Obedience and Faith

“If we desire more faith, we must be more obedient…. Desire, hope, and belief are forms of faith, but faith as a principle of power comes from a consistent pattern of obedient behavior and attitudes” (Kevin W. Pearson, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 2009, 38–40).

Reading the scriptures, prayer, bearing testimony–these are methods of increasing faith that I’ve heard recommended. But this is a first. I have ever supposed that increased faith would answer in increased obedience, not vice versa.

But there is such wisdom and clarity–and possibility–in Elder Pearson’s words: faith comes from obedience. Faith is one of those elusive qualities that are difficult to snare and even more difficult to ascertain that you’ve acquired it, but obedience sits right there in front of you, attended to or ignored. It’s hard to push in the direction of faith, but being more obedient, more consistent in attitude and practices, more responsive to personal impressions and direction from leaders is discernible, finite, and quantifiable.

I want to have greater faith. I want to move mountains and cure ailments. I want to be stalwart, not wimpy, and bold, not tepid in my witness and habits of faith. And most certainly, I want to know mysteries.

“But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life” (D&C 63:23). And, remember, when Nephi saw his father’s vision of the Tree of Life, he saw the rod of iron and understood it to be “the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life” (1 Nephi 11:25).

Tree of Life/Living Waters/Mysteries of the Kingdom/Love of God–it seems these are interchangeable and can be obtained by grasping the word of God and following where it leads. Obedience, in a word.

Worth getting out of bed a bit early to leave time for scripture study and prayer?

Worth magnifying a calling or giving up a Sabbath for?

I think so.

Mormon’s Book

Through the years as I have read and reread the Book of Mormon, I have come to appreciate the fact that it is Mormon’s Book.

As the redactor of the Nephite records, Mormon is reticent about himself: although he gives detailed accounts of the strategies and battles of Moroni, he is fairly silent on his own extensive battles, as he did “not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes” (Mormon 5:8).

We know that he had a son–Moroni, of course–but know nothing of his wife or any of his other children. Still we can get to know Mormon by reading between the lines and by reading his commentary that is so often precluded by “Thus we see.”

We know that Mormon was forbidden to preach to his people at one point, then was completely unsuccessful when he was granted permission. This must have been a terrific burden, spending his life trying to effect the Nephite’s temporal salvation, helpless to effect a spiritual salvation. And so we hear him praise the waters of Mormon:

“yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever” (Mosiah 18:30).

But for Mormon, there would be no such waters for him to lead his people to.

Mormon must have known the prophecy Alma instructed Helaman to write:

“Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, … in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief. Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct…all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct.”

Mormon must have known that he would not save them, temporally or spiritually, that all would be lost (Alma 45:10,11,14).

And so he turned his hopes and efforts to the future:

“I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard, according to the manifestations of the Spirit which had testified of things to come. Therefore I write unto you, Gentiles, and also unto you, house of Israel, when the work shall commence, that ye shall be about to prepare to return to the land of your inheritance;Yea, behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem. And I write also unto the remnant of this people…. And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all” (Mormon 3:16-19).

It is the Book of Mormon. The solemn witness of a man who, having done all that he could for his people in his day, turned his hopes and his faith toward our generations, to lead us to the waters of Mormon.