Sunday, August 12, 2012

Growing Faith for the Cynic

artwork by Davey.
I had the opportunity this week to explain my understanding of how to grow faith for a very good friend of mine who is considering no longer being atheistic/agnostic.  I thought it might be helpful to share here for others who similarly wonder how, when they have been trained to think critically, they can begin to develop faith from scratch.

I take what I know here from a Book of Mormon prophet named Alma, from the thirty-second chapter of the book in the Book of Mormon that he and his son authored.

Alma explains that faith is like planting a seed.  You can't tell just by looking at a seed whether it is a good seed; the only way to know is to plan it and tend it and wait for it to grow.

Before all of this, however, Alma teaches us that we need to give our seeds and our faith a place to grow and not "cast it out by your unbelief." Seeds don't grow very well when exposed and above ground.

I had always taught (on my mission or in FHE and Primary lessons) that a seed needs three things to grow: water, soil, and sun.  A little boy in my White Chapel, London Primary (see this post for another reference to him) corrected me in saying that no, seeds and faith needed *four* things to grow.  Ok, said, I.  What is the fourth?  Time, he said.

And so it does.  Faith, like seeds, need four things in a time-sensitive fashion to grow:  scripture reading and prayer on a daily basis, going to church on a weekly basis, and time.  Time to tend and cultivate, time to be patient and see what happens.

The way we know if our seed of faith is good is based on how we feel within ourselves.  Alma describes it as a "swelling."  This is, of course, the Holy Spirit, given to help us know truth.  People feel it differently--mine feels like cold wind rushing down my back--but it always feels good and peaceful.  The children my husband and I teach in Primary have described it by saying they felt like they were getting a hug from a cloud, like their insides were on fire, or like they wanted to do and be good.  All very good descriptions.

When we believe and cultivate something that is true and pure, it will grow quickly and, if tended over time, will produce great fruit.

I certainly have seen this, not only in my own life, but with the Primary children that my husband and I teach.  As we have taught them how to pray, recognize the Spirit, and navigate and read the scriptures, I have seen their testimonies and their faith take off, like little Davey, Primary artwork pictured above.


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