Personal Response by James Faulconer
Developing faith requires that one have faith, but how does it come in the first place? Answering that question requires us to remember that the word “faith” means primarily “trust.” The question of how to have faith is the question of how to learn to trust God.First faith comes by hearing the testimonies of those who are trustworthy: We trust in the trust of those whom we trust. The book of Revelation in the Bible says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Those who have a testimony of Jesus are able to speak out (the literal meaning of “prophecy”) as did the ancient prophets, bearing witness of what they know, and their witness can be the foundation for ours. Listening to what parents, teachers, friends, leaders, missionaries, and others whom we trust say will give us the beginning of faith.
Second, we begin to have faith when we let go of whatever stands in the way of having faith. Perhaps our fear makes it difficult to trust. We worry, “What will happen if I am wrong?” Perhaps our pride gets in our way, or our sloth: “Changing my life would be too difficult.” Whatever it is that stands between us and faith, we must let go of it if we wish to have faith.
But what then? What do we do once we have the germ of faith that comes from hearing the testimony of trustworthy people and from letting go of the sins that keep us from trusting?
A writer in one of the Mormon scriptures, Alma, in the Book of Mormon, says this about developing faith:
As I said concerning faith [. . .] if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Alma 32:26-27)
First, Alma says, we must awaken our powers of understanding enough to test what he, a preacher of the gospel, says. Second, we must at least desire to believe-we do not need full-blown faith to begin our development, only a “particle of faith.” Then, to perform the test that Alma proposes, we must let that particle of faith work in us. We must not get in its way, and if we allow our particle of faith to work in us, he promises, it will make it possible for us to believe at least partly in what he says.
Alma offers an analogy:
We will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves-It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)
If we will allow the seed to be planted, our Father in Heaven will plant it. Then, after it has been planted, if we don’t cast the seed of faith out by our refusal to believe, it will begin to grow. As it grows, we will feel that growth in our souls and in our lives. That, in turn, will allow us to judge the seed, whether it is a good seed or a bad one, and Alma’s promise is that we will discover that it is good. The seed of the Word of God, once planted in our hearts, will enlarge our souls-it will move us outward from ourselves to beings and things beyond us; we will begin to see the world more clearly, more justly, and more lovingly. This expansion of our souls is a pleasure. It tastes good to our souls, and we will want to continue growing the tree that grows from this seed, the Tree of Life.