Recently, I wrote a quick blog about a General Conference talk that I had loved. (And by recently, I mean...it was my last post. I've neglected posting.) My friend, gromit, asked me to clarify why this talk had meant so much to me. Since I think she's pretty awesome, and I had intended to anyway...here it is.
As I was listening to it, my "duh" moment came when he said "doubt is not a principle of the gospel." My bishop and I have been going rounds on this issue. I never doubted that God would come through in the end. I doubted that I would live up to my end of the deal. I doubted my ability to make my life what He knows it can be. I doubted everything about me. It's what I do. As a recovering anorexic...of the perfectionist realm...I constantly think that I'm falling short of the mark. When I heard Elder Pearson say "doubt is not a principle of the gospel" I suddenly KNEW what my bishop had been saying all along. My bishop knew I didn't doubt in the Lord (I hope), but he was trying to tell me that by doubting myself I still wasn't exercising faith. And since that sentence was uttered...my doubts have all but vanished. It was that sentence that I needed to hear, in that setting. It made all the difference in the world.
Elder Pearson makes the claim that faith comes as a result of obedience. He made the comparison to a chemical reaction. If you put in obedience, you get out faith. I think what he meant (at least what I got out of it is) that we don't always know why we are to do certain things, but when we do them our faith increases as we see the benefits that come from doing this. I do not believe in blind obedience. I believe that we are all entitled to answers when it comes to how to live our lives. But part of getting that answer relies on the act of obediently living the principle to see if it comes up with anything good. We are told that we'll know if something is good by the fruits that it bears. So if our obedience to something brings about good things, then it is good and our faith is increased. I don't think there is a direct correlation between obedience and faith; no algebraic equation that can be set up for it. Faith comes in many ways, but one way is through obedience. I think it's like listening to your parents about some things. We (as children) don't understand why we must look both ways before crossing a street when they first tell us we have to. They may say things like "you'll get hit by a car," but we don't understand that until the day that we forget to look and almost get hit by a car. (This is just one example that may or may not be true for everyone...but there are many other possibilities...think about it.) However, we listen to our parents when they tell us these things, and we follow through trusting their wisdom. Until one day when we are granted understanding about why they told us these things. We gain faith in them. More than we had before when we were just being obedient. And, we may only gain knowledge in one thing (I almost go hit...mom and dad were right about looking both ways...they must be right about everything else!), but it's applicable to more things.
Again, I'm not advocating blind obedience. We can still pray, you know. We are entitled to personal revelation. (Blasphemous! I know. But, it's true. We can. -- it's actually surprising to me that some people don't know this. Remind me to blog about it at some other time.) However, He sometimes doesn't give us an answer to things, wanting to test our obedience. He will then always show us, in some way, that the thing we're obediently doing is right. And then our faith increase because we have invested something into the faith process. If we just sit around saying "I have faith that He's right...." or whatever, and we never exercise that faith by doing something that we're unsure of, then we don't really have faith.
The other point is that faith and fear can not coexist. This can seem counter-intuitive. Sometimes we have to do things that we are afraid of for the faith to come. But this "fear" is different from my fear of spiders, of jumping off cliffs when I can't see the water, of drowning...whatever. It's okay to be scared and unsure. These are normal. I still think you can have faith and be afraid of having to live on it. Take my sister for example. Her husband has just started a new job. One that can bring in plenty of money, but one that's base salary only covers their mortgage. She's afraid of how they'll make ends meet if he doesn't bring in more than the base salary, but she knows that he was supposed to take this job. It felt like the right thing, and all the pieces have fallen into place so far. She's still worried/scared/afraid. But she has faith it'll work out. Our brains aren't wired to be completely fear-free. The trick to faith is not being ruled by the fear. When we let fear dominate our life, faith has no place. But when we are actively trying to live with faith, the fear that we feel is normal human emotion. And it does not replace our faith. It'll ultimately help increase our faith. Doing things that leave us frightened does make it so we have to rely on Him to be sustained. Thus, our faith increases. Not doing things because we are frightened by them, leaves us relying on ourselves and not Him. Thus, fear rules our life and our faith decreases.
We can choose to live a life of fear and doubt, or we can choose to live a life of faith. It is an active choice. I doubt my abilities less, but I still have to choose to live without the doubt I had. It still tries to creep in. And I choose to live with faith that I am doing the right thing. I am capable of the life He wants for me. I don't know everything that entails...but I'm certain that it'll be for my benefit.
I hope this clarifies why I liked the talk...