Some toss away the importance of faith simply because it can’t be seen, tasted, smelled, or measured in a laboratory. Of course, there are many things we believe in that can’t be physically measured, including love. Authors throughout history have attempted to describe what love feels like, but their definitions are shallow and lacking in the complete reality, simply because the experience is unique for each person. It can’t be measured or proven, and yet we know it is real.
For Christians, faith is much like love, and in fact, is rooted in love. Faith means to believe in things you can’t see and then to act on what you believe. Faith, for a Christian, is centered on Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon contains a sermon by an ancient prophet named Alma. Alma taught that all a person needs in order to begin developing faith is a desire to do so. Merely wanting faith creates a small seed that can have the power to develop into a full faith. By nurturing that small seed, we can help it grow, take root, and blossom. The more we care for the seed, the stronger and more lovely it will become.
Robert D. Hales, a Mormon apostle, outlined five steps a person must take to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ. (See Robert D. Hales, “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 70–73.) These five steps are:
(1) hear the word of God, spoken and written by His servants; (2) let that word sink deep into your heart; (3) hunger in your soul for righteousness; (4) obediently follow gospel laws, ordinances, and covenants; and (5) raise your voice in mighty prayer and supplication, asking in faith to know that Jesus Christ is our Savior.
The first step is study. We can’t believe in something we know nothing about. We must read the scriptures that teach about Jesus Christ—the Bible and the Book of Mormon. We can study the words of other religious leaders as well. The study can’t be shallow. It must be an in-depth and pondering sort of study. Racing through the books with a goal to finish them in a week or two can help us gain a fast overview, but we might also miss some of the more important concepts. A person who chooses to first read quickly must then go back and read slowly, pondering what is learned. This is what Elder Hales is referring to in the second step. You need time to let it sink in deeply, just as a dry ground that is finally watered needs to slowly absorb the water.
The third step is long for a testimony and a life that conforms with God’s teachings. For some, this involves only minor changes to the lifestyle, but for others, there are major changes ahead. The very desire to live righteously is an important step because it opens the doors for the Savior to send you spiritual help and strength as you work to bring your life into compliance with the laws of God. The next step, of course, is to carry out that desire and begin to live according to gospel principles. By living a commandment, we will quickly know whether or not it is true. While we might struggle and sometimes feel we will never make it, each time we keep a commandment for the right reasons, we gain a sense of peace and comfort that reassures us we are doing the right thing. The uneasiness that accompanies sin is gone. As we grow closer to God and spend more time in prayer, we will find it easier to obey because we will become more adept at recognizing His strengthening hand in our struggles.
Now that we have proven to God the sincerity of our desire, we can pray honestly and fervently for a testimony of Jesus Christ. By this time, we will already have a small testimony beginning, but with this prayer, we strengthen it and help it to grow. As the answers come into our heart, peace fills our soul and we understand that our sacrifices were not really sacrifices at all, because what we got was so much more than what we gave up.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.