Not all that long ago, I considered myself to be someone whose "Faith circuit" was "broken." I knew all the words, I understood the concepts, I even sort of believed them to be true, but I couldn't FEEL that truth. I could see people all around me who had that assurance with them, that knowledge that something they couldn't prove was nonetheless true. I didn't understand how to get from where I was to where they were. But I wanted to get there.
Then, last Easter, I was at a Catholic Mass with my family, and I actually had a little epiphany during the homily, which is not something that had really ever happened before. I don't recall the point that was being made, but I do recall the point that I received. The topic was the Resurrection, when the women went to the tomb of Christ to anoint His body.
It struck me like a bolt of lightning: THEY WERE THERE TO ANOINT HIS BODY! The women who had followed him for years and who were as close as almost anyone EXPECTED TO FIND HIM DEAD!
A little more research shows that the Apostles themselves were stunned to find the body gone. They had traveled with Him, learned from Him, were expected to carry His church to the people. He had TOLD them that He would rise from the dead. But they didn't comprehend and had trouble believing it even when it happened. They didn't have faith in His words, those who had been closest to Him.
I wasn't broken, I was NORMAL!
So, about that time, I started studying the Book of Mormon. I was a bit incredulous to the idea that God could perform miracle after miracle for the family of Lehi, and then his descendants, and a short time later, they were back to their old, sinful ways. It seemed that the turn-around time between sinful to saintly to sinful was WAY too short. On their ocean voyage alone, it seemed they rebelled against God about a hundred times. How could He save them again and again, and yet they turn their backs on Him every time?
It cast a doubt over the whole Book of Mormon for me.
Then I read the Bible. Ever read it? It's jammed full of stories of people who have seen miracles and yet can't seem to stay faithful. Don't believe it? Let's start with Adam and Eve: They walked and talked with God in the Garden, and yet still managed to disobey and eat the forbidden fruit. (And that's actually a good thing, but that's a topic for another day).
Within just a few generations, the people of the world turned to idolatry and sin. The Book of Genesis is packed with this. Then we get to Moses and the Hebrews in Egypt. The people saw the works of God employed to free them from 400 years of slavery, saw the Angel of Death Pass Over their houses on the way to kill the firstborn of Egypt, followed a COLUMN OF FIRE through the desert, saw the Red Sea parted, ate Manna from Heaven...Need I go on? So, Moses goes up onto the mountain and within a few days, they're all, "You know what could really help us now? A golden calf to worship!"
All through the historical books of the Bible, the Kings of Israel and Judea fall far from perfection. They are told what to do and how they should do it, and yet, despite being Chosen of God, they fail and fail again. These are people who should have known better, who witnessed miracles, who spoke to God Himself, in ways that have been mostly lost to us. What possible chance do we have? If they couldn't keep faith, how could it possibly be expected of us?
Then we get to the New Testament.
The New Testament is all about faith and finding our way back to our Heavenly Father. There is an analogy used numerous times throughout the Gospels of having "Faith as a mustard seed." The mustard seed, apparently, though quite small, produces a tree that is quite out of proportion when considering the size of other seeds to the respective trees they produce. The generally accepted interpretations of this analogy are that 1). If you start with a little faith, it will grow larger, and 2). That even a little faith will allow you to move mountains.
I think this there's a somewhat deeper interpretation as well.
Let me first note that faith is often referred to as a "Gift from God," which seems a little odd. In order to believe in God, I first have to receive a gift from Him? One sort of presupposes the other, doesn't it? I mean, if you don't believe in God, then how are you going to believe a gift is from Him?
I think we could combine these two concepts and expand them into a larger analogy, say a garden, or gardening, anyway. We, as Mormons, believe the Law of Christ is written on the hearts of men. This is the little voice, the conscience that we all hear that tells us when we're transgressing. It's also that need that pretty much everybody feels to find some larger meaning, to have, as the song says, "Something to Believe In."
This is the Mustard Seed, and it is a gift from God, whether we choose to accept that or not. But it's not the only gift.
With that seed comes a contract from our Heavenly Father: If you plant that seed, he will cause it to sprout and grow. In return, we need to feed the plant that springs from it, actively care for it and nurture it. As we tend to our seedling, he will cause it to grow into a tree that will bear fruit that will not only sustain us, but help to nourish those around us. But we need to take care of that seed, lest it wilt or be taken by weeds.
How do we plant the seed? It's really simple: We pray. We ask Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, to give us faith, to show us His mercy and love. And He will. It is His promise to us.
There is a story in the one of the Gospels, where a man asks Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus says that all he has to do is BELIEVE. The man says, "I believe, Lord. Help me with my unbelief." This sounds like he's contradicting himself, but it's really pretty simple: He had planted that seed, and was asking for growth. He was saying that he, essentially, believed that Jesus was who He said He was, but that he needed assistance to allow that seedling to take root and grow.
I know from experience how hard it is to pray to a God you're not really sure you believe in. I spent better than forty years being one step up from an agnostic. I believed in a Creator, intelligent design, call it what you will, (the idea of a universe springing into existence by happenstance was and is too far-fetched for me to take seriously) but the idea of a Father in Heaven who cared for me personally and listened to my words was just not something I could accept as true.
I had prayed a number of times before, in a way. I had memorized a bunch of prayers from growing up Catholic, and who hasn't asked for help in some tight spot or another? But the idea of an actual conversation taking place between God and myself was just asking too much. But then, last year, I started receiving responses. And not just vague impressions days later: I would pray for enlightenment on a particular passage in Scripture, and the answer would come to me almost immediately. And when I would ask others about that response, it turned out they were getting the same answers, as well.
I opened my mind little by little to the possibilities and knowledge and information started flooding in. And the more I learned, the more I read and studied, which is the tending of that little seedling of faith. We read Scriptures and study the teachings of those who have gone before us in order to water that sprout and make it grow strong. The combination of reading and praying allows us to grow our tree tall and fruitful, with deep roots.
But just because we have faith doesn't mean we won't falter at times. Life is hard, even with faith. And we see through Scriptures that the faith of some of the wisest and most favored of God has failed time and again. We learn through the Parable of the Prodigal Son that God KNOWS that we will waver and fall, but that if we come back to him in a spirit of true repentance, with honest intention to make amends, He will welcome us back with honor and grace. We also learn from the faithful older brother that we should welcome our fallen brothers and sisters back in the same manner.
And here is a promise that I feel absolutely confident in making: Find a Mormon meetinghouse, attend a Sacrament meeting. The people there WILL welcome as a lost brother or sister. Talk with them, talk with the missionaries. It will be a rewarding and enlightening experience, if you open your heart to it.
Here's a mind-blowing thought: When the father in the parable speaks of his son returning from the dead, he's speaking in hyperbole. But when the symbolism is stripped away and the example is applied to the reality of Heavenly Father, it is the literal Truth.
So, we can see that faith isn't just something that you either have or don't, or even something that is constant in our lives. Everybody, even those who grow up in the church, even those who are in the highest positions of leadership, that everybody else looks to for guidance, ALL of them have moments of doubt. Bu we persevere and with the aid and comfort of the Holy Ghost, we come out on the other side stronger and wiser.
If you feel like you're lacking something, if your life needs meaning, if you want to know WHY, you're not alone. But there's a way out, a way to gain insight and knowledge, a way to find purpose.
All you have to do is ask.