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: