Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Faith Cometh By Hearing

Romans 10: 16-17:   But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Who hath believed our report? Who was reporting? And who was this unbelieving audience?  What did the report include?  Why was the audience not accepting of the report?  Did it not look right? Did the messenger come as The Lord did, which was humbly, without credential, leadership position, and without an impressive bibliography? As I read the scriptures I see that unbelief in the face of authentic testimony is typical.  The authentic reports are not believed.  Yet the misleading reports are applauded.

"17: So then faith cometh by hearing,"  

Hearing what? Sentimental feelings or stories? Fables? Carefully crafted phrases? Truth mixed with error? Does faith come from hearing those things?  Or does it come from hearing something totally different?

Joseph taught "faith cometh by hearing the word of God through the testimony of the servants of God. That testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and and revelation".  (Words of Joseph Smith)

One purpose of hearing true testimony is so faith can come to you. I've experienced this. It's real, and you can feel it emanating from Spirit given words. You can hear the Masters voice when someone gives a report that originates from Him. It sparks faith.  An authorized representative speaking the words of God and not altering the message will trigger faith. 

Not all testimony or sermons or articles or talks do this however.  Some testimony is to just fill a square because that is what you do at the end of a talk or lesson.  Some testimony is to satisfy a social pressure, impress an audience, or is simply a memorized habit of speech. Sometimes strong soothing emotion, or a long distinguished bibliography is substituted for The Spirit.  Would faith come from hearing that?  Is that the report Isaiah speaks of? 

Can true faith come from hearing a soothing but false message?  Can faith come from hearing a messenger who The Lord has not sent? Who speaks his own message?  Or own opinions? Prophetic messages are known to irritate people and trigger various non "warm fuzzy" feelings. And as the scripture above says, "who hath believed our report"? Which says to us that we need to be careful to not turn away in disbelief when we hear something that is maybe new, foreign, different from our religious traditions.  Just because it's not flattering doesn't mean it's not true. Isaiah's remarks suggest not many people believe the report.  Why?  Why is it difficult to believe? Perhaps people think the message is coming from someone we perceive is not the kind of person  who The Lord should be sending to deliver a message.  Unlikely messengers are easy to disbelieve and dismiss. 

A true report can instill confidence.  Even if it's the basic testimony of a new convert. You can still notice faith stirring inside you from hearing it.  There is also a testimony of Gospel Fullness. "The Testimony of Jesus".  This is what we are all invited to have.  Scripture authors possess this and invite us to as well.  Yet we oddly don't hear this kind of report very often now days.  But I think deep down we all want to.  We desire on some level to hear true authentic reports of those who testify they have seen, heard, and experienced the Lord's ministry in a literal, personal way.  Those who report and bear testimony that the Lord still visits his followers today just as he did anciently, as promised in the scriptures.  Plain, simple words.

This is what scripture authors testify of. It doesn't come across as vague, it doesn't stop short by pointing to men, or preach just one disjointed principle.  It does hide it as "too sacred to share".  It doesn't cause you to be dependent on an organization, or men.  Instead this kind of true testimony or report points you towards being connected personally to heaven, and coming to the Lord yourself. It's plan, simple, direct, and clear.  It points to actually experiencing Gospel fullness. At some level we as church members are hungry to hear this. It's fulfilling. Faith can come and stir within you from such truths.  It motivates you to act on your belief, develop faith, and offer such sacrifices as please God and to obtain heaven's approval for yourself.

Yet what seems to occur over time in place of authentic reports are memorized phrases or mindless cliche's and endless "touching" stories.  Sometimes certain "testimony phrases" have been repeated so often by so many in authority that none of us are very clear what the words even mean anymore.  They are vague, they rely on cultural assumptions, and sometimes stop short of pointing the hearer to God.  The sea of repeated words and testimony habits can sometimes drown out those who's words carry a different meaning entirely.  The humble authentic report of someone with no status is often demoted in favor of carefully worded phrases from those with status, speaking from large pulpits.  This isn't always the case but it's worth noticing.  Sincere testimony involving the fullness of the Gospel is always found in the scriptures. What a loss it would be if scriptures were taught to be less important than modern voices who's words and testimony are often not as complete, as clear, or as full as the testimonies found in scripture.

Sometimes we doubt God will do for us what he did or is doing for others. That's another aspect to this.  We usually believe God spoke to Moses, Paul, Nephi, or Joseph Smith, and perhaps modern leaders.  The issue is we often doubt He will do the same for us.  We sometimes believe that scriptural promises are not meant to be taken personally, but instead are only for a small group of church leaders, or those in the past.  True reports from heaven do not support those conclusions.  Hearing faith via a true report can help us overcome those things by instilling confidence that we too can obey and qualify just as those in scriptures did.  The Lord is no respecter of persons.  This is evident in the story of Lamoni's father in Alma 22.   Faith came by hearing the word of God (as preached by Aaron) and it bore fruit for the hearer, and both rejoiced.

If our culture, or a body of people denied or used pressure to curtail the sharing of authentic reports or testimony it would be a great loss.  If there are none bearing "The testimony of Jesus" than what does that say about us as a people?  If there were those who were jealous, or sought for power, a sort of testimony prevention or "silencing" could occur.  What would result would be a heard mentality who relied on a leader as their intermediary.  This in contrast to how Hebrews 8 says it which is: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest."

Testimony can instill confidence about who God is, and that you too can receive and connect back to God's presence. To a sincere searcher, this is like music, the effect is real and deep.  It goes deep to your core.  You can feel confidence grow and stir inside you and spark an increased desire to exercise faith in our Lord.  But if what we ingest as "testimony" time after time does not accomplish that, it may in fact be that either we are not hearing correctly (something I'm prone to), or we may just be hearing uninspired vain words of men.  

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