The Lectures on Faith is a series of seven lectures published in 1835 as part of the Doctrine and Covenants and remained until 1921.
Bruce R. McConkie said of the Lectures on Faith:
“In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language—that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true.”Bruce R. McConkie, “The Lord God of Joseph Smith,”discourse delivered January 4, 1972, in Speeches of the Year (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1972)
The lectures contain great insights into the nature and role of faith in Latter-day thought. The following is an abridgement of the main content.
What Faith Is
Faith is a principle of action – in secular terms
If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action, in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.
Faith was used by God in creating the world – a principle of power
By this we understand that the principle of power, which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power, existing in the Deity, that all created things exist—so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, exist by reason of faith, as it existed in HIM.
Faith is used by man in performing miracles
Moroni, while abridging and compiling the record of his fathers, has given us the following account of faith as the principle of power: He says, in Ether 12:13, that it was the faith of Alma and Amulek which caused the walls of the prison to be wrent, as recorded in Alma 14:23-29; it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi which caused a change to be wrought upon the hearts of the Lamanites, when they were immersed with the Holy Spirit, and with fire, as seen in Helaman 5:37-50; and that it was by faith that the mountain Zerin was removed, when the brother of Jared spake in the name of the Lord. See also Ether 12:30.
Faith is the sustaining power of the universe
Faith, then, is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things: by it they exist, by it they are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeably to the will of God. Without it, there is no power, and without power there could be no creation, nor existence!
The Idea of God
God is the supreme governor
We here observe that God is the only supreme governor, and independent being, in whom all fulness and perfection dwells; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift, and every good principle dwells; and that he is the Father of lights: In him the principle of faith dwells independently; and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings centers, for life and salvation.
Three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
First, The idea that he actually exists.
Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.—For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everything (indirectly) testifies of God as creator
We do not mean those evidences which are manifested by the works of creation, which we daily behold with our natural eyes: we are sensible, that after a revelation of Jesus Christ, the works of creation, throughout their vast forms and varieties, clearly exhibit his eternal power and Godhead. Romans 1:20: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: even his eternal power and Godhead. But we mean those evidences by which the first thoughts were suggested to the minds of men that there was a God who created all things.
God revealed himself (directly) to man from the beginning so they could exercise faith in him
From this we can see that the whole human family, in the early age of their existence, in all their different branches, had this knowledge disseminated among them; so that the existence of God became an object of faith, in the early age of the world. And the evidences which these men had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of their fathers in the first instance.
The Character and Attributes of God
He was God before the world was created, and the same God after
An acquaintance with these attributes in the divine character, is essentially necessary, in order that the faith of any rational being can center in him for life and salvation. For if he did not, in the first instance, believe him to be God, that is, the creator and upholder of all things, he could not center his faith in him for life and salvation, for fear there should be a greater than he, who would thwart all his plans, and he, like the gods of the heathen, would be unable to fulfill his promises; but seeing he is God over all, from everlasting to everlasting, the creator and upholder of all things, no such fear can exist in the minds of those who put their trust in him, so that in this respect their faith can be without wavering.
He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness
But secondly: Unless he was merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, long suffering, and full of goodness, such is the weakness of human nature, and so great the frailties and imperfections of men, that unless they believed that these excellencies existed in the divine character, the faith necessary to salvation could not exist; for doubt would take the place of faith, and those who know their weakness and liability to sin, would be in constant doubt of salvation, if it were not for the idea which they have of the excellency of the character of God, that he is slow to anger, and long suffering, and of a forgiving disposition, and does forgive iniquity, transgression and sin. An idea of these facts does away doubt, and makes faith exceedingly strong.
He changes not
But it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, as it is to have the idea that he is gracious and long suffering. For without the idea of unchangeableness in the character if the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith. But with the idea that he changes not, faith lays hold upon the excellencies in his character with unshaken confidence, believing he is the same yesterday, to-day and forever, and that his course is one eternal round.
He is a God of truth and cannot lie.
And again, the idea that he is a God of truth and cannot lie, is equally as necessary to the exercise of faith in him, as the idea of his unchangeableness. For without the idea that he was a God of truth and could not lie, the confidence necessary to be placed in his word in order to the exercise of faith in him, could not exist. But having the idea that he is not man that he can lie, it gives power to the minds of men to exercise faith in him.
He is no respecter of persons
But it is also necessary that men should have an idea that he is no respecter of persons; for with the idea of all the other excellencies in his character, and this one wanting, men could not exercise faith in him, because if he were a respecter of persons, they could not tell what their privileges were, nor how far they were authorized to exercise faith in him, or whether they were authorized to do it at all, but all must be confusion; but no sooner are the minds of men made acquainted with the truth on this point, that he is no respecter of persons, than they see that they have authority by faith to lay hold on eternal life the richest boon of heaven, because God is no respecter of persons, and that every man in every nation has an equal privilege.
He is love
And lastly, but not less important to the exercise of faith in God, is the idea that he is love; for with all the other excellencies in his character, without this one to influence them, they could not have such powerful dominion over the minds of men; but when the idea is planted in the mind that he is love, who cannot see the just ground that men of every nation, kindred and tongue, have to exercise faith in God so as to obtain eternal life?
The Attributes of God
First, Knowledge. Acts 15:18: Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Isaiah 46:9-10: Remember the former things of old; for I am God and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient time the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
Faith or power
Secondly, Faith, or power. Hebrews 11:3: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Isaiah 14:24,27: The Lord of hosts has sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
Thirdly, Justice. Psalms 89:14: Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne. Isaiah 45:21: Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take council together: who has declared this from the ancient time? Have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior. Zephaniah 3:5: The just Lord is in the midst thereof. Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King comes unto thee: he is just, and having salvation.
Fourthly, Judgment. Psalms 89:14: Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne. Deuteronomy 32:4: He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without inequity: just and right is he. Psalms 9:7: But the Lord shall endure forever: he has prepared his throne for judgment. Psalms 9:16: The Lord is known by the judgment which he executes.
Fifthly, Mercy. Psalms 89:15: Mercy and truth shall go before his face. Exodus 34:6: And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious. Nehemiah 9:17: But thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful.
And Sixthly, Truth. Psalms 89:14: Mercy and truth shall go before thy face. Exodus 34:6: Long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth. Deuteronomy 32:4: He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment. A God of truth and without iniquity: just and right is he. Psalms 31:5: Into thy hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
The Effects that Flow from Faith in God
When you live by faith you come closer to God
From this we learn that the many exhortations which have been given by inspired men to those who had received the word of the Lord, to have faith in him, were not mere common-place matters, but were for the best of all reasons, and that was, because, without it there was no salvation, neither in this world nor in that which is to come. When men begin to live by faith they begin to draw near to God; and when faith is perfected they are like him; and because he is saved they are saved also; for they will be in the same situation he is in, because they have come to him; and when he appears they shall be like him, for they will see him as he is.
Salvation is a creation of those who walk by faith
As all the visible creation is an effect of faith, so is salvation, also. (We mean salvation in its most extensive latitude of interpretation, whether it is temporal or spiritual) In order to have this subject clearly set before the mind, let us ask what situation must a person be in, in order to be saved? or what is the difference between a saved man and one who is not saved? We answer from what we have before seen of the heavenly worlds, they must be persons who can work by faith, and who are able, by faith to be ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation. And they must have faith to enable them to act in the presence of the Lord, otherwise they cannot be saved. And what constitutes the real difference between a saved person and one not saved, is the difference in the degree of their faith: one’s faith has become perfect enough to lay hold upon eternal life, and the other’s has not. But to be a little more particular, let us ask, where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimilated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? or in other words, where shall we find a saved being? for if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain, without much difficulty, what all others must be, in order to be saved—they must be like that individual or they cannot be saved: we think, that it will not be a matter of dispute, that two beings, who are unlike each other, cannot both be saved; for whatever constitutes the salvation of one, will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved: and if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be, or else not be saved. We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is a just and holy being; and if he were any thing different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitutes salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him: Thus says John, in his first epistle, 3:2 and 3: Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And any man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.—Why purify himself as he is pure? because, if they do not they cannot be like him.
Greater works are to be done in eternity by those who have faith
All these sayings put together, give as clear an account of the state of the glorified saints as language could give — The works that Jesus done they were to do, and greater works than those which he done among them should they do, and that because he went to the Father. He does not say that they should do these works in time; but they should do greater works because he went to the Father. He says, in the 24th verse: Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory. These sayings, taken in connection, make it very plain, that the greater works, which those that believed on his name, were to do, were to be done in eternity, where he was going, and where they should behold his glory. He had said, in another part of his prayer, that he desired of his Father, that those who believed on him should be one in him, as he, and the Father were one in each other: Neither pray I for these (the apostles) alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their words; that they all may be one: that is, they who believe on him through the apostles’ words, as well as the apostles themselves: that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee: that they also may be one in us.
They will be a partaker in God’s glory
It is scarcely necessary here to observe what we have previously noticed: That the glory which the Father and the Son have, is because they are just and holy beings; and that if they were lacking in one attribute or perfection which they have, the glory which they have, never could be enjoyed by them; for it requires them to be precisely what they are in order to enjoy it: and if the Savior gives this glory to any others, he must do it in the very way set forth in his prayer to his Father: by making them one with him, as he and the Father are one.—In so doing he would give them the glory which the Father has given him; and when his disciples are made one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one, who cannot see the propriety of the Savior’s saying, The works which I do, shall they do; and greater works than these shall they do, because I go to the Father?
Faith leads to a knowledge of God
These sayings put together, show the Apostle’s views, most clearly, so as to admit of no mistake on the mind of any individual. He says that all things that pertain to life and godliness were given unto them through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And if the question is asked, how were they to obtain the knowledge of God? (for there is a great difference between believing in God and knowing him: knowledge implies more than faith. And notice, that all things that pertain to life and godliness, were given through the knowledge of God;) the answer is given, through faith they were to obtain this knowledge; and having power by faith to obtain the knowledge of God, they could with it obtain all other things which pertain to life and godliness.
From this we may extend as far as any circumstances may require whether on earth or in heaven, and we will find it the testimony of all inspired men, or heavenly messengers, that all things that pertain to life and godliness are the effects of faith and nothing else: all learning, wisdom, and prudence fail, and every thing else as a means of salvation but faith. This is the reason that the fishermen of Galilee could teach the world—because they sought by faith and by faith obtained. And this is the reason that Paul counted all things but filth and dross—what he formerly called his gain he called his loss; yea, and he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. Philippians 3:7-10: Because, to obtain the faith by which he could enjoy the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, he had to suffer the loss of all things: this is the reason that the Former Day Saints knew more, and understood more of heaven, and of heavenly things than all others beside, because this information is the effect of faith-to be obtained by no other means. And this is the reason, that men, as soon as they lose their faith, run into strifes, contentions, darkness and difficulties; for the knowledge which tends to life disappears with faith, but returns when faith returns; for when faith comes, it brings its train of attendants with it—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it disappears from the earth. For these are the effects of faith and always have, and always will attend it. For where faith is, there will the knowledge of God be also, with all things which pertain thereto—revelations, visions, and dreams, as well as every other necessary thing in order that the possessors of faith may be perfected and obtain salvation; for God must change, otherwise faith will prevail with him. And he who possesses it will, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom until he shall know God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has sent: whom to know is eternal life: Amen.