Saturday, 3 November 2012

Faith (Part One) A Sermon of The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ

By Matthew P. Gill, 28 October, 2012

As expressed in our fourth Article of faith, The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ believes that faith in the Lord is the first principle of the Gospel. Faith is the motivating and sustaining power that gives us the strength and courage to live righteously each and every day. And it is absolutely necessary to our exaltation with the Father.

Faith has always fascinated people the world over for centuries; they have tried to understand what it is and how they should express it in their everyday lives. It has often been the case that some of these people can offer us insights that will strengthen our own understanding of faith.

Such an individual was Alfred Lord Tennyson. Alfred Lord Tennyson was England’s Poet Laureate for many years and was probably Britain’s best known poet during the second half of the ninetieth century.

In 1827, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined probably the most distinguished group of young thinkers in the country, they were called The Apostles. In that group, he met and became close friends with Arthur Henry Hallam. Hallam died 1833, leaving Tennyson grief-stricken and increasingly doubtful that God was loving and kind, since he allowed the death of such a remarkable man just at the beginning of a great career.

In the sixteen years following his friend’s death, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote 131 short poems, which later he compiled and published as In Memoriam, in honour of Arthur Henry Hallam. In this monumental and inspiring work, Tennyson describes his sadness and doubt, analyzes problems of faith, and shows how he is finally able to trust the goodness of God, even though he doesn’t understand all that happens in the world.

In two short poems that make up In Memoriam, notice how Tennyson is able to have faith even when he does not have complete understanding of faith. In the following passage, we see Tennyson struggling to believe that every life has a purpose and that nothing lives in vain. He wants to have faith that God will ultimately triumph, even though death and despair seem to triumph now.

“Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final end of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

In this next passage, he explains that only faith in Christ can enable a person to make sense of life.

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made…

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow…

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.” (In Memoriam Preface)

Tennyson acknowledges that God made life and death, and he has triumphed over death. He recognises that we must have faith, for we cannot have all knowledge while we are here on earth. And he asks for forgiveness for grief, for he has faith that his friend is still alive and that he lives in a better place than this earth. The entire poem is moving declaration of how faith can overcome grief and teach us hope even when we lack understanding.

As Latter Day Mormons, we believe that faith is a bridge between us and God. The image of the bridge helps us understand how faith works in our lives; faith is the element that builds the bridge in the absence of concrete evidence. This is exactly what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews was talking about when he referred to faith as ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ (Hebrews 11:1)

So as we develop faith we become more able to build a bridge between our own knowledge and the assurances that God has given us of things we cannot see. By overcoming trials and diligently keeping commandments, we can build a bridge of faith so solid that we will never be out of contact with God.

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