I was looking up something from Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith that he gave in 1835 and I came across Jerry Stokes’ website. In his website he compares these lectures to the Word of Faith movement (which I’ve never heard of before) and says it is heretical. I will have to agree with him that many things stated in the Lectures on Faith are heretical to mainstream Christianity, which is a given for LDS theology. One of the things he points out as being heretical is the fact that Joseph Smith states that one of God’s main attributes is faith and that without faith He would cease to be God. This concept is found in Lecture 1 verses 13 – 17 and is quoted below:
13. As we receive by faith all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we in like manner receive by faith all spiritual blessings that we do receive. But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth. Thus says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, 11:3 —
14. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
15. By this we understand that the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power existing in the Deity, that all created things exist; so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth exist by reason of faith as it existed in Him.
16. Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed neither would man have been formed of the dust. It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute — for it is an attribute — from the Deity, and he would cease to exist.
17. Who cannot see, that if God framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that he exercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power? And if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in the Deity? This is the testimony of all the sacred writers, and the lesson which they have been endeavouring to teach to man.
I can understand Mr Stokes’ concern coming from a Christian perspective. He may be appalled to hear that Jehovah, who created the world, would need faith. After all, the Greek meaning of the word faith is “conviction of religious truth or of God.” If Jehovah is all-powerful and all-knowing and He is the being who we worship, what need is there for Him to have faith in Himself? Furthermore, does this lesson God’s stature and is it blasphemous to say that God has faith just as man does?
I don’t think it is wrong to say God has faith. By definition, faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” For example, we read in the first book of the Bible (Gen 1:1-2) that God created the heaven and earth and the earth was without form. The Hebrew definition of “without form” means “to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; fig. a worthless thing; adv. in vain” . Therefore, God hoped for and had faith in himself that the earth would be made and he created the beautiful world that we live in out of chaos (or nothing depending on your belief). This fits into the definition of faith that we just discussed.
Now, does saying this lessen God’s stature and elevate man’s in relation to God? Not at all. In fact, this proves the majesty of God and shows us our relationship to Him. We are humans and have seeds of divinity in that we have the power to have faith and create things, etc. But no one can create a world.
Now, I will admit that I disagree with Joseph Smith’s statement that God would “cease to exist” if He didn’t have faith. In the scriptures we read that God is never-changing and always exsisting. God would be God regardless of whether He created worlds or not.
Overall, I believe in Joseph Smith’s statements on faith and man’s relationship to God. I believe that man has great potential and that we are children of God and therefore have seeds of divinity within us.
What are your thoughts? Do you think God has faith and is it wrong to say that He has faith? Do you have any other examples from the scriptures where God or Jesus showed faith?