Faith is often defined as a hope for things which are not seen, which are true (Alma 32:21). The words aren’t definite about what exactly faith is, and I think that this is intended to separate those who want to know God from those who will justify their earthly condition (author intent vs. reader response).
The scriptures are meant to produce a foundational understanding of the mind and will of God, to prove you herewith, to see which master you will serve, or in whom will you trust. It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that proves you to be an heir with Christ. A correct faith cannot be exercised without an understanding of what we are to have faith in. Thus we were given the scriptures. When we we don’t read them, when we keep our understanding of faith vague, we tend to justify our sins, excuse our mistakes, and eventually reject the atonement.
As we seek to know “God’s” concept of faith, through the words of Christ, we can let go of our false beliefs (unbelief), repent and align with the truth. As our faith increases, our understanding of the perfections, attributes and characteristics of God will also increase. Such knowledge will produce unshaken faith, that will eventually produce the fruit, a personal visitation of Christ (knowing Him). This will dispel ignorance entirely.
Knowing Christ and God the Father is to have a personal and individualized experience and relationship with them. Knowing of… someone, and knowing… someone, is two different relationships. Seeing Christ in the flesh, having Christ place His hands on your head, and offering you an everlasting covenant, as Christ did in 3 Nephi, is what is being offered. It is only through a correct faith that such blessings can be obtained.
As I was reading and pondering faith, I received greater insight concerning: faith, great faith and unshaken faith. Joseph Smith taught that faith is not for God. God already knows who you are. He knows our potential. He knows that we can be like Him. We are the ones with the veil over our minds. Faith is for us. The more understanding of God we can accumulate, the greater our confidence in God becomes, and our capacity to trust in God will increase and solidify into a firm foundation that cannot be shaken. That is how faith transitions into unshaken faith.
In Alma 32 the faith tree goes through three phases: a seed, a sprout, and a mature tree. The indicator that the tree has matured is that it produces fruit. The fruit of the faith tree is described in Alma 32:42. The fruit of the faith tree is Christ. Therefore, if you have not had a personal visitation from Christ (the fruit), then you can know that your faith tree has not yet matured. This is not a condemnation, only an indication. That is why Christ teaches us to continue to nourish your tree of faith, dig about it, fertilize it, talk of Christ, preach of Christ, and rejoice in Christ. Tend to this tree in your garden with care. Place it in the center of your garden as to give IT your greatest concerns, tenderness, and consideration. All who do this, despite your background, education, creed, title, etc. can obtain a mature tree of faith that will produce the fruit. This is not something reserved for someone with a high title. Titles are limited. Christ’s promise is extended to all who receive. All who obtain such a tree will follow the same process.
Joseph Smith started out with an uncertainty, which led Him to seek to know God’s mind and will. Joseph had studied and pondered upon James 1:5, and that is depth of faith he was able to exercise at that point. However, Joseph fully intended to act upon such understanding. That is why he asked, “What church should I join,” and not, “What church is true.” In the end, Joseph could never deny the truth, because his understanding of the perfections, attributes, and characteristics of God had increased, through his faith, to become unshaken faith.
We can apply this principle to a sports analogy. The more you properly practice, the greater your confidence will be in that sport. Eventually, you can have sufficient confidence in that sport to express your abilities in confidence. But no one starts out with confidence, and then follows up with practice. Joseph said that in order for you to climb a ladder, you must begin at the first rung and move up the ladder, one step at a time.
Expecting faith to grow, without the study of the word, is the same as expecting to play a professional sport, without investing in the practice, fruit-less! That is why Alma 32 relates the seed to the word. It is the study and pondering of the word that get’s our minds right, so that we can take proper action. Such a seed has the potential to grow into a tree that produces a specific type of fruit (Christ). If we don’t take the time to make our minds right, then we deny the help from the savior, in exchange for learning the hard way- by bad experience.
Conclusion: The value of unshaken faith in the upcoming future will dictate wether or not you are sifted as chaff. Another way of saying unshaken faith is having your confidence wax strong in God. This is what produces power in the priesthood and not just authority.
No man can be saved in ignorance. Knowledge is not the accumulation of worldly information. Technology, and worldly information has little or nothing to do with “real” progression. Our salvation depends on our understanding of the correct attributes, perfections, and characteristics of God. Knowledge that we must seek is the knowledge of the heavens, which naturally produces an encompassing knowledge of the things on earth. As our scripture study increases from study, to great study, to unshaken study of the mind and will of God, so too will our faith grow from faith, to great faith, to unshaken faith. Finally, our fully mature tree of faith will produce the fruits of faith, which is Christ. That is what it is all about, Christ.