Sunday, November 14, 2004

Reform Mormonism’s First Principle: Faith (not the generic kind you’re probably thinking of.)

November 14, 2004

The word faith is flung around loosely. Typically it’s assumed to mean either the New Testament approach of hope in things not seen, or for many more people, a simple belief in God or a higher being.

Faith is also used to designate a sect or denomination: “they’re of the Islamic faith.”

But faith – to Reform Mormons – carries a much more powerful connotation. Sure, it refers to our belief in God and to our categorization as Reform Mormons. But there’s a significant reason why it’s the first principle of our belief. It’s the first step in the important cycle of creation, and the motivating force that brought us into existence. Nothing exists without it. We have to participate in that. That’s a whole different perspective on the word.

Our fourth article of faith reads: “The first principles of our belief are: first, faith; second, knowledge; third, revelation; fourth, restoration.” For those who understand that the fourth principle, restoration, is the completion of an eternal round, bringing us back to the beginning of the process (which I’ve always found to be a lot like coming home,) faith is always seen as the first great step in learning to progress (or, the first great step away from home.) Once we complete the cycle, we’re always back at the beginning, facing the need to start again – and to begin the process, faith is required. Sometimes this is a daunting and challenging idea. Sometime we do it without even realizing we have done it.

Faith in this context is the motivating force of action. We do not make a cognitive choice, or proceed with the intent to create, if we do not believe that the results of our actions will create something.

  • Questions for consideration: Is faith just instinct? Do those who lack a sense of the need to progress lack faith?

It doesn’t take a great deal of faith to make some plans for tomorrow. It’s an easy faith that the sun will rise tomorrow morning and we will be able to perform tasks and execute plans. But the things we decide to do – particularly if they require us to “leave home” and try new, untested waters – do require faith. Faith – our belief - that there will be a desired outcome. Faith – our personal belief - that we possess the ability to do the tasks we have assigned ourselves. Faith - our personal confidence - that when things become challenging we will see them through. Faith that we will be sustained. Faith that we will have produced something of value, that our efforts will not have been wasted. The larger the task ahead, the greater the faith required.

As Reform Mormons, this type of faith is directly related to our perspective of ourselves as gods in training. As Joseph Smith taught, “this is something you have got to learn to do.” The Lectures on Faith teach that faith was the motivating force by which God created the Earth.

That’s a nice model for you to contemplate the next time you’re considering extending yourself and your abilities. That’s a great reason to try, even if you’re afraid you might fail. What you learn after you try (and succeed or fail in the process) is knowledge – the second principle of our belief. But that’s another Gospel Doctrine lesson on another day, a day I strongly believe will arrive!

Please share you thoughts and comments on faith and this lesson on the Reform Mormon Discussion Group.

Additionally, you can explore the Lectures on Faith. (These were removed from LDS canon in 1921.)

Faith, Knowledge, Revelation and Restoration are the central pillars of Reform Mormonism, at the heart of belief and action, and are integrated into Reform Mormon theology (read more) and observance, such as the Sabbath and the Endowment (read more).