New Thoughts on Faith


“Take no thought”:

In the New Testament, Jesus uses the phrase “take no thought” to describe a condition of faith.

no person can serve two masters
for either they will hate the one
and love the other
or else they will hold to the one
and despise the other
you cannot serve god and money
therefore
I say unto you
take no thought for your life
what you shall eat
what you shall drink
nor thought for your body
what you shall wear
is not your life more than food
and your body more than clothing?

o ye of little faith
therefore
take no thought
saying

what shall we eat?

or

what shall we drink?

or

what shall we wear?

for the gentiles seek after all these things
but your heavenly father knows that you have need of all these things
so seek ye first the kingdom of god
and his justice
and all these things shall be given to you
therefore
take no thought for your next day
for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself
the business of today is sufficient

and

take heed and be on guard
for they shall deliver you up to councils
and you shall be beaten in the places of worship
and you shall be brought before political rulers because of me
as a testimony against them in the day of judgement
at the time when the gospel has been made known among all the nations
but
when they shall lead you
and deliver you up
take no thought beforehand
about what you will say
neither premeditate
but whatsoever she gives you in that moment
that shall you speak
for it is not you that will speak
but the holy spirit who is with you

In this view, we are to mimic nature — where the sparrows and the lilies go about their activities without spending effort worrying about obtaining what is needed.  It is an act of faith, in Jesus’ sermons, for a disciple to make no prior arrangements for something, but to trust wholly in God to meet the need when it arises.  In fact, taking thought would show that the person must not have trusted God to provide.

In contrast, Alma uses the phrase “take no thought” to describe a condition of NO-faith.

behold
as the tree begins to grow
you will say

let us nourish it with great care
that it may get root
that it may grow up
and bring forth fruit unto us

and now
behold
if you nourish it with great care
it will get root
and grow up
and bring forth fruit
but if ye neglect the tree
and take no thought for its nourishment
behold
it will not get any root
and when the heat of the sun comes and scorches it
because it has no root
it withers away
and you pluck it up
and cast it out
now
this is not because the seed was not good
neither is it because the fruit thereof would not have been desirable
but it is because your ground is barren
and refuse to nourish the tree
therefore
you cannot have the fruit thereof
and thus
if you will not nourish the word
looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof
you can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life

In this view, we are to mimic agriculture — where the farmers who cultivate nature expend their effort in the hope that they will be rewarded with an abundant harvest.  It is an act of faith for a disciple to make the effort towards something even when its results are not immediately evident, and not to passively wait for someone to just drop what you need in your lap.  In fact, in Alma’s sermon, taking no thought would show that the person must not have trusted very much in the thing they were hoping to attain.

This is the same view on “taking thought” and its relationship with faith that God communicated to Joseph Smith.

behold
you have not understood
you have supposed that I would give it unto you
when you took no thought save it was to ask me

God then gives him a description of the kind of premeditated effort that a disciple should invest in the matter, as an act of faith, before a revelation as to the truth of something can be obtained.

 The Language of a Science:

I have long thought of “faith” as a state of mental acceptance of a claim for which the physical evidence is either not there or is forthcoming.  As in,

now
faith is the substance of things hoped for
the evidence of things not seen

It’s been, to me, a possession that one can either have or not have.  I’ve since changed the way I view faith — to more of a description of an active process of discovery and progression.  Akin to the scientific method, which uncovers truth and is always conditional, faith is the activity of:

  • taking a proposition
  • holding it to be true in your mind
  • experimenting in your life as if that were true
  • making conclusions about its truth based on the results

Alma’s sermon differs from Jesus’ sermons because he is using the language of the sciences, rather than the language of a theology.

  • awake and arouse your faculties
  • experiment upon my words
  • try the experiment
  • your faith is dormant
  • a particle of faith
  • because it is discernible
  • your mind doth begin to expand
  • O then, is not this real?

Alma is talking about a physical process by which a particle is implanted into your mind and produces the observable effect of enlarging it.  He goes so far as to call it an experiment — one in which you have to arouse your physical senses to make real conclusions about things that are observable.  Furthermore, this process is, in principle, never-ending — subject to continual expansion at each new horizon.  Once you have achieved results in one thing, you’ve got to reapply your faith to a new thing — or else it all falls dormant (or becomes at rest).

So,

yea
a person may say

you have faith
but I have thought

then show me your faith without taking thought
and I will show you my faith by taking thought

Next Article by Justin:  We are all the Rich Young Ruler

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2 Comments

  1. Some years ago I wrote a draft post on the scientific nature of faith, but have yet to release it. It still is not time to release it, but it is good to see someone thinking along the same lines.

    Off hand, it seems to me that Jesus’ words were in reference to missionary work and preaching the gospel (the preacher), whereas Alma’s words were in reference to the one hearing the message (the receiver). D&C 50 immediately comes to mind as I think of this, but I’ll have to ponder more on the topic to see if there is a better understanding of it. Good insight.

  2. Off hand, it seems to me that Jesus’ words were in reference to missionary work and preaching the gospel (the preacher), whereas Alma’s words were in reference to the one hearing the message (the receiver).

    That may be what’s behind the difference — because I also noticed that while both Jesus and Alma equate equate the seed to the word of God: in Jesus’ parable of the sower, He sows the seed, while we are the different kinds of soil; whereas in Alma’s sermon, we are the sower.

    Jesus ties the success or failure of a seed to the kind of receptive ground that we are — Alma ties the success or failure to the kind of attentive farmer that we are.


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