The faith of God, part four: the word of God

Continued from part three.

Of all the prophets of scripture, Alma in his discourse to the Zoramites gave the absolute best understanding of faith possible. He correctly broke down faith into its component ingredients so that the Zoramites would not only understand what faith was, but how to obtain an unlimited quantity of it (explained by Amulek later). This is important as many people seem confused as to how to obtain more faith. Even we LDS, who should know better, as we possess the writings of Alma and Amulek who explain faith in the plainest possible way, are generally clueless on how to obtain faith to perform any of the miracles of scripture.

Remember, there are signs that follow them that believe (possess faith): casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, no harm from snake bites, no harm from deadly drinks, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, causing the dumb to speak, etc. These signs are largely absent from the church today. This is remarkable, given that we LDS have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, while others have but a part. As signs (and gifts of the Spirit) come by faith, the lack of signs and best gifts indicate a lack of faith in the general membership.

My own estimation is that Alma and Amulek’s words have been misunderstood by the LDS. Those Zoramites who listened to them, though, understood their words and converted to the Lord. Why the Book of Mormon, the plainest of the four books of canonized scripture, is misunderstood by LDS is intriguing. We seem to have been caught in the ancient Jewish trap of looking beyond the mark, so that plain things become confusing and confusing things become plain. Evidence of this confusion was addressed in the second part of this series, where it was shown that most LDS erroneously believe faith to be hope.

Another error made is to believe that faith is obtained by works. In other words, that if you want to obtain more faith, you must engage in more service, more church callings, do your home and visiting teaching, pay your tithing, etc. This theory isn’t just had among the general membership, but is routinely preached over the pulpit. Because of this continual reinforcement, it is understandable that LDS believe that faith is hope and that faith is obtained by works. It is also equally understandable that the LDS do not manifest all of the 14 best gifts mentioned in D&C 46, nor the signs that follow them that believe, except in the most exceptional and rare cases, as these concepts, widely held by LDS, are scripturally unsound.

Alma and Amulek gave the three ingredients to faith, as well as the key to obtain as much of it as we want. Such an idea is foreign to most LDS. Yet, when you really think about it, why would God reveal the principle of faith in a vague manner, so vague that no one is really sure what it is exactly, nor exactly how to obtain it, when faith is the one thing that saves us and gets us the gifts that God offers to us? If faith was such a grand mystery and the obtainment of it entirely in the hands of God, salvation would be more hit and miss and luck than an informed choice of free agency.

But it is not. We are free agents and we decide how much faith we obtain and when we obtain it. We can get as much or as little faith as we desire to get. We can obtain faith to do all things miraculous, or discard it and live a life with no supernatural occurrences. However, unless we have a correct understanding of faith, and how to obtain it, all our attempts to get more faith will be met with failure.

This appears to be the state of the LDS currently. As LDS, we are generally very good people, desirous to do the will of the Lord and “win the prize.” But our understandings of the very first principle of the gospel, the one principle that actually saves us, is fundamentally flawed. Not that the scriptures are flawed, but that we have substituted fairy tales and traditions (Mark 7: 13) for faith, instead of the definitions found in the word of God itself.

So, let’s open up the Book of Alma and examine the first ingredient of faith.

Ingredient #1: the word of God

Alma said, “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 )

When Alma is talking about comparing the word to a seed, the word he is referring to is the word of God. Jesus himself also referred to the word of God as a seed. (See Luke 8: 11.) It is the word of God that is the first and chief ingredient to faith. This is why Paul states that faith cometh by hearing the word of God (Romans 10: 17). Without the word of God, there is no faith.

The word of God is found in the scriptures and in every utterance by man or angel speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is also found in visions, dreams and other revelations from the Holy Ghost. It consists of the words communicated by the Father, by Jesus the Son, or by the Holy Ghost, “which is one God” (Testimony of the Three Witness).

It is important to understand that the word of God is different than the words of man. These words of God are words of power, meaning that they have power to create faith. In fact, the whole purpose of the word of God is that men might have faith (D&C 1: 21). It is faith that accomplishes everything and that has accomplished everything, as explained by Paul in Hebrews 11 and by Moroni in Ether 12, therefore, faith is what we need for salvation, hence God giving us his word so that it might be generated in us.

Men have a tendency to look upon printed words as just words, but the word of God is eternal and alive and calculated to overcome all things, including Satan. In its initial reception, when someone hands us a book of scripture, for example, it is just a seed, dormant but ready to quickly grow. The seed (word) grows faith and when growing faith is present, the gifts, fruits, signs and manifestations of the Spirit are present, thus it becomes very easy to determine whether the seed is growing or wilting.

Unlike other seeds from mortal plants, the word of God, requires no germination time.

Amulek said, “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34: 31)

King Benjamin said, “And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2: 24)

In fact, the word of God does not have a set growing time, at all. It generates and grows faith as fast as the individual in whose heart it is planted desires or wills it to grow. With proper care and nourishment, it quickly attains maturity, as a “tree of life,” giving eternal life to the individual in question. As it is entirely in the hands of the individual whether faith grows or not, or how fast or slow it grows, it is imperative that an individual have a proper understanding about this particular seed and how to nourish it so that it grows instantly and rapidly, to obtain the fruit thereof in the shortest amount of time possible.

As I said above, the word of God has power to overcome Satan.

Nephi said, “And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15: 24)

Many of us tend to think of Satan’s temptations as a constant battle to resist. In other words, we often use the words “hard,” “resist”, “fight” “battle” and other descriptive words that show great effort involved. But life was never intended to have us pitted against Satan. In a fight between him and us alone, we would lose every single time. So how do we win? Through the word of God.

Satan has limitations and bounds set, that he cannot pass. One of those limitations is that whosoever uses the word of God (which is the seed of faith, meaning that it is faith in a dormant state) instantly has power over Satan. It neutralizes him. It makes it impossible for him to tempt you or for him to deceive you or for him to destroy you. This is why Nephi categorically states that whosoever holds fast to the word of God would never perish. It is an impossibility. As the word of God generates faith, whoever is activating it, meaning using it, is generating faith, and faith overpowers Satan. It is instructive that Nephi says that the word of God stops the fiery darts of the adversary, because the Lord also said the same thing, but in a different way:

The Lord said, “Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;” (D&C 27: 17)

The shield of faith and the word of God are both said to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. This is because the word of God is faith, in a dormant state (the state of a seed.) When activated by the other two ingredients, it becomes active, or growing faith. This is why the scriptures speak of the word of God as growing:

“But the word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12: 24)

“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19: 20)

As the word of God is one of the three ingredients of faith, the more of it you possess or have access to, the more faith you may be able to generate. That is why LDS especially are in a unique position to acquire tremendous faith and demonstrate marvelous miracles among themselves and the people of the world. We have more of the words of God than anyone else we know of. Additionally, we know that there are other words of God found in other records which are prophesied to be revealed when we exercise the same faith that the brother of Jared did. So, we have both more than others and are promised that we can receive even more if we so desire it, meaning that we can obtain even greater faith that that possible with the records we have now.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part five: belief

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

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The tribal nature of the gospel

Those people who accept the gospel through faith, repentance, baptism and confirmation are automatically put into a tribe of Israel by the Lord, which tribe they ultimately find out when they receive their patriarchal blessing. In fact, the main purpose of a patriarchal blessing, or the only real unique feature of it, is that it names your tribe. Any other blessing given by any other priesthood holder may contain revelations on your past, present and future (prophecies), but all other blessings are to leave the naming of your tribe alone, as that is the jurisdiction of a patriarch.

Why the importance of being in a tribe?

Old Testament Tribes

From the Old Testament, we don’t know much about the saints who lived before Abraham, whether they were put by the Lord into tribes or not, but we do know that Abraham lived among people who were grouped into tribes or clans (the tribes of the earth.) So, tribes and clans are the norm of the world, unless a State is formed, which always has the tendency to shatter tribal allegiances. (See Book of Mormon Anarchy.)

Concerning church tribes though, we know that from Abraham came Isaac, and from Isaac came Jacob, and from Jacob came the twelve sons of Israel, who became tribes. These tribes were then enslaved by the Egyptians and later freed by Moses, who gave them a tribal law, the law of Moses, whereby they could live in tribal anarchy.

That tribal anarchy lasted only so long, until the tribes demanded that a king be anointed, turning the self-government which they had had into an earthly monarchy, like the nations around them. But, despite the change of affairs, they still remained in tribes, and continued to refer to themselves as part of a tribe, even to this very day. That, in itself, may not be so surprising, as it concerns the descendants of Jacob and their traditional designations, but after the gospel went to the Gentiles, during the times of the New Testament, the New Testament writers continued to stress the tribal nature of the gospel.

New Testament Tribes

There are only two types of tribes mentioned in the New Testament: the tribes of the earth, which, according to Matthew 24: 30, shall mourn when the Second Coming of the Lord occurs, and the twelve tribes of Israel. There is no mention of any other division of the people. Either you are one of the twelve tribes of Israel, or you are one of the tribes of the earth. This is how the text reads. The New Testament writers mentioned both past tribes (Old Testament), present tribes (New Testament) and future tribes (latter-day and last days.)

Some of the references to future tribes (post New Testament) are the following: The twelve apostles of the Lord are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, according to Matthew 19: 28 and Luke 22: 30; the 144,000 will be chosen among the twelve tribes of Israel according to Revelation 7: 4-8; and the future holy city of Jerusalem will have twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written upon them according to Revelation 21: 12.

Furthermore, the General Epistle of James was written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. (See James 1: 1.) These twelve tribes were church members, again emphasizing the tribal nature of the gospel and that all who enter it are put, by the Lord, into one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Book of Mormon Tribes

In the Book of Mormon, there is mention made that the Nephites and Lamanites were of some of the standard tribes of Israel: Lehi and descendants were of Manasseh, Ishmael and descendants were of Ephraim and Mulek and descendants were of Judah. But in addition to these standard tribes of Israel, the Book of Mormon people further divided themselves into seven, more particular tribes: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites. This makes sense as the law of Moses, which was used by the Nephites, was tribal in nature, meaning that it was written and meant to serve tribes, even the tribes of Israel.

After the Lord’s visit to the American continent, the people all converted to the Lord and 4 Nephi 1: 17 makes mention that there were no more -ites in the land, but this doesn’t mean that they no longer kept track of who was of what tribe, merely that no one was called by the tribal or class distinctions, as they were all one people, even the children of Christ. Evidence that they still kept track of their tribal affiliations is found in 4 Nephi 1: 36-38, when they departed from their oneness and started calling themselves and others according to the tribal designations. This shows that even in times of great oneness, tribal affiliations were important.

The prophet Mormon, quoting the Lord Jesus (in 3 Nephi 30: 2), explained the great mystery, still not comprehended by the Gentile Christians of today, that when a Gentile converts to the Lord via faith, repentance, baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost, they are numbered among the house of Israel from that point on, meaning that they are no longer part of the “tribes of the earth” but are part of the tribes of Israel. As Israel is composed of twelve tribes, these Gentile converts are placed by the Lord into one of these tribes. This is why the General Epistle of James, written to the twelve tribes of Israel, applies to all members of the church, whether Israelites by birth or Gentile converts.

The great Jaredite prophet Ether, whose people had no affiliation whatsoever with the bloodline of the house of Israel, Israel residing in the Old World and the Jaredites residing in the New World, nevertheless thought it important to prophesy to the Jaredites (some of which prophecies are recorded in Ether 13) all about the house of Israel and their cities of Jerusalem, and especially the New Jerusalem which would be built up by the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who are of the house of Israel, upon this (the American) continent, and which would come down out of heaven. All of the Jaredites, from the time of Jared and his brother down to the time of Ether, were all part of Jareditish tribes, meaning part of the tribes of the earth, but those Jaredites who came unto Christ and converted renounced their wordly “citizenship” and became numbered among one of the tribes of the house of Israel, whether they lived before the time of Israel (Jacob) or afterward, it mattered not.

The principle, then, is that tribal affiliations naturally exist on this planet (when States do not exist to break them up) and these tribes and tribal affiliations are worldly, or the tribes of the earth. But the Lord, using the same natural order of tribes, chose for himself an earthly family to represent the tribal affiliations of his people, even the house of Israel. As the tribes of the earth have their own laws, so the Lord’s tribes (the twelve tribes of Israel) have their own laws, given to them by the Lord, their tribal Chief (or King.) Just as the lower law of Moses, given by the Lord, was tribal in nature, so the more excellent law of Christ, given by the same Lord, is tribal in nature.

Tribes in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is engaged in gathering the tribes of Israel. This is what missionary work is all about. Everyone who comes unto Christ, whether of the direct bloodline of Israel (Jacob) or not (a Gentile), is automatically numbered among the house of Israel. The keys to this gathering were delivered by Moses to Joseph and Oliver (D&C 110: 11) and are used by each successive prophet to direct the missionary work.

So, the scriptures taken as a whole, emphasize the tribal nature of the gospel. We, the people of the Lord, are not just numbered by the Lord among the house of Israel, we are numbered among one of the tribes of the house of Israel. All of this is in anticipation of the coming of “the kingdom of heaven” (D&C 65: 6) , meaning the system of government that exists in heaven, which is tribal anarchy.

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