I began well, when my daughter turned twelve, she transitioned from the LDS primary program into Young Women’s, this meant a journey to begin working on her personal progress award. I wanted to earn it with her. I was amazed with the program actually in much of the same way and for many of the same reasons I’m amazed with the scouting program. It’s pretty demanding. The program is divided into values, and the young woman is supposed to work through each value until completion. The first value is faith. It started well, I could guide her through the reading assignments and basically talk her through the questions. For each component, though, she’s supposed to compose her own Family Home Evening lesson and summarize how she’s internalizing it. This is the part that’s difficult. I’m finding that I, myself, really don’t understand what it means to have faith. How can I teach it to my twelve year old daughter?
Looking back, I think I’ve really struggled with this principle all along. One quick diversion, I’m a little than a bit more haunted by Blanches last, most famous line, in The Glass Menagerie
I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.
To an extent, I can relate to this. I’ve had a lifetime struggling with self-doubt, never confident in my own ability to pull anything together, or in my ability, when faced with an emergency, to step up and be the one solve the problem. I have, rather, assumed others around me knew more, were more talented, more capable. For the most part, they seemed more confident than I felt. But I’ve also, to be honest, have had a lifetime struggling with doubt in other people, worried about being taking advantage of, being discarded, being let down.
When you doubt yourself, sometimes you depend far more than you should on the kindness of strangers. For me, though, I’ve depended a lot on the kindness of my God. Prayer has always been an important component of my life. As I’ve worried about life’s uncertainties, God’s grace has always given me enough of a foundation to move forward in my usual cautious, tepid way.
In this verse, Nephi conflates having “faith in him” with being “faithful to him”. I think there is a lot of truth to both. And I think having faith can be directed in a lot of directions: faith in myself, faith in others, faith in God, faith in my church. Each of these is a different manifestation of faith. Faulconer also points the reader to the marriage analogy often used to describe one’s relationship to Christ. Being faithful in a marriage makes perfect sense and I think being faithful is different fundamentally to being obedient. I am faithful to my wife, but that means something fundamentally deeper than being obedient to her. Similarly I strive to be faithful to God and to my church.
I love the marriage analogy, being married to my church or to my God reminds me to be faithful to it, to be loyal and to expect loyalty, to sustain it, and to expect to be sustained by it even if I don’t always agree or understand. There may be pain, but I stick with it through the pain. This is easier with God than with an institutional church, run by flawed human beings but I think it can apply to both.
I love Elder Uchtdorf’s talk inviting people to “Come Join With Us“. In this talk he says:
And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.
In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”6
Having faith that others will come through for us is difficult because they will at times let me down. People are imperfect, any organization run by people is flawed, even churches. God is perfect, but his ways are not our ways, and we don’t always understand or our channel to Him may feel muddled and unclear. Our own ears may not be tuned properly to hear what’s being said.
I think being faithful is easier. Sticking with it. Staying firm. Even when I falter, I don’t have to stray. Because I’m married. I made promises and commitments. I am sustained by these relationships. I need to do my part to sustain and support these relationships as well.