Archive for February, 2007

18
Feb

On Faith (February 2007)

   Posted by: John    in Church Meetings, Older Posts, Scriptures

We were talking about miracles in Sunday School today.  Bro. Miner was writing some things on the board as we were reading scriptures from the lesson.  One of the words that he wrote was “Faith”.  Then he proceeded to describe faith in a way I have not thought of before.

We had read the following situation from Mark 2:1-4.

“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.  And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.  And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.”

At this point he asked us what other words can be used to describe faith.  Words like hope and belief were given by class members.  Bro. Miner added a different word on the board: confidence.  I have never associated that word with faith.  After thinking about it, I wonder why I haven’t.  It makes perfect sense.  A person with faith is confident that the Lord will respond to whatever the circumstance is.

This is a great example of why faith is different than belief, where one may hope that something is true, but does not have confidence in it.  Faith drives people to action, and while it is true that one hopes for the promises associated with the various commandments and works, the confidence in the Lord is strengthened with each manifestation of the spirit.

I think of Enos, whose soul hungered to know if the things his father taught him were true.  He prayed mightily and received his answer.  He prayed more about other things and was answered again.  Then, in verse 11, “And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord…”  In other words, his confidence that God heard him, answered him and loved him was strong.  It became so strong, that in verse 12, God said “…I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.”  Now, the situation that Enos describes in these verses has to do with the Lamanites, but the principle applies to faith in general.  Enos had such confidence in the Lord that the Lord granted the righteous desires of his heart, and tells him that his faith is the reason.

That is what I learned in Sunday School today.

While I was sitting in sacrament meeting today, I got to thinking about the phenomenon of giving “pat answers” when asked questions in Sunday School or Priesthood.  For example, a question might be “What can we do as Priesthood holders to strengthen our families?”  The pat answers are things like “Read the scriptures”, “Have our family prayer”, or “Attend the temple”.

It is not uncommon to think of these kinds of answers as too simple, or even as humorous, since they can be used to answer 90% of the questions asked in class.  As I thought about it, I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the so-called “pat answers”.  They are, after all, correct.

I think that many who have been church members for a long time get bored with these simple answers (even though they always give them) because they ARE simple.  We may feel that we are beyond simple and we should be discussing more complex and advanced principles.

It should be noted that the first principles of the gospel are indeed simple and basic, yet they are deep and symbolic.  For example, faith and prayer are simple concepts, yet the spiritual aspects to these are far more deep than most people comprehend.  Other examples would be scripture study, paying tithing, or personal prayer.  Yet, without a firm understanding of these simple things, it would be impossible to successfully grasp the meaning of the advanced gospel topics and ordinances.  One must firmly adhere to the basic principles if they wish to have even a hope of understanding the depth of things learned in the temple.

Strangely, we hear more from our church leaders on the basic and simple gospel principles than anything else.  Why is that?  Is it because people in general have trouble living the simple things even though they think the simple things may be beneath them?  How many General Conference talks have we heard on faith, repentance and tithing?

All of this goes to show that if the basic “pat answer” topics are good enough to hear from Apostles (who likely have heard gospel topics from the Savior himself that they can not share with us because we could not handle it), they are good enough for us to use in our classes.  We need to learn them, live them and love them.  The reason that we hear them over and over is because we do not live them fully.  Until such time as we do, we will continue to hear them time and again.  Then, we will understand the advanced things because our spirits will be communicating with God on a higher level.

So, give the “pat answers” and don’t think you are too good for them.  Use them well, and the rest will be given by the spirit.

I have seen this message on a church sign, and thought it rather interesting.

“God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”

As I think about that, I have to both agree and disagree with it.  Their meaning, of course, is to say that God will call who He will call, regardless of their position or stature in life, and likely regardless of their level of righteousness or knowledge.  They are also saying that when God calls a person, He will make them qualified to do whatever it is they are called to do.  I would like to analyze and discuss this some.

First, “God does not call the qualified.”  In some ways, this is true.  How many people really feel they are adequate when called of God to serve in some function.  Some people aspire to high church callings.  In most churches, this is achieved by theological education, ordaining to the ministry, and finding a church that is looking for a professional leader.  While most people who do these “callings” are truly good and God fearing people, they are doing it because they want to do it and have made the conscious decision to enter the ministry or priesthood.  Also, in most churches, these positions come with a salary of some kind, making it a profession, like any other job.

The 5th article of faith states “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”  Joseph Smith, when trying to outline the basic beliefs of the LDS church, included this item because the world is confused about how a man is “called” of God.  In order to be called, there has to be one who is already called, and has authority to receive revelation.  This person would be called a prophet, or someone who is delegated by the prophet to receive and administer such revelation over their respective charges.  Virtually all Christian churches do not function in this manner.  What sets the LDS church apart is that we have Bishops who call people to serve in ward functions, Stake Presidents who call people to serve in stake functions, Area Presidents who do the same for areas, and the Quorums of the 12 Apostles and 70s who do this for the church.  Almost none of these people aspired to their individual callings.  Rather they were called by those who had authority and responsibility to do so, by the spirit of revelation.

Being called by revelation implies that the person making the calling is given information by God on who should be filling the various positions.  God is a being of righteousness.  His Priesthood is given upon principles and conditions of righteousness.  The scriptures are filled with examples of those who exercised their Priesthood righteously and were blessed, as well as those who were not righteous and the consequences of unrighteous dominion.  Section 121 contains several verses that spell out what happens when the Priesthood is used improperly.

When used correctly, then, the Priesthood and keys given to a man give him the right to call other men to positions that fall within his area of responsibility.

Since the person who issues calls is given revelation based on his own righteousness and adherence to the Priesthood, and the Lord wants people who are righteous to fill callings, it stands to reason that those who are being called will be qualified in righteousness to fill the calling.  That does not mean that the person being called will be fully qualified in his new duties pertaining to that job.  Indeed, it is a rare person who feels they are adequate to fill a position they are called to.  It is entirely normal and appropriate to feel overwhelmed and humbled when accepting a new calling.  This same person, as he fulfills his responsibilities and does so with faith and prayer, will be given direction, information and revelation to help him fulfill that office.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 4, verse 5 lists some of the “qualifications” to be called of God: “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”  And, in verse 6, some additional items are listed, ones that I feel come from performing the work: “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”

If a person does not possess these qualities, or at least strive to possess them, he is not qualified to be called to a position of authority in God’s church.  If, on the other hand, he does have these qualities, God considers him qualified to serve, and, when sought in humble prayer, fills in the gaps and helps the person learn his duties and fulfill them well.

To summarize then, so far, the idea that God does not call the qualified, is not entirely true.  One must possess certain qualifications in order to be properly called of God to the ministry or a position of authority and responsibility, and God helps the same person develop the job skills needed to fulfill that position.

The second half of that statement is “He qualifies the called.”

I think this statement is absolutely true.  As already discussed, a person must be qualified for a calling in that he must be a righteous man, worthy to officiate in Priesthood offices.  Also, as previously discussed, this person is likely unfamiliar with how to officiate in that office when first called.

The Lord knows each person’s strengths and weaknesses.  He also knows that most people would not aspire to an office such as Bishop, knowing that they will be working with people’s trials and problems daily.  A Bishop’s responsibilities are a daunting task to a person who has not had the opportunity to experience them.

How then, does a person called to be a Bishop fulfill the calling?  The answer is this:  callings come with certain rights and blessings, among which is the right to call upon the spirit of revelation.  In other words, if that person earnestly seeks the guidance of the spirit, God will give that person what he needs to be successful.  Thus, God qualifies the called.  It must be noted that this spirit of revelation is not very often automatic.  The person must seek it.  Section 4 verse 7 says: “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  The key is to earnestly look for revelation to fulfill the job.  There will be times when the spirit gives information when least expected, but those times will likely be the exception and based on circumstances that require immediate attention.

Thus, we see that it is a two-way street.  God expects us to qualify ourselves to be partakers of his kingdom and holders of responsibility within that kingdom.  At the same time, when given responsibility, he gives us the tools and insight we need to fulfill it successfully.  If we do not qualify ourselves, God will not extend the calling.

The key principle is revelation.  God reveals himself to those who honestly seek him, and give special rights and privileges to those he calls to positions within the church.  From the prophet who has authority over the entire church, to the Bishop who has authority over his ward, to the person who has responsibility for himself, the Lord reveals himself and His will.

So, “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”  We see that God does call the qualified, then proceeds to qualify them for their positions based on faith, righteousness and prayer.