Chapter 17: "The Strengthening Power of Faith"

During 2012, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.


In this latter dispensation it was because of his implicit faith in God that the boy prophet [Joseph Smith] went into the woods and knelt down and prayed, and received the first great heavenly manifestation that came to him, by which the personality of the Godhead was again made known to mankind.

After listing a number of biblical saints and the acts of faith—very much as the author of Hebrews 11 does—Smith credits Joseph Smith in the same light. For more information on the First Vision, please click here.

It was by faith that he was able to go to the hill Cumorah and receive from the hands of the angel those sacred records that he later translated by the gift and power of God.

For more information on the question of where the plates are, please click here.

It was by faith he led his people from Kirtland to the land of Missouri and back to Illinois, and though repeatedly plundered and driven from their homes, the faith that had been planted in their hearts remained with them, and they knew that God was mindful of them. It was by faith that the great city of Nauvoo was founded, under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith; and by faith the glorious truths contained in the Doctrine and Covenants were received by him.

It was by faith that Brigham Young led the people into this western land [the Salt Lake Valley]; and, when he arrived upon the summit of the mountain and looked over the valley, God gave to him a witness that this was the place where Israel should be planted. … It was by faith that the people laid the corner stone of this great Temple [the Salt Lake Temple], in their weakness and in their poverty, believing that God would prepare the way and provide the means whereby the structure might be completed. It was by faith that the mercy of our Heavenly Father was extended to the people, when, in their distress, they saw their crops being consumed by the crickets, with no means of preventing it, and, in the providence of God, their prayers were answered, and they received a witness of it in the coming of the gulls to preserve their harvest and deliver them from starvation. …

For more on the faith of Brigham Young, please see here.

It has been by faith that the elders of Israel have gone forth, leaving home and loved ones, and enduring the reproach of the world, to bear witness that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord. By faith your sick have been healed, your dead have been raised to life. Were the records available of the miracles wrought among this people … , it would be a testimony of the power of God, through faith, unsurpassed in any age of the world.

It’s interesting that Smith says “by faith your sick have been healed, your dead have been raised to life.” Yet he says that there are no records available. Why? Are these claims mere rhetoric? Or is they supposed to be accepted based on “faith”? Even if miraculous events did take place, should this be accepted as evidence for the veracity of Mormonism? The magicians of Pharaoh were able to repeat most of the miracles of Moses and Aaron, but this didn’t mean their faith was somehow verified.

The question has often been asked: Is it possible that the boys and girls, the young men and women who have been reared in this generation of the Church would be willing to suffer the hardships, privations and trials that their fathers and mothers endured for the gospel’s sake? Would they leave their homes of comfort to people a new country in the interest of their faith?

There are several issues that ought to be considered:

  1. While there is no doubt that Mormons have been persecuted over the years, there are questions remaining about the number and extent of these persecutions. For a great blog article on the topic by Sharon Lindbloom, please see here.
  2. How much persecution do Mormons endure today? Living in Utah, I find that Evangelical Christians endure more “persecution” than Mormons do in states such as Utah, Idaho, and Montana. In addition, Christians throughout the world are persecuted on a daily basis. Click here.
  3. With all of this said, is it logical to say that an ideology is correct merely because a people of faith has been persecuted? For example, should we follow the Dali Lama merely because Tibetan Buddhists have been persecuted by the Chinese? While Mormons like to tell “persecution” stories highlighted by “extermination orders” and “tar-and-feather” incidents, by themselves these ought not to be used to legitimize a religion.

I say to you that if there has been planted in their hearts a knowledge of the divinity of this work as we know it, if faith has been given them by reason of our keeping the commandments of the Lord, if they have been taught to know that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord, then I say unto you, Yes! they would do what their fathers and mothers have done, take their place in the ranks of latter-day Israel.

According to this paragraph, there can be a “knowledge of the divinity of this work.” How is a person supposed to get this knowledge? According to Mormonism, it requires prayer in accordance with James 1:5 and Moroni 10:4-5. Yet what if the basis of that prayer contradicts the Bible and logic itself? In this case, having faith in something that is false is worse than having faith in nothing at all.

If it meant privation, if it meant sickness and distress, or even expatriation from home, there are hundreds and thousands of our sons and daughters who, knowing that this is the gospel of Christ, would, if need be, seal their testimony with their lives.

Again, just because Mormon pioneers may have suffered through sickness and distress, even “sealing their testimony with their lives,” this does not make Mormonism true.

The Lord will open the way for us to do what He asks if we exercise faith.

I remember one day I was impressed to say to a missionary who was going to a certain town where they would not let us hold street meetings:

“Now remember, give the Lord a chance. You are going to ask a favor. Give the Lord a chance. Ask him to open the way.”

The young man went to that city, went into the office of the mayor, and asked if he could see him. He was going to ask if they might change the rule.

When he got there, he found that the mayor was out of town. The young man came out of the office, looked down the hall and saw on a door at the end of the hall, “Chief Constable’s Office.” He hesitated a moment, and something said to him: “Give the Lord a chance.” He walked into the chief constable’s office and told him what he had come for. When he finished the man said:

“Well, what street corner would you like?”

He said: “I don’t know this city as well as you do. I would not ask for a corner that would be undesirable, or where we would block the traffic. Would you mind going with me to select a corner?”

Just think of a missionary asking the chief constable to pick a corner on which to preach the gospel!

The constable said:

“Surely, I will go with you.”

In fifteen minutes they had one of the best corners in town, with permission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ where it had not been preached on the streets since before the war [World War I]. …

On August 18, 2012, several Christians visited the city of Brigham City, UT in order to practice evangelism at the first day of the Mormon temple open house (open to the public) in the same way that these Mormon missionaries hoped to share their faith on a public street. We visited the city’s police station to let the officers know that we planned to practice our First Amendment rights by handing out special newspapers on public property. (This is our strategy for any temple open house outreach.) At first, the officers told us that this would be fine. Then they wanted to know what the paper said, so I showed them a paper. After looking at it for a few minutes, the one officer advised us that he would have to get the paper approved by the sergeant on duty.

Twenty minutes later, three officers came out to tell us that it was illegal to proselyte on public property in this city without a proper permit. In other words, because our material was considered controversial, we were not allowed to hand it out. Getting a permit would only allow us on certain streets, not the ones most populated during the open house. When I complained that this was America and how this was unconstitutional, one office said, “No, this is Brigham City,” insinuating that its ordinances took precedence over American law. It ought to be noted that the las was created by the city’s LDS officials in the fall of 2010, just a month after the groundbreaking of the temple. Because of this law, we were not allowed to hand out our materials for almost three days until we were finally issued two permits. However, the permits did not allow us on two of the four public streets surrounding the temple, including one street where the buses dropped visitors off in front of the entrance.

During the last week of the temple open house, a Christian pastor had an appointment with the mayor and the city’s lawyer, asking one final time for approval to allow the Christian evangelists onto all public streets. The pastor was practically laughed at. The next day, a lawsuit was filed in federal court. Because of this , the evangelists were eventually allowed to go onto the two streets during the last two and a half days of the open house event (out of 25 total days) after a lawsuit was filed. There is no doubt that this city’s law—put into effect just a month after the ground-breaking of the Mormon temple in 2010—is unconstitutional, but this apparently didn’t stop a Mormon-led city from restricting the rights of other Americans. The case (still on-going) will hopefully end other illegal restrictions that any city hopes to impose. We wish the Mormon officials would have let us have the “best corner” voluntarily rather than requiring us to obtain lawyers and go through a lengthy legal process. Everyone should be allowed to practice their free agency, whether LDS or Christian.

For several news accounts of this event, see

What a wonderful thing it is to know that we can, if we will, hold our Heavenly Father’s hand and be guided by him. No other people in the world have the assurance that this group of people has.

As it has been talked about elsewhere in these reviews, Mormons believe they belong to the only church with full authority on the face of the earth. It is only their church that is guided by God.

God grants faith as a gift to the righteous.

Our faith is conditioned upon our righteous lives. We cannot live improperly and have faith as we should, but if we keep the commandments of the Lord, we can have faith, and it will grow and increase as our righteousness increases.

In Mormonism, faith depends on obedience, which is contrary to the Bible. Christians become “children of God” through faith alone. Notice what John 1:12 says: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” It is by faith, not be works, that Christians are justified by God (Ephesians 2:8-9). When we love God, we will want to obey his commands (Ephesians 2:10, 1 John 5:2-3). Our faith is never “conditioned upon our righteous lives,” even though this is what the Mormon Church teaches.

If there are any of us who lack faith in this work it is because we have not kept the commandments of God. If there are any who do not know that this is the work of our Father, it is because they have not done their duty. I know as I know that I live that this is the Lord’s work, and that knowledge comes as a result of keeping His commandments.

Practically every Mormon will agree to this statement by Smith. Yet, ask the Mormon if he/she is doing this and what is the answer? No doubt it is “I’m trying” or “I’m doing the best I can.” Or, “this is what repentance is for.” These will not do, however, according to these following unique Standard Work verses:

  1. 1 Nephi 3:7: God does not give commandments unless the can be kept.
  2. Alma 11:37: No unclean thing can enter God’s presence, as nobody can be saved in their sins.
  3. Moroni 10:32: If you deny yourself of all ungodliness, “then is his grace sufficient for you.” (God’s grace apparently doesn’t kick in unless ungodliness is denied.)
  4. D&C 25:15: Keep the commandment continually or you cannot go where God is.
  5. D&C 58:43: We can know if a person is truly repentant, as he will not only confess them but forsake them as well. (This verse is the basis of an entire chapter in Spencer Kimball’s classic book The Miracle of Forgiveness.)
  6. D&C 1:31: God “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

With this being said, who can keep the commandments as Smith stated here needs to be done? The answer? Nobody.

We know that faith is a gift of God; it is the fruitage of righteous living. It does not come to us by our command, but is the result of doing the will of our Heavenly Father. If we lack faith let us examine ourselves to see if we have been keeping His commandments, and repent without delay if we have not. … May the Lord increase our faith, and may we live to be worthy of it.

I hope that those who have received this wonderful gift of faith are living to retain it.

In biblical Christianity, good works are the fruit of a true conversion. In Mormonism, faith is the fruit. This is a completely opposite way of thinking and is a reason why Mormonism ought not to be confused with “Christianity.”


To read more reviews from the George Albert Smith manual, click here.