Sunday, January 31, 2010

Faith To Be Healed: Part I

The Lord’s healing of both our physical and our spiritual afflictions is conditioned upon our faith in Him and made possible through His Atonement, in which He took upon Himself the pains and sins of all mankind. Having overcome all, the Lord gained the power to allow us to do the same, if we would but rely on the witness of the Holy Ghost, who testifies of Him.

Faith: A Definition

Faith is a conviction of and firm reliance on the existence, efficacy, and applicability of the saving power of God. It is a gift given by God through the Spirit to His children in order to help them to center their lives in Him (D&C 46:19; 1 Corinthians 12:31). Faith is a gift of the Spirit that bestows the assurance of that which is unseen (Hebrews 11:1). This assurance is intangible but nonetheless real (Alma 32:35). It gives us power borne of certainty and inspires us to action, to experimenting upon the word of God, by which we gain a perfect knowledge of its truthfulness (Alma 32:34).

Faith is a principle of belief, of action, and of power (See Lectures on Faith, 7:2). President Boyd K. Packer described faith, saying:

"There are two kinds of faith. One of them functions ordinarily in the life of every soul. It is the kind of faith born by experience; it gives us certainty that a new day will dawn…It is the kind of faith that relates us with confidence to that which is scheduled to happen… There is another kind of faith, rare indeed. This is the kind of faith that causes things to happen. It is the kind of faith that is worthy and prepared and unyielding, and it calls forth things that otherwise would not be. It is the kind of faith that moves people. It is the kind of faith that sometimes moves things… It is a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity. Directed and channeled, it has great effect." (Boyd K. Packer, "What is Faith?" "Faith" [Salt Lake City: Desert Book Co., 1983], p. 42, emphasis added)

Faith to be healed is included in this second type of faith. Such faith draws upon and channels the powers of heaven to restore lost physical and spiritual strength. Faith gives us both the assurance of healing and the means whereby that healing is accomplished.

Faith to be Healed

Throughout Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, He, through faith, made the afflicted whole, forgave sins and alleviated suffering. He commended the centurion for his great faith that his servant might be healed, proclaiming, “I have not seen so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8:10). To the woman with an issue of blood whose faith that “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole” drove her to experimenting upon that witness of the Spirit, Jesus proclaimed, “Go in peace…thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mark 5:23, 34). Zeezrom, close to death, was healed by the same power, “according to his faith…in Christ” (Alma 15:10).

The healing power of Christ is available on the earth today through the authority of the priesthood. Although the miracles of modern medicine can do much to prolong and improve life, they cannot consistently guarantee healing. The power of man is limited, but the power of God transcends and overcomes all things. President Gordon B. Hinckley testified that, although doctors can do much, “The mighty Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that in them are has given to His servants a divine power that sometimes transcends all the powers and knowledge of men" (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Healing Power of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 52).

The Lord is able to provide relief from physical suffering, even when mortal capabilities are insufficient. During His time in mortality, He “went about doing good,” causing the “dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see” (Acts 10:38, Matthew 15:31). This same power to do good, to heal the sick in the name of Jesus Christ, is available today through the administration of those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. The faith to be healed and its companion, the faith to heal, are gifts of the Spirit given to those who need and earnestly desire them, according to the power and mercy of God (D&C 46:19-20).

But the Lord’s healing was, and is, extended to more than physical ailments, for Christ has the power to heal souls, to “make whole,” to reconcile the sinner with God, to make life complete. The Lord speaks to Isaiah of the sinfulness of His people, comparing it to physical illness: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5-6). In our day, President Hinckley also spoke of this less recognized but more debilitating ailment, saying, “there is much of sickness among us other than that of the body. There is the sickness of sin.…Legion are those who have testified of the healing power of Christ to lift them from the desolation of sin to higher and nobler living" (ibid.). As ancient and modern prophets testify, Christ can heal sicknesses of the body and those of the soul. The Savior taught the Nephites of the consequences of sin, warning them that, “whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul,” but cautioned his people against passing judgment, “for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them” (3 Nephi 18:29, 32). If the Lord can heal the repentant who have knowingly partaken of damnation, He will surely extend that healing to those whose transgressions carry less serious consequences.

To the man sick of the palsy, Christ first proclaimed, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee”—and only afterwards did He command him to “rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (Mark 2:5-9). Both healings were performed, however, only after “Jesus saw their faith” (Mark 2:5). The Lord’s coupling of the two healings teaches an important lesson—that healing one’s body from sickness and healing one’s soul from sin are both done by the same power, through faith in the infinite and eternal power of His Atonement. Christ asked the observing scribes to consider “is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” (Mark 2:9). The unspoken answer is a definitive no, for both proclamations are made possible by the same power, and both are equally easy—or, more precisely, both are equally hard. The forgiveness of sins and the alleviation of sickness were made possible by the Atonement, the most difficult act ever performed, the act that endowed the Son of God with the greatest power in creation. Through that power, “all things are possible,” but only “to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).

1 comment:

  1. While I don't disagree with the Packer quote that begins, "There are two kinds of faith...," I wonder at the rarity he posits for the second kind of faith. When I look around me at the world I see that kind of faith all the time and everywhere. The world is rich with it, that faith that "causes things to happen." For some it is to build a building, for some to get their preemie baby out of intensive care, for some it is to finish a degree, get a job, move to a better house, or just plain get out of bed and get through the day. People all over the world move forward, they hurl themselves into life, change themselves and the world around them, they stand for something good. Are these not moved with and by faith of this second sort? Why should our rhetoric be exclusionary? This marvelous, transcendent, invisible, electric power is not the exclusive property of the LDS people, but the heritage of all the children of God, to use as they understand it and need it. Having the restored gospel may allow us to focus it a little better, though I've seen how we waste our opportunities, but it exists out there in abundance. Just my thought. Thanks for writing. As always, you entice me to think and ponder, and I appreciate that.