Monday, December 15, 2008

Faith from My Youth By Alisha Nelson

“Faith is like a little seed, when planted, it will grow”. I recall pondering these words as a young primary girl. Shortly before I was baptized, I meditated (as deeply as a seven year old meditates) on how I genuinely felt about the church. I remember contemplating how simple this primary song made it sound to have faith- but I felt my small seed either wasn’t growing, or wasn’t planted. One day I noticed a necklace one of my young friends wore. It was a locket with a tiny seed inside. I asked her about it, and she wrote down a scripture reference, telling me to look it up. When I got home, my mom helped me find the scripture, “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.” [1] As I studiously pondered the implications of this scripture, I felt insignificant: a mustard seed was very small, but alas, I could not move mountains. My worries had become a reality-I did not have even a fleck of faith. Retrospectively, I think I misinterpreted this scripture. Christ is not telling us that if we cannot move mountains, we don’t have faith; but rather, it does not take much faith to move mountains. Once faith is acquired, a knowledge that only Heavenly Fathers sincere desires take precedence over our desire to prove that we can move mountains. I think this interpretation of faith makes this comment more potent to the disciples, because a mustard seed of faith literally is very little faith. As I read, and re-read the account of Christ’s life, the realization that maybe it was easy for his followers to forgo this aspect of faith when living, breathing proof stood in front of them day-by-day; but today, attempting to pass this vital step is simply impossible.

With my new realization that maybe I had no faith, and with my birthday rapidly approaching, I took to paying special attention to the use of the word faith. One Sunday my primary teacher told us the story of Christ and his disciples when they were caught in a great storm on the sea. My teacher read the following passage: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm”[2]. I recall thinking about this scripture, and realizing that I had an understanding for this kind of faith. I thought back a couple of months. My dad and I and one of my friends had gone up Provo canyon for a nice day of horse riding. After several hours on the dirt trail we reached a small clearing, at the bottom of a sloping hill was a small pond. My dad took the lead, guiding his horse down the hill to the water. As my horse followed, I could tell he was very thirsty. He kept trying to pass my dad and run down the hill. But I knew how to hold him back. About halfway down the hill, something went wrong-the bit in my horses mouth, that allows me to control his movements and restrain him from galloping away, fell out. Storm (my horse) realizing his advantage ran down the hill. I gained my balance, gripping with my knees, but as we passed a stream that filtered into the pond, Storm leapt over it. Unable to grip tightly enough, I lost balance, fell sideways, and was dragged by my foot, caught in the stirrup, a few yards. I finally fell to the ground, landing upon my neck, and rolled down the hill. My dad came galloping to my rescue, but the damage was done. I was unable to move, he tried to get me on his horse so he could walk me out, but our efforts proved fruitless. Unable to see any other option, my dad pointed to the top of a tall hill. Telling me that he would go up near the top, where he knew he had cell phone service, and then come back with help-the whole thing would take about two hours.

After he left me and my friend sitting their on that hillside, it began to rain. I remember being scared. As I sat their, shock setting in, I heard the distinct voice of my mother telling me that if I was ever scared, I knew who to ask for help. I trusted my parents, and I trusted what they said, and knew that if I asked for help, I would receive it. After saying a simple prayer, the rain stopped, and a voice in my head kept telling me to not be afraid, everything would be okay. Heavenly Father knew of my faith, and literally quieted the storm, and then silenced my growing fear. Faith has the power to defeat all adversity, and I had exercised my faith that day.

As I thought of the faith I was able to exercise that day, I thought of my hero, Nephi. Right before my baptism my parents started re-reading the Book of Mormon as a family. I recall feeling invigorated by Nephi’s example of diligence and faith. I think Nephi held an important key to faith-one lost to most religions-action. Everybody has the ability to feel the spirit, everybody has the capacity to be inspired to make a change, but only the few can actually follow through. Heavenly Father tells Nephi, “Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently”[3]. I really don’t think that Laman and Lemuel were all that bad at the beginning of their lives. They had a great father who taught them well-but they didn’t have the diligence to grow their own faith, or follow through when that faith told them to do something important. Even the angles could not get Laman and Lemuel to see their lack of diligence was destroying them. Their faith needed to be acted upon. I now know that I always had a fleck of faith, mostly based upon my parents’ testimonies, but that day, when I said that prayer, I started growing my own testimony.

As the years roll by, I often read my patriarchal blessing for guidance. It talks in length about the many aspects of faith I could acquire and understand-it’s incredibly daunting sometimes it feels like I don’t have any of those aspects of faith. But there honestly is only one thing we must have to receive all of these gifts, “thou shalt have a gift if thou wilt desire of me in faith”[4]. Through our faithful desires, we can realize and utilize the many godly gifts our Heavenly Father bestowed upon us. And as we use these precious gifts we strengthen the faith of those around us, and our own faith. While I’m not sure I have some of those characteristics in my patriarchal blessing, I do know that I have a sincere desire to obtain those qualities.

After realizing that I did have a growing seed of faith, as a seven year old primary student, I decided that I could be baptized. But I’ve never stopped analyzing my own faith, measuring it, testing it, trying to understand the many faucets and aspects it holds. One translation of the world “faith” from Greek to English is “truth itself”. I like this translation-it makes things ironic. We hope for things we can’t physically see, but true faith can only be truth. When I was ten, I asked my mom how she knew that some crazy didn’t write the Book of Mormon. Her response was “I have faith”, and of course I responded with a “Yeah, me too, but how do you know?” The words “truth” and “knowledge” show up in the same verse twenty seven times in the standard works, and each of them point to this truth: “You receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith”[5]. Today I realize that truth, knowledge, and faith are all synonymous with each other. All truth and knowledge comes from faith, and all faith comes from truth and knowledge.

I hope I can keep sight of that time when I questioned my faith, and received the answer that my faith is like a little seed, it is planted, and it is growing. Trees do not shoot up from nowhere; faith does not shoot up from nowhere. We all must cultivate, and nurture our faith if we expect it to grow. As I come to more fully understand my faith, my small seed grows another root; another anchor holds me to the ground of gospel knowledge.

[1] Matthew 17:20
[2] Matthew 8:26
[3] 1 Nephi 2:19
[4] Doctrine and Covenants 11:10
[5] Doctrine and Covenants 8:1


D-Weezy said...

That was an amazing story about you and your horse. Your trust in the Lord is great and it seems to me like he has blessed you with a great testimony of the gospel. Thanks for your sweet words.

Valerie said...

Nice job. I really liked your word choice when you were talking about Nephi and how the story left you invigorated. That is exactly what the scriptures do - they inspire, teach and energize. Thanks for your testimony!

Alexa said...

Wow--what another great post! I felt really touched by your story. It gave me chills! People who read this can really feel your testimony through your words. Again, awesome job.

Ashley Wilson said...

Okay so I think if you aren't an english major you definitely should be. Your blogs have been amazing and awe inspiring!