Alma chapter 32 verse 21
And now as I said concerning faith—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.
A great lesson can be learned from Alma’s sermon on faith. He begins by giving us a plain and simple definition of what faith is. It is not to have a perfect knowledge of something, but instead is an act of trust and a belief in something that our eyes cannot see, yet our hearts can feel and our spirits discern. Faith is connecting with the senses that we often do not use or even acknowledge when we are the midst of our temporal, day to day activities.
Alma compares faith unto planting a seed that, when properly nourished, grows into a tree with fruit that can be plucked and eaten.
verse 26 – Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
As missionaries we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but we do not convince anyone. After we teach, we invite them to exercise their faith to ask God if the things we have told them are true. The same is true even for missionaries. We do not have a perfect knowledge. We still must exercise faith and trust in the impressions that the Spirit renders to us.
And now on to the tree…
verse 27 – But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
verse 28 – Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts. . .
We must first have a desire to believe, and then we must allow that desire to work in us. We do not need a perfect knowledge of something to believe it; that isn’t what faith is about.
As we exercise our faith, our hearts and minds will begin to be enlightened. The perfect knowledge will still be out of reach though, for if we could receive a perfect knowledge there would be no need for faith.
verse 35 – O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
Once we see how our faith is being strengthened we cannot lay it aside, thinking that that was all we needed to do. As Alma says, faith was only exercised to plant the seed. We still must use it to continue to grow that seed. If we want to know God, to know Jesus Christ, to know the Bible is true, to know the Book of Mormon is true, we must always exercise our faith and nourish the seed that was planted.
Alma also warns us of malnourishment. Sometimes we might neglect the seed and forget to use our faith, resulting in a withered plant that dries up when the heat of adversity comes to scorch it. We cannot make the mistake of assuming the seed was bad, but instead must look at our own selves. It is often because the soil was barren, meaning that our sincerity in the experiment was not there.
But, if we are faithful in our care of the seed, and our sincerity is present, making the soil rich, Alma promises us in verse 41:
But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
I testify that through exercising our faith continually, we can nourish the seed of the gospel in our lives. We may not come to a perfect knowledge in our lifetime, but that’s okay. Having a perfect knowledge is not why we’re here on this earth. We are here to be tested and tried. We show our love for God by showing our faith.