Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Defining Faith

In my experience in grief I often read about how faith affected or effected many things. Faith became a major focus for me and I began to really think about it, since faith is important to surviving grief and loss. One thing that became obvious is that the word “faith” is used several ways, and they do not mean the same thing. I’ve come to realize that confusion caused by the differences in meaning, and the differences in meaning, are both true across the uses of the word “faith” in the scriptures and in our dialog with each other.
Inigo Montoya - You keep using that word i do not think it means what you think it means.
First, “faith” is used to describe hope or belief. When someone applies for a job and someone else says "I have faith you will get it" they are talking the first type of faith. Alma encourages people to have this kind of faith when they experiment upon the word, to just try to give it a place in their hearts.

Second, “faith” is used to describe the spiritual process by which one reaches through to the other side and connects with the power of God. It involves the first kind of faith, but it is something more (as there is a connection leading to the repeated comments that you can't have faith in things that are not true -- you can have type one faith or hope in things that are not true, but not type two faith or connection to the power of God by hope in things that are not true because you can't connect with them).

Third, “faith” is used to describe experienced based understanding that does not rise to the level of knowledge. I.e. I have faith that the sun will rise in the morning or I have faith that my dog really loves me.

Finally, "faith" is used to describe the calm belief that results from the spiritual process of reaching through and connecting. It is the calm hope and peace that many in grief have following their prayers, it is a result, rather than a process.

In understanding the word “faith” and in using it we need to realize that just as the Greeks had words for different kinds of love (such as erotic, friendly, parental, etc.) we need words for the different kinds of faith in order to understand faith better and to understand what someone means when they use the word and it helps when we discuss faith to be clear on the type that we mean.

Also, it helps to understand that anger interferes with some kinds of faith but not others. In my own life I've found that when I was angry the Spirit couldn't reach me. It came to me as we were studying in Sunday School today and the teacher remarked that Joseph Smith had the same experience of being unable to hear God when he was angry, and that it wasn't until he let go of his anger that he regained contact with God that the same thing was true in my life.
As Joseph put it in describing his experience "when the heart is sufficiently contrite, the voice of inspiration steals in and whispers."

I've had many issues as I have dealt with my losses (and seen many others with loss deal with their issues), and when I sought to strengthen my faith. I found that for a short time anger acted as a block to faith and to the whisperings of God. It became an issue for me. Then, when I was contrite, the Spirit began to whisper to me. I still had to rebuild myself. Spiritually I was weakened from the experience, but faith was there to restore me.

Paul warns against letting bitterness spring up, and I am certain that anger is a stem of bitterness, and one that harms our faith, in all the ways faith can be a part of our lives.
  • What do you usually mean when you use the word “faith”?
  • What other obstacles do you experience to having faith?
  • Do you think there are other ways we use the word?
  • Can you think of a better word to use than “faith” for some of the things we use the word for?
  • Are we better off with just one word for all four types of faith?


Michael Rodgers said...

Nicely done! I looked back on similar episodes that shook my faith as I read. Thank you.

Scott Hinrichs said...

It's not just anger. I shut off the flow from the Spirit when I am selfish, arrogant, self righteous, distracted with worldly matters, depressed, overly giddy, etc.

It would be nice to have varied words for the various meanings of 'faith' that you have nicely illuminated in this post. But I'm not sure how we'd achieve general usage.