Herein Lies a Key

Faith and Belief

Faith is a result of exposure to the Spirit of the Lord, and is a gift of God. Faith does not naturally reside in man. When we obey some principle of truth, or a commandment of God, or any whispering of the Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord touches our souls with a tiny increase of faith regarding that principle.

One can only have faith in things that are true. (Alma 32:21) We can’t have faith in a falsehood. Only to the extent that a principle contains truth can we exercise faith in it. For this reason, faith is always centered in Christ, because all truth flows from Christ.

Unlike faith, which is always pure, our belief structure includes both pure elements of truth, and impurities of human assumption, tradition, false conclusions, and out-and-out lies. Most of what we believe comes from the experiences of our lifetime, all of which occur in the natural world, and most of which are in some way tainted. Such false beliefs are hostile to our progress unless overridden by revealed truth.

By so noting the difference between faith and belief, we are not assigning belief second-class citizenship. Belief, while very different from faith, is the sum total of what we think, both good and bad, true and false. Belief is extremely powerful, and has a greater pull upon our lives than any other single force, because our belief literally defines our universe. Life is what we believe it to be. People are what we believe them to be. Our perception of our world, our belief structure, imposes so much distortion upon our vision, that it in many ways, it creates the world we view.

Our every act is driven by a belief. Whether that belief is based upon truth, or upon a misconception, determines whether that act is righteous or evil.

Often, our faith can be profound, while our belief about how that faith applies to us can limit, or even eliminate, our enjoyment of the fruits of our faith. Such faith-opposing believing is called “unbelief” in the scriptures. It is not necessarily an absence of faith, and can coexist with faith quite companionably. But, it is nevertheless an effective, and often long-lived, damnation of our faith.

An example of this might be: We may have faith that Heavenly Father loves us, and has the power to heal an illness or disease we may have. But, we may simultaneously believe (or assume because of what others have taught us) that Heavenly Father wants us to learn some lesson through our suffering, or that we must seek a medical solution first, turning only to Him as a last resort. Or, we may conclude that since we haven’t personally seen this magnitude of healing with our own eyes, that He may just not be doing healings of this degree nowadays, and thus, we doubt the will of God to heal us—not His power—but His intention to do so. In other words, we have great faith He can, we just don’t believe He will, and thus uninspired belief (unbelief) smothers our faith.

Another example may be: We read the scriptures and have complete faith that the Brother of Jared (or any other righteous figure) truly experienced the profound blessings, visions, revelations, and angelic visitations they record. And, even though the same prophet records that God is no respecter of persons, and liberally grants the same blessings to all who righteously seek them, we believe that the scriptures are largely for our education, and not something we can personally seek and obtain. We may conclude that such things do not happen in this day, or if they do, they would happen to someone more highly placed, or more righteous. We thereby doubt—not God’s power, which is a byproduct of our faith—but we doubt His will, to grant us a place within His promises. Such doubt is by definition, unbelief.

In other words, we extinguish the fire of faith with the cold rains of unbelief.

The Lord told Moroni:

7 And in that day that they [the latter-day gentiles] shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. (Ether 4:7, comment added)

This verse contains one of the most incredible pronouncements of promise this dispensation has ever been given. It is saying that when—notice it doesn’t say if, it implies when—we rend the veil of unbelief and develop faith like unto the Brother of Jared’s, God will unfold unto us all of His revelations, which means that we will know all things, which would enable us to part the veil in many places, and to lay hold upon all promised blessings. This promise isn’t being made just to the Quorum of the Twelve. This is a promise that is held out to every person who chooses to seek and obtain it. In other words, we have access to the same gifts in this day, in this priesthood, in this church, as the Brother of Jared used to rend the heavens in his day, which lit up his 16 stones, and his eternity.

So why aren’t we doing so? Mormon’s analysis of this incredible promise, and why we fail to lay hold upon these vast things, is illuminating:

13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief. (Ether 4:13.)

So it is unbelief, not necessarily a lack of faith, but unbelief, which keeps us captive in a state of wickedness. Does it seem harsh to characterize unbelief as wickedness? What is wickedness, if not something that destroys our faith? False beliefs always send us off in pursuit of some path other than one that leads to exaltation. And, pursuing a forbidden path is always the result of failure to heed His voice.

52 And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.

53 And by this [that they receive not my voice] you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.

54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

(D&C 84:52-54, comment added)

The Lord here defines not receiving (hearing and obeying) His voice, unbelief and wickedness as the same spiritual malady. Furthermore, He accuses that our minds have been darkened because of unbelief, not sin or a lack of faith, but unbelief! Darkened implies a prior, or even continuing, presence of light that is being ignored or dimmed because of unbelief. Our minds are robbed of the light of our own faith through our inability to believe the truths that surround us. Further, we stand in darkness because we have treated lightly the things we have received.

If our goal is to lay hold upon great things in this gospel, then these scriptural accusations of unbelief are profoundly important. If unbelief truly is the obstacle we face, then we have laid hold upon a great tool to change our spiritual lives because we alone can change what we believe. There are two ways to change what you believe, one is to wait until something glorious and profound happens before your eyes, and then believe what you saw, and the other is to let our faith, that this same event happened exactly as recorded in the scripture, reshape our belief to include ourselves in the heavenly gifts.

The first way places us into a holding pattern we can’t control. It is somewhat faithless, because we are waiting for signs and evidences. It is almost evidence of a lackluster desire to actually participate in these super-mortal blessings.

But we do have the ability to take those things we know by faith, and simply believe them. The scriptures promise us that these same blessings are ours to claim, so believe in your right to claim them. Tell yourself you believe them. Tell God in prayer that you believe them. Remind yourself hourly if necessary, that you believe these promises apply to you personally. Herein lies a key: If you do this something astonishing will happen – you will find that once you believe, nothing doubting, that the heavens do not have the ability to withhold them from your sight.

Brother John

© March 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-Commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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33 Responses to Herein Lies a Key

  1. Jason says:

    Almost every post effects me in some way but there are some like this one that even months later are still shaping me day by day. Thanks for all of the wonderful truths shared here.



  2. jowo says:

    before you read Elder Busche’s book, which is truly an amazing read, one of my all-time favorites, email my sister, marlene gallacher, again to find out more about him. he was her mission president and she will share with you some wonderful things about his faith-filled experiences.


  3. Annalea says:

    Suddenly, Mark 9_24 makes a whole lot more sense. And in pondering over this post for the last couple of days, I begin to know what “working out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” really means, because when I think about applying this knowledge, my hope soars higher than I can explain, and yet my physical heart quails and honestly tries to fear at the thought of gaining so much access to heaven, so much proximity to that which I have longed and wept and hoped for. Many, many thanks, Brother John. Many thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Betty says:

    I will take a look at the other article and I am new to your blog so I haven’t read all the wonderful articles. Thank you so much for all the time you must put into your posts. What I have read has been very inspiring and enlightening.


  5. kenh says:

    There is a talk. “Unleashing the Dormant Spirit” by F. Enzio Busche. This talk is a very powerful explanation of how to increase one’s faith and overcome unbelief. Thank you John for this post.


  6. betty says:

    I read the article about priesthood blessings, to follow up on this blog, and the example of Julie. She made a covenant in her pre earth life to sacrafice and return to heaven. Now I am confused, If the prayers and faith of those that bless her use faith and belief she will be healed, and she is not, then doesn’t it come back to the argument they had faith but maybe her healing wasn’t in Heavenly Fathers plan which would bring in doubt or unbelief? I hope that makes sense because this issue has bothered me for along time. I have faith the Lord can do anything but it may not be in the “plan” so according to your blog, I do not have sufficient belief.


    • Hi Betty,

      It’s more complex than just believing strongly enough. I’ve written dozens of articles on this subject and perhaps I sometimes assume people have read some of them. I really shouldn’t assume such things. I just wrote a comment to Sarah that addresses this question somewhat. There is also an article on Justice and how it plays into priesthood blessings.

      When it comes to health and healing we have a lot of emotion and a little faith. It isn’t a simple answer, and the answer is different for every person because our paths are different. Take a look at the article referenced above and then ask your next question. I’ll do my best to answer it, but it may take a time or two.


  7. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this post. It really struck a chord with me, as I have been struggling personally for the last few months with some health issues. So here’s my question: Is believing that Heavenly Father wants us to learn something from our suffering always an uninspired belief?

    When health problems arise for me, I typically want to find the cause and fix it myself. It’s only after my search fails that I turn to priesthood blessings for relief. It would be foolish for me to eat a sugar-laden diet and then request a priesthood blessing to heal my rotting teeth. Right? (I couldn’t think of another example, but you know what I mean.)

    When so many health professionals and remedies were unable to help me, people started suggesting that I go to an “emotional healer” or other energy-healing type person At that point, I still had not asked for a priesthood blessing and as I contemplated these alternatives, I felt the priesthood blessing would be the more difficult choice as it would require that I find out the Lord’s will for me…which most likely would require mighty prayer, fasting, serious spiritual focus, etc. It would be so much easier to just go to the emotional healer and have them tell me what’s wrong with me and how to fix it.

    Maybe if I were a better person, I wouldn’t have to work so hard to know the Lord’s will. I feel like I’m just now learning how to distinguish between my own thoughts and the Holy Ghost…

    In the meantime, I’ve been telling myself that the Lord must want me to learn something from my present suffering. And then I read this post…


    • No, I think Heavenly Father does want us to learn by our suffering. Actually, that’s the arrangement of mortality to learn by our experience the good from the evil. Suffering is part of mortality, so we can’t avoid it. But, suffering isn’t the lesson itself. We’re not here to learn how to suffer. We’re here to learn how to obey, how to choose the right in every choice, and how to give up the natural man.

      The only way to know what the Lord wants us to do is to do it. We start with the small things, like prayer and scripture study when the Spirit prompts us and progress to the greater. I don’t know that many people have a grand view of everything the Lord plans for us. Mostly we see one step at a time and walk it by faith. It becomes right to ask for a priesthood blessing when the prompting to ask for one enters our heart. That’s the point at which we need to stop and do His will. During the blessing or after, more steps will come to our mind.

      The object of illness isn’t to get well. The object of illness isn’t to be ill. The object of illness is to learn to obey.

      You may be aware that I am ill myself. I will probably die from this illness. Yet, this process of being ill and struggling has brought me the sweetest blessings I have ever known. The funny thing is that I have received miraculous cures to some parts of my illness, while others continue to evolve. I have been miraculously spred many times, but not completely cured. I don’t even care. My walk is by faith, and my blessings come to me by seeking His will and doing it, not by being cured. Being sick has given me power to search harder, to seek longer, to obey with greater faith, to do things and write things I would never had the opportunity to do.

      I’m not sure I answered your question, but I know the answers are out there – but the answer isn’t always how to be cured. Sometimes it is how to fly.



  8. Steve Hansen says:

    Another thought on believing in miracles occurring in MY life: it’s difficult to pray for a spiritual gift at times because I tend to question my own motives. Is it for the building up of Zion or to satisfy my own desires? A true cynic, I don’t even trust myself. Your last entry before this one is a help in that it enciourages me to pray that my motives may be made pure. Once that happens, and once my belief trumps my unbelief (with the Lord’s help), I should expect to see the arm of the Lord revealed, wouldn’t you agree?


    • You really know how to ask hard questions. I don’t believe there is a formula to righteousness, but some of the hallmarks are having a pure motive and overcoming unbelief. Like you said, I would expect that any step in those directions would pry open the heavens a little bit more.

      I don’t view spirituality as being hard, or illusive. It seems more full of grace and unexpectedly wonderful to me. The greatest blessings seem to flow when I’m trying hard, but expecting it the least, usually at one minute to midnight in some struggle.

      Onward and upward,



  9. Jason says:

    This was a wonderful post that has helped tie together a lot of my recent thoughts. I think that an area where this is truest for me is in giving Priesthood Blessings. I feel like my lack of knowledge is a major contributor to my portion of unbelief in the power of a priesthood blessing. My faith is stronger than ever in the Priesthood but my unbelief holds me back from exercising the power of the Priesthood to its fullest power. Does anyone have any great talks or sections of books that really teach about Priesthood blessings? Talks along the same lines as Elder Oak’s recent talk on Priesthood blessings? Thanks!


  10. Don says:

    False beliefs can be an overwhelming power in ones life. Just ask that arrogant friend that always believes they are right, the addict that believes they need that next fix, the down and out sinner that believes they have no way out. But what about the poor misguided teenager that straps a bomb to his chest and goes into a crowded public place to end his life and anyone standing close to him, with the belief/faith that he is insured a high place in heaven. If action in a belief constitutes faith, than that youth has greater faith than most of your readers….Of course end results of an act will show it to be good or evil, and we only have the scriptures and the power of discernment to tell the difference. That must be why only God has the right to judge and it is required of us to forgive all men.


    • You are right of course. False beliefs actually are the genesis of everything we do wrong. My point was more that when there is faith, and we know something is true, that we can energize our faith or bury it depending upon what we believe about it.

      Thanks for the comment.


      • Steve Hansen says:

        But if I actually am always right, it’s okay, right?


      • Steve Hansen says:

        Seriously, though do you think something like OCD could amount to a faith-harming belief system?


      • Steve Hansen says:

        Not this time, but I think you know I have a different sense of humor. In thinking about OCD and the obsessive thoughts and rituals, it’s occurred to me that they could take away from spiritual growth, if one were to allow it. It has just been on my mind lately, since although OCD (or CDO, if you prefer alphabetical order) is simply how one’s mind works, it can be similar to addiction. If that be the case then the Grace of Jesus Christ can conquer that, too. I suppose in all this rumination I’ve answered my own question.

        Let me work harder at avoiding excessive light-mindedness.


  11. jowo says:

    Fred Babbel was our uncle and a most amazing faith-filled man who used his gift of healing to aid many people. He wrote 3 books; his most well-received is On Wings of Faith, which chronicles his experiences with Ezra Taft Benson in post-war Germany. It is a classic, has been re-printed several times and is still available to purchase.
    -Joyce Woolf and Marlene Gallacher


  12. Heather Joyce says:

    Unbelief is truly caused by what we allow to fill our minds. This is a principle I am currently being taught. I love the scripture in Jacob 3 that tells us if our minds are firm, we can feast on God’s love eternally. I just need to keep my mind firmly focused on Him!


  13. Steve says:


    Thank you for this post.

    I have heard and thought that unbelief is actually faith that we can’t or the Lord won’t. It is a something not a lack of something. So we need to fill ourselves with something which will push the unbelief out. That something being faith.

    I was given a book – To Him That Believeth by Frederick W. Babbel – and in it the author talks about a time when he needed to fly home but the flight was booked. So he went to his seat in the gate area and for a period of time he saw in his mind the woman at the gate telling him that he had a seat. He imagined the exact scenario and her words over and over again. And, yes, it played out exactly as he had imagined.



    • Sharon says:

      I believe Brother Babbel wholeheartedly, and apparently his desire to get on the flight was aligned with Heavenly Father’s desire for him to be on the flight because I assume he arrived at his destination safely and everything went well. I wonder though, what would have happened had he gotten on the flight but it was not Father’s will for him to go on the flight at that time?

      Indeed, the power is within us to effect the outcome our our lives, but use of this power should always be done in a spirit of “….not my will but thine.”


  14. Elder Stroud says:

    Awesome Brother John. Thank you so much.


  15. Sharon says:

    Truly “…all things are possible to him that believeth” – Mark 9:23. This is what causes the placebo effect in healing. If healing were not a true principle, no matter how sincerely a person believed that the pill they took will heal them, the healing would not take place. Could we therefore say that simply believing in something that is true is faith?

    If I believed in something that is true and received my desired outcome, but my desired outcome was not aligned with Heavenly Father’s desire for me, then the outcome of my belief may be detrimental.



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