Faith and Charity

Faith and Justification Part I:
Faith and Charity
We have definitions of faith such as, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) and, “Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen” (Ether 12:6), and “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). The Bible Dictionary says, “To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone” (“Faith,” Bible Dictionary). We know that it was by faith that “Noah…prepared an ark” (Heb. 11:7), “Abraham…obeyed; and he went out…[and] sojourned in the land of promise” (Heb. 11:8-9). By faith “Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau” (Heb. 11:20), and “Moses…refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter…[and] forsook Egypt (Heb. 11:24-27). Their faith was a motivating force. Because of their firm conviction that God would honor his promises Noah prepared, Abraham obeyed, Isaac blessed, and Moses forsook.

So faith does influence decisions, and scripture clearly teaches that faith and obedience are connected. From the apostle James we learn, “Faith without works is dead” (
James 2:20). And the Lectures on Faith teach “[faith] is the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (LoF 1:9). True, but rather nonspecific. A businessman invests his money with the faith he will receive a return. An athlete trains with the faith that she will win the prize. But even that is vague. Perhaps it would be better to use this kind of analogy: A businessman invests his money on the hope he will earn a profit, and when a performance analysis of his investment shows that he is likely to make a profit then he has faith in his investment. An athlete trains with the hope she will win the prize. When she begins to see the results of her hard work, those results coupled with her hope give her faith. Faith is an assurance of things hoped for. Or rather, faith is the assurance one feels when something assures or reassures one that their hope is not in vain.

Faith begins with belief

But faith doesn’t begin with hope. The path to faith begins with belief, or a desire to believe, or as Alma put it, “a particle of faith.” The path to faith is this: belief → effort and hope → assurance and faith.[1] A businessman believes an investment will pay off. After making the investment he hopes he made a good investment. As far as the gospel is concerned, God fills us with “peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope” (
Rom. 15:13). From another perspective, if someone whom you believe makes you a promise you have something to hope for. You hope that person will keep his promise.[2] And what follows hope? Hopefully it’s an assurance your hope is not vain. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1). And the strongest assurance comes from the Holy Ghost.[3] “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thes. 1:5; Heb. 6:11).[4]

We first believe. Then we take a risk. Then we hope. And finally with some kind of assurance we attain faith.

But once faith is attained, the belief-hope-faith sequence can also work in reverse. After a business man believes an investment is worthwhile and hopes his invested money produces a profit, a favorable analysis of the investment vindicates his hope and reifies his belief. Our faith in Christ is the assurance we receive from the Holy Ghost that our hope in Christ is not in vain and that our belief is true. Once we have faith in Christ, we believe with faith, hope with faith, pray with faith, and act with faith.

If we don’t have hope our “faith” is not truly faith: Faith comes from the spiritual witness of our hope; “How is it that you can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?” (Moroni 7:40). But without a feeling of assurance (i.e. without faith) we eventually abandon hope. A businessman invests his money on the hope that his investment will pay off. As more time goes by without favorable results he begins to loose hope and eventually gets out. Though we can hope our efforts will pay off, if we never attain unto faith, or if we loose faith and never regain it, eventually we abandon hope: “For without faith there cannot be any hope” (Moroni 7:42); “and thus they did retain a hope through faith” (Alma 25:16). And finally, if there is no hope then we eventually abandon belief.
The importance of charity
Charity is necessary for maintaining belief/faith/hope cycle. If we act uncharitably towards others then our “faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart” (
Moroni 7:44); “the hope of unjust men perisheth” (Prov. 11:7). The Spirit will never sustain faith and hope if we are vicious, thus if we are unkind our faith and hope is like a house built on the sand. [5],[6]

True faith in Christ leads us to greater acts of charity. Thus Holy Ghost operates with greater power, strengthening faith and hope.[7] Stronger faith justifies greater hope.[8] And our hope in Christ leads us to live a holier life. Faith, hope, and charity are necessary for maintaining spiritual growth. “Faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness” (
Ether 12:28).

If a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart…for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
(Moroni 7:41-44)

Are we saved by faith? In a way, yes. If we have faith then hope and good works inextricably accompany it. “[We are] saved by faith in his name” (
Moroni 7:26). Are good works necessary for salvation? Yes. If we have a spiritual witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ then good works entail faith and hope in Christ. Thus, “all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (AoF 1:3), and “whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (1 John 2:5). Are we saved by hope? In a way, yes. Once we attain mature faith, that faith sustains our hope and motivates good works; “How is it that you can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?” (Moroni 7:40); “For we are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24). Basically, to be saved we must be righteous. And “faith is counted for righteousness” (JST, Rom. 4:5); “faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness” (Rom. 4:9).

Faith, hope, and good works are inseparable from righteousness. If we “have faith, hope, and charity, and then [we] will always abound in good works” (
Alma 7:24). And “except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope” (Moroni 10:21).[9]

End Notes_______________________________________

[1] “[Through Christ we] believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1:21).

[2] Hope also produces patience, “But hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (
Rom. 8:24-25).

[3] President Joseph Fielding Smith said,

When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase.
(Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:151; qtd. in Gospel Principles, 36).

[4] Hope can also be confirmed through angelic visitation: “Consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!” (
D&C 128:21).

[5] “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (
James 2:26). Just as the body is not the spirit, and the spirit is not the body, works and faith are also different things. But without works faith dies.

[6] Out of faith, hope, and charity, charity is the most important. And it is possible for a person to have charity without believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are charitable organizations run by Muslims, Buddists, Jews who are exceedingly charitable people. Charity “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (Moroni 7:45). A person who is possesses those qualities is in perfect readiness to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ—either in this life or the next. “Charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all” (Moroni 7:46); “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13).

[7] The “Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love” (
Moroni 8:26).

[8] There is “a more excellent hope” (
Ether 12:32) and “a sufficient hope” (Moroni 7:3). Likewise there is “strong faith and a firm mind” (Moroni 7:30), and a “particle of faith” (Alma 32:27).

[9] But of the three, charity is the greatest: “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (
Col. 3:14).