The faith of God, part five: belief

Continued from part four.

In his masterful exposition on faith, Alma gave the second ingredient of faith:

And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. (Alma 32: 22)

The first ingredient is always the word of God and the second is always belief on that word. The word of God is the seed of faith, both according to Alma and according to Jesus (see Matthew 13.) The seed of faith is planted in the hearts of men by the hand of God. God is the sower and he sows (plants) the seed in the soil of men, which is their hearts. (See Matthew 13: 19 which shows that the seed is sown in the hearts of men, and also Alma 32: 28.) Nevertheless, as God doesn’t force his seed of faith into the soil (heart) of men, for he recognizes and respects the free agency of man, it is up to men to open up a place in their hearts (the soil) to receive the seed. This is why Alma says the following:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Alma 32: 27)

Alma is using appropriate farmer analogy, as this is exactly what is happening. It is through belief that we open up a place in our hearts to allow the seed of faith to be planted by God, in much the same manner as a farmer would insert his finger into soil to make a depression into which a seed can be inserted.

Passive belief

It is important to understand that belief is a passive act. We don’t actually have to do anything active. We just have to receive (or allow) the seed into our hearts, or “give place” whereby the seed can be planted by God in our hearts. Belief is never active; it is always passive. Belief is not considered hard work. It is not a mental or mathematical equation that must be figured out or worked out with effort. It is effortless and easy to do. Belief is designed to be easy by God so that we are left without the excuse at the last day that “it was too hard.”

To illustrate the concept of passive belief better, Alma went on to say the following:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32: 28 )

Unbelief is equated by Alma with resistance. Resistance requires effort or work. It means to oppose with force. The opposite of resisting would be to bow, to capitulate, to give in, to submit, to succumb, to surrender, to yield. All of these words carry meanings which indicate lack of effort, or a ceasing to work. They are all passive endeavors, or passive “actions.” Notice the angel’s words to King Benjamin:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3: 19)

So, what do you need to do to believe the word of God? Nothing. You just believe. It’s as simple as that.

As belief is an entirely passive act, any effort whatsoever on our part will stand as an obstacle or impediment to it. It is like if someone pushes you, you simply allow yourself to be pushed. If you are in a torrent of water that is pulling you downriver, instead of resisting, you just allow yourself to be carried along. No effort whatsoever. This is belief. But the moment you resist in the slightest degree that push or that pull, even to just change the direction that you are traveling one iota, this decreases belief, turning it into its opposite, disbelief or doubt, which is a state of resistance.

The desire to believe

Again quoting Alma 32: 27: “If ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”

Now get this: belief on the word of God is a gift of God! In fact, it is one of the “best gifts” given to the church:

Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. (D&C 46: 8, 14)

It is a principle of the gospel that the Lord grants the children of men according to their desires.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4: 14)

So, if we don’t believe the word of God, but desire to believe it, the Lord sends the Spirit to give us the gift of belief, and if we do not resist the Spirit, we suddenly find ourselves believing the word of God, having accepted the best gift of belief on the word of God.

Belief superior to knowledge

For most LDS who peruse the spiritual gifts listed in D&C 46, the one quoted above about belief (in verse 14) is thought to be inferior to the one found in verse 13: “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.” To our modern, Babylonian-trained minds, possessing knowledge is better than possessing belief. But the prophets of the scriptures were expounding the actual doctrines of the universe, not the fake rules, concepts and precepts of Satan-inspired Babylon. In the scriptures, belief is always superior to knowledge and those who possess mere belief are always considered more blessed than those who possess knowledge.

Alma said, “And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word? Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty. Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.” (Alma 32: 13-16)

Jesus said, “And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” (3 Nephi 12:1-2)

Belief is a foundational ingredient of faith

As an ingredient of faith, the more belief you have, the more faith you will possess. So, to recap, the more of the word of God you have access to, the more seeds of faith you can plant, and the more belief you have, the more places in your heart are open to receive those seeds by the planter, who is God.

Alma also explains in Alma 32: 28 that belief isn’t just the mechanism to get the seed planted in our hearts, but it also the mechanism to keep it there. Only doubt or disbelief can cast the seed out of our hearts, once planted there.

Although there are actually three ingredients to faith, and only three ingredients, the first two ingredients activate the third ingredient and can be looked upon as the foundational ingredients of faith. Of the first two, it is belief that is man’s main part in this process. The more belief, meaning the more passive acceptance of all the word of God obtained, the greater faith will be obtained. If you passively accept every word of God he sends your way, you will quickly obtain tremendous faith, even exceeding faith. That faith grows because God then sends you even more of his word, which, together with your continued belief, produces even greater levels of faith, in an eternal cycle until you obtain the final prize.

The word of God plus belief on that word causes the word of God, which is the seed of faith, to instantaneously start to grow. When the dormant seed of faith (the word of God) starts growing, it is known as, or called, faith. Thus, a definition of faith is the word of God, planted and growing in the hearts of man. As soon as belief occurs on that word, the third ingredient comes along and generates faith in the individual. There is no waiting period. There is no germination time. It happens immediately and suddenly and continues to grow as long as belief keeps the faith planted firmly in the heart of the person.

The Zoramites apparently understood Alma’s words because they ended up asking him the following:

Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in one God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith. (Alma 32: 1)

They understood that belief caused the word of God to be planted in their hearts and to start growing, meaning that the seed of faith would become faith, and this “faith plant” or “faith tree” would become a tree of life to them, whose fruit would give them eternal life. So, they wanted to know what they had to believe in order to get this seed planted in their hearts.

Mind you, they didn’t want to know what they had to do, but what they had to believe. Modern LDS don’t get Alma’s words because we associate work with salvation. We think that effort is required to be saved. So, modern LDS want to know what they must do to be saved, whereas the Zoramites wanted to know what they must believe to be saved. The Book of Mormon concept of passive belief as a requirement of salvation is lost to many LDS.

The scriptures emphasis belief because belief is a necessary component or ingredient of faith and no man can be saved unless he has faith in Christ. That is why we read of King Benjamin pleading with his people to believe in God (see Mosiah 4: 9) or of Moroni urging the readers to believe the Book of Mormon (see The real meaning of the promise in Moroni 10: 3-5) or of Jesus saying that if one doubted not but believed, a mountain could be removed (see Mark 11: 33.) Although belief in and of itself is not faith, when belief is centered on the word of God, the third ingredient comes along and generates faith.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part six: the Holy Spirit

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part four: the word of God

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

1 Comment

  1. Please see Various recent insights for a corrective to this post.

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