Common or general faith, the faith by which all people function every day, helps illustrate the way faith governs all things in time and eternity. In order to understand how faith governs in the affairs of life, it is necessary to discuss the word of God.
As followers of Christ, we believe that God has set in motion all things. We believe he governs over the affairs of the universe. This includes the affairs of mankind.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it (Isaiah 55:7-11).
God governs through the power of his word. Isaiah wrote that the word of God always completes what it sets out to do. It is reliable and unrelenting. Everything that God speaks will accomplish what God intended for it to do. His word, and therefore, God never fails. The wise man will yield to God’s word by faith.
God spoke and all of creation came into being (Genesis 1, D&C 17:4a). By his word, God set the laws in motion that rule the universe. Science, through all of its disciplines, is discovering the intricate and marvelous laws that God uses to govern all things. Although they do not always recognize it, the principles and laws of science are a record of the word of God. Through the scriptures, God has clearly identified his commandments that set the standards for men and women to follow. His word is at work governing the universe and it is the standard by which every person will be judged at the last day.
Through the means of revelation, God has shown himself to us and has given us knowledge of who he is, what he is doing and what he expects of us. He has spoken the gospel and with it he calls all people, everywhere to repent. Those who yield to the word of God are saved and those who refuse to obey are damned.
Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say, Hearken ye people from afar, and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together; for verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape, and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated; and the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow, for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed; and the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days, and they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them (D&C 1:1, 2 Nephi 1:78-80, Matthew 21:34 IV).
With this foundation laid, it is time to examine the scriptural description of faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
And now I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would shew unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen (Ether 5:6).
Saving faith, the faith that is leads to life and salvation, is the full and complete manifestation of the principle of faith. While all people are experienced with common faith, not everyone exercises saving faith and most are not even aware that faith of this magnitude or power is available for them. As some faith is required in every aspect of our mortal life, our spiritual life all the more requires the exercise of saving faith.
Faith is a positive response to the word of God. When a person believes the word that God has given and acts on that word, faith is exercised. The word of God grants assurance to the believer that the promise of God will be fulfilled. The believer moves forward in life assured of a promise from God that may or may not ever be experienced in this life. The promise of God may be seen rapidly or it may be delayed for years, decades or until eternity. Nevertheless, the believer is confident he or she is living in the will of God.
How does faith govern? First is through the laws of nature God put in place. These laws govern through nature, in the physical world. We are familiar with these laws through our life experience and education. We operate successfully in life while lacking a full understanding of all the principles involved and without knowing exactly how everything works. Living within those laws means we are living within the word of God. This type of faith does not involve intentional obedience to God’s word, but it is the reality.
Spiritually, the word of God guides the believer in the path of righteousness and ensures that he or she remains within the blessing of God. The word of God encourages some activities (prayer, worship, service, kindness, love, etc. and discourages or condemns some things such as laziness, theft, lying, murder and others. Keeping the commandments in faith means the believer trusts that God’s commandment is for good and is not grievous, but a manifestation of the love of God for us (1 John 5:3). Saving faith requires the intentional submission to the word of God by the believer. He or she surrenders to willingly to God’s rule. This is the humility of faith and the beginning of the worship of God, both of which are a vital part of the life of a disciple of Christ.
In a negative sense, faith governs us by preventing us from doing what we judge or believe to be useless or fruitless. The lack of faith promotes inactivity through unbelief. For example, if a shop owner did not believe that opening the shop an hour earlier would increase his business in some way, he would keep his current hours. Unbelief keeps him from changing his hours.
On the other hand, faith will direct the thoughts and actions of a person who seeks to be true to God (we walk by faith and not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7). If a woman believes that she is called by God to enter the mission field as a health care worker, she will makes decisions that are consistent with her faith that she is so called. Her faith will inform her choice of schools, friends she develops, habits, etc. She will seek to avoid hindrances to her call and will choose the things that will prepare her to fulfill this calling. Her activities are all guided by faith.
Faith, therefore, informs and directs the activity of an individual. In areas of belief, activity is performed. In areas of unbelief, activity is withheld. False or misplaced faith will lead a person to act in ways that will not lead to eternal life. Making a covenant with Satan, like Cain did (Genesis 5:14-16 IV) is a gross example of a false faith leading to a bad result. Cain is described as “loving Satan more than God” (Genesis 5:6, 13 IV). As a result of his misplaced faith, Cain was led astray to the destruction of his soul.
A false faith may not be recognized at first, but by carefully monitoring the fruit resulting from the exercise of faith will reveal that the faith is misplaced. A discussion on the fruits of faith will come later, but for now, if “faith” is leading away from the worship of God and Jesus Christ and is creating the fruit of the flesh and not the fruit of the Spirit of God in your life, that faith should be discarded (repentance) and faith in God and his word should be initiated immediately.
The Book of Hebrews is filled with the testimony of a multitude of Old Testament heroes who exercised faith in God. Their lives are chronicled in order to show that the only way to please God is through faith (Hebrews 11:6). The chapter provides evidence that faith is the governing principle in life. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the children of Israel under Joshua, Rahab and others are introduced in Hebrews 11, with a mention of the service they performed for God, which is introduced with the words “by” or “through faith.” As an example, the scripture reads,
By faith Moses, when he was born, was his three months of his parents, because they saw that he was a peculiar child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandments (Hebrews 11:23).
Note that activity occurred because the parents of Moses had faith in God. Another way to say this would be, “Because the parents of Moses had faith they acted courageously in defiance of the king’s commandments to preserve their son who was shown to them to be a special and chosen child, destined to perform the work of God.” Moses’ parents acted in a particular way because of their faith. Their confidence in God and his word moved them to disobey the Pharaoh of Egypt in favor of pleasing God, their creator.
Faith prompted them to act in favor and support of the hope they had in God’s calling on their son, Moses. When hiding him was no longer possible, he was placed in the ark of rushes as another way to preserve the young servant of God. It was by faith that the sister of Moses was positioned to watch over the child and intervene when the daughter of Pharaoh saw Moses in the basket. Faith moved the family of Moses to act courageously for the preservation of his life. This brought blessing to them and to the whole house of Israel. Years later the adult Moses returned and by faith delivered the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh.
Faith is always directed toward something. The farmer has faith in the laws of nature. Pilots and air travelers demonstrate faith in the laws of aerodynamics and physics, at the minimum, when they fly. People put their faith in other people, in governments, in economies, in alcohol, sex, drugs, education, etc. Saving faith is always in the one true and living God who is able to save.
As with all spiritual principles, there is a true exercise of the principle and there are multiple perversions of the principle. Although faith is exercised at various levels, saving faith is in the work of God which has a single goal—the salvation of the souls of men and women.
For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying, The heavens, they are many and they cannot be numbered unto man, but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine and as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words; for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life of man (D&C 22:23).