The faith of God, part two


Continued from part one.

Before one can talk about the faith of God, faith itself must be defined.

Small English Lesson – Faith is a Noun

Modern dictionaries do not give the scriptural definition of faith, as they record modern and ancient usage of terms, which may or may not correspond to the scriptures, however, they are, at least, helpful in determining whether faith is a noun, a verb, an adverb, etc. If you consult a good dictionary, you’ll find that faith is used as a noun most times, unless it is used in its archaic, transitive verb form. The archaic, transitive verb form is not used, to my knowledge, in the scriptures. An example of the archaic use would be the sentence, “I faith all that you say to me.” As a transitive verb, the construction in a sentence would be “to faith [something].” We no longer use this awkward construction in modern speech, and, as I said, in the scriptures it is always used as a noun. So, let’s begin this discussion by considering faith as a noun.

Scriptural Definition of Faith

The definition of faith can be assembled by some of the prophetic teachings found in the scriptures. As faith is a concept revealed from heaven, it is of no concern what we, the dictionary authors or anyone else give as the definition of faith, the important thing is to get the correct, heavenly-given definition, which comes from the scriptures.

Paul taught that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). He also taught that faith comes by hearing the word of God preached. (See Rom. 10: 14-17.) Alma taught that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things” and also that if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (See Alma 32: 21.) He also explained that exercising the smallest bit of faith (“a particle of faith”) is nothing more than desiring to believe. (See Alma 32: 27.) Moroni, in my opinion, gave the clearest definition of faith when he said, “faith is things which are hoped for, and not seen” (Ether 12: 6).

I’ll come back to these scriptures later…

Faith as hope (noun) or to hope (verb)

I find that when discussing faith with LDS, the general definition given by them is “a hope of things not seen which are true.” I imagine they are extrapolating this definition from Alma 32: 21. They may also be getting it from the LDS Bible Dictionary, which states in the opening sentence on its entry on faith, “faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true.” This grammatically incorrect sentence defines faith (a noun) as a verb (“to hope”). (The only way to cause the opening Bible Dictionary sentence to make grammatical sense is to understand that the author meant to put the words “to have” in front of faith, so that it reads “to have [verb] faith [noun] is to hope [verb] for things [noun]…” The second sentence of the entry does this very thing when it states, “To have [verb] faith [noun] is to have [verb] confidence [noun]…” The second sentence is grammatically correct, everything on one side of the “is” equalling everything else on the other side of the “is.” This could and should have been done with the opening sentence.) Even if we assume that the Bible Dictionary author was referring to the archaic, verb form of faith and not the noun form, the use of the word in the sentence is in the intransitive form, instead of the correct transitive form. So, whether used as a noun or a verb, the sentence is grammatically incorrect and makes no sense whatsoever. To illustrate, put any noun in the place of faith, for example, “Car [noun] is to hope [verb] for things…” It doesn’t make sense. But if you say, “To drive [verb] is to hope [verb] for things…” that makes more sense because you are stating a verb is a verb, not a noun is a verb. Had the author used faith correctly as an archaic, transitive verb, it should have read, “To faith [something] is to hope for things…” Okay, enough with invalidating this messy Bible Dictionary sentence.

(I pick on the Bible Dictionary’s grammar not to make a grammatical statement, which really isn’t all that important, as English is not a static language and its rules of grammar do and will continue to change. I pick on it because the entry’s author contributes to the strange custom that people have of calling faith “an action word.” Action words are verbs, of course, hence the tendency to incorrectly define faith, which is scripturally a noun, as a verb, such as to hope. The Bible Dictionary’s opening sentence contributes to this confusion and also to the modern trend of corruption of the English language. For example, the phrase “I couldn’t care less about that,” which grammatically means “that is the least of all the things I care about” has been corrupted into “I could care less about that,” which grammatically means “that is not the least of all the things I care about.” People still retain the meaning of the original phrase, but now, due to the laziness of speaking the necessary “n’t,” it means the opposite of its grammatical meaning. This is language corruption.)

Alma 32: 21 does not state that faith is a hope, only that if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” The faith-equals-hope definition arrived at by many LDS is an extrapolation from this scripture. Alma does not say, “to have faith is to hope for things which are not seen, which are true,” but instead he says, “if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” The two statements are saying entirely different things. In the first, Alma would be categorically stating that faith is hope, which of course he isn’t saying. In the second, Alma is stating that hope (or hoping) accompanies faith (or the possession of faith). This is a big difference that is lost to many people. It is like saying, “If you have this, you do that.” Or, “if you have chicken pox, you scratch your skin.” Having chicken pox and scratching skin are not the same things, but scratching skin accompanies having chicken pox. They go hand in hand, but are not the same thing. (I wish there were more English language majors among our people, instead of business and law majors, as these mistakes would not be made as often as they are.)Despite the lack of English majors in the church, I still find it strange that the LDS have the widespread tendency to think of faith as hope, given that our scriptures emphasize that there are three grand principles (faith, hope and charity) and the scriptures do not confuse faith as hope or hope as faith.

Hope defined

I suppose before I move on, I ought to define hope. I’ll use the dictionary definition, as it is scripturally accurate in this instance. To hope is “to desire with expectation of obtainment.”

Faith is power to obtain or to create or to do [whatever]

A person can hope all they want and yet never obtain. They can desire lots of things and expect to obtain or receive them all and still their desires may remain unfulfilled. Faith, though, is different. When a person possesses faith, he possesses power to obtain something or to create something or to do something. He has power to obtain whatever it is that he hopes for, or whatever it is that he “desires with expectation of obtainment.” This is why hope always accompanies faith. Once faith is possessed, the individual can now expect to receive according to his desires. This is why Ether taught that “hope cometh of faith” (Ether 12: 4). Another example of this principle is found in Helaman’s words. After he and his soldiers poured out their hearts to God in prayer, the Lord gave them faith (assurances, peace to their souls, great faith) and then they were able to hope:

Helaman said, “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. ” (Alma 58: 11)

When faith is dormant

Alma on the dormancy of faith:

Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it. (Alma 32: 17-18 )

And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Alma 32: 21)

Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. (Alma 32: 26)

Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. (Alma 32: 29)

And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. (Alma 32: 34)

Alma explained that faith is not a perfect knowledge, but that faith can grow into a perfect knowledge. He also explained that once faith grows into perfect knowledge, faith becomes dormant. If knowledge is given from the get-go via sight (“show us a sign” Alma 32: 17), there is no cause to believe, or faith cannot be engendered. Therefore, if a thing is seen or if one has perfect knowledge of a thing, faith goes down to a zero value in that thing.

The knowledge and sight of God

This brings up an interesting dichotomy when faith is applied to God. God sees all things, both past, present and future. “But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord” (D&C 130: 7). He also is omniscient, or all-knowing, both of the past, present and future. “But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning” (2 Nephi 9: 6). “O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Nephi 9: 20).

So, based on these evidences, it would appear that faith cannot apply to God, or that God cannot exercise faith. It would seem that my ex co-worker, the monk, was correct in his assessment that God did not have faith, but accomplished (and accomplishes) all things according to his knowledge (and sight) of all things.

But there may be more than meets the eye here…

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part three

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part one

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

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11 Comments

  1. quantumsaint, I wasn’t singling you out in the faith=hope section of this article. That actually is the standard response I get from all LDS. Although the words I used were vertabim of what you wrote, I wasn’t quoting you, I was using the same expression I hear everywhere. Hopefully, there is no offense taken, as no attack was intended.

    And another thing, where did you get that avatar? Is that a picture of plasma discharging? It is totally cool.

    Also, to all English majors and professors, if I analyzed the Bible Dictionary sentence contrary to the rules of English grammar, please show me where I’ve erred. Thanks ahead of time.

    Lastly, no offense was intended to the business and law majors.

  2. No offense taken. Just because I speak in an absolute manner doesn’t mean that I think I know everything. I have no problem hearing a different perspective because I just don’t see things as everyone else sees them, therefore my understanding isn’t always correct. It just proves to me that I have been relying on everyone else’s understanding instead of trying to obtain my own. I look forward to your next post because I am still ignorant of the faith of God.

    I got the avatar off of the Holoscience site. It was the third phase of a super nova, I just cropped out the rest. For some reason I think of Metroid when I look at it.

  3. This has nothing to do with the faith of God, but I found something interesting this weekend. I was reading in the OT and read “pillar of fire” and it made me think of the stuff I had read on the Thunderbolts website. So I did a search for “pillar of fire” and the results are pretty interesting. If you go the LDS.org and search the scriptures for “pillar of fire” you will see that the Lord often led his people by a “pillar of fire”. Very interesting I thought.

  4. Unless I missed something (I did read up to part 11 of this series), even though you said

    I’ll come back to these scriptures later…

    you never did.
    So, kindly expound on

    “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1)

    and

    “faith is things which are hoped for, and not seen” (Ether 12: 6)

    I have a hard time replacing “faith” with “power to achieve” (as per your definition) and make sense of these verses.

  5. faith comes with power to obtain, and it’s(power) part of the substance and evidence(assurances) of things not seen. it will be barely not enough to replace it to the verses because it is more than power, which is a fruit of faith. therefore faith is not defined definitely, but overwhelmingly, perhaps…

  6. jackdale76, I’m awfully busy these days and I don’t have time to go back over these posts and see what I’ve written. You’ll have to make do with your best understanding of what I wrote, for now.

  7. You put in some effort to invalidate the Bible Dictionary definitoin of faith

    faith is to hope for things …

    however the BoM itself uses the same construct
    “noun” is “verb”

    Alma 32:21 And now as I said concerning faith— faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things

    Any ideas why it uses the “noun” is “verb” construct?

  8. Jackdale is an observant reader i wish i would, anyway in my own understanding with the phrasing itself in the passage was that the author was just trying to discuss about faith, or something about faith, not really defining it. Though the construct is not kept abreast with modern english as it seems awkward to read, it should read, to have faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things… yet i guess the preceding phrase would support. Anyway, yours is a keen insight.

  9. Any ideas why it uses the “noun” is “verb” construct?

    Alma is describing a state. Worded differently, but meaning the same, it’s like he said, “Faith is the state of not having a perfect knowledge of things.” At any rate, even leaving the construction as is, and taking it without the understanding of the description of a state, Alma is not equating faith (a noun) to a verb. He is saying, “faith (a noun) is NOT a verb.” You can’t take that and say he’s using a noun to verb construct to describe faith, because he’s using a negative construct, saying what faith is NOT, not saying what faith IS.

  10. LDSA, you said

    I don’t have time to go back over these posts and see what I’ve written

    No need to do that. Just give me an exposition acc.to your current understanding of this passage

    I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; (Ether 12:6)

    and then I myself will compare it with what you wrote in this post and tell you if there are any inconsistencies 🙂

  11. I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; (Ether 12:6)

    Faith is whatever it is that you desire to have, be it an object or an ability, which object you don’t currently have, or which ability you don’t currently have or aren’t currently using, which you truly will obtain, through the exercise of that faith. It is the thing, whatever it might be, not-yet-obtained or used currently, which will be obtained or used by you, at some point in the future, through the exercise of that faith.

    So, let’s say you have faith to receive a revelation. And so you ask God to give you a revelation, but none comes. But you keep asking, confident that you will receive a revelation. These times of asking is the exercise of your faith. At some point, when that faith becomes strong enough, you get the revelation. Now you don’t have faith anymore in that thing, because it’s knowledge. But let’s say you want another revelation. So you ask God for another revelation, this time much more confident than the last time, since you already know that you were previously successful in the exercise of your faith to receive a revelation. So maybe it doesn’t take as much exercise as before to get the next revelation, because your faith is stronger than before. Faith, in these examples, is the un-received revelation, the “thing that is hoped for, but not seen, but which is true.” It is true because it is something that you really will obtain.

    Now let’s take another guy. He thinks he can obtain a revelation from the Lord, so he starts praying for one. But none comes. But he continues to pray and still none comes. Then he gives up, thinking he doesn’t have faith. Well, he, in fact, didn’t have faith. Those who have faith to do this or that or to obtain this or that, never give up. They just keep on exercising their faith until they get the thing they expect to receive.

    D&C 86 was received on December 6, 1832. That revelation says,

    But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields; but the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.

    So, we’ve got angels crying day and night to the Lord (in 1832) to be sent forth to reap down the fields and they have yet to be sent, yet they still cry day and night, to this very day, to be sent. Why do they keep crying to be sent? Don’t they realize that this long time has gone by and the Lord still hasn’t sent them and that He likely won’t, that their cries are in vain? No, they don’t think that because they are praying in faith, believing that they will receive. When you pray in faith, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, you get an assurance that whatever you are seeking is going to be given to you. Those who do not pray in faith are doubtful, and if they say more than one prayer, they do it with a doubtful heart, and if they send up a bunch of prayers and get no response, eventually their doubts (which perhaps they didn’t think they even had) surface and they start to disbelieve that they will ever get a response. But the angels aren’t like that. They pray incessantly, never having a single doubt that at some point the Lord is going to say, “Go; and reap down the fields.”

    In like manner, a mortal man on earth with faith never ceases exercising his faith until he obtains what he seeks. He has an assurance, and this assurance is like a promise, and it is this assurance or promise, which comes of the Holy Ghost, that keeps him exercising for as long as it takes, until he finally gets what he is after. The assurance of eventual receipt is faith, as well as the thing sought which is still not received, as well as the exercise of faith itself (the praying believing you will receive.) All of these unseen things is faith. When the object or ability is finally obtained (seen), that’s not faith any longer, that’s knowledge.

    The assurance, the thing sought which will be obtained eventually and the exercise of faith through prayer (or sometimes, through other actions, such as the working of a miracle by speaking in the name of Christ), these things empower a person to obtain the thing sought or to have the ability desired to have. So faith “is power to obtain or to create or to do [whatever]”.


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