The more our understanding of Faith aligns with the rest of the world, the more diminished Faith becomes, making it impossible for men to stand in the presence of God. Faith is often defined as a substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). While this definition is true, it is vague enough that men have wrested (or twisted) it’s definition, to reflect their state of being (a fallen state). In our day, we mistakenly believe that faith requires little knowledge of the Savior, a simple confession that we believe in Christ, and is often considered “strong faith” if it is emotionally charged. Knowledge is considered unnecessary, and extra-credit. However, without knowing the correct attributes, characteristics, and perfections of Christ, Faith becomes diminished to unbelief, miracles stop, and angels stop visiting men. Moroni warned us of this condition:
Moroni 7:29-30, 37
“29. And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
30. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.”
“37. Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.”
Wrested: To “wrest” something is to forcibly distort the meaning or interpretation of it. Our human condition would prefer that God be more like us, rather than us seeking to be more like God. Likewise our faith has been distorted in the apostasy, to represent a very strong belief, no matter if that belief is true or not. Such an idea of faith places power in a herd mentality. The more people are convinced to believe as you do, the truer your belief becomes, until that belief thoroughly replaces the truth. This is how wrong beliefs corrupt the truth, and all that remains is “un-belief.”
Restoration: Joseph Smith struggled to get the saints to understand things of the heavens. The early saints fell to pieces like glass when a new concept arose, that went against their traditions of unbelief. In addition, two years before Joseph Smith died, he realized that the saints were crippled in their relationship to God, and that he was the source of the problem. Joseph scolded his followers in 1842, saying,
“…that they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.” (TPJS p.237-238)
The problem Joseph Smith encountered with the early saints is still a problem for us, and it has gotten worse. Joseph wrote “The Lectures on Faith” to combat the problem of false traditions of unbelief, so that saints could acquire true faith, and thus producing the signs that follow faith:
“65. And these signs shall follow them that believe—
66. In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
67. In my name they shall cast out devils;
68. In my name they shall heal the sick;
69. In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;
70. And the tongue of the dumb shall speak;
71. And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;
72. And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.”
The absence of the signs indicate the absence of the faith, and the presence of unbelief.
Follow The Leader: Those who place their salvation in the trust of a leader (men), that acts as an intermediary between men and Christ, must accept the rejection of the Lectures on Faith in 1921. The leaders of that time removed them from our scriptures, deeming them not true, based on the fifth lecture (specifically, the godhead).
Joseph Smith obviously knew what he was talking about when describing the godhead, from eyewitness experience. But those men in 1921 felt that Joseph erred. The mistake has carried on, and the Lectures have not been put back into our canon of scriptures. The church continues to print them, some even quote them. But nothing has been done to restore them to its proper place of importance.
Conclusion: Those who place their salvation in the hands of the redeemer, the only one who has ever been empowered to redeem mankind by the process of atonement, will find great value in the Lectures on Faith, as they are still accurate scripture. As we know the God in whom we trust, we too can have unshaken faith. Then can the signs return, that follow them that believe:
“…everyone being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course, to put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God, to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.” (Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis)
The Lectures on Faith must return among us, in order for this kind of Faith, to break mountains and stand in the presence of God, to return. Knowledge of God is required to grow this kind of Faith. The words of Christ were meant to tell one story, Christ’s story, that men might believe in Christ, have Faith in Him, and act accordingly. Failure to lay hold upon the words of Christ expresses diminishing faith, and results in false traditions of unbelief. Believe in Christ, acquire the Faith necessary to stand in His presence.