Those who follow Christ with real intent understand the importance of faith. The scripture teach “without faith no man pleaseth God” (D&C 63:11). Why? “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them” (Ether 12:12). In other words, God cannot intervene in our lives without faith being present.
The apostles said to the Savior, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). The Savior’s answer came in two parts. First he said: “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:6). This is a straightforward answer. He taught that even with the smallest amount of faith a man can do mighty works. This parable also teaches that faith being compared to a seed can grow and increase if properly nourished (Matthew 13:32).
In the second part, the Savior used another parable to explain how faith is increased. It isn’t as straightforward, and easy to understand as the parable of the mustard seed. In this parable there is interaction between a servant and his master.
7 But who of you, having a servant plowing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8 Will he not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward, by and by, you shall eat and drink?
9 Doth he thank that servant because he doeth the things which were commanded him? I say unto you, Nay.
10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, We have done that which was no more than our duty to do. I.V. Luke 17:7-10
At first reading, this parable seems harsh.
Elder John K. Carmack gives an explanation of this parable:
“In the parable, the master would neither thank his servant nor release him from the balance of his duties. Though the insistence on preparing the meal after a long day of work sounds harsh and ungrateful on its face, in reality that servant is greatly indebted to his master and will always be. Similarly, if we want increased faith, such as Enoch gained, we must give ourselves over completely to our Lord, utterly trusting Him and striving to act as He would act in all circumstances. No matter how difficult and impossible the circumstances we face, we must retain the attitude that we are still in the Lord’s debt. Just keeping the commandments, while laudable, may be enough to maintain our faith but not enough to increase it. We must continue sacrificing and serving with no thought of reward. We do it out of love and gratitude for the Lord, to whom we owe everything.
Too often we allow ourselves to think or even say words like these: “I don’t deserve this setback. You’d think after all I’ve done, it would not have to be like this. Why must I prove myself over and over again? This is my time to rest from all this responsibility. I’ve done enough.”
Perhaps the Savior was teaching us that if we are serious about desiring greater faith, nothing short of maintaining a constant eternal perspective will do. If we place any condition on our willingness to serve the Lord with all our hearts, we diminish our faith. If we have complete trust in Him, our faith will increase, and that means the strength of our belief and our power to act will increase. We will not think we have done our duty and that is enough. We will continue with pure intent and total commitment the rest of our lives. Apparently we are to learn from the parable that maintaining such an attitude is the way to increase our faith…To summarize, we do not increase our faith by following a formula, although the ingredients of fasting, prayer, and righteous living are part of that process. Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls. We cannot say, “We have done enough and deserve to rest.” Nor does the increase come through definitions, logic, or philosophy. Rather, we must
♦ Do what is right and serve the Lord because we know, trust, and love Him with all of our souls
♦ Harbor no thought that we deserve a reward or thanks for what we do, although rewards will surely come.
♦ Humbly ask, seek, and knock.
♦ Never demand anything of our Lord, because we are always in His debt
♦ Leave to Him the final decision in all things, having the attitude ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’
♦ Be prepared to sacrifice, even unto death, for our entire mortal lives.
As members of the Lord’s Church, we can increase our faith, if we desire, by going beyond the minimum requirements of the gospel and developing complete trust in the Lord. All of this is part of the golden ore found in Jesus’ interesting and subtle parable given in response to the early Apostles’ request, ‘Increase our faith.’ ” Ensign, March 2002