A Particle of Faith

I sometimes hear folks at church distinguish themselves from other Christians by asserting a difference between the LDS “I know that…” and the non-LDS “I believe that… The former, it is implied, is the stronger and therefore the better faith. At the level of individual intent, I am not sure that such is the case. But the real issue is a bit of a misunderstanding about the effectiveness of faith.

The efficacy of faith does not depend on its fervor, but on the trustworthiness of its object. It is quite possible to believe passionately in something or someone who is less than worthy of this trust. The results of such misplaced confidence can be quite devastating. On the other hand, a minimum of faith reposed in a trustworthy object or person is always rewarded. This, I believe, is one facet of what Alma meant when he insisted that our experiment with the seed must entail a “good” seed. For if the seed is good, then “a particle” of faith is all that is needed.

  • The Right Trousers

    I think we overemphasize “knowing” in the Church. It’s partly semantic: we say “know” when, in similar circumstances (with similar evidence) others say “believe”.

    I do think it hurts us, though. It causes us to de-emphasize faith. It makes us feel inferior for not knowing but trusting anyway, which is the very act that makes us worthy of salvation.

    Nice point about the efficacy of faith. I’ve got something new to ponder for a while.

  • http://weightermatters.blogspot.com AHLDuke

    I think too often we in the Church forget one of the BoM’s primary contributions to our definition of faith- faith is the hope of things not seen, WHICH ARE TRUE. (Alma 32:21)

  • Howard

    Sure, Alma tells us how to test the seed; if you give place in your heart and not cast it out by unbelief it will grow and strengthen your faith if it is a good seed. So a particle of faith is all that is needed to test the seed and if it is a good, a particle of faith is all that is needed for your faith to grow.

    But faith is different than knowledge. Knowledge exceeds the growing faith that is swelling within your breasts; it comes from an enlightened understanding, it is a clear witness of the Spirit, personal revelation. And it is not limited to the Mormon faith.

  • Howard

    Alma’s test tells us if the seed is good or bad. We know the seed is good if our faith swells within our breasts. Good means that the seed contains truth.

    This is the hope of things not seen, WHICH ARE TRUE. At this point we know the seed contains truth but we do not know what the truth is.

    Enlightened understanding is necessary to have this truth revealed, then you know rather than believe.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com David Clark

    Mogget,

    The efficacy of faith does not depend on its fervor, but on the trustworthiness of its object.

    This is perhaps true, but it’s very easy to conflate the two in Mormon culture. Basically most people would agree with an assertion like, “One should believe in a proposition in proportion to the evidence that the proposition is true.” What’s the evidence for assenting to a theological position in Mormon culture?, the extent to which “The Spirit” witnesses to it. In Mormon culture spiritual witness it is almost exclusively associated with feeling and passion. More evidence is better than less evidence, so more feeling and passion manifesting itself as fervor is interpreted as being better and more efficacious.

    While I no longer believe the reasoning in what I just wrote to be valid, I would have agreed with it in the past, and I assume many, perhaps most, members would also agree with it. You are correct that this misplaced confidence, once shattered, is devastating.

  • Howard

    The efficacy of faith does not depend on its fervor, but on the trustworthiness of its object.

    This is true. Determining if the seed good, if it contains truth can be performed with a particle of faith.

    But obtaining knowledge in this context is a multi-step process, Alma tells us that our faith will swell, enlarge our souls and begin to enlightened our understanding. Isn’t this a description of fervor?

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Thanks, all.

    Right Trousers,

    Yes, since the Enlightenment there’s been a good more that could be said about the distinction between “know” and “believe” in this context. If we (LDS) do have some privileged way of “knowing” about God that is unavailable to others, I am unable to articulate it. As you say, it puts us in a bind when we don’t know quite how to talk about it all.

    David,

    I agree with your reconstruction of traditional LDS thinking. I’d just like to add that I find this approach to the efficacy of faith to be tremendously liberating, as well useful in assisting folks who are trying to overcome disappointment. No need to try to measure faith or calibrate responses. The proper object of faith is God and faith works because God is trustworthy.

    Mogs

  • Howard

    Sometimes our intellectual pursuits interfere with our spiritual goals subduing fervor.

    Ironically, it was a final reasoned thought that broke me free from over intellectualizing my religion…In a moment of perfect clarity, I was aware that the world had become my god…worldly knowledge, worldly pursuits and worldly things…

    This time, I took an entirely different approach to prayer. I remember feeling truly repentant that I had let the things of the world replace the things of God in my life. I knew that I had never needed His guidance more. So, I prayed the most humble prayer I ever remembered praying. It was more than just words and in a sense more like a communion of spirit between He and I. Personal revelation has since become a very real and very powerful part of my life.

    If I had to make any observations about why I could not hear His voice and how I came to again, it would have to be that revelation requires a certain preparation of the heart.

    My fear, my pride, the way I see myself, the way I see others changed in that moment. The Lord seems very pleased when I present myself in this way, because the times I have made this offering, I have been generously rewarded, often being completely overcome by the Spirit.

    Excerpts from The Millennial Star, Geoff B.
    http://www.millennialstar.org/2008/09/14/guest-post-searching-for-revelation-in-all-the-wrong-places/

  • http://www.TempleStudy.com Bryce Haymond

    “I sometimes hear folks at church distinguish themselves from other Christians by asserting a difference between the LDS “I know that…” and the non-LDS “I believe that… The former, it is implied, is the stronger and therefore the better faith.”

    Elder Samuelson sure seems to think that way:

    Many other Christian faiths believe in the divinity of Christ. But it is a special blessing to know that he is the Redeemer and he lives today. (BYU NewsNet)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ Mogget

    Good morning, Bryce,

    Although the quotation you cite does contain the believe/know pair in opposing sentences, it is not clear that it actually supports your point. In fact, Elder Samuelson has used the believe/know pair as near synonyms in order to avoid the sort of repetition that modern English speakers find tedious. A better reading suggests that his intent is to assert the superiority of understanding Christ as the living Redeemer over a less specific affirmation of his divinity.

    Had Elder Samuelson intended to make the point you imagined him to have done, he might have said something more along the lines of ” Many other Christian faiths believe in the divinity of Christ. But it is a special blessing to know that he is divine.” Or something like that…

  • http://www.TempleStudy.com Bryce Haymond

    Right…

  • http://www.TempleStudy.com Bryce Haymond

    Would you make the same argument about Elder Hales recent testimony too?

    I give you my testimony that God lives and that we can learn, not just to believe, but to know that God lives. Seek that knowledge. It will be granted to you. Seek to know, and to have those around you, through your testimony, know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God… (BYU Devotional)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com David Clark

    Bryce,

    Prooftext

    Cheers

  • CE

    Bryce, are you trying to say that Elder Hales and Elder Samuelson understand certain aspects of faith a little differently than Alma apparently did?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    Hello Bryce,

    As David says, all you have contributed so far are prooftexts. In addition to these logical fallacies, it is now also clear that in addition to not recognizing the inherent ambiguity of the quotation from Elder Samuelson that you selected, you don’t fully understand what I wrote, either. Here it is:

    I sometimes hear folks at church distinguish themselves from other Christians by asserting a difference between the LDS “I know that…” and the non-LDS “I believe that… The former, it is implied, is the stronger and therefore the better faith.

    Were we to pursue this, and I am not sure that that would be a productive activity, we would not interested in whether Mormons recognize a distinction between “know” and “believe.” The point of interest is the distinction between what Mormons mean when they say that they “know” and what other Christians mean when they say that they “believe.” In this last matter, the quotation from Elder Hale will be of no immediate interest.


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