This story started me thinking about my life, and especially the problems that I seem to dwell on from day to day. They aren't nearly as severe or limiting as was this woman's, and yet I find myself occassionally shying away from the one source that could heal me. Why do we think that the Atonement is true, wonderful, and for everyone but ourselves? That for some reason we do not deserve God's love, mercy, or consideration? In speaking for myself, I've decided it's because sometimes I lack faith. Faith to be healed, faith to be loved, faith to be anything.
Faith is so simple and yet so powerful. As sung in the primary song, faith can be as simple as "knowing the sun will rise each and every day," yet it's powerful enough that Jesus said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." (Matt 17:20) The woman understood this power and had faith enough to remove the mountain in her life. But how do we accomplish this in our own lives?
First we must have an understanding of what faith is. The Bible Dictionary has entire column dedicated to faith. I'll just hit the highlights here:
1. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true, and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation.
2. Faith is a principle of action and of power.
3. All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge, or it cannot produce the desired results.
First, "Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true." (Alma 32:21) And as Moroni states, "Faith is things which are hoped for and not seem; wherefore dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith...wherefore thou [speaking of God] workest after men have faith" (Ether 12:6, 30)
Simply put, we don't just wake up one day and suddenly understand everything in the universe (as convinient as that would be). Some things we will never see in our mortal lives, but that does not mean that they do not exist, or are not true principles. We have been given prophets, apostles, scriptures, and most importantly the Holy Ghost to testify of truth and to help us develop faith. It is through obedience to the gospel, taught by living and ancient prophets, that we develop faith and can see miracles in our own lives. Alma likened developing faith to planting a seed, and as we nurture the seeds of gospel principles our faith in these principles will grow until we have a sure knowledge of their truthfulness. (Alma 32)
Second, faith is a principle of action and power. James states, "Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone." (James 2:17) One of my favorite stories illustrating this principle is found in the story of the handcart companies caught in the early winter storms, and stranded far from Salt Lake City. It was conference and when Brigham Young heard about the plight of these saints, he quickly decided that instead of prayers sent to heaven to help the handcart pioneers, he would do something about it! He quickly explained the problem then cancelled that meetings so the saints in Salt Lake could go out and save the stranded pioneers.
How often are we spiritually stranded, or see others in precarious situations and instead of doing something about it, we sit and think about how great it would be if God would rescue us from our trials. This isn't faith! Faith is having hope that God will assist us in our trials and then going forth and tackling them head on. Imagine if Nephi had done nothing more than thought about going back for the brass plates, and then hoped that God would drop them in his lap without any effort. It sounds ridiculous, but I find myself doing it all the time. We need to take action instead of passively allowing our lives to continue without directionless. God has said that we must act and not be acted upon (2 Nephi 2), and that we will receive no witness until after the trial of our faith. We must be like Nephi and go and do!
Third, we must base our faith on correct knowledge, or it will not produce desired results. I could have faith all I want that I can turn the sun blue (which I think would be a very pretty shade for it), but because that faith is not based on correct knowledge it will never come to pass. One of my favorite bible stories about this is found in 1 Kings 18 and chronicles the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal. Elijah challenged the priests to have their god consume a sacrifice with fire from heaven. If it happened, then Israel could continue worshipping Baal. As the priests in vain tried to get their idolitrous god to respond, Elijah (after thoroughly mocking them in their efforts-love it!) commanded that the sacrifice to Jehovah be completely drenched upon the altar he had built. Then when Elijah prayed to the Lord to accept his righteous sacrifice, the offering was consumed by fire. Elijah based his faith in correct knowledge and was rewarded after showing forth his faith.
Moroni also speaks of other men who placed their faith correctly in Christ and were thereby able to work many miracles (Ether 12). Also, in the famous lecture in Moroni 7 on faith, hope, and charity, Mormon states that "thus by faith, [we can] lay hold upon every good thing" (Moroni 7:25). The point of faith is to enable us to use the Atonement of Jesus Christ to return to our Father in Heaven. As we lay hold of this good thing, we will develop the faith needed to overcome our mountains and be healed.