Episode 35. September 25, 2006. I want to give a shout out today to our third son, Garen. His birthday is tomorrow and I want him to know how much we love him and his growing family. Today I want to talk about a topic that is absolutely critical to our success in every aspect of our life. Today I want to talk about hope.
What is hope? It is simply the desire or expectation for something to happen. Such a simple word and a simple definition, yet it is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.
What is the opposite of hope? Perhaps it is despair and doubt. In Moroni 10:22 it says that if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.
I have thought a lot about hope and today I want to share with you some of my own reflections and how hope has been an important part of my own life.
When I first began to study hope, there was a concept about the topic that confused me. It was whether hope comes before or after faith. This was a result of two scriptures in Moroni Chapter 7. One talks about hope as necessary for faith and the other (2 verses later) that talk about hope coming after faith. Here are the two scriptures. The first is verse 40 and the second is verse 42.
The first: “And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?”
And the second: “Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.”
Confusing right? But as I pondered on these scriptures, the spirit began to reveal to me some truths about hope and its importance on both sides of faith. If I were to draw a picture of this it would like this:
What I have depicted is the word HOPE in a small font with an arrow pointing to the word FAITH and then another arrow pointing from FAITH to the word HOPE in a large font.
Let me try to explain with a couple of personal examples. The first example comes from when I began to investigate the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as an 18 year-old. There came a point where I could see that the church was good, very good in fact. I knew that it was making me a better person and at that moment I actually began to hope that it was true. This hope drove me to come to know for myself and eventually led me to have enough faith to accept an invitation to be baptized. Since that day, now more than 41 years later, the hope I have is much greater. I have come to know for myself with certainty that the church is true, now my hope is that I can be faithful until the end, that I can keep all of the commandments, that I can hear and act upon the still small voice of the Spirit of the Lord and ultimately that I can receive exaltation in the Kingdom of God. This hope that I have keeps me moving forward. The hope that I can become like my Savior Jesus Christ is at the forefront of all that I think about and all that I do.
The second example is an experience I had as a missionary serving in the city of Bamberg, Germany. We had recently met with the Zone leaders and they had taught us how to be more effective in our prayers by writing down our impressions while praying. I was trying to understand the scripture in vs. 40 that I mentioned earlier about hope preceding faith. While praying, I had an inspired thought about how this could apply to missionary work. I realized that if I could begin to see people in terms of what they could be instead of what they were, it would change the way I would greet, speak and teach people. As we met with investigators I began to see them dressed in white clothing awaiting baptism. As we met people on the street I began to see Elder Quorum Presidents and Relief Society Presidents. This new found hope that I might help these people become the people that Heavenly Father knew they could become increased my faith to the point where I not only began to approach more people, but the very way that I spoke to them changed. It was an amazing revelation to me about the power of hope.
Once I began to get my mind around how hope is on both sides of faith, I then began to seek understanding about the relationship between FAITH and HOPE. Were they the same thing? How were they different? In my study I came across this quote from Elder Maxwell that I believe explains the interrelationship between FAITH and HOPE better than anything I have found. It comes from the October 1994 General Conference. “Faith and hope are constantly interactive, and may not always be precisely distinguished or sequenced. Though not perfect knowledge either, hope’s enlivened expectations are “with surety” true (Ether 12:4; see also Rom. 8:24; Heb. 11:1; Alma 32:21). In the geometry of restored theology, hope has a greater circumference than faith. If faith increases, the perimeter of hope stretches correspondingly.” Isn’t that powerful? As the faith increases, the perimeter of hope stretches correspondingly. In other words, the greater our faith, the more hope we have about receiving more of a fullness of the gospel.
Let’s go back to hope for a moment. So how do we create greater hope in our lives and eliminate doubt and despair? First of all, I think it is important to understand that as President Uchtdorf stated in his October 2008 General Conference address on the Infinite Power of Hope, that hope is a gift of the spirit. We learn this in Moroni 8:26 where Mormon explains in a letter to his son Moroni that that it is the Holy Ghost that fills us with hope. Therefore if hope comes when we are exposed to the Holy Ghost, then all we need to do is create opportunities for that to happen. Keeping the commandments, reading and studying the scriptures, serving others, praying, attending the temple….all of these actions will create greater hope within in. The good news is that they will also cast out doubt and despair from our lives. President Uchtdorf goes on to explain that “Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.” This sounds like something all of us can do!
There is no doubt that the adversary would love to rob us of our hope. President Uchtdorf said it best when he explained that “despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward. Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances.”
I want to end today by sharing one of my favorite scriptures about hope. It can be found in Ether 12:4
“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”
I love the imagery of the concept of hope being an anchor to the souls of men. When we hope for eternal life with our Heavenly Father through the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we are firm, steadfast and immovable. We may not know everything, and our faith may still be developing, but our hope will keep us on the path and land us in a place at the right hand of God.