Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The great causative force

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Afternoon Session from the October 1975 Conference.

In his talk "A Prophet's Faith," Elder A. Theodore Tuttle made an intriguing classification of faith into two types:
I believe there are basically two kinds of faith. The kind of which I have spoken—faith that God lives and rules in the heavens—sustains us in life’s challenges. It enables us to endure without yielding, and bear the trials common to us all. This faith has characterized the lives of this people all through their history. It is a great legacy to inherit and to bequeath. 
There is another kind of faith: more powerful, less known, infrequently observed. This faith in God compounds our ability to accomplish our righteous desires. It is the creative, and generative kind of faith. This is the faith save for the exercise of which things would not happen. This is the great causative force in human lives. This is the faith that moves mountains.
I've read this over and over and I'm still not completely sure I understand the difference between these two types of faith he's talking about. I THINK maybe he means that the first kind of faith is a more internal faith; something we feel within ourselves that helps us endure trials and believe in God no matter what comes. (But isn't this faith, also, a "causative force" that causes us to remain faithful?)

And then maybe he is saying that the second type of faith reaches outside of ourselves to affect others as well. Again—I'm not sure I get his full meaning. But I always love to learn more about faith, and I think this is so interesting. I think he means that when we take the quiet, internal knowledge given us in the first type of faith—and act on it, speak of it, bring it into all aspects of our life—it then compounds and becomes even more powerful. He connects this second type to the working of miracles:
The scriptures teach that certain powers of heaven are governed by the faith of mortal men. The Lord’s ability to help us succeed is limited only by our faith in him. “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself [unto them] until after their faith.
“Neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.” (Ether 12:12, 18.)… 
We can cause righteous desires to come to pass, for in the words of our Master, “According to your faith be it unto you.” (Matt. 9:29.)  
Again, I'm a little confused, because to me it seems that the first type of faith causes miracles too—but maybe they are quieter, internal miracles—no less miraculous for being within us—but less obvious AS miracles, maybe? And less…spreadable?

To illustrate this second, "causative" faith, Elder Tuttle uses the example of when President Kimball called on the church for more missionaries:
In the last eighteen months, I’ve watched this kind of faith cause things to happen. It began with a prophet. He spoke. His words put spiritual forces into action that heretofore had been dormant. People acted. They repented. They changed. Events changed… 
A prophet not only prophesies of things that will happen. A prophet, by the exercise of faith, causes things to happen.
This made me think about how our faith can affect other people. It's a common question, I think—since agency is so important, and we know we can't "pray away" other people's right to choose how they will act, then how DO our prayers influence those we love and care about? And the example Elder Tuttle uses here almost makes me grasp something about that. Maybe it's that when our faith (the first type) grows to become so strong and clear that we speak of it naturally and openly and frequently—and others can SEE it working in our lives, shining out of us—then it becomes the second type of faith—which somehow causes those around us to feel hopeful enough or brave enough to gain a desire THEMSELVES—not a compulsion—but just a desire that truly comes from within their own spirits—to ALSO act and change?

Elder Tuttle continues:
Eighteen months ago one man expressed his faith that missionary work could be improved, become more efficient, and more productive. At that time it seemed impossible. Immediately, however, his counselors joined their faith with his faith and it was trebled. Then the Twelve joined with them and Church leaders and many members have compounded that faith again and again. Faith called forth faith and a mighty work moves forward.
Again, I'm trying to understand this how this might work. I can see how the strong faith of the prophet inspires and changes those around him. He's SO full of faith that others think, "Well, if HE thinks we can do it, surely we CAN!" which causes them to really believe it can—and the conviction spreads. (And, it occurs to me, part of the prophet's faith that things will all work out comes from his belief that the SAVIOR thinks so. So the faith has really been spread from Jesus Christ Himself.)

I don't know exactly how "moving mountains" or those bigger physical miracles fit in, but I tried to think of how this "causative force" might work in a family. If I let my quiet faith grow, and my children see how much I trust God and how firmly I believe that God will help them in their lives (even if they don't yet believe that for themselves)—perhaps in time my faith will actually become "causative" for them, in that they will think, "My mother seems sure of this. And she's been sure for so long…maybe she's right? Maybe God does love me and I can change?" It seems like even a child just having that thought might be enough to qualify as a "particle of faith"—and God will honor it—and it will lead to a swelling and growth of their own faith as well.

Or I could imagine this happening when hearing someone bear testimony. Sometimes I've heard people talk about how it makes them feel bad when they hear other people's testimonies as "too sure," because it makes them worry about weak their own faith is. "Oh, that person KNOWS WITHOUT A DOUBT that Joseph Smith was a prophet?" they think. "Well…I don't know that. What's wrong with me?" But again, I'm imagining that in the right circumstances, there could be a "causative" faith that happens there. As the listener thinks, "Wow, he sounds so sure…I wish I were that sure!"—isn't that feeling "a desire to believe"? And according to Alma, that's enough! That's enough to start the process of developing such faith for oneself.

I imagine that the circumstances must be right, of course. The person expressing conviction must be sincere and not manipulative. The initial "display of faith" must be a natural upwelling of that person's conviction, and not an attempt to show off. And I suppose that when the observer's heart isn't yet ready, he might misinterpret ANY overt display of faith as an attempt to show off. But I still think the spiritual power, the causative power, would be there, for anyone just ready enough to have a hopeful, wishful thought about their own faith.

Other posts in this series:

7 comments:

  1. So interesting. Just today I'd read this in Ether 12:14 :it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites

    And I was pondering how their faith changes the Lamanites -- if their prayers could somehow help their hearts be changed even though they couldn't change their agency. But maybe it was more what you were talking about here. Their faith stretching out and spreading and catching others. But o also do wonder sometimes about faith in general and it being an actual something and various laws of heaven. Such interesting stuff!

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    1. Yeah, I keep thinking there must be some--physical? spiritual?--REALness to faith that I just don't really grasp yet. And it's kind of one of those subjects that the more I learn about it, the more baffled I become. :) But it's a good thing for me to keep studying, I know.

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  2. This is very, very interesting. Maybe it is simpler than we like to think. Maybe if we just ask for something and really believe, than it will happen. I think I was so trained to believe that God's will be done, that I never really pray with that kind of faith. I think, if it is supposed to happen it will. That's not the kind of faith that makes things happen. That's a very passive faith. My sister was told by a man in her stake presidency that she needed to move out of Katy, Texas because she hated it so much it was affecting her mental health. She said, that's not possible because of my husband's work. He told her to go home and write down every single thing she wanted in where she lived and then pray with actual faith that God would make it happen. Six months later she moved to Rawlins, Wyoming and has every single thing that was on her list. It was amazing all the small miracles and tiny mountains that moved to allow her to wind up where she is so much happier. That is a very active, believing faith. I am not sure if that is really what is meant in this talk, but I think I am not firm enough in believing that I can really have the things that I want. Even when I pray to only say nice things to my children that day, I don't think I really believe--deep down--my own capacity to make that happen. If I strengthened my faith and really believed that my righteous desire to only speak kind words could REALLY HAPPEN, maybe that would be the kind of faith that would make it happen. That raises the question of when and how we say, "Thy will be done." Then again, it isn't unusual for us to deal with what feels like oppositional doctrines. So very, very interesting.

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    1. Oh, I could talk about this with you all day. (Are you HOME from your trip, by the way?? I must hear about it! Or you are going any time now??) I have wondered this exact same thing. The thing is, how do you regain that simple, totally trusting faith when you have a brain trained to be "rational/intellectual"? Not that belief in miracles ISN'T rational...but it can seem that way. And also, how to have that deep faith and still keep the "but if not" side of it in mind?? It's so hard. And I've felt that same thing when I'm praying for patience. "Do I REALLY BELIEVE that this miracle could happen, or am I secretly just thinking only some approximation of it is possible?" It is super interesting, and I wish I understood it better.

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  3. One more thought. My BIL, Leo, is a Colombian convert. He was Catholic prior to his conversion. He gets these CRAZY DETAILED answers to prayers. As in, whole paragraphs of information. I believe that people receive answers to prayers in many, many ways. However, I have wondered if maybe he receives these detailed, profound answers to prayers because he didn't have many preconceived notions of how God would answer his prayers. He was taught that we believe in direct, personal communication from God, and not having been raised hearing about the still small voice and simple answers and warm feelings, that he was more open to a different kind of answer. I may be totally off on that, but I have wondered if maybe we were more open to that kind of revelation we might receive it. Along those same lines, my sister read a book about a small group of isolated Russian saints and one lady wrote about how disappointed she was to visit Salt Lake and find that the Saints there didn't talk about angelic experiences ever. In their small group in Russia, all the Saints had experiences with angels fairly frequently--and they had come to accept that help and rely on that help and thought that was the experience of Saints throughout the world. We tend to be scoffers at angels, I think, whether we mean to be or not. Maybe if we truly had faith in the promise that angels would be helping us, we'd feel their presence more often. Again--my musings that may be totally wrong.

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    1. Yes! This too. I've heard things like this about the saints in many other places--where there are more "evil spirit" experiences but also more "angel" experiences. It's like the openness somehow causes things to be...different. But is it possible for an individual to harness that sort of openness, even in our skeptical culture? Or are we so steeped in skepticism that we can't escape it? I would love to learn to CULTIVATE that openness.

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  4. I'm adding my friend Kristen's comment here too (she left it on Facebook) so I can read it later and remember. So many things to think about!

    She said:
    "Okay - again, I can't comment on the account without giving the blog people access to one of my accounts, and I don't wanna. So here is the comment:

    I can't read the whole talk. I've had a nasty cold thing for a month, and I still can't focus well without full O2. But here's what I see in what he says: there is believing in God - and the faith that accompanies that sends us to church, or makes us feel guilt for doing the wrong thing. It may urge us to actually find out what the commandments are, and then to obey them, because there IS a God and he said to do it. The changes that result from this belief in and action based on that view of reality make everything healthier and braver and brighter and more hopeful.

    But his causality point is brilliant. Your picture of the spring flowers is case in point, of course. The metaphor of winter - especially this last four weeks (which is how long my "cold" has lasted) - is obvious. The overwhelming reality of storm after storm, dim light, sharply frigid air, difficulty in travel, and the dull earth below it all - it didn't help me heal. I lost my courage and cried a lot, even as I continue to pray and know my Heavenly Father loves me. But at some point, for us, decades ago, we knew that year after year this would happen, and so - in faith - we bought bulbs. They are nasty dried up little things that look like junk to the untutored or un-hopeful eye. But we read about them and we chose, and they came, and we dug holes in the earth and we put them there. And then nothing happened. Not for a long time. Then, in the darkest and most wearing of times, life happened - early life, adorable life, breaking through even the snow, a secret joy to save the heart in its lowest time. A faith exercised in a time of no need, but in faith that time continues and that the earth's designated patterns continue - an act of faith that employs memory, desire, anticipation, imagination and the trust that what is ahead will be at least a little calculate-able ible?.

    This is the causative faith. That makes us believe that teaching the children is worth the work - that fires anticipation to the point where we desire to pick up raw material and shape it. When we marry, we cause all kinds of things to happen; when we practice our faith, we cause all kinds of things to happen. It's more than believing in the plan - it's believing in that sufficient unto the day is the WORK thereof. It's taking action on spiritual faith in physical and predictive terms.

    That's what I get out of it."

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