Good Morning Brothers and Sisters. I am Jessica Berejkoff and for those of you who don’t know me I have the wonderful blessing to be the bishop’s favorite daughter in law. He always calls me his favorite but I think it is because I am the only one! J
Today the topic is faith. So I thought I would start with the question: What is faith?
In Hebrews chapter 11 Paul answers this question: he said,” Faith is to hope for things which are not seen.”
He then goes on to give examples of faith from the bible. Some of them are:
-By faith Noah was warned by God of things that were to come, he built an ark which saved his family from the flood and inherited righteousness by faith.
-Through faith Sarah the wife of Abraham received strength to have a baby when she was past age. Abraham had faith when he was going to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. It took a lot of faith for Abraham to be willing to take his only son that he waited a very long time for and be willing to offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord because he was asked.
-Moses’ parents had faith to hide their child for 3 months and then to send him off in a basket to be raised by someone else. When Moses was older he had faith and refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and instead chose to suffer affliction with the people of God. Through faith Moses kept the Passover and helped to save the firstborn of those who also had faith. By faith Moses parted the red sea so they could pass freely to get away from the Egyptians.
In Alma 32 we also learn what faith is. In verse 21 Alma says, “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. Alma then goes on to compare faith to a seed planted in your heart. He tells us in verse 37 that we must nourish it with great care, so it will grow up, take root and bring forth fruit. At the end of the chapter Alma tells us that we will reap the rewards of our faith through diligence, patience, and long suffering while we wait for the tree to spring up into everlasting life.
The bible dictionary says faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith. The way we learn and increase our faith is through our own experiences and those of others that we hear or read about.
I'm grateful for the faith and patience of those who have gone before and what we can learn from their stories. Growing up, my very favorite part of Family Home Evening, was Family History. My grandparents compiled a history book containing journal entries and histories of our ancestors and we would read a few pages from this book each week. It is filled with fascinating, sometimes shocking, and hilarious stories.
One of our favorites was my grandpa telling about his entire family riding one bicycle to church on Sundays during the great depression. He says “I remember on more than one occasion the whole family went to church on the bicycle. Dad rode on the seat and peddled, mother sat on the rack behind him and held one child, one child sat on the cross bar, and one child sat on the handle bars. It was not easy, but we attended church regularly.”
Can you even imagine the patience it took to be willing to go through that to get to church? To me, that took faith to be willing to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced to make it to church every Sunday. I can barely to make it to church on time and I live 2 miles away and have a car. J
The bible dictionary states, Miracles do not produce faith, but strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This next story is that of obedience, it is about the Martin handcart company that my ancestors were a part of.
James Crossley my great great, well I don’t really know how many but he is my great grandpa on my moms side of the family. He left his family in England and sailed with 422 other Later Day Saints headed to Zion. There was an outbreak of measles. 21 adults and 2 children died. James made it to Utah, and began preparing for the arrival of his family.
Mary and the children sailed from Liverpool in 1856. After arriving in Iowa City, the place for gathering of the handcart companies, they were detained for several weeks due to lack of carts and provisions. When the carts were ready, they were poorly made and frequently broke down. It was in late July when the Martin Handcart Company began the 1300 miles across the plains. Many tried to discourage the Company from beginning a journey so late in the season, but they felt that they had no alternative, and voted to go on. Mary’s oldest daughter exercised her independence and returned to England.
They started with enthusiasm, and for awhile, all went well. 15 miles a day was good progress. Joseph Crossley, age 19, and crippled, rode in the cart, and occupied his time keeping a detailed journal of the journey. The grass turned brown, the plains turned into mountains, the carts broke down and the supplies ran low. Day by day, the progress slowed. September and the frost came. Their clothing gave them little protection from the cold. They all suffered.
When they reached the Platte River, they had an icy wade across, floating the carts with them. Daily progress was down to 3-4 miles a day. A terrible disease invaded the company, and because of the weakened physical condition of the entire company, people died every day. Joseph was stricken, and died. They found him one morning frozen stiff in his bed. The ground was frozen hard and they were unable to dig a grave. They ended up wrapping his body in a blanket and leaving it alongside of the trail. When the Company was out of sight of the body, the wolves moved in. This was a terrible thing for a mother to experience, but Mary did not complain or lose faith, sensing that a merciful hand rather than a hard one took up her son.
Rations were reduced to one tablespoon of flour per person per day. Finally their supplies and energy ran out and the Company settled into the willows in a ravine between the Platt and Sweetwater Rivers. During the night, a heavy snow fell and they could go no further, they must wait for help or die, most of them did not care which.
Three days later, a rescue wagon arrived. There was food, but they had to be careful not to eat too much. Some did and died. The next morning there were 13 deaths and they were buried in one large grave. A pioneer marker now marks the ill-fated Martin Company that started with 576 members and left 150 in graves along the way.
These brave pioneers persevered, showed obedience and their faith increased. This story of the Martin handcart company will be told over and over again to remind future generations not just in my family, of the suffering and the faith of those who came before. Their faith is our inheritance and a reminder to us of the price they paid for the comforts we enjoy.
Faith can lead us to salvation but in order for faith to lead us to salvation it must be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. But what is having faith in Jesus Christ?
Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on him- trusting in his infinite power, intelligence and love. Faith in Christ includes believing his teachings and following them. It means believing that even though we do not understand all things, Jesus Christ does. He understands all things because he has experienced all our pains, afflictions, infirmities, trials and triumphs. He also knows how to help us rise above out daily difficulties.
Faith is much more than a passive belief. We express our faith by the way we live our everyday life. The Savior promised in Moroni 7:33 “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” Faith in Jesus Christ can motivate us to follow the perfect example he gave us. Our faith should lead us to do good works, obey the commandments and repent of our sins.
I have a relative from Norway where It was necessary to cut a hole in the ice in order to perform his baptism. I can’t even imagine how cold that would’ve been. That took great faith to be willing to go down into the icy water to be baptized.
Our faith can help us overcome temptations. Alma gave us an example when he counseled his son Helaman in Alma 37:33 when he said, “Teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fortunately, we have many great examples of men and women, boys and girls who did what was right, even when it wasn’t easy. They nourished their faith, and it has impacted not only their lives, but generations. Some of my ancestors came from Denmark, and one of them was Niels Hansen who recorded this account in his journal about his experience at age 15.
“Mother seemed to feel the truth of it almost at once, but did not say much to the rest of the family. Later she became quite ill and one evening Father talked to me about her condition. He said, “Niels, I think your mother wants to become a Mormon.” I was at the age when I wanted everyone to think well of me and my family so I could take my place socially with my companions. I knew the stigma attached to Mormonism and felt it was too much to have that shame come on me. A heavy weight seemed to fall on me and my spirit darkened with a feeling of sadness and foreboding Still, I was willing to be led and shown the right way. I went to the stables where I chopped the straw for the cows. I closed the door and knelt down in the straw and prayed. I asked the Lord to take my mother's desire to be a Mormon away from her.....but if it was right and the truth to give all of my family the knowledge of it and the courage to accept it. When I arose from my prayer I felt a weight of darkness leave me and a feeling of peace and happiness took its place. It was only a short time until the entire family joined the church. Never since that day have I ever doubted the truthfulness of the gospel.
The peer pressure experienced by 15 year old Niels is not that much different from that of teenagers today. He entered the stable feeling one way and came out feeling much different. His faith in Christ helped him to withstand the temptations of the devil and not worry about how his peers saw him.
I am grateful for those who have lived faithfully before us and the examples they have set.
Keeping the commandments can also help to strengthen our faith. Like all blessings from God, faith is obtained and increased through individual obedience and righteous action. We most keep the covenants we have made if we desire to enrich our faith to the highest possible degree.
This church has moved forward in faith from the beginning, Joseph Smith had faith when he went into the grove to pray. He had faith that a 14 year old boy could receive an answer to a simple prayer. He continued to have strong faith to translate and publish the book of Mormon. I am so greatful he had the faith to organize this church so we could have it here today. He even had the faith to give up his life as a testimony to the truth of his work to build Zion upon the earth.
Increased faith is what we need most. Without it, the work would come to a standstill with faith no-one can stop its progress.
Faith is a wonderful gift from God. But in order to keep it strong we must nurture it. Faith is just like any muscle in our body, we must nurture it to keep it strong. If exercised faith grows, if left immobile it becomes weak.
In October 2010 General conference Richard C. Edgely gave a talk on faith. Some of his key points were: faith is not a free gift, we don’t just wake up one morning and have the faith to move mountains. Faith is a choice and must be sought out and developed. We are responsible for our own faith and for our lack of faith, the choice is ours.
By reading the stories of my ancestors my faith has increased exponentially. I have strong faith in priesthood blessings. Last weekend we drove to Pismo Beach to attend the birthday party of our Godson. WE have a 9 month old baby Konstantin. Both Kostya and I had very bad colds the week before we left. We were staying the whole weekend because it is a long drive and to spend more time with our Godson and his parents. After we attended the birthday party Kostya was getting much worse. WE were driving down the road and I was thinking, "It's too bad we don't know anyone here to help Nick bless Kostya." Right then I saw 2 Elders walking down the street.
I turned the car around, put it in park and ran at the Elders. I asked if they could help Nick give a blessing. W discussed for a minute what was going on with Kostya and also if we needed to go to a members home to perform the blessing. WE decided that it was ok to do it on the side of the road. The Elder that we asked to anoint had only been out on his mission for 3 weeks. He said he would, but he needed help to do it. It was his first blessing and different than any anointing I have ever heard but he did a great job. Nick then blessed Kostya that through his faith he would be healed. I had never thought before if Konstantin has faith yet, but he totally does because I'm here to report that his fever of 103 that he had for 5 days is gone, his double ear infection is better and his upper respiratory infection is almost gone.
Heavenly Father is always willing and ready to give us opportunites to exercise faith.
I challenge you all this week to seek out opportunites exercise your faith to make it stronger.
My husband would be upset if I sat down without saying go niners! J
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.