Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Faith is a Choice

I came across an interesting post the other day. Although it may sound "smug" and "uncharitable" as one commenter says, the meaning behind the post is quite true. Far too often, we try to lay the responsibility for our behavior at some other feet, whether it be nature or nurture, the actions of others, the stances of the Gospel, or raw circumstance. When we attempt to label a "cause" of our loss of faith, we rob ourselves of one of our most precious attributes: our agency.

Agency is about more than choice, it is also about responsibility. We cannot have one without the other. It is true that genetics or environment may include a host of factors we cannot control that influence our personalities and decisions, but there is always a core of something more. That is what makes us children of God. That something is the kernel of divinity within each of us.

Yes, in the end everything we do is a choice, even faith. It may not be an easy choice. It may ask us to fly for a time in the face of contradicting evidence. We may have to temporarily suspend our logic in favor of our intuition. That is why it's called a leap of faith.

While those who have decided to abandon their faith may point derisively at the naivety of those of us who, in the end, choose to believe, any who have walked for a time in the darkness and found the incredible joy and light on the other side know. You cannot find that knowledge without first acting on faith. It is not a scientific knowledge, or one that would be admissible in a court, but it is a valid knowledge, and one that brings more enlightenment than imaginable.

That is not to say that, once gained, such knowledge will never again be tested. Once a child of God has gone through a short span of darkness, another time of testing will always come up again. Each time, reliance on the Lord is deepened, faith is expanded, and pride increasingly morphs into humility. The "faith club" is not one of superiority nor one of exclusivity. All are invited, and all within are motivated by love and the Spirit to share.

The other side of doubt is beautiful. It takes faith to get there. Faith is a gift of the Spirit, but it must be desired and worked for to be received. Rather than spend all your time chasing your tail, trying to find the cause of a loss of faith, look for reasons to just believe.


  1. SilverRain: I enjoyed your post on the relationship between faith and agency and also your comment over at BCC on this topic. I have always been confused by those that seem to want to prove spiritual matters in a sort of scientific or logical way. There is much about the restored gospel that is logical and makes perfect sense, but logical or not, what's important, I believe, is to gain a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. Like anything else that is worthwhile, I believe that maintaining one's faith requires consistent effort.

    Anyway, I especially liked this comment: "When we attempt to label a "cause" of our loss of faith, we rob ourselves of one of our most precious attributes: our agency."

    I recently was thinking along these same lines, but not necessarily related specifically to faith. When we blame others for our circumstances or refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we deny one of the greatest gifts that we've been given, the gift that Satan wanted to destroy- the gift of agency.

    I think this applies to whether we seek to exercise our faith and also to other important aspects of the gospel, such as love, forgiveness, repentance, etc. For example, even in trying situations, do we choose to love, even when that may be the opposite of what seems "natural"? Do we choose to forgive those that might have intentionally or unknowingly harmed us in some way? For me, these things are much more easily said that done, and I definitely have a long ways to go in living the gospel as I should. And I find that blaming others is a hard habit to break...

  2. Jim - thank you for your comment, it is insightful.

    You have an excellent point about applying the principle of agency to more than just a loss of faith. Being currently embroiled in a situation requiring forgiveness, I have observed that for those who forgive, the pain is less. If we refuse to choose to forgive, we only cause more pain—mostly for ourselves. Truly, forgiving another is not for them, it is for us.

    If we are having trouble making the choice to forgive, I can also assert that the Lord will bless us to do so in His own time.

  3. SilverRain: I apologize in advance if this is a little off topic....

    A counselor in our bishopric has spoken often about his desire to obtain his own testimony or witness of the truthfulness of the gospel while he was in the MTC. At first, he was frustrated and even angry that he didn't seem to get an answer. Eventually, he realized that he had felt the peaceful witness of the Holy Ghost and that this was his answer and witness. Since he had had those feelings for much of his life, he never really understood that it was actually the Holy Ghost that he had been feeling. He had expected some greater witness. This is similar to D&C 6:22-23. My own experience is not unlike this, and it makes me wonder if this is not fairly typical in the church.

    I suppose everyone's experience is somewhat unique, but I am confused when I hear of people that either seek a witness but don't receive one or that receive a witness and then later question it.

    It also reminds me of the parable of the seeds. Without referring back to it, I believe the key there is the preparation of our hearts to receive the word. We can do our best to prepare the ground, but ultimately we rely on the Lord to send the rain and to deliver the life-giving sunshine. I think we have to trust in him that he will deliver and allow it to be on his terms.

    It also reminds me of Lehi's dream- different groups started on the path and made various degrees of progress, but only those that "press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron" make it to the tree and partake of the fruit. I believe that the fruit is there, available for all that choose to partake.


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