Just Keep Swimming

By: Bored in Vernal
April 17, 2011

In swimming lessons this week I was teaching a brother and sister, 6 and 7 year olds who seemed to magically pick up everything I presented. I demonstrated the breaststroke kick and the first time they tried it their little legs moved exactly as mine had, propelling them smoothly through the water. No land drills of “up-out-together” were required. All it took for the sidestroke kick was to turn them on their side and tell them the top leg went in front and the bottom leg behind. They were off. In contrast to these two, I teach many children to whom swimming does not come naturally. They work diligently at every skill, but they remain uncoordinated, thrashing ineffectively throughout the lesson.

The scriptures show that it is the same way with faith. For some, this belief, this confidence comes naturally. The woman with an issue of blood who reached out to touch Jesus’ garment found instant relief. “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole,” she knew (Mark 5:25-34). Jesus told her to go in peace; that her faith had healed her.

Other stories introduce people who have some faith, but it is lacking in some way. Peter is an example of this — for a short time he had the faith that walks on water, but soon his fear made him sink and he required the assistance of the Master (Matt 14:22-31). In another case, a blind man was healed by Jesus in two stages. The first time, Jesus spit on his eyes and laid his hands on the man. The blind man looked around and saw “men as trees, walking.” Jesus again put his hands on the man, and this time he could see everything clearly (Mark 8:22-26). Some commentaries explain that such a gradual restoration of physical sight represents the idea that some people only gradually acquire faith in Christ. At first they see in a way that is similar to how the apostles and others saw Jesus: dimly and distorted, not comprehending his true nature. For these, it is only in time that full spiritual “sight” is achieved.

There are also indications in the scriptures that some people have quite a bit of difficulty ever acquiring faith. Ancient Israel was notorious for rejecting prophets, looking beyond the mark, and continually missing what Jehovah was trying to teach them. Though they seemed to put quite a bit of exertion into their religion, their efforts were not mixed with faith.

The parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-29) suggests that human nature has several aspects. Some have hearts like stony ground, which will not accept the seed of faith. Even those who are compared to “good ground” bring forth variably — some thirty fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.

While I was teaching my swimming lesson I began to wonder what causes some people to have natural faith and why it is so hard for others to simply believe. Abraham 3:22-26 makes it apparent that even in the premortal existence some souls were more noble, great, and good than others. Is this one of these endowments out of which if much is given, much will be required? Do you consider yourself naturally talented and spiritually predisposed to have faith? Or are you perhaps a Thomas or Alma the Younger, who requires a great deal of physical evidence if you are to accept the existence of a Divine Being? Finally, should we “just keep swimming” even if there is no confirmation forthcoming?

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9 Responses to Just Keep Swimming

  1. Justin on April 17, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    Abraham 3:22–26 makes it apparent that even in the premortal existence some souls were more noble, great, and good than others.

    The way I’ve understood that scripture — the noble and great ones were placed as the rulers [or heads] of the other intelligences that make up a person’s spirit body. By that I mean that every person born on this earth was one of the noble and great intelligence “particles” that was placed as a steward [ruler or head] over the other intelligences that make up the respective bodies of spirit.

    Do you consider yourself naturally talented and spiritually predisposed to have faith?

    No — prayer is my main gospel weakness. I struggle often with the promises given in the word of God and the lack of manifestations of these promises, powers, and gifts in myself and among my congregation.

    I’m currently working on the pattern outlined in LDSA’s post on receiving what you ask for — in other words, I’m just swimming.

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  2. YvonneS on April 17, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    I often enjoy reading your writings. This post is no exception. The ideas are intriguing.

    I think that everyone regardless of the naturalness of their faith or the strength of their commitment at the moment must keep swimming no matter what. Otherwise they will sink.

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  3. Jeff Spector on April 18, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    Very nice post. I think that having faith come easy is a Gift of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:9). For many it is just a wrestle.

    I also observe that in some cases when the religion is heavily based on performances, like the Jews, faith takes a back sit to “getting it done.”

    I wonder if that is some of the problem that some in our faith struggle with. The performances should amplify our faith, but sometimes we just focus on getting those performances done without regard to why we are actually doing them.

    And, if you tire of performances you may have nothing to fall back on.

    Not sure I articulated that very well.

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  4. jmb275 on April 18, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Yes, good post BiV.

    While I was teaching my swimming lesson I began to wonder what causes some people to have natural faith and why it is so hard for others to simply believe.

    I think being spiritual comes naturally to me. That is, I think I’m fairly in touch with my emotions, and I respond well to spiritual experiences. I need such experiences to be whole. However, I think faith as we often describe it, and faith in Mormonism and other religions comes very unnaturally for me.

    I think some of it is personality, and some of it is training. My personality happens to make me a pretty good engineer (to toot my own horn a bit), and the training of being an engineer (think analyst) coupled with my personality makes it very difficult for me to “just believe” anything. I’ve never claimed, however, to require extraordinary physical evidence, though I have required a “sufficient witness” as some apostles have promised we can receive. Since I have yet to receive a “sufficient witness” in my mind, I struggle with this.

    I rely on what I see as the positive benefits of being a member of the church to help me on this front.

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  5. jmb275 on April 18, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Ah, one more thing. I mean no criticism, but this is how I feel. The positive benefits I associate with being a member of the church are dwindling I’m afraid. I feel like with each passing week faith, love, hope, and charity, are often either taking a back seat, or even having equal time with the construction of massive hedges. For me, some of the hedges are becoming stumbling blocks to my already unnatural faithfulness.

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  6. Andrew S. on April 18, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    I tend to think of myself as a generally apathetic, doubting person. So, it’s difficult for me to “just believe” anything, much less religious matters.

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  7. Jacob M on April 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Interesting post, even if I had difficulty concentrating from singing “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming . . .” over and over again in my mind. Curse, and thank, you “Finding Nemo”!

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  8. Mike S on April 18, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    I think “just believing” was easier in the past. Society used to accept things just because an authority-type figure told them it was so.

    Our current society is much more questioning. I think some of this started in the 1960-1970′s when people questioned “The Man” more than in the past. But I think the true exacerbation is because of the internet.

    Online, no one really knows who anyone is. We don’t really know each other here. An amazing website for a business may be run out of someone’s dorm room. And someone can pretend to be someone else.

    The end result – it doesn’t really matter WHO I am, but it matters WHAT I say. I have never written a post or made a comment that someone has accepted just because it happened to be ME who said it. The idea has to stand or fall on its own merit.

    Overlaying this on the LDS Church, there are many things which are an official/unofficial part of the Church/culture which are purely dogmatic in nature. They are proclamations made by some leader in the past which don’t have the weight of being “canonized” or even “official policy”. They are therefore not really a part of the religion. The ideas must stand or fall on their own merit.

    The big problem is that there are many in the Church who see a rejection of these dogmatic, non-doctrinal parts of the Church as rejection of the Church itself.

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  9. Andrew S. on April 18, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Oh yeah, I forgot to answer the last line:

    Finally, should we “just keep swimming” even if there is no confirmation forthcoming?

    The problem is…”just keep swimming” assumes that what we are currently doing is swimming…as opposed to, say, flailing. Those uncoordinated people, for whom swimming does not come easily, would be better served by *not* continuing to flail (which endangers them and others around them — like, say, any lifeguards who may be trying to save them.)

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