Everyday we make many decisions, some decisions are without consequence, while others can change the course of our entire life. Decisions about religion have power to not only change the course of our life, but our after-life as well.
One of the fundamental teachings of the Mormon church is that God designed this life to be a proving ground (Abraham 3:24-26). Those who “will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” will receive greater blessings (opportunities) in the after-life than those who do otherwise. It takes faith to believe this doctrine.
The prophet Joseph Smith taught there are four basic principles church members need to embrace (4th Article of Faith):
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
3. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins
4. Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost
These four principles and ordinances are the foundation of the plan of salvation.
In order for you and I to acquire faith the Lord has provided his word through the prophets. We have the standard works of the church and the words of the modern day prophets. The prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148)
I believe “hearing the word of God” includes more than just hearing with our ears. Reading the word of God has the same power as hearing the word of God, both convey a message which enters into our hearts and minds where the Spirit of God can testify to us.
The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. My experience with the Savior started when I decided to ask if there was anything to the Book of Mormon and the stories I heard as a boy about the prophet Joseph Smith.  Apparently, the short but sincere prayer I offered reached the heavens. Apparently, one doesn’t need to be attending church and keeping the commandments to be heard. Apparently, even the particle of faith I offered as an inactive, worldly teenager was sufficient to move the heavens.
Faith is a decision, I made a decision to ask a question. My prayer was answered in a way that instantly changed my life. In the days that followed, I made many more faith decisions that brought me back into church activity.
Decisions concerning faith is an on-going process. When we’re asked to accept callings, speak in church, pay tithing an offerings, give priesthood blessings, and so on, we are either adding too or taking away from our reservoir of faith with each decision.
There are other ways our faith can be added to or diminished. For example, how faithful are we when we encounter a crisis? Based on my experience, a crisis can open the door to greater manifestations of the Spirit. When my plans for marriage fell apart, I turned to God with all energy of heart, and was given an experience similar to what happened to the people of King Benjamin (Mosiah 4-5).
I learned from this experience that the teachings of Alma apply not only to those investigating the principles of the gospel for the first time, but to seasoned church members as well. We can awake and arouse our faculties and exercise faith (Alma 32:27) as we encounter the various trials and difficulties of life. This life is designed to be difficult and challenging for “the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith” (Mosiah 23:21).
Faith is manifest when we make a decision to exercise our faith. This is true when we do it for the first time or the thousandth time.
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