whistling Dixie; He really meant it when He said that we could move mountains with the words we speak which have, as their foundation, belief and trust in God.

Now It's Your Turn to Speak With Faith!

How about you?

Do you have such a prayer?

Would you like similar experiences as my friend, where you, too, can speak the words of God to an individual?

Now, imagine if you could do so with someone who's really struggling. Maybe it's your husband or wife, son or daughter, mom or dad, a coworker, friend or someone from church. Is that something you desire?

Perhaps that's what lies at the heart of Lecture 1: When you believe God, when you trust God, He can and will use you for the betterment of others. No authority is required to help another! And in most (if not all) cases, that betterment will be accompanied by the words He will place in your heart.

Maybe, through you, He will move mountains. Not literal ones (although that's always a possibility), but instead, metaphorical ones. Maybe the words you speak will help another make it just another find a ray of hope amidst a black and dismal discover amidst the helplessness and hopelessness, there really is a God out there who is aware of every tear they shed and every prayer of desperation they offer.

I invite you to reach the heavens. Touch the sky. Develop this faith, the faith that is accompanied with words from the Almighty. Pray for it. Search for it. Expect it.

Because you -- yes, you -- have the Kingdom of God within you. And with God, there is no doubt whatsoever that -- with faith, trust and love -- you can move mountains.

God Can Move Mountains

Faith. Trust. Love.
Love can move mountains.

There ain't a dream that don't have the chance to come true now
It just takes a little faith, baby
Anything that we want to do, we can do now
There ain't nothing in our way, baby

Nothing our love couldn't rise above
We can get through the night, we can get to the light
Long as we got our love to light the way

With a little faith, just a little trust
If you believe in love, love can move mountains
Believe in your heart and feel, feel it in your soul and love
Love can, love can move mountains
Oh, yeah, baby

Oceans deep and mountains high, they can't stop us
Because love is on our side, baby
We can reach the heavens and touch the sky
Just believe it, believe in you and I, baby

If we got love that is strong enough
We can do anything, we'd get through anything
'Coz through it all love will always find a way

Just a little faith, just a little trust
If you believe in love, love can move mountains
Believe in your heart and feel, feel it in your soul and love, baby
Love can, love can move mountains
You got to feel it, baby, oh, yeah

You believe in me, I believe in you
If we believe in each other, nothing we can't do
If we got love that is strong enough, then we'll find a way

With a little faith, just a little trust
If you believe in love, love can move mountains
Believe in your heart and feel, feel it in your soul and love
Love can move mountains

Love will find a way, love will find a way, baby
Believe in each other, oh, baby
Believe in love, love can move mountains

Believe if your feeling love, love
You got to feel it, baby
You gotta, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta
You gotta feel it baby, baby


  1. Interesting that Emma had wished for chewing tobacco to be named as a sin. Of course, even in the WoW as it reads today, tobacco isn't a good idea, but it's still not a sin.

  2. You said, "They're looking like fools...and I'm actually kind of enjoying watching them squirm." Are you open to considering another approach?

  3. That is a great idea. I pray constantly that I will not be deceived and never labor under false conclusions.

  4. This was really helpful. I'm not sure why I haven't studied the Lectures on Faith before. I've been told I have the gift of faith so you'd think I'd want to learn more! I guess I thought I knew what it meant. But now I'm sure I really DON'T know. There's so much to learn! It's so exciting!