This year I am focusing my personal scripture study on the Book of Mormon, but instead of reading it from cover to cover I have created a topics list and I’m trying to study the principles the Book of Mormon teaches by topic. Last week the topic was faith and one of the reference chapters is Ether 12. (I have three weeks dedicated to this topic alone since it is referenced so much.) Each week I have between 5-7 chapters I focus on. I try to read and re-read these chapters a few different times and then go through them one final time taking notes on my impressions and looking for connections. I’ve also decided not to move on the next topic until I feel like I have really learned from the reference chapters. Consequently I have read Ether 12 no less than 4 times in the last two weeks. This is one of my all time favorite sermons in the Book of Mormon.
If you aren’t familiar with the Book of Mormon it is an abridgment of the records of the ancient American peoples (Nephities, and Lamanites mainly with a few Mulekites, Jaredites, etc, thrown in). It’s main compiler is the prophet Mormon (thus the Book of Mormon). Ether chapter 12 is Mormon recounting the greatest acts of faith that he’s learned of from the records he’s abridged and his testimony of the power of faith. He says:
Verse 7: “For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead…”
Verse 13: “Behold, it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth.”
Verse 14: “Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”
Verse 15: “Behold, it was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which wrought so great a miracle among the Lamanites.”
Verse 16: “Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ and also those who were after….”
Verse 22: “And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren through the Gentiles…”
But that’s not the most interesting part. It really gets good in verse 23-29. Mormon’s list of prophetic achievements by faith lead him to consider his own important calling and in a moment of self doubt he wonders if his work abridging the record will be enough to covert those who will some day read it . He says to God:
” …Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them; And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them. Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.”
This is a valid concern. It is a concern we all share when we bare honest testimony. “Will the people to whom I am testifying mock my heartfelt confession of belief?” “What if I am not enough to convince them?” “What if I screw up, use the wrong words, or make a fool of myself, will they ignore the message of Jesus Christ because of ME?” I know I’ve felt this way. I know that my faith has needed strengthening time and time again. I know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. Faith is an act of courage, and courage is defined by it’s roots in fear. We cannot be brave if we’ve never been scared. We cannot be strong if we haven’t experienced weakness. To be faithful means trusting in God despite our fear/weakness/insecurity. God teaches this principle to Mormon in verses 28.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
What I learn from this scripture is that my own weaknesses are growth opportunities. They are the seeds of faith that Alma taught about. Why? Because recognizing my flaws requires me to trust in God to make up the difference. This is the case for the Book of Mormon. Honestly, Mormon had a just concern about the book he was compiling. Literary speaking, it is kind of a hot mess. It has a variety of authors who’s styles lack structure and even conflict with one another at times, it is less then chronological (which is highly confusing), it’s historical context is vague, and it’s origin story can seem dubious to the disbelieving. But to the faithful, the humble, the sincere the Book of Mormon is a masterpiece! It awakes a deep sense of the divine and blesses all who will turn it’s pages searching for truth. For many of us (especially those that convert in adulthood) the Book of Mormon is a challenge, but God’s promise to Mormon rings true when we have faith. When we “no more than desire to believe” and “experiment upon the word” , the Book of Mormon becomes the “keystone of our religion“, the strongest part of our faith, and we recognize it’s perfect harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ found in the Bible. That is the miracle of faith; that is what allowed the miracles Mormon describes in Ether 12 to come to pass.
This chapter teaches me that there are miracles waiting to happen in my own life when I extend faith. I believe the same is true for all of us and encourage you to allow your doubt, your sorrow, your weakness to help you grow. I think this what Elder President Dieter F. Uchtdorf meant when he said,
“…please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Come Join with Us, October 2013 General Conference.
Blessings, miracles, and personal revelation are just around the corner for all of us. I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon and find within it’s pages the miracles of faith that are waiting for you.